Friday, February 1, 2013

Hinds' Feet on High Places

By request of one of my blog readers, I have for you today a review of a very special book. This book is a depiction of the life of a Christian through allegory, but unlike Pilgrim's Progress, it is not a depiction of travelling to the Celestial City; it's the journey of a new Christian to that of a mature and growing believer.

The Plot
Much-Afraid lives in the Valley of Humiliation, a fearful little servant of the Great Shepherd. Hurnard doesn't even give us a depiction of conversion in this allegory; she simply says "For several years Much-Afraid had been in the service of the Great Shepherd" and off she goes from there. Much-Afraid might be a good servant, if she wasn't crippled and ugly and living near her cousins, the Forebodings. There's a fearful lot of them: Mrs. Dismal Forebodings, Gloomy, Spiteful, Craven Fear, and others unmentioned. They are determined to marry Much-Afraid to Craven Fear. an abusive wretch that she despises, but is to timid to send packing. After her relatives try to kidnap her, Much-Afraid flees to take counsel with the Good Shepherd. She utters a wish to leave the Valley of Humiliation, the Good Shepherd surprises her by saying that he has waited a long time for her to wish that. He offers to take her to the High Places, to make her feet like hinds' feet, to give her a new name, and to place the flower of Love in her heart. The hinds' feet will come in time; the new name is not yet for her to know; but the flower must be planted immediately, and the Great Shepherd drives a long sharp thorn into Much-Afraid's heart.

Love and Pain go hand in hand, he says.

Much-Afraid soon finds that the journey is not to be all to her liking. Instead of having the Good Shepherd with her for the entire journey, she must accept the companionship of "Sorrow" and "Suffering", two veiled women that cannot speak her tongue. They are there to guide her crippled feet on the path she must follow to the High Places. If this wasn't bad enough, Much-Afraid is forced to face the geographic difficulties of Pride, Injury, Tribulation, Loss, and Loneliness. Gradually, as she overcomes her fearful heart and learns to obey the Good Shepherd wherever he bids her go, her journey seems to lead ever closer to the end she longs for--the High Places of her Lord.

My Thoughts
The most stunning part of this whole book is Hurnard's use of Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs if you prefer.) The one book of the Bible that causes little children to burst into fits of giggles and skeptical teens to roll their eyes becomes the cry of Much-Afraid's heart, as she prays and sings to her Good Shepherd, and uses it to boost her shrinking courage. Hurnard turns it to rhyme and places sections of it throughout her story, giving it fresh meaning in an all-too-cynical society. I absolutely loved it, and I hope that the Church of Christ takes to valuing all of Scripture instead of just what's comfortable or relatable. Well done.
The Christian life is a journey from one High Place to the next High Place to the next High Place during our life on earth; it never ends. A High Place is a season of fellowship with God, where we have a heart surrendered and trusting, ready to learn from him. Oftentimes when we've learned one thing the Good Shepherd moves us on to the next mountain. That's another theme that resonated with me. My own journey of spiritual growth was at one point very similar to Much-Afraid's living in the Valley, longing for more. But now I am on a journey up to one mountaintop, and then for a time I rest in its green fields before moving on to the next one. And yes, Sorrow has held one hand and Suffering the other much of the way. But they are strong companions, and sturdy ones, even if they never speak a word or show me their face.

A good allegory: true, relatable, and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it for all Christian bibliophiles.

Now, I'm afraid, we must move on to Hurnard herself. And I must start with the disclaimer that I was not aware of the following information until Wednesday, when I started drafting this post. I didn't know that Hinds' Feet had sequels, and I certainly didn't know the controversy surrounding Hurnard herself. While I endorse one of her books, I certainly don't endorse her as an author. If this would disturb you or spoil your enjoyment of the book, I highly recommend that you end here, but if not, then by all means continue.

This is what I found.

Hurnard's Heresy
Hurnard grew up a Quaker, but she never had the 'experience' with God that the rest of her family seemed to enjoy. When she finally received the 'experience' she craved, she felt God telling her that he would heal her stammering difficulty and use her as a foreign missionary. She served in Israel many years as a housekeeper in a hospital, and brought the gospel to others through her speaking and her writing.

