Monday, 5 April 2010

Pullman's startling originality

Philip Pullman’s new novel presents an astonishing new thesis to the world: Jesus of Nazareth was a nice chap who told some lovely stories and was unjustly killed. Then His followers created a bureaucracy to develop, institutionalise and perpetuate a view of Him, as God incarnate, that was never part of His own teaching.

Apart from being an old, tired heresy, (Pullman’s a bit like a five year old, running around pleased with himself at being the first to discover that the moon is made of cheese), this shows an incredibly ignorant or lazy reading of the Gospels.

A large part of Our Lord’s life was spent deliberately raising the question: who am I? He then spectacularly and repeatedly answered it and proved the answer.

As many have pointed out before me, you can believe He was good and God, or you can believe He was mad or bad; but to believe He was good and not God is not tenable on any rational reading of the texts.

Just consider for example: ‘But to prove to you that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins...’ This is a miracle with a point, and the point is about His identity, authority and power. And so it goes on, right up to His setting out to accomplish His own death (and this was clear to those about Him: “let us go also, to die with Him...’)

And when the High Priest adjures Him under oath, He claims the Divine Title: again the point was not lost on His hearers; ‘What need have we of witnesses now: we have heard the heresy for ourselves!’

No, this was no itinerant preacher and healer, subsequently deified by His followers. He claimed the title and He proved His claim to it - most of all by the miracle of the Resurrection which we have just celebrated.

Pullman seems to me to be a fairly mediocre novelist with a bit of chip on his shoulder, who hit an inspired patch with Northern Lights, when he created a vivid and engaging world. But the trilogy declined from there - into a rant by the end - and none of his other work that I’ve read comes anywhere near the standard of Northern Lights.

1 comment:

Patricius said...

The old heresies are the best!