Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Last Theology Post for a While

Marcus, of a Green Conservatism, made some thought-provoking comments to my constitutional interpretation and biblical authority series that I think worthy of disccusion here, in my last "theology" post for a while. I may be breaking this down wrong, but I thought that he raised at least three really interesting questions.

1. Shouldn't we just admit that most biblical interpretation is disingenuous and stop trying to find the "right" answer? Marcus writes:

Would it be hopelessly graceless to agree that biblical interpretation is like consititutional interpretation in two respects: first, that it is almost all of it dishonest; and, second, that almost nobody wants it to be otherwise?

Hint: I think the Paleocons are right on the Constitution and am quite delighted there is slight chance any court will ever see it, or say it, their way.

Our interpretation of Christianity, of Jesus' Message, of God's Will - or however you want to put it - can never be justifiably dishonest. The interpretation of the Constitution may be justifiably dishonest because a judge may reasonably conclude that there are more important values that effectuating the intent of imperfect men who lived centuries ago. E.g., maybe the founders thought segregation was o.k., but we don't, and who cares if we violate some sort of social contract in order to further this matter of fundamental justice. On the other hand, Jesus' Message is a divine Message. By definition, there is no other value that could possibly trump honestly understanding His divine message and carrying out His divine Will.

2. Marcus argues that it "is apt to be unhandy" to confine ourselves to Jesus' Message alone because it is "hopelessly cryptic" and that it is quite convenient for a liberal to "cut[] the rug out from under Paul" given the conservative political positions many have derived from his writings.

The more I study Paul - and this is an ongoing study and revision of my own thinking - the more I start to realize that I don't so much object to his politics. Paul was quite the progressive for his time. My objection to Paul goes more to his theology and philosophy than anything else. Furthermore, my objection is not so much to Paul personally but to what he represents. I believe that things got terrifically confused as Jesus' Message moved from Palestine to the larger Greco-Roman world and as it moved from Aramaic to Greek. The Hellenistic Early Church mixed Jesus' simple but divine Message with Greek theosophy: with platonic categories and with pagan mystery cult myths.

Thus, my contention is that it is the Hellenistic mutations of Jesus' Message which are confusing and not the original Message. (This rant is continued underneath question 3.)

3. Marcus asks, "What kind of Christology can accommodate your relative de-sacralization (not really the right word, but what the heck?) of the OT? Much of the NT, after all, including the gospels, is quite emphatic on Jesus as fulfilling OT prophecy. Can you make much of that while making so little of the authority of the OT text?"

Perhaps I have been too "hard" on the OT. I do believe that Jesus fulfilled OT prophecy. Jesus did turn the world upside down as Isaiah predicted, and he did so by bringing the quite unexpected divine Truth to the tense, contested terrain of 1st century Judaism.

Jesus preached a simple yet profound Truth. Our right relationship with God was not to be obtained through animal sacrifice and Temple rituals, as the Sadducees would have it. Nor was it to be obtained through fulfilling dietary laws and holiness codes to the nth degree, as the Pharisees would have it. Nor was it to be obtained through ascetic separatism and withdrawal from the world as the Essenes would have it. Nor was it to be obtained through violent revolution as the Zealots would have it. No, our salvation lay in none of these things. Instead, it lay in two fundamental relationships: our relationship with God and our relationship with others. In order to "get right" with God we must adopt a stance of active, self-giving love (agape) towards God and to others. In this -- and not in sacrifice, puritanism, separation or revolution -- lay our salvation. Jesus is, in other words, the ultimate fulfillment of the OT and OT law. Jesus' Message was a "back to basics" Gospel that even "the least" could understand. As I have said many times before, it is not understanding Jesus' Message, but living it, which is the real challenge.


At 6:31 PM, Anonymous donzelion said...

Paul was quite the progressive for his time.

"For his time"? Once you introduce any historicism, you verge on conceding Marcus' point (interpretation is disingenuous).

At 8:24 PM, Blogger Infission said...

I don't understand. Could you flesh out your point for me?


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