Today’s interview is with Dr. Michael Heiser, who is the academic editor for Logos Bible Software, Bible Study Magazine, and the Faithlife Study Bible. His latest book, The Portent, picks up where the cliffhanger ending of The Façade, left off.
1. For those who have not yet read the previous book, can you tell us a little about The Façade?
The plot of The Façade is driven by the fate of a team of scholars who were “recruited” for an above-top-secret project against their will by a mysterious cabal of military insiders referred to only as “the Group.” Comprised of experts in fields as diverse and unrelated as psychology, atmospheric science, bovine biochemistry, environmental biology, apocalyptic cults and militia groups, and the Hebrew Bible, the team is only told that they represent the last line of defense against a global climatic disaster.
In order to gain the team’s trust, the Group authorizes successive levels of disclosure and access to classified documents, technologies, and artifacts. But it soon becomes apparent that nothing is what it seems at their undisclosed location—and the reason they’ve been assembled is quite different than what they’ve been told. The Façade follows the team as they unpeel layer after layer of deception and counter-deception, heading toward a shocking revelation that will alter mankind’s perception of itself forever—if they can discern which lie to believe.
Fundamentally, The Façade asks two questions: (1) If humanity learned that intelligent extraterrestrial life existed and had been to earth, how would that impact traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs? (2) What if the beings everyone thought were extraterrestrial life were something worse?
2. For those who have read The Façade, what new things can they expect from The Portent?
The Portent picks up several months after the ending of The Façade. Brian and Melissa have managed to maintain anonymity in view of their circumstances at the end of The Façade. They’re trying to build new lives, while living in constant fear of exposure. But they’re in it together, and they’re absolutely committed to each other, though there’s a lot of personal uncertainty about what that means for the future. As readers of The Façade will know, they both have issues.
Eventually the unthinkable—but inevitable—happens. A series of seemingly disconnected and unanticipated events leaves them vulnerable to exposure, forcing them to make more life-altering decisions. One of the things I want readers to think about in The Portent is the role of providence in our lives. Brian and Melissa get caught up (again) in circumstances beyond their control that converge in both advantageous and deadly ways.
Like The Façade, the sequel takes readers into all sorts of subjects. For me, writing fiction is like writing a thesis. I do an enormous amount of research for all the elements in the story. Just like it was in The Façade, every ancient text, every quotation from historical figures, every academic study or journal article, and every government document in the story is real. The Portent takes readers into the intellectual roots of ancient astronaut theory (philosophical, religious, occult), technological achievements during the second world war and the Cold War era that are not part of mainstream knowledge, and true elements of Cold War conspiracy. But the sequel—along with its plot and sub-plots—involves much more. The Portent draws from serious scholarship in biblical studies, archaeology, Vedic studies (Indo-Aryan origins), astronomy, Nazi occultism, Gnosticism, Minoan studies, human migration, genetics, synthetic biology, and nanotechnology.
3. The word portent refers to something ominous coming in the future—an omen—why that title?
I picked the title because the plotline of The Portent gets into the future plans of the adversary introduced in The Façade. The Portent gave me an opportunity to put myself in the place of intelligent evil and ask how I might use common expectations and beliefs to accomplish my ends. How might I simultaneously confirm and undermine what people believe and think—and to what end? The agenda has something to do with the extraterrestrial and theological breadcrumb trails that were part of the storyline in The Façade.
4. What prompted you to write these books?
I’m interested in all the subjects touched on in The Façade and The Portent. They all connect to biblical theology and biblical history. Too many Christians isolate the Bible from other disciplines and subjects. I want Christians to see how theology and these other ideas are more inter-related than they suppose. I also want my readers to know that there’s a lot of mystery in the world. The truth really is often stranger than fiction, but sometimes it takes fiction to get people to realize that.
5. To what extent are the things described in these books based on reality?
As was the case with The Façade, all of the data points are real—historical figures, ancient texts, research that characters refer to, government programs and documents, etc. Readers often doubt this, so I’ve provided a pretty extensive bibliography. In the case of The Portent, all that data is available in a separate handbook, which is available through my website. I use the novel to connect the data points together in a story driven by fictional characters.
6. What would you like people to walk away with after reading The Portent?
I’d like them to see that Christian fiction can be intelligent and unpredictable. I want to challenge readers to think carefully about cutting-edge ideas and technology that will alter our perception of who we are, human destiny, and the role of faith in the future. I also want readers see that the spiritual world they think they know would be thought of quite differently if we viewed Scripture through ancient eyes. I use the discoveries, conspiracies, and technologies of the “black” world of the military industrial complex to help readers understand that the spiritual world is closer to us than we realize, emphasizing the importance of careful theological thinking.
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Today’s interview is with Dr. Michael Heiser, who is the academic editor for Logos Bible Software, Bible Study Magazine, and the Faithlife Study Bible. His latest book, The Portent, picks up where the cliffhanger ending of The Façade, left off. 1. For those who have not yet read the previous book, can you tell us […]