Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Classic Rich...

So I saw a link to this on Josh's blog, and I loved it; classic Rich Mullins:

[In the middle of leading a chapel service at Wheaton College]
"You guys are all into that born again thing, which is great. We do need to be born again, since Jesus said that to a guy named Nicodemus. But if you tell me I have to be born again to enter the kingdom of God, I can tell you that you just have to sell everything you have and give it to the poor, because Jesus said that to one guy too...[And he paused in the awkward silence.] But I guess that's why God invented highlighters, so we can highlight the parts we like and ignore the rest."

18 comments:

benjamin said...

Swallowing the Scriptures as a whole is much more difficult than taking little bites of the tastier pieces. Usually, I choke.

Rhology said...

Sigh...
Context...
{sob}

benjamin said...

rhology,

Oh, I know that the call to sell all of one's own possessions is not as universal as the call to be born again of water and spirit. However, there are equally difficult calls in the gospels that are just as universal as baptism, and it is these that I find myself shy about.

The Ochlophobist said...

I for one think that God demands that each of us let go of any earthly thing which we would value more than life with Christ. There is a very real sense in which Christ makes the same sort of demand to each of us that He did to the rich young ruler.

benjamin said...

This is true. One who "receives Jesus as Lord and Savior" but does not act as if he is now a slave to that Lord is defeating the purpose. Which, of course, is why we rejoice in having a very loving Lord who is quick to forgive. Nevertheless, one cannot love God apart from obedience (see John 14:21), and if we have no love for God, how then are we to be saved?

Rhology said...

Context, my friends.
The man to whom Christ said to sell everythg he had had just claimed that he had followed all the commandments since he was a youth. Liar!
Jesus calls us to repent and follow Him, not necessarily to give up everythg; otherwise, would He not also have told Zacchaeus that his decision to repay his cheat-ees was not enough, that he had to sell *everythg*?
This quote from Rich Mullins is playing fast and loose w/ biblical exegesis and saddens me alot, lowers my respect for the man.

The Ochlophobist said...

Dear rhologist,
A lack of contextual analysis is not the reason that we Orthodox disagree with you. We disagree with you because we believe that Christ does call us to give up everything. God wants the last two mites from all of us. The Zacchaeus story does not contradict this. Tax collectors in Jesus' day made their money by overtaxing those whom they taxed. Persons who became wealthy tax collectors (let alone chief tax collectors, "publicanus") did so by cheating those they taxed all the more, and by operating within a vast economic network of an accomodationist oligarchy who were getting rich off of the corrupt and unjust circumstances brought about by Roman occupation. Any tax collector in Zacchaeus' time would have made most of his liquid capital by cheating others. Thus do the math. If 70 or 80 or 90 percent of Zacchaeus' cash was made by fraud then there is no way that it was possible for him to have paid back that which he stole 4 fold from his cash reserves. He would have had to sell his land. Right. Well as someone who is familiar with the NT I am sure you know that all near eastern societies were land based economies. The real capital was land capital. And if you have read virtually any academic monograph on the land economy of Israel in Jesus' day written in the last 50 years, you know that the only people who owned large amounts of land by the time of Christ were those who had made peace with the Romans - a peace which required them to unjustly acquire land in order to secure their own financial security. Most scholars who study this field argue that well over 75% of land in Israel was consolidated into the hands of a few (perhaps 100 to 200 persons) or was owned by the state or a magistrate of some sort. This means that if Zacchaeus sold off land to pay off his cash fraud, he was simply exchanging one form of fraudulent income to pay off another. We can conclude therefore that it was impossible for Zacchaeus to have paid off those he had cheated in a just manner. Even if he had some sort of justly earned cash at hand we still must own up to the hard reality that many, many persons in that day were displaced or died because they were overtaxed and could not maintain their homes. Remember that tax collectors in that day were much more like the mafia in our day than gov't employees. They traveled with small militias in order to extract payment. They had authority to kill those who were not Roman citizens and to take confiscate their lands. You did not become a major player in the tax collecting business without doing this from time to time. How did Zacchaeus pay those he killed and made homeless back? Several of the fathers of the church comment on this inability of Zacchaeus to pay back all of his debts literally, as the fraud associated with tax collecting had not changed in their own day. The story of Zacchaeus is an icon. It teaches us that while it is really impossible for us to pay back the debt of our sin, God can transform us in such a way that our new in Christ lives bless the world far more than our sinful lives cursed it. Love covers a multitude of sins. A couple of the fathers teach that God miraculously provided Zacchaeus with money he did not have in order to pay back his debts to all those he could find whom he owed. But more important than that, as far as this conversation is concerned, we need to remember that Zacchaeus certainly did give everything he had to Christ. One did not survive in the socio-political world of first century Palestine by being an honest tax collector. Anyone who would have attempted that would have been killed in short order. So if you just want to look at it from a historically informed socio-political point of view you will admit that Zacchaeus lost his income and likely his life because of his decision to obey Christ. But you could, if you so desired, trust Orthodox tradition and believe that Zacchaeus went on to follow St. Peter, become bishop of Caesarea, Palestine, and was martyred at Hauron, thus giving Christ everything he had.

