Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Weeping for Jerusalem

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Lk 19:41-44).
Here's a popular Arminian prooftext. But it backfires. In principle, there are two ways of understanding the passage.
I. God's perspective
On this view, the passage isn't just a reflection of Christ's viewpoint, but God's viewpoint. A window into God's attitude towards the lost. 
Let's grant that understanding for the sake of argument. Problem is: the Jews of Jerusalem weren't the only people to suffer or die in the siege and sack of Jerusalem. Many Roman soldiers were maimed or died in that operation. Yet Jesus doesn't weep for them. He doesn't weep for the aggressors. 
Perhaps you'd say the Roman soldiers aren't entitled to sympathy. But that's inconsistent with the Arminian emphasis on God's omnibenevolence. 
In addition, Rome never had an all-volunteer army. The Roman army included many forced conscripts. Hence, there's a sense in which the Roman casualties are as much victims as the Jewish casualties. And it's not as if the Jews went down without a fight. They took a lots of Romans with them. 
So if this text reveals God's perspective, it reveals his selective concern for the Chosen People. If we grant the Arminian premise (i.e. it reflects God's outlook), then it becomes a prooftext for the partiality of divine love. An Arminian premise yields a Calvinist conclusion. 
II. Christ's perspective
Not everything that's true of God incarnate (the Son) is true of God discarnate (the Father & the Spirit). Due to the two natures of Christ, some things will be true of Christ that won't be true of God qua God. 
So this passage may well reflect the humanity of Christ. His human feelings. His human attachments. His natural empathy for his own people: the Jewish people. A sense of solidarity with his relatives. His extended family. 
You weep when your own mother dies; you don't weep when every mother dies. 
The Incarnation makes a difference: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Heb 4:15).
If, apart from the Incarnation, God has the same perspective, then the Incarnation is superfluous–for the divine nature can do the whole trick all by itself. And that's amplified by Arminians who reject penal substitution. In that case, there's even less rationale for the Incarnation. 

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