Christian Romance Novels
Dear Sisters, Friends, Mothers and Daughters,
It is with an extreme sense of urgency that I write to you today to warn you most sincerely of one of Satan’s most subtle ploys to draw us away from Christ: His standard, His Salvation and His life. I wish to remind you that the “. . . the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made”(Gen 3:1) and that serpent, the Devil, has never changed; he is still subtle.
It does not take much to distract these fragile, feeble human minds away from that which we are exhorted to think upon: “ whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil 4:8) We know that the enemy has already succeeded in planting a multitude of things upon which Believers might stumble, but I wish to address just one with you today: that of Christian Romance Novels
I have just completed a novel by Francine Rivers called Her Mother’s Hope and it was the reading of this book that has spurned this letter of warning. In brief: the novel follows the life of a girl called Marta, who is raised in a Lutheran home in Switzerland but who goes on to explore and experience the wider world. The reader follows Marta’s adventures from a painful childhood to ambitious adulthood as she seeks to fulfill her dreams. The story of her own marriage and family and then that of her daughter’s and granddaughter’s follow thereafter. It was the Author’s intention to make Mother-daughter relationships the subject. Sounds nice . . . so, what is it then that is worthy of a warning?
In the very least, this Novel sets out to paint a picture of Christian lives; not just the lives of the women but of the husbands and fathers too, yet they do not bare much resemblance to Biblical Christianity. They do however represent those we find today filling pews all over the world — those who think they are saved. Countless millions have been ‘brought in to the Kingdom’ by a little prayer and go on to practice a religious routine. Generally, folks can live sinfully with no visible, actual evidence of the life- changing experience of meeting the Man of Calvary. It seems that the characters in this novel assume or inherit Christianity as opposed to having a personal meeting with Christ.
It is not the subject of this letter today to expound upon the necessity for REAL SALVATION, but suffice it to say that the least we ought to expect when the life of a true Christian is portrayed, is that there would be something of a testimony of a meeting with Christ; a dealing with sin and a transformation typical of a life which has met with Christ. Of this there is a gaping void in Her Mother’s Hope. The predominant evidence of Christianity presented in most of the lives portrayed is that they attend church on a Sunday and some pray. This is religion.
One of the ‘best’ Christians portrayed is the second heroine’s husband who reads the Bible every evening and encourages the children to trust in God, but who is also found frequently fighting with his wife. Furthermore he opts out of attending church altogether because of the church folk’s attitude toward him.
Churches all over the world today are plagued by the single parent attendance. One can understand when the partner is simply not saved, but for a believing man, who ought to be the Spiritual head of the home, to be seen pushing his family off quite happily each Sunday whilst he stays at home, defies the very pattern laid out for us in Scripture. Whilst church attendance most certainly does not make one a Believer the Believer is told “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25) Again, whilst it is not the place of this letter to expound on this scripture, let the Word of God stand as judge alone: this man forsakes his position as Spiritual leader of the home. What a tragic role-model.
At the most extreme these novels are mind polluting. If we consider the above Scripture from Philippians 4:8 on what we are to think about, then from start to finish this novel negates this instruction and gives us everything that is vile, horrid and debauched to think upon. It even presents heresy. But let’s back up a little and present some actual examples.
In the very earliest part of the book the father is physically abusive, the sister is raped, and the same sister commits suicide. At this point we are presented with blatant Catholic heresy when the heroine prays for her deceased sister’s soul and dreams that she is in heaven. Nowhere in Scripture will you ever find that we can or should pray for the soul of the departed. This was a pagan practice adopted by the Catholic Church.
The very popular, but erroneous, phrase is told to the heroine of her sister: “ONLY GOD KNEW HER HEART”. This is such deception. We can and do know the state of a man’s heart by the fruit and deeds of the life. Even the thief on the Cross exhibited the life changing fruit of having met the living God. Even this ‘death-bed’ conversion gave living evidence of Salvation. The thief knew Christ as His Saviour and was therefore able to call Him Lord: “And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. “(Luke 23:42)
The enemy simply loves for Believers to lose the urgency of the hour; he loves to lull us in to a false sense of security and have the feeling that our loved ones are ‘ok’ and only God knows their hearts and we can pray for them after they pass on . . . BE NOT DECEIVED!
