Is Your Jesus a Spoiled Brat?

David Hayward is on a roll this week. Here’s his latest cartoon:

David adds the comment:

You’d think he would have outgrown this narcissistic attitude by the time he became an adult.

But… according to many… apparently not.

This is really insightful. The God and the Jesus that many conservative Christians envisage is one who is narcissistic and immature.

Just think about it. Really give it thought. If depicting God as an entity that would say “You won’t adore me? Fine, I’ll show you – I’ll torture you for eternity!” seems anything but a depiction of God as reflecting the worst traits found in human beings, then I can only guess that perhaps you too have some maturing to do, and have a god made in your own image, even if you have managed to persuade yourself that it is the other way around.

For those interested in ancient Christians’ treatment of this topic, take a look at the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (which should not be confused with the Gospel of Thomas). It depicts Jesus as a spoiled and immature child who nonetheless possesses great power dangerous in his hands. Fortunately by the end of the work, as it dovetails into the New Testament, it suggests that he has matured significantly.

  • MattG

    Dr. McGrath, I didn’t know where else to ask this so I thought I would ask it here: I have very recently developed a strong interesting in reading your book *The Burial of Jesus* but it seems to be available only as an ebook. Has it ever been in print? If not, are there any plans to make it available in print? I would love to read it!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      The first edition, which was an ordinary print book, can still be purchased through Amazon.com. The second edition is not radically different from the first, in case you are wondering. Here’s a link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1439210179/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1439210179&linkCode=as2&tag=jamefmcgrshom-20

      • Kaz

        Since I haven’t had time yet to read the second edition, can you clarify what sorts of changes can be found there? Did you primarily focus on errata, or did you gain further insights in light of your ongoing research and make substantive changes?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I updated a few things (e.g. a little more on the Talpiot tomb), clarified a few points, and tweaked or improved the wording in a place or two. It is minor changes and not substantial differences.

  • Chris Wild

    I don’t know if that’s just the Jesus of conservative Christians. Didn’t the historical Jesus, in all likelihood, believe in some sort of Gehenna and use it to threaten those who rejected his message? (eg, the many eschatological judgement passages in the synoptic gospels Mark 9:43-48, Matt 25:41, etc.)

    • Kaz

      Sure, but his message wasn’t “Adore me and only me”, and he didn’t threaten literal eternal torment to unbelievers.

      • Chris Wild

        He didn’t? I’m not so sure. Seems he thought those who did not repent and worship Israel’s God were headed for fiery judgement. It’s all over the gospels.

        • Kaz

          I think it’s a mistake to assume that “fiery judgement” is equivalent to “eternal torment”. If you’re interested in learning how those who reject the doctrine of eternal torment yet maintain a high view of Scripture understand the applicable biblical language, then I’d recommend the following:

          1) The Fire That Consumes: A Biblical and Historical
          Study of the Doctrine of Final Punishment. 3rd edition, fully updated,
          revised and expanded, by Edward William Fudge

          Comments: This is the author’s most recent edition, which brings the fascinating discussion up to date. The original 1st edition is currently available here:

          http://preview.tinyurl.com/curvs8l

          An iUniverse reprint of the original edition is available here:

          http://preview.tinyurl.com/bkjulz6

          Poternoster published a slightly abridged version of the first edition, which is available here:

          http://preview.tinyurl.com/alz78n6

          2) Two Views of Hell: A Biblical & Theological Dialogue, by Edward William Fudge and Robert A. Peterson

          Comments: This book has the virtue of allowing you to consider conditional immortality and the doctrine of eternal torment side-by-side so that you can gauge which position is more compelling. Fudge does an excellent job of packing his strongest points into the limited space provided.

          3) Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell: Papers Presented at the Fourth Edinburgh Conference in Christian Dogmatics, 1991 (Scottish bulletin of evangelical theology special study), edited by Nigel M.de S. Cameron

          Comments: See the chapter by John Wenham, entitled “The Case for Conditional Immortality”, which alone should be sufficient, IMO, for the purpose of enabling any reasonable person to reject the traditional perspective.

