Friday, September 10, 2010
The Essay of the Gospel Class ULC Seminary by Louis C. Hook
The fact I recognize I knew more than this was most evident in my writings and of course the Lord smiled as I made a complete fool of myself. The chances of this factual knowledge of God being in one old broken down cavalry trooper was remote. Once I reread the vitally important section of the Sermon on the Mount (all references for this diatribe are those from the Unvarnished Gospels) presents a problem which is not easy to resolve - the question whether it is to be linked with what has gone before or be taken as introduction to the ensuing section about false prophets and false religion. In favor of the former it can be urged that the definite article: “the strait gate”, often has a demonstrative sense in New Testament Greek: “this strait gate”. In which case reference would appear to be to the comprehensive but difficult precept which Jesus had just laid upon his disciples: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.”
Yet this is not free from difficulty. The picture presented to the mind is of a narrow gate giving access to a narrow way, with eternal life as its end. Such a mental picture does not seem appropriate to this principle of Christian graciousness. And, further, to apply it in this way would surely imply justification by one’s own good works. If indeed a man is to keep himself in the narrow way to life by observing the Golden Rule, then it must be admitted that a vast proportion of the Lord’s people, with the best will in the world, are frequently astray from it. Again, the commentary: “few there be that find it” is hardly appropriate to the Golden Rule, which is easy enough to “find” but terribly difficult to maintain as a constant guiding influence in one’s life.
The words of Jesus here strongly suggest a faith which has to be sought out, and a personal decision and choice which have to be made. A man does not drift into the service of Christ. He becomes a disciple by making up his mind that this is the only loyalty he can accept, the only way of life for him to follow. This is the spirit of the appeal made to Israel by Moses, an appeal now reiterated by Jesus in even more challenging fashion: “I call heaven and earth to witness this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live” (Dt. 30:19).
It was a far-reaching claim that if a man would have eternal life he will find it in no other way than through the service of Christ himself: “I am the true and living way: no man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6). “I am the door: by me if any man enter in he shall be saved” (John 10:9). A man must give his own personal assent to these truths, and make his own personal decision in the light of them. The only alternative is the wide gate and broad way by which the many follow the road to destruction. The teaching of Jesus here could hardly be more explicit. There are not many or even several ways a man may follow. The Unvarnished Gospels therefore show there are only two, and every individual is in one or the other.
This “either - or” theme gets plenty of emphasis in the Bible-and needs it. Two ways (Jer. 21:8; Pr. 4:10-19); two trees (Ps. 1:6, 7; Jer. 17:5-8); two houses (Mt. 7:24-28). The Greek word for “narrow” is rather frightening. It means “squeezed up”; not “narrow”, but “made narrower”. This narrow way in Christ has to be sought for: “Few there be that find.” And since, only a short while before, Jesus had declared so unequivocally: “Seek, and ye shall find” (7:7), it follows logically that there are only few who seek! Experience underlines the truth of this. The vast majority, if not actually content with life as they find it, are so devoid of higher spiritual aspirations that they never seek anything different from what they naturally know. They do not have to “find” the way that leads to destruction. They are already in it, and are well content to make fast or slow progress there.
The teaching of Jesus here is eclecticism in its most rigorous form. In plain unvarnished fashion he made it perfectly clear that he expected no sweeping success in his preaching. The nation’s ultimate response to his appeal would be small. And in the wider field of Gentile evangelism also the same would be true.
It has become fashionable in the past several hundred years to attack the Christian faith in a unique and allegedly scholarly manner. Prominent universities, critics, skeptics, and scholars try to deny what the New Testament record reveals about Jesus Christ. Generally, most people will accept Jesus as a moral teacher whose followers developed His teachings into a religion, but what they will not accept is the testimony of Christ and Holy Writ.
The Unvarnished Gospels give us his baptism, the proclamation especially in parables of the present and future kingdom of God, a ministry of exorcism, his gathering of disciples across socio-economic boundaries, his sharing a common meal that celebrated their new relationship to God, his challenge to the Jewish teachers of His day, the arousal of opposition that led to his arrest, his trials by the Jewish authorities on charges of blasphemy and by the Romans for sedition, and his crucifixion.
The Jesus Seminar with liberal theologians, such as Burton Mack and John Dominic Crossan, differ significantly in their conclusions than the scholarship of the Historical Quest or that of the Unvarnished Gospels. The Jesus Seminar tries to claim intellectual scholarship with the Historical Quest, but fails miserably in such desperate attempts. For example, the Historical Quest and the Unvarnished Gospels believes that there are considerable sections of the Gospels that are historical. In contrast, the Seminar believes that only a minute section of the Gospels are historically reliable.
The disquieting trend in surveying the scholarship for the historical Jesus is the level of demand that is placed upon the Christian church to adjust its theologies and doctrines in light of the progression of “historical reconstructionism” of modern scholarship. However, these demands assume that the modern discoveries concerning the historical Jesus are the definitive interpretation of Jesus in contrast to the testimony of the Unvarnished Gospel writers. The question that needs answering is whether or not the historical Jesus of this research is the true counterpart of Jesus in His fullness as the New Testament documents reveal Him.
The answer to the question is without equivocation a resounding “no.” The breach between the historical Jesus of the various researches and the real Jesus of history and faith requires two things. First, scholars who are relying on history alone as the most important tool to understand Jesus Christ must understand and recognize the limits and restrictions of history. Without equivocation, the Christian faith is historical but understanding the whole of Christianity has never been based solely on historical studies. The interpreter of Scripture needs to be able to properly evaluate and reevaluate the role of history in studies of Jesus. Second, scholars must be able to correctly consign the real and historical Jesus within the life and theology of Christianity as a whole. The modern reconstructions of the historical Jesus quests need not put centuries of Christian thought and practice out of place. Certainly, the quests are profitable if the proper method and perspective are employed in such studies of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
It is my most humble opinion that the Unvarnished Gospels and the studies we have done in this class point to the factual truth of God’s Infinite Word. Faith, Tradition, and Honor are the basis of our path to the One True God of the Multi-Cosmos (Traditionalism’s Tenets of Faith). I am a Traditionalist and I seek the Lord via that open and strict view of the Word. We must all see the truth and know that the heart gives us the power to know. It is up to us to hear the quiet call.
God loves you.
Louis Charles Hook SSG (CA)
Senior Master Chaplain Assistant
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