I’m just reading James Alison’s faith beyond resentment and, wow, what a book! The way he does his theology is illuminating – I’ve not read anything quite so exciting for a long time.
Having said that, I’m only on Chapter 3, but Chapter 1 needs to be read by all Bishops – ASAP! It’s an exposition of the Healing of the Man Born Blind in John 9 and what interested me in particular is the way in which Alison points out how the Pharisees were completely unable to recognise the evidence before them, maintaining that those who are ‘sinners’ cannot teach them anything. Inspite of what is evident to his parents, the Pharisees are locked into their interpretation of scripture and tradition in order to maintain the legality of their moral stance. They become increasingly reassured by their own reasoning and trapped by their own blindness. It is what Alison terms the ‘subversion of sin’: it places the ex-blind man outside the community of faith, which has to be kept pure, and unites the man with Jesus in his own exclusion.
In his concluding remarks, he says: ‘I’d like to underline this: what the Christian faith offers us in the moral sphere is not law, nor a way of shoring up the order and structure of the supposed goodness of this world, much less the demand that we sally forth on a crusade in favour of these things. It offers us something more subtle. It offers us the dynamic of the subversion from within of all human goodness, including our own.’