My Take: Why Jesus needs to be supernatural
From CNN Belief Blog, March 7th, 2011
Editor's Note: The Rev. Robert Barron, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, is founder of and host of the Catholicism Project. He is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at Mundelein Seminary.
By the Rev. Robert Barron, Special to CNN
I confess that I was a little surprised when I visited the CNN website and found a feature on John Dominic Crossan, the controversial scholar of the historical Jesus. I was surprised, not so much that Crossan was being profiled, but that the article was not appearing at Christmas or Easter or on the occasion of a papal visit. Dr. Crossan, you see, is a favorite of the mainstream media, who never seem to miss an opportunity to try to debunk classical Christianity, especially on major Christian holidays.
Crossan was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood in the late 1960s, finding that he was unable to hold to orthodox Christian beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus. He gave himself to the study of 1st century Jewish culture and to the discovery of who Jesus “really” was, once the veneer of traditional dogma had been scraped away.
Throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s of the last century, Crossan published a whole series of books and articles laying out his vision of Jesus as a “Mediterranean peasant” who had the temerity to challenge the Roman power structure, to advocate the concerns of the poor, and to show the power of the path of non-violence.
Now Crossan is a graceful writer and a careful scholar, and I’ll acknowledge gratefully that I’ve learned a great deal from him. His emphasis on Jesus’ “open table fellowship” and his readings of Jesus’ parables as subversive stories are both, I think, right on target. The problem is that he so consistently reads Jesus through a conventional political lens that effectively reduces him to the level of social reformer.
How does Crossan explain the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? They are, he says, essentially “parables,” figurative representations of the disciples’ conviction that Jesus’ way was more powerful than the Roman way. They were never meant to be taken literally but rather as poetic inspirations for the succeeding generations of Jesus’ followers. How does he explain the church’s dogma of Jesus’ divinity? It is, essentially, a misleading overlay that effectively obscures the dangerous truth of who Jesus really was: a threat to the cultural, religious, and political status quo.
Skilled at translating academic debates into relatively accessible language and blessed with a charming Irish brogue, Crossan became a favorite of television producers and documentarians. On numerous programs and specials, Crossan has popularized his reductionistic vision of Jesus and has succeeded in convincing many that orthodox Christology is appealing only to those who haven’t taken the time to think through the historical evidence clearly. Time and again, he has argued that his version of Christianity is for those who haven’t “left their brains at the door.”
The little problem, of course, is that Crossan is compelled to ignore huge swaths of the New Testament in order to maintain his interpretation. All of the evangelists indeed present Jesus as a dangerous, even subversive figure, a threat to the conventional Jewish and Roman ways of organizing things, but they are much more interested in the utterly revolutionary fact that Jesus is the Son of God.
They assert that he is Lord of the Sabbath and that he is greater than the Temple; they show him as claiming authority over the Torah itself; they relate stories of his blithely forgiving sins; they report his breathtaking words, “unless you love me more than your mother or father … more than your very life, you are not worthy of me;” they consistently show him as the master of the forces of nature. The only one who could legitimately say or effectively do any of these would be the one who is himself divine. St. John gives explicit and philosophically precise expression to this conviction when he says, in regard to Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” To maintain that all of this is a distorting overlay is simply absurd and requires that one blind oneself to the deepest intention of the evangelists themselves.
And the theory that the resurrection is an imaginative construct gives every indication of having been formulated in a faculty lounge and, in fact, does violence to the spirit of the early Christianity. What one senses on practically every page of the New Testament is an excitement generated by something utterly new, strange, unprecedented.
When the first Christians proclaimed the Gospel, they didn’t say a word
about Jesus’ preaching; what they talked about was his resurrection from the dead. Look through all of Paul’s letters, and you’ll find a few words about Jesus’ “philosophy,” but you’ll find, constantly, almost obsessively, reiterated the claim that God raised Jesus from death.
The great New Testament scholar N.T. Wright points out, moreover, that the very emergence of Christianity as a messianic movement is practically unintelligible, on historical grounds, apart from the reality of the resurrection. This is the case because one of the chief expectations of the Messiah was that he would conquer the enemies of Israel. Someone’s death at the hands of the Romans, therefore, would be the surest sign imaginable that that person was not the Messiah. Yet the first believers announced, over and again, that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel: Jesus Christ simply means “Jesus the Messiah.” How could they possibly say this unless they were convinced that in some very real way Jesus had indeed proven more powerful than his Roman executioners?
This is where we see how untenable Crossan’s reading is. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then his disciples had no business saying that he had conquered Rome or that his way was more powerful than the Roman way. In fact, one would be justified in maintaining just the opposite.
My hope is that careful students of the New Testament and of early Christianity will see that John Dominic Crossan’s painfully reductive reading is a distortion of who Jesus was and that classical orthodox Christianity tells the deepest truth about the one called “the Christ.”
