What gradually became clear to me was that many of the skeptical arguments -- arguments that insisted that the Gospels were suspect, for instance, or written too late to be eye witness accounts -- lacked coherence. Arguments about Jesus himself were full of conjecture. Some books were assumptions piled upon assumptions. Absurd conclusions were based upon little or no data.That's an interesting quote, yes? I've got another one for you:
I was unconvinced by the wild postulations of those who had claimed to be children of the Enlightenment. And I had sensed something else. Many of these scholars, scholars who had apparently devoted their life to New Testament scholarship, disliked Jesus Christ. Some pitied him as a hopeless failure. Others sneered at him, and others felt an outright contempt. This came between the lines of the books. This emerged in the personality of the text.These aren't the mad ravings of some blogger who's just now discovered internet apologetics and is voicing his disgust at what he finds in skeptical circles: this is Anne Rice in her Author's Note at the end of Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. They are part of the reason I saved this part of the review for last.
See: when I got wind that Anne Rice was going to write historical fiction about Jesus Christ, I was somewhat, well, disgusted. Frankly I find the Lestat novels creepy and amoral (which, of course, is their point), and I have intentionally distanced myself from reading any of Mrs. Rice's other works because of that work.
I am refraining from saying, "apparently, something has happened to Anne Rice," because she has gone from being a lapsed Catholic to being a relapsed Catholic. In all her years of researching this book, apparently the matter of the Reformation didn’t come up -- and really, why should it if all she is studying is the first century? But Mrs. Rice has discovered something in her reading that doesn’t normally dawn on people coming from her perspective.
She has discovered the problematic nature of 21st century religious skepticism -- independent of prior religious conviction. In that, even with the flaws I mentioned in the previous installment of this review, the novel clearly reflects her position that Jesus Christ was not just a misunderstood man.
She also says this:
Anybody could write about a liberal Jesus, a married Jesus, a gay Jesus, a Jesus who was a rebel. The "Quest for the Historical Jesus" had become a joke because of all the many definitions it had ascribed to Jesus.So let's be clear that she doesn't take the Scripture to be inspired (at least, not in this confession), she doesn't take the Gospels to be inerrant even if she finds them reliable, but she also doesn't think they are completely biased trash.
The true challenge was to take the Jesus of the Gospels, the Gospels which were becoming ever more coherent to me, the Gospels which appealed to me as elegant first-person witness, dictated to scribes no doubt, but definitely early, the Gospels produced before Jerusalem fell -- to take the Jesus of the Gospels, and try to get inside him and imagine what he felt.
In contrast to the ham-handed DaVinci Code, this is as fair a treatment in fiction from the secular world as we probably can expect. Mrs. Rice's academic heroes are diverse -- from Blomberg and D.A.Carson to N.T. Wright to Frank Kermode to Karl Rahner -- and of course taking a detailed survey of her informal references would undoubtedly not turn up the reading list at Monergism.com. She is not openly hostile to the Gospel, and in many respects that's somewhat refreshing, but that is the real rub.
In the final tally, it is the best reason to read this book. Given that she has composed a psychological history of Christ here -- and we have to presume she intends to round it out with the rest of Christ's life -- which does not conform to conventional orthodoxy, I strongly urge the readers of this blog to take this book under consideration and mark it carefully for the near-misses it has with orthodoxy. It's going to come up. People are going to ask questions about it. Be prepared to give an account.