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Christ Actually

Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age
by James Carroll
Hardcover: 368 pages

I have not yet read this book, so this is less of a review than an expression of my enthusiasm reading an extract on Huffingtonpost (read the full extract there).

We need encouragement to move deeper into our incarnation faith, and I can see this book may help me to do this.

Here is a taster of what James Carroll writes – as much for me as for you:

Here is the question, finally: Why do Christians need to believe in the Incarnation? “The point of incarnation language,” the Catholic theologian Roger Haight writes, “is that Jesus is one of us, that what occurred in Jesus is the destiny of human existence itself: et homo factus est. Jesus is a statement, God’s statement, about humanity as such.” Humanity is the presence of God. The presence of God, therefore, lies in what is ordinary. Not in supernatural marvels. Not in a superman with whom we have nothing actual in common. Not in saints. Not in a once-only age of miracles long ago. Not first in doctrine, scholarship, or theology–but in life. …

Leaving us with? A simple Jesus. An ordinary Christ. One whom the simplest person can imitate, the most ordinary person bringing Christ once more to life–day by day, word by word, bread by bread, cup by cup. In all of that we see divinity, which, paradoxically, is what makes Jesus one of us. Whatever sort of God Jesus is understood to be, it must be the God who is like humans, not different. If that seems impossible, then what we think of God–and of humans– must change. This is essential to the New Testament and “the very logic of Christian faith.” And, finally, the truest argument–not proof–for the divinity of Jesus is in the one undenied fact of this history: that billions upon billions of ordinary human beings have found in this faith an immediate and saving experience of the real presence of God, “partaking” of God–becoming God. Even unto here, with these words written and read. We come to Jesus, in the end as in the beginning, only through the Jesus people.

If Christ is undiscovered now, a figure lost to many, that is in part because of scandals done in his name, by those who call out his name most loudly. …

Human life is more than material. To be rendered mute in the face of that mystery is to be less than human. And being less than human now carries dangers that simply did not exist before. Auschwitz and Hiroshima amount to the twin interruptions of history that have made this inquiry not only necessary but urgent. Auschwitz and Hiroshima, which warned not just of a capacity but of an inclination, lay bare the new actuality that confronts men and women: the dread prospect that the human species–which is the very cosmos aware of itself–will bring about its own extinction….

Now we know, though, the limits of our language about God. We do not know “God” not because we are ignorant, but because “God” refers to one who, when it comes to certitude, is beyond categories of knowledge. The God to whom Jesus points is the God beyond “God.” We recognize in Jesus all that we need to know about the God who otherwise remains incomprehensible. And this recognition, because it is well rooted in the past, is powerful enough to carry us into the open-ended future, even extending beyond what can be imagined.

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2 thoughts on “Christ Actually”

  1. Thanks for this, Bosco – I’ve ordered the book on the strength of your quotes. There is something more than compelling in the idea of a simplicity and ordinariness beyond holiness. An interesting read, I hope, to start the new year with some radical (in the truest sense) re-thinking. Glad you’ve managed to get the site back up so quickly. Every blessing for the year ahead.

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