8.22.2010

Obligatory Anne Rice Post

In Anne Rice's Christianity Today interview, she talks a bit about who she is currently reading and why she still engages Biblical scholars and teachers. I know next to nothing about Rice - it seems like all the hubbub about her recently has more of her to do with leaving Roman Catholicism than Christianity - but she has some honest words to say that you would almost never hear coming from the atheist/agnostic front of writers and bloggers in this below excerpt methinks.
Sometimes the most conservative people are the most biblically and scholastically sound. They have studied Scripture and have studied skeptical scholarship. They make brilliant arguments for the way something in the Bible reads and how it's been interpreted. I don't go to them necessarily to know more about their personal beliefs. It's the brilliance they bring to bear on the text that appeals to me. Of all the people I've read over the years, it's their work that I keep on my desk. They're all non-Catholics, but they're believers, they document their books well, they write well, they're scrupulously honest as scholars, and they don't have a bias. Many of the skeptical non-believer biblical scholars have a terrible bias. To them, Jesus didn't rise from the dead, so there's no point in discussing it. I want someone to approach the text and tell me what it says, how the language worked.
(HT: Dane Ortlund for the initial above quote.)

However, let me offer this excerpt from the interview (on page two at the CT website link above):
CT: What will it look like to follow Christ without being part of the institutional church?
Rice: The most important thing Christ demands of all of us is to love our enemies as much as our neighbors. That is the radical core of his teaching. If we do that, we can transform our lives.
Christ reaches out to us individually. He's saying "Come follow me; I am the way, the truth, and the life." These are beautiful things. I read Scripture every day, I study it every day, I'm mindful of it every day. I don't claim to have the right interpretation of every passage, but I wrestle with it, and that's what I think he wants us to do.
What is the radical center of Christ' teaching? If you asked Anne Rice, you would hear "to love our enemies as much as our neighbors." There is a problem in this. If Jesus only came with the ultimate message of "Hey! Love your neighbor! Stop being such punks!" What does this say of Jesus' sinless life, his death on a cross, and his resurrection? On a more specific thought, what does this say of Jesus' prayer throughout John 17? Specifically, this:
[17:1] When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, [2] since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. [3] And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. [4] I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. [5] And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
(John 17:1-5 ESV)
Part of Jesus' teaching was indeed "to love our enemies as much as our neighbors." (Luke 6:27) To say this was the radical core of his teaching would fail to consider the passage in John 17, which Christ himself prayed hours before he was to be sentenced to death on a cross. The radical message of Jesus was God. Jesus came to glorify the Father in his salvific work. Christ was always pointing to the Father as the ultimate message. Is not the very essence of eternal life to know "the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent"?

With that, I say this regarding Anne Rice's concept of the main teaching of Jesus: God is not man-centered. God is God-centered. If Christ came only to tell us to love - here I go repeating myself - then his work on the cross meant nothing. This is to belittle God, ignore our sin, and assume that all we need is a command to love, and that will fix the human race of all its misery and evil. May I be so bold and daring to say that this was the point of Jesus life and message: that the Father would glorify the Son through his loving, incomprehensibly gracious work of salvation wrought on this earth ~2000 years ago which was planed before time began. ( John 17:5, Eph. 1:3-10)

Comments? Perhaps I ruffled some feathers...

2 comments:

  1. Having grown up in the church, I am both understanding yet mystified when someone who claims to be a follower of Christ decides to walk away from the Body. At the same time, it is more than completely plausible that someone who is not involved in regular gatherings of believers could have a much closer relationship with God than church-going folks. I would doubt the wisdom of making a similar move, but I am particularly lacking in that department anyway.

    +1 to your call on the "core of his teaching".

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