Christ Actually: March Selection

This is the third selection in our series of modern books about Jesus. You can find the first two selections and see future picks here

Recently, I participated in a thoughtful conversation about two early 20-century American prelates, William Cardinal O’Connell of Boston and George Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago. During their reigns, the two men strove to put Catholicism on the map in Boston and Chicago. They consolidated their archdioceses, applied modern business practices to their diocesan operations and strengthened and expanded the Catholic institutions under their control. Both men built up the confidence of American Catholics—still outsiders in a Protestant country—by their own strident, triumphant personalities and by their well-publicized dealings with local, even national, Catholic and non-Catholic elites. Both men drew from a store of confidence fed by a bottomless certainty that the Catholic Church—her doctrines, traditions and teachings—were unfailingly true. O’Connell and Mundelein were certain that they grasped the truth about God and, therefore, everything else.

Interestingly, both men died before the full horror of the Holocaust came to light and the slaughter at Hiroshima and Nagasaki took place. Mundelein died in 1939, and O’Connell in 1944. They were not fully cognizant of the massive human suffering brought on by World War II and its scale of violence. These two events haunt modern human life. They also haunt modern religious thought—or, at least, they should. Aside from scientific and rationalist challenges to faith in God in the modern or postmodern world, there are also the ethical ones: war, sex abuse, bigotry and grinding poverty to name a few. Yet, the Holocaust and the atom bomb haunt us in their vividness, their stark concreteness. These events haunt James Carroll, the author of March’s Catholic Book Club selection, Christ Actually, and they inspire him to reimagine not these events in the light of Christ but Jesus Christ in the light of these events.

I begin my introduction to Christ Actually with two men that, most likely, would make Carroll cringe. But, I begin with them because I believe Carroll would be most scandalized not by the scandalous spending and—particularly with O’Connell—the moral failings of these two men, but with their certainty in knowing whom Jesus Christ was actually. The certainty of the traditional Christian story and the confidence with which Jesus is depicted as the principal hero of that story erode, so Carroll argues, in light of the history of two thousand years of anti-Judaism as well as the modern phenomena of the Holocaust and the atom bomb. Such haunting realities should erode the certainty—not of faith—of who Jesus Christ was actually and how contemplation of Christ-actually might affect our ordinary lives as Christians.

Carroll’s portrait of Christ-actually begins with the following principle and three experiences which I will try to describe below. First, the principle:

Awareness of the moral legacy of the Shoah and a felt sense of the radical contingency of life under the threat of the genocidal weapon have largely altered understandings of the human condition itself. The premise of this book is that those recognitions should therefore by now have equally changed the way Jesus Christ is thought of, by believers and nonbelievers alike. No such transformation has taken place. Yet Jesus has become a problem across boundaries of faith and skepticism, the problem with which this book wrestles (28).

Carroll argues quite convincingly that Jesus was a Jew. We know this as reflective, modern Christians. However, Jesus’ Jewish-ness was not part of the certain Christology that O’Connell and Mundelein or their era shared. Furthermore, there is a difference between knowing something and dwelling on it so that one knows it actually. Carroll offers a historical-critical portrait of Jesus that takes Jesus’ Jewishness seriously in and of itself rather than in contrast to certain adherents of Judaism within his historical context. Carroll also helps the modern reader understand the violence absorbed by Jews in their defiance of Seleucid and Roman occupation and oppression from the second century BC to the second century AD. At various points in those 400 years, thousands of Jews were killed, crucified even, for defending their land and Temple. Jesus lived in the midst of such spasms of violence.

Furthermore, the Gospel of Mark was composed coincident with the cataclysmic event of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. Indeed, Christianity initially emerged in the heart of Judaism and began to identify itself apart from Judaism only in the aftermath of the actual destruction of the Temple. Carroll’s synthesis of modern scholarship on Daniel’s apocalypticism to Paul’s letters to the Gospels and various first century sources—Josephus, Dio Cassius and the Qumran writings—is thorough, lucid and provocative. I learned a great deal by his presentation. Carroll’s portrait of Peter (a man always battling against fear) and Paul also enrich one’s understanding of the early Christian church and its subsequent antagonism toward Judaism. In short, the violence that Jews suffered in the decades surrounding the life and death of Jesus is breathtaking. Jesus suffered not only as redeemer, but he suffered as a Jew. And, what is more, Jesus, in his Christ-ness, was Jewish actually.

Three experiences underpin Carroll’s consideration of Jesus. The first is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s. Carroll’s title comes from Bonhoeffer’s writings as a Nazi prisoner. Carroll quotes from Bonhoeffer’s letters published after the war: “‘What keeps gnawing at me is the question, What is Christianity, or who is Christ actually for us today?’” (3-4). For Bonhoeffer, ‘today’ means in the light of the monstrosity and distortion of Nazism. Bonhoeffer’s question is the backbone of the book.

Carroll’s own experience also fuels such questioning. He speaks how a distorted view of Jesus—instilled in him at an early age—marred and scarred his relationship with God. As he grew in wisdom and experience, the certainty with which Carroll grasped Jesus was shaken by modern accounts of Israel’s suffering so hauntingly narrated in the accounts of Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel. Carroll’s certain portrait of Christ suddenly cracked in the encounter of these two Jews who suffered so much in the Holocaust. As his faith developed further, Jesus’ Judaism became, for Carroll, the beginning of a more comprehensive and palatable conception of Jesus Christ actually. And while many of the details of his depiction of Jesus, particularly the resurrection, will remain quite controversial to orthodox Catholics, Carroll’s book helps to cultivate one’s further, more expansive, more thoughtful, encounter with Jesus Christ actually.

