This Present Darkness

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This Present Darkness
First edition cover, 1986
AuthorFrank E. Peretti
CountryUnited States
PublisherCrossway Books
Publication date

This Present Darkness is a Christian novel by suspense, horror, and fantasy author Frank E. Peretti. Published in 1986 by Crossway Books after first being rejected by fourteen publishing companies,[1][2] This Present Darkness was Peretti's first published novel for adults and shows contemporary views on angels, demons, prayer, and spiritual warfare as demons and angels interact and struggle for control of the citizens of the small town of Ashton. It is critical of Eastern and New Age spiritual practices, portraying meditation as a means of demonic possession.[3]

Sales were initially slow but jumped dramatically after singer Amy Grant promoted the book.[4] The book has sold in excess of 2.7 million copies worldwide as of 2013[5] and remained on the Christian Booksellers Association top best-sellers list for over 150 consecutive weeks after its release.

Its title comes from Ephesians 6:12 (RSV): "For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Peretti followed This Present Darkness up with a sequel in 1988, Piercing the Darkness.

Plot summary[edit]

This Present Darkness takes place in the small college town of Ashton. Bernice Kreuger, a reporter for the Clarion, Ashton's town newspaper, is falsely arrested on prostitution charges after taking a photograph at the annual Ashton Summer Festival. When she is released the next day, she discovers that the film in her camera was destroyed.

Marshall Hogan, owner and editor-in-chief of the Clarion, decides to go to the town police station/courthouse and confront Alf Brummel, the police chief, about the incident. Brummel denies any wrongdoing on behalf of the police department and insists it was all a mistake. Brummel then advises Marshall to drop the matter. Marshall does not fall for Brummel's story and, ignoring Brummel's advice, begins an investigation.

As the investigation continues, Marshall and Bernice begin to realize that they are onto something much bigger than they thought. They slowly uncover a plot to take over the town by buying the college, which is being carried out by the Universal Consciousness Society, a powerful New Age group. When the Society decides Marshall has found out too much they take the Clarion, and his house. They also falsely accuse him of murder, adultery, and molesting his daughter, who attends the college and who unwittingly has been pulled into the Society. When he and Bernice are caught in a desperate attempt to keep society from winning out, he is arrested and thrown in jail, and she escapes, running off to find help.

Meanwhile, Hank Busche, the unwanted pastor of the little Ashton Community Church, discovers that there are many demons in the town and wonders why they have all congregated here. When he gets to be a nuisance to the demons, they have the Society falsely arrest him for rape.

Hank and Marshall meet in jail. They compare stories and finally put both halves of the puzzle together.

During the time that this is happening, the story takes on a spiritual dimension—revealing a perspective based on the idea of unseen forces at work. The angels who wage warfare for the souls of mankind look and act similarly to humans—they have names, they are in charge of specific regions of earth, and they are propelled by heavenly forces that often manifest as wings. They wear armor and wield weapons forged in heaven—most notably, swords. Demons, as well, are depicted as being ink-like shadows in the darkness, flowing from shadow to shadow, until the time comes when they truly reveal themselves as monstrous beasts with bat-wings and armor. Their spiritual combat spans from one-on-one battles to vast armies charging into each other in the "unseen realms" above.

Meanwhile, Bernice finds help and makes contact with the county prosecutor, the state attorney general, and the feds. When Alf Brummel finds out about this he releases Hank and Marshall. After Hank and Marshall are released, they team up against the Universal Consciousness Society and the demons working to take over Ashton—in which they are (possibly unwittingly) aided by a "local" demon whose position has been usurped by a somewhat more powerful one summoned by the Society, and strikes vengefully at the usurper.

