If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. I John 5:9-11
On March 7, 2016 Tactical Publications released Stained By Blood: A Murder Investigation by Douglas J. Hagmann, a fictional work based on a true life investigation of the murder of a family member of the author.
After a reader of the Tracking The Leopard Meroz blog sent me a gift of the Kindle copy of this novel, I read the entire book and then posted a review on Amazon.com on April 23, 2016. I titled this review as a summary comment, saying, A talent for story telling, which would be better displayed by telling the truth rather than giving us the fictional spin. And as I was in a charitable mindset at that time, I gave this book 3 stars; however, I am not thereby recommending that you waste your money on this book. (If you click on the screen shot below, an enlarged version of my book review is shown.)
There are currently 70 customer reviews on Amazon.com for the book Stained By Blood; 96% gave 4-5 stars, and 4% gave 1-3 stars, with an overall average of 4.8 out of a possible 5 stars. With so many gold stars for an unremarkable work of writing, it is interesting that used paperback copies can already be purchased from Amazon, meaning that someone did not think this book was worth reading a second time, or worth passing it onto a friend.
The Amazon bio of the author begins, “Douglas J. Hagmann has been a licensed investigator in the private sector for the last 30 years. As a private detective, Hagmann has worked well over 5,000 cases and is recognized as a surveillance specialist. He has worked as an informational asset for various federal and state law enforcement agencies. Doug Hagmann now hosts a popular radio and video talk show each weeknight…”. The main character of this novel, Marc Stiles, is also an investigator who presumably represents Hagmann, and is portrayed as a somewhat cynical, gun-toting, rough around the edges man, who is in love with his new girlfriend.
The force of stability in this novel is Gina, who works alongside Marc Stiles. She is central to the thesis of Chapter 20, The Extreme Unction of Roger Braun, as Gina represents the witnessing Christian, who is prepared to speak to anyone at a moment’s notice about Jesus. Marc Stiles, as the hardened skeptic, is primarily interested in what Roger Braun knows about the murder of his uncle, and his membership in a secret organization which served as a cover for criminal acts of murder, and the sacrifice of children upon the altar of the devil.
Roger says, “Somehow, Marc, you managed to strike at the center of this group of powerful men. You are making a lot of people nervous, and your life is about to become worthless if you don’t stop asking questions. These people would rather kill you than look at you.” Marc Stiles responds with scoffing, “Yeah, well just who are these “boogeymen” of which you speak”. This sarcastic question prompts Roger Braun to reprove Marc, saying, “Sonny, you’ve got a lot to learn, and I’d lose that attitude of yours if I was you. In fact, it could be the death of you.”
The primary reason for this conversation between Roger Braun, who lies dying in a hospital bed, and Marc Stiles and Gina, centers around the murder inquiry of Marc’s uncle. But Roger also expands this inquiry by providing a confession of his own personal criminal acts. This includes the shooting of his girlfriend in the 1950’s, his imprisonment, sex with both men and women, several rapes including young boys and girls, and his assertion that he was able to escape the consequences of these crimes because he is a “member of a secret organization that involved very powerful and high-profile people in Lakewood and at higher levels of all organizations.”
According to Roger Braun, Marc’s uncle had “discovered a child sex ring operating in Lakewood”. Marc protests this revelation but Gina interrupts saying, “Marc, be quiet for once and listen”, adding, “Marc, put down your pride for a minute and understand one thing. What you don’t know can and most likely will kill you. It does not matter whether you believe me or not. Your belief, or lack of it, makes no difference, not to me, and certainly not to these people, not to anyone, except that it shows just how ignorant you truly are…”. Gina is expressing one of Doug Hagmann’s favorite radio broadcast quotes, which makes the fictional character Gina interesting as she is the voice of conscience of Marc, reproving his prideful sarcastic speaking, and his inability to be quiet and listen to others. This role of Gina is often played in real life by Doug Hagmann’s son, Joe, who is always forced into that awkward role of having to temper his father’s cocky and out of control rants.
Roger tells Marc that his uncle had obtained photos of high level officials sodomizing young boys, and in one case a child sacrifice to the devil. Then Roger hands 3 photos from the insole of his left shoe to Marc, and as his breathing becomes more labored, he confesses to Gina, “I did a lot of bad things in my life. I am truly sorry for everything I did, everyone I hurt, and killed. I don’t want to go to hell.” So Gina holds his hand and asks Roger, “Do you know Jesus?’ Roger replies, “I know the devil. But Jesus? I don’t know. What does Jesus have to do with anything?”
