McCarthy’s book “The Road” reminds us to hold firm to goodness

Despite moments of confusion and trouble, Christians are never left without a calling.

The father and the son from the road looking at a magnifying glass

Courtesy of

Logan Zeppieri, Opinions Editor

“The Road”, by Cormac McCarthy, is a post-apocalyptic novel about a father and his son as they follow the road to the coast. The United States, and the world they know, is gone. The sun is blotted out, the trees are dead, the animals hunted to extinction and the water filled with ash. There are no long-term goals for mankind’s salvation, merely the short-term goals of staying alive, avoiding cannibals and deciding whether they should curse God and die. As bleak as the story becomes, McCarthy gives us insight into a most pressing question: “What am I supposed to do when I don’t know where I am going?”

McCarthy presents a story that gives us glimpses into the different ways people respond to a life without purpose. Along the road they find transients who have taken this opportunity to rape, steal and pillage. Others have used desperate times to justify desperate acts—tribes reverting to cannibalism or families killing their children whom they cannot feed. Others see self-destruction as their last hope,hanging themselves in their own homes. There is even a moment when the father contemplates killing his own son to save him from suffering a gruesome death. But the story keeps reverting back to the father and the son—who remain nameless—who are “the good guys” and do what “good guys” would do, not knowing why they keep going.  

Though often not as drastic, this caricature of life without aim can help us understand the importance of acting according to goodness without knowing the end game. As Biola students, we will eventually ask ourselves, “Why am I here and what am I doing?”


John Coe, the director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation at Talbot, teaches about three general callings in his class. These are important because general callings remind us that despite our condition, every Christian is always imminently called to some task. When we do not know why we are here or what we are doing this for, we have direction from God. According to Coe, these general callings are: Love, Conforming and Works.

First, we are commanded to love those around us. As it is written in Luke 10:27 (NASB), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

When we become lost or without a clear and distinct goal, we too often neglect those around us. We forget our family, we scourge our friends or we try to find meaning in all the wrong places.

Second, we are called to continually be formed in the image of Christ. As it is written in Romans 8:29 (NASB), “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.”

When our vision for who we want to become seems distant or falls to pieces, we often forget that despite the confusion we must continue to be formed into the image of God—awaiting for the revelation of our purpose in much the same way as a speed painter reveals his art.

And third, we are made for good works. As it is written in Eph 2:10 (NASB), For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Even in our best times we forget that we were created to do good works. And those good works, as the parable of the Good Samaritan so clearly reminds us, may mean helping someone laying on the side of the road, next to us.


Along the road the father did not know whether he should save his son or keep him alive. He could not imagine a world for his son. But he knew that killing his son was wrong. He knew that despite an uncertain ending, he could still morally respond to the opportunities happening around him—to keep going and continue to be “the good guys”.  

Many of us will come to a moment when we fail to know our aims in life. Night after night, meal after meal in the caf, arguing with ourselves or worrying ourselves out. In those moments it is clear that as Christians we still have an answer—our general calling. We are called to love those around us, continue to be conformed in Christ’s image and pursue good works, awaiting for the time when God’s grand scheme may come together.

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