/ spring 2020 / Reviews

The Visitation

· spring 2020 · 1 comment · for

After readers loved This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness in the 1980s, author Frank E. Peretti followed up with two suspense thrillers in the 1990s. Then for his fifth major release, he chose to get more personal.1

Twenty-five years after its summer 1999 publication, Peretti’s The Visitation has aged beautifully, pitting one burned-out pastor versus church culture, heretical cults, and the quiet power of the true Christ.

Pentecostal pastor Travis Jordan is suffering ministry burnout. After a mysterious stranger comes to the town of Antioch, Washington, Travis is forced to review his past. After all, this kindly stranger, Brandon Nichols, seems to know all about Travis. Even worse, Nichols claims to be “a new, improved version of Jesus.” He has endless charisma. He can perform real healings. He preaches love and tolerance. Naturally, he soon forms a religious movement that pulls in many believers, excepting Jordan and others.

All along, this “messiah” has a personal mission to ensnare Jordan himself. Nichols is convinced their stories are the same: that they both mistrust the Lord.

Thus begins a series of doctrinal deceptions and battles in a small town, woven with chapter-length flashbacks to Travis’s past struggles and life changes. Travis is forced to wrestle with the teachings of his youth, church authority abuses, why God does and does not heal friends and church members, and most of all, the real Jesus.

Peretti’s heroes confront their own flaws, yet give no ground to false teachings both inside and outside the Church. In fact, unlike other Christian-made novels, this one has named denominations, such as Pentecostals, Baptists, and Lutherans. Without preachiness, yet with grace and gentle humor, Peretti shows these saints’ excesses and where they get things mostly right—a hyper-realized version of the real world.

A great theology book can debunk false doctrines or tell about true ones, such as who Jesus is and why we must follow and worship him. Yet we need great novels to show how the real world challenges one’s faith, and to awaken new and unique passions to know and follow the true Jesus. The Visitation marks one of the best.

Best for: Older teen and adult readers who like suspense with supernatural edges.

Discern: Comedic and serious presentation of charismatic gifts (specifically among Pentecostals), spiritual abuse, fake versus real healings, teen infatuation and romance, false christ with unexplained (demonic?) powers, threats or violence, and unanswered questions about why the real Jesus Christ does what he does.

  1. An original version of this review was published March 24, 2020 and in our print issue of Lorehaven.
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E. Stephen Burnett explores fantastical stories for God’s glory as publisher of Lorehaven.com and its weekly Fantastical Truth podcast. He coauthored The Pop Culture Parent and creates other resources for fans and families, serving with his wife, Lacy, in their central Texas church. Stephen's first novel, a science-fiction adventure, launches in 2025 from Enclave Publishing.
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