The Curmudgeon


Sunday, October 28, 2018

Bad Theology

Text for today: Matthew 18 xv-xxii

Jesus decrees that any disciple with a grievance against a fellow disciple should first approach them in private. If the offender does not listen, the approach should be made again in company. If the offender still does not listen, they should be reported to the church, and if they do not listen to the church they must be treated as a non-Jew and a tax collector. Jesus then tells the disciples that their actions on earth will be reflected in heaven, and that if any two of them can ever manage to agree on what they want the Father will grant it to them. When Peter asks if a straying fellow-cultist should be forgiven as many as seven times, Jesus responds that one should forgive seventy-seven times.

Jesus here sets out His cult's official complaints procedure. In the happily temporary absence of ultimate judgement and outer darkness with wailing and gnashing of teeth, quarrels among the disciples must be settled among themselves, with the numerically greater and therefore noisier faction prevailing. Jesus thus anticipates and recommends the eventual devil's bargain between one of the Church's more noisily intolerant factions and the Roman Empire, whose capacity for policing and persecution did so much to promulgate the Father's brand of forgiveness.

Although Jesus enjoins His disciples to set no limits on the number of times they forgive each other, it is obvious from the context that forgiveness, as in the kingdom of Heaven, must be conditional on the surrender and repentance of the defeated party. Nevertheless, once pressure of numbers and the threat of ostracism have worked their ineffable magic, the straying disciple must be accepted back into the sheep-fold as if nothing had happened, even to the extent of being allowed to sin again. Jesus and His Father are entirely unconcerned with the potential victims of repeated sinful behaviour: as Jesus takes care to emphasise with His flattering remarks about the disciples' power in Heaven, what matters is that the sins of God's chosen can always be discreetly smoothed over until the day arrives for the rest of us to be burned.


  • At 5:50 pm , Anonymous Brian M said...

    Oof. That last sentence, Philip. Dark Poetry, my man!

  • At 12:12 am , Blogger Philip said...

    Not exactly KJV quality, I know. Still, I do have my moments.


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