I offer three questions for discussion; however, I invite all feedback and opinions about the book:

  1. Do you, in prayer or in your spiritual reading, ever dwell upon Jesus’ Judaism or his Jewishness?
  2. How do you endeavor to meet Christ actually? In reception of the Eucharist? In relationships and encounters with others? In reading about the historical Jesus and scholarly considerations of scripture?
  3. What aspects of Carroll’s presentation of Jesus are most unnerving? 
Janean Stallman
2 years 2 months ago
I read Carroll's book, early last fall. I have to admit that I couldn't put it down. Of course, Jesus was a Jew and his Jewishness is reflected in everything he does and says. I don't think we can understand Jesus without recognizing this. Reading about the historical Jesus, just as in Fr. Martin's book, makes Jesus real for the reader. Many people are afraid of losing their faith when they read scholarly books that in form us and in some cases change our understanding of who Jesus was "actually." The first time I read about the historical Jesus was from Dominic Crossan's book, "The Revolutionary Jesus." I wanted to read it, but was afraid that I would lose my faith. My daughter commented, "Mom you will never lose your faith." I believe this is true. I can intellectually know about the historical Jesus, while experiencing the presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit in my life. I have come to believe in a mystical presence that cannot be explained intellectually, but that is grounded in love of reading and studying and prayer. Interestingly, I had read Eric Metaxas' biography of Bonhoeffer just prior to finding Carroll's book, which helped with my understanding of Carroll's and Bonhoeffer's question. One of my comments after reading up through the chapter on "Jesus and John" was: " In a sense, all Christians came to Christianity because of Jewish history, faith and writings. How could Christians take this story (the Jews) as their own and then separate themselves from Jews to the point of hatred? History seems incredible and unconscionable at times. At the end of my reading, I summarized what I thought were Carroll's main points. 1) He tries to prove or show that Jesus was a Jew through and through. 2) He points out that the gospel writers were highly influenced by the horror of the Roman/Jewish Wars. 3) He says that Jesus was divine through his own transcendence, knowledge, and relationship with and of God. 4) He believes that imitation of Jesus's acts and teachings are the point of discipleship. 5) He believes that all humans and all creation are divine and loved by God. I didn't find anything unnerving in Carroll's work. I just kept reading, hoping to find an answer to Bonhoeffer's question. I'm not sure that James Carroll knows the answer, either, but he is trying to find it. There was one quotation by Albert Schweitzer that l particularly liked on page 250. I won't quote it here, but somewhere I read that Schweitzer may not have had it right in his search for the historical Jesus, but he got it right in his life. That's the Jesus that we need to know today.
Kevin Spinale
2 years 1 month ago
Janean, Greetings. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I would love to hear more about the Bonhoeffer biography. In response to your initial comments and those of the others who wrote in, Carroll's main assertion is that Jesus' Jewishness is a principal element of who Christ is actually. But, the more and more I think about it, much of who Christ is actually hinges upon who we are - ourselves - actually. That is, when we are honest about ourselves before Jesus of the gospel; when we seek Jesus actually in prayer; when we, as many of the repsondents above have shown, seek a better understanding of Jesus through the resources of scholarship and in our honest and open encounters with Jesus in prayer and, more clearly, in the sacraments, these are the instances when we recognize Christ actually, because he is actually present and alive in our Church. Carroll also asserts - through his many ancient sources - that first century Jews were terribly oppressed by the Romans, and the decades preceding Jesus' life and following his death were filled with violence and massacre for the Jewish religious minority. Any authentic portrait of Jesus must take this into consideration, and any authentic Christian living must be centered upon peace.
Larry Janowski
2 years 1 month ago
It is disheartening to read these exchanges. I am about half way through Christ Actually, and decided to see what some major reviewers had to say (e.g. LA Times, NY Times, Boston Globe, Commonweal -- though you have to pay to read their review! -- etc.). Opinions varied, but it was only in this magazine, America, that the comments following the review were almost universally focused on James Carroll rather than his book. One of the writers mentions the fallacy of an "ad hominem" argument. Indeed. Larry Janowski, O.F.M.
Robert Lewis
2 years 1 month ago
Nice! I agree with you. However, Mr. Carroll really is a very interesting man, and a rather sincere scholar, seeming such, often, even to those whose scholarship is obviously more "conservative," i.e. "academic." His obvious sincerity, apparent in everything he writes, deserves more than the contempt being dished out to him by some supposed "Christians" on this thread.
Martin Eble
2 years 1 month ago
I would agree that James Carroll does not know the answer. He may be trying to find it, but his insistence on doing so without reference to and cooperation with the Magisterium, which preserves the Deposit of Faith, leads him off the path and into the wilderness. For the unsophisticated reader this sort of work can damage their faith since they often cannot distinguish the biases and misinterpretations that permeate the text. Over time and in degrees this can undermine being one with the Church.
Robert Lewis
2 years 1 month ago
My experience, Mr. Eble, is that NOBODY'S "faith" can be "damaged" by trying to learn more and more about Jesus the Christ, in the context of His own time and place in history. The appetite for knowledge about Jesus actually PRESUMES the "faith" in Him, so long as "faith" is understood in terms of the actual Christian definition of it given by Saint Paul, viz. it has very little to do with any kind of "confessional belief" as prescribed in some kind of catechism: "Faith" being "the substance of things HOPED for, the evidence of things NOT SEEN.". I don't agree with James Carroll's dismissal of the "Christ of Faith," because I think there's plenty of evidence that the HISTORICAL Christ intended His work to proceed, through the ministrations of his "alter ego" (to use a literary term that I know isn't exactly apposite) AFTER His death--by a "Holy Spirit." However, I sincerely doubt that anybody can honestly contest Carroll's deep devotion to learning more about Jesus Christ, as well as his HOPE that the life and teachings and death of Christ have SOME kind of supernatural significance, and, for me, that signifies a kind of trust that, "all will be well" in the Providence of the divine--that there is "evidence" that our five senses cannot discern; that kind of "faith" falls fully under the New Testament definition, even when it does not meet the definitions of the catechism, which seem to me (and, I suspect, to many other modern Catholics) to tack on to the meaning something that is extraneous to what Paul was attempting to describe. I would add, however, for the benefit of others writing here in defense of James Carroll's take on the troubled history of Judaism and Christianity (a very reasonable "take," in my opinion), that it would behoove those who feel so strongly regarding the persecution of the Jewish people by Christians to take a look at what JEWS have said about the "Judaism" of Jesus the Jew. I wonder if Mr. Carroll has ever considered that, perhaps, his constant picture of Jewish people as "victims" who are not at least partially responsible, for the great divide between the two religions, is actually patronizing of the great Jewish race from whom I partially descend. Much of the Jewish rabbinate have been, historically, completely unwilling to accept this new, post-conciliar representation of Jesus as a "good Jew." In fact, they see Him as a heretic and a blasphemer, and the words about Him in the Babylonian Talmud are more scorching than anything ever said about Him, for instance, in the Muslim world. Mr. Eble has written, elsewhere at this site, that he considers the capital punishment enacted against Jesus by the Jewish priesthood, in conjunction with Roman authorities, to have been a particularly heinous miscarriage of justice, in that the victim, in this case, was "fully innocent." Well, in fact, although many Catholics mostly decline to address the issue of Jesus's differences with Temple Judaism, and like to refer to the "one tittle" of "change" that He professed not to want to make in Mosaic Law (this emphasized mostly by folks of Mr. Eble's faction of Catholicism, who wish to downplay Jesus's radicalism, in order to profess his "obedience" to the Roman Law of His time, an "obedience" which many Jews of that period considered to be "blasphemous" in itself), in fact a number of times in my life pious Jews have discretely informed me that the sentence was, indeed, "just" because Jesus the Christ appeared to the Saducees and the Pharisees to be blaspheming in proclaiming Himself to be their "Messiah" without producing any of what they considered to be the "signs" of their so-called "Messiah." Carroll never deigns to address, in any of his books, the ways in which my Jewish ancestors have heatedly rejected Christianity's claims, sometimes in ways that must have seemed degrading and contemptuous to my Christian ancestors. That is patronizing of the Jews whose grievances Mr. Carroll wishes to address, because Jesus's Jewish orthodoxy is much contested, historically, by almost all of the Jewish tradition. This legalism of my Jewish ancestors has often seemed to me, I will confess, to be a mirror image of the ultramontane theological legalism of Mr. Eble and his supposedly "traditionalist" faction within the Catholic fold, and, therefore, similarly repugnant.