Reception from Readers and Publications
Thanks for Spreading the Word
The whole idea behind the Bond Bible study is: Finding hope in tough times. And we deeply appreciate all the writers out there spreading the word.
Special thanks go to the following publications and individuals for their mentions of Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass. Click on any of the links below to view their responses to the book and Bible study:
- The New Yorker
- The Dallas Morning News
- Roanoke (Virginia) Times
- Lutheran World Federation Youth Blog
- Jonathan Shipley in the Pacific Northwest at A Writer’s Desk
- Ed McNulty at Visual Parables
- The Rev. Daniel Buttry of “Interfaith Heroes”
Lifting Up Fleming’s Literary Merit
More discussion groups are forming and people are talking about the other major impact of this book. Yes, the book is inspirational. Yes, it’s a unique way to revive interest in Bible study, especially among young people and adults who might not normally be drawn to biblical reflection. But the book is also aimed at rethinking and elevating Ian Fleming’s legacy as a writer.
Often dismissed as a lightweight scribbler of pulp fiction, Fleming’s spiritual reflections on our world’s darkest temptations group him with other veterans of war who explored these themes—including Lewis, Tolkien and Vonnegut. James Bond fan sites, where fans always are skeptical of new interpretations of the Bond canon, are welcoming news of Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins. We are pleased to see that this book may contribute to efforts to elevate Fleming’s literary merit.
Publications & Online Articles
The Cook Partners blog, an important web site providing “notes on Christian publishing to encourage and equip literature ministries worldwide,” is helping readers connect the dots in this important trend of welcoming new men and women to Bible study through innovative use of media.
“‘Publishers love the Bible,’ declared The New Yorker magazine in ‘The Good Book Business,’ an article on Bible publishing. Editions of the Bible for specialized audiences are created every year, and Bible study aids capitalize on the Bible’s success. But did you ever imagine the possibility of studying the Bible with Agent 007? Dr. Benjamin Pratt, author of Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass: A Bible Study with James Bond, certainly did.”
The staff at the Kalamazoo Gazette, part of the MLive online network, asked for a story on Dr. Pratt’s work—and the start of the Bible study in western Michigan. Take a look at that online story.
Frank Chiapperino, Small Group Help
The most common e-mail we receive starts with a word like: “Wow!” Then, the new reader describes starting with great skepticism that this might be another gimmick pasting Bible-study questions on a cultural landmark. Instead, readers discover that Dr. Pratt really uncovered Fleming’s deeper purpose.
That’s where the spiritual adventure begins for most readers. I won’t belabor this next point, because Frank Chiapperino, founder of the Small Group Help web site, summarized it in a single sentence. He wrote on his site: “Lewis and Tolkien were masters at weaving spiritual themes into fantasy fiction and Pratt may have discovered another famous author.”
Indeed, he has. If you’re a fan of Lewis and Tolkien, who are referenced in Pratt’s book, you can see how Fleming also wrestled with the deepest issues in our world.
World Council of Churches
As the debut of the new Bond film approached, WCC published its own open letter on the significance of the themes. The Q and A format began this way:
“World cinema’s most famous spy is back and this time he fights a villain trying to control strategic water resources in a developing country. Is the script of the latest James Bond movie too far-fetched a fictional plot?
“‘Control over water translates more and more into profit and power,’ says Maike Gorsboth, the coordinator of the Ecumenical Water Network, an initiative of churches, Christian organizations and movements working on people’s access to water and on community-based solutions to the water crisis. In the following interview, Gorsboth speaks to Annegret Kapp about water as a human right—and about how cinema and reality may have more in common than we think.”
Readers’ Reviews and Opinions
Note from a Reader
We enjoy hearing from readers who have discovered this book and appreciate its innovative approach to both Bond and to biblical wisdom. This note came in from reader Dave Schmidt:
“I enjoy your down-to-earth writing style—and have been swept up by the whole idea of Fleming’s body of work as being so much more than mere adventure stories. I haven’t read any of his books since I was a kid and fully intend to have another ‘go’ at them reading them from a totally different perspective; a perspective from which I never thought of approaching them years before. I cannot tell you how excited I am in having come across your book … I’ve had an interest in exploring the concepts of courage, honor, commitment, and integrity and how I can better integrate these qualities into my everyday life. Thank you, Ben, for helping me to better understand myself and also for writing a most intriguing and revealing study.”