But later in Hannah's life her theology derailed. Into her beliefs crept such heresies as universalism, pantheism, and reincarnation. She took to vegetarianism after embracing the belief that God was within his creation, and therefore eating animal flesh was sin.

“In fact, 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”
(Standing on High Places, by Isabel Anders, pg. 170).

As good as this sounds, God doesn't speak through some mystic, inside voice. He uses his Holy Spirit to illuminate the truths of Scripture, not to give us an entirely separate revelation.

Invitations dwindled, and Hurnard passed away in 1990, in Florida. Up to the end of her life she opened her home every Monday evening to explain reincarnation, vegetarianism, and New Age thought to those who wished to come.

To quote the third book in the Hinds' Feet trilogy, Eagles' Wings to Higher Places:

To the depths of her soul she knew that she could live here no longer where there were no Higher Places in sight. No, it was not sorrow for the hopeless plight of the poor people in the dark places which caused her grief; it was anguish at the thought of the hopelessness of the only message which she had to give them. Lost forever with no hope if they rejected it! Cast off by the God who had brought them into existence, if they rejected His call now. All her unacknowledged doubts and questions arose again concerning a God who called Himself Love and who brought myriads of souls into existence without being able to prevent them from condemning themselves to an eternity of hopeless darkness and suffering, lost to Him forever. How could He possibly love them, if He let this happen to them? How could He possibly be good, if He brought them into an existence where it was possible for them to separate themselves from His love and joy and goodness forever?” (pp. 21-22)

This really tugs at the heartstrings, but a closer look at Scripture shows us where Hurnard's error lies. First of all, Hurnard says "Cast off by the God who had brought them into existence"; however she neglected to remember that we cast him off first. He gave Adam the choice to disobey, and Adam took that choice. From here on out, mankind was justly punished by a righteous God. God could not be holy if he did not punish our unrighteousness with death. He had the power to prevent us from condemning ourselves, but that would have taken away our voluntary obedience and love for him, and he did not want us to be puppets in his hands. "The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life." Revelation 22:17. Whosoever will. That means according to the Greek "he that desires, he that is willing, he that wishes". God is not willing that any should perish; his only requirement is that we keep his law. Once we break that, we are cast upon his mercy.

And he gave it to us. But some of us still reject it.

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.--Revelation 21:27.

As hard as it is for some to accept, Christianity is an exclusive gospel. One way to heaven: Jesus Christ. You either are saved, or you aren't. There is no in-between. Those who aren't saved go to hell. After death the time for repentance is passed. But those who humble themselves and enter through the narrow gate find themselves in a blissful eternity with God. The gate is open; the gift is outstretched; it only remains for us to accept it.

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. --Revelation 20:11-15

The Bible teaches clearly on hell, and sadly, many people will be there for eternity. But they made that choice of rejection, and hell is the consequence.

Please don't mistake my meaning. I don't intend to come across as indifferent or unnecessarily harsh. My objective is to show that God is a God of justice as well as of mercy, and a God of wrath as well as a God of love. Each of these qualities must be accepted to have a full understanding of God's character, and through that, His redemption.

While further refutation of these false theologies are beyond the scope of this blog post, G. Richard Fisher wrote an article entitled From High Places to Heresy, which I recommend to my readers for more information concerning Hurnard, and the false theologies she embraced.

Hinds' Feet on High Places holds much useful Biblical truth, and I hear from several sources that its sequel, Mountain of Spices, is theologically sound as well, though I would have to check it out to be completely sure. But do avoid Eagles' Wings to the Higher Places, as that book contains much of the faulty thought she embraced later in life.

Hannah Hurnard did not move on from one High Place to the next. Sadly, she ran down one after another and ended her life in the Valley. It's always sad to see an author produce a valuable tool for Christian living and then walk away from the very truth they taught. We must not allow it to become a cause for fear in ourselves, but search the Scriptures ever more diligently to lay our faith's foundation, and trust Him alone Who is able to keep us from falling.

Lady Bibliophile


  1. Dear Lady B,
    I absolutely LOVE Hind's Feet on High Places, although you may have to explain the allegory to me. ;)
    It's so sad Hurnard took that viewpoint. It's a dangerous valley to fall into.
    It was an excellent post!
    Love, Sister

    P.S. We should get Mountain of Spices!!!