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Mr. Lewis - Your first statement is very naive, at best, and harmful in any case. Do you really think that someone can be better informed about anything by unknowingly hearing and believing false things about a subject, any subject? There are 30,000+ denominations of Christians because their founders/leaders fervently and honestly believe things about Jesus that are not so. There are many atheists and anti-Christians trying to present a false narrative about Christ and Christianity, for the stated purpose of leading people away from the Church. Your statement "The appetite for knowledge about Jesus actually PRESUMES the "faith" in Him" is also completely wrong. Many non-Christians or agnostic/atheist theologians have a big appetite for the historical Jesus and for the Church, not because they believe at all, but they study the phenomena because they know so many others are moved by Jesus and His Church and they are trying to "break the spell", as some have put it. Many searchers of the "historical Jesus" actually consider faith to be an obstacle in their work. Unfortunately, the excommunicated Carroll seems to think that excommunication is a good thing, as he said this in an interview with Salon last December: "One of the most creative things that’s happened to the Catholic Church in America has been this vast exodus of Catholics from the church." Carroll's book continues in that "creative" endeavor.
Robert Lewis
2 years 1 month ago
I think that you have the immature concept of "faith" that presumes that religious "knowledge" can ever be scientific "knowledge." "Knowledge" in the educational system in which I work is characterized as "justified true belief," and religious knowledge can never be "justified" in the same way as scientific "knowledge," and everyone of any kind of mature faith knows that. Therefore, it does not hurt anyone's MATURE faith to understand that the "Christ of Faith" will regularly appear to be different from the "historical Christ," and that God apparently wishes that to be so. If the "appetite" for "knowledge" of the "historical Christ" is never extinguished by despair over the fact that historical details do not wholly support subscription to "the substance of things HOPED for, and the evidence of THINGS NOT SEEN," and if the search goes on over a lifetime, without cease, as I think it does in Mr. Carroll's case (and in mine), then I'm sorry, but I DO honestly believe that religious faith has NOT been lost. Someone who would seek to "break the spell" would abandon interest in Christ once his or her atheism or agnosticism seems vindicated. I do not notice Mr. Carroll abandoning the quest, and I do not think you or anybody else can prove he has.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Robert - I think you are juxtaposing "religious" and "scientific" knowledge incorrectly, and it has nothing to do with your maturity or lack of it (or mine). You should probably define your terms but I think you mean direct spiritual experience by your term "religious knowledge" and lump all rational and evidentiary knowledge into the scientific box. I would separate out the evidentiary knowledge into its component parts, including secular and Church history, written and oral witness testimony, etc. and I would narrow the scientific term for data that is actually derived by the scientific method, directly or indirectly, especially the physical sciences (archaeology, paleography, etc.). The scientific method would also apply to contemporary studies of the Shroud, the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the miracles of Lourdes, etc. As many mature Christians (including Augustine and Aquinas) and the Church have pointed out many times, there should be no conflict between reason and faith. So, a good sign of some defect in our understanding would be when there is an apparent conflict between what we believe and what objective evidence suggests. It could be that our evidence is wrong, or reasoning is wrong, or our spiritual experience is wrong. Our faith is reasonable and, as St. Peter said, we should "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." (1 Peter 3:15). There are other critical issues at work when approaching Carroll's writing. Reading a book or listening to an interview is like getting evidence from a witness. One has to determine early on if the witness is reliable. Is he contradicting facts known from other more reliable evidence? Does he have an axe to grind? Is he starting off from faulty assumptions? Is he leaving out major contrary evidence? Is he contradicting more authoritative sources? I would suggest Carroll is doing all these things. Finally, in a court case, a proven criminal is usually seen as a poor witness of a crime. In the same way, most reasonable people would view an excommunicated ex-priest who has abandoned large sections of the Catechism to be a poor witness for what is true in Catholicism or the history of the Church.
Robert Lewis
2 years 1 month ago
You obviously would have made a very good Inquisitor; I think it's perfectly useless to "dialogue" with somebody who associates a critically-thinking scholar of religion with a criminal in the dock. You really do belong to a previous, much darker epoch of history.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Thanks for the kind words, Robert. I've grown to expect such common fare from your side. It is sometimes hard to grasp analogies. But, you are aiming too low in your estimation of what it takes to be a critically-thinking scholar.
Catherine McKeen
2 years 2 months ago
First, the truth: I have not read James Carroll's book and do not intend to. But I will answer your questions anyway. Because: 1. My reading now includes Amy Jill Levine's book Short Stories by Jesus, and I recently attended Dr. Levine's talk at the American Biblical Institute in NYC. Why? Because I see that Jesuit Media Ministries is expanding the conversation between Catholics and Jewish scholars and teachers. So a horizon opens for me in that effort. The world we live in ever challenges us to learn, to adapt, to grow, to forgive ourselves and others, to know that nothing remains the same, ever. 2. I endeavor to meet Christ in all the ways you name. Often I'm surprised, and I like to be surprised. I'm hope-filled as I see the amazing resources in our Church even as we clearly name our failings from yesterday. 3. Frankly, I do not find James Carroll helpful. Some folks have too many axes to grind, and despite great talents, can't seem to light a way for others. Big history confronts us all with more questions than ever before but complexity, as Teilhard de Chardin sensed, moves us inexorably toward the Omega. Nice to think about that.
Janean Stallman
2 years 2 months ago
For Catherine: How wonderful that you were able to attend Dr. Levine's talk and hear her in person! I am reading her book now. You say that you do not find James Carroll helpful, but if you are interested in the first century Jewish milieu and the fact that Jesus was very much a Jew, then I urge you to read Carroll's book, if not for anything else than the extensive historical information on the first century Roman/Jewish conflict. It, too, is very eye opening. You may read the gospels with a wider view of what was going on in the lives of those early Christian writers, and the Jews. I agree that Carroll did not come through with a "Jesus Actually" or "Jesus for a Secular Age," and I fully understand the reason. I believe that Carroll is still trying to make peace with his God. But, there is much to learn from his book if you are interested in first century history.
Edward Alten
2 years 2 months ago

