The Gospel in Two Broad Strokes: Liberation

The context of this post is the following: Last week, Dr. Christena Cleveland wrote a post reflecting on something I’d said at a conference last month. In short, I said that those of us in the room had a “better version of the gospel” than the regnant view in the West. Dr. Cleveland misheard me, thinking I said we have the “best version.” Nevertheless, she was critical of my statement, arguing that to assert that one’s version of the gospel is “better” or “best” necessarily excludes a diversity of voices.

Dr. Cleveland’s post hinted at an accusation of racism, which I vehemently denied, albeit in a manner that was overly defensive. Nevertheless, I continue to disagree with her assertion that preferring one version of the gospel over another — and proudly proclaiming that — is necessarily exclusionary. That’s an argument that is simply impossible to defend, unless one is prepared to embrace the completely syncretized relativism that has overwhelmed much of liberal Protestantism in America. I, for one, am not prepared to do that.

So, I am taking a couple posts to write about the two themes that I think are central to the gospel of Jesus Christ, insofar as I understand it, today, and from where I sit. Whether this version that I espouse is, indeed, “better,” and whether it is “exclusionary,” I will leave it for you to judge. See the prologue to this post here.

Part One: Context

As readers know, my favorite theologian is Jürgen Moltmann. One of the reasons that I so love Moltmann is that he is keenly aware of his social location. Here’s what I mean:

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James McGrath Is Wrong: Herod Really Did Massacre the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents by Pieter Brueghel (Wikicommons)

Fellow #progGOD theoblogger James McGrath is glad that Matthew got the infancy narrative of Jesus wrong. The Massacre of the Innocents never happened, he confidently proclaims in his post “Why I’m Glad that the Infancy Narrative in Matthew Isn’t Literally True,” because Matthew lacked sympathy and theological concern:

If Matthew had had more sympathy towards those who lose children, and more theological concern not to depict God in a manner that people would eventually find morally problematic, he could have used his imagination and added still more details to the story he concocted.

Like many liberals, he brushes off the deeper implications of the text in order to assuage his modern sensibilities:

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Anti-Jewish Rhetoric in the Gospel of John

 

 

As I wrote last week, I had the good fortune of co-leading the Solomon’s Porch sermon discussion on Sunday evening with Rabbi Joseph Edelheit — you can watch the full 50+ minute video here; it was streamed on UStream via my iPhone, so forgive the audio and video.

I had asked Joseph, who serves as a kind of resident rabbi to Solomon’s Porch, to join me because we were tackling the 18th chapter of the Fourth Gospel, in which Judas leads the Roman Guard to the garden to arrest Jesus.  We didn’t get through the whole chapter, being that Joseph and I — and many Porchians — are quite talkative.  In fact, we only got through 14 verses, and here are some of the points 0f interest: [Read more...]