I recently read Phillip Pullman’s 2010 novel, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, in which the writer spins a yarn that shows Jesus having a twin brother named Christ. While I’m glad I read this, it is not a book that I can recommend to others. I’m going to write a little about it, while trying not to spoil the read for any who might want to do so.
As a Christian, this was an interesting read, but I can see where it would confuse issues for those seeking to make sense of their faith and the entity that is Jesus Christ. Ultimately, it seems to be the work of a man who can’t grasp the miraculous nature and potential of God. Using only our frail human comprehension of things, it’s difficult to accept that the miracles detailed in the Bible happened just as they are detailed.
What makes us think we could ever comprehend the workings of God? He wouldn’t seem very God-like if we could comprehend Him the way we do the things of this world, nor do I think He would be worthy of worship if we could just explain His works away in the same manner that we might our neighbors’ or those of some dude on the news.
If I can’t think of God as literally awesome, if I can’t accept that there is nothing impossible for the Creator of the Universe, then I don’t see much reason to even think there is a God. Conversely, if I think there is a God and that He is so powerful to have created the Universe, all its force, all its majesty, then I have to accept that He is certainly capable of the miracles attributed to Jesus.
Yes, it is hard to fathom those things–once again, given our frail human potential for comprehension–but Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is “the evidence of things not seen.” A religious path is one of faith, and for me to have faith I have to accept that things I can’t comprehend are not only possible, but historically accurate.
Still, as stated, I cannot denounce this book outright; like I said, as a Christian who accepts the Bible as literal truth, it was an interesting enough read, and it showed me what lengths we will go to in order to explain things we can’t really explain.
Nor can I denounce Mr. Pullman for his efforts, as it is impossible to discern exactly what his intentions actually were. The last couple of pages point to a potential irony, which begs the question of whether or not he was trying to show just how far we can go to skew the story of Christ. If that’s the case, and his intention is based on Christian faith, Mr. Pullman might have wanted to be a bit more careful; there are 240-some pages leading up to those last two provide ample room for doubt for those who are wrestling with enough doubt already.
2 Replies to “The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Phillip Pullman”
Your point is incredibly well put, Paul. Can’t say I’d endorse anyone who chose to put “Scoundrel” and “Christ” together, regardless of his intended point. I wonder if he even knows what the word Christ means.
Pullman, to me, basically read like a pundit. The juxtaposition of the words “scoundrel” and “Christ” work in the fiction of this novel, but it is, of course, simply fiction. Still, as a man of faith, I enjoyed this book, simply because I like a good yarn; still, I wouldn’t suggest it to anyone who has less than strong faith. Be well, friend. Thanks always. You’re in my prayers.