    1. We *should* get Mountain of Spices!!! ;) And I would be happy to explain some of the allegory to you. <3

      Love and cuddles,

  2. Hi Schuyler,

    'Hind's Feet on High Places' was one of my favourite allegories when I was younger and still is very dear to me. I was inspired, challenged and blessed by the messages in the book, in particular the work of the Good Shepherd in our lives and His refining fire and how Much-Afraid clung to Him: I related so much to her journey in regard to my own spiritual journey as well! I loved how Hurnard wove the Songs of Solomon into the text too, very much. It is such a good book! In fact, 'Hinds Feet on High Places' inspired me to start my first ever story/allegory, Escape from Vanity which I sadly never completed ;).

    What you said though, about the Christian journey that it "is a journey from one High Place to the next High Place to the next High Place during our life on earth; it never ends..." is so true! It never ends, but we must continually press on till the end of our lives till we reach the truly High Place in Heaven. The thing with Hinds Feet on High Places that I strongly disagreed with was that Much-Afraid reached a certain degree in her relationship with the Good Shepherd when she reached the High Places and received Hinds Feet -a degree of complete spirituality and sanctification which I do not believe can ever be fully attained in our life on earth. From Scripture we see that as long as we live, we always must press forward to higher ground in following Christ and becoming more and more like Him... we should not think that by reaching a high-place that we've attained that high spiritual level and reached a place of full sanctification. Not until we get to Heaven. Do you know what I mean? The good thing about 'Hind's Feet on High Places' was that this issue only came up really at the end of the book, and for the rest of it was really inspiring and good. That's been my main qualm with the book, but otherwise, I love it :D.

    I never knew this about Hannah Hurnard though! That is truly sad that she went this way. Like your sister said, it is a very dangerous valley to fall into. I am especially not surprised about her beliefs in universalism as 'Mountains of Spices' (which I read by the way!!) had very faint hints of her underlying belief in this at times. It was not very obvious at all and basically focuses on Grace-and-Glory's desire and quest to bring her relatives into the service of the Good Shepherd and her growing relationship with the Good Shepherd as she dwelt in the Mountains of Spices, but for some reason I never quite liked it like 'Hind's Feet'. I felt that the whole of that particular allegory was rather un-biblical to be honest in the author's focus to dwell in that spiritual realm without any valleys or struggles. But we see that even the apostles, even Paul, had a continual race to fight and win till the end of their lives... to know Christ (i.e. Philippians 3). However, Mountains of Spices was not devoid of interest as well... the story was nice and there were bits that were inspiring as well. I did not quite detect those serious heresies which obviously the author came to believe in later in her life and appear in her other books (I did not know there was another sequel either, thanks for the warning about it though). So, despite that, I do think you should give 'Mountains of Spices' a try :D.

    Great post by the way!
    Blessings in Christ,

    1. Good to know about 'Mountain of Spices'! :) I would like to try it someday.

      "The thing with Hinds Feet on High Places that I strongly disagreed with was that Much-Afraid reached a certain degree in her relationship with the Good Shepherd when she reached the High Places and received Hinds Feet -a degree of complete spirituality and sanctification which I do not believe can ever be fully attained in our life on earth."

      Agreed, definitely agreed. I must say, I didn't get the impression that Much-Afraid reached complete sanctification in the part about the High Places. I took it to mean that she was no longer struggling with 'am I a servant of the Good Shepherd'. She reached the place where she knew that he was going to lead her from one High Place to another. I myself went through that time where I thought 'am I ever going to grow, and be like those Christians who are so sure of their life in Christ and are obviously bearing fruit?' and I did reach that place. Still growing, but knowing that I am bearing fruit by God's grace.

      That's what I took from Much-Afraid's story, but I agree, we are never fully sanctified on earth.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Dear Schuyler,
    Thank you SO much for doing this review! :D <3 I really enjoyed it! :D I love that book!

    It's too bad about Hannah Hurnard! I had no idea!