At this point, the reader should reflect on the title of this chapter, The Extreme Unction of Roger Braun. Extreme Unction is a Roman Catholic rite, which some refer to as the Last Rites, which are ministered by a priest when it is feared that a person is very close to death. Sometimes this rite is referred to as a sacrament of the anointing of the sick, because some do recover their health. As a general overview, here is an article posted on catholicism.about.com which reviews this doctrine on What Are Last Rites.
Doug Hagmann has mentioned on more than one occasion, that years ago he had briefly had seminary training in connection with Roman Catholicism. The title of this chapter would seem to confirm that his theology is still shaped by that training. But the curious thing in Chapter 20 is that while the title is distinctly Roman Catholic, the narrative of Gina’s witness to Roger Braun, displays a Baptist’s compact approach to one-on-one witnessing with a total stranger.
So here we have in a fictional novel based on fact, one chapter which has been devoted to the question of the reality of death-bed conversions through faith in Jesus Christ. We need to ask if the theology presented in Chapter 20 is just another fiction based on fact.
When it comes to Christian conversion which is sealed by the Holy Spirit, there are two truthful witnesses which provide evidence which cannot be contradicted. The first witness is of course the person who professes to believe in Jesus Christ. The second testimony is that of God himself. The standard I have chosen to use in reviewing the conversion of Roger Braun, has three components found in I John 5. These are the witness of man, the witness of God, and the witness of prayer being heard by God.
The Witness of Man
At the start of this post, I quoted Roger Braun’s confession of his most overt sins and their criminal nature to Gina and Marc. After this he turns to Gina as a sort of representative of the priesthood, and proclaims that he is sorry, and does not want to go to hell. And then in answer to a question of whether or not he knows Jesus, he says he knows the devil and asks what Jesus has to do with anything. The first problem is that his remorse is expressed in exactly the same way that condemned criminals who are insincere express themselves to the families of the victims they have murdered and sodomized. Remorse never shows up with such persons until they are either caught or realize that they themselves face imminent death.
“Gina explained to Roger that the way to avoid hell is to profess Jesus as his Lord and Savior. She spent a few minutes explaining that Jesus died for our sins, and we could be forgiven if we profess our belief and submit ourselves to Him. She had Roger say the sinner’s prayer with her, and left a small New Testament in his hand.”
The motive here that is emphasized by both Roger and by Gina involves avoiding hell, rather than facing the truth of the Godhead who created us, in the first place. Words that are missing all involve the vast gap between the sinner and the holiness of God. There is a reason why wrath is poured out on the sinner, whose very nature is fallen, and whose deeds, and intents of heart all fall short of the glory of God. This sin nature even is fully active in those who follow after righteousness through works, and have all the appearance of goodness.
The Apostle Paul plumbs the depth of this and then asks, “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith, which we preach: That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation…For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved..” (Romans 10:8-10,13)
We are not told what Gina actually said to Roger, but she uses the phrase “Jesus died for our sins” without elaborating on the entire work on the cross plus the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus which proved that this was a work of God accomplished.
Below are three examples of what is often called “The Sinner’s Prayer”. If you are a Bible believer and reader you will notice immediately that there are distinct differences which are snares to the unwary person who is persuaded to read and depend on such model prayers, prior to examining the gospel through the Scriptures. The first example is the model seen frequently in Baptist circles, the second is a Catholic-type of Sinner’s Prayer, and the third represents an irreverent prayer which might possibly get one into a deeper hell.
Has the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ been proclaimed in the second and third examples of these “Sinner’s Prayer”? Is someone here ashamed of the gospel? Paul said in Romans 1:17-18, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;”.
While some hold up the image of Jesus Christ on the cross as dying for sinners; there were actually three men crucified on that day and in that place. Only one is able to save and deliver men from their sin. Luke 23:32-33 says, “And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Further in verse 39, “And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other one answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done nothing amiss.”
Now recall that the murderer and rapist and fornicator Roger Braun who reproves Marc Stiles for his cocky attitude, confesses in one brief sentence that he is sorry and does not want to go to hell. The phrasing of this remorse is one which generally would be regarded by the crime victims and their families as to be highly insulting and unconvincing. The additional shedding of tears by the offender could very well be self serving, rather than an act of humility. Shortly after Gina’s Christian witness to Roger Braun, he died. Marc and Gina then walk back to the elevators in silence, until Marc asks, “What you did back there, Gina. The talk of Jesus. Do your(sp) really think there’s a chance for a guy like that?”
