The Curmudgeon


Sunday, September 09, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Luke 16 xix-xxxi

Jesus relates a parable about a rich man and the leprous beggar who waited at his gates to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. When both men die, the angels carry the beggar to Abraham's side, while the rich man is condemned to torment in Hades. The rich man begs Abraham for a drop of water, but the patriarch refuses: the rich man has had his reward on earth, and nobody can travel between Heaven and Hell. The man asks Abraham to send the beggar to warn his relatives; God's favourite again refuses, as the relatives can always read the scriptures. When the rich man points out that a visit from the dead would be more convincing, Abraham states that anyone who remained unconvinced by Moses and the prophets would not be convinced by a resurrection.

The parable begins as a routine denunciation of those who place value on worldly goods. There is no indication that the rich man is particularly callous; in fact, since the beggar remains at his gate, we may safely presume that what falls from the rich man's table is at least enough to sustain him. Given that the beggar is covered in sores and so degraded as to be licked by dogs, a more uncharitable householder would surely have had him turned away. Nevertheless, the rich man is cast into Hell because he has failed to obey Moses and the prophets; possibly his sumptuous meals were tainted by forbidden food, or possibly he had a tattoo or suffered a witch to live.

The second part of the parable is more interesting. Jesus has Abraham assert that a great chasm separates Heaven from Hell, apparently to prevent the residents of Heaven from showing so much as a finger-end's worth of compassion towards those whom God has condemned. This hint that the mercy of God may be somewhat less than infinite is confirmed at the parable's conclusion, where the patriarch explicitly states that the Resurrection will not redeem anyone who has not already been convinced by Moses and the prophets. It is at least arguable that this statement, along with the later histrionics at Gethsemane, indicates that Jesus was somewhat lacking in the faith which He so uncompromisingly demanded of others. In any case, a clearer demonstration of the Saviour's reactionary and exclusionist agenda would be difficult to conceive.


  • At 2:40 pm , Blogger davidly said...

    If only as devil's advocate ;-D
    ...maybe JC was just trying to depict what a major jerk Abe had become, being as he was so close the seat of absolute power. Yeah, I know, probably not. Still, I am agnostic regarding the reliability of the interpretations of these texts and, as an atheist, wouldn't wanna put too much thought into it other than what useful propaganda it can be.

  • At 10:29 pm , Blogger Philip said...

    Jesus proclaimed His Father to be the god of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and boasted of His seat at the right hand of Power, to say nothing of His constant threats of utter destruction upon His enemies; so He would be most unlikely to intend any condemnation of either Abraham's cruelty or God's.

    Your reading works as long as the parable is taken on its own; however, the theologian is bound to see everything in context, so as to avoid any possibility of malicious misinterpretation.


Post a comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home