They wouldn’t like the Sermon on the Mount if they understood it

bible.jpgLiberal theologians and even skeptics claim to revere the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but that is just because they don’t really understand it.  If they read it properly they would hate it.

It portrays Jesus as being very intolerant.  He tells the Pharisees how they are doing everything wrong – worship, giving, praying, fasting, behaving, etc.

He upholds every letter and pen stroke of the Old Testament, something they typically abandon first.

He spoke of judgment.  He emphatically shows that there are false religions – the very thing that the liberal theologians teach the opposite of.  He warns strongly against false teachers – people like them!

It sets an impossibly high standard and demonstrates that we need a Savior to reach God.  He raises the bar or shows the real intent behind prohibitions against adultery, murder, etc. and sums up that section by saying, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

The problem is that the liberal theologians view it as a checklist, just as they do with Matthew 22:37-40 (“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . Love your neighbor as yourself.”).  He didn’t mean for us to respond, “Thanks for the summary, I’ll get right on that!”  The proper response is to be convicted that we can never be good enough on our own.  You have to be pretty self-righteous not to realize what a joke it would be to claim you followed those passages well enough to merit God’s eternal favor.

When Jesus speaks of those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, He is referring to God’s definition of righteousness, not the made up definitions of the theological Left (abortion rights, “same-sex marriage,” etc.).

Jesus says to give to the needy, but He doesn’t teach to take other people’s money at the point of a gun (i.e., taxes) to fund your pet projects.

He teaches not to judge hypocritically (Matthew 7:1-5), but the theological liberals only read the first verse and, ironically enough, use that to judge others for making any judgments.

He teaches of Heaven and Hell, which they often deny.

They completely miss the point of the wise and foolish builder passage at the end of chapter 7.  They have heard his words but don’t put them into practice.  They actively teach that other religions are valid paths to God.

And so much more!

I’ll close with some excellent comments from Bubba from this post about a false teacher:

These are the most prominent questions that come to mind, in response to Chuck’s [Currie] assertion, “A Christian is a person who hears the Sermon on the Mount and says, ‘Amen.'”

1) In that sermon (Mt 5:3-4), Jesus Christ taught the mourning, spiritually poor are blessed, implying a crucial need for God’s grace. Does Chuck agree that God’s grace is absolutely necessary for us to inherit eternal life?

2) In that sermon (5:11), Jesus taught that we are blessed, not when we’re persecuted for any ol’ reason or even for the sake of broad categories of goodness and righteousness, but for HIS sake. Does Chuck agree that we must stand up, not only for Jesus’ teachings, but for Jesus Himself?

3) In that sermon (5:17-20), Jesus affirmed the authority of Scripture to the smallest penstroke. Does Chuck defer to Christ on the question of the Bible’s ultimate authority?

4) In that sermon (7:21-23), Jesus is quite clear that not everyone will enter heaven, even going so far as to say that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter heaven. Does Chuck reject universalism in order to conform his beliefs to this teaching?

5) In that passage of this sermon, Jesus is also quite clear on the determining factor of one’s eternal destiny: whether Jesus knows you. Does Chuck agree that Jesus’ knowing you is absolutely crucial for salvation?

And, if the answer is “no” for any of the questions above — if Chuck [Currie] doesn’t say “Amen” to truly every implication of the Sermon, and what it says about its Speaker, about Scripture, and about judgment — do we have Chuck’s blessing in questioning whether he really is a Christian?

. . . I don’t find the Sermon on the Mount to be non-controversial. On the contrary, its rooted in very bold claims about Christ, His book, and His sheep.

I’m reminded of what Reagan said about Marx: “How do you tell a Communist? Well, it’s someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It’s someone who understands Marx and Lenin.”

I’m beginning to think that there’s a similar dynamic among theologically conservative Christians and those theological liberals who border on (and often cross into) apostasy.

The theological liberal claims to stand by the Sermon on the Mount, but it’s only the theological conservative who really grasps the sermon’s contents.

P.S. Here’s a good analysis of why the Sermon on the Mount was aimed at disciples and not just anyone.  Otherwise, verse 11 wouldn’t make much sense.  If you aren’t a follower of Christ then why would someone persecute you because of him?

Matthew 5:11

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Advertisements

71 thoughts on “They wouldn’t like the Sermon on the Mount if they understood it”

  1. Hi Anna,

    Thanks for the charitable dialogue. I really appreciate that. You do have a gift for keeping things even tempered while not holding back on what you see as the truth.

