In chapter 10 of Reason, Faith and Tradition: Explorations in Catholic Theology there are two sections entitled "Shock and Offense 1:The Particularity of Jesus" and "Shock and Offense 2: The Humility of God."
In the first of these sections Albl sets out the basic problem. Christians believe that, several thousand years ago, in a remote corner of the world, God came down to earth as a fully human being to save every single one of us and give us all eternal life. That the divine savior lived and preached among us in the person of one individual at one particular time in human history is what Albl refers to as the "scandal of particularity."
Albl frankly accepts that, to many millions of people, this was and is a deeply offensive belief. It seems ludicrous to many that of all the billions of people to occupy the face of this planet it was just one solitary individual who took on the role of Redeemer. Would it not have served God's purposes just as well by investing such authority in many individuals over a long period of time, in every historical era, in all parts of the world?
The modern mindset instinctively rebels against the core Christian message. In an increasingly secular, faithless age, scandal has turned to contempt and derision.
In the second section, Albl discusses what he calls the scandal of God's humility. If the scandal of particularity is offensive to reason, then the scandal of divine humility is offensive to certain strands of religious faith.
Albl cites the example of Islam. To Muslims, the idea of God humbling himself as a man and dying a painful, degrading death as a common criminal on a cross, is not just offensive, it is blasphemous. In Islam, Allah is utterly transcendent, completely other. The distinction between God and human beings is absolute and can in no way ever be breached. The Incarnation as Christians understand it represents a confusing mixture of two completely different natures.
Yet, it is possible from a Christian standpoint to not just acknowledge the scandal of Christianity but to positively embrace it. A means of doing this is provided by Kierkegaard, the 19th century Danish philosopher and religious thinker. Unlike Albl, he does make a clear distinction in his thought between faith and reason. Yes, Kierkegaard readily admits, Christianity is indeed a scandal to reason. However, because reason has nothing to do with faith, Christianity and its gospel remain untouched by any rationalist approach.
Important in this regard is the distinction Kierkegaard makes between subjective and objective knowledge. Objective knowledge is that which is not in any way dependent on what we believe. Mathematical and scientific knowledge provide two examples. For instance, two plus two will always equal four, whether anyone believes it or not. Likewise, the earth revolves around the sun even if, for whatever reason, I steadfastly refuse to accept it.
Subjective knowledge, however, is that in which my whole being is involved. It really does matter to me whether (say, the Incarnation) is true or not. For Kierkegaard, this is the paradigm of faith. Faith is not an intellectual assent to a logical proposition; it is something one accepts with every fiber of one's being, with mind, heart, and soul. Faith is not something thought about; it is lived.
This is Kierkegaard's answer to what he openly acknowledges to be the scandal of Christianity. One cannot try and reason the problem away; one can only make a leap of faith and embrace the scandal with both arms. Let us use a thought experiment to illustrate the point.
Imagine that two individuals, one a devout Christian and the other an equally devout atheist, were able to get into a time machine and go back to Jerusalem on Good Friday to witness Christ's crucifixion. Both would see the same event; both would have access to the same set of facts. The Christian would see the suffering man hanging there on the cross as the Son of God, whereas the atheist would see him as an unfortunate criminal being put to death.
In other words, the only way that one can accept the scandal of Christ's particularity and Incarnation is by an act of faith. Kierkegaard is not deprecating reason; he is simply suggesting that it can only get us so far. Just as Virgil could lead Dante to the gates of Paradise—but no further—reason similarly cannot ultimately bring us to the scandalous heart of the Christian faith.