I will touch briefly on two topics, both seen through the lens of the following passage:
Matthew 22: 34 But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. 35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
I was recently listening to something or reading something – I don’t remember which. I believe it also came up in my request on how I might understand some of the difficult Old Testament passages. So, with apologies to any and all who triggered this thought….
Hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially the interpretation of biblical texts, wisdom literature, and philosophical texts.
How one is to understand and interpret the Bible is to be governed by some hermeneutic. There is a thread, a narrative, a purpose, a story. What is it? We can say that all of the Old Testament points to Jesus, and the New Testament is given to help us understand Jesus. I think that’s right. But what does it mean? How can I come to understand this?
I think it means this – what is found in this passage. Jesus gives the greatest commandment and a second which “is like unto it,” meaning, in my mind, that there is a connection, relationship, a similarity.
All of the law and prophets are to be understood through these two commandments; what we read – Old and New Testament – is to be understood through these two commandments. This offers a light onto how we are to try to understand these passages.
I watched a two-hour discussion with Bishop Robert Barron and William Lane Craig on the topics of evangelism, faith and science, and secularism. I want to point to the discussion on a couple of questions. I must add: whatever I have to say on the responses to these questions should not take away from the fact that I find each of these men to be both brilliant and doing good work on behalf of the Christian faith. I gladly listen to any talk from either of them.
So, to the questions. First: Do you have any last thoughts on how to evangelize the culture today? The responses were about five minutes.
From Craig: change the culture – in universities, in movies, and through the judiciary – especially the Supreme Court (counting on Trump). From Barron: we have to understand the rhythm between when to go out into the community and when to hunker down sometimes when the culture grows hostile; maybe now we have to hunker down and learn about our stuff.
Second topic: How can we keep young people from leaving the Christian faith? The responses go for about three minutes.
From Craig: he prefers to deal with how to prevent this from happening. The family, especially fathers, need to instruct the children. From Barron: they are leaving because of science, because of the sexual teaching, confusion about God, violence in the Bible. Engage them on these questions.
When compared to these two men, my response to these questions is somewhat and even much different. As Jesus offered, we are to love. Love is in doing. I keep coming back to the role Christianity must play if we are to move toward liberty – and, so there is no confusion here, these are the exact same actions that I find necessary if one is to evangelize:
…feed the poor, care for the homeless, visit those in prison. Provide a vision contrary to that which society offers: one of love, of meaning, of purpose. Hold meaningful conversations; don’t be afraid of exploring faith and reason.
…open and support crisis pregnancy centers, support young women struggling with this [abortion] decision; where necessary, ensure the possibility of adoption.
These don’t require changing the university or the supreme court; these are the opposite of hunkering down. These are doing – and Christians need no one’s approval to do any of these. They just need to do.
Further, to love. Instead of looking for a president to pack the supreme court, do the following:
…end overseas adventurism, put a stop to torture and indefinite detention, end the incarceration of non-violent criminals, stand up against the horrendous federal court system, put an end to the robbery of central banking, maximize the opportunity for parents to educate their children as they see fit.
There is love in action – love for our neighbors in the Christian sense. This is the greatest commandment, summing up all of the law and the prophets. If we as Christians are to have any relationship with government, it will not be fulfilled via the ballot box. It is here: speak truth to power.
The two gentlemen spoke often about what Protestants and Catholics can do together – instead of working on some of the small (and great) points that divide theologically – given the state of the country and the West. It is here, right here – as I laid out.
The last part of the discussion was for these two to ask each other questions. Keeping in mind, Craig is a Protestant, Bishop Barron, obviously, a Catholic. Craig asked a very interesting one: How can beauty, in practice, present the Gospel and bring people to faith? Barron speaks often about beauty, appealing to beauty in evangelism. Craig offers, “I wouldn’t know how to do it.” The entire topic seems to baffle him.
So, a sneak into my confused Christian world. I grew up in a very Protestant frame. Very. I have, more recently (and “recently” being relative, given my age), spent time in what would be considered a more traditional denomination. Lot’s of standing and sitting, curtains opening and closing.
When growing up, I would occasionally attend a very liturgical service. I would always leave thinking “what’s the point of that?” Fast forward a few decades (or centuries): having more recently attended more traditional services, when I attend a Protestant service, I now think “what’s the point of that?”
I am not saying anything about right or wrong, good or bad – so please let’s not go down this path. I have found beauty and meaning in the traditional, liturgical; it feels more worshipful to me. Paul VanderKlay, a Reformed pastor, notes that as a result of the whole Jordan Peterson thing, young people are turning to Christianity – and mostly to Catholic or even Orthodox denominations.
In any case: I understand Craig’s stumbling on this topic. I am not saying that if he tries it (liturgical) he will like it. But I do understand his stumbling. I also understand Bishop Barron’s view; it has grown on me over the years.