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Friday, November 04, 2005

The Vampire Chronicler on Jesus

Anne Rice is best known for her erotic vampire thrillers beginning with Interview with the Vampire which was later made into a successful film. I've read a couple of her vamp novels and seen the film. As a writer, there is no question that Rice is highly skilled. Her stories are filled with lush detail, romantic atmosphere and hypnotic characters. She expertly recreates exotic locales and times past with brilliant clarity. Her stories are also typically filled with sex and gore. And gory sex. You get the idea.

So you can imagine my skepticism when I first heard that she was writing a novel about Jesus Christ. All this world needs is another libidinous occultist opining on the Savior. (Note that I'm also trying to use as many 3-4 syllable words as I can.) But I'm going to reserve final judgment until I've actually read her newest book, Christ the Lord : Out of Egypt.

A few years ago, Rice recommitted herself to the Roman Catholic faith of her upbringing. As far as I could say, she is sincere in her dedication to the dogmas and practices of Rome. Insofar as I am delighted to see anyone becoming serious about Christianity, I commend her.

Though Christian orthodoxy was not exactly prevalent in her earlier writings, even her vampire books were filled with Christian-esque spiritual themes: sacrifice, atonement, immortality and damnation. The Bible says that the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11) and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews (9:22). Somehow I think those ideas never left her. And perhaps after her soul became tired of exotic experimentation with those themes, the Holy Spirit brought her back to the base of the gory cross of the God-man.

Based on what little I've read (here and here) about Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, it's mostly fictional. History simply tells us next to nothing about the years the Holy Family spent in Egypt. My understanding is that Rice does draw somewhat from apocryphal legends about the childhood of Jesus. This troubles me because the sources of these tales tend to be gnostic pseudapigrapha. Knowing her style, however, I also imagine the book to be filled with thoroughly researched historical accuracy regarding the times depicted. The author states that she wanted to deal with the subject with reverance and authenticity, as a sincere believer. She derides liberal demytholigization characteristic of the charlatans in the Jesus Seminar. And that, in my eyes, earns her a hearing.

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paul, in south park said...

hello, pastor!

when i saw a cnn story today on her book, it made me wince...until i considered that at least she may bring our Lord and Savior into the public eye even more.

a trailer at the bottom of the screen said that she had researched the book for THREE YEARS! holy moly, i hope the general public realizes that many more learned folks have been doing "research" for just a little bit longer. i just hope it is not taken as gospel, a la "the davinci code".

like you, i will reserve judgement until i get a chance to read it...looking for your thoughts after you do the same.

Tom Becker said...

Paul Zahl - from your neck of the woods has a good comment on this on his site -

Check it out, -
He says -

There is one important fact about her new search, however, that distresses me. She has become a serious student of earliest Christianity and has therefore read, with sincerity and dedication, all the latest views of Jesus, especially "conservative" views and not "Jesus-Seminar" views. This means that she has been thoroughly and one-sidedly influenced by the "Jewish Jesus" of contemporary scholarship. This is simply because just about all conservative books about the historical Jesus take the now standard line that Jesus was thoroughly Jewish not only in his background but also in his teaching; and that Christianity began really as a variant of Judaism for Gentiles. This is the contemporary teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, and also of such scholars such as N.T. or Tom Wright. They are so busy being guilty over the Holocaust that they have become very reticent about those things that distinguish Christ's teaching from Judaism, those themes within his teaching that oppose or are in discontinuity with Judaism.

Thus we have a semi-Pelagian Jesus, who existed purely to take Jewish monotheism and present it in a form accessible to non-Jews. The current semi-Pelagian Jesus is a Second-Temple Jew who had a messianic self-consciousness. The idea that Jesus broke with Jewish teaching concerning the Law, and that this break with his inherited religion resulted in his death: such an idea is not allowed today.

I do understand why it is not allowed. I think we all recognize not only the self-evident fact that Jesus was Jewish, but also the fact that the Holocaust destroyed the credibility of all the Christian churches in many eyes. But it is a bad thing to water down or soften the real edge of the Christian Gospel in the interest of making the teachings of Jesus more Jewish than they were, and are.

Honestly, I wish that Ann Rice's tutors – because I feel certain she had a few tutors after her conversion, or re-conversion – had provided her with some alternative interpreters, and not just the very recent reigning voices. I see nothing, not a word or a phrase, of the Reformation sola gratia in her Jesus. So her picture of him is wanting…much as I recognize the power of what has happened to her!

New Curriculum at Concordia Theological Seminary