I tend not to read older books by priests who were elevated to bishops and who wrote them for eras gone by. With the new Pope and contempletive well educated and loyal priests who are cheering him on (i.e.) Richard Rohr. I find that that looking at what Jesus says in the Scripture and contemplating in how I may emulate Him by my encounters with other people is the best plan for me to be effective here and now. This allows the spirit who knows me better than I do myself can tell me what I should do (or to be because action is not always appropriate). You can read these old books and get some ideas but like some Old Testement Scripture compared to New Testement you have to let our exanded consciousness tell you what is apprpriate to know and incorporate into our own belief and what is not. Thanks for asking.

Kevin Spinale
2 years 1 month ago
Mr. Alten, Thank you for your response. If you have Carroll's book, I think you would find echo to your comments in the quotes from Albert Schwietzer (250-251) that Janean refers to below.
Kevin Spinale
2 years 1 month ago
Ms. McKeen, Thank you for your comments. I am heartened by your lively faith. I encourage you to look for titles and resources by a perceptive scripture scholar named Dan Harrington.
Bill Mazzella
2 years 2 months ago
Kevin, I like the way you approach this subject. You should take a lecture tour through Catholic Academia. Many of them need an education of the nature of Jesus. Second, I think it is great that you take an objective look at Carroll rather than condemn him as many do because they refuse to accept the challenge that Carroll provokes. To answer your questions. I understand that Jesus is quite Jewish. But that hardly comes into my reading. I am open to it. I believe that the Eucharist is more about us as a community, a people united in God. The Eucharist is a quintessentially fellowship event. I appreciate the scholarly interpretations of Scripture as they are helpful in defending against those who turn the faith into dogmatic tyranny. As to the third question: I think that Carroll might try to provoke too much. On the other hand provocation may be necessary sometimes to shock some out of an unreasonable rigidity.
Janean Stallman
2 years 2 months ago
Bill, your response may be meant for Kevin, but I appreciate what you have said and heartily agree with it. Well-stated. Thanks.
Steven Reynolds
2 years 2 months ago
Kevin - A good choice for Lent and following Ann-Jill Levine's book (on both counts see below). Many readers may be reluctant in invest time in James Carroll's book given his controversial reputation as critic of the Church, but there are many useful aspects of this work despite its flaws.I didn't find his Holocaust lens all that compelling, but it worked as a device to turn to what he calls the "first Holocaust" (the wars of Rome against the Jews in 1st and 2d c.) and how these events influenced the NT and development of Christianity and its relationship to Judaism. The Jewishness of Jesus and Paul, the divinity of Jesus seen in Jewish terms (not Greek), and how survival against Roman violence against Jews led to developments in Christianity are all very helpful aspects of this book. As noted with the Levine work last month, I increasingly find it useful to think about the connections with Judaism as helpful in thinking about Jesus and my faith as a Christian. Carroll expands beyond this space to discuss views on woman in the Church and other topics, where I find his argument less compelling although in part because his treatment is far less developed in these sections of the book which seem "tacked on." I prefer Elizabeth Johnson to challenge myself on these issues. Carroll's stated mission is to find "Christ actually." He concludes that we should focus on imitation of Jesus and that mindful imitation makes Christ actual. A useful recommendation especially during Lent.
Jim Lein
2 years 2 months ago
Just became aware of this discussion, right after my daily Richard Rohr meditation on, yes, the important distinction between Jesus and Christ. And I haven't yet digested and processed Rohr's meditation. So I have a lot to catch up on and reflect on. I do recommend looking up today's Rohr meditation; it fits well with the three questions here, adding at least one more question: what is the difference between Jesus and Christ?
Kevin Spinale
2 years 1 month ago
Mr. Lein, Thank you for your comments and question. The crude distinction would be to suggest that Jesus indicates the human individual whereas Christ marks Jesus' divinity. Much of scripture scholarship in the past 100 years has tried to isolate the historical figure and identify his social, cultural, and religious context. This effort has been tremendously helpful in the Church's modern consideration of Jesus Christ. Christology, clearly, has been a major concern for theologians since the patristic period and the early Church. Perhaps, it is our job as faithful, thoughtful Christians to re-intergrate the two elements of Jesus' identity so that we actually appropriate the Christological doctrine worked out by the Church so long ago: Jesus is indeed fully human and fully divine.
Steven Reynolds
2 years 2 months ago
Worth reference to current America issue - http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/culture/many-voices-one-spirit Note how Carroll's discussion of NT created out of trama of Rome's Jewish wars aligns with focus of some of the recent scholarship cited in this piece.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 2 months ago
Not all members of this Catholic Book Club might know the full background of the author James Carroll and the virulence of his campaign against the Church, only lightly hinted at above. He is a devout anti-Catholic who uses his handsomely-paid post at the Boston globe and his historical-fiction books to tear down the Church using easily disprovable fables and ad hominem insults. I understand Carroll was formerly excommunicated after a brief period as a revolutionary priest, and he denies Jesus is God and claims both the Virgin birth and the Resurrection never happened. He had an odd vocation (he admits he spent the evening before the seminary roaming the streets looking for a prostitute - who does that?) and his beliefs have drifted further and further away from the Church since then. See CJ Doyle's review of an earlier book for a fuller understanding of his background & worldview (https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=2873) - or the equally damning review from Commonweal in 2001 (Jan 26 edition). That said, I will think about reading this book (for my penance) and seeing what creative insights might be in store for me. I am a little surprised that Carroll thinks Catholics have neglected Jesus' Judaism, which is so central to writings of erudite Catholics (see Pope BXVI's trilogy as a great example). I wonder if his obsession with the Nazis really evinces some deep-seated hang-up he has about Jesus's Judaism that he projects on actual Catholics? As to the 3 questions, I may have more extended answers after/if I read the book, but for now: 1. I would say Jesus's Judaism (or Mary's or Peter and Paul's) is intimately present in my spiritual reading/consciousness (daily or weekly), and I would not know what to make of the mission of my Savior if that part of the Incarnation & His life was neglected. I see the connection in every mass, and especially in the Easter and Christmas services. 