          4) Immortality or Resurrection, by Samuele Bacchiocchi

          Comments: Four chapters of this book are available online, here:

          http://preview.tinyurl.com/27ynbht

          5) Life and Immortality, by Basil F.C. Atkinson

          Comments: Though not easy to find, this is an *excellent* book from the annihilationist’s perspective. It’s short and to the point!

          6) Is Man the Phoenix? A Study of Immortality, by Bruce Reichenbach

          Comments: Though under 200 pages, this book is packed with insights, and has a brief though interesting discussion of the intermediate state in the appendix.

          7) Hell: A Hard Look at a Hard Question: The Fate of the Unrighteous in New Testament Thought, by David Powys

          Comments: The sort of analytical power that Fudge brings to the question in a broad sense (i.e. covering the OT, inter-testamental literature, NT, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, and the certain patristic literature), Powy’s brings to the NT specifically.

        • Kaz

          I submitted another reply to the above, but it seems to have disappeared into the black hole that sometimes sucks my posts from this site. Oh, well…

          To reiterate, I think that it’s a mistake to equate “fiery judgment” with eternal torment.” If you’re unfamiliar with the conditionalist’s perspective (a/k/a annihilationism), then I’d recommend that you check out The Fire That Consumes, by Edward William Fudge (3rd edition), along with many other works that I previously noted, but which vanished into the void.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Hi Kaz. It was probably the number of links that got it flagged as possible spam and awaiting approval. It has been approved now (I was out or I would probably have gotten to it sooner – sorry for the delay).

            • Kaz

              Thanks for the clarification, James. One of the posts that vanished didn’t have any links, but at least I know that those with links need approval, and so will anticipate a delayed appearance.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                I’ve added you to the Disqus Whitelist, and so hopefully even posts with links won’t have to wait, with a bit of luck.

                Which other comment failed to appear? I don’t see any in the spam filter – I hope you didn’t lose one in the quicksands of cyberspace!

                • Kaz

                  Thanks, James, I appreciate the help! Would you believe that the other post that vanished (though ultimately reappeared) is the one that began, “I submitted another reply to the above, but it seems to have disappeared into the black hole…” :-o

                  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                    :-)

        • Kaz

          I forgot to provide a link to Fudge’s 3rd edition, which can be purchased here:

          http://preview.tinyurl.com/cortreo

          If you only have time to read one book on the subject, then I’d recommend this one.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Kaz addresses the question of whether Jesus envisaged eternal punishment below, so here I will just focus on the other aspect of the question, namely whether Jesus’ message was about accepting him or his message and threatening those who failed to do so, or about warning those who were mistreating others. There is a big difference, in my thinking, between calling people to be reconciled to God and one another, and calling people to worship oneself.

  • http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Anti-Catholic Wesley Mcgranor

    Postmodernism is death; yet the living dead remain.

    © S. Wesley Mcgranor

    • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

      If the dead are still alive, isn’t that a kind of resurrection?

  • Kaz

    James, I don’t know where you stand personally, but years ago in an article called “Are Christians Monotheists? The Answer of St. John’s Gospel” (now available here: http://rdtwot.wordpress.com/the-defense-of-an-essential/monotheism-christology/), you indicated that John probably would have placed Jesus on the God-side of the divide between God and creation. If you were correct in that previously stated judgment, and if John would have been correct in placing Jesus where you believe he would have, then would it not follow that, IF Jesus were to demand that we adore him and only him, then this demand would be but an extension (or perhaps the equivalent) of Yahweh’s demand that we worship him and him alone?

    Are you suggesting that God’s requirement that we worship him and him alone or suffer consequences makes him a “Spoiled Brat”, or is your objection primarily with the notion that “Eternal Torment” is the consequence for breaking the first commandment?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Thanks for pointing out that that lecture is still floating around online! Here is the direct link: http://rdtwot.files.wordpress.com/2007/10/mcgrath_are-christians-monotheists.pdf

      I think that, on the question about the way I tried to nuance things in the lecture, that more needs to be said to get from the relationship between the Logos and God to the relationship of Jesus to God (and to the Logos, for that matter).

