James Carroll – Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age

Christ ActuallyI have just completed reading James Carroll’s latest book “Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age” for the second time. I know that I will read it many more times as I continue my own work of articulating an understanding of Jesus for the 21 century. Carroll’s way of exploring Christianity has always been enlightening and refreshing because he has the courage to question the tradition from the vantage point of someone who has lived the tradition with passion. Carroll is former Roman Catholic priest who now serves as Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at Suffolk University and is a columnist for The Boston Globe, whose books include:  “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews,” “American Requiem: God My Father,” and the “War That Came Between Us, Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War,” “Toward a New Catholic Church: The Promise of Reform,” as well as eleven novels. 

Carroll’s critique of Christianity is infused with a sense of responsibility for the ways in which our anti-Jewish texts have misremembered the story of Jesus. His exploration of first century history points to the profound influence of the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.  upon the way in which the gospel-storytellers crafted their accounts of Jesus for their late first century communities.  Insisting that we must measure everything we say about Jesus now against Jesus’ Jewishness, Carroll asks a compelling question: “What if the so-called divinity of Jesus lays bare not so much the mystery of God as it does the majesty of what it means to be human?”  Carroll sees that the divinity of Jesus in some way suggests the Divinity in which we all participate. Carroll’s work is a must read for those of us who are working to articulate a 21st century Christology!

The video below was recorded at First Parish in Cambridge on Wednesday, December 10, 2014

2 thoughts on “James Carroll – Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age

  1. Thanks, Dawn, have got this as a Kindle version following your review. Happy new year to you and Carol!


  2. We owe a special gratitude to Pastor Dawn Hutchings for providing her insights on James Carroll’s most recent book, CHRIST ACTUALLY. I concur completely with her observations and comments. I appreciated Carroll picking up the Bonhoeffer question, “Who is Jesus for us today?”. Both he and Marcus Borg and Dominick Crossan have helped restore “the Jewishness” of Jesus to our understanding Jesus. Both Jesus and Bonhoeffer’s death and the 70th anniversary of the liberation Auschwitz make Carroll’s discussion of the first and second Holocaust an essential fact of knowledge for anyone and every one doing theology today. I agree with James Carroll “we have to deal with the Holocaust (Shoah). We think we have but we haven’t. I also appreciated Carroll’s treatment of “the divinity of Jesus” question.

    Like Carroll, I also remember reading Harvey Cox’s The Secular City and being transformed by its insights my senior year in university. By providing the video of the dialogue between Carroll and Cox people younger than myself are brought into an important conversation that began back in the 60s. That was also the time when Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers were first published in English. In Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers one finds Bonhoeffer’s original question, “Who is Jesus for us today?” Who is Jesus for us today? Something for all of us to continue to ponder and discuss together.
    Thank you Pastor Dawn Hutchings for providing this blog.
    Pastor Jon Fogleman

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