    I pray that you either have or eventually will repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus as your Savior and that you will faithfully discern and pass along his truths — including his deity and exclusivity, among other things.

    Re. King et al vs. the U.S. military — I view that as a false dichotomy. See Romans 13. Governments have a responsibility to protect their people. The U. S. military hasn’t done everything right, but neither did King (e.g., marital faithfulness).

    King’s movement did a lot of good in changing hearts and minds, but that wouldn’t have done much to stop the Nazis or the Japanese in WWII.

    All the best to you,

    Neil

    Like

  2. Neil, an excellent introduction to Anselm and his work, Cur Deus Homo?, is found in John Stott’s The Cross of Christ, where Stott argues that the Bible’s four principle metaphors for what happened on the cross — the religious concept of propitiation, the financial concept of redemption, the legal concept of justification, and the personal concept of reconciliation — all inexorably lead to the truth of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice:

    …substitution is not a “theory of atonement.” Nor is it even an additional image to take its place as an option alongside the others. It is rather the essence of each image and the heart of the atonement itself. None of the four images could stand without it. I am not of course saying that it is necessary to understand, let alone articulate, a substitutionary atonement before one can be saved. Yet the responsibility of the Christian teachers, preachers and other witnesses is to seek grace to expound it with clarity and conviction. For the better people understand the glory of the divine substitution, the easier it will be for them to trust in the Substitute.

    Those who say that the substitutionary atonement is a concept foreign to Scripture — a lens of Anselm or some other writer — remind me of Mormons who insist that the doctrine of the Trinity was introduced by the influence of Greek philosophy. It begs the questions, is the concept supported by Scripture, and is its support stronger than that of alternative doctrine?

    The Bible isn’t a systematic treatise on theology, so it doesn’t clearly mention the word “trinity” and definite it, but it does teach clear truths that can be reconciled only with that concept: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all distinct; each of the three is God; there is only one God.

    Likewise, I believe the Bible clearly teaches things that point strongly to a substitutionary atonement, and that no alternative has anything resembling the strength of the support for this concept. If someone disagrees, dismissing the concept as a foreign invention without actually arguing from Scripture for an alternative is to punt the issue: it’s to claim without evidence precisely what needs the most evidence.

    For what it’s worth, the book that introduced me to John Stott is what revealed to me the truly weighty implications of Matthew 5-7: his commentary, for the Bible Speaks Today series, of the Sermon on the Mount.

    Anna, you write that Jesus taught a “third-way” approach to liberation through “non-violent resistance and persistence.”

    He did no such thing, and I can enumerate some of the reasons why I reject this implication that Christ was a political reformer.

    1) The actual passage that I’ve seen cited most frequently by those who taught “non-violent resistance” is “turn the other cheek,” but that instruction was only an example of a much broader instruction:

    Do not resist an evildoer.

    This instruction in Matthew 5:39 involved four examples: turning the other cheek when someone strikes you, giving someone your shirt when he sues you for your coat, walking two miles if you’re pressed to walk one, and giving to those who ask for alms or loans. Only one of these examples involve the repudiation of violence: the other three involve a repudiation of ANY resistance.

    The argument, which is too clever by half, that these teachings were subtle acts of resistance after all, is difficult to argue on its own merits, and is belied by Christ’s own actions, by the actions of the early church, and by the behavior of His and their enemies. More about that in a moment.

    2) The other passage I’ve seen cited quite frequently, you cite, that Christ’s first sermon was about — as you put it — “preaching good news (gospel!) to the poor, freedom for prisoners, recovery of sight for the blind, and release for the oppressed.”

    Christ didn’t actually free any prisoners or slaves, much less did He put an end to the systems of incarceration and slavery.

    We spritualize this passage, arguing that Christ was referencing prisoners to sin and the oppression of sin, because Christ actually did accomplish our release from these spiritual bonds, through His death and resurrection.

    By insisting that the passage must not be spiritualized, you teach that Christ promised something He didn’t deliver, and you’re making Him a liar.

    3) Jesus Christ Himself claimed that His kingdom is not of this world, and His words and actions support that claim. He didn’t agitate for political revolution, He preached personal repentance (Mt 4:17).

    He didn’t present a revolutionary program, He preached sermons about God’s impossibly high moral standards and the means and mode of His forgiveness. (It’s disturbing that some pretend the Sermon on the Mount is a politically rallying cry when so much of its contents is devoted to how to pray, how to fast, and why you should trust God.)