Critical reception and controversy[edit]

The novel has been the subject of both literary and theological criticism. On literary grounds, several reviewers such as Irving Hexham and James R. Lewis suggest that the novel fits into the genre of horror.[6] Reviewers such as Steve Rabey and Michael Maudlin appreciate the novel's complex multi-layered plot. However, they find the novel's characters typecast in simplistic roles of good versus evil.[7] Other criticisms raised concern about redundant passages in the novel, stilted dialogue, and poor grammar.[8]

Christianity Today included the book on its list of "The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals" in 2006.[9] Christianity Today has also stated the novel led the way for later Christian fiction such as the Left Behind novels.[10]

The theme of sexual abuse allegations against the protagonists by women and children – because they are possessed by demons – has been mentioned by several reviewers. One reviewer describes it as "a terrible willingness to forgive child abuse and sexual assault if the accused was a powerful man and the accuser was a woman or child" mirrored in American evangelicalism,[11] while another notes that not only are all of the "victims" depicted as "demonically-possessed liar[s]", but those in helping roles are also "villains": "Those who are on the frontline of helping children and survivors – public school teachers, therapists, social workers, child advocates – are cast as evil".[12][13][14]

The New Consciousness Society described in the book has been described as a "spiritual conspiracy to establish a New World Order".[15]

The novel has also been described as potentially having racist overtones due to the villains all being "vaguely Hindu" and the characters assumed to be white, and as possibly being an influence on the QAnon belief system.[11] QAnon's messianic beliefs have also been connected to "the same culture previously captivated and emboldened" by Peretti's novels.[16]


  1. ^ Van Campen, Todd (July 24, 1999). "Author Frank Peretti gives good a fighting chance". Marysville Appeal-Democrat. pp. D2. Retrieved July 6, 2023 – via
  2. ^ Peretti, Frank E. (March 1, 2002). This Present Darkness. Tyndale Momentum. ISBN 0842361715.
  3. ^ Aichele, George; Pippin, Tina, eds. (January 31, 2002). Violence, Utopia and the Kingdom of God: Fantasy and Ideology in the Bible. Routledge. ISBN 9781134730483.
  4. ^ "Singer's Plug Puts 'This Present Darkness' in Spotlight: Fundamentalist Novel Finds Wide Appeal". Los Angeles Times. September 23, 1989. Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  5. ^ Nelson |, Marcia Z. "Frank Peretti: The Father of Christian Fiction Doesn't Want to Look Back". Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  6. ^ Lewis, James R. (1996). Magical religion and modern witchcraft. Suny series in religion and philosophy. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press. p. 346. ISBN 9780791428900. OCLC 1252727777.
  7. ^ Rabey, Steve (December 9, 1988). "Spiritual Warfare, Supernatural Sales". Christianity Today. Vol. 32, no. 18. p. 69.
  8. ^ Kurian, George Thomas; Smith III, James D., eds. (2010). The encyclopedia of Christian literature. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 521. ISBN 978-0-8108-6987-5. OCLC 470360926.
  9. ^ "The Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals". Christianity Today. October 6, 2006. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  10. ^ Rabey, Steve (April 22, 2002). "No Longer Left Behind". Christianity Today. Retrieved May 5, 2022.
  11. ^ a b Romano, Aja; Wilkinson, Alissa; St. James, Emily (April 28, 2022). "Revisiting the Christian fantasy novels that shaped decades of conservative hysteria". Vox.
  12. ^ Stollar, R. L. (October 23, 2019). "This Lying Survivor". Fathom. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  13. ^ Silliman, Daniel (2021). Reading evangelicals: how Christian fiction shaped a culture and a faith. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-8028-7935-6.
  14. ^ Boogart, Peter C.; Boogart, Thomas A. "A Critical Review of This Present Darkness". Western Seminary. Archived from the original on July 31, 2020. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  15. ^ Froment, Elsie (May 24, 2023). "Review of Reading Evangelicals: How Fiction Shaped a Culture and a Faith, 2021". Northwest Institute for Ministry Education Research. Retrieved March 13, 2024.
  16. ^ Springs, Jason (June 16, 2021). "QAnon, Conspiracy, and White Evangelical Apocalypse". University of Notre Dame Keough School of Global Affairs: Contending Modernities. Retrieved May 5, 2022.

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