Furthermore, as sensitive as this issue is, I have to say that it is with growing concern that I observe how suicide is viewed by those who profess Christianity. As utterly devastating as it is to the ones left behind, the Bible is clear about suicide and we ought to be warning young and old of the dangers thereof. The enemy is laughing with great derision every time a soul takes his life. I cannot emphasize how serious it is that it should appear in a ‘Christian novel’ without being put in to the Scriptural context and without God’s view being clearly presented. Oh God, have mercy!
Typically of most Christian novels these days, the underlying thread of generational curses pervades the book as Marta’s daughter, Hildie, is born to appear like Marta’s deceased sister and then nearly becomes the victim of the same crime against her (rape). Little Hildie then spends her life trying to fight against her mother’s fears that she will succumb to the same fate as the deceased. In the sequel then, Hildie’s own daughter is sexually abused.
A person born of the Spirit of God, washed in the blood of Jesus is not subject to the curses or patterns of family tragedies. Again, the enemy would love for us to live in the fear of repeated ‘patterns’ and by presenting this in a novel, the heresy is popularized.
Hildie, goes away to study nursing and lives with a roommate whose lifestyle is promiscuous and yet this character called Boots, is portrayed as a heroine for her fun-loving ways and bold intervention in helping Hildie find a true love.
A Christian who lives away from home at a young age should never, no matter how convenient or economical, settle with other compromised lives. The Bible is clear: bad company WILL corrupt good character. (I Corinthians 15:33)
Tragically Hildie’s faith or lifestyle has absolutely no effect on her unsaved roommate’s lifestyle. Now, that is no surprise since she has no real testimony of a personal meeting with Christ. Whilst she might pray to God and whilst she might go to church, the life of Christ is not evident. In one of the last scenes in which we find these two together, we are told that Boots arrives home drunk, slurring her words. At no point is Hildie devastated at the destruction of alcohol upon her young friend’s life; in fact Boots, we learn, settles down and her life goes on ‘swimmingly’. She represents the typical College heroine of today’s secular world: sleep around, binge drink and then settle in to a happy life — without consequence.
One of the secondary characters, Elizabeth, best friend to Hildie, marries Hildie’s brother. Though professing to be Christian, Elizabeth has an affair with her husband’s best friend. Hildie suspects that Elizabeth must have had an affair as she knows that her brother is impotent, yet Elizabeth falls pregnant. At no time is there any sense of Elizabeth’s extra-marital affair being a sin and a sin against God. Hildie is merely angry with her best friend for being unfaithful to her brother.
Sadly, this is about the measure of how most view their marriage vows; all too commonly it is viewed that the vows were made between two people — to each other — when in fact the nature of a Christian vow is a three way covenant and made by two people before the living, Holy God. What a mockery of that which calls itself a Christian marriage! Elizabeth sinned against God.
We know that adultery is happening all too much in what calls itself the church. Must we now have it in a Christian novel where adultery is not specifically condemned? (Incidentally, this couple met each other at high school around age 13 and 15. The description of these teenagers’ first encounter begs the question: what is our standard for young ones? Again they are raised Christian so why are we being told of the physical effect of the girl upon the boy? )
In one scene a classmate of Hildie’s is preparing for a date, (dating of certain ranks of hospital staff was forbidden) and the Matron in charge forbids the girl to go out. The following throw-away comment is tossed out: “I don’t care if you have a date with the Apostle Paul. . . ” It is interesting that Francine Rivers chose the celibate Apostle Paul for this seemingly careless comment. This is a blatant undermining of the one outstanding man of God we know in the Bible who lived a God-called, God-ordained life of celibacy. This mocks a man who is not only probably the most Christ-like man to have ever walked this earth, but a man used by God in all our lives this very day. Whilst I do not uphold the honouring of man in the manner of religion, we must draw a line on making a foolish jest when it comes to a man of God who is a brother to those who truly believe.
Ladies, how many pages of anything have you read in total in the past year —including the Bible? Now put this in ratio to how many pages there are in these 500 page novels and work out the proportion. What we read does influence us albeit subtly. It is logical that what we read most will dominate our thoughts. Remember that we retain more of that which we read than that which we hear.
I cannot prove that Francine Rivers set out to present all these subtleties consciously but I can understand and see how easy it would be for her to be affected by the pervading themes, practices and teachings of the modern church today and thus include them subconsciously. For example, I do not know what church Mrs. Rivers attends, but one can be sure that they advocate modern Christian Counseling for in the closing chapter, Marta “dredged up every resentment and hurt” to purge herself. None can purge himself. Only the blood of Jesus can set free and purge. We are also urged not to dredge up the past but to “[forget] those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Phil 3:13)
You may be secure and sound in doctrine and none of the above phased you, so allow me now to get to the more serious effect of this novel.
