To the editors:
Re: “The Gospel According to Thomas Sheehan,” April 21, 1989
Thomas Sheehan of Loyola U. is first and foremost a social activist. Everything he writes or says professionally must be taken in that context. His major goal is to move the status quo from Christian belief into Christian action. All well and good. But the inflammatory and exaggerated rhetoric he uses has produced a backlash that will inhibit the reforms he so passionately desires. To say the resurrection of Christ is a metaphor is disturbing, because if you make Jesus a total metaphor, then you have made him into a total myth, comparable to a ubiquitous Santa Claus. But even Jesus said, “If you can’t believe in me, believe in my message.” And that Thomas Sheehan does believe (when it suits his purpose). But in denying any literal meaning to Christ he has become a fundamentalist of the metaphor, a slasher theologian who has thrown out the Baby with the bathwater of dogmatism. Also, he completely overlooks the oral tradition of early Christianity. Most of those “ordinary” men were not writers or scholars. They were not “learned men.”
Of whom the Taoist Chuang Tse said over two thousand years ago: “A well frog cannot imagine the ocean, nor can a summer insect conceive of ice. How then can a scholar understand the Way? He is restricted by his own learning.”
Thomas Sheehan’s value is in his convictions for social justice and reforms. But his serious cognitive and intuitive limitations will severely offset any good he might accomplish.
Allan G. Gerlach