      On the cartoon, the notion of people being tormented eternally is indeed a part of the problem. But I also think that if we give the impression that God is narcissisistic, just longing to be adored, we are there too engaging in unhelpful anthropomorphism.

      • Kaz

        Hi James: You said:

        “On the cartoon, the notion of people being tormented eternally is indeed
        a part of the problem. But I also think that if we give the impression
        that God is narcissisistic, just longing to be adored, we are there too
        engaging in unhelpful anthropomorphism.”

        At Exudus 20:3 it says:

        “You shall have no other gods before me”.

        Jesus dubbed this the most important commandment, and further nuanced it this way at Mark 12:28-31 (NIV):

        Quote
        28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

        29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

        End Quote

        Does this qualify as narcissism in your judgment?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Not necessarily. But it depends on how we understand it, I think. It is possible to understand such commandments as God seeking adoration, but it is also possible to understand them as human beings talking about the need to make the focus of our worship only the one who is truly ultimate. Perhaps an analogy would be between a great violinist who constantly asks people to show him appreciation, and a fan club for that violinist which encourages others to appreciate the violinist’s skill. Does that analogy help at all? And perhaps more importantly, would you agree that the two situations are different in important ways? How and whether we treat Christ as a revelation of God as humble is also a relevant consideration.

          • Kaz

            I would agree that conceiving of God as one who loves us and admonishes us to worship only him and to love him with all our power because it’s good for us AND because it’s the right thing to do is different from conceiving of God as one who has a narcissistic need for attention. Many fundamentalists hold to ideas that I reject, but as far as I can recall I’ve never met one whose idea of God fits the caricature presented by the cartoon, and I worry that by endorsing the cartoon you may be unwittingly endorsing the rather ungracious and ill-conceived attitude of its originator. God’s jealous insistence on our exclusive devotion to Him is no more “narcissistic” than our jealous insistence that our marriage mates remain faithful to us. They are both proper in light of the relationship from which they emerge.

            Getting back to my point, though, since Jesus was speaking as God’s agent, i.e. as the incarnation of God’s own Word, it seems to follow that when he said that we should love God absolutely, he was speaking God’s own words. Thus, the analogy of the violinist doesn’t really seem to fit. Jesus wasn’t just a fellow man encouraging us to worship properly, but, legally, he was as God telling us to do so.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              The marriage analogy is a helpful one. What is the appropriate course of action when the other person seems determined to be unfaithful or even decides to leave? Lock them up? Beat them? Torture them – even if not forever? Aren’t such responses to infidelity problematic, and based on a human desire for revenge? Wouldn’t a response that was concerned entirely for the well-being of the other (and then also of the relationship) be very different from this scenario from low-budget films? I think that one can regard fidelity as important but not view retribution as an appropriate way to deal with infidelity. And I think this analogy can be helpful when it comes to thinking about God, since God often comes across as a celestial wife-beater in the way he is depicted as dealing with wayward Israel in a number of texts in the Hebrew Bible.

              • Kaz

                All analogies only go so far in shedding light on divine realities, I think, and this is certainly the case here. The marriage analogy was to demonstrate that there are proper forms of jealousy, not that God would be analogous to a wife beater or murderer when he administers the death penalty to those who are not faithful to him.

                Those who commit idolatry are like cancer cells to the body, and killing those cells can ultimately save the rest of the body, whereas ignoring them and leaving them unchecked would ultimately mean the death penalty to the whole body. Many scholars have noted that Jesus was himself an apocalyptic prophet, and so to reject apocalyptic (along with all it entails, including the judgment of all who oppose God) is to reject Jesus himself, it seems to me. The biblical Kingdom of God can never be a reality as long as the cancer of sin is permitted to endure.

                • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Prost/100002434484052 Tony Prost

                  ” The biblical Kingdom of God can never be a reality as long as the cancer of sin is permitted to endure.”
                  Permitted???? God is “permitting” it. “He” could cease to “permit” it, if he pleased.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  I like the analogy with cancer – and all theology is analogy, and so we either do our best with analogies, or forego them and remain silent. If we are indeed to talk about a “proper form of jealousy” I would need more information to know what that entails, and how it differs from human jealousy projected onto God.

