The Curmudgeon


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Matthew 7 viii-xi; Luke 11 x-xiii

Jesus proclaims that everyone who asks receives, and compares God to the sort of parent who does not necessarily give a stone when asked for bread, a serpent when asked for a fish or (according to Luke) a scorpion when asked for an egg.

Each of the three examples which Jesus gives contains a parable about humanity's relationship with God. The contrast of stones with bread echoes the devil's challenge to Jesus during His period of temptation in the wilderness; thus, when you pray to God for bread, the stone which you actually receive from Him serves to remind you that you do not live by bread alone. In the contrast of serpent and fish we see the two contenders for humanity's soul, with the wise and truthful counsellor of Genesis set against the image of the fishers of men: those who use tempting morsels of supposed spiritual nourishment to lure their victims onto murderous hooks, or who cast their nets to draw random individuals into a suffocating and unlivable realm.

The contrast of egg and scorpion is the most cynically truthful of the three and, presumably for that reason, does not appear in the Sermon on the Mount. In the ancient world the egg, with its seemingly miraculous hatching of living creatures from the inanimate shell, was a potent symbol of divinely-ordained fecundity; hence its later association with Easter and the Resurrection. But life is also pain and suffering, thanks to God's punishment of Adam and Eve for listening to the truthful serpent instead of to His arbitrary orders; thus by giving His children an egg, the Father metaphorically gives them a scorpion also.

Even by Jesus' standards, on the purely literal level His words demonstrate remarkable callousness and complacency. By the Saviour's reckoning, nobody who asks God for their daily bread can ever go hungry, and nobody who asks God to protect them from temptation can ever be tempted. It follows that if you say the Lord's prayer and still suffer the pangs of hunger or temptation, then your faith is insufficient and the fault is entirely your own; therefore, implies the Saviour, those who have the impudence to be hungry and fallible can simply starve and be damned. Such is the gospel of the new covenant; such are the good things which the Father gives those who ask Him.


  • At 9:33 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    A thing of beauty. — Emma

    (Just got a new computer, can't find my password. Sorry!)

  • At 6:09 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    Ah, the wonders of getting used to a new computer. If you're really lucky, they can last until the blasted thing dies and it's time to start the whole delightful process over again.


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