2. The Church, my parents and many priests and nuns introduced me to the actual Christ, and prayer, the Mass, the imbibing of Scripture, the Church Fathers, Church documents & world history completed my present picture. The Eucharist is where I regularly touch the actual Jesus - my most intimate regular spiritual experience. Carroll's work and those of other non-Catholic writers has had minimal influence. 3. While annoying because it is destructive to less educated souls, nothing in this book will likely be unnerving, since a past history of shoddy scholarship makes me doubt I will learn anything objectively sound.
Kevin Spinale
2 years 1 month ago
Mr. O'Leary, Thank you for your response. Thank you for pointing out why Mr. Carroll remains a controversial writer for Catholics. I found his presentation of the resurrection in 'Christ Actually' to be troubling as well. In any case, I admire Carroll's ferocity in seeking Christ actually. I thank you for your consideration of my questions. I will continue to choose books across the spectrum in considering Christ.
Janean Stallman
2 years 1 month ago
Tim, I wish you could hear yourself. You sound so self-righteous and pompous. It would be better if you did not read Carroll's book because you will only find fuel for your vitriol. No matter what you think of James Carroll as a writer, or as a person, it is not, in my opinion, a healthy way to have a book discussion, let alone live a Christian life. I have read your responses before and they seem very bigoted. In a way, you are doing what you accuse Carroll of, only your are more emotional about it. I can hear it in your responses. Anger has no place in scholarly debate.
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Wow Jeanean - hard to interpret your ad hominems (pompous, vitriol, bigoted...) as free of anger - and on Good Friday no less! My only retort to James Carroll this weekend is - Rejoice, He is risen!
Martin Eble
2 years 1 month ago
Generally if in a discussion we begin a statement with "you" followed by one or more adjectives, we're engaging in ad hominen argument. James Carroll may be many things, but he is a popular writer, not a scholar.
Anne Chapman
2 years 1 month ago
I have not read the book, but will order it. I have lived in a majority Jewish community for almost all of my adult life, as well as for the first ten years of childhood. I have been privileged to be a guest at more brises and baby namings than baptisms, more bat/bar mitzvahs than confirmations, celebrating marriages with joy (joining in to sing the hava nagila) and mourning with friends at funerals. I have great affection for the Jewish people. Personally, even if "imperfect", I think that Constantine's Sword should be required reading for every christian, especially for Catholics. Few Catholics seem to know very much at all about the complex, and often tragic, relationship between Jews and Christians for the last 2000 years. I even find these days, that I have to struggle to appreciate some of the "saints" of history who were so full of hate for the Jews. For example, every time I read a beautiful quote from St. John Chrysostom, or read effusive praise for the beauty of his Divine Liturgy, I can't help but remember the vileness and hatefulness of his Eight Homilies against the Jews. I doubt that one christian in 100,000 have ever even heard of them, much less read them. Not even Orthodox christians. But, to answer your questions - a bit 1. Yes, I do dwell a lot upon Jesus' Judaism and his Jewishness. I don't think it possible to have even a faint grasp of the development of christianity, any real understanding of the meaning of the gospels and epistles, and real understanding of Jesus' actions and words, apart from their context in the Jewish religion and culture of which Jesus was a member. Understanding Jesus means knowing that all he taught by words and actions was 100% rooted in his Jewishness. Now that I am retired, I hope to spend a lot more time studying Judaism. 2. I meet God, meet Christ "actually", mostly in silence - in centering prayer. 3. I haven't read this book. I did not find Constantine's Sword to be 'unnverving", nor have I found other writings of Carroll's to be "unnerving", so I doubt that I will find Carroll's presentation of Jesus in this book to be "unnerving".
Kevin Spinale
2 years 1 month ago
Ms. Chapman, Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I encourage you to read an exceptional presentation of Jewish-Catholic relations from 1933-1965 in John Connelly's 'From Enemy to Brother' (Harvard, 2012). http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674057821
Anne Chapman
2 years 1 month ago
Thank you for your suggestion. I imagine you are aware (but others may not be), that there is an interesting discussion currently going on a the dotCommonweal blog about the talk given last week by John Connelly at Fairfield University's Catholic-Jewish Engagement lecture. https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/story-behind-nostra-aetate
Martin Eble
2 years 1 month ago
Chrysostom at the time he delivered these sermons was a tonsured reader and had not yet been ordained. Many scholars believe that the purpose of these sermons was to prevent Jewish Christians from joining with Jewish customs, to choose between Judaism and Christianity. For example: "The festivals of the Jews are soon to march upon us one after the other and in quick succession: the feast of Trumpets, the feast of Tabernacles, the fasts. There are many in our ranks who say they think as we do. Yet some of these are going to watch the festivals and others will join the Jews in keeping their feasts and observing their fasts. I wish to drive this perverse custom from the Church right now." (Homily I, I, 5) In his age harsh words were de rigeur in disputations. The homilies were expressed in a very conventional manner for the time utilizing the rhetorical form known as the “psogos” (Greek: blame) whose formal literary conventions were to vilify opponents in an uncompromising manner. A. L. Williams in his book “Adversus Judaeos” wrote: “Chrysostom’s Homilies against the Jews are glorious reading for those who love eloquence, and zeal untempered by knowledge. The Golden-mouthed knew little of Judaism, but he was shocked that his Christian people were frequenting Jewish synagogues, were attracted to the synagogal Fasts and Feasts, sometimes by the claims to superior sanctity made by the followers of the earlier religion, so that an oath taken in a synagogue was more binding than in a church, and and sometimes by the offer of charms and amulets in which Jews of the lower class dealt freely. We cannot blame Chrysostom therefore for doing his utmost to prevent apostasy, partial or complete, and we cannot but praise him for the straightness of his speech, and his passionate desire that every one of his hearers should not only refrain from religious intercourse with Jews, but also do his utmost to keep his brethren in the same Christian path. ....” In any case, like many of us, Chrysostom grew in age, wisdom, and temperance as he grew older.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