                  On your last point, the author of Revelation would seem to disagree with you: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/12/revelation-2215-no-dogs-go-to-heaven.html Sin seems to endure in that author’s vision, it is just excluded from the New Jerusalem.

                  • Kaz

                    “On your last point, the author of Revelation would seem to disagree with you: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/e… Sin seems to endure in that author’s vision, it is just excluded from the New Jerusalem.”

                    Part of Revelation has also been interpreted by some to support the doctrine of eternal torment, but I’m not going to give up belief in conditional immortality just because one richly symbolic account could possibly be understood to yield an interpretation that would contradict the message of the Bible as a whole. If you reject the doctrine of eternal torment and any alternate interpretations that would be in harmony with my view that sin will not endure forever, then I guess, from your perspective, Revelation disagrees with both of us.

  • Beau Quilter

    Like Father, like Son.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

    If Jesus had believed and prominently said that he was God, then he would have not been a normal human person, but would have been quite egotistical. However, many have suggested that Jesus did not know he was God. And that leads to some important ideas.

    In effect Wrede and others began to note that Jesus often told others not to tell anyone he was the Christ. We add that 99% of the time, Jesus did not proclaim himself to be God (or Christ?). Rather he overwhelmingly merely asked others “who do you say I am.” And let others determine his status.

    (References to the future triumphs of the “Son of Man,” note, are in third person, and do not clearly refer to Jesus himself).

    The fact is, that 99% of the time Jesus did not say he was Christ, or God; and the one time where he does seem to say that, is narrated differently in a parallel gospel. (Where the priest says it of him, rather than Jesus saying it about himself).

    Out of this finally, come some heaven-shattering speculations. Not only is Jesus’ status as God or Christ 1) at least a “secret”; 2) perhaps Jesus himself never even really meant to declare himself Christ at all. Or perhaps 3) Jesus was simply, not even the Christ. Or 4) he left his own status for History to determine; as we observe the “fruits” of following him, or the lack of fruits (cf. John 10.37).l

    By the way? Though many around Jesus said he was the Christ, all those who said that were persons with what were considered by conservative jews to be notable flaws; Romans, mere women, or persons with “demons” or “unclean spirits.” And so forth.
    Amazingly, Jesus himself did not really clearly say that he was God, or Christ. And in a sense, ironically, if you believe that he is – then you are not following him.
    Maybe in fact that is the final lesson of the New Testament; as children, we all think we are God. But maturity teaches us better. IT is better to be humble.

    • Claude

      Hey BG,

      Possibly to avoid trouble with the Roman authorities Jesus discouraged people from speaking of him as the Messiah.

      • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

        That’s the way Wrede is usually read. But note how consistent Jesus was in not proclaiming his own divinity. To the point that if YOU say he is Christ, then you are not obeying what Jesus told told you.

  • James Snapp, Jr.

    Ah, that profound and unanswerable The-Doctrine-of-Eternal-Hell-Implies-A-Selfish-God argument. A serious, mature God — the case seems to run — would create beings who would find enjoyment and fulfillment of equal value regardless of whether they were worshipping their actual Creator, or the sun, or a piece of gold-plated wood, or their own reflections. The objection would then be posed, however, that such a God was an accessory to idolatry and selfishness; to contribute to idolatry and self-centeredness is bad; ergo such a God would be bad.

    It seems that some folks do not quite seem to grasp, or don’t want to grasp, the concept that God made them for a God-centered purpose, not for whatever they want to do. To them self-denial is so yukky; how much more mature seems to them the axiom, “Pick whatever god you want, and serve that god however you please.” Is this not the corrolary of the caricature?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      It seems rather to be a caricature of the corollary.

      You seem not to distinguish between a scenario in which God is concerned for the spiritual well-being of humans and wishes to save them from idolatry and direct their attention to the truly Ultimate, and a scenario in which God is concerned with God’s own self-centered desire to be the center of everyone’s attention.

