At this writing, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt sits at #11 on the definitive New York Times Best-seller List for hardcover fiction books. That's big enough, but the real news is who wrote it: vampire-novelist, self-styled "queen of the damned" Anne Rice, who claims renewed faith and a full-fledged return to her Catholic roots. This is quite a shift, 25 years and 25-odd horror novels later.
Whatever your take, Rice's first installment on a project to write the life of Christ—in first-person, boyish narrative—is striking and provocative. Janet Maslin writes in the New York Times that Rice "delivers the only shock effects still available to her, after a career-length cavalcade of kinks: piety and moderation." Christian cultural apologist and professor G. E. Veith believes she has navigated a "perilous project" niftily, maintaining orthodoxy as well as could be expected (see review below). Reformed seminary professor Dr. Derek Thomas questions Rice's incluences and her own understanding of the Christian faith (also below).
Halfway through my first reading, this editor found the sparse prose and seven-year-old viewpoint tough to enter into at first. But perhaps it was my doubts regarding such an ambitious enterprise that needled me, things like Rice's inclusion of elements from the Gnostic Gospels and other legends. Yet, it's the questions inherent in Rice's gutsy attempt to capture the heart and mind of Christ the nascent-yet-eternal Messiah that rocked me a bit: Was Jesus really afraid, as depicted? Or being "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin," (Hebrews 4:15, NASB) did He simply think distantly about fear, hate and other sins? The storyline somehow makes this less theoretical. How cognizant was He of His own deity? His mission? His totally unique conception? After all, mention of Christ's self-awareness is not included in the canon of Scripture nor is His childhood detailed, save one story about Him being separated from Mary and Joseph at the Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, I feel that it's high time I personally wrestled with the humanity and deity of Christ, even to meditate on what that may have looked like. I have Rice to thank for bringing it up so poignantly.
As with another highly popular contemporary novel, (supposedly) anchored in historical, biblical and creedal bases—The Da Vinci Code (see our feature on it here )—Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt readily issues forth into various deep streams of research, despite its terse text. This editor found once again, as Rice makes plain in her afterword, that one such stream leads into a miry bog indeed: that of the "search for the historical Jesus." In fact, liberal scholars engaging in the historical-critical method have so deconstructed the Scriptures, particularly the Gospels, that little is left besides nice, "inclusive" and "tolerant" passages—and those with spurious origins, we are told. Rice has assidiously rejected the work of such groups as The Jesus Seminar and navigated around pits they fell into, even as she weaves such sources as the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas into her book. She was struck by the "incoherence and inelegance of the skeptical argument" (in Derek Thomas' words) after conducting painstaking research from an array of sources, including primary ones.
Christmas just having past, the mystery of the incarnation, the divinity and humanity of Christ and the context of ancient Palestine seems one way to dive deeper and linger on the meaning of the Holiday. We are privileleged to provide a start for you and anyone you wish to pass it on to in our Special Focus. Further snippets for your perusal:
- Attribute true and proper divinity to Christ;
- Attribute true and proper humanity to Christ;
- Do not so mingle the human and divine that you end up with a being neither human nor divine;
- Do not dissect Christ so that there are two persons in one being.
—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University
Resources about the book and its unlikely author.
Perilous project: But Anne Rice hits an orthodox balance
Professor Gene Edward Veith
Veith briefly notes the careful historical and biblical care taken by Anne Rice in her novel Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. This careful approach, he says, helps her steer through the perilous project of imagining Jesus as a boy who awakens to His deity through the office of his young humanity--a balance he believes she strikes well.
Book in Review: Toothless Vampires and the Holy Grail
Dr. Derek Thomas
Reformed theology professor Derek Thomas reviews vampire novelist Anne Rice's latest novel, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. He expresses reservations about some of the theological and historical presuppositions by which Rice constructs this highly conjectural story of Christ as a seven-year-old, as well as her own claims to Christian orthodoxy. Given her goal to complete a series on the early life of Christ, this review reads as in interested but fairly serious spiritual advisory.
Into the Light
Feature article on the stark contrast between novelist Anne Rice's works on vampires and demons and her newly revivified Catholic faith, which sparked the goal of writing the life of Jesus Christ. Her first such book, Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt, released in November, 2005, features "the ultimate supernatural hero" as a seven-year-old boy.
One of the greatest mysteries and most controversial doctrines of the Christian faith is that of the incarnation. Our limitations in understanding how the divine and human natures of Christ, as revealed in the canonical Bible, interact, relate and are even possible as a union create thorny religious and philosophical problems. But on this doctrine, claim such teachers as Bob Deffinbaugh, stands the possibility of atonement for sin (among many other things) and, thus the very reason for Christ's coming as a baby at all. Not a side-issue, this topic may ultimately make or break one's faith, thus one's eternal destiny.
