HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Challenge
Author: Carolyn Erman
Publisher: Zayin, 1997
Related website: http://carolynnovels.com/ (publisher)
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Well-grounded teens and adults
Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Erman, Carolyn. The Challenge (published in 1997 by Zayin Publishing, P. O. Box 571, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18703). Thirty year old David Jensen, whose mother Mary had died when he was fourteen, lives with his father Martin and younger brother Daniel, twenty four, in the rural Ozark area of southwest Missouri. The three work together in construction. For over fifteen years David has prayed to find God’s choice for his life mate and kept himself only for her, but it has not been easy for this strong and handsome young man. Even Daniel is now engaged to marry Kathy. When David wants to buy and board a horse, someone recommends the nearby Phillips Ranch where he meets John and Betty Phillips and their twenty five year old daughter Hope who gives riding lessons. David and Hope are immediately attracted to each other, but there are obstacles. David has been introduced to Karen who seems very interested in him, though he finds that her spiritual views and concerns are not the same as his. And Hope is being pursued by one of the ranch hands, Kevin Thompson, though she feels that he shows no evidences of spiritual maturity or daily communication with his Maker. Is it God’s will for David and Hope to be husband and wife? If so, can they find a way to get together? Or will various obstacles keep them apart?
Identified as “A Christian Novel by Carolyn,” this book is Volume One of four in the “A Time For Every Purpose Series.” From a positive standpoint, I do strongly appreciate the emphasis in the book on strictly maintaining absolute purity prior to marriage and the importance of always seeking the Lord’s will in our lives. That being said, however, even many very conservative Bible believers may feel that it goes a little overboard in its view of male-female relationships leading to marriage, although it does illustrate the beliefs of the modern-day patriarchy movement. Anything that might be considered “dating” is discouraged, and the Old Testament Hebrew traditions of betrothal are portrayed as being God’s plan for today. Any kissing, holding, or touching before marriage is presented as something to be avoided, and apparently it’s wrong even to imagine the kinds of feelings or thoughts that one might have regarding what intimacy with a spouse would be like after marriage. And the implication is left that if young people make a mistake by not following all these rules and regulations, they may doom their chances of true happiness in marriage forever.
Furthermore, there is great stress placed upon having “exceptional directives from the Lord,” hearing things from the Spirit, sensing the hand of the Lord in events, receiving guidance from the Spirit, getting revelations from the Lord, and believing that God Himself has planted convictions in one’s heart. Not to deny the possibility of God’s providential guidance in the lives of His people, if your belief system does not include the idea that God immediately and even miraculously leads by winks, nudges, dreams, still small voices in the night, and other experiences better felt than told, much of this book may not make sense to you. Also a great deal of opinionating occurs on such subjects as believers avoiding mortgages and the sinfulness of making vows or promises, which entirely lost me, especially towards the end. But we should understand that this book comes from a segment of Christendom which believes that God still makes known His ways directly to individuals in some mysterious fashion, so any conclusions which they reach must be God’s will for everyone. The Challenge does contain an interesting story, but I would urge readers to approach it cautiously and with discernment. Volume 2, released in 2000, is entitled The Choice. I understand that the author, Carolyn Erman, passed away on February 12, 2015.