    He didn’t engage in what we would now euphemistically call “direct action” against the government, He healed the sick and fed the crowds that followed Him.

    Those who would put on Christ the mantle of a political revolutionary are making the exact same mistake the first-century zealots did, in expecting the Messiah to be a political revolutionary who would liberate Israel from Roman rule: the only difference is the specific political program that’s being attached to the Messiah.

    4) The church He founded with the disciples He chose didn’t start a political party: they started a church. They continued what Christ did, teaching repentance from sin. While they refused the government’s command to be silent about Christ, just as Daniel refused to worship the king in defiance to God, their work wasn’t focused on political, military, or economic systems. They didn’t argue for some program of political reform. The New Testament doesn’t record the strict pacifism of the later church that forced centurions to quit their day jobs. And they didn’t advocate some state welfare system on the basis of so-called social justice.

    Instead, what little they did teach about such things was spiritually revolutionary, not politically revolutionary. Paul taught that we should respect government authorities who derive their authority from God, and slaves should serve their masters as if they were serving Christ. Following this sort of teaching might actually change systems, but only as a side effect of changing hearts.

    It’s not “non-violent resistance.” It’s active, overflowing love.

    5) Finally, even Christ’s enemies did not credibly argue that He was a political revolutionary. If they could have, they would have.

    Sedition was an offense the Romans took very seriously, particularly in the chaotic backwater province in which Jesus taught.

    Did the Jewish leaders have a credible case against Jesus? No they did not, which is why they relied on false witnesses. (Mk 14:55-56)

    Did the Roman governor believe that there was a credible case against Jesus? No he did not; even when he agreed to put Jesus to death, he could not claim that He was guilty of anything, choosing instead to quite literally wash his hands of the whole affair.

    So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” – Mt 27:24

    This, um, isn’t the sort of thing you’d expect to see if Pontius Pilate thought that Jesus was some sort of political revolutionary.

    For all these reasons, I reject the notion that Jesus taught political liberation through non-violent resistance.

    And, about that assertion, Anna, there’s one deeply disturbing implication in what you wrote.

    Perhaps one way we are miscommunicating is that you seem to believe there are two ways to liberate: either a spiritual liberation, or a violent struggle for liberation. Jesus taught a third way: non-violent resistance and persistence.

    You seem to imply that Jesus taught non-violent resistance and persistence as a “third way” instead of spiritual liberation.

    Do you really mean to say that Jesus didn’t preach spiritual liberation? That He didn’t preach the forgiveness of sins, and that He didn’t teach that His blood was being shed for the remission of sin?

    If you didn’t, it’s still a telling slip.

    Like

  3. Hi Neil,
    there it is in a nutshell: your gospel easily, seamlessly, shamelessly accommodates violence and oppression.

    “King’s movement did a lot of good in changing hearts and minds, but that wouldn’t have done much to stop the Nazis or the Japanese in WWII. ”

    That is an interesting assertion. Many theorists have said that WWII was really a matter of reaping the violence that was sewn in WWI at the close of which Germany was economically punished (via a retributive justice model) so severely that the incredible poverty there gave way to a desperate and unstable economy where it was easy for a fascist dictator like Hitler to rise to the top and ripe for people to choose a scapegoat (Jewish people). I suppose you are aware that the vast majority of German Churches (with some courageous and notable exceptions who were, incidentally, criticized for “politicizing the gospel”) were on board with the nazi party, having long ago learned to accommodate violence in the service of other ideals. One wonders if following the teachings of Dr. King (and, indeed, Jesus) could have prevented WWII altogether. One also wonders if, when Hitler shipped the first load of Jewish people he was attempting to expel from his country to the US, if the US had accepted them (viewing the commandment to practice hospitality as, well, an actual commandment to accept people who come to your doorstep) rather than shipping them back, things might have gone differently, maybe even to the tune of 6 million lives saved.

    And so, you are correct that my understanding of the gospel accommodates diversity, accepts that the stories and understanding that we have of God are culture bound and questions the assertion that white people alone have been handed the keys to the kingdom and that the key to eternal salvation is for all people to adopt our cultural understanding of God (something that has happened when white people were able to invade the land of other people, enslave them and threaten their lives unless they adopted our cultural understanding of God). So is it better to accommodate violence or diversity? Call me warm and fuzzy all you want but I will assert without hesitation that God is offended by plastic explosives buried in roads that would connect a hungry child with food, not by being understood in a different way or called a different name.

