The Curmudgeon


Sunday, February 04, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Matthew 7 xv-xx

Jesus warns against false prophets, the ravening wolves in sheep's clothing, who are doubtless to be clearly distinguished from those self-proclaimed good shepherds who bring swords to divide families and who will one day help consign most of humanity to the flames. False prophets, according to Jesus, may be recognised by the consequences of their preaching, because good fruit can come only from a healthy tree and bad fruit can come only from a diseased tree.

The ministry of Jesus begat the Christian churches, the detailing of whose failures and crimes would be invidious as well as interminable. Nor need we concern ourselves with the question of whether Jesus could have anticipated such peccadilloes as the indulgence-sellers, the Inquisition, the Albigensian genocide or the centuries of virulent Jew-hatred and misogyny. It is true that Jesus attempts to cover Himself a little later in His sermon, when He proclaims that He will disown those who prophesy in His name while failing to do His Father's famously arbitrary and contradictory will; but this is pure political anodyne, on a par with declaring that His yoke was easy and His burden light. Whether a tree is healthy or diseased has nothing to do with the tree's intentions; its fruit will be good or bad no matter what the tree may think. If misogyny is poisonous, and Paul spread the poison, and Paul was a prophet of Jesus, then the fruit of Jesus' ministry was poison.

Even before His Pauline transfiguration, during His mortal role as an apocalyptic preacher, the prophetic powers of Jesus left something to be desired. He boasted that the Kingdom of Heaven would arrive within the lifetime of some who stood listening to Him; yet two millennia later the goats still walk among us, the chaff has not been burned, and only unquestioning faith can protect the Saviour's followers from the stench of rotten fruit.


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