It’s my uneducated opinion that Jesus/God continually sends Damascus Moments to everyone, “aha moments” in other words, through which we say, “Now I get it!” How does this happen? As with Paul of Tarsus, there’s a sudden light, an insight, that hurls one off his/her high horse of overbearing “I know it all” attitudes, where unexpectedly one finds oneself hurled to the ground, “grounded” that is humbled, and surprisingly ready to listen. Then is asked the awkward but necessary question – “Who are you?” And in answer as on Sinai the shattering “I AM” response – “I am Jesus ...!" Yes, Jesus the Christ Actually! I know almost nothing about James Carroll, but understand that although he can write well at times about Jesus, the Christ, the Church, he is mostly a gifted write driven into the malignancy of error through the deformity of truth. You deform the Truth, Jesus, and nobody will understand Jesus, the Christ the Church and what seems to be Actually Christ will actually be something altogether other. James Carroll strikes me to be a lot like Paul of Tarsus, a man through grace able to transform sub-cardial and inter-cranial rage into illuminating love so completely that he becomes in person the actuality of, Christ Actually! Christ actually said if your disown me before people, I will disown you before my Father. This will never happen if James Carroll recognizes and accepts his Damascus Moment or Moments. Let’s pray for him. Now respectfully, let me answer your questions. #1, I relate to Jesus as a Jew all the time. His Jewishness is inescapable and every time I see Jewish person, a man especially, I think of the genetic and biological link between them and Jesus. #2, I tend to meet Christ Actually best in the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity of a Resurrected Jewish Man, yes the Real Presence of a Resurrected Jewish Man under the appearances of Bread and Wine! I find this easy to believe. Signs and Symbols express the real presence of whatever they signify, just as a sign or symbol on a highway warning of a dangerous curve ahead expresses the “real presence” of the DANGER implied. In the Eucharist something similar but far greater happens. #3, I would like to read James Carroll’s Christ Actually and will not be unnerved. As St. Paul puts it “Who can separate us from the love of Christ …. ?.
Anne Chapman
2 years 1 month ago
Bruce, you are a reasonable man. Before judging James Carroll as a "gifted writer driven into the malignancy of error through the deformity of truth", perhaps you should read some of his work.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Hi Anne, I am reasonably sure, being a reasonable man, that, my descriptive rhetoric relative to James Carroll is not terribly brash - maybe a bit overdone I'll grant you. What I find most bugging about that gentleman is, deep down my gut tells me he knows better. Thanks for your comment. It's good to know that posting isn't like talking to a blank wall!
Anne Chapman
2 years 1 month ago
What I find most bugging about that gentleman is, deep down my gut tells me he knows better. He knows better than what? You don't actually know what he thinks and believes and speculates about because you haven't read his books. So you are still judging him and his ideas without having read them yourself. Apparently your 'gut" is being informed by third-party opinions written by those who don't like James Carroll. One does not have to agree with everything everyone writes. But at least read what they have to say with an open mind before forming an opinion. Some here characterize every Catholic who doesn't see things exactly as they see them, as not being Catholic. You often see things the same way as those self-appointed judges as far as beliefs go, but you have always refrained from judging others, a very admirable trait. So I (and I'm sure others) read your comments, while now no longer reading those of a few others. Your observations are usually positive and worth the time to read and reflect on. As a fan, I'm just asking you to refrain from joining the judges on this site. I won't comment again, because this is becoming too much of a personal conversation. Blessings to you, Bruce!
Tim O'Leary
2 years 1 month ago
Anne - don't you realize that you don't follow your own advice? You praise writers before reading their books (as you did with Wills and now Carroll). You trash Cardinal Burke without reading his arguments. You are hardly non-judgmental and certainly do not have an open mind when it comes to him or any orthodox prelate. In any case, one doesn't have to read everything to see where a writer is coming from, esp. professional writers with well known axes to grind. It is the whole point of an intellectual engagement to test what one reads for logic, contradiction and truth and that means making a judgment. Every writer on this blog does it (even if some do not realize it and think they are above it). Don't you get it that even a positive judgment is still a judgment? Finally, I am not sure what your definition of a Catholic is but surely it requires a belief in the Resurrection, or the Incarnation, or that Jesus was God?
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Hi Anne, Thanks for your kind words and correction. I don't know how its possible to avoid all judgments, but as you noted I do make an effort to avoid being judgmental and will continue doing so .But I agree with you that the "Amen time" has come regarding this conversation, so let me wish you a blessed Holy Week and may the sounds of the Stone rolling back be music to your (everyone's ears) - we'll all hear the most beautiful music ever played on earth, written and orchestrated by heaven, "He is risen just as he said!" Is there anything better?
Martin Eble
2 years 1 month ago
