Author: Greg Mitchell
Title: Enemies of the Cross
Publisher: Realms/Charisma House Book Group
Reading Greg Mitchell, it’s easy to imagine him telling stories around a campfire, by a lake, with the sky an inky black, and flames crackling in animated suspense.
Except, as he spins tales about demons and goblins, Mitchell is reminding his listeners that just beyond the veil we see, God’s Word teaches that Satan’s minions rule this Earth like wolves among the sheep.
Mitchell’s latest, Enemies of the Cross, is the second book in his trilogy called “The Coming Evil.” But not to worry; if you haven’t read Mitchell’s predecessor to Enemies of the Cross, he provides enough flashbacks and quick summaries to keep his readers up-to-speed on the action.
And action? How about a pastor whose congregation is turning on him for standing by his brother, whom the pastor believes was wrongfully convicted of murder? How about strange men making startling incarnations, clamping a dark air of repression on the town, while spooking some key townspeople into wondering if the pastor’s brother really might be innocent? How about the church elder who writes notes with invisible ink? How about that unwed mother, constantly asking the church for money, whose no-good boyfriend suddenly reappears? How about that over-zealous assistant pastor?
Then there’s the sheriff who seems to know everything but can do nothing? His deputy who acts like he has more power than his boss? The town crank who goads the pastor into punching him? The old man who turns into a monster of muck?
OK, so there’s not much of a plot – or at least, the plot is not very complex – but each of the characters Mitchell crafts tells a story about how Satan can trick us in all sorts of ways. Money, power, pride, sex, good intentions, religion, and even grief all provide vehicles for evil to wreak havoc on our souls. At first, Enemies of the Cross comes across as just another scary story. Small-town, bump-in-the-night, mysterious creature type stuff. But before long, you’ll realize that Mitchell is preaching to us about how believers in Christ need to ask Him to guard how we see, think, act, and even love.
Speaking of love, don’t assume that this is a guys-only book. Mitchell takes time to explore the rapidly-eroding relationship between our driven pastor and his wife. They’re a relatively young, childless couple, still reeling from his brother’s murder trial from the trilogy’s first book, and trying to keep their church – and marriage – together. There’s also a female friend from the childhood of the pastor and his brother who is another character with proverbial skeletons in her family’s closet. It all becomes that much more ammunition with which the devil can attempt to destroy God’s people.
Indeed, Mitchell’s theology maintains a fairly winsome current throughout Enemies of the Cross, with an unfortunate exception when some works-based salvation gets thrown into the mix, like some of that muck from the lake. Still, Mitchell’s best parts come when his characters remember that quoting scripture makes Satan and his evil spirits flee. Maybe those instances provide what could be maligned as easy literary contrivances for Mitchell to pluck his characters from imminent peril. But then again, doesn’t God offer the same to us, if we call on Him in our times of struggle?
If you’re looking for something to keep you up all night, Enemies of the Cross won’t scare you out of your wits like that.
But it just might wake you up to the power of Christ’s work on the cross.
After all, campfires can be comforting, too.
*This review first published 8/14/2012