Saturday, July 10, 2010

Rahab, the Grafted

As some of our readers know, I am generally not much on Christian Fiction.  In fact, I can count the number of Christian lit books I have read on one hand.   But there is one writer who has a knack for putting it all together and still making it read well.  Francine Rivers is the author of Redeeming Love, perhaps the best modern Christian lit book.  I read it last year and could not put it down and could barely stop crying as I read it.  Yes, there are drastic differences in her writing from that of the authors I normally read.  Yes, it is Christian Romance fiction and I have never read a romance novel (secular) in my life.  So it is outside the norm for me.  But, my mother-in-law loves all things Christian lit and was so excited that I read Redeeming Love that she gave me Francine Rivers Lineage of Grace last year for Christmas.  It is a collection of novellas about five of the women in the Messianic family tree:  Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. 

A Lineage of Grace (Christian Softcover Originals)Rivers takes the Biblical accounts of these women and breathes life into the flesh and bones outlines of these women.  Where the Bible is silent on the emotions of most of these women, Rivers ponders the struggles with temperament these women in extraordinary circumstances might have had.  In Rahab's story, Unashamed, the result is a greater picture of the scope of salvation, the hope of the coming Lord, and unwavering faith in a God who is able. 

Rivers is a little more heavy handed in Rahab's story than I remember her being in Tamar's story.  It feels almost constrained by the Biblical account, where Tamar's story expanded it.  That is not to say that the Biblical account is something that should be brushed off in the pursuit of poetic licence.  Rather, Rivers seemed to use the paintbrush lightly on this one.  She just added touches around what was already a masterpiece.  Where Tamar's tale illuminated the cultural significance of certain Biblical events, Rahab's story did not.  Rivers, instead focused on broader Biblical themes of waiting on the Lord, trusting His power and His plan, and the grafting in of Gentiles. 

Another accomplishment of Unashamed is the hypothetical wrangling Rivers does with the facts.  She provides the answers to: How did that happen?  For those who question the veracity of the Biblical account of the walls of Jericho simply falling at the sound of trumpets and the marching of feet, Rivers offers an interesting explanation.  For those wondering how a Gentile harlot wound up in the lineage of the Christ, Rivers offers a most unlikely romance. 

I recommend the reading of these novellas after reading the Biblical accounts.  They breathe new life into the Hebrew stories of redemption for a modern world that barely understands the ancient culture and customs.

Rating: 4.6 of 7



  1. I'm surprised you liked Redeeming Love! I read it two years ago at the stubborn insistence of a friend, and it made me sad with how much no me likey. I don't know why, but I really dislike most Christian fiction. It's just so...terribly bad, and kind of an insult to Christians with brains. Aren't we supposed to be the super thoughtful and creative people on earth here? Guess we're too busy having bake sales grumble grumble resurrect CS Lewis grumble.

    (this may post twice, browser trouble)

  2. Hi Jane Doe,
    I found Redeeming Love to be able to express pictures of God's enduring love in a way that perhaps I had not thought about before. It sucked me in. I think Rivers has a way with words that transports the reader there. I remember after reading the first chapter of this current book a while back, going back to read a Biblical account involving the Jordan River. In my mind the picture was so vivid, I kept asking myself when I had seen a movie with the Jordan river in it - then I realized it was the book. I think any author that can do that is pretty gifted.
    But aside from that, I study the Word quite a bit and I am surprised to find an author who puts much thought into all the themes involved in some of the Biblical accounts. She doesn't leave anything out - another thing I respect.
    On the C.S. Lewis tip, I really enjoyed the books of his I have read and find him to do some of the same things, only in allegory (some could make the argument that Redeeming Love is allegory - I would not). While, I do know that Rivers rarely rises to the great literary heights of so many secular authors; I do think she is a gifted storyteller.
    I think that it must be difficult with Christian authors because the Bible is so much in the cultural psyche. The stories tend to be heavy-handed and hit you over the head with the "moral-of-the-story." Maybe I find Rivers does this less. I still see it, but she does it less.

  3. Whoa, that was long and hopefully, not crazy defensive.

  4. Leah, I am thrilled to find reviews of Christian fiction. I've read some and have collected a few authors. I'm now a follower. Thanks for commenting on my blog.

  5. While I don't love all Christian fiction, I absolutely do appreciate the opportunity to read books written from a godly, biblical perspective. And there are some brilliant writers such as Nancy Muser, Linda Nicols, and Francine Rivers. Jane Doe, read Swan House by Muser and re-evaluate, please. One more point I'd like to make: just because a book is termed "great writing" and even a classic by the world's standards, if it is ungodly in thought how can it be great? It leads to ungodly thinking for those who don't know the Word, and what redeeming value does it have for the believer's time spent reading it? As a believer I am grateful to God for books that point to Him and give Him glory. Not a judgement call, just my own conviction. I'd rather read a second-rate writer of Christian fiction than a first-rate writer of secular fiction.

  6. No, you're not defensive! To each his (her) own. And Conni, I won't be re-evaluating, sorry :) I don't know what books you're talking about that are great writing but are ungodly. Most classics were written in a time when everyone in the western world was a Christian, so they're all pretty Jesus-y. Even the term "ungodly" is subjective. I can see how someone like Albert Camus, who was an atheist but struggled with it in his fiction, could totally have merits for the believer because it causes me to examine my own faith. Athiest writers ask great questions, and we shouldn't let them be the only ones answering them just because we love God and won't sully our brains with their lowly secular thought.

    Who does that serve, except ourselves?

    And a writer of Christian fiction should never be second rate. The fact that there are more second rate Christian writers than first rate Christian writers is a travesty to our belief system. What glory do tired metaphors, silly preaching, and shallow thinking give to God? None. We should be the most talented, best written, most thoughtful literary bunch. I would rather burn second rate Christian fiction than let the world got hold of it and think it represents my God.

    (how's that for rant-y)

  7. Sorry, I get very antsy about this topic as you can tell. I'm breathing like normal human now. :)

  8. I'm your newest follower from the blog hop..I'd love for you to stop in and check out my blog
    if you get a change {book and product reviews, giveaways, family stuff and more}.
    Have a wonderful weekend ♥

  9. Blog-hopping by--I already follow. :-) I'm a fan of Redeeming Love, myself. I was reading Francine Rivers about 10 years ago, and her work is just stunning quality, not to mention faith-based and encouraging.


  10. Hey you, just following on the hop and the Friday Follow. Great site. Come visit me.
    See ya!

  11. I never really read Christian fiction..aside from the Left Behind series. I'll have to check this author out as I've heard alot about her through friends from church.