Sunday, August 30, 2009

God is Left of Jesus?

Once, a Lutheran pastor went up to an author (who's also an ex-monk who spent many hours in monastic choir and Latin chant) and asked, how could one have a personal relationship with God in prayer when all was set and programmed, all was ritual, formal, and liturgical?? This author later wrote in his memoirs:
"I have never, ever, thought that Latin chant opposes personal prayer. It is simply personal prayer as part of a total community at prayer. It helps you to distinguish, in prayer, between human echo and divine response, between your own will set to sound and the divine will that allegedly transcends it. As a simple analogy: Does singing the national anthem communally enlarge or diminish personal and individual patriotism??"
It's amazing how much you can learn from people who've been deemed outcasts, super-deviants and heretics from your community. I suspect there are Christians who wouldn't touch the works of John Dominic Crossan with a 10-foot pole.

But after reading A Long Way From Tipperary: What A Former Irish Monk Discovered In His Search For The Truth, whilst I'm nowhere near agreeing with his views on the historical Jesus, I can identify with his struggles, his doubts, his pain (I can almost weep with him over the loss of his first wife).

I see a man who needs the love of Jesus Christ, yet also one I can learn from tremendously (even N.T. Wright has celebrated Crossan's genius; see the opening remarks in his chapter on Crossan in Jesus & The Victory of God). If nothing else, Crossan's wit-filled prose brings literary delight which one finds rare in evangelical works. For example:
"If, in fact, you want a parent metaphor for God, I think father is much more appropriate than mother. It is the mother who is publicly knowable, visibly provable, and legally certifiable. You do not need faith to know a mother. You need faith to know a father, because he is known only on the mother's word and sometimes not even then.?" (p.37)
Whilst evangelicals rightly ought to warn the community of the problems in Crossan's writings, we would do well to humble ourselves and learn from our enemies? (wouldn't we want them to learn from us, too?). Try this sharp observation on the Catholic-Protestant schism:
"It is the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, during which Catholicism and Protestantism forced each other into opposite extremes (faith or works, Bible or tradition, individual or community, real or symbolic, etc. or etc.)in that separation within Christianity, Catholicism lost any internal but loyal opposition, any sternly self-critical voice from within. In that separation, Protestantism lost anything to protest against save itself and has continued to fracture into every increasing diversity.?" (p.72, emphasis mine)
Perhaps we need (or God has allowed? or predestined?? [grin]) writers like Crossan, the quintessential postmodern Biblical scholar, drawing his inspiration from, among others, the work of Jacques Derrida, to shake us into seeing our own problems, to look closer at our sacred cows.

And one day Crossan was at a book-signing event, someone came up to him and said, "My pastor told me not to come here tonight because you are even to the left of Marcus Borg.? Crossan replied,
"Give your pastor my best regards and tell him that is the good news. The bad news is that both Borg and me are to the right of Jesus. And worse still, if he will recall Psalm 110, Jesus is to the right of God. This means that God is Left of Jesus."


Barbsie said...

Wyn... any idea if I can get hold of a copy from our local stores? Or did ya buy it from Amazon?

alwyn said...

we meet up one day i pass to you la...but if u like it's available in 2nd-hand bookstores (e.g.