Monday, June 15, 2009

phar i see

Finally, he (Neo) spoke up. He seemed to have been having his own internal conversation: "Besides, the whole notion of authority as so many people conceive if is thoroughly modern." Now, I must have looked even more confused, because Neo gently hit me on the shoulder, smiled, and winked. "Relax, Dan, I'm only saying what the Bible says. That oft-quoted passage in Second Timothy doesn't say, 'All Scripture is inspired by God and is authoritative.' It says that Scripture is inspired and useful--useful to teach, rebuke, correct, instruct us to live justly, and equip us for our mission as people of God. That's a very different job description than we moderns want to give it. We want it to be God's encyclopedia, God's rule book, God's answer book, God's scientific text, God's easy-step instruction book, God's little book of morals for all occasions. The only people in Jesus' day who would have had anything close to these expectations of the Bible would have been the scribes and Pharisees. Right?
Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christian, p. 52

Delve into the world of emergent enough, and you'll find that they love to play the Pharisee card--all those who question them in the wrong ways (question as in seriously challenge), who disagree with them, who stand by what the Bible says, and don't approve the things they (emergents) want us to approve of, almost invariable get the Pharisee label stuck on us by them.

You can see it in the above, pretty easily. Those of us who accept the word of the living and true God about how He created the world over the words of men who can't even agree among themselves over how the process of evolution took place, are labelled those who want the Bible to be "God's scientific text". Those of us who look to the Bible for moral guidance and standards are labelled those who want the Bible to be "God's little book of morals for all occasions".

And, of course, we are shelved right down there with the Pharisees.

But was that the Pharisees' mistake? Were they wrong?

I've had some experience with being around Christians who were legalistic.In my youth, I heard plenty about the evils of rock music, tv, movies, smoking, long hair on boys and pants on girls. But I still call them Christians because, even while legalistic, they would say that living their way was not the thing that saved a person, but only faith in Christ. Whatever their faults, they didn't go that far.

In Romans, Paul deals with the problems his people had with the way God had opened for their salvation. "They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge". Their problem was that they had tried to use the law to "establish their own righteousness", and "did not submit to God's righteousness". Salvation is by grace, not by works.

In one of Jesus' stories, he contrasts the prayer of a Pharisee with that of a tax collector. The Pharisee's prayer was full of pride in his own goodness and good works, while the tax collector could only pray for God's mercy. It's plain from the story that Jesus approved of the tax collector and not of the Pharisee.

The Pharisees' problem, I think it may safely be said, was that they tried to make themselves right with God through their own works, they tried to earn eternal life, and at least one result was a pride that could only be considered noxious.

One thing that I think their problem wasn't was in taking the Scriptures seriously--if anything, they should have taken them even more seriously then they did. Their problem wasn't in thinking there was an Adam, a Noah, and a Moses, but in thinking that simply because they could trace their ancestry back to Moses, then they were ok (something that even a cursory reading of the OT should have made plain wasn't true).

And so, I can only smile and shake my head at what I consider a false and misleading little misdirection of McLaren's part here. Sorry, but the Pharisee label doesn't fit.

(oh, and note to neo--if the pharisees were so all-fired modern, then obvious it shoots down your argument about authority as we think of it being thoroughly modern, right?)

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