Friday, November 27, 2009

Culture wars:
What Jesus Did Not Do

[Point eight Jared Wilson's criticism of the "culture wars": (Index)]

Jared Wilson: "The 'culture war' is going to hell because . . ."

8. It has no root in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus knew heart change didn’t come through political power, cultural pressure, or zealotry, so he was keenly disinterested in those things.
This is the "big one", at least to me, in this series: Jesus, in His ministry, bowed out of the "culture war" of His day - or took a side that those who do want to impose morality through political power or cultural pressure may not like.

The political and social climate in Judea at the time of Jesus' ministry had every possible opportunity for Jesus to become a culture warrior on both the political and cultural levels - and He rejected those choices.

By 30AD, Judaism was beginning to ramp up for the the three Roman-Jewish wars to come. There were two primary schools of pharisees - Hillel and Shammai - and one of the primary distinguishing characteristics between the followers (and not so much the leaders) of the two schools was about rigid adherance to Jewish law and customs as a guard against encroaching Roman culture and Hellenization. The Dead Sea Scrolls show that this process was well advanced at the time of Jesus' ministry.

It would be Shammai's school that would eventually team up with the Zealots to take political control of Judea - and launch the rebellion against Rome 35 years after Jesus' death. The process of ramping up to this war was well underway during Jesus' ministry.

However, if Jesus' ministry lined up with either of these schools - it was Hillel's. He did not, in scripture, deride the Hellenization of Jewish culture, call for rigid adherance to religious rules and traditions as a guard against the corruption of tradition, or team up with the Zealots in an anti-Roman campaign.

Indeed, it was the opposite. Jesus spoke against the burdens that excessive religious rules placed on God's people; and it was the Zealot among His apostles that decided Jesus was not the "culture warrior" Messiah he expected, and betrayed him to the Sanhedrin.

[Update: It has been pointed out that I have confused Simon the Zealot with Judas Iscariat. There is no mention is scripture that Judas was a Zealot. Many of my teachers in the past have speculated on this - including that there was some relationship between Simon and Judas before they joined Jesus.]

* * * * *
Jared Wilson:
I choose the gospel. Come hell or highwater, come a liberal administration in Washington for the rest of my life or actual suffering. My treasure is not Christianity, but Christ. My hope is not a Christian nation but a Christ-saturated universe. I trust not in princes but in the King of Kings. I choose war on hell and death through the liberating power of Jesus in the glorious gospel of the grace of God.

For the glory of God.

it is incumbant upon Christians to work for right order and justice in the society in which we live. However, our duties to the Body of Christ, the Great Commission, and the Kingdom of God trump our requirements as Christian citizens of a nation state.

1 comment:

  1. Nice piece.  The only thing is, Jesus DID engage the Culture Wars of his time- every single one of them- but in ways that absolutely transcended and subjugated political power.  Just as the Gospel of Jesus Christ was a re-configuration of sorts of the thinking on salvation, he also engaged the culture wars very strongly in ways never seen before. 

    Those who say that Christians are losing the Culture War, they said the same about Jesus, but his Gospel has transformed absolutely everything in humanity- his manner of thinking gave birth to electricity, cars, light bulbs, airplanes, televisions, cell phones- because he introduced and exemplified the nature of the invisible in human thought- "not everything is as it seems"- he pushed people beyond the physical and temporal pre-occupations of plato and socrates and pharisees-

    And just look at Rome.  Christians were blamed for the fall of Rome, though they didn't raise a hand- they just believed in Jesus.  Christians may not "win" the temporal culture wars of America, but in standing faithful to what we believe, the Church of God will overcome it all in the end-

    We just hope we can get people to make some moral changes in society so that the fall of the American Empire is not necessitated by Christ's victory on the cross.


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly