Monday, November 28, 2005

Debate desirable

Original Chimes Article Here

Most of the letters DeRoo received appeared to be thoughtful responses. However, there was a disturbing minority that seemed to be offended that Chimes would dare print something that controversial. To those who were “offended that they were offended” (so to speak), I recommend they immediately transfer to Bob Jones University, where a barbed wire fence will stand between them and the outside world, and they will never be exposed to any views that they might (gasp) disagree with. It is my understanding that Calvin is not one of these institutions. That people are debating DeRoo is healthy. That some are clutching at their hearts in righteous indignation at seeing such heresy, is not so healthy. Just because we ignore unorthodox views will not mean they will cease to exist. They should be allowed an open forum rather than being pushed under the rug, even if one did miss the sarcasm behind DeRoo’s article.

Editor's Note:
This was a letter to the editor I sent in regards to the controversy over DeRoo's article on "Were Jesus' Actions Really Without Sin?"
The week of that controversy, the Chimes started included some of the "Letters to the Editor" on their website, so I was able to see the growing controversy before I wrote my response.  (Even though in the printed version of Chimes, which came out at the end of the week, my letter appeared side-by-side with many of the letters I was responding to.)
For the complete controversy, follow the link to the Chimes Website.  But I'll just quote a bit of that here for context:

It is hardly an exaggeration to say that we were deluged with letters after running an article last week by DeRoo entitled “Were Jesus’ actions really without sin?” Initial responses were so vociferous that we published 4,000 words of explanation and elaboration on our website, along with many of the letters we received. In two days, our site got more than 1,000 hits and within a few days we had received upwards of 30 letters.

Also, I'll quote some of the letters I was responding to:

I briefly thought he was attempting some sort of satiric social critique of modern Christian values as being incongruous with Jesus’ lifestyle, since in none of the things he mentions (discounting his exaggerated description of them) does Jesus actually sin by biblical standards. But right up to the last paragraph his target is clearly Jesus himself, who has done things that by DeRoo’s account we all supposedly know are wrong.
If I’m wrong and this is indeed meant to be social critique in disguise, it is both unsuccessful in communicating its purpose and needlessly offensive in the process. I’m not at all convinced satire would justify the inappropriate language that he applies to the Lord.
The article has given me a timely illustration for the Catechism class I’m leading tomorrow on the third commandment (Questions 99-100, q. v.); however, I will not be renewing my subscription to Chimes.


Somehow, I never expected Jesus to be compared to Dr. Dobson and Bill Clinton in the same breath.
Similarly, I never expected anybody here to so outwardly and brashly slander the name of Jesus, who is also Christ.
While I do not know Mr. DeRoo personally and can never presume to know his heart before God, the article to his name is un-Christian, and it is quite unclear what the intent of the article is supposed to be.
As it stands, Mr. DeRoo accurately plays the role of our modern press in his deconstruction of Jesus. However, he did not go as far as the Pharisees of Jesus’ day when they claimed that the power of Christ came from demons.
It seems to me that Mr. DeRoo’s reading of the Bible assumes Jesus as a man, and only a man. If Jesus was a man, just a man and just like us, then we cannot imagine him not sinning.
The crucial missing element is that Jesus is both God and man — fully human, yet fully divine. If you remove Jesus, God is unapproachable to us Gentiles. Furthermore, the entire New Testament is a lie. In addition to this, Paul et al are fools, as is every Christian both past and present.
Having an article like this in the Chimes, the newspaper of a purportedly Christian college, is highly damaging to the Christian faith. I am disappointed and dissatisfied with the quality of the newspaper thus far this year.


We recently read an article in the perspectives section of the Chimes which greatly disturbed us. The article was not only extremely offensive but had no business being printed in a Christian college newspaper. The author obviously has minimal knowledge of the Bible or of the culture of the time in which Jesus lived. It was an outlandish display of ignorance, and it is a shame that such a person represents Calvin. We take this very seriously and will make sure correct action is taken.

Also, for context, I'm going to reprint the original article by DeRoo below:

Were Jesus' Actions Really Without Sin?
Original Chimes Article Here

As I read the Bible I get the distinct feeling that Jesus is not what the church has depicted him to be. By the measures that many conservative Christians use to judge devotion to faith, I do not think Jesus would have rated very highly. He associated with prostitutes and was a partier, supplying alcohol for a party that would put most modern fraternities to shame.

