Book Review: The Rent Veil

The Rent Veil, by Horatius Bonar

This is a book that more or less midrashes Hebrews (along with quite a few other areas of scripture) and gets a lot right, but manages to miss quite a bit as well.  When reading a book like this, one has to choose between celebrating what the book gets right or lamenting what the book (a short one at just under 100 pages) misses.  Being a person inclined to split things down the middle, I will do a bit of both, with the comment that since this book does not contain anything that is really actively offensive that it is a book I can warmly recommend even if its discussion about the relationship between God and humanity is incomplete.  To be sure, the desired intimacy of God with mankind is something I muse about fairly often [1], and largely because I find myself sharing the perspective of God in terms of wanting intimacy while struggling to find it.  The author does not really seem to get this angle, at least not fully, although he does a good job at looking at the positions God is looking for within His kingdom.

After a short preface, the rest of this book consists of twelve chapters.  The author begins with a discussion of the original open discourse between God and man (1) and then points to how the veil came about as a result of sin (2).  Here the author misses something that I think is of importance.  After that comes a discussion of the symbolic veil (3), the true veil (4), and how the veil was rent at the death of Jesus Christ (5), something the author takes in deeply symbolic terms, which I think highly appropriate.  The author then talks about the removal of the sacrifices and their replacement with the sacrifice of Christ (6) and the messiah (7) and blood (8) that are contained in the author’s highly mystical view of the veil.  Perhaps as a Calvinist he felt it necessary to point to the blood of Christ as well as penal substitutionary theology as a way of proving his bona fides.  The last four chapters of the book focus on what God is seeking in humanity, namely worshipers (9), temples (10), priests (11), and kings (12).  Here he also leaves something out, and the book ends very abruptly without a conclusion, which is puzzling.  One wonders what happened so that the author did not feel it necessary to conclude his text properly.

When one looks at a book like this, what is more notable than what is said is what is not said.  The author comments on the usual Calvinist high points of the depravity of mankind after the fall in Eden and the way that Jesus’ death and resurrection served as a substitution for the death that we all deserve for our sins.  Yet what is missing in this book is particularly profound, including a look at the way God continually sought intimacy with Israel only to be denied, something that is repeated all too often in churches as well as the lives of believers who want to keep God at arm’s length instead of embracing warmly and wholeheartedly.  Likewise, the author forgets (or does not know) that God is looking for sons and daughters.  Here too what is missing is the sort of intimacy that brings God and mankind together on more than a master-servant level.  And perhaps that is what is most problematic about Calvinism in general, its lack of appreciation for the warmth and longing and closeness regarding God and redeemed mankind, and the way that God has always sought to become one with godly humanity.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: The Rent Veil

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Crazy Busy | Edge Induced Cohesion

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