There are scenes in this novel which create mental pictures which I believe could sow seeds of destruction; destruction of your marriage and your walk with God. The mental pictures of intimacy between a man and a woman painted in this novel are for us as women nothing short of pornography.
In the very first place, a man and woman who are not married should not be touching in the manner described in this novel. That is God’s instruction “Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman.” (1Cor 7:1)
Note the Apostle Paul is recognizing how God made us women: that we are the ones who are affected by touch. The intimate scenes in this novel are described from the point of view of the physical effect on a woman; on the way the woman feels when she is touched by the man. There is no mistake in this approach and as the novel progresses the reader is drawn in to increasingly heightened passions and senses in the women. This is how the pornographic world prospers: if they can get you hooked on ‘soft pornography’ they have you well on your way to more atrocious addictive material.
This is not my own statement, but I know no truer words have been spoken:
WHAT PORNOGRPAHY IS TO A MAN, ROMANCE NOVELS ARE TO A WOMAN
If you have read this book or other Christian Romance novels, you may have already made up your mind that I am out of my mind to describe this novel as pornography. If so then I can guarantee that you will be one who ‘interprets’ the above Scripture in Corinthians to mean something else. In other words you will not be upset to see an unmarried man and woman touching, caressing, kissing etc.
I submit to you this day: no matter how ‘holy’ both parties may be, human passion can take over in a moment of time and because the church and Christian homes have allowed unclear boundaries on this subject, many, many heartbreaking situations have arisen. Christian mothers and fathers all over the world are heartbroken when their ‘golden girl’ comes home pregnant out of wedlock by the beloved, all-star Christian boy from next door. It is not good that a man would touch a woman . . .
It is shameful and embarrassing to mention this, but toward the end of the novel, the heroine has a ‘sweaty dream’ and the author articulates that it was not caused by her illness but because she was thinking about her fiancée. It is horrifying to present such as ‘normal’ in the life of a ‘Christian.’(Naturally, it is not surprising in the context that I do not believe that this heroine was sanctified)
The Chambers Dictionary defines pornography as the “description or portrayal of prostitutes and prostitution: obscene writing, painting, and the like.” The Collins English Gem Dictionary defines pornography as: “indecent literature”. I believe this novel exemplifies these definitions.
May I ask: would you watch as your friend and her husband kissed, embraced and were intimate? I hope not — I hope you would feel desperately uncomfortable if you stumbled by accident upon such a scene, and I hope you would feel uncomfortable being the one to openly display intimate physical affection in public. Why then do we find ourselves looking in on the intimacy of others as we do in this novel? Frankly there is no difference — this is what pornography is!
One of the first fruits of pornography in the life of men and women is a seed of dissatisfaction with one’s own marital relations. If one is not married, it creates an unrealistic expectation, or a fantasy world which will hold you in captivity. Even men read romance novels, and wonder why they have issues when it comes to relationships and marriage. The fantasy world built by such books, literally builds a stronghold in the mind.
It is not insignificant that Francine Rivers was an award-winning, prolific Romance Novelist before she became a Christian. Indeed it is highly significant and would explain how the secular Romance Novel techniques appear so readily in these works. As one critic put it, she was known for the ‘heat’ between her characters. Mrs. Rivers’ has not changed her writing skills but has merely brought them in to the Christian realm. This should simply not exist on the shelves of Christian literature — at all.
It is not uncommon to find that popular music groups launch themselves in to the Christian music scene without ever having met Christ — indeed they barely know basic Christian doctrine (enough usually for a TV interview) — because the Christian market is a very lucrative market. In the same way, beware of Authors who have decided that Christian fiction is also an undiscerning, lucrative market.
You may go straight to your copy of this book to dispute what I have laid out here, and look for passages or find chunks of this novel which bring forth sound Christian principles, but as with all deception, it is the tragic mixture of that which is sound with that which is extremely unholy.
The body of Christ has been made ‘sick’ by the influence of the world coming in to the church and nowhere less than in the field of Christian fiction. There are good, safe Christian fiction authors out there (although not enough!) but the difference is that their books will leave you edified and uplifted, thinking upon good, pure things.
