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A Vulnerable Deity 

Miles says Jesus was God correcting a mistake

Faith is an odd bird. It makes people do things they didn't imagine they had the strength for. It pulls them through tough times. It's the glue that holds us together, when everything else is falling apart. It makes people achieve greatness. It makes people fly planes into skyscrapers.

It's the only feeling we have that is metaphysical in origin. It cannot be proved or charted on a graph. It's invisible to others, and only slightly visible to ourselves. That said, much of what the Western world faithfully accepts as divine truth comes from one source: a book. The Bible, to be specific ­ the Old and New Testament. Jack Miles, in his new book Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God, continues the work done in his Pulitzer-winning God: A Biography, now turning his attentions toward the New Testament as a work of art, rather than a spiritual guide.

And the Bible is, when you get right down to it, a book. Sure, it has historical reference points, but then again, so does most of what Tom Wolfe writes, and outside of a couple of well-heeled Atlantans (and Wolfe himself), no one's anointing him a savior.

The single most prickly point that Miles posits here relates the coming of Christ, as well as other Biblical tales, to an assumption of a Vulnerable God. Such an opinion is sure to invite controversy, as believers, feathers a-ruffle, generally argue that God is perfect, and therefore incapable of imperfection. Miles argues that perfection cannot be attained without the presence first of imperfection, nor good without evil, or light without the presence first of darkness. Miles' literary eye sees God responding to the persecution of Jews under Rome by becoming Christ, "revising in the process the meaning of victory and defeat," and offering the promise of a goodness that all could achieve, at least in theory. In giving humans free will, likely the most important move of creation (being the only beings created, as the Bible states, "in His image"), He ceded over the power to us, both his biggest mistake (wars, rape, murder, et al) and ultimate triumph. A totalitarian relationship with man only serves God. For us to serve God, there must also be a divergent path. Without choice, there would be no redemption. And this, Miles says, is one of the reasons God committed a sacred suicide (If no one can kill God, only God can kill God).

This is, of course, one man's synthesis of the Bible. Indeed, the only way anyone can understand that book ­ or any book ­ is to run it through their own machinery, and come to their own conclusions. It doesn't make the Bible any less powerful that there are a number of interpretations thereof. Like all great literature, it makes it more powerful, Miles seems to argue. Whether or not scholars like Miles or Harold Bloom like it should be of no consequence. All books, including the Bible, succeed (or fail) in a 50/50 relationship between the writer and reader, and the most important questions to be asked are the most personal. Does it make you want to read more? Does it move you? Does it make you reconsider your thinking, or confirm something you already knew to be true? Does it change your life? *

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