On God and Justice, Part One

***My apologies in advance to Bobby and others who dislike “heavy entries.” I will put up a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon to make up for this, I promise.***

John Dominic Crossan is, without a doubt, one of the largest names in biblical studies today. A major name in The Jesus Seminar and the “Quest for the Historical Jesus,” Crossan’s work is referenced in nearly every scholarly text written in the last twenty years.

Some of that reference and publicity is far from complimentary; Crossan’s approach to the books of the bible had gotten under many an evangelical skin, and earned him a spot in Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ, recommended by many a college minister.

Over the last two days in Shreveport, I have been able to hear from the little Irishman himself who has contributed to all this fuss. I expected (considering the reviews he recieves from “conservative” theologians) an unabated lashing of historical Christianity and seemingly airtight proofs as to why one should not believe. I was surprised, however, to hear Dr. Crossan offering a coherent theology that made me question why I ever left the church.

In particular, two related points of Crossan’s that shook my foundations are worth sharing, then unpacking:

1) God consistently rejects worship when he sees a lack of justice among his people. God never – never – rejects efforts at justice because of a lack of worship.

All the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) relate the story of Jesus turning over tables in the temple. “It is written,Ó [Jesus] said to them, ÔMy house will be called a house of prayer,Õ but you are making it a Ôden of robbers.ÕÓ (Matthew 21.13) The latter half of that which “is written” is from Jeremiah – one of the many places in the Hebrew Bible (aka Old Testament) where one God, through a prophet, rails at the Israelites for their lack of concern for the orphaned and widowed. Rather than God’s house acting as a place of equality and aid, it became a place in which people were able to forget about the (addressable) injustice going on outside the gates. Worship became a refuge from justice.

Conversely, God never gets angry when his people are too busy striving for justice to worship. Now begging the question: what are God’s priorities? Evangelism and worship? Or service and (to borrow a phrase) good works?

2) To be continued…

2 Replies to “On God and Justice, Part One”

  1. Wow Mark, you sound like a little Cherry. Using phrases like “sharing and then unpacking” and the obvious “good works” makes me feel as though I’m listening to him. Let’s see what else you have in store in the continuation.

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