About sixteen years ago I was given my first Francine Rivers’ book and it was her first Christian novel (Redeeming Love). I promoted it and lent my own copy out over and over. The concept of a Biblical allegory (Redeeming Love is based on the book of Hosea) written in the form of fiction attracted me and I obviously thought it was worth recommending. I went on to purchase other Francine Rivers’ books until about seven years ago.
What has changed? God found me and I have changed! During this time I met the living God. In the interim I met the man of Calvary and everything I loved about God became revelation to this heart of mine. I have grown more in love with the person of Christ and my eyes have truly turned upon Him. I have devoured the Word of God as never before and in turn, clarity has come to these once dim eyes! The efficacy of the blood of Christ and the glory of the Cross are now my joy.
When I was given these latest two novels to read, I wasn’t initially interested because any Christian novels I have read of late have simply bored me but because I had enjoyed Mrs. Rivers’ books in the past, I took them gladly, but now in the light of having read this I urge you to withhold yourself from purchasing these books. It is such a ‘nice’ idea to give a believing-girlfriend or loved one a Christian Novel as a gift, but now I implore you, take heed of the warning! These pages contain subtleties which can ultimately have devastating effects. If this book and its sequel were to be given to a young, unmarried Christian, I could prophesy now that it will bear bad fruit.
Her Mother’s Hope has a sequel Her Daughter’s Dream which I started and could not complete. The early chapters describe a little girl being sexually abused by an older neighbour. The sickening filth of such scenes I do not want to have filling my thoughts.
I send this letter to you with sincere love, and prayerful urgency. Please, I implore you, take heed.
With love in Christ and earnest intention,
Since posting this article on this website in early 2011, there have been a number of responses for which I thank Website Readers (WR). Significantly, there was an overwhelming response from those who showed appreciation for the clarity which this article wrought in their lives but there were, as expected, some very contrary points raised. These are as important, if not more important for me to hear than those in agreement. I want to share just two with you and one general issue.
I think the most significant point that arose when I responded to some questions and comments regarding this subject, was the question of ROMANCE and its place in a Christian’s life or God’s view thereof. My response to this is the following:
CM: There is no greater Romance Author than God Almighty himself. The entire Word of God is a beautiful weaving together of the Romance between His own dear Son, Jesus Christ, and His bride, the Church. Again I say, God is the greatest Romance Author of all, BUT, and here is the difference, it is pure, good and virtuous romance.
Furthermore, the feelings given to a man or woman when they fall in love with a member of the opposite gender, are God-designed feelings but since we live with a fallen nature, we have to take care what we do with these feelings or perhaps more importantly, what we do with the THOUGHTS, for we are to take captive every thought and imagination which may lead us down the road from temptation to sin.
One Website Reader (WR) wrote quite strongly that I had ‘wronged Mrs Rivers’ and brought up a few other points which I mention in the response below. Read the following to see what I replied to these important issues raised:
CM RESPONSE: I desire so sincerely that if I have wronged Mrs Rivers that it would be pointed out clearly and Biblically. If wrong in the light of scripture, I would correct it without hesitation. It is no light matter and I do thank you for taking the time to write.
You wrote :”The books do not promote praying for the dead, rather to turn to God for comfort. Marta was praying to God about Elsie because she didn’t know what else to do.”
You make such an important point: that in losing a loved one the very best thing to do is to turn to God in prayer and often it is at such a devastating time that a person who may never have prayed in his/her life before does turn to the Lord for the very first time at the time of personal loss. I do so solemnly wish that Francine Rivers’ books did make this clearer. Instead, there is a predominance of theme regarding asking God to alter the eternal destination of a soul — more particularly a soul of one who has taken their own life.
Pg. 97 “Oh God, where does my sister sleep? Can You show mercy and carry her home to heaven? Or must she suffer the agonies of hell because she lost hope?”
The question raised here is a very serious one: it questions God’s mercy, God’s judgement and God’s Word, as does the following passage:
Pg 103 Rosie writes in a letter: “. . .but I sit on our log and pray for her soul every day. . . Father John . . . said the church must have rules, but God is Elsie’s maker and God is just and merciful. He said the Lord promised not to lose any of His children. His words helped me, Marta. I hope they will help you too.”
The Word of God is clear and absolute on the question asked here. It is not the church which has made its own rules but God who has spoken clearly.
