The third problem and caution I have is that books like Redeeming Love can cause us to avoid true biblical literacy. We would rather form our idea of God from a fictional plotline than from the actual book of Hosea. My encouragement would be if you’ve read the book and have not read the Book of Hosea, to take the time, take a month to actually study the Book of Hosea itself. Do not get your idea of God from a fictional book. You have to check that book against Scripture.
Remember, even though Ms. Rivers intention was undoubtedly good, the book itself is many degrees removed from Scripture. It’s not Scripture. It’s one person’s interpretation and idea of how Scripture might have looked in another context. The movie is now three degrees removed from that, created by a secular studio and a secular director and writer with Ms. Rivers. But still, we’re now three and four and five degrees removed away from the original truth. Don’t let a good movie or a good book cause you to avoid true biblical literacy. Form your idea of God from Scripture and then use that as the plumb line to measure the things you’re consuming.
Theological Problems With Redeeming Love
The first theological concept that I want to introduce may be a little bit of a shocker for many of you. But many scholars believe that Hosea was actually married to the wife of his youth. So, he met Gomer, married her, not as a prostitute, but just as a sweet young woman that he loved and she became a prostitute after they were married.
This matches the narrative of Israel’s covenant on faithfulness to God, which is the parallel being drawn, but it negates the premise of Redeeming Love. If you look at the Book of Hosea, you’ll see in Chapter 1, where it says that the Lord told Hosea to marry a woman of promiscuity. What scholars believe is that that section actually was in Chapter 2 and was moved to Chapter 1. Remember, the Bible wasn’t in chapters, and it isn’t in chapters, really, today in Judaism, the Old Testament. It wasn’t in chapters at the time that it was written, it was just written as a total book and then we divided it up later. And so that particular section has moved to Hosea one, so we assume that he went out and found a prostitute and married her. But many scholars actually believe that he married a woman, and she became a prostitute after marriage, like she was cheating on him with other men, and left the home and became a prostitute, and he went and redeemed her. Obviously, this creates a problem with the story of Redeeming Love because that’s the entire premise that Michael Hosea goes and marries a prostitute. But again, many people believe that Hosea did just marry a prostitute. So, it’s a little bit of a nuanced issue there.
The second theological problem with how God is represented here, is that Michael is drawn to Angel because of our physical beauty. This is mentioned repeatedly throughout the book. But this creates this idea that God loved Israel or loved us because of how we appear or because of how beautiful we are. There’s this tension in the book of Michael Hosea being really frustrated by Angel’s continual return to her old life, but he’s also just in awe of how gorgeous she is and how beautiful she is and how attracted he is to her. This is a really strong theme. You’ll see it recurring if you’ve ever read the book. This was problematic for me when I was reading it because it creates the strange understanding of God and a difficult separation of the human, Michael Hosea from your concept of God. Is God just head over heels enamored with my physical attributes or with me as a person?
The reality is that God does not need humans. He’s not looking at us and going, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so just fallen in love with you,” the way we use those terms in romance novels. Instead, God is saying, “I created you. I love you, because I made you for relationship with me.” He’s not using language of, “I fell in love,” or “I’m in love,” “I’m bound up in your beauty.” That’s not the language that Scripture presents. Scripture presents a choosing love. A love in spite of what we’ve done, which is a theme in Redeeming Love. But it’s so bound up in the physical beauty of Angel that it introduces some difficulties theologically and it also introduces some difficulties for women who read it and who struggle with body image and body shame.