Wednesday, 21 May 2014
A Review and a Clarification
Karl Rutlidge, who interviewed me at the book launch, has posted a review of Three Men on his blog, here.
Over all it is a very positive review, for which I thank him profusely. However, he does take issue with one chapter, which I would like to discuss, not in a spirit of refutation, argument or defensiveness, since I very much see his point, but in the hope of clarifying my intentions regarding the analogy used, and of my position on the issues raised.
I dithered slightly about responding on here to the point raised, since responding to negative reviews, or as with this case, the one negative aspect of an otherwise very positive review, is rarely of value to anyone concerned, but I thought that in this case it was worth clarifying my position, and I hope I will succeed.
To briefly summarise the chapter in question, which is entitled ‘Thoughts on Continual Grace’, the three pilgrims encounter a woman who is badly bruised and beaten. They react with horror and indignation when she reveals that her husband has beaten her, and even more so when she reveals that she is planning on going back to him. She explains that no matter how much he hurts her or rejects her, he needs her love, and she is willing to be hurt for his sake. Having had a glimpse of grace, the three somewhat reluctantly continue on their journey.
Now, the intended meaning was that the woman represented God, with the husband representing us, you and me both. No matter what we do to hurt or reject God, either deliberately or accidentally, His love for us remains undaunted and unfaded, and He will never give up on us, no matter how much it might hurt Him.
Karl has quite correctly pointed out an alternative interpretation that never occurred to me when writing the chapter, but having read his review, and having re-read the chapter, I can see what he means. He has pointed out that a possible interpretation is that there is something inherently virtuous or valuable in a human being remaining in an obviously abusive relationship, and that it is even the Christian thing to do. Having, thankfully, never been exposed to anything like an abusive relationship, it might be thought that I am trivialising the issue, or even that I’m casting aspersions on those who don’t ‘stick it out’.
Hopefully I don’t have to say that I do not expect, or would ever advocate, that someone remain in an abusive relationship, and it was this unspoken (and possibly incorrect) assumption that was the main thrust of my analogy. Domestic abuse, both physical and psychological, is an extremely serious issue, and one that I would never deliberately dismiss or trivialise. If this is how it comes across in that chapter, then I can only apologise. This is something that nobody should ever be expected to suffer, and being so, it makes the willing love, patience and grace of God all the more wonderful and amazing. He is doing, unasked, what I would never ask or expect any person to do, let alone God Himself, and doing even more than that, even to death upon the cross.