    So, when you casually dismiss the sermon the mount as simply a way for us to recognize our own sinfulness, not a social code to be really *followed* for goodness sakes, and then wave a few out of context verses in Romans at us as conclusive proof that same sex marriage is the scourge of society well… you will understand when we say that you strain gnats and swallow camels.

    Like

  4. Hi Bubba,
    you will find many “telling slips” from me. In fact, I am sure that I am everything you suspect me of being and more.

    Again, you make Anselm’s case very well. I will reiterate my case against it ever so briefly and then comment on Christianity as a political movement.

    First, sacrificial atonement theology relies upon the existence of a cosmic system of retributive justice in which the offended honor of God can only be reconciled by the torture and death of an innocent victim. In other words, wrongs need not be righted, only punished. Jesus and the prophets (and the book of Job, incidentally) repeatedly reject retributive justice, both as a practice in the community and as a model for understanding sin and guilt. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, remember?

    Second, sacrificial atonement theology functions to remove ethics from the equation of salvation, as Neil summarized so eloquently already.

    In terms of a political movement, Jesus’ reading of Isaiah 61 was a recognizable call for a return to the practice of the Jubilee (I’m sure that biblical scholars such as yourselves are familiar with the Jubilee as outlined in Leviticus)–a practice that was both religious (in that it was commanded by God) and political (in that it involved a radical redistribution of wealth). In the tradition of the prophets, the line between prophet and non-violent political revolutionary was hazy at best. In fact, it is hard to come by any prophetic book that is not overtly political. The gospels, when read through the lens of a call to Jubilee read very differently from the gospels read through the lens of sacrificial atonement. The early church practiced not only a religious revival but also an economic alternative to empire. I wonder how you explain how a religious movement that was primarily internal, spiritual and apolitical managed to garner so much wrath from the Roman Empire?

    Like

  5. Thanks, Bubba. I think I needed that.

    If I remember the Old Testament correctly, I don’t think God is too big on either unrestircted tolerance or diversity.

    Like

  6. I wonder how you explain how a religious movement that was primarily internal, spiritual and apolitical managed to garner so much wrath from the Roman Empire?

    Perhaps because they wouldn’t worship Caesar as Lord?

    there it is in a nutshell: your gospel easily, seamlessly, shamelessly accommodates violence and oppression.

    Anna, I very rarely use the S-word here, but that is just plain stupid. Your “gospel” easily seamlessly, and shamelessly accomodates abortion. You think that isn’t violent? Read this site thoroughly — http://www.abort73.com/HTML/I-A-4-warning.html

    Over 3,000 times per day in the U.S. innocent human beings are crushed and dismembered without anesthetic. And your version of “Christianity” blesses that legal right. Sickening.

    Now isn’t that a fun way to debate?

    Actually, “my” Gospel is the same one that Jesus, Paul and the rest of the NT writers taught. I can see that you have made up your own because the real one wasn’t to your liking, but let’s not make idiotic statements about what mine supposedly encourages.

    I only read the first part of your Germany paragraph. I’m sure we could both make up all sorts of scenarios that fit each of our respective Gospels that could have prevented that, but of course that speculation changes nothing about what the Bible teaches.

    So is it better to accommodate violence or diversity?

    You have really slipped backwards today, Anna. Your false dichotomies do nothing to advance the conversation. The Bible provides for authorities to govern people and punish violence. The Gospel I preach is all about diversity: Anyone who repents and believes in Jesus gets saved. That’s the Good News! It is the ultimate in diversity. I’ll share the Gospel with anyone in any category you can imagine. But your false gospel tells them they don’t need to be saved and that they aren’t really sinners. What lies!

    when you casually dismiss the sermon the mount as simply a way for us to recognize our own sinfulness, not a social code to be really *followed* for goodness sakes

    I never said we shouldn’t follow what Jesus said. If He is our Lord and Savior then of course we’d want to do what He says AND see the world the way He does. But first things first! If you think that trying to obey the rules will win God over such that He’ll just have to have Anna with him in Heaven then you’re missing the point on multiple levels.

    and then wave a few out of context verses in Romans at us as conclusive proof that same sex marriage is the scourge of society well… you will understand when we say that you strain gnats and swallow camels.

    Actually, I will take your about Romans comment as more proof of your pagan beliefs. I’ve analyzed Romans a couple times and you are welcome to point out where I got the analysis wrong — http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/12/20/romans-1-and-natural-desires-functions/
    and http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2007/07/08/romans-1-and-temple-prostitutes/ and http://4simpsons.wordpress.com/2008/08/20/problems-with-pro-gay-theology/

    The Bible couldn’t be more clear on the point that homosexual behavior is a sin. But as usual, you miss the obvious parts of the Bible and create things that aren’t there. We call that “making God in our your own image.”