Scheduled after the March newsletter went out, we’ve been having Lenten suppers every Wednesday at 5 pm. People can come for a light supper, and then stay for midweek Lenten Mass at 7.
No supper is scheduled during Holy Week, however.
Holy Week and Easter
April 17 – 24
Palm Sunday 9 am
Holy Monday Mass 7 pm
Holy Tuesday Mass 7 pm
Holy Wednesday Mass 7 pm
Maundy Thursday Mass 7 pm
Good Friday Solemn Liturgy and Mass 7 pm
Holy Saturday , April 23
Great Vigil of Easter 7 pm
Easter Day, April 4: Sunrise Mass 7 am
(Easter breakfast 8:30 am)
NO late Mass on Easter!
Steve Peart, Grant Andresen, Larry Campbell
Work Day April 9th
Calling all members: We’ve scheduled a work day on Saturday, April 9th, beginning at 9 a.m. In addition to some spring cleaning inside and outside, we’ll be putting up the veils for Passiontide. The Altar Guild will be cleaning the sacristy as well. The more volunteers we have, the more we’ll get done! Let’s clean up our church and grounds for Easter.
4/1/1988 William and Beth Dolieslager
4/13/2002 Steve and Sheri Kraklow
4/29/1989 Scott and Jude Clapper
The Lighter Side
I’m in the Bible but have no name,
To the grave my body never came,
I died a death none died before,
And my shroud’s in any grocery store.
Who am I?
Vigil of Easter April 23rd
Remember, the Vigil of Easter marks the high point of the Church Year, the ceremonies surrounding the dramatic transition from Lent to Easter, from penitence to rejoicing, from death to life.
Members are encouraged to plan accordingly. The Vigil will be held on Saturday, April 23rd. We start outside, gathered around a newly kindled fire, to light the Paschal candle. Then we process into the darkened church and continue with the Service of Light, a moving ceremony heralding the resurrection of our Lord. Next is the Service of Readings, a time for reflection, followed by the Service of Baptismal Remembrance, and finally, the Holy Communion, when the lights are turned up and we welcome Easter amid singing and alleluias. See you there!
Mary Hamilton at home, Ruth Snider at home, Mark and Anna Baker at home, Mirilda Greiert and Lillian Freeburg at Kewanee Care, Ila Scaife at Courtyard Estates, Elva Garrison at Avon Nursing Home.
4/3 Adam Shreck
4/17 Jude Clapper
4/19 Luke Wells
4/22 Grant Andreson
A Stewardship Letter
Dear members of St. Paul’s,
For a congregation so small to give so much is a testimony to your faith and dedication. I thank God for you all, and would add that the sacrificial giving of so many of you can serve as a fine example.
If you are one who needs encouragement in the matter of giving, you need only to consider how so many of your fellow members have been giving already. In proportion to their income level, they do it because they love their church, and they are grateful to God for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and its proclamation here.
Jan Schoen (your stewardship chairman) and I are already aware that you have been sacrificing, and we thank God for it, as St. Paul says: “We God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God . . . ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe” (I Thess. 2:13).
We ask your continued prayers and support, and will continue to offer thanks and praise to God.
Sincerely in Christ, + Pastor Eckardt
Humbled to be the Chaplain of Heroes
By Michael Frese, US Army Chaplain
FOB Andar, Afghanistan
March 7, 2011. Last week, thirty Soldiers of Bravo Company became heroes. Twenty-five performed superhuman feats in impossible circumstances, four are in the hospital with very serious injuries, and one paid the ultimate sacrifice. American freedom is paid for by the blood, sweat, and tears of her courageous sons.
Just after the sun went down, and it had begun to snow, an IED detonated under the lead vehicle of a combat patrol team. The impact of the explosion was so powerful that the 12-ton, up-armored vehicle was blown off the ground blasting all four combat-locked doors off their hinges, rotating it 180 degrees and flipping it on its side. One of the soldiers in this vehicle was able to exit the overturned vehicle and begin helping the other four trapped inside. The other trucks immediately positioned themselves in a security perimeter around the destroyed vehicle just like hours of training had taught them. In the moments that followed, the soldiers worked in black, blizzard-like conditions to free the trapped soldiers and urgently put out the raging fire (with fuel tanks and an abundance of ammunition in the vehicle). They used every available fire extinguisher, and when those were expended, they began to bring snow and mud with their own hands and place them on the flames. By heroic efforts and risk to their own lives they put out the fire. By the time they had finally pulled the last soldier free, the fire was out, and the medic—with the help of other soldiers—was stabilizing the devastating injuries.
