Skip to main content

Rowan Williams on Pullman and the Gospels

For the full review go here, (HT and links to other reviews RB)

Pullman leaves the Christian reader with a genuine paradox to ponder, and he doesn't – to his credit – suggest that the arguments are not serious. The sinister stranger in the book – who stands for all philosophical system-makers who want to improve on history by importing eternal truths at the expense of ordinary truthfulness – insists to "Christ" that Jesus's message can only survive clothed in the language of miracle and power. It is very much the argument we find in the mouth of Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor – that Jesus was too radical for ordinary human consumption, and for his memory to survive at all, you will have to lie about him. But what Pullman doesn't fully allow, I think, is the degree to which the New Testament itself is already aware of the dangers. Mark's gospel, in particular, presents a Jesus who insistently refuses to use his own miracles to prove his status, and a company of disciples who are chronically incapable of understanding Jesus's challenges. It seems to recognise the irony that the more you say about Jesus the more you risk getting it wrong.

And through the Christian centuries, these unresolved tensions and deliberate ironies in the Bible have gone on prompting people to resist the lure of Pullman's "Christ" and his anxious religiosity – a Francis of Assisi, a Bonhoeffer; an Óscar Romero, murdered 30 years ago last week for his resistance to state terror in El Salvador. They have seen through the surface froth of religion and heard the voice Pullman himself obviously finds so compelling. That should make us pause before deciding that the New Testament is quite as successful in sanitising an uncomfortable history through religiously convenient "truth" as Pullman implies. It is aware of its own temptations. It trains its readers in self-questioning.

Comments

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yet again, Rich, you manage to use the post as an excuse for putting links up, the comments are for comments on the post or at least links that are directly relevant.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Why Dr Charles Stanley is not a biblical preacher

Unusually for me I was watching the tele early on Sunday morning and I caught an episode of Dr Charles Stanley preaching on his television program. Now I know this guy has come under some criticism for his personal life, and that is not unimportant, but it is also not something i can comment on, not knowing the facts. His preaching is however something I can comment on, at least the one sermon I did watch.

He started off by reading 2 Timothy 1:3-7. Which is a passage from the Bible, so far so good. He then spent the next 30 minutes or so talking about his mum and what a great example of a Christian mother she was. Now nothing he said or suggested was wrong, but none of it actually came from scripture, least of all the scripture he read from at the beginning. It was a lovely talk on how Stanley's mother raised him as a Christian despite considerable difficulties and it contained many useful nuggets of advice on raising Christian kids. All very nice, it might have made a nice…

That one time Jesus got the Bible wrong

It's so typical isn't it? You are preaching all day long, training your disciples, sparring with the Pharisees, encouraging the poor and down trodden, healing the sick and casting out demons, all day, day after day, and even when you go up a mountain to get a rest the crowds hunt you down and follow you up, and then the one time you get a bit muddled up with some of the details of a biblical text . . . that is the one they write down in the first gospel - verbatim. At least Matthew and Luke had the good sense to do some editing. But Mark, he always had his eye on giving the public the "historical Jesus" whoever that is supposed to be . . . warts and all. Thanks a lot Mark!

Some think I made the mistake on purpose, just to show the Pharisees up.

For some there is no mistake worth mentioning, only a slightly ambiguous turn of phrase.

Others think I am doing something tricky with Abiathar's name, getting him to figuratively stand in for the priesthood.

It really has…

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.