Philippa said...

Dear rhologist,

You are correct, we are to read the scriptures in context. But in context of what? Just that portion of the Bible that has that story in it? Or in the context of the *entire* Bible?

In Christ, Philippa

David Bryan said...

Philippa makes a good point; I'd piggyback on it and not only ask, "In context of what?" but also, "Whose context?" which is what I think Rich was really getting at. It's ironic you should insist on "context" when there are many "contexts" out there through which to read the Bible. I can go out and buy the Rainbow Study Bible with its color-coded, built-in highlighted sections, or I can do the job myself with pen to underline or marker to highlight. The idea of "clear verses interpreting the unclear ones" begs the question. Why could I not use the two mites passage, the unrighteous mammon discourse, the rich man/Lazarus story, the "cheerful giver" discourse St. Paul gives, the rich young man incident, the Ananias and Sapphira incident, and Zacchaeus' carreer-ending and life-endangering repentance (and eventual martyrdom) to make a strong case that such radical giving is part and parcel to the Kingdom of God, salvation, eternal comfort, and other terms evident in these passages? It appears to me that attachment to worldly things/money and lack of almsgiving is indeed a source of damnation for many, as per the words of our Lord and His apostle.

Of course, we all know that all are called to be born of water and the spirit in the same way within the Church, and not all of us will have the same exact things to give up that stand between us and Christ; "all that we have"--what we clutch to, iow--is different. But we're called to give it all up.

And...you call the rich young man a liar. Interesting, because Christ didn't. When the rich young ruler stated that he'd kept all the commandments that Christ listed (rather than every single one), Christ merely acknowledged that and told him what he needed to do to be perfect. Christ was not shy about calling people on the carpet for insincerity or deception, yet His lack of commentary on the rich young man's claims speaks volumes on what many fathers have commented on as his sincere seeking of an honest answer from the Christ.

Rhology said...

Hello all,

Obviously I believe there are many exegetical and logical errors in your comments, but I'll try to keep it short and focused. But many thanks for what you've said!

David Bryan: The idea of "clear verses interpreting the unclear ones" begs the question.
Rhology: No more or less than your claim to have understood what I wrote and your assumption that you had the capacity to understand it. And certainly not more than your claiming infallibility for the church...

David Bryan: And...you call the rich young man a liar. Interesting, because Christ didn't.
Rhology: Well, the Apostle Paul did... Romans 3:23, etc. Nobody keeps all the commandments.
It's funny you should say that, BTW, b/c as I often see, your case against justification by grace thru faith *alone* rests largely on making Paul's "not justified by works" into "works of the LAW" (as in the Mosaic Law specifically and alone). And if we're not justified even by works of the LAW (which Jesus specifically mentions here), then this rich young ruler couldn't have been. What he needed to do was to let go of his love of riches and love Jesus 1st.
You can see the two passages in question hither and yon.
What you've said here is inconsistent w/ what you say in other contexts.

David Bryan: Christ...told him what he needed to do to be perfect.
Rhology: No, He didn't. He was answering the question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" There's a difference.

David Bryan: his sincere seeking of an honest answer from the Christ.
Rhology: I guess you could say he was sincere, but not all that much, since he didn't accept the offer.

As for highlighters, Rich Mullins was right that we humans pull 'em out to suit our own desires, but the context in which he said it, ie that being born again is great but not all that we need to do to have eternal life, is heresy. If I'd known he'd said sthg like that before now, I'd never have bought any more of his music or attended his concerts or anythg (kinda like I intentionally avoid Phillips Craig and Dean, since they're Oneness and thus heretics). Were I in charge at Wheaton (and had I the courage), I would've at that very moment stepped onstage, said "thank you, Rich," proceeded to refute what he'd just said, never invited him back, and encouraged other seminaries/Christian schools to do the same.
But that's, of course, just me. You, clearly, are applauding. :-) At least you can't say I'm soft on perceived heresy. ;-)

Have a great weekend!

--ALAN

The Ochlophobist said...

