Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

8.14.2009

A Toppled Pedestal

I was first introduced to Hannah Hurnard when I was about ten through the book Hind’s Feet on High Places. It packs a wealth of conviction, challenge, and insight between its covers! More recently, Mama discovered a stack of Hannah Hurnard’s books that belonged to my Great-Grandmother. Excited to read them, I chose one called Hearing Heart and dove in. I devoured this book, which candidly told of Hannah’s journey from a miserable, rebellious non-Christian to the point when she finally submitted herself to God. She emphasizes listening to God and being willing to trust and obey Him unconditionally. Once again, I loved her writing.
It was then that I realized that I knew nothing about Hannah Hurnard. Of course, I headed to my research center and typed her name into Google. I almost wish I hadn’t.
I soon discovered that this woman was Quaker, but throughout the first part of her life she adhered to traditional evangelical doctrine with which I would agree. She even wrote some wonderful, doctrinally sound books.
Then, something began to change. She began to believe in universal salvation; that is, that God would not stop loving someone who died without accepting Him. Therefore, she believed that God would save non-Christians after death. She embraced reincarnation and other New Age philosophies, becoming a vegetarian because of these new mystical beliefs. She even believed that Jesus was essentially an angel who somehow became the Son of God. As the sad end to this sad story, she died in 1990 after refusing conventional treatment for her cancer.
I must confess that I was shocked, confounded, and even depressed. My first impulse, in fact, was to mourn. How could this woman, who shared a genuine conversion in her books, a love for God that was deeper than mine, and a relationship with her Lord that seemed to surpass any earthly tie go so wrong? I almost felt that, if someone as great as Hannah Hurnard could fall prey to such lies, what hope have I?
My hope can be in one thing alone: Scripture.
Hannah listened to Satan and allowed herself to be led away from Scripture by His lies. She knew that universal salvation was against Scripture, but she was taken in by a twisting of Scripture. Isabel Anders wrote in Standing on High Places,“In the later years of her life, Hannah herself ceased to attend church. Her lifelong conviction that God would speak to her personally, giving her deeper and deeper insights and ‘light’ that was to be widely shared with others, led her to believe that there could be no spiritual authority over her or her speaking and writing except the Lord Jesus Christ himself” (pg. 170). This sounds wonderful, but she ended up putting words in Jesus' mouth and falling for lies. Proverbs challenges Hannah Hurnard as well as myself when it says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life….Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of you feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. My son, pay attention to my wisdom.” (Proverbs 4:23, 25-27, 5:1a)
250 years ago another writer echoed those thoughts in “Come Thou Fount:”

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

The character Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress made a sign to warn others not to be tricked by the Giant Despair as he had been, and “many, therefore, that followed after, read what was written, and escaped the danger.” Likewise, the story of Hannah Hurnard stands as a warning sign to all those who will take heed. So I stand at Hannah Hurnard’s warning sign, mourning the loss of the Hannah I had imagined for myself, the one I had put on a pedestal only to find out she was human and weak after all.


Picture from: http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/Frederic-Edwin-Church/Broken-Column,-The-Parthenon,-Athens.html

3 comments:

  1. Wow, that is really sad. It is absolutely staggering how easily we are deceived. How beautiful, humbling, and amazing are God's grace and forgiveness!

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  2. What a sad story! I really enjoyed "Hind's Feet on High Places" when I read it a few years ago and was in the midst of reading it again...but now am unsure whether or not I want to finish it.
    I was aware of some of the things you shared about her, but not the extent. It just goes to show how important it is to be anchored in God's Word.

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  3. My alternate title was "A Sad Story" which would have been very appropriate, I guess! However, Ruthie, I wasn't writing to dissuade people from reading Hannah Hurnard's earlier books such as Hind's Feet, but rather to make them aware that not all things that she wrote were Biblical. Hind's Feet remains one of my favorite books, although I will now read it with some sadness and I will probably not risk reading unknown books by her.
    However, I completely agree with you, Sarah--God's grace is so beautiful and huge!

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