One of the beating hearts of material philosophy is the strain to derive universals from particulars: i.e., what could we derive about phenomena, a posteriori from experiencing instances of observed phenomena? This goal might be a good fit for science but in ethical philosophy its application can get dicey. “How ought we to live?” is a question that presumes there’s a universal answer waiting to be discovered.
What if the answer isn’t so certain? It feels wrong to reduce Jesus to mere situational ethics, but it helps to consider we might be asking the wrong question—or rather, we may be thinking of the question incorrectly. There’s ample material to show that Jesus’ response to rather precise questions were answered in kind, with equal precision, tailored to the man posing the question; literally ad hominem. To Him, context isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. His answers, when He gave them (is silence an answer?), were dangerous Machiavellian dodges. “Dangerous” because people from a wide range of pedigrees were posing these questions to Him, and many of them were people in power waiting for Him to say the wrong thing. Sparking confusion in the minds of those who wanted to entrap Him may have led to His demise more so than charges of blasphemy.
Would Jesus be down with baking a gay cake? The only answer I can give is the maddening return question of: “Who’s asking for it?”
Thought experiment time. Here’s how it might go down if He slung flour instead of fir*.
The gay couple they came to Him, requesting a cake to be made for their wedding. He agreed to it and took their order.
When the day came to pick up the cake, the couple found Him at the bakery’s counter, eating leftover scraps of their cake.
“Is that our cake?” they asked Him. “Have you eaten it all?”
He put down his fork and spoke. “Why are you surprised? Just I am eating these rejected scraps of cake, and have thrown your actual cake away in the garbage, so my Father selects from the most humble and repentant among us, and condemns the self-righteous from His presence. Here, you may have the scraps.”
* As in, the tree. There probably weren’t fir trees in 1st (“fir”st?) century Galilee, but despite being the son of a 20th century woodworker, no other carpentry “f” terms come to me.
Azure had a comment on “Monoculture and Diversity“:
I was thinking of Romans 10:12 – “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him…” And maybe I’ll throw in Exodus 22:21 – “Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”
Those are a couple of verses that come to mind that I think someone could use to make the argument that, from a Christian perspective, diversity is a moral imperative.
Ed had a good comment here, especially in his last sentence: “Diversity in Christ is a matter of calling and mission; there has to be a shared confession in there somewhere or you can’t work well together.” This is probably no more apparent than in Jesus’ inner circle of disciple, the Apostles. There was an admixture of backgrounds among those twelve, Simon the Zealot versus Matthew/Levi perhaps being the sharpest contrast. Those two would have been at each other instantly if they had met outside the context of Jesus’ mission—while together there was most likely a strong requirement of self-restraint on the part of those two for stability’s sake. In a real sense, all the diversity among the Apostles was subsumed into the monoculture of Jesus’ mission; it’s pretty clear that Jesus was the type of guy who, not unusual for a Hebraic ascetic preacher of His time, strongly preferred some things to be left at the door if one were to sign onto the mission.
Plenty of metal band releases nowadays feature a track, usually in the middle or at the end, that’s a little quieter or more contemplative, probably to break the sonic elephant-gun onslaught of everything else you’re hearing/have heard. If the metal band is Christian, this track is the time to let listeners know you are, in fact, a Christian band by allowing it to become something of a worship song, or at least a song that mentions Jesus. Bonus points if you got some Psalm verses for maximum effect and have one of those borderline funk-slap acoustic guitar intros.
But once, just once, I’d like to see the inverse happen. You’re a squeaky-clean, modern rock worship band, complete with Nashville-studio solid production, and you put a disgusting, minute-long grindcore track in the middle of your latest release. Make sure it has really questionable early-nineties production values where the guitars are just a little too tinny, and make sure the lyrics are about something mundane, like emptying the dishwasher or buying new shoelaces. It kinda doesn’t matter because no one will understand them; the vocals can be gurgled out at random and lyrics written later to match the rhythm, for the liner notes*. You may use a drum machine because your drummer has no idea how to play blastbeats and will have to sell his soul to Satan to learn how.
If not grindcore, because grindcore dudes have no idea how to play their instruments well, you may insert some Covenant-era Morbid Angel death metal. But that’s as accessible as you may go. We’re not trying to sell albums here, really, with this, and the rest of the music on your album is the very definition of squeaky-clean accessible. But this special track is going to be the ne plus ultra of artistic statements, one that would make baby Jesus giggle and clear His colic.
No Nashville A&R rep in a worth his best blazer would ever go for this idea, so this release would have to be independently-funded. But you’d get my admiration, and that may be worth more to you than recouping your advance and getting to pay your phone bill for this month.
* As an option, this grindcore track can still be a worship song. Someone, definitely not me, may suggest that you go the pornogrind route and lift some Song of Solomon verses for the lyrics. You did not read that here.
