The Generosity Of God as Taught by Jesus
Written By: Wendell Krossa /Robert Brinsmead
It is interesting in discussions to find that people will sometimes avoid dealing directly with the issues raised and will try to discredit the points of another by presenting such points in terms of an extreme example. For instance, this comment about Hitler is common: You mean you think God will save Hitler
The issue regarding Jesus’ take on justice is this – note the response of the vineyard laborers and the elder brother in the prodigal story. They were all offended and even outraged at the generosity of the vineyard owner and the father.
On one hand such should be the freedom we should all possess to be so scandalously generous and not obliged to act within the confines of conventional views of justice as strict recompense, payback, right consequence, fairness of however we view such an issue. Do we really think an infinitely loving God is any less generous; any less merciful or forgiving?
If it were possible to see beyond the glass darkly, I have no doubt the actual generosity of God will offend a lot of faithful servants and faithful older brothers. So can we answer such questions as “’will Hitler be saved?” No, we can’t. But we do know that God is so scandalously generous and forgiving that it will no doubt outrage and offend all of us oriented to conventional views of justice as fairness, deserved consequence, and all the rest.
Another speculative consideration- some people (they appear to be people as they have bodies like the rest of us) but they never develop into human persons. They remain more animal (e.g. psychopaths) and so they act like predatory animals. Who knows what becomes of such.
But don’t let such extreme examples detract from the issue under discussion. The scandalous generosity Jesus taught upturned all conventional notions of justice as fair payment or consequence or just desserts. This is the key issue. The point in this was not to upset, provoke, or get a reaction. It was to point to the core issue of conditions and in light of this, what does forgiveness and love and mercy really mean? Jesus took all these grand human values, clarifying them more than ever before in all human history. It was a distinct contribution to human thought and consciousness. He cleared away all the darkening rubbish of strict conditions thinking and exposed the scandal of real forgiveness and love. He got to the real, essential meaning of these primary human ideals and values. He taught us what they really mean, and because of his insights, he could tell people- don’t worry, don’t be afraid; don’t be anxious. You are safe; you are loved; you are forgiven. In an absolute sense beyond comprehension, as all issues related to a supremely humane God are beyond comprehension (transcendent) in their absolute goodness and perfection, there is no darkness, no death, no suffering and no disappointment in a God who is infinite Love.
So those defending conventional views of justice, as the laborers and older brother did, are really maintaining the old darkness around what love and forgiveness really mean. They are advocating something quite opposite to what Jesus taught and the results cause much misery, even among Christians. A man (a staff member) at our Christian Bible College jumped to his death in despair at the conditions he was sure that he had failed to meet. While that was an extreme example, there were many others who suffered at various levels under conditions theology; never quite sure if they were really forgiven and loved. I do not deny that others did actually find some measure of comfort in Christian theology, but many of these people tended to ignore the more devastating ideas and hold more to the comforting ones. Those of us who took it too seriously got into the most trouble.
The Jesus of the Bible is an empty shibboleth. Let’s start with the easy question: the non-virgin born Jesus of Mark, Paul and the book of John, or the virgin born Jesus of Matthew and Luke?; the non-virgin born Jesus of the original Jerusalem Church of the Jewish Jesus people, or the virgin born Jesus of Gentile Christianity who looks suspiciously like he stepped straight out of a Greek myth? If anyone does not know that the Jewish Jesus movement, including his own family and relatives who supported that wing of the church, never accepted the virgin birth, deleted it from the book of Matthew, then I’m sorry – that person is oblivious to the facts about the irreconcilable differences between the Jewish church and the Gentile church. And what view does the NT present – it presents both views of course, and those who don’t acknowledge this are the ones who pick and choose their way through the evidence of the NT.
