Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In addition to a history of Christian relations with Judaism, Carroll offers an interpretation of the significance of Jesus that differs radically from the traditional view of the Catholic Church and the views of other major Christian denominations. He not only rejects the predominant concept of atonement, the doctrine that Christ saved humanity by dying for human sins, but also maintains that this concept of atonement has been the source of centuries of wrongdoing. Carroll’s call for a Vatican III to consider his interpretation, then, is a call for an event that would be not only more radical than Vatican II but also far more radical than the Reformation. Some critics may question why Carroll believes that a Church that needs to repudiate almost all of its own heritage should seek to continue to exist at all.

The idea that Christianity developed within Judaism after the death of Christ is closely connected to the work of a group of scholars known as the Jesus Seminar. These scholars have maintained that the historical Jesus differed from the Christ who emerged in the minds of believers and who was described in the New Testament. Thus, from this point of view, one can find teachings of Jesus that predate Christology.

Finally, the theme of the role of the Church in promoting anti-Semitism is one that a number of modern thinkers have considered. The topic of how the beliefs and politics of the Church may have either resisted or contributed to the mass murder of Jews during World War II has been a subject of intense debate.