John 3:19-21 states a very deep truth about the heart of mankind, saying, “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”
I John 5:10 says, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son”. Thus when a person has genuine faith in Jesus Christ, he knows, -for the witness of God is in himself. Luke 11:33-36 provides this insight: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light. The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single; thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, they body also is full of darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light.”
There is a witness in the true believer of Jesus Christ which can be observed, especially through the eyes, as well as words and deeds.
The Witness of God
There is a witness of God in the genuine believer of God, which reveals itself when the Christian is persecuted and “brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake”. Jesus said, “it will turn to you for a testimony”. (Luke 21:12-13). Jesus Christ promised in verse 15, “For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist”. This type of witness from the indwelling Holy Spirit of the believer also shows in many daily conversations, as well.
While Satan and his ministers can for a time manifest as angels of light, the witness of God within the believer fills him with light and also grants the ability to speak with a great wisdom as may be required to confound the adversary of God. Even when viewing a so-called death-bed conversion, the witness inside a man, whether it be light or darkness ought to be evident. Can a man on his deathbed who has lived a long life of criminal acts which included murder and sodomizing children, who kept his deeds hidden for years, never once showing mercy and compassion for his victims, suddenly come to saving faith when he realizes that his end is imminent? It is doubtful, although not impossible. Douglas Hagmann leaves us in doubt about the death-bed conversion of Roger Braun, as he fails to document the witness of God which would have revealed itself in the words and eyes of this dying man.
Prayer which is heard by God
The thief on the cross spoke of the fear of God, being in condemnation and receiving the due reward of his deeds, and as recorded in Luke 23:42-43, finally beseeching the Son of God, saying, “… Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” By this hearing of the prayer of the thief, Jesus has confirmed that his words were in the will of God, and that indeed, the thief would enter into paradise rather than hell.
We have no idea in the narration of The Extreme Unction of Roger Braun, what form of the so-called Sinner’s Prayer the dying man said, but it is interesting that the thief on the cross displayed all the elements of a real “death-bed” conversion, even praying face to face with Jesus, who as our Lord and Savior, was about to take upon himself God’s wrath poured out upon all of the sins of humanity in judgment. Truly the prayer of the thief displays the promise in I John 5:14-15, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him”. But can we presume that Roger Braun’s reading of some unknown version of a Sinner’s Prayer was heard on high?
In this one theological chapter of Stained By Blood: A Murder Investigation, the author Doug Hagmann sets up the main character Marc, which represents himself, to be reproved by both Gina, and the evil man on his death-bed, Roger Braun. And what do they consider his major flaws? He has an attitude, a cockiness which could be the death of him, not knowing when to quit talking and to be quiet, a failure to see the big picture.
I would like to add another observation which Doug Hagmann might want to ponder quietly before launching into an angry tirade against bloggers who quote his words. The concept of including a chapter which discussed the matter of saving faith in Jesus Christ is an interesting one. But the waters are muddied by identifying this death-bed scenario with the Roman Catholic traditions of the fathers, which overturn the words of God. The patterning of Gina to appear as a Baptist model of one-on-one witness is the antithesis to the first portrait of her as a confessional priest ministering to a dying man. The Synthesis is Confusion as to what the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God unto salvation to those that believe, really is. There is Confusion in the details as to what might have really been spoken in this fictional scenario. There is Confusion when the truth of the Scriptures is placed within the framework of fiction, and falsehood. No matter how much one asserts that this fiction is based on fact, the bottom line is that even the facts become highly distorted. What the reader gets when they open this book is nothing more than another example of a Male Romance novel.
I stated two primary things in my Amazon.com book review of this work. First, the author has a talent for story telling, which would be better displayed by telling the truth than giving us the fictional spin. Second, Douglas Hagmann does have a personal real life story himself which is interesting in and of itself, but one which he has been afraid to closely examine.
Actual death-bed conversions are rare, although not an impossibility. While there still remains time, it is of utmost importance not to presume that one can have genuine heart repentance in the final minutes of life. Those who think they are presenting the gospel should ensure that they are presenting the truth of the Scriptures to their readers, and should never give out a false hope to those who have repeatedly rejected the influence of the Holy Spirit upon their heart and mind and conscience.
Hell is real and not a fiction.