      It is worth pointing out that what you seem to be doing in your comment is attempting to take a challenge to this popular idol worshiped by fundamentalists, and pretend that it is a matter of substituting whatever one prefers in its place. But in fact, this illustrates just how hard it can be for the religious in particular to let go of their idols, and to recognize their non-ultimacy. That is anything but choosing what we please. To recognize the fallibility of our human thinking about God is arguably the most challenging spiritual path, the narrowest road, that there is.

      • James Snapp, Jr.

        (Yes; corollary; not corrolary. My bad.)

        I can’t trace the flow of your argument. Do you believe that God is concerned with the spiritual well-being of humans, and desires to save them from idolatry and direct their attention to the truly Ultimate (i.e., Himself)? If so, then it should be easy to see that the cartoon is a cheap shot, and that it makes good sense for God to insist that people should not worship false gods, and it makes sense that a holy God who wants people to be holy would not create a world in which the consequences of worshiping God and worshiping idols were the same. Or to put it another way: why aren’t you protesting that David Hayward’s message in this cartoon seems to be that a mature God would be okay with false gods?

        And, if you don’t believe that premise about God, then you should not mind at all if anybody clings to their idols; if God Himself does not mind then why should we?
        I would also note that it requires more than the recognition that we are fallible interpreters of divine revelation to show that a particular interpretation is wrong. And how can you declare that someone’s cherished belief is an idol, rather than a worthwhile god, if the sentiment of the cartoon is correct? Doesn’t your answer illustrate disagreement, on some level, with the cartoon?

        Yours in Christ,

        James Snapp, Jr.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I think you have failed to understand the cartoon. And so until you get what it is trying to communicate, you will presubaly continue to make assumptions about my reasoning and stance that don’t correspond to reality. I know that conservatives like to depict liberals as thinking that any concept of God is as good as any other. But unless you never actually talk to liberals, you ought to have learned by now that – while there are people all across the spectrum who seem to confirm the stereotypes held by those at other points of the spectrum, the reality in most cases does not.

          • James Snapp, Jr.

            I think I understand the cartoon all right. You’re not really answering my questions.

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              And I think that you think I am not answering your questions because you don’t understand the point I made about the cartoon, or where I am coming from more generally.

              • James Snapp, Jr.

                Anyone can see my questions and see that you are not answering them.

                Now, you said, “The God and the Jesus that many conservative Christians envisage is one who is narcissistic and immature.” That does not seem hard to fathom. It’s a false and insulting claim, but a clear one.

                Suppose someone said, “The God envisaged by David Hayworth, with James McGrath’s ‘Amen,’ is one who says, ‘Go ahead: have other gods before Me. Worship yourselves. I’m okay with that.’” Would you say that is inaccurate? If so, then how can you also say that Hayworth’s cartoon is insightful?

                Yours in Christ,

                James Snapp, Jr.

                • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  I saw you offer a similar interpretation of the cartoon and of what I have said in response to Bretton Garcia. If you want to have a conversation with me, I really must insist that you begin by reading what I wrote and at least trying to understand it and represent it accurately. If you are not interested in doing so, then please do not waste my time. If you are, then please reread what I wrote and offer to discuss my actual views and not those you wish to attribute to me for reasons I have yet to understand.

                  • James Snapp, Jr.

                    I read and re-read what you wrote. I still don’t see answers to the questions that I asked. I must be missing something. I will repeat the first question, which was a yes-or-no question; please show me where you said “Yes” or “No” and addressed the follow-up questions:

                    Do you believe that God is concerned with the spiritual well-being of humans, and desires to save them from idolatry and
                    direct their attention to Himself?

                    If your answer is yes, then why aren’t you protesting that David Hayward’s message in this cartoon seems to be that a mature God would be okay with false gods? And if your answer is no, then why, after affirming that a mature God would not object to idols, do you oppose beliefs that you call idols?

                    After looking into David Hayward’s work a bit, I have three other questions:

                    Do you think it is coincidental that a doodler who has convinced himself that Sophia brought him a revelation in a dream in 2009 wants to oppose the first commandment?

