Recently at Out of Ur blog I posted something about “maestro” Bible readers and I received a letter from a “Red Letter Christian.” Here is a clipped paragraph:
I understand completely when you say that when Jesus is made Maestro it
“leads to violence against Paul and Peter and James and Hebrews etc..”
So maybe “maestro” is not the best term to use for how “Red Letter
Christians” view the importance of Jesus in the Bible. I definitely do
not read the rest of the Bible through the eyes of Jesus, but I
honestly do believe that if I consider myself a follower of Christ, the
words and actions of Jesus must be the most important parts of the
Bible for me to attempt to mold my life after.
You wrote on the “Out of Ur” Blog:
Protestant liberals, Anabaptists, and Red Letter Christians have all
made Jesus the maestro of their Bible reading. Everything is seen
through the angle of the words “kingdom” and social justice as
“discipleship.” We are tempted, of course, to forgive anyone who makes
Jesus their maestro, but the wisdom of God in giving us a canon–a list
of 27 books that included Paul and Peter and John and Hebrews and Jude–
which renders making even Jesus the maestro suspect.
I wonder what you believe the actual danger is in being a “Red Letter Christian”? – I think the pros out weigh the cons…
I do appreciate the rest of the Bible for what it is. But if Jesus is
God – and I believe he is – there should be no problem with identifying
ourselves as people who hold the teachings and actions of Jesus in the
I don’t want to “exegete” this letter and pick it apart. That might lead to a moment of victory but the big questions this thoughtful person is asking are ones I have myself asked, struggled with, and sought resolution. And I want to extend here what I wrote in The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible
There are two major forms of Maestro Bible readers today: one group reads the rest of the Bible through the lens of Jesus’ teachings of the kingdom of God and another group reads the rest of the Bible through the lens of Paul’s theology of justification. Most folks do not admit this; in fact, most who read the Bible through a Maestro deny they are doing so. Most of us, however, know whereof we speak when we speak of Maestro Bible reading. So, give me the category that there is such a thing and I think we are led to its problem.
The logic of these words, “Jesus is God, therefore his words are the most important,” appears to be a better argument than it really is. I start with the word “Logos.” We say the Logos became flesh in Jesus Christ and we say that Scripture is also the Logos of God. That both Jesus and Scripture are called “Word” of God is vitally important.
This theological point trumps the logic of the (Maestro) Red Letter Christian. How? The Logos who is Jesus and the Logos that is Jesus’ own teachings and the Logos that is Scripture are “instances” of the Logos of God. In other words, the words of Jesus are Logos not simply because Jesus said them but because Logos takes on verbal form in the “logoi” (words) of Jesus. That Logos of God is at work in all Scripture.
Which brings us to this point: Maestro Red Letter Christians run the danger of denying the Logos to the rest of Scripture by elevating the “logoi” (words) of Jesus into the sole Logos.
Another way of saying this: Maestro Red Letter Christians run the danger of diminishing the Christian concept of Scripture as God’s Word — all of Scripture and not just one part — by converting one set of “logoi” (words) into the Whole Logos.
So, my conclusion is this: As Christians, we go to Jesus first but we dare not go only to Jesus. Not all “Red Letter Christians” make this mistake, but those who do may be justifiably called Maestro Red Letter Christians.