    100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.

    100% of the verses referencing God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.

    100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).

    0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.

    That’s my assertion, and I can back it up. Your only option is to create straw man arguments about me saying it is the “scourge of society.” But that is easier than debating what is in the text, right? Even if you lose that argument you fall back on the canard that we over-emphasize it. But I don’t play that game. The liberal theologians brought up the whole topic and we orthodox folks are just responding to your false teachings. If you think it isn’t a big deal, then quit trying to change church policies to support “same sex marriage.”

    Here’s a must-read by Charles Krauthammer about Hamas and Israel — http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2009/01/a_real_ceasefire_needed_in_gaz.html

    Like

  7. Hi Sunday School Teacher,
    you raise an interesting point–God as depicted in the Old Testament narrative of the Kings is, as you say, not “too big” on tolerance (by which I assume you mean living in peace with other cultures and belief systems?) or diversity and has little to say about peace or justice. On the other hand, God as depicted in the narratives of the prophets condemns the building up of Empire and demands peace and justice, repeatedly expressing a preference for mercy and right action above adherence to religious obligations.

    Maybe that sums it up well–conservative christianity preaches a theology of kings and liberal christianity preaches a theology of prophets.

    Like

  8. Maybe that sums it up well–conservative christianity preaches a theology of kings and liberal christianity preaches a theology of prophets.

    That doesn’t sum it up at all. Orthodox Christianity preaches a real, Biblical Gospel and liberal Christianity preaches a false one. Please stop with the tired sloganeering and use some real, live Bible verses in context.

    Like

  9. Yikes, Neil. Like I said before, I love theology but your tone is too nasty for me to be able to reasonably respond. Especially when you have told me that you are not even willing to read what I have written. This is what I mean about an unwillingness to wrestle with scripture without becoming angry and hurling accusations about the other person being a “pagan”. I probably should have left it on a positive note yesterday. My apologies for continuing the discussion to the point of offending you so deeply.

    grace and peace to you,

    Anna

    Like

  10. I love theology but your tone is too nasty for me to be able to reasonably respond.

    ??? I’m not sure why you are going the passive-aggressive route. Among other things, you claim that the Gospel I spread “easily, seamlessly, shamelessly accommodates violence and oppression” and then accuse me of being nasty when I call you on that absurd assertion? That doesn’t compute. Could it be that you are just avoiding answering your support for abortion and why you don’t send out reverse missionaries, among other things?

    Especially when you have told me that you are not even willing to read what I have written. This is what I mean about an unwillingness to wrestle with scripture without becoming angry and hurling accusations about the other person being a “pagan”.

    I read the first part of what you wrote on Germany and scanned the rest. I just went back and couldn’t find a single Bible verse, so I don’t see how one could equate that with me not being willing to wrestle with scripture. I’m always glad to go to scripture. It is the final court of abritration, so to speak. Remember, I’m the one who is confident that the original writings were inspired by God and will gladly defer to it (provided that you read it properly and in context).

    Disagreements are fine if you can do so without the passive-aggressiveness.

    Regards,
    Neil

    Like

  11. Anna, first of all, you wrote to Neil that your understanding of the gospel “questions the assertion that white people alone have been handed the keys to the kingdom.”

    SINCE NO ONE HERE HAS MADE THIS ASSERTION, you are hardly in a position to criticize others for their nasty tone.

    If you mean to say that we are wrong to believe that the Bible is uniquely authoritative since it was written by Jewish men, well, your complaint isn’t with us. It’s with Jesus, who you claim to serve and whose gospel you claim to preach.

    Jesus affirmed the authority of Scripture to the smallest penstroke. If you think the document’s human authors weren’t sufficiently diverse in terms of ethnicity, take it up with Him.

    Now, if someone asked me whether I denied that Christ taught spiritual liberation, that He preached the forgiveness of sins, and that He taught that His blood was being shed for the remission of sin, I would have corrected them, quickly and in the strongest possible terms, because I affirm those things.

    It seems to me that you really don’t. If I misunderstand your position, I would appreciate a clarification.

    And if I do correctly grasp your position, it seems to me that the chasm between your belief system and mine is so wide that at least one of is outside the bounds of orthodoxy.