Authors Respond to Brexit on Twitter – I am shocked—shocked—that rich elitists would sympathize with soulless bureaucracies.
Fit for a King singer faces backlash for comments on race – AKA: People are oversensitive sissies.
Aristotle’s 2400 Year Old Tomb Found at Stagira – Found next to Plato’s Cave. Anyone? Yes? No? I’ll see myself out…
Covens vs. Coders: How Witchcraft Apps are Pissing Off Real Witches – “Real” witches…
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Thug Notes Summary & Analysis – How have I not heard of these videos before?
The Empathy Industry – I’m okay with this as long as they give women prosthetic phalluses that “work” at very inopportune times.
Shifty merchants with 251 secret words for trade – “It looks like classic myth-repetition of the usual Eskimo-words-for-snow sort.”
Economists show that boys who grow up around books earn significantly more money as adults – Most economists are great at making connections with spurious logic. This seems like an example.
Doctor’s Plan for Full-Body Transplants Raises Doubts Even in Daring China – This is also suspicious.
It Took Centuries, But We Now Know the Size of the Universe – “We” are suspicious of this, too.
The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife – Totally suspicious, AKA: it’s just wishful thinking.
Lots of the contextual “What would Jesus do in x situation? Let’s find out,” hypotheticals end up being an ad absurdum argument, because the image of be-robed and be-sandaled Anglo Jesus doesn’t square away with the firearm violence. It’s too incongruous and image to be truthful, so of course we conclude, very nearly on reflex, and most often before we really think about, that He wouldn’t kill (shoot, stab, bomb, etc.) anyone. You can substitute “kill” with any other unsavory or even silly things the modern mind can come up with, and with some careful planning, carve out your very own Jesus idol that strangely resembles a late 20th century centrist American voter. There just no way Jesus could’ve thought or acted differently than me, my friends, or anyone I admire. God isn’t in the business of dashing out expectations, is He?
To give this imagery some…more imagery, it’s like putting our Viking, sandy-coiffed Jesus in a clown suit and presenting it as our argument. Ecce stultus! But sons of gods don’t wear clown suits. I, for one, prefer not to reduce Jesus to situational ethics, which is why I’m wary of the moderate rigor of translating Jesus’ actions into modern contexts.
While it’s probably true He literally didn’t kill anyone, that doesn’t necessarily rule out, if we know anything about God has acted in the world in the past, that He could have killed someone. The Bible is filled with people doing lots of strange things under God’s command, like cooking with poop and marrying prostitutes, wearing camelhair robes and eating bugs, and killing—lots and lots of killing. Is it really so untoward, given the history presented in the Old Testament, that Jesus could have killed someone? This “not killing” thing may be a clue: just as some (most?) things don’t fall to us, as our mission, killing wasn’t part of His particular mission.
Sic et Non, Souls and Pre-existence – I’m in the middle of reading Plato’s Phaedo, and the soul’s pre-existence was forefront. Instead of bumbling through a post about it, JT’s writing is much better.
A classic formula for pi has been discovered hidden in hydrogen atoms – Patterns. Someday I’d like to read a popular science article that doesn’t use the word “quantum.”
One Allegiance, Indivisible – “We cannot sustain a parceling up of our persons into the domain of Caesar and the domain of God – a house divided cannot stand. Either Caesar is Lord or Jesus is.”
Don’t Ask An Astrophysicist About Economics – “[Neil deGrasse Tyson] fell into the common trap of assuming just because he can’t imagine a return on investment one must not exist. Successful entrepreneurs are successful because they realized a return on an investment others did not.”
The Pilgrims’ Experiment with Communism Before the Second Thanksgiving – tl;dr version: people died when they didn’t have to.
You Are What You Read: 14 Thought Leaders Share Their Bookshelves – Guy is some kind of marketing guru, aka: a huckster (I mean, look at his domain name), and the bookshelves belong to others of his ilk. This article was labeled as the “smartest” people’s bookshelves, not “thought leaders” as the title suggests. I’m not sure which one is worse.
I remember watching the Rocky movies countless times when I was younger, and I never thought the semi-iconic scene in Rocky III where Rocky finally out-sprints Apollo Creed was implicitly homosexual. Watching it now, one has to wonder how much attitudes have changed, such that the filmmakers back then (1982) never thought twice that this could be taken as sexual. This scene couldn’t be made today without automatically communicating that undercurrent, an undercurrent that flows in many places. Even the title of this post comes off as rather “gay,” doesn’t it?