Bidding for Spiritual Gems
After several weeks of discussing Ian Fleming’s themes, a woman named Nancy got so involved in her own exploration of Fleming’s books that she surprised us one morning by announcing a “find” on eBay. She had outbid other competitors on eBay for a 1962 First Edition of The Seven Deadly Sins, a landmark book that Fleming put together along with the likes of W.H. Auden and Evelyn Waugh. “Benjamin Pratt mentions that book and I just had to see what Fleming wrote in it,” Nancy said and shared her eBay prize with the discussion group.
We’re not sure whether we’re going to touch off a bidding war on eBay for this out-of-print edition. A quick check of the auction site in recent days isn’t showing any editions for sale. Also, if you find a copy online, watch out: We hear that newer editions of the book are available, but may not have Fleming’s original introduction in them. You might want to check local libraries or used-book shops.
Are the Bond Novels Sexist?
“Yes,” said Sarah, “and I’ve never read any of the Bond novels before. I had avoided them because I’d heard they’re sexist. And, yeah, they are. But now I know that there was so much more that Ian Fleming was trying to say in these books. I want to read all of them now—and the ones I’ve read are so suspenseful.”
Sarah and other men and women are saying that they’re not excusing or apologizing for the sexism of Fleming’s era or for the strong violence in many of the books. “But,” said Sarah, “this whole Bible study is so different from any other Bible study I’ve done. I’m really enjoying the reading we’re doing in the original Bond novels and the discussions we’re having together. This has really got me thinking.”
How Long Should Class Run?
“Don’t limit yourself to a 45- or 60-minute class for this one. You don’t get into it deeply enough. First, we talk about the sins in the Fleming books we’re reading and we talk about what Benjamin Pratt says, then we need more time to talk about the Bible and how these things affect our own lives. I’d say you should have at least 90 minutes for a class.”
Others in Lil’s discussion group nodded and said they leave their 60-minute class each week eager to discuss further.
Review from an Amazon Customer
We encourage any readers who are Amazon customers to visit the book’s Amazon page and write your own review.
Thanks to readers for whatever they care to say about the book and the overall Bible study. Here’s an example of one Amazon review by a reader, George Chartier:
“Just when I thought anything and everything worthwhile had been said about Ian Fleming’s James Bond stories, Benjamin Pratt has come along with a book that presents a surprising new way to read and appreciate these classic adventure stories. Who would have guessed that 007 hints at the classic ‘Seven Deadly Sins of Christianity’ and that Fleming sprinkled clues throughout his stories to suggest that the battles of Bond and his enemies symbolize the timeless war between the noble St. George and satanic dragons of evil?
“In Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins & 007’s Moral Compass, Benjamin Pratt skillfully, movingly and engagingly navigates a course through the James Bond books that appeals to readers with secular as well as spiritual interests. Pratt’s pastoral lessons, drawn from the struggles of good and evil within and surrounding the James Bond character, bring fresh insights both for readers familiar with the Ian Fleming novels as well as readers who only know 007 from the (mostly bad) movies.
“For Christians, Pratt provides an entertaining and provocative structure for Bible study, complete with scriptural references and probing questions; for those approaching the Bond stories from any other religious perspective regardless of creed, Pratt provides a thoughtful path for using the Fleming stories to explore universal theological themes; for those of no specific faith or no faith at all, Pratt’s book shows how the adventures of the literary James Bond raise modern moral questions about facing down the demons within and around each of us.
“Pratt writes in a surprisingly personal and confessional tone about his own moral struggles, which makes his book at times read less like a stimulating classroom lecture on literature and more like an extended conversation with a friend. Either way, Pratt makes you think about the Bond stories in a new and deeper way.
“As a longtime fan of the 14 Ian Fleming books, I am pleased to see Pratt defend Ian Fleming as an accomplished and respectable writer and the 007 stories as serious literature that are still damned good fun to read. I also appreciate how Pratt provides ample biographical information about Fleming as well as a fun series of trivia questions in the study guide that forms the last part of this book. I also gained new respect for theological study, due to Pratt’s discussions about the challenges of living a moral life in a world of temptations and strife.
“Finally, now that I’ve read Pratt’s book, I’m looking forward to rereading all the Bond stories again with a fresh perspective – on 007, Fleming, and, yes, the meaning of life!”