19 June 2014

The abiding authority and perspicuity of Jesus' teaching

by Dan Phillips

From 2006 to 2012, PyroManiacs turned out almost-daily updates from the Post-Evangelical wasteland -- usually to the fear and loathing of more-polite and more-irenic bloggers and readers. The results lurk in the archives of this blog in spite of the hope of many that Google will "accidentally" swallow these words and pictures whole.

This feature enters the murky depths of the archives to fish out the classic hits from the golden age of internet drubbings.

The following excerpt was written by Dan back in December 2010. People find many ways to deny Jesus' Lordship claims; Dan addressed three of them.

As usual, the comments are closed.
Everybody who's heard of Him tries to "deal with" Jesus, and there are only two basic ways to do it:
  1. Submit to His Lordship claims; or
  2. Don't
The latter category has many varieties, of which this post hits on three.

There are the airy hand-wavers, who like to dismiss Jesus as a child of His time, merely reflecting current beliefs and speaking only to them. Some will throw in the gem that He wrongly expected the apocalypse within a few years, so He taught with no long-term thoughts or expectations.

It may be a lovely theory to some, but it comes to grief on the facts of history. The only Jesus who actually lived expected His words to be around, and to remain binding, for the duration of history. Note: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Matthew 24:35).

Second, there are the wild and wacky cultists. There are the "Mind Science" cults such as Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity, and Religious Science, as well as other New Age cults. They approach Jesus' words almost as if they were floating in mid-air, free to be re-attached to any philosophy or worldview at all.

They forget that Jesus spoke from a knowable and understandable spiritual/intellectual framework. He has a context. Jesus was quite emphatic in His embrace of the literal truth of the entire Old Testament as the Word of God, from its earliest narratives (Matthew 19:4-6) to its latest (Matthew 23:35). He saw the entire Old Testament as a revelation of God, pointing forward to and framing Him and His work (Matthew 26:54Luke 24:25-2644-47). The imagery and phrases and even specific words He used were already familiar to any careful student of the Old Testament.

Finally, there are academic Gnostics, who imply that no one can puzzle out Jesus' meaning unless he has immersed himself in highly-academic, highly-specialized studies.

If the great bulk of Jesus' teachings are comprehensible only to academics, then Jesus was a failure as a teacher. He was less the consummate teacher (as He claimed; Matthew 23:8Luke 6:46), and more of a verbal graffiti artist, penning images lost on all but a tiny fragment of the initiated.

Regular readers know I'm far from denigrating godly scholarship. However, Jesus' words and images were chosen by vast, limitless, shoreless wisdom, crafted to connect with all sorts of people throughout history until the consummation (again, see Matthew 24:35). It seems that children were never far off (Mathew 18:2), and His audiences were made up of a wide variety of folks (Matthew 14:21). Jesus Himself rejoiced that the academics of His day missed what the "children" were able to grasp (Matthew 11:25).

So we go astray if we look for highly coded or highly specialized language. It's a step back to pre-Reformation Roman tyranny, the Bible reserved only for the Specialists and held off from commoners.

The Bible was meant for commoners. Jesus spoke to commoners.

After all, "the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4) did not come until Jesus could teach people in a dialect that came to be known as Κοινή.

Which means "common."