Dale Allison is a weird guy. Nearly flawless, lucid thinker, incredibly introspective guy, and great big, standard-setting name in secular historical Jesus studies...AND...also a Christian somehow. Want to know how that is after reading his scholarly stuff you'd swear was written by a non-believer (I'm also currently reading his "Constructing Jesus" book and have read his "Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet" book)? Well, Allison's "The Historical Christ & the Theological Jesus," is the 119 page book for you.
Allison gets pretty explicit on page 78 with his own compartmentalization between history and theology. He's definitely making theological baby Jesus cry. But we can't verify that historical baby Jesus isn't crying.
Page 79, "When the historians are done, much is left undone, and the theologians are just getting started." A reasonable person would read a sentence like that as, "When the road runner stops at the end of a cliff, Wile E. Coyote is just getting started..."
Much of this is interesting reading for various reasons, but I'm going to skip along to what interests me most.
On page 87 Allison points out that granting a historical Jesus too high of a Christology makes him seem egocentric and mentally ill. Sorry, C. S. Lewis. Why can't a guy tell people to do morally extreme things, completely blow off sustainable living, and promise to come back with an army of angels to terrify and eternally torture most of the human race without getting accused of being a psycho?
And at last we come to Allison's brand of theological self abuse, compliments of a Jesus that still manages to reach through the fog of being almost completely theologically neutered: "What good is Jesus if he does not trouble our theological dreams?" *sigh* Reminds me of liberal Christian scholar Thom Stark's bit in his epic response to Paul Copan with "Is God a Moral Compromiser?" Stark wrote in the preface, "We have to struggle if we want to find God. And we have to learn to identify and resist any and all attempts to lull us into docility. Jacob did not defend God; Jacob wrestled against God. And he came out wounded, not whole. And that is what it means to be Israel." Any chance, while these folks are so busy championing intellectual honesty and basic human decency despite the best efforts of their religion, that they can stop advocating self abuse? Thanks.
Again, I'm skipping lots of things to focus on what I'd like.
On page 110, Allison claims Jesus never constructed a theodicy or tried to apologize for the evil of the world in light of his all good, all powerful, all knowing god. However this is not true. Jesus' eschatology is a theodicy. In Jesus' parable of the weeds in Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus explains how a farmer "wisely" ignores the weeds growing in his crops until the harvest. Evil is okay for now because it'll be taken care of later. But by page 111 Allison is trying to spin this as though Jesus' eschatology isn't just an obviously bad explanation of evil. This is apologetic sleight of hand and hardly worthy of Allison who wants us to believe that not even trying to explain evil is somehow a virtue. Check out this apologetic double speak, "For although eschatology is not the solution to the problem of evil, without eschatology there can be no solution." Sorry. Jesus tried. Skeptics wept. Jesus thinks procrastination is a virtue and judging people is much more fun when they do a whole lot of flagrant evil to each other that a god doesn't try to prevent. Let's not kid ourselves.
I think I'll end there.