As a Commissioning Editor, I have been involved with a lot of books over the past 17 years. Yet Anthony’s story has stood out and moved me in a way that none of the others, however good, have done. I think this is for two reasons. The first is, I have never worked with someone whose transformation was so radical. Tony, the attempted murderer, whom we meet in the first pages of the book, was frightening. He wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill criminal; he was so out of control that the Scottish Prison Service didn’t know what to do with him. Neither the prison staff nor his fellow convicts were safe around him, and he was gripped by a nihilism so strong, nothing could reach him.
Until a prison chaplain did. And then God got hold of Tony, and transformed him in Anthony – a man I first met on a ‘fishing’ visit to International Christian College (now Scottish School of Christian Mission), looking for people with books to write and stories to tell. From our very first conversation, I was struck by the change in him, from the man he told me he had been. Only when I read his actual book, did I discover what he had been like. The person I had met was dedicated to his faith, and dedicated also to telling the truth. And that brings me to the other reason that Out of the Darkness matters so much to me. Because Anthony didn’t get converted in a conventional Protestant evangelical manner. Nor did he just revert to the Catholic faith of his childhood. Instead, hungry, even desperate, for anything and everything that God had for him, he seized on the whole lot. So reading the Bible changed him, praying changed him, fasting changed him, and saying the Rosary both calmed him down and changed the life of another prisoner.
I’m a Prod. I expect God to act along my denominational lines. But He doesn’t. He’s not interested in my denominational lines, nor yours, nor anyone else’s. What He is interested in is the lives of individuals, and bringing them out of darkness into the light. Anthony was concerned that any publisher would want to downplay one side of his experience, or the other – but I promised that Lion Hudson would not. We would put it all in, everything that God had used. I thought of Gamaliel, advising the Sanhedrin after they had seized Peter and John for preaching in the Name of Jesus: “If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop (this man), you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38b-39). God had so clearly changed this man – who was I to argue with His methods? Years ago, God showed me how much He grieved over the way Protestants have treated Catholics, and vice versa, down the centuries. Anthony’s book was one way of saying, our divisions and suspicions do not reflect the heart of God.