Terry Eagleton’s Vision of Christianity

Over on Curlew River, John H writes on Terry Eagleton’s vision of Christianity:

Prof Eagleton is not a Christian, but he is (a) highly sympathetic towards the account of Christian faith he first encountered as a student “with the aid of a few maverick Dominicans [such as Herbert McCabe] and rather more pints of bitter”, and (b) at least equally hostile towards the “nineteenth-century liberal rationalism” of the likes of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens.

These two passions drive Prof Eagleton to write a book that combines a frequently-hilarious demolition of “Ditchkins’” arguments with a vision of the Christian faith that is often so inspiring it’s hard to believe Eagleton doesn’t believe it himself: one in which God created the world “as gift, superfluity, and gratuitous gesture” (p.8); in which Jesus preaches a morality that is “reckless, extravagant, improvident, over-the-top, a scandal to actuaries and a stumbling block to real estate agents” (p.14); in which the true freedom of our dependence on God (“the power that allows us to be ourselves”) is contrasted with “the great bourgeois myth of self-origination” (pp.16f.); in which “you shall know [God] for who he is when you see the hungry being filled with good things and the rich being sent away empty handed” (p.18); in which salvation is found in the everyday work of “feeding the hungry, welcoming the immigrants, visiting the sick, and protecting the poor, orphaned and widowed from the violence of the rich” (p.19); but in which “the only authentic image of this violently loving God is a tortured and executed political criminal” (p.23).

As Eagleton observes, what Jesus inaugurates is “not a prudently reformist project of pouring new wine into old bottles, but an avant-gardist epiphany of the absolutely new” (p.23) in which:

God’s love and forgiveness are ruthlessly unforgiving powers which break violently into our protective, self-rationalising little sphere, smashing our sentimental illusions and turning our world upside down. (p.22)

Read the whole thing. Very interesting.

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