For a given articulation of a theological idea to be a heresy it must be formally condemned by the Church. The Church has never condemned the idea which Rich Mullins expresses in the quote above. Quite the contrary the Church has condemned Protestant theologies which state "justification by grace thru faith *alone*" (both Roman Catholics and Orthodox have done so). While historic Protestant confessions state the doctrine you refer to, and also condemn those who do not assent to it as being in error, low Church Evangelicals such as the ones at Wheaton have a casual relationship at best with the historic Protestant confessions. They can take them or leave them based on a vote by the board of trustees. The strongest thing that a low Church Protestant could say to Rich Mullins would be that his statement does not concord with their own "statement of faith" or personal/community interpretation of the Bible. Thus Wheaton could say to Rich Mullins, "we think you are wrong." But for Wheaton to use the langauge of heresy they would have to adopt an apparatus for the determination of theological truth and error which they stand squarely against. Only those who believe that the determination of what is theologically true and what is theologically false resides in the Church (as opposed to the passing waves of various private interpretive traditions and movements) can use the word heresy and mean anything substantial by it.

Rhology said...

Ochlophobist,

Wow, quick response!
Good to talk to you BTW.

--to be a heresy it must be formally condemned by the Church.
>>Yes, you're right; to meet the technical and formal definition of "heresy," that is true.

--Quite the contrary the Church has condemned Protestant theologies which state "justification by grace thru faith *alone*"
>>Yes, I know that. I am a conservative, Calvinist-flavored Evangelical Protestant, so there you go; that's why I dig JBGTF*A* and don't dig what I regard as nothing less than Semi-Pelagianism.

--While historic Protestant confessions state the doctrine you refer to, and also condemn those who do not assent to it as being in error
>>Yes, exactly.

--low Church Evangelicals such as the ones at Wheaton have a casual relationship at best with the historic Protestant confessions.
>>Yes, BUT...I have a continuity w/ those historic confessions.
What is more, I rely less on these historic confessions (though I dig them in general and in many ways in particular) than on the words of inspired Scripture. The Apostle Paul anathematised (which, when you think about it, is even worse than "heresy," I should think) those who hold to the idea that Mullins was hinting at (and you express explicitly). It's in Galatians, particularly chapter 1.

I know you don't agree. But you're wrong. ;-)

ALAN

benjamin said...

At the same time, the Apostle then went on to describe the faith he was talking about later on in his letter to the Galatians. It is "Faith working through love." (5:6). He also mentions the "Law of Christ" which is not abolished and cannot be abolished and is, again, the love of neighbor and love of God. To take "we are saved by faith" but to ignore Paul's numerous explanations of what that faith actually is is to miss the whole point!

Raoul The Destroyer said...

I think everyone kinda missed the point... mainly, that the quote was really, really funny. :)

benjamin said...

This is true. But it's the type of qoute that has a high chance of being disagreeable, and thus we, the faithful internet disagreeables, have done our duty.

David Bryan said...

"David Bryan: The idea of "clear verses interpreting the unclear ones" begs the question.
Rhology: No more or less than your claim to have understood what I wrote and your assumption that you had the capacity to understand it. And certainly not more than your claiming infallibility for the church..."

Nor for any group's affirmation of the infallibility of Scripture. So we're left, basically, with agnosticism, unless there happens to be an objective way, delineated at the start of things, to arrive at objective, final truth that will never be reformed.

"Romans 3:23, etc. Nobody keeps all the commandments."

All have sinned, regardless of whether or not they have personally sinned, due to their being sons of Adam and inheriting a fallen nature, thus falling short of God's glory, which they cannot, without union with Christ partake of. For the most part, Orthodox have a hard time believing that the Theotokos ever personally sinned, yet she still "fell short" of the glory of God due to her fallen nature.

Re: our disagreement as to St. Paul's "not justified by works" actually being "works of the LAW":

Rom. 9:31-33, and Gal. 2:15-16. It's not works of any kind--benjamin pointed to the "Law of Christ"--but works apart from Christ (specifically, those of the Jewish Law) that are unable to save. The rich young ruler, however, was operating in the OT still, however, and therefore was still using the Law in that context, rather than the NT context of St. Paul.

"David Bryan: Christ...told him what he needed to do to be perfect.
Rhology: No, He didn't."

Matt. 19:21.

Rhology said...

Oops, I concede the "perfect" thing. ;-)
Raoul - funny is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. ;-)

Peace,
ALAN

Aristibule said...

The Church is 'the context' - textual criticism is simply a modern tool, one that did not exist in 'context'. Such are the inherent dangers in trying to gain meaning from textual analysis - it is outside the objective content and intended use of the text, but reduces it to either to the subjective view of the 'tool users' (whether those tools are textual criticism or private revelation.)