[A review I wrote for our church publication. Having recently read the second installment of Rice’s Christ the Lord Series: Road to Cana, I thought this worth posting. I enjoyed it equally.]
I charged into Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt with a pencil in hand, ready to confront the heretic who had “quit being a Christian” “in the name of Jesus Christ.” I had never read her books, but that recent announcement had brought her into the crosshairs of my Master’s thesis in which I am confronting the post-modern heresy of choice—that idea that I somehow have the right to disown any or all of the historic Christian faith that I dislike and follow Jesus in my own way. It is the arrogant attitude that I (or my group) suddenly have Jesus nailed down on a level of understanding heretofore unknown; it is the disgraceful disregard for Jesus parable of the wheat and tares. But it is not what I want to talk about here.
Rice’s boy Jesus in Out of Egypt drew me into the story. I dropped my pencil by the second sentence, “What do you know when you’re seven years old?” I didn’t pick it up again until I reached the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. It was there that I found what shocked me about the Anne Rice of recent CNN headlines but was perfectly fitting for Anne Rice the author of Christ the Lord. It was there that I marked two passages—two passages that gave profound insight into her novel.
The first was a summation of her scholarly influences and artistic approach. She rejected the extreme skeptics, instead turning to the likes of Ken Bailey, N T Wright, Raymond Brown, and others. They had the more convincing arguments which led her to the understanding that:
“The Challenge was to write about Jesus of the Gospels . . . 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 . . . The true challenge was to take the Jesus of the Gospels, and try to get inside him and imagine what he felt.”
She did it. Jesus, the boy, made me uncomfortable…and he made me love him. His struggle to understand himself pushed me to think about what it meant for God as a boy to “grow in wisdom” and “in favor with God.”
How did Rice accomplish this? In deference to Chesterton I would say it is through the romance of orthodoxy. Rice explains in her note (in the other passage I marked) that she chose to draw from Apocryphal material about boyhood miracles in hopes of “being true to the declaration of the Council of Chalcedon, that Jesus was God and Man at all times,” while at the same time being true to the truth that Jesus emptied himself. And so her “character has emptied himself of his Divine awareness in order to suffer as a human being.” The outcome is a beautiful artistic foray into the mystery of the incarnation. It is disquieting at points. Yet it is a testimony to the truth that (to reference Chesterton again), “the riddles of God are more satisfying than the answers of man.”