"Three things in life are highly over rated" an old mentor once told me. Two are home cooking and a Harvard education--the third cannot be shared in a public forum. Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God suffers from both the Harvard education of its author Jack Miles and his home cooked ideas.
I really looked forward to this book. Mr. Miles had been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his first book, God: A Biography The lauds that were applied to that work had piqued my curiosity. However, Jack Miles is an ex-Jesuit. An "ex" anything is a red flag that someone has an agenda to unfold. He is also an ex-Catholic, an ex-Scripture scholar, and now an ex-journalist by his own admission.
This professor of humanities begin his "literary reading" of the New Testament by invoking the philosophy of Frederich Nietzsche. Abundantly quoted, we are reminded that, for Nietzsche "Christianity was a victory--a nobler outlook perished of it--Christianity has been the greatest misfortune of mankind so far." The nobler outlook is of course the divinity of man and his quest for power. Recall that Nietzsche's writings were later exploited by the National Socialist Party to advance their agenda.
From this start we are invited to look at the New Testament and consider it as a "stained glass window." Unfortunately the author only sees the dark shadings of the window and not the light that breaks through. Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God is in reality a revelation of the crisis of it author.
He puts aside hundreds of years of historical critical analysis of the Scripture, not to mention two millennia of religious tradition and scholarship. His first footnote is, "translations of biblical citations are my own except when otherwise indicated." This in itself allows him to do what he wants with the text. It establishes his self-proclaimed authority disregarding the body of work of various communities of scholars. These communities have given the various English translations are set aside deftly and rarely heard from again. For this author the Scripture is the revelation that God is guilty of abandoning his people and his creation. "The world is a great crime and someone must be made to pay for it," Miles says. Since God is the author of the world He must pay the price. That price is the "suicide" of God through the crucified death of Jesus--God Incarnate. "No one lacks a good reason for suicide," from the poetry of Cesare Pavese is added fodder for Miles.
Keep in mind that Nietzsche died a madman and Pavese died by his own hand. Miles home cooked reading of the New Testament is the end result of reading the Sacred Scripture as literature only. Totally disregarding the vision of faith Jack Miles is lost to his own musings. He reads the poetry of the Johnís prologue as narrative and the narrative as historical. He has forgotten that the Scripture is the product of man's encounter with God. It is an attempt to explain the unexplainable "mystery of God."
Professor Miles wants us to accept that God's purpose is to redeem himself rather than to redeem mankind. God has fallen, not man. We are the victims, not of our choice or actions, but of the failure of God. Milesí epilogue draws us further away from the purpose of Scripture, "To reveal that which is necessary for our salvation" (Dei Verbum , a document produced by the Second Vatican council of the Catholic Church).
He reminds us that in both his books, "god has been taken neither as the object of religious belief nor as a topic in ancient history but as the central character in a work of literature." If you must read this book keep this in mind. Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God is more fictional than scholarly, more dark than light, more pedantic than wisdom.