Mining the resources of Christianity for a secular age might seem like a fool’s errand. Even François Jullien, the man who set himself this task, says Christianity is ‘a collective embarrassment’. With its blood-drinking rituals and tales of miracles, it can be hard to see how this ancient cult even made it to the 21st century. Yet not only has it survived, it has also shaped the world we inhabit and the values we hold. Many of us would rather forget that ‘we have hardly obliterated Christianity’s imprint from our thought’.
Some who seek to rescue Christianity for the 21st century either deny that there is a tension between religion and science or make a virtue of faith’s departure from reason, claiming it opens a space for mysteries the logical mind cannot fathom. Jullien rejects all such reassuring strategies. He does not believe we can make Christianity conform to reason or reduce it to a palatable, moral core by stripping it of its more incredible aspects. He comes not to save Christianity but to salvage what is valuable from it, namely its resources.
A resource, says Jullien, is ‘nobody’s property’, whatever tradition it comes from. A resource is ‘by nature available – that is, available to all, open to all, and knows no border’. It’s an attractive idea. The resources he focuses on are some of those found in John’s Gospel. His approach