When the medical evacuation vehicles took the five wounded soldiers to the nearest hospital, the soldiers of 1st Platoon left behind at the blast site worked with other soldiers who had already arrived to help recover the destroyed vehicle. They pulled security while a team had great difficulty loading the massive, overturned, destroyed vehicle on a flatbed trailer. They did not return to base until 0500 in the morning after fourteen hours of grueling, physically and emotionally exhausting work. They had had no food or rest since before they set out at 1500 the previous day. Once they returned, they heard for the first time that one of their fellow soldiers had died. They were visibly shaken up and in shock, along with being completely exhausted and hungry.
During the time the rescue was all happening, my Battalion Commander deployed me forward several kilometers in a convoy to the Forward Operating Base (FOB) these soldiers work out of. I was there by 0130 in the middle of the night and waited by to be present when the company commander informed the platoon of the soldier’s death.
After the shock of the news started to settle in, a few hours later, I began hearing from them one at a time, in their own words, how the evening events played out. It is my job to step into their pain, shock, and horror. It is my job to hear about what they saw, heard, smelled, thought, felt, and did. They told me what they saw when giving first aid to the four soldiers pulled from the truck. They told me of the heroic actions of their leaders and their colleagues. But because of a humility that comes naturally with true courage, only by “prying” into their role could I extract from them their own heroic actions. Even then, they used very humble, self-deprecating words to talk about what they did. This graphic re-telling is a necessary step for processing a traumatic event in as healthy a manner as possible. They have to come to terms with their fears, their perceptions, their thoughts, their memories, their feelings, and any regrets that they now experience. That’s my duty to them—to put them on the healthy road of emotional recovery.
Each time one of them comes to speak to me, I must re-live the event in their eyes (almost like helping them shoulder the event, except I can never take their load from them. It’s theirs to bear). This helps their brains process and objectify what they only experienced in lightning-fast circumstances. Only by ordering their thoughts in a systematic way, can they begin to put the emotional pieces back together for this physical event. Only by them hearing from me that they acted in the best possible way under the circumstances can they begin to let go of the false guilt--that they somehow, by not being able to save all of their buddies, had a role in causing the disaster. In some, I have to address the real guilt about thoughts and actions they wish they could take back or redo (none even remotely serious enough to change the outcome of the situation). If I can get them to talk about what they see when they close their eyes, they can start coming to terms with the horror of what they saw and experienced.
In between meeting with every soldier who wants to talk to me about that evening, I am meeting with all of the battalion and company command elements to plan a memorial service. This is also my duty. I am in charge of honoring the death of this soldier. The memorial service gives this soldier his due honor and allows his companions to move along the grieving process. I will supervise commanders, fellow soldiers, and friends who will write statements and speak at this event. I manage the work of four different staff sections who will contribute to the ceremony. And I will execute a very honorable remembrance of a soldier who sacrificed his life. Chaplains nurture the living, care for the dying, and honor the dead. All three of these duties are wrapped up in a memorial service.
In the anguish of soldiers seeking meaning out of misery, I seek to put this event into an eternal perspective. I attempt to bring their gaze away from the horror and destruction of the moment to the hope of life beyond pain and suffering. In short, I preach to them about the One who rescues from sin, pain, and suffering. With any soldier who is willing to listen, I tell them that faith in Christ is the only meaningful thing to grasp onto in a time like this. As I met with the whole platoon, one evening in the Dining Facility (the only space big enough on this FOB for 30 soldiers to meet together) as they were sharing their thoughts, fears, and anger to the whole group, the highest ranking Sergeant (a man highly respected by all present), asked me to pray for them. I was honored to stand up in their midst and ask God’s hand of mercy, strength, comfort, and guidance to be upon them as they grieved and picked up the pieces. These men wanted to talk to God about their pain through me. They wanted me to offer prayer to the only One who can help in such a circumstance. At this time of grief and hurt no one minded me praying from my religious foundation—in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the time of disaster, there are no petty squabbles about being theologically neutral. They wanted me to be their liaison with God and pray in the only way that I can be sincere—in Jesus’ name.
Everything in a human tells him to run from fire, to flee danger. Only by tremendous discipline and a superb sense of duty can someone stay and fight a burning heap of fuel and ammunition as others used every resource within and without to extract trapped soldiers. The definition of courage is being scared to death and still doing what is called for. These guys don’t even remember being scared to death. In fact, some of them don’t remember the first 5-10 minutes. When they became conscious of themselves again, they found that they were already involved in the rescue attempt. They just reacted out of training and discipline. They knew what had to be done; and they did it. They were ready to sacrifice themselves for the sake of their fellow soldiers.
I am humbled to be the Chaplain of people like this.
I pray that in time, if they haven’t already, that they realize the triune God is the calm in this stormy war.
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church
109 S. Elm Street
Kewanee, IL 61443