Why does Martin Albl say that the Christian understanding of Jesus is shocking and offensive?

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In Martin Albl's book, Reason, Faith, and Tradition: Explorations in Catholic Theology, the author addresses a modern understanding of the Catholic faith and how the traditional religion can be applied to contemporary issues. In particular, Albl aims to show that while it's meaningful to apply reason to one's understanding of Christianity, it is not always possible to take the stories detailed in the Bible and apply a modern, logical lens.

On the topic of Jesus, Albl argues that non-Christians cannot understand how Christians can put so much faith, and the survival of all of humanity, onto the shoulders of one man. While Christians see Jesus as the son of God, and therefore himself a part of God, those who do not believe in the Trinity understand him as a human man. If you consider Jesus this way, as a man like any other, it's easier to understand how his place in history can seem shocking and offensive.

Furthermore, for non-Christians and Christians alike, the question remains: Why did God choose Jesus, that one man, in that one time period, to humble himself and become human? Were those better times? Are we less holy now? Albl explains that for some other religions, such as Islam, God is so separate, so divine, that it is blasphemous to suggest he could ever be lowered so far as to appear human at any time.

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To understand what Albl thinks, it is helpful to look at his own words from the opening sections of chapter 10 in Reason, Faith, and Tradition.

10.1.1 is titled "Shock and Offense I: The Particularity of Jesus," so the first shocking and offensive aspect of Christian teaching on Jesus is identified as "particularity." What does this mean? Merriam-Webster gives this definition of "particular":

of, relating to, or being a single person or thing

This is clearly what Albl has in mind:

Christians claim . . . that the salvation and ultimate happiness of every person who has ever lived depends on Jesus.

Many people are understandably shocked . . . by this claim. How can it be that out of all the billions who have lived, one person would have this central role? (p. 263)

Notice that the italics on the words "one person" are original—this is Albl's own emphasis. Why would one specific human be so much more important than all of the others? Maybe Jesus was wise or virtuous, but how is it fair for the "ultimate happiness" of every one of billions of humans to depend on just one human? It seems shocking and offensive to value one human being so much more than all of the others.

Section 10.1.3 is titled "Shock and Offense II: The Humility of God," where Albl states:

Christianity claims that the ultimate power in the universe, the perfect source of all goodness became a limited human—not merely . . . appeared as a human, or . . . revealed himself through the human Jesus, but . . . became human.

For many this makes no sense. (p. 264)

Again, these are Albl's original italics. For many who do believe in a God with ultimate power who is beyond every limitation, it seems impossible or contradictory for an infinite being to actually become a limited being. A mountain could be reflected in a window (appear) or could be seen through a window (revealed), but you couldn't get that mountain actually into the window—and the same seems to be true about God.

It is important to note that Albl seeks to explain and defend these shocking and offensive claims in the rest of chapter 10. Since this question is specifically about what he means by "shock and offense" rather than his answers, we won't go over his explanation and defense here. I've included a link to the Google Books preview of Reason, Faith, and Tradition, which you can search to read those sections if you are interested.

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On one hand, Albl is offended by some mainstream Christian misconceptions of what Jesus did or did not do or say in his time on earth. What this boils down to is that he does not necessarily care for some Christian interpretations of Jesus's words or actions, because he believes that some of these interpretations are non-historical and, moreover, without reason. This is what offends him.

On the other hand, Albl made acceptable (even desirable) the unification of reason and faith. To interpret history rationally, and to apply that rationality to one's faith, is paramount when it comes to interpreting the reality of Jesus.

Some Christian interpretations of Jesus's time on earth rely heavily on the supernatural. Though this reliance does not necessarily discount these interpretations, Albl endorses the view that reason and faith are complementary. He understands the desire of the faithful to experience only the transcendent in their pursuit of Jesus, but what's more is that he believes reason and faith work well together.

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There are broadly two meanings to Martin Albl's use of the words "shocking" and "offensive" in relation to Jesus. First of all, the notion of God descending to earth and taking human form as His only-begotten son offends the sensibilities of those steeped in a secular culture. And bearing in mind that Christian orthodoxy states that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man, then we can perhaps understand why, to our reason at least, the Incarnation can be both shocking and offensive from a secular perspective. The figure of Jesus given to us by orthodox Christianity requires a leap of faith in order to believe in him, and not everyone is either willing or able to do this.

The second meaning relates to how other religions perceive the figure of Jesus. Albl uses the example of Islam. In Islam, God, or Allah, is totally transcendent. As such, he is completely separate from the human beings he has created. The idea, then, that God could in any way become incarnate in our world is deeply offensive to Muslim sensibilities. There is simply no place in Islam for the kind of relationship between God and man that the figure of Jesus embodies. Muslims accept Jesus as a great prophet, but they do not (indeed, cannot) accept his divinity.

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