Martin Luther: Disputation on the Divinity and Humanity of Christ
Debate featuring Dr. Martin Luther (1540)
Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation, debates theological rival Schwenkfeld on the nature of Christ's humanity and divinity. Translated from Latin for the Wittenberg Project, Luther presents dozens of arguments and subpoints pertaining to Christ's creatureliness, humanity and divine nature, appealing to Scripture regularly, but relying on logic--good late medieval philosophy. In the 16th Century, public disputations like this were required for doctoral degrees.
The Importance of the Incarnation
Bob Deffinbaugh, Th.M.
According to Deffinbaugh, the importance of the incarnation goes to the very core of Christian orthodoxy (and a true celebration of Christmas). It directly or indirectly touches on the toughest problems for the faith: reconciling Christ's humanity and deity, God's union with man in salvation, the infallible Word of God through the agency of man. "Once the doctrine of the incarnation is set aside, the whole matter of redemption through the person and work of Christ is scuttled. And thus we find a great deal of controversy surrounding this vital doctrine.... In order for God’s purposes and promises to be fulfilled, the incarnation must occur.... What He became in the manger centuries ago, is what He shall forever be - the God-Man. To deny the incarnation is to deny the virgin birth, the miracles of our Lord, His substitutionary atonement, and His bodily resurrection. In effect, to deny the incarnation is to deny all. To accept the incarnation is to believe in all." Deffinbaugh concludes with implications of the incarnation, the gracious, essential salvation offered by Christ. An important article itself.
The Day Jesus Went AWOL: Luke 2:39-52
Bob Deffinbaugh, Th.M.
Deffinbaugh exegetes a seemingly innocuous passage - containing the first recorded words of Christ - and offers practical insights for today's believer. Historical context and an understanding of the some conundrums created by Jesus' humanity and divinity help this study, which is part of a larger body of in-depth teaching on Luke's Gospel on this richly endowed site, Bible.org.
The Deity of Christ
The belief that Jesus was and is God has always been a non-negotiable for Christianity. This belief is based on Jesus' own words as well as the teachings of the early church.
A Theology of Christmas (downloadable PowerPoint slideshow, off-site)
C. Michael Patton , Th.M.
According to its Bible.org introductory page, this "presentation offers a unique theological perspective on Christmas and is useful for sermon, small group or sunday school discussions. We also recommend it for anyone who is simply curious about the relationship between Jesus' combined humanity and divinity and the tricky implicatitons of such a religious claim. Broad overview of related heresies, definition of "hypostatic union," and more. See introduction page: http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=3446.
Much of what one will find today searching on, say, Google.com on such terms as "historical Jesus" will result in sites deeply influenced by The Jesus Seminar and liberal scholars of similar leanings. Such fodder includes perspectives ranging from a mystical "spirit of Jesus" that tends to sap the practical, literal nature of Scripture to the outright denial of Jesus Christ as a person of history—including His miracles and bodily Resurrection. Figuring promintently into all of this: Christ's incarnation and the undiminished union of humand and divine natures. For more information on such theological bents, see the resources below:
Presuppositions and Pretensions of the Jesus Seminar
Dr. William Lane Craig
In this first part of a two-part article, the presuppositions and pretentions of the Jesus Seminar are exposited and assessed. It is found that the principal presuppositions of (i) scientific naturalism, (ii) the primacy of the apocryphal gospels, and (iii) the necessity of a politically correct Jesus are unjustified and issue in a distorted portrait of the historical Jesus. Although the Jesus Seminar makes a pretention of speaking for scholarship on the quest of the historical Jesus, it is shown that in fact it is a small body of critics in pursuit of a cultural agenda.
The Evidence For Jesus
Dr. William Lane Craig
Five reasons are presented for thinking that critics who accept the historical credibility of the gospel accounts of Jesus do not bear a special burden of proof relative to more skeptical critics. Then the historicity of a few specific aspects of Jesus' life are addressed, including his radical self-concept as the divine Son of God, his role as a miracle-worker, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead.
Books In Review: The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus
Reviewed by Luke Timothy Johnson
Book review of the book The Human Christ by Charlotte Allen.
The Historical Christ
Rick Wade examines the PBS special 'From Jesus to Christ' by focusing on the theological presuppositions of those who deny the supernatural and instead search for the 'historical Jesus.' He examines the development of these views from Davis Strauss, to Rudolf Bultmann, to the Jesus Seminar and the work of Dominic Crosson. Drawing from the work of Craig Blomberg of Denver Seminary, the author ably presents arguments for the early dating of the Synoptic Gospels and the historical accuracy and authenticity of their authors. Finally, he demonstrates that the differences in the synoptic accounts can be reconciled without resorting to questioning their historicity. The conclusion is that the Christ of faith is indeed the Jesus of history.