I’m sure people much more insightful than I could go into the details, but such a shift in view can probably be contributed to homophobia*, with some indirect help from x-wave feminism, and a good few decades of resocialization. Homosexuals could be anyone with something to hide, and that this “hiddenness” is coded communication between gays that sometimes leak out in public, is theme in media. Homosexuality has to be back-read into past texts, even religious ones. Ever hear of the gay saints or David and Jonathan or Jesus and John? Homophobia leaves no middle ground on mutual, non-sexual touch between men.
Another video, too, below, from Rocky IV, were Paulie kisses Rocky. I did think this one was unusual, not because of the kiss, but because it was so out of character for Paulie to act like that, which I think is the point of the scene. But again, that wouldn’t have made it into a final cut today without the gay or “no homo” context.
*I mean “homophobia” here as the more clinical “an irrational fear of homosexuality or homosexuals” term. 95% of what is labeled homophobic today isn’t anything more than failing to recognize homosexuals as another side is Marx’s critical theory battle. Those of us who think Marx was full of sh*t set ourselves up to reject the idea of homosexual liberation as it is known today, though that’s not a necessary deduction. I can think of one or two good reasons rather quickly. Regardless, I’ll leave it your own faculties and your favorite search engine to explore the idea that one could be rationally unsupportive, not “fearful”, of homosexuality.
Short answer: no.
Longer answer: watch video. Guest speaker’s at my church last Sunday, Austin Hohn.
To be clear, I think you can get some vague idea of what Jesus’ divinity was because, as the famous phrase goes, “words mean things.” I think Chalcedon is about as clear and succinct as we’re going to get to explaining it on a human level, especially to those of us in the modern day, English-speaking Occident. Every sort of culture will have some starting point as such, but to go further in that direction is to court disaster.
Language is a product of the human mind, and it’s rather useful when we’re talking of in-universe phenomenon. Language can provide a little outline of the “idea” of Jesus’ divinity; just the barest of directions, but that’s about it. Understanding Jesus’ divinity is apprehended by the spirit, not the mind. Maybe during Eden there was some better congruence between mind and spirit, but the repairing of that relationship in the world’s current state can only go so far. Things need a complete overhaul if that were to happen again.
I’m already sort of breaking my “no more posts until the book is done” rule already, but this was too delicious to pass up: “The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols”.
Secondly, and even more significantly, we need to read the whole Bible with reference to the approach of Jesus. To be a Christian is to be a Jesus-person: one whose life is based on his priorities, not on the priorities of subsequent theologians. And when we look at Jesus, we notice that he welcomed everyone who came to him, including those people that the (one-God worshipping) religious leaders rejected – and that Jesus said absolutely nothing about idols in any of the four Gospels. Conservative theologians, many of whom are friends of mine, often miss this point in the cut-and-thrust of debate, but for those who love Jesus, it should be at the very heart of the discussion.
Positivism meets sola scriptura OCD dorkdom.
And my favorite comment:
Andrew, my cousin came out as an idolater a few weeks ago. Until then, I had made comments and remarks in my blog and to others that would be taken as hurtful and demeaning towards idolaters. I’ve come to realize, based on his testimony to me, that I’ve been wrong about idolatry. I’m glad that you’ve taken the first steps towards a great understanding of the love that Jesus has for us all, idolaters or no.
My pastor’s sermon on Easter introduced a nice bit of new information concerning Jesus’ claims of divinity. He did make other, more verbal claims to Godhood but this one is more powerful if you understand the context.
During the Last Supper, the seder meal* that He shared with His disciples:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
The bread mentioned here is most likely the afikomen bread:
The afikomen is a piece of matzah, (unleavened bread) that is broken before the Passover meal. Part of it is wrapped in a cloth and hidden. At the end of the meal it is brought back, distributed to the participants and eaten as the final morsel.
In today’s Jewish celebration, the second or middle of three pieces of unleavened bread is taken from a special bag called the matzah tosh. The bread is removed, broken, and the portion that is wrapped in the cloth becomes the afikomen that is then hidden from view.
From the same Jews For Jesus link, it explains why the afikomen bread is significant (I took the superscripted references out):
Rabbi Hillel (who was most active between 30 BC-10AD) drew special attention to the afikomen as he led people through Passover celebrations. And, in the first century, Rabbi Gamaliel said that the bread pointed to the speed at which salvation came to Israel in Egypt. Further, we know that by the first century, some Jewish people viewed the bread as symbolic of the people of Israel and the hidden piece, the afikomen, as a symbol of the Messiah, who remained hidden from view.
Jesus, quite deliberately, through His words at the Matthew 26 consecration, is claiming savior status. Given the tradition in which His disciples were raised, there was little room for doubt to what He was saying. Non-Jewish minds will pass over (heh) this little sliver of context that adds a lot of meaning.
* There’s some dispute as to whether the Last Supper was actually an official seder or something else. I’m calling it a seder here for brevity’s sake.