George A. Sprecace M.D., J.D., F.A.C.P. and Allergy Associates of New London, P.C.

Regarding "When Jesus Came To Harvard: making moral choices today"

A book which was recently recommended to me is "When Jesus Came To Harvard: making moral choices today", by Harvey Cox (Houghton  Mifflin Company, Boston-New York, 2004).  The book is based on Professor Cox's experiences teaching Harvard undergraduates in the very popular class entitled "Jesus and the Moral Life" over a period of fifteen years.

Frankly, I was a little surprised.  As I got progressively into the book, I began to wonder who were the teachers and who was the student.  Not that those roles should ever be static.  But I finished the wondering whether the teacher had been co-opted.

I can only give a brief outline here, but it might help a reader.  The author states that facts and history are not enough, that "story-telling" and "personal accounts" are needed to fill in the "larger narrative", with the help of "imagination".  He calls Jesus the greatest story-teller of all time.  At about this time I sensed that the author was trying mightily to avoid referring the sine-qua-non necessary to deal with the Bible and with Jesus: Faith!   "Imagination" appeared to be a surrogate for "Faith".  Particularly insightful were comments made on pages 74, 76, Chapter 6, pp. 85, 91-92, 94 and 96.  By p 267 it was clear that this was a Protestant who was having substantial doubts about some basic tenets of Christianity, possibly including the Divinity of Jesus!  I also felt that the author was placing excessive attention to Jesus as essentially an extension of Judaism.  The following quotation gives a flavor of his approach: "Likewise the Resurrection, as the continuation of God's vindication of the left out and the trampled upon, is something that by its nature is not observable or even remotely credible to impartial investigators." (p279,280).  So, who was teaching whom here?  Did Professor Cox enter this teaching experience a believer and leave an agnostic?  Or is that just what happens when anyone tries to understand extra-human truths through reason in the absence of Faith?  There's a lot of that going around.  It used to be called "rationalism", "positivism", or just plain "the Sin of Pride".   And what did his students get out of the experience?


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