Saturday, November 21, 2015

Losing Jesus

I'll comment on some recent statements by Peter Enns:

For Christians, I believe that condemning mass, ideologically driven, and horrific violence today means taking on the responsibility of deconstructing the violence in the Bible.

You can't "deconstruct" violence in the Bible. Rather, you either accept or reject the inspiration of Scripture. 

—to be able to speak with integrity of our God who we believe condemns mass violence today but who is said to have commanded it long ago.

Why does he believe his God condemns that? What's his source of information? What's his standard of comparison? How does he know what God is really like–even assuming there is a God? Clearly he doesn't take the Bible as God's self-revelation. So what supplies the contrast?

It is our Christian responsibility to take this on and not avoid it.


—to reflect on what it says, work with others and make sober Christian decisions about what it means live and speak faithfully today and to be in step with the Spirit of God...

How does he identify what is from the Spirit of God? How does he decide what is contrary to the Spirit of God? 

The New Testament, I would argue, is not on the same page as the Old when it comes to mass military violence toward other peoples. In fact it’s turned that page altogether. But neither does it get a free pass.
At the hands of the Gospel writers, in different ways and varying degrees, Jesus’s rhetoric also exhibits violence—though not as persistently and not against the world out there. The Gospel rhetoric of violence on Jesus’s lips is aimed at his fellow Jews for not understanding that he was God’s chosen messiah.
Christians today must also assume the responsibility of wrestling with the Gospel rhetoric, too, and determining when, if, or whether it should remain as part of our own rhetoric.
The God of the OT is the God that Jesus and Paul believed--simply took for granted, actually--was the same God behind the Sermon on the Mount, etc. That’s the theological issue. one can toss the OT out, of course, but that is the lazy way out.
But the OT still has to be addressed, because the same God who spoke there is the God that Jesus spoke of. At least that what’s Jesus thought. That’s what creates the hermeneutical and theological conundrum.

i) Enns makes a good point that "progressive Christians" can't compartmentalize the NT or the Gospels from the OT. 

ii) To say Christians must take responsibility for Jesus is unintentionally comical. Are we his minders and handlers? 

iii) Enns appears to be undecided on how to view the "Gospel rhetoric of violence". On the one hand, he seems to suggest this is something Gospel writers attribute to Jesus rather than something he actually said. On the other hand, he suggests this is what Jesus actually thought, said, and took for granted. As it stands, Enns leaves both options open. Maybe he can't decide which is right, or perhaps he thinks both may be right at one time or another. 

iv) His own position drives a wedge between Christ and Christians. If, on the one hand, the "rhetoric of violence" is authentic to Jesus, then we must distance ourselves from Jesus. If, on the other hand, the Gospel writers put words in Christ's mouth, then the historical Jesus disappears behind the editorializing. We no longer know what Jesus really said or thought because the historical Jesus is hidden behind the literary Jesus. We lack access to the historical Jesus. The Gospels are a mirror of the writer rather than a window into Jesus. 

Either way, that poses an intractable dilemma for "progressive Christians" like Enns. By their own admission, they can't follow Jesus–either because they disagree with Jesus or because they don't know where to find him. 


  1. He has completely degenerated his theology. Heck, its not even theology for him any more.

    1. Yes, he's gotten to the point where Jesus can't be trusted to know what God is really like.

  2. Sounds like Peter Enns would be quite comfortable at Yale or Missouri discussing microaggressions of Jesus and His Father.