Sunday, March 12, 2006

What Jesus Meant ---

Or rather, what Jesus meant secundum Garry WillsBooks: A Contrarian's Christ - Newsweek Entertainment - The First Things review by Fr. Edward Oakes SJ is even more devastating: A Jesus Just for me. What caught my eye was this paragraph though, where Wills admits what the Church teaches, and what some traditional biblical scholars (such as Luke Johnson) have been saying,
Jesus as a person does not exist outside the gospels and the only reason he exists there is because of their authors’ faith in the Resurrection. . . . The only Jesus we have is the Jesus of faith. If you reject the faith, there is no reason to trust anything the gospels say. The Jesus of the gospels is the Jesus preached, who is the Jesus resurrected. Belief in his continuing activity in the members of his mystical body is the basis of Christian belief in the gospels.
His image of the Atonement is also quite powerful (apparenlty, not enough for the Newsweek reviewer above, though):
Wills is even better on the Atonement, a doctrine now widely rejected by liberal Christians because of its alleged reliance on an image of God as patriarchal child-abuser. Alluding to a play by Chesterton called The Surprise, about a puppeteer who was so fond of his marionettes that he prayed they might come alive, Wills deftly explains Chesterton’s plot as a parable for the Atonement. When the puppeteer gets his wish and his marionettes come alive, they begin to bicker and speak their own lines. At this point, the puppet master exclaims to his now-independent characters, “Stop! I’m coming down.” In other words, in Wills’ exegesis, “Now that his creatures have free will, the puppet master can no longer manipulate them from above. He must come down to be with them, to fight for them.”
But that's about it. The rest is, apparently, incoherent. Fr. Oakes suggests that Wills would be better off as a high church Anglican. The best part is this description of the University as a totalitarian, hierarchical, dogmatic instution:
As he should know from his own position as a Catholic professor at a secular university, the two great institutional legacies of the Middle Ages to modern civilization are the Catholic Church and the contemporary university, of which the latter is surely the more rigidly hierarchical: With its politically correct orthodoxies, its hegemonically imposed anti-hegemonic discourse, its salary-mongering, its freedom from taxation (how Constantinian!), its speech codes, its teacher evaluations conducted sub secreto pontificio, its heated debate over the minutest matters, its hair-splitting fights over teaching loads and research assistants (tenure as benefice!), the contemporary university makes the Catholic Church look like a Quaker meeting house.
Oh how true!

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