Pg 94 “I pray God will forgive her for what she did to herself and her child”
Surely there is nothing crueller — and by that I mean eternally cruel — than to give false hope? What we need so desperately in the hour in which we live, is clarity of God’s Word for that will indeed bring the love of God to hearts. The short examples above dangerously play with Truth. To testify honestly of God’s love, God’s truth has to be clear. His love and His truth are inseparable. Like the two legs we walk on or the two hands God has given us, His truth and his love must always go together.
You wrote: “I believe that these books are sincere testimonies of God’s love.”
Praise God that God’s love was brought to your heart by these novels; now may His truth not be compromised or forgotten.
The second point you made was: “I can’t believe you couldn’t finish the book because Carolyn was raped! These things happen in real life, all the time, and it will do no good, if us, the ones who are supposed to show such victims that there is still love (Jesus) in this world, turn our backs!”
In not continuing to read the sequel, I believe I am obeying God’s Word “ whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil 4:8)
However, this point you make is a very common notion and I would like to address it. There is a pervading thought throughout the world (not just Christian) that one who has experienced a certain tragedy personally is more able to minister to a person who has experienced the same. Indeed in many cases it is believed that only those who have been raped can minister to those who have been raped and only those who have lost a loved-one can minister to those who have lost a loved-one and so on and so on, but I cannot find this pre-requisite or preference in scripture. Christ himself would be the perfect example and indeed, Paul, who was not married and who did not have children, gives the majority (aside from Christ) of our instruction on family life in God’s Word. I do not have to experience or read about tragedies/travesties to be able to minister to a victim.
Instead what I need most when I minister to the victim of a tragic circumstance or to one who has lost a loved one or who is broken hearted, is Christ-likeness; a broken heart, a contrite spirit and the Word of God in my mouth.
Isaiah 66:2 “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.”
Ever before me is the revelation from God’s Word that I am capable of every sin and offence known to man because of the nature of my own deceitful heart (Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?) and that the cure for any and every situation or sin is the blood of Jesus Christ, risen son of the Living God.
In an hour when there is so much confusion and compromise, I long to see a return to the simplicity and clarity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wish that someone as influential as Mrs Rivers would write with the clarity and conviction I believe is possible in Christian fiction.
Your response made me return to this article and having re-read parts of the books again, I am more convinced than before to stand by the ‘warning tone’. Again, I am grateful if you have been positively influenced, but I would sincerely ask that you take prayerful consideration of passing on these novels to others.
With respect and appreciation of your time
I never heard back from this Website Reader.
Here’s another quite vehement response, but one who turned around after receiving a response:
WR: I totally and completely disagree with your views on this novel by Francine Rivers. If you would bother to finish the second book, you would see how Christ's healing power has touched and restored lives and relationships--including Boots. Yes, there is sexual abuse in the beginning, but many people in the church have been sexually abused. Francine Rivers tackles some uncomfortable subjects that do happen to people in our world, and she shares that Jesus is the answer and healer for us. I'm saddened by your narrow minded view and the fact that you would discredit a woman's work whose heart wants to help bring people closer to Christ through her work. I have never once been polluted by her brief references to sexual encounters. At least she is honest enough to speak about temptations people face. When I finished the second book, Her Daughter's Dream, I sat there and prayed for my [child] that I would be open to see things that may be coming [their] way and to protect them from predators, etc. I didn't sit there and think about sex
CM RESPONSE: Thank you for your feedback on the Francine Rivers' Article. I value all feedback and response. You are the first and only one thus far to express this opinion as most have responded with appreciation for what has been a confirmation of their own reservations. Others, who have not come across her work before, have simply been persuaded by the Word of God as presented in the article.
God is indeed faithful and to be trusted to be the guardian of your [child] and I join you in asking Him that your [child] will be protected from harm, but most of all, that your [child] would be saved and come to have a personal relationship with the living God.
May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, bless, keep and guide you in the days ahead.
WR: Thanks for your reply, and I'm sorry if I sounded rude or anything. I just really love Francine Rivers' novels, and I know how they inspire me. After talking more with my friend who posted the article, I feel as though I have a better understanding of your point of view. It is good that you are willing to stand up and sound the alarm when you feel something is wrong--even when not everyone agrees--and I do respect that. Thanks, again, for your response.
CM: Now Website Readers, take care what you set before your eyes and may the Eternal God who is maker of us all, bring to light every subtle ploy of the enemy. We have no time to waste.