The selection of “Christ Actually: The Son of God For the Secular Age” by ex-priest James Carroll for a “Catholic” Book Club seems odd. Carroll continues some of the themes found in “Constantine's Sword” - Jesus Seminar skepticism of the Scriptures - except for the passages he particularly likes, the laying of anti-Semitism and pogroms at the Church’s door, the allegation that the Church’s Christ is “invented”, questioning the traditional perspective on monotheism in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. None of this is likely to build or aid a Catholic’s faith and there are much better options if the reader wishes to become acquainted with how Jesus’ Jewishness pervasively underlaid his ministry. Here’s a typical Carrollism: "Historical consciousness and theological awareness both acknowledge the fact that the Gospels (post-death and Resurrection, post-failure to return, post-Temple destruction, and post-dispersal from Palestine) attributed meanings to Jesus that he simply could not have embraced himself." Christianity is a false construct? On the other hand, Carroll uncritically embraces Scripture passages that support his quest to construct a ".... disarmed faith, a usable Jesus, Christ actually." such as Jesus' relationship with John the Baptist, the character of his follower Peter, and his apparently humane attitude toward women. Carroll may not be a Scripture scholar but he knows what he likes. If you wish to look inside the mind of James Carroll, particularly to gain insight into why he became a critic of the Catholic Church, this book may be of some value. In fact the title might more accurately be “What Jesus Christ Means To James Carroll”. On the other hand, if you wish to learn something about Christ actually, look elsewhere. Readers interested in the separation between the Jewish and Christian communities might be better served by Peter Schäfer’s “Jesus in the Talmud”. Schäfer is the distinguished German-born Christian director of Judaic studies at Princeton and so, unlike Carroll, he knows the material as a scholar, not as a polemicist.
Tim O'Leary
2 years ago
Since this is a Book Club, I am taking the liberty of writing a longer comment. Having waded into the deep of this month's selection, I must say that James Carroll’s work (his 3rd on Catholicism & anti-Semitism) continues his extraordinary distortion of ancient and modern history and is irretrievably anti-Christian. Carroll has three untenable theses in the book: 1) Convict the Church of inherent anti-Semitism, directly related to its divine claims about Jesus Christ, the Passion narrative and its prayers in Mass pre-VCII. 2) Convict America as a warmonger and the greatest threat today for precipitating a nuclear war (in part by its failure to unilaterally disarm). 3) Convince us that Jesus was not God, never claimed to be God (Carroll says he was “a Unitarian”), and that his followers insistence on making him God was the key anti-Semitic event of history. Carroll describes this claim as perhaps THE central claim in this book (his emphasis on the “THE”). His adult-long rebellion against everything his military and Catholic father worked for cries out for a Freudian psychoanalysis. His mission is intimately personal (“The word “genocide” and I are exactly the same age…It was the year that Los Alamos opened, and the year Auschwitz became a true killing field.”). He may even have a messianic complex, likening himself to “that Che Guevara figure” a model of anti-establishment dissent…” the Jesus against the “Pharisees.” In his world, “Even the religious imagination of a normal Christian child was shot through with the buried fury of anti-Judaism.” This is certainly not my experience, nor that of my parents nor of any Catholics I know. More psychoanalysis needed here. Carroll does not recognize the atheist Darwinian racist underpinnings of the Nazi anti-Semitism and does not address the anti-Semitic aspect of Islam, (see here http://pamelageller.com/islamic-antisemitism/), nor the threat of another Jewish genocide using nuclear weaponry from Iran or other Islamic extremists. His anti-Catholicism may have blinded him to other threats. In interviews, Carroll seems more concerned about Islamophobia than Isis or Iran. He says the Church of WWII was “prostrate before the Nazi onslaught,” ignoring all contemporary testimony of churchmen & nuns & laity involved in saving nearly a million Jews in Italy and the Vatican (as well as in Poland and Holland). I suppose the fact that half the dead in the gas chambers were Christian (mostly Catholic) was some sort of unintended collateral damage to Carroll. And he neglects Hitler’s well-documented animus to the Church, and Catholic priests (see Hitler’s Table Talk - “every priest is an abortion” and “the heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity”). In Chapter 3 - The Jewish Christ - Carroll claims Jesus was not God & never claimed to be God. Carroll describes this claim as perhaps THE central claim in this book and argues this belief needs to be “jettisoned” by the Church to fully rid itself of antisemitism. A couple of quotes: “Jesus himself, and his early followers, had little or no truck with these claims. In simple terms, Jesus was a Unitarian.” and “By thus making Jesus Christ and God the Father wholly equal, Christians put a definitive end to any possible further affirmation of Jesus by Jews.” Yet, in the NT, Jesus 1) Said He was the Messiah promised by the prophets (Lk 24, Jn 4, 9); 2) Declared He could bring salvation from sin (Mt 20, 26, Jn 11); 3) Claimed He was the supreme Judge and the only way (Mt 16, 25, 28, Lk 10, Jn 5, 8, 14, 17 etc); 4) Was accused of blasphemy for equating Himself with YHWH (Mt 26, Mk 2, 14, Lk5, 7, Jn 5, 10); 5) Claimed Pre-existence (I saw Satan fall) and other superhuman powers (Lk 10, Jn 3, 6, 16, 17); 6) Claimed equality with God the Father (Mt 25, Jn 6, 8, 10, 17) 7) Affirmed others who worshiped Him (Mt 3, 14, 16, 17, 28, Lk 24, Jn 1, 20) I suppose one can always doubt that the NT writings present the true Jesus. But, what other yardstick does one have. Where else can one find Him, short of a claimed personal spiritual revelation? I'll stick with the Scriptures. Much of Carroll's arguments rest on dubious claims about when the specific books of the NT were first composed. He and many have just assumed any prophesies in the Gospels that came true must have been retrospective. The best modern scholarship I have seen would fix dates of composition well before the Jewish rebellion and Roman massacre (AD 70), with the Gospel of John being the only one possibly impacted by the events. (See Abbé Jean Carmignac, French biblical scholar who founded Revue de Qumran in 1958. His 1984 “The Birth of the Synoptics” Eng. Tr. MJ Wrenn, 1987. (summarized here: http://graceandknowledge.faithweb.com/carmignac.html).
Robert Lewis
2 years ago