    About the substitutionary atonement, you write:

    First, sacrificial atonement theology relies upon the existence of a cosmic system of retributive justice in which the offended honor of God can only be reconciled by the torture and death of an innocent victim.

    This seems to misunderstand atonement on at least two points.

    1) There is another way for justice to be satisfied: the death and condemnation of the sinner. The Bible is quite, quite clear about the “wages” of sin, and Jesus repeatedly taught about the terrible reality of Hell.

    2) Jesus wasn’t forced to die in our place. The Bible is clear that the Father sent Him to die, but it’s equally clear that He chose to come to die. Because Jesus — fully God and fully man — lived a sinless life, He could take our place and die for our sins. The death of a man was necessary for God’s justice to be satisfied; since that man is God Incarnate, perfect and sinless, God could satisfy His justice while simultaneously provide us with mercy.

    In other words, wrongs need not be righted, only punished. Jesus and the prophets (and the book of Job, incidentally) repeatedly reject retributive justice, both as a practice in the community and as a model for understanding sin and guilt. “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice”, remember?

    The Book of Job doesn’t reject retributive justice altogether. It rejects the idea of karma, that every bad thing that befalls a person is the result of his immorality.

    And, Christ didn’t reject retributive justice, either: He simply taught that the purpose of the church He established is to be a conduit of God’s grace and not His justice. He excluded wrath from the work of the church, but not from God’s work altogether.

    Hence, his repeated teachings about His role as the final judge.

    Anna, you’ve gone out of your way to emphasize the parable of the sheep and the goats, but now you seem to want to ignore altogether the retributive punishment doled out to the goats, by Christ Himself.

    Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Mt 25:41, 46

    If that ain’t retribution, what is it?

    You write, further:

    Second, sacrificial atonement theology functions to remove ethics from the equation of salvation, as Neil summarized so eloquently already.

    Thank God it does. That’s why it’s good news.

    Every other religion on earth teaches salvation of some kind by good works of some kind. It is only the gospel of Jesus Christ that offers a truly free gift of forgiveness: salvation by God’s grace alone, which we appropriate through faith alone, and which was provided by Christ alone — specifically, by His sinless life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection.

    Finally, about the gospel and politics, you suggest that the mere existence of Christian persecution implies its political character: “I wonder how you explain how a religious movement that was primarily internal, spiritual and apolitical managed to garner so much wrath from the Roman Empire.”

    I will reiterate that Pontius Pilate washed his hands of the blood of a man HE KNEW was innocent of sedition and every other crime. I continue to wonder how you deal with the many points I made to argue that the Bible is clear that the Gospel isn’t primarily political. I wonder, because you haven’t addressed a single point.

    Instead, you emphasize the call to Jubilee.

    In terms of a political movement, Jesus’ reading of Isaiah 61 was a recognizable call for a return to the practice of the Jubilee… The gospels, when read through the lens of a call to Jubilee read very differently from the gospels read through the lens of sacrificial atonement.

    I’m sure it does. The question is, is your lens remotely valid.

    (Another question is, do you believe that we should have a theocratic government, because the Old Testament didn’t separate what you call “wealth redistribution” from the essentially religious character of the nation of ancient Israel. I bet you don’t, but I admit the question’s a bit of a digression.)

    You write that Jesus’ sermon “was a recognizable call for a return to the practice of the Jubilee.”

    It most certainly was not, as clearly demonstrated by what happened after the reading.

    And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” – Lk 4:20-21, emphasis mine

    He didn’t “call” the people to reinstitute the Jubilee.

    JESUS CLAIMED THAT THE PASSAGE HAS BEEN FULFILLED.

    Jesus acted as if He has brought liberation Himself, not as if He was simply calling for others to bring it about through persistent non-violent political action.

    Taking the accuracy of the Gospel narratives as a given, there are only two alternatives:

    1) Either Christ did bring about our liberation — that is, our liberation from the condemnation of our sin, through the blood He shed for its remission.

    2) Or, Christ lied.

    Those are your options.

    Like

  12. A couple other things I missed.

    First, I want to be clear that Christian faith does indeed involve ethics. A saving faith should, in most circumstances, lead to good works, but it’s the faith that saves, not the works.

    Second, I didn’t answer why I thought the Roman empire persecuted the early church.

    I believe that it’s not necessary to conclude that the reason was politics: the theology was offensive enough to them.

    In fact, I know a couple self-professed Christians who not only find trouble accepting the claim that God sent His Son to die for our sins, they reject the claims as not only false but appalling. I’m sure you know people like that, too.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s