The Curmudgeon


Sunday, June 03, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Mark 12 xxvi

Baited by the literate and upper-class Sadducees with paradoxes about the resurrection, Jesus invokes God's words to Moses out of the burning bush, proclaiming Himself the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Isaac, whose name means laughter, was accordingly used by God as a pawn in a bad joke against his father, and was later the butt of another bad joke by his devious wife and thieving younger son. This of course recalls the Saviour's own recommendation that family members should turn against one another, besides prefiguring (no doubt with humorous intent) the murderous, child-abandoning Father whom He reproached at Golgotha.

In the mouth of Jesus, who only a few verses later is seen renouncing His kinship with David, the invocation of the Hebrew patriarchs is remarkably hypocritical. The patriarchs' relationship with God was often healthily disputatious: Abraham argued against the genocide at Sodom (Genesis 18 xx-xxxii), while Jacob repented his swindling of his brother and fought the tyrant physically until he was blessed (Genesis 32 xxiv-xxx). Moses himself, whose laws Jesus famously considered too lax and lenient, interceded for the disobedient Hebrews against their loving Father's threatened holocaust (Exodus 32 x-xiv).

The idea of Jesus attempting to persuade the Father to spare Sodom, or to abstain from raining brimstone on blasphemers, is self-evidently absurd. At every opportunity, the Saviour calls down torment and destruction: not only upon His enemies, but even upon those who lack the opportunity to hear or understand Him. Aside from brief lapses at Gethsemane and Golgotha, Jesus makes no demands on the god of the living. Instead, He urges absolute faith in the face of the most appalling indifference and cruelty, while skimming over God's crimes with all the blithe callousness of that infantile state which He proclaimed as His moral ideal.


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