And even those who pick out the virgin born Jesus and ignore the other view of the earliest Jewish church, have the irreconcilable differences of Matthew and Luke – can’t reconcile the two accounts. The geneologies can’t be reconciled even if you stand on your head and do a magical tap dance around the evidence. Was the nativity a peaceful thing (as in Luke – peace on earth, etc) so that the parents were able to linger around, take the child up to Jerusalem to be blessed by Simeon and all the rest, or did they rush off immediately down to Egypt after the visit of the wise men as in Matthew. Were Joseph and Mary living in a house in Bethlehem as in Matthew, or did they journey there in response to a census/taxation thing that took place in 6 AD,(Luke) or was Herod still alive when Jesus was born,….c’mon, let’s have some intellectual honesty here, We know that Herod died about 4 B.C., so did Mary have a 10 year pregnancy?
Did Jesus refuse to give any sign of his authority as in the Synoptic or did he continually give this and that sign as it keeps saying in John? Was the last supper a pass-over meal or not – for here the Synoptic clearly contradicts the account of John. The Synoptic said that Jesus taught nothing except in parables, but in John he teaches without using a single parable, but makes long monologues about himself.
So we come to the resurrection. Surely they are all united on this account. No they are not. Here there are irreconcilable differences. Did Jesus meet his disciples in Galilee only after the resurrection as in Matthew and Mark, or was it in and around Jerusalem the first Sunday and more – which would be impossible in the case of the Galilean appearance because that was at least a week’s journey away.
With Matthew, keeping the law is still important….with Paul…well, what is the “not under the law” of Galatians all about unless Paul was telling these Gentiles that they were under no obligation to live life ‘Jewish Christians’ (which is a misnomer)
Well, of course, devout people, believing as a priori assumption, that the Bible could not possible give contradictory accounts can cut and paste like the OT was put together with its two contradictory creation stories in Genesis and its two flood stories cut and pasted together in Genesis.
There are plainly different accounts of Jesus in the NT and different theologies of Jesus, especially in the Jewish church as distinct from the Gentile church. If you find this hard to accept, just go and get any good book on these two movements and see that despite the attempt of Paul and others, the two movements developed entirely different religions and went their own way in history. That’s why among all the Fathers of the Early Church, from Ignatius to Augustine, there is not one Jewish believer among them and in all the great Councils of the Early Church that drew up the catholic (small “c”) creeds, there was not a person from the Jewish church represented. Why not?: because right from the beginning (as admitted by Dunn) the Jewish church did not subscribe to the tenets of the Creed. The brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church did not teach blood atonement, virgin birth, or the Godhood of his brother.
As F. F. Bruce admitted, the Synoptic gospels do not even teach the pre-existence of Jesus.
For those who talk of The Jesus of the Bible, what Jesus and what theology are you talking about?
I could go on and review material about the Supper as it was practiced among Jewish Christians and the Eucharist as it was practiced in Gentile Christianity – they were very, very different.
It is all as silly as arguing about the rest day for believers – Sabbath or Lord’s Day (1st day of week) – for the simple fact that the Jewish church kept the Sabbath of the Jews and continued to worship at the Synagogue with other Jesus until about 90 AD when they were pushed out. It is pretty clear that very early the Gentile Christians showed a special regard for the day of the resurrection, and did it also to mark their distinction from Judaism.
Getting back to resurrection, it is clear from the extant literature of the time, that resurrection did not necessarily mean the raising of the human (animal-like) body. It is clear enough from 1 Corinthians 15 that Paul did not believe in the resurrection of a flesh and blood body, but rather in a ‘spirit’ body – but that view was certainly not carried forward in at least 3 of the gospels (discounting the added or long ending of Mark). So which kind of resurrection do you want? I simply acknowledge that there is not one single view of this matter and therefore picking and choosing or proof-texting is not doing justice to the sources.
On what grounds therefore, can a believer in the virgin birth or the pre-existence of Jesus brand anyone who sticks with other strands of evidence, as someone who does not believe the Bible? By the same standard of judgment, the accuser does not believe the Bible either for the simple reason he ignores other traditions of the early church.
Now please don’t get me started on the book of Revelation and its hateful “Christian” message – I go even further than Luther who had no time for this NT book – I just think it is a wretched piece of literature, quite out of character to the “forgive them for they know not what they do” Jesus!
I have no time for Biblicism, much less for Bibliolatry. This use of the Bible is religion at its worst. It dehumanizes people. Far better to forget the Bible and go join the human race.