                    Do you seriously think Hayward’s cartoons are brilliant and excellent and insightful? (Taking your comments at face value, it
                    certainly looks like you do!) But many of them are sadly bitter and childish. David Hayward is a man who has abandoned God, who flagrantly mocks Jesus and the church, and who is determined to follow his own delusions, and he encourages other people to follow theirs. I don’t see liberalism at his website. I see anti-Christian vitriol and delusional polytheism.

                    Hayward’s Naked Pastor website is strangely named, since while he draws pictures of a naked Sophia-figure, the pastor that he has depicted as a zombie is wearing clothes; in addition, Hayward himself is not a pastor; he left the church, he reports, two and a half years ago.
                    Have you taken a clear look at the source of the “brilliant insights” you’ve been supporting?

                    Yours in Christ,

                    James Snapp, Jr.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      You seem to be doing two things that are presenting hurdles to our conversation. First, you are suggesting that the depiction of God and/or Jesus as though they were egotistical bullies who demand worship and adoration on threat of torture is not an idol. I am not saying it is OK to worship false gods – indeed, I am trying to encourage people not to worship a false god. I am trying to direct people away from demeaning and harmful images of what Jesus and God are like, in the direction of the one true God who transcends anything humans might be able to say or comprehend and who no more inhabits such base theologies than God inhabits statues.

                      Second, you have an overall impression of Hayward’s cartoons (which is not entirely inaccurate – he is bitter, as are many people who’ve been bullied in churches by those who imitate the idol of a bullying god that they serve, but you seem not to have any sympathy, perhaps because you are on the side of the bullies?) and you are assuming that, if I appreciate some of his cartoons and share them – pretty much always with comments indicating what I take the cartoon to mean – then I must share every viewpoint Hayward has. But that is a non sequitur, unless you have decided on the basis of Acts 17 that Paul and/or Luke though that Yahweh and Zeus were identical in every respect.

                      Now, if you are genuinely open to discussion, perhaps we can start with the heart of the issue. Do you accept that a depiction of God as jealous and angry is at best anthropomorphism – and thus an idol, that made by human words and concepts, if not literally human hands?

                    • James Snapp, Jr.

                      Inasmuch as you are trying to encourage people not to worship a false god, why did you promote this doodle that depicts Jesus falsely? Why are you promoting cartoons from a person who explicitly intends to lead people away from the body of Christ?
                      He intends to spray grafitti on the church’s walls, and says so, and you act as if he’s here to help decorate.

                      You said that you’re trying to direct people away from demeaning and harmful images of what Jesus is like. Yay. I suggest that a good way to start might be to stop drawing people’s attention to demeaning and harmful images that misrepresent Jesus.

                      About sympathy: a shepherd may sympathize when a sheep is hungry, or wounded, or discontent, or lost. And a shepherd may indeed even feel sorry for wolves. But he should not, on that
                      account, entire his flock to investigate the wolf’s lair. I have looked through some of your blog-entries that feature Hayward’s cartoons – such as “God Beyond the Bible” (“humorous”), “A Final, Difficult Question” (“wonderfully provocative”), “Biblicism in a Single Image” (“yet another excellent cartoon”) – and not only have I not seen warnings about his agenda of apostasy-facilitation, but I saw no expressions of grief or sorrow about his lost state; on the contrary, I got the impression that you found it intellectually stimulating. (And /I’m/ the Vulcan?!)

                      It is not true that I assume that if you share some of Hayward’s cartoons then you must share every viewpoint Hayward has: I have only assumed that you find the viewpoints that you have shared to be worth your readers’ consideration, and that you were not lying when you stated the opinion that his cartoons are “brilliant,” “insightful,” etc.
                      Paul’s quotation of Aratus is not congruent to what you have done; quoting a dead poet to reinforce one’s own point is not the same as applauding and commending, without any word of caution or qualification, material from another active author who mocks God and rejects the body of Christ. One might say that Aratus was moving toward the gospel, and Paul intended to use the quotation to move his listeners in the same direction; Hayward, though, is moving away from it.

