Jesus Is Not a Liberal, Part 1
May 18, 2010 9:51 pm
Recently, one of my Facebook friends posted a link to an article entitled “How Do Christians Become Conservative?” I believe that this article was significantly flawed; I hope those friends will take the time to read this and think about what it says. Know my heart in this; it’s not a me vs. them, conservative vs. liberal thing, it’s about truth. As a Christian, I want to ensure that claims made about my Savior are accurate; after all, if we’re supposed to follow His example, shouldn’t we make sure we know what that is?
The article was written by a man named Mike Lux. In this article, he goes through great pains to show how Jesus was actually a progressive (a term liberals like to use for themselves to avoid the negative connotations associated with liberalism). I found his theology questionable, being based in large part on taking quotes out of context. Over the course of this entry (and at least one more to come), I’d like to show where this is misguided. I have no personal vendetta agains Mr. Lux, nor do I derive any pleasure at showing where his arguments break down; this is not about him or me.
(Regular readers of my occasional posts here will know that I either post short items or long items; this isn’t going to be short. Quotes below are from Mr. Lux, unless otherwise noted.)
First off, I want to address his view of Scripture.
I decided about four decades ago that since there was no way for sure about the nature of God or the soul or all that metaphysical stuff, I wasn’t going to spend much time thinking, caring, or worrying about it. If that sends one to hell, at least I’ll be there with a lot of my favorite people.
I focused here on the Jesus of the Gospels (principally Matthew, Mark and Luke - the Gospel of John is almost all focused on mystical spiritualism)…
Judeo-Christian scripture is a rich and complicated work of literature. Written over the course of (at least) several hundred years by dozens of different authors, there are a variety of perspectives and many times outright contradictions in the theology and the politics of the writing (if it’s all inspired word for word by God, He seems to have changed his mind a lot).
This, then, is an unbeliever trying to tell believers what Scripture says. He obviously does not believe 2 Timothy 3:16, which states “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness…” Either all of the Bible is true, or none of It is; if It is not entirely true, how do we know which portions are and which portions aren’t? Why base your faith or arguments in a flawed book?
Given this view of the Bible, it almost makes sense why his arguments are so selective. There are portions of the Bible that can be twisted to say whatever you want them to say. A serious study of the Scriptures must consider the many different contexts; the context within the surrounding verses, the context with Scripture even in different books of the Bible, and the context of the culture in which the statements were made.
The Jesus of the New Testament was of course extremely concerned with spiritual matters: there is no doubt whatsoever about his role or interest in the issues of the day, that the spiritual well-being of his followers was a major interest of his.
This is true; however, it wasn’t just His followers for whom He was concerned regarding spiritual well-being. In fact, one verse that is frequently taken out of context is Jesus and the woman caught in adultery.
When Jesus stood up, He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, Lord,” she answered.
“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus.
Wow! How non-judgemental! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this being used by someone to justify why a Christian shouldn’t point out their sin to them. There’s just one problem with this - I (just as they do) conveniently left out the last part, which changes things just a bit.
“Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (emphasis mine)
Jesus didn’t condemn her (a point lost on some Christians, that’s for sure); but, He did not ignore her sin! He gave her forgiveness and a charge to change her behavior. This is certainly only one example (and not even one Mr. Lux made), but it’s illustrative of how omitting something can change the meaning of Scripture.
With that example, let’s dive into Mr. Lux’s use of that technique.
In Luke 6, Jesus says the poor and hungry will be blessed, and the rich will be cursed.
He’s speaking of Luke 6:20-26. “Blessed are you who are poor, because the kingdom of God is yours.” (v. 20b) However, compare this with Matthew’s account in Matthew 5:3 - “Blessed are the poor in spirit, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” So, is Jesus talking about poverty, or is He talking about pride? Balanced against the remainder of Scripture, both Old and New Testament, I believe He’s talking about pride. Realizing that one is a sinner and needs forgiveness requires a humility that’s unnatural for us humans. Generally speaking, those who are wealthy tend to rely on their wealth, rather than the saving grace that Jesus offers.
I’ll grant him that yes, Luke 6:24-25 do appear to say what he says they do when taken out of context. There are other Scriptures that speak to the difficulty someone who has riches can have following the Lord.
“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call Me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good but One - God. You know the commandments: Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; do not defraud; honor your father and mother.”
He said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”
Then, looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, “You lack one thing: Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.
Mark 10:17-22 (emphasis mine)
Jesus loved this person who wanted to follow Him. However, He knew the hindrance that these possessions would have on this man’s ability to focus on following Christ. Jesus didn’t condemn him for having these possessions and riches; rather, He told him how he should use them. Caring for the poor and needy is an outcome of one’s relationship with Christ; in fact, James 1:27 says “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” There are several other places where rich people are told to use their acquired wealth to help the poor; they’re not condemned for earning it, just directed to use it in a different way. Again, this fruit comes from the seed of a relationship with Christ.
(On a side note - this is not a governmental edict. Isn’t it “progressives” who accuse conservatives of trying to make America into a theocracy? Of trying to make God’s law into man’s law? Where’s the “separation of church and state” argument, Mr. Lux?)
For today, let’s look at one more of the claims from the original article.
He chases the wealthy bankers and merchants from the Temple.
This is true. However, did He chase these bankers and merchants from the temple because they were wealthy? Of course not - this claim shows his ignorance of how these things worked. Originally, the Jews were supposed to bring a spotless lamb or dove to the temple for a sacrifice, or certain amounts of grain or other produce for an offering. As the Jews branched into pursuits other than agriculture and farming, and as they became more busy (sound familiar?), a cottage industry sprang up with people who would sell spotless lambs and doves and measures of produce that the people could purchase, then offer to the priests to take care of their responsibilities.
Scripture doesn’t condemn this aspect; and, as with pretty much any business, a little profit goes a long way to ensuring the business can continue. However, greed soon set in, and these vendors were not selling what they claimed to sell. Some of the animals were not spotless. False weights were used to charge people more than what they rightfully should have been charged. This was the reason Jesus went through the temple like a bull in a china shop, and the only time we see Him being physically violent. What was His problem? “Is it not written, My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations? But you have made it a den of thieves!” (Mark 11:17) “Den of thieves” was not class warfare; it was an accurate description of those selling 2 ounces of product for the price of 3, and those passing off blemished animals as spotless. This story (recorded nearly word-for-word by three of the Gospels) is about people scamming others, using their desire to worship God for their own monetary gain.
There will be (at least) a part 2; I still haven’t addressed his claim that Matthew 25 shows how to get to heaven (hint: don’t be rich), nor have I addressed the (red herring, IMO) of limited socialism within the early church, as described in the book of Acts. It will be linked below once it’s written.