Wednesday, April 23, 2008

looking at mclaren's misinterpretation of judgment verses

Some will be quick to note that Jesus also used strong language of exclusion--being thrust into "outer darkness", for example, where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth". But in any irony that is so powerful it can hardly be overstated, Jesus applies that language to the typically exclusive (religious scholars, Pharisess, etc.), and asserts that the typically excluded (prostitutes, sinners, even Gentiles) will be included before them (Matthew 23:13; Luke 13: 28-30; Luke 4: 24-27). Clearly, Jesus is deconstructing the dominant system of exclusion--not fortifying it
McLaren, Everything Must Change, p. 126

Interesting thoughts. Here is one place where such things are said by Jesus.

Matthew 8
10. When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!11. And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.12. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

For one thing, it must be scandalous to McLaren that Jesus would say these words to man of war. After all, he was a cog in the whole Roman Empire "suicide machine", to use a phrase McLaren uses, and why Jesus didn't try to sell him on peace and love and Woodstock instead of praising his faith and doing what he asked is, well, one of those things that must be deconstructed until it can be explained away and spun to fit their preconceived notions.

The only thing that might support his contentions in this passage has to do with the phrase "sons of the kingdom". But just as likely, if not more so, that has to do with Israel as a whole, especially in contrast with the "many (who) will come from the east and west..."

Here is another place, again in Matthew.

Matthew 22
11. But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment.12. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless.13. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'14. For many are called, but few are chosen."

The context is one of Jesus' parables, about a man throwing a wedding party for his son, and when those invited did not come and even abused his servants, he destroyed them and invited others, those in the "highways and hedges". Apparently, someone got into the party who did not have a wedding garment, and when found out, he is kicked out.

First, you'd find a much better parallel between the religious leaders of Israel (if not Israel as a whole) between those who despised the invitation to the wedding, then between them and the man without the garment, especially if the king sending people to destroy the abusers and murderers of his servants and burn down their city is connected with what happened in the AD 70 destruction of Jerusalem.

But I don't think you'll find much support for what McLaren wrote.

A third is in Matthew 25, and is in the parable of the servants and the talents. The one who simply hid his talent is cast into outer darkness. I'm not seeing much of a connection between that guy and the Pharisees.

Here are the three passages he uses to support his claims. Two have added context, the Matthew 23 one doesn't because it pretty much stands on it's own.

matthew 23
13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye shut
the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye enter not in yourselves, neither
suffer ye them that are entering in to enter.

luke 13
22 And he went on his way through cities and villages, teaching,
and journeying on unto Jerusalem.23 And one said unto him, Lord, are
they few that are saved? And he saidunto them, 24 Strive to enter in by the narrow door: for many, I say untoyou, shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the masterof the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to standwithout, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, open to us; and he shallanswer and say to you, I know you not whence ye are; 26 then shall ye
begin to say, We did eat and drink in thy presence, and thou didst teach in
our streets; 27 and he shall say, I tell you, I know not whence ye are;
depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be the weeping
and the gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and
Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and yourselves cast
forth without. 29 And they shall come from the east and west, and from the
north and south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And behold,
there are last who shall be first, and there are first who shall be last.

luke 4
14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee: and a fame
went out concerning him through all the region round about. 15 And he
taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. 16 And he came to
Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and he entered, as his custom
was, into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And
there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Isaiah. And he
opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 18 The Spirit
of the Lord is upon me, Because he anointed me to preach good tidings to
the poor: He hath sent me to proclaim release to the captives, And
recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty them that are bruised,
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down: and the eyes of all in the
synagogue were fastened on him. 21 And he began to say unto them,
To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. 22 And all bare him
witness, and wondered at the words of grace which proceeded out of his
mouth: and they said, Is not this Joseph’s son? 23 And he said unto them,
Doubtless ye will say unto me this parable, Physician, heal thyself:
whatsoever we have heard done at Capernaum, do also here in thine own
country. 24 And he said, Verily I say unto you, No prophet is acceptable
in his own country. 25 But of a truth I say unto you, There were many
widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three
years and six months, when there came a great famine over all the land;
26 and unto none of them was Elijah sent, but only to Zarephath, in the
land of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. 27 And there were many
lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was
cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. 28 And they were all filled with
wrath in the synagogue, as they heard these things; 29 and they rose up,
and cast him forth out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill
whereon their city was built, that they might throw him down headlong.
30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way.

Matthew 23:13 was addressed directly to the scribes and Pharisees, though it does lack the exclusion language he seems to want to emphasize. But let's at least say that Jesus was not happy with them, and that He calls them out by name.

But in the others? Who is He addressing?

In Luke 23, all we are told is that a person, called "one" or "a certain one", asked the question. We aren't told it was Pharisee or Sadduccee or any other kind of religious ruler. It seems to have been simply a person, normal or not normal is unclear.

Luke 4 is certainly interesting. A synagogue was a place of public worship, so it's very likely that people of all kinds were there, formal religious teachers and common people.

Is Jesus deconstructing--a word I am coming to hate, because it is essentially meaningless but used to play politically correct games by those who need such supposed support--no, let us use a different word, a word with meaning and accuracy. Was Jesus setting right the dominant system of exclusion? Perhaps. As He said elsewhere, He did not come to call the righteous (or those who thought they were righteous), but sinners (those who knew themselves to be sinners) to repent.

So, when Jesus "hung out" with tax collectors and sinners, did He do it because He approved of their way of life? Or did He want them to repent and trust in Him?

One could point to the account of Zachaeus, who in encountering Christ changed his ways in a quite interesting moment of repentence. He may have remained a tax collector, but if so, he became an honest one, who collected what was required but no more.

One could point to the woman caught in adultery. Jesus' response to her is both a statement of forgivenss ("Neither do I condemn you.") and a command to not continue in her sinful ways ("Go and do not sin like this any more").

So, yes, ones like those would get in before such as the Pharisees, because they were changed by Jesus, repenting and being forgiven by Him, while such as the Pharisees trusted in their works and keeping of the law.

I'm not impressed with his argument. A look at the places where "outer darkness" and "weeping and gnashing of teeth" are used, as well as the three references he makes when taken in their contexts, do not support his claim that such rhetoric was directed exclusively at those he calls "typically exclusive".

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