What do you do, Mr. O'Leary, with "Call no one holy but the Father"? What do you do with "I am come only to the lost sheep of Israel"? I accept ALL of your Scriptural citations, and especially the ones regarding "superhuman powers," and still do not believe that they add up to a "Trinity." Beyond that, I am prepared to allow the Church's prophetic voice, her right to "develop doctrine," as she is guided by a "Holy Spirit" and to consider that that meant that Christ, as Man-God, may not actually HAVE KNOWN, whilst alive, the fullness of His nature. However, the "Trinity" is, indeed, a formulation of, essentially, classical Greek philosophy put together as a half-hearted attempt by early Doctors of the Church to rationally explain their version of "Christology." I will accept it on faith, but, still, acknowledge that it is not wrong of Mr. Carroll to call it absurd rationally, which it is--and also HIGHLY offensive to Jews and Muslims.
Tim O'Leary
2 years ago
Robert - No doubt the Revelation of Jesus as the second person of the Trinity is THE major challenge to all Unitarian belief systems and is the sine qua non for the claim that one is Christian (let alone Catholic). Millions of Christians have been killed for that belief. And the Sanhedrin sentenced Jesus to death because He claimed to be the Son of God (Jn 19:7) a divine claim by their interpretation. This term is used in the Gospels 22 times (Mt-8, Mk-3, Lk-6, Jn-5) and 44 times in the New Testament, indicating the Apostles and early Church believed Jesus was God from the very beginning. e.g. Mark 1:1 "The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God" & Mk 3:11 "Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, 'You are the Son of God.'” Most importantly, Jesus affirms Peter unequivocally when he says in Mt 16:16: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." I note that Carroll does not like this and ridicules the idea that Peter was the first pope. To quote the book again: "Mark’s overwhelming negative portrayal of Peter has not been highlighted in a Church that subsequently mythologized Peter as a first 'pope.'" But, we all should know why St. Peter would humble himself in the Gospel that Tradition indicates he had most involvement with. Isn't this rather amateurish for a "scholar"? I cannot find your first quote in any English version online, so, maybe you can send me the reference. What Jesus did say was: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58) & “I and the Father are One” (Jn 10:30). What Jesus claimed was unequivocal and uncompromising: “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.” (Jn 8:24) & "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14.6). He alone will be the judge on Judgment Day (Mt 16, 25) & Whoever rejects Him rejects God (Lk 10). While Jesus many times used divine language about Himself (as the trial indicated, the Jews at the time interpreted "Son of God" as a divine claim) The most explicit reference to the Trinity in the Gospels is Mt 28:19, just after his disciples "worshiped Him" "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." Finally, from the very first century, the Church had the Doxology: "Glory be to the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit” and Baptism required the words: “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” So, while I think it suffices to accept the Church's teaching on faith, there is plenty of Scriptural and early Church writings and practice that supports the Church's teaching.
Robert Lewis
2 years ago
Matthew 23:8-12 “But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Mark 10: 17-19 ”As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call ME good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. The opinions of Muslims who revere Jesus (and call him “Prophet Isa”): "Maybe Prophet Isa was talking about Muslims in John 14:6. Maybe he was saying that if they want to relate to God as he did – that they could only do so by walking his way and following his life. In fact, if you take away the univocal calling God Father (ontologically) and see it as expressive (or equivocal) of relating to God as one relates to a loving father … you would remove the biggest obstacle Islam has to Jesus – namely that the Quran tells Muslims not to say that ‘God has children’. You may think that I am out in left field here – but until we: 1. stop quoting John 14:6 in a vacuum 2. stop thinking that Jesus was talking about other religions 3. stop thinking that Jesus’ Father language is univocal (instead of relational) We won’t even be able to have the conversation and explore the possibility." http://homebrewedchristianity.com/2012/09/27/jesus-wasnt-talking-about-muslims-in-john-146/ And here is another possibility, revolving around the meaning of prepositions “by” or “through” in ancient languages, supposedly explored by the Indian Jesuit Anthony de Mello, who was put on the Index of Forbidden Books by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (a.k.a. Pope Benedict XVI): What does “by” or “through” mean in ancient Aramaic? Do the words in ancient Aramaic correspond to the meaning of the modern prepositions? Perhaps not; “by” and “through”—especially “through”—can mean a physical translation, as, for instance, through the alimentary canals of the human digestive system, as, for example, the passage of the Holy Eucharist, when it is consumed in Holy Communion (a neat idea for Fundamentalist Catholics, no?). Or it could mean by some sort of fiduciary relationship or legal deputation or testimony, as in a power-of-attorney. But what if its meaning in ancient Aramaic means “Nobody comes to the Father except by BEING ME?—that is, in the mystical sense, by putting off the old person, and becoming engrafted to Jesus Christ in a way that is more than literally physical, but, rather, spiritually transformational? Would we then be talking about something that is, as the Muslim above asserts, RELATIONAL, rather than univocal?
Tim O'Leary
2 years ago
Robert - this scriptural analysis seems really contorted, just to try to get away from the obvious claims by Jesus (see the combox on the site you linked to - they make the same complaint). Sounds like something the Jehovah's Witnesses might try. The full context of John 14:6 only strengthens the orthodox trinitarian understanding: "Thomas said to him, ‘Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (Jn 14: 5-10) In fact, this whole chapter 14 is very trinitarian, since Jesus begins with this section, and then, from 15 on, describes the Holy Spirit, with the promise not to leave us as orphans (so we don’t have to just figure this out ourselves) and the statement that true love of Jesus requires keeping HIS commandments: “‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.’’ (Jn 14:15-18) – (translation on USCCB website). But, I think we agree with Carroll that his challenge to the Trinity is THE issue in his thesis, and his whole book stands or falls on whether or not he is right that Jesus is not God. Another big issue I have with Carroll is his deceptive use of Bonhoeffer to bolster a thesis the famous Christian would surely deny – that Jesus was not God. Garry Wills used the same tactic in his “Why Priests” book, when he dedicated his book denying the priesthood to Fr. Henri de Lubac. It is a dishonest tactic.

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