The Life of Our Lord

The Life of Our Lord is a letter written by Charles Dickens. He wrote this for his young children, aged two through twelve, so the language is simple and easy to understand. This is Dickens, which means that it is a lovely book—though I may be biased. I think he has an absolutely beautiful writing style, and his books are, in my humble opinion, a work of art.

I always enjoy reading people’s accounts of Jesus’s life. I think what they choose to include says a lot about them. Dickens did a good job of summarizing Jesus’ life in a way that was easy to follow.

One thing that has always bothered me about Dickens is his generous usage of commas. Long, winding sentences wear me out—and he’s king of long, winding sentences. He also used so many unnecessary capital letters. It ends up making the book feel a little choppy, and it interrupts the flow of the words. However, this is a pet peeve of mine, so you may not agree with me. 

I was expecting to love The Life of Our Lord. I think I’ve mentioned that I have a thing for Dickens? How could I not love it? However, I very quickly became uncomfortable with the theology I was reading. 

The thing that bothered me the most about Dickens’s account was how often it referred to Jesus in a way that suggested He was just a man that God chose to elevate because He was such a good man. A good example of that is what the angels told the shepherds. It said:

There is a child born to-day in the city of Bethlehem near here, who will grow up to be so good that God will love Him as His own Son; . . . people will put that name in their prayers, because they will know God loves it, and will know that they should love it too (13).

I understand that this may have been simply in an effort to make it more understandable to his children, but I find it disturbing and worrying. He also warns the reader a number of times to be good and kind or else Jesus won’t love you. That definitely bothers me. He didn’t exactly talk fire and brimstone, but he seemed to be motivating them to be good by using fear. Since his audience was young children, I tried to read it with that in mind. I think we all know the danger of teaching a child that God’s love is dependent on whether or not they are good. That’s crippling belief for anyone to have.

At the end of the book, Dickens includes a prayer for his children to pray. It again says, “If I am cruel to anything, even to a poor little fly, God who is so good, will never love me (128).” 

To be fair, Charles Dickens refused to publish the letter during his lifetime because he didn’t want people to disagree with and criticize his religious beliefs. I feel a little bit bad for doing just that, but it’s not a book I would recommend as a Bible story for children. I do think it’s fascinating as a peek into Dickens’s brain to see what he believes. I think it’s an interesting paradox to compare it to some of the darkness and loss that are such an integral part of his novels, and it will definitely have an effect on the way that I read and interpret some of his other works. The nerd in me loves to know all the information I can get about an author so I can get a better handle on where he’s coming from.

I would love to know what your thoughts are. If anyone reads the book, please tell me what you think! I’m curious if you agree with my thoughts or not. All in all, I don’t regret reading the book and learning more about Dickens as a human and a father.

Rhonda Mast Rhonda Mast has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. That may be why she knows the proper fencing stance, spends countless hours on YouTube watching videos on tatting and cranberry harvesting techniques, completely covers one wall of her room with her bookshelves, understands 19th century boxing cant, reads the dictionary, knows the proper way to curtsy and tie a cravat, and has invested a small fortune in candle making supplies. It’s also why you should never ask her why algebra and ancient literature are practical classes for high schoolers. She routinely distributes vitamins, fashion advice, natural beauty products, and math tutoring to her seven siblings. She’s developed a love for adoption, foster care, and a whole host of little boys in Mexico, although she has a number of health issues that slow her down more than she likes. She is learning blind trust in God and complete surrender to His will.

2 thoughts on “The Life of Our Lord

  1. Thanks, Rhonda, for writing this! I had heard of the book but never read it. I appreciate you pointing out the flaws in Dickens’ theology. That actually sounds like some dangerous beliefs, e.g. Jesus not being fully God, and the love of God dependent on our works instead of His free gift through faith, which we are unable to earn. It sounds like he missed the message of redemption that is crucial to our faith! I think you are right – it may be interesting to learn more of who Dickens was, but not an appropriate source for young children!

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