    Thanks again for the review! <3 <3


    1. You're welcome, Lizzy! <3 I had no idea about Hurnard either, until I researched for this post. That was sad, but we can still enjoy the very good book she wrote. :)


    2. Yes, so there are 3 other books from the Hinds' Feet series, right? Have you read them?

  4. Dear Lady Bibliophile,

    Hinds Feet on High Places was a book that I read early in my Christian Life. And it really impacted me. Of course that I googled a lot about the author´s life and in the beginning I got shocked, but later I started to realized that all the stuff about heresy came from others people mouth. Would you have some source ( written or said) by Hannah where she would state her new beliefs in occultism, reincarnation and new age? I would be very grateful if you send me some bibliography or even quotes. Cause sometimes I am led to believe that people have interpreted her wrongly.


  5. Dear Perola,
    Thank-you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. :) I really appreciate them; and it's good to be held accountable on such things, because a charge of heresy is certainly a very serious thing. I would be happy to be wrong in this case, I do assure you!

    Hannah, in her own words, denied that hell was an eternal punishment, a very important doctrine of the Christian faith. You can find her own words here:

    I would caution you that she uses a lot of emotional appeals, and takes some Scripture out of context--after all, we cannot take one verse and divide it from all the rest of Scripture, nor can Scripture contradict itself. Reading this can be potentially dangerous and very persuasive, but I would love to discuss it with you if you like!

    As for Hind's Feet on High Places, it impacted me as well, and I think it is a beautiful story, and also a beautiful use of Song of Solomon. This book was written before she fell into her heresies (as far as I have researched her) and therefore, I wouldn't have the same problem reading it as I would her works towards the end of her life.

    Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I would love to discuss it more with you!


  6. Hi, I know this post is 4 years old now, but I hope that since the blog is still active that I might contribute. I only just started reading the book and I am in the middle of chapter 4, but I can't go any further. I agree that the use of Song of Solomon is beautiful. My problem is with the repeated promise, "when the plant of Love is ready to bloom in your heart and when you are ready to change your name, then you will be loved in return." This seems to be a works-based salvation, that Much-Afraid must somehow prove her devotion and accomplish maturity and perfection before she will be loved. Or that she has to endure the suffering and pain in order to earn love. This is opposite of what the Bible teaches. I went back and reread just to make sure I wasn't misreading it. She says that the Shepherd looks on Much-Afraid "with compassion" but never describes him as loving her. That's really odd, considering what the Bible says..."But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ---by grace you have been saved---and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Ephesians 2:4-7. I think of the words of the song All I Have Is Christ, "But if you had not loved me first, I would refuse you still." Anyway, this was so troubling to me, that I set to google to find out more information about Hannah Hurnard's beliefs, and I immediately saw the universalism of course. I don't think that I can continue to read this book, nor recommend it to other people, because I do believe something is "off" with her and it does come through in this book.

    1. Stephanie, thank-you so much for chiming in! Never too late, even on older articles. I didn't read into those themes when I read the book originally, but that is so good that you caught that theme--praise God that he loved us before we were lovable! And I love that song, All I Have Is Christ. :)

    2. Oh wow, this isnt that long ago of a post. I have read the book Hinds Feet a few times in my lifetime (I'm nearly 30) and it has ALWAYS blessed me. It is truly a shame that HannahH swayed from such beautiful theology and relationship with the Shepherd later in life. I don't understand how someone who could write the beautiful allegory of Hinds Feet could drift from the truth of that 'revelation'.

      As far as love itself, I actually DO identify with this aspect very well. I want to be loved so desperately, loved and understood. It is hard soemtimes for people who have been hurt to trust again. No one wants to love and then be rejected, it's human nature. And sometimes this even translates to how we see God. We dont want to surrender ourselves fully to trust Him because of our trust issues, yet how GOOD and PERFECT He is! The desire to be loved in return is a human desire, but we know that God does not disappoint. But until we have that fuller TRUST in Him (Trust follows a person, listens to them, obeys them), then we won't know that indescribable fulfilling Love. As we continue to trust and obey, I believe we get a greater fuller sense of that Love that has been planted initially. Does this make sense?

      This book resonates so well with me and I identify with fragile little Much-Afraid so well!


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