Not only that, He was also a radical, going against the most prominent religious leaders and challenging the traditional roles of women, social class and even the fundamentals of faith. Let’s face it: this man was no Dr. Dobson. If the modern press had gotten hold of what Jesus was doing they would have made Bill Clinton look like a saint in comparison.

I have heard some say that a sin is not just what you do, but what you fail to take a stand on. Once at the end of a seven-day drunken party Jesus provided more alcohol for everyone (John 2:1-11). I guess it was not until recently that I truly recognized the significance of this.

What I mean is that Jesus was clearly sinning by promoting such behavior as alcohol consumption, especially in such an irrespon-sible context as a seven-day party. This is not just a few drinks one night with a friend; this is regular consumption over the course of at least seven nights. That is seven evenings spent without volunteering, without Bible studies and although I am sure that Jesus took a few minutes away from this drunken chaos to leave the bride and groom’s party and find a place for personal devotions, I doubt he was engaging in meaningful discussion with drunken guests in a way that would have made his Father proud.

If Jesus was wasting time, he was not using the most valuable resource God had given him in a stewardly manner. As a matter of fact, one must question the whole timing of His ministry in light of stewardly use of his gifts. Jesus was divine, so he had an extremely valuable gift to offer to those around him.

Was it not selfish of him to wait until he was thirty years old to start his ministry? What was he doing in his twenties that was so important it could not have been done by someone who was not fully divine. We know that at a young age he was already able to discuss theology with the religious leaders at a very advanced level, so why did he wait so long to start discipling people? Would he not have used his time better if he had recruited his followers earlier and given them more time to learn from him? And who knows how many children died, blind people lived a life of poverty and lame people were forced to beg because Jesus refused to use his God-given ability to heal them.

When he did take the opportunity to develop his gifts as God would have us all do, he did not select a very appropriate manner. When visiting the temple, Jesus left his parents, probably disobeying their instructions to come home with them, and ran off to the temple. Does the Bible not say for children to honor their parents? Jesus must have known his parents were leaving, he must have known he was supposed to go with them but he refused to co-operate. He clearly disrespected his parents (Luke 2:48), so how can we call him sinless?

Jesus did more than simply disrespect his parents though: he disrespected the law. On at least one occasion he engaged in actions that could have gotten him arrested for vandalism or disturbing the peace. He overturned tables, kicked money around and whipped animals (John 2:15). Here was the man we call perfect in a violent rage destroying property and whipping animals. Jesus was not a poster boy for congeniality.

In fact, Jesus was so offensive to people, so radically liberal, that they drove him out of towns. People hated this man so much that they wanted to kill him (John 7:25-30).

They probably would have if he had not used his special powers to save himself; the same powers he had earlier refused to use to save the lives of so many of the blind, lame and helpless. To think of Jesus as the kindand perfect neighbor is ridiculous.

If Jesus had tried to move into your neighborhood, you probably would have tried to prevent it. Christians should stay away from the type of people who defile the human body and distort sexuality the way prostitutes do. If Jesus lived next door, prostitutes would be regularly stopping by. But face it: that never would have happened because Jesus never would have been able to afford a place in your neighborhood In fact he could not have afforded a place at all.

If you want to talk about the perfect example of a lazy welfare bum, it is right here in Jesus. He spent at least three years of his adult life not working at all, not even trying to work. I guess this just shows that even God would not work if his livelihood were just handed to him. Jesus just roamed the country living off of handouts. He even asked those who had serious social responsibilities to do work for him (John 4:7).

But that is not all: Jesus was no upholder of family values either. It is acceptable that he never got married by the age of thirty-three (though I am sure his mother was worried for him), but he actually encouraged his followers to leave their wives (Matthew 10:37, Luke 14:26). What kind of person would persuade a married man to ignore his familial responsibilities just to follow him? Yet that is exactly what Jesus did. He called Peter away from his work to leave his family and simply roam the country (Matthew 4:18-20, Mark 16:28, Luke 5:1-11).

So why do we worship as perfect a man who works against family values, does not even look for work, blatantly refuses to use his God given abilities for much of his life, and promotes drunken parties?

You do not need to be the Son of God to know all these are wrong, we all do. Either Jesus was a sinner, or we do not have a clue what sin is.

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