Wednesday, 7 April 2010

More Dark Materials?

I happened to have a book token in my wallet yesterday so acquired a copy of Philip Pullman’s latest offering The Good Man Jesus And The Scoundrel Christ. In big letters on the back cover it says This Is A STORY so you can’t say you haven’t been warned. The book is an enjoyable and stimulating read, doesn’t take long to get through and much of the material is familiar, with an occasional twist that suddenly brings one up short.

pullman A central theme of the book is that fiction, or at least a creative reworking of history, can help to reveal deeper truth. This seems to be what Pullman himself is seeking to do in his fictional account of the Gospels, seasoned with an underlying polemic against the institutional church. Not surprisingly Pullman’s Jesus turns out to be little more than the demythologised eunuch characteristic of the quests for the historical Jesus; a good man with a pithy turn of phrase and some acute social/religious observation. For me, such a Jesus is more a semi domesticated pussy cat, rather than the roaring lion of the Gospels who has consumed the lives of so many followers over two thousand years.

Pullman raises some challenging questions for the church about what we have done with the Good News of Jesus Christ. However, I can’t help feeling that the answer lies not in filleting out the uncomfortable and difficult bits, but in submitting ourselves again and again to the searing light of the Gospel in all its richness, diversity and fullness.

For a detailed review of the book check out Bishop Alan Wilson’s excellent The Goodman Philip and the Scoundrel Pullman? and his further reflections From Jesus to Church?

Update (8/4/10) I'd missed Rowan Williams superb review of the book in The Guardian which is well worth a read.

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