Men, God, and Men Like Gods (The Enclave, Day 3)

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. (Genesis 3:4-5)

Karen Hancock’s The Enclave is set at an institution that’s high-tech and groundbreaking, modern in every sense of the word except cynicism, for the Kendall-Jakes Longevity Institute isn’t a cynical place. It’s a place where men are using science to create a new world, to reinvent themselves, to defeat mortality and make men into gods.

But the roots of what’s happening at K-J go all the way back to Genesis. From the moment Parker Swain, a villain who reminded me of Left Behind’s Nicolae Carpathia (but more interesting), opens his mouth, we know he’s not content to be human the way most of us are. Swain may have weaknesses, but he will overcome them; he is smarter, more daring, more godlike than ordinary men. Ordinary men like his father, who was a pastor.

“He was a fool,” Swain said now, hanging the cloth on its hook. “Did not read — except the Bible, of course. Did not think! Heaven forbid he should ever seriously and thoughtfully entertain a concept that challenged his belief system! He had no interest in developing his brain. My mother was even worse. Anything they didn’t understand — which was almost everything — they ascribed to the devil.”

And the devil, in Swain’s view, was nothing but a construct of Christianity. A nonexistant bogeyman used by one group of men to control another — which was the true purpose of all religions as far as Swain was concerned.

Free of God, free of the devil, free of anyone’s control, Swain will bring his own kingdom come, his own will be done. He does have one weakness, of course; he’s mortal. But through science, he plans to change that too.

In stark contrast, Lacey McHenry has fought her way up from a broken past to a position in the K-J animal lab, where she wears a lab coat with the name “Carlos” stitched on the pocket, battles stress and fatigue, and wishes desperately she could fit in. Her eventual ally, Cameron Reinhardt, is a post-traumatic geneticist who may be more intelligent than the average man but has as many clay feet as a mud-caked centipede.

Her fellow staff members had made it very clear that she was junior staff — welcomed warmly, but hardly fit to kiss the feet of the exalted priests and priestesses of research who were the heart and soul of Kendall-Jakes, the brilliant men and women who would usher in a new age for mankind. Men like Cameron Reinhardt, who couldn’t get his socks matched, rarely cleaned his glasses, forgot to shave more than half the time, and couldn’t even remember to close the lid on the frog tank.

And that, her conscience informed her, sounds very much like bitterness.

In The Enclave, a woman who vacillates between wanting the truth and just wanting to live for herself teams up with a man whose first reaction to evil is to run away and change his name. On their side, they have God — the Creator spoken of in Genesis, toward whom they are both a little bitter for getting them into such a mess, but whom they have no choice but to trust. On the opposite side is a man who has never accepted that he is not God, that he cannot be God, that after all, eating of the knowledge of evil is not enough to transform him.

It was in this look at the human heart, of the ways we respond to a God who is greater than we are, that I felt The Enclave became most significant. In many ways, all of human history is a refusal on the part of man to admit that he is man and that God is God. Those who admit to being what they are, fallen, fallible, and helpless, can be saved. Those who do not are unreachable by grace.

In the real world, science has long been one of the primary battlefields where these truths play out. In fact, Karen Hancock says that a real-life experiment in the 1980s provided the inspiration for Kendall-Jakes’s dirty little secret, an underground enclave where science has gone too far. Hancock tackles many of the ways in which man tries to be God, from cloning to manipulation to self-glorification, and she does it with the stamp of truth.

In the end, the great irony is that in trying to become God, we reveal how much we have misunderstood Him. When God became man in the person of Christ, He was a perfect man. When man tries to become God, he becomes a monster. He becomes more intolerant, more controlling, more cruel than any man-made pagan god of the past. He becomes Parker Swain, who is everything he claims to hate.

And all the while, those human beings who accept their limitations, who carry thorns in their flesh and cry out for grace, who cast themselves on God’s will, help, and love — these become, little by little, more like God.

Thanks to Karen Hancock for writing a novel that highlights our great irony — and God’s great grace — so clearly.







