I’m not in the business of saying who is and isn’t going to Hell; since I’m not God I don’t know who has truly accepted His Son. However, I – along with all other Christians – should be in the business of discerning certain teachings to see if they are true. When it comes to the latest post by Tony Jones, let me say quite emphatically that Tony Jones’ teachings generally don’t represent the truth.
Tony decided that he would invite a rabbi to speak at his church (not problem there) to discuss the book of John, what Tony calls the “most anti-Semitic Gospel” (now we have a problem). He then explores the idea of Judas (or as Jones points out, “Jew-das,” which somehow shows that Judas was a literary figure representative of all Jews) being a tragic hero in order to validate the quest for Christian universalism. You remember, the same universalism that we’re allowed to discuss, but only as long as we already agree with it.
First, to deal with the anti-Semitic charge, let us just say that this charge is asinine. For one, John 14:22 refers to another Judas as an apostle of Christ, so the idea of there being some Derridian word-play associated with the name “Judas” should be thrown out the window. Judas Iscariot doesn’t represent the Jews to Christian anymore than David Hasslehoff represents Americans to Germans. In fact, lest we forget, the early disciples reached out to Jews alone; it wasn’t until Peter had a vision to visit Cornelius, and even then the Christian Jews weren’t comfortable with Gentiles coming into the faith until Paul solidified his ministry. The idea that the book of John was written as an anti-Semitic device is absurd because there’s no evidence for it and it’s simply us reading back into the text. But what if the author wasn’t Jewish?
Well, that’s actually what Jones contends, which leads to my second point; it’s 2011, not 1880. While the idea that John didn’t write the Gospel of John might be a nice Enlightenment point of view (and make no mistake, this whole “postmodern Christianity” reeks of the Enlightenment), it’s not the plausible point of view. Consider this: Should I trust the dating and authorship of the Gospel of John by some 19th century theologian (and subsequent people who follow), or by two people who knew John and those who were only a generation removed from him? Now, any good Enlightenment student will tell you that the idea of Polycarp and Ignatius weren’t actually disciples of John as there’s no physical proof, but our line of skepticism has to move towards a liar or we end up doubting that Pope Benedict XVI exists or that you and I exist. The most common sense approach to the issue is that the early Church actually had some pretty good knowledge of when their books were written and if real disciples wrote them; after all, there were many Gnostic Gospels written early in the history of Christianity that Christians rejected due to a spurious date or false claim of authorship.
But what are we to do with the idea of Judas being a literary device? This would indicate that Jones believes – either implicitly or explicitly – that much of the Gospel is merely a make-believe story to teach us a lesson. If Judas is merely a device for allegory, someone who didn’t exist or someone who was embellished, then why believe in the actual resurrection of Christ? In fact, wouldn’t such a belief run contrary to Jones’ incredulity of strong metaphysics? Even if we accept the actual resurrection of Christ in space and time, there is literally no meaning to such an event as we can’t draw metaphysical conclusions from it. Either way, if Judas is embellished or completely made up, then what are we to trust in the Gospels?
This leads me to my main point (yes, everything above is just the introduction): What Jones, McLaren, Rollins, et al are teaching is “Christianesque,” but not quite Christian. If you imagine the Bible as an epic story, what Jones and others offer is “fan fiction,” something that is created from the minds of fans that isn’t canonical to the actual story and takes liberties with certain events. Let me explain.
Jones goes on to affirm what the Rabbi said at their meeting:
”Christ is Lord,” he proclaimed, without a qualifier. Not, “Christ is Lord for you.” Just, “Christ is Lord.”
“But if I’m willing to say that, I expect you to say in return, ‘You, rabbi, are right with God.’”
I’m beginning to think that every church should have a rabbi.
At this point, even if Jones believes in the physical resurrection, that it took place in space and time (which would contradict his anti-metaphysical view of Christianity), such a belief is superfluous as it forgets the entire point of Jesus dying; Jesus died because we aren’t right with God. Jesus went to the cross because we weren’t living in sync with the Trinity. So how can someone who has heard about Christ – how can a person that Christ was intended for, a Jew – but then rejects Christ still be right with God? To reject the Son is the reject the Father.
Now, feel free to contact the Anti-Defamation League for my following statement, or feel free to say I’m being anti-Semitic, I feel with the last name ‘Borofsky’ and my family background I should be immune to such charges (lest I be labeled a “self-hating Jew”); Jews who are not right with Christ are not right with God. But this isn’t exclusive to Jews – such a statement stands true for everyone in every place at every time. This doesn’t mean we should go out and persecute those who aren’t right with Christ, but the opposite doesn’t stand true either in that we cannot embrace those who willingly reject Christ as our family members. They aren’t part of the family.
To assert the universalism that Jones supports is to deny what sin means and to deny God’s justice. While some Christians focus too much on God’s justice, others don’t focus on it enough. They assume that because of the advent of grace, God’s justice is forever stayed, but that simply is not the case.
How would God be loving or graceful if after a little girl is brutally raped by an invading soldier, God simply says, “Shuck it off, that guy’s going to be with me no matter what.”? What kind of loving God would make rape victims live with their rapists for all eternity when the rapist made no attempt to become right before God? How is that loving? How is that graceful? Eradicating the idea of God’s justice doesn’t solve for theodicy or the problem of Hell, it merely exacerbates it and adds the further problem of God being quite cruel. It’s not that we want people to go to Hell, it’s that people themselves want to go to Hell when they reject Christ, and furthermore while we all deserve it, some deserve it more than others.
Jones’ “Christianesque” teachings deny the entire purpose of Christ coming down to die for us. It robs the Gospel of its beauty, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. This means that while we were enemies to God, He sent His only begotten Son so that we might become sons and daughters of the Most High, that we might become by grace what Christ is by nature. But maybe that’s just too metaphysical.