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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, March 03, 2006
    The intelligence of the victim
    A snow-shunt which had closed the Queensferry roundabout forced me to make a wide circuit of Hawarden before arriving later than I’d hoped at St Deiniol’s for my one reading day this month.

    But what a good day - in the company of James Alison’s Knowing Jesus (the Lent edition, with questions at the end of each chapter). Rarely has a book of theology so held me, invigorated me. Hardly since I first encountered Walter Brueggemann has a contemporary theologian so interested and resourced me, as James Alison did yesterday.

    In his foreword Rowan Williams writes,

    James Alison’s work is a model of clarity in exposition - relaxed, conversational, but holding us firmly to the demands of its subject matter. It is a model of how to deploy some very traditional Christian resources with a thoroughly contemporary intellectual toughness, so as to liberate us from the cliches of so much modern theological squabbling. It is the most imaginative and lucid presentation of a theology of redemption that I have read in many years.

    And above all, he says, correctly, the book insists that the reader must be converted to a new perspective on themselves and the world.

    Knowing Jesus is barely over 100 pages long, but its effect is huge. My Ash Wednesday talk was Girard for beginners, and fittingly Alison begins his book by quoting the truth that a preacher is the last one to hear his sermons. Reading on has helped root this way of thinking in me, getting to the last chapter with its exciting revelation about what he calls the intelligence of the victim, has energised me. There may still be something in this tired old thing called Christianity after all. A very fine start to Lent.

    [James Alison's website here]