12 responses to “Men, God, and Men Like Gods (The Enclave, Day 3)”

  1. […] to be honored this month for their creative, thought-provoking posts: ? ? ? Julie ? ? ? ? Rachel Starr […]

  2. Penney Douglas Avatar

    Okay, now I’m dying to read it! Give it to me, or I will have to buy it myself!

  3. Kerani Avatar

    Rachel –

    I’m glad the question didn’t offend, and I’m very pleased to read your answer. It very closely matches what I think – that it is the mindset as we ‘work’ that determines the worth of the work, not the work itself.

    If Swain had the mindset of, say, “This great and wonderous universe, and yet so much misery in it – I want to learn as much as I can about the universe so I can help other people be healthier and happier” – well, firstly, it wouldn’t have been the same book! And it still wouldn’t, I think, be quite what God’s looking for, because the respect for and acknowledgement of God’s purpose is implied but not actually stated. But that would still be a long step from Swain’s pov, which was more like – “If I can just control the universe, I will be acknowledged as great and powerful, and that will make me happy.”

    And science can be a part of that mistaken arrogance, as can using the power of words – but so can being the one holding the cake batter spoon when it’s time to share out the last of the icing.

    Anyway – thanks again for your thoughts.

  4. Rachel Avatar

    Elizabeth, thanks for your thoughtful comment! You’re a sharp reader — reading your observations has been really enriching.

    So thanks for calling on me to clarify my position: I don’t believe that all scientific endeavour is equal to playing God; rather, Swain’s scientific endeavours are tainted BECAUSE he’s trying to play God.

    It was belief in a rational and knowable Creator that enabled modern science to get off the ground in the first place, and to my view, scientific endeavour is much like writing novels — we do it because God put it in us to do it. When we do it well (and doing it really “well” should involve acknowledgment of God), we glorify Him.

  5. […] ? ? ? Julie ?? ? John W. Otte ? ? ? Steve Rice ? ? ? Stephanie ? ? ? ? Rachel Starr Thomson ? ? ? Fred Warren ? ? ? Dona Watson ? ? ? Elizabeth […]

  6. Kerani Avatar


    (Nice set of posts – crisp and to the point!)

    I would try for a book, but it seems I already have one!

    >>>In many ways, all of human history is a refusal on the part of man to admit that he is man and that God is God.


    I take your point about the arrogance of humanity, and our mistaken attempts to assign more importance to ourselves than we warrant.

    But (and I might be misreading you here, please say if so!) it appears that you’re implying the application of science (and engineering) is ‘playing God.’

    I don’t argue that Swain’s actions and words absolutely indicate a refusal to acknowledge limits to his own judgement. But it seems that your post here might be putting all scientific endevour in the same basket as Swain’s tainted work.

    Or am I just wildly over-reading your post? If so, my apologies!

  7. […] Rachel Starr Thomson did an excellent Third Day post on men trying to be God. […]

  8. Rebecca LuElla Miller Avatar

    Me three—echoing what Jason and Karen already said.

    I’d jump at a chance for the free book if I didn’t already own one! I like your contest, but I’m head-scratching to try to think of another title with an antichrist type. I’m sure they are out there.

    Anyway, I appreciated your thoughts on Man’s efforts to become God. Excellent.


  9. […] ? ? Steve Rice Crista Richey ? James Somers Speculative Faith ? ? Stephanie ? ? ? ? Rachel Starr Thomson ? Steve Trower ? ? ? Fred Warren ? ? ? Dona Watson ? […]

  10. Karen Hancock Avatar
    Karen Hancock

    Excellent essay, Rachel! I enjoyed ever word of it. Great observations and analysis of a major aspect of the human condition.

  11. Jason Avatar

    Wow. Very thoughtful. I love this tour, because we have some quality people and always interesting food for thought. Good job!

  12. […] read my Day 3 post “Men, God, and Men Like Gods,” where I argue that the Great Irony of mankind is that the more we try to become like God, […]

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