                      You asked if I accept that a verbal depiction of God as jealous and angry is anthropomorphism, and thus an idol. Anthropomorphism,
                      yes. An idol, no.
                      Yours in Christ,
                      James Snapp, Jr.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      How can one discuss or combat false views of God without drawing attention to them, whether verbally or artistically?

                    • James Snapp, Jr.

                      You asked how one can discuss or combat false views of God without drawing attention to them. I am not saying that discussion of falsehoods, to expose and correct them, is bad. It’s good! But, did you say “combat”? What combat? Where is your combat with Hayward and his apostasy-facilitation agenda? I haven’t seen any here.

                      I didn’t miss his “according to many” comment. Did you miss the rest of his comment, about apostasy-facilitation? He’s not trying to purge the church of false perceptions of God. He’s left the church and is trying to help other people leave the church, and one of the things he is doing, as part of his attempt to achieve that, is to misrepresent Christianity. (Do you think he draws the Holy Spirit as a Halloween-ghost to facilitate greater theological understanding? Do you think that if he sells a copy of the Spoiled Brat cartoon, the “according to many” comment will still be attached to it? Yes/No questions here.)

                      You suggested that I am “one of those who thinks about Jesus and/or God in a manner close enough to the way David depicted in his cartoon to find it offensive.” On the contrary: an accurate portrait would not be offensive, just as accurate quotations with context provided are not offensive but inaccurate citations without context should be protested. I think you need to ask yourself if Hayward is really producing brilliant insights, or if he is producing anti-Christian grafitti that is intended to depict Christ as unworthy of worship, the Bible as unworthy of our reverence, and the church as unworthy of our attention. And then ask yourself if you intend to continue to applaud those depictions, or else combat them.

                      Yours in Christ,

                      James Snapp, Jr.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      Are you saying that if someone apostatizes from a church that depicts Jesus essentially as he is depicted in the cartoon, that is a bad thing? Why, if you do not consider Jesus to actually have been the egotistical and immature individual that many fundamentalists think he was? Unless you worship that idol, then why do you take offense at David’s lampooning of it?

                    • Kaz

                      I think he’s saying that the cartoon is a caricature of what Christians believe, and worse, a caricature designed to lead people away from faith in God and Christ. If Hayward did find such a caricature presented in a Church (and preachers have been known to teach all sorts of nonsense, though, as I stated previously, I’ve never seen anything similar to his caricature expressed by any of the hundreds of Christians I’ve conversed with), then he could have left that Church and found one that is faithful to God and Christ. Hayward didn’t do that, though, did he?

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If you have never encountered anyone proclaiming a God or Christ who simply wants worship and will extract it from human beings on pain of torture, you are fortunate indeed!

                      If, having been hurt by twisted Christians, someone moves away from Christianity altogether, do you really think they will be won back by simply shaking our heads and passing judgment on them? Are we not inching in the direction of those who drove them away in the first place if we do so?

                    • James Snapp, Jr.

                      Are you really having trouble understanding what I am saying? I don’t know how to frame my questions in a form more capable of being answered. One might think that a person who says “Let’s have a conversation” would *Answer Questions* instead of ignoring them and raising hypotheticals.

                      I am not saying that *if* someone left a church that was declaring, “Jesus is a spoiled brat,” then the departure would be a bad thing. I am saying that you are being terribly optimistic when you present Hayward’s cartoons as if they are critiques of actual theology that someone somewhere (someone not named David Hayward) claims to be Biblical.

                      The visible church is vast and perhaps somewhere the hypothetical situation you describe has occurred. But do you really believe that Hayward’s purpose is to correct situations in which preachers are telling their congregations, “Jesus is a selfish brat,” and not to give viewers the impression that many (in the Bible? in the church?) subscribe to such a doctrine?

                      Yours in Christ,

                      James Snapp, Jr.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      I understand David to be offering satirical criticism of theological views that people actually hold, and I consider it appropriate to offer such criticism. And I am puzzled that you seem to want to reject both the portrait of Jesus that David is attacking, and his attack on it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

          What do you, say, make of Paul’s argument with the “law”? Is there an even larger principle there?

