Monday, March 10, 2008

Those Pesky Obscure Passages

If you can overcome the depression caused by watching and listening to your average presidential candidate then you may be able to catch the real benefit of said candidate: to say such stupid things that you will wallow in riotous laughter.

Enter Barak Obama. In speaking in support of homosexual rights this little gem made it's way from his lips, “If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which, I think, is, in my mind, more central than an obscure passage in Romans...”

Ok, I am not laughing; I am gasping in startled bewilderment. I am going to give a pass to the press' actions in this by not asking what they would be doing if he had misquoted the Koran or the New York Times in such a distorted way. I will point out that this comment was greeted in the mainstream media with the sound of a thousand crickets chirping on a moonlit night.

Let's address for a moment the two major fallacies of his assertion. The Sermon on the Mount is in fact one of the central bodies of the teachings of Jesus recorded in Scripture. A careful reading of it will find our Lord taking quite a few moral stands with no "wiggle room" for alternate interpretations.

A good portion of His message was built on a formula that goes something like this: "You have heard it said...but I say to you..." In most of these cases the "you have heard it said" part referred to a specific Old Testament teaching. The "but I say to you" part was a teaching Jesus was giving people to go beyond the ordinary standard of the law. In each case He did not water down the Old Testament teaching but strengthened it. For example, "Do not murder" became, "Don't even be angry with your brother". "Do not commit adultery" became, "Don't even look at a woman lustfully". Jesus' own statement about His view on Old Testament law was, "I have not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it".

Perhaps the Presidential candidate might want to actually read the Sermon on the Mount before he attempts to wield it. Note to Presidential candidates and the press: Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7. That's in the new part. Such a reading will reveal that Jesus did not change the Old Testament law, which clearly forbid homosexuality, bestiality and several other important "alitys".

Many a person has appealed to the Sermon on the Mount as an example of how Jesus was a great teacher but few have actually gone the "extra mile" and realized that Jesus was actually serious about the "thou shalts" and the "thou shalt nots". If He really is such a great teacher, and He is, then it's time for us to take His actual teachings seriously.

Now we come to that "obscure passage in Romans". Memo to Paul: apparently your greatest theological treatise has recently been downgraded from "central teachings of Christianity" category to the "obscure passages" category. One of my Seminary professors used to say, "The book of Romans has more theology per square verse than any other book in the Bible". I am inclined to agree.

The only way for Obama's statement to be true is for us to overlook the fact that Paul was perhaps the greatest missionary ever, introducing the Gospel to the Gentiles on two continents, writing thirteen letters in our New Testament including some of the earliest synopsis of the Gospel message and the theological importance of the entire book and the importance of Paul's reference to homosexuality in Romans 1 as he set the tone for the reason Christ needed to die for the salvation of mankind, namely, the sinful depravity of man. Did I mention that the reference to homosexuality was offered as evidence of the depravity of man. Kind of hard to miss that one.

The scary thing is there will me many people, perhaps millions, who would hear this statement and think nothing of it. At first look it would be easy to write Obama off as just an obscure little candidate at the beginning of the 21st Century. Yet this type of drivel is all too common in our post Christian (or post-post Christian) society. Rather than simply condemning ignorance and cursing the darkness let's pray that Obama will get a grip on another teaching of Jesus, "You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free".

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