          • James Snapp, Jr.

            Bretton,

            That’s a pretty big tangent; it is beyond my abilities to turn comments about a cartoon on a blog into a discussion about Paul’s treatment of the law that would do it justice. But at least I can say that the principle, or theme, that the cartoonish expressed is that God (as described by Jesus and His followers in the Bible) is a narcissist, and that if only God were more mature, He would have created a world in which people can worship whatever — Satan, idols, animals, the sun, or even themselves — and still enjoy the same consequences as if they worshiped God.
            But that is like objecting to the theological equivalent of the laws of gravity. It is the wish of people who want to orbit their lives around whatever they choose, without negative consequences. When they read in God’s Word that (1) their natures need to be renewed, and that (2) only with a new nature can they fulfill the purpose for which God made them, to live God-centered lives, and (3) to sustain one’s fallen nature will result in ruin and in a loss of their God-given purpose — when learning of these laws, they somehow feel dismay at the nerve of their Creator, rather than awe at the responsibility and rank and relationship with God that they are capable of having. Some of them boldly reject God outright. Others reject Him less boldly, and attempt to erase His laws via creative interpretation, so as to convince themselves that that can’t be what He meant. But others, I hope, will acknowledge the truth that Jesus taught, and stop orbiting lesser things, and find their purpose and joy in God.

            Yours in Christ,

            James Snapp, Jr.

            • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

              Paul carries on an extensive discussion on – and in some ways against – the “law.” Which 1) in the simplist sense, was just an argument that the new religion, Christianity, did not have to totally follow the old “laws” (cf. “Torah”), of the Jews. 2) But the law of “the Jews” note, was also the law of God; or at least the God of the Old Testament. While Paul and Christianity were in favor of a “new covenant.” So that ultimately, Paul and Christianity’s attack on obeying the “law,” makes for a very, very liberal theology.

              • James Snapp, Jr.

                Bretton,

                Indeed, in the first century, I reckon that Pharisees considered any Jewish Christians who affirmed that uncircumcised Gentiles were part of the family of God as blazingly liberal. But there was/is agreement among Pharisees and Christians that idolatry is bad, and that false religions are spiritually harmful, and that religious worship should be directed to God and not anyone or anythin else. Whether before or after his conversion, Paul ascribed to a school of thought that rejected the idea that God is motivated by narcissism.

                • http://www.facebook.com/brettongarcia Bretton Garcia

                  Sorry to interpolate my own separate argument between you and James. But briefly: 1) there were many changes in what “God” was thought to be like, from the Old to the New Testaments. And we can see some of that in Paul’s attack on the “law of the Jews” (not just Pharisees) – which were actually as it turns out in part, the laws of God. Jesus himself had conflicts with even the ten commandments. The 10 Commandments told us to “honor the Sabbath,” and the books of Moses in the Bible told us not to “work” on that day; even to collect food; yet Jesus worked on that day; and his disciples collected corn or grain on that day too. And Jesus defended it.
                  So 2) since our image of God and his “law” often changes, shouldn’t we be less sure, or more “humble” about, our assertions that we know God?
                  3) And finally, more directly to the point here: because of all this and more, eventually in the New Testament – in Jesus – we get an image of a more human God. One who is not even so sure even about himself. Finally we a) see Jesus questioning his own judgement it seems. In choosing Judas, a “devil,” as one of his own disciples for example. And on the cross, we b) have Jesus asking why God abandoned him in the end; Jesus questioning God. While most of the time, Jesus does not tell us he is a perfect God; but merely asks others, “who do you say i am?”
                  Looking at stuff like this, humanist theologians have come to suggest in effect. that our own God himself – particularly in the person of Jesus – is increasingly self-doubting. Or in other words, not so “narcisstic.”

  • Mary

    I don’t have time to read ALL the comments, but I did get through a few. I think cs Lewis’ The Great Divorce is the best book I’ve read on this question.
    Just thought I’d throw that out there for readers who might not have run across it yet.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X