another blog. Craig’s questions were provoked by Dan’s typically convoluted explanations of his understanding of Scripture as it relates to matters of wealth and poverty. Needless to say, Dan’s “take” leaves a little to be desired, in that it smacks of his usual leftist worldliness that colors his understanding.
Before I delve into the quagmire, I want to make especially clear that what follows should in no way be inferred as dismissive of those struggling in economic poverty, or that I in any way believe those who have are not duty bound to help those who have not. Indeed, this very paragraph should be read a good half dozen times by any left leaning visitor so as to deflect any such nonsensical accusations they might otherwise be so willing to lodge.
One other point necessary to highlight is that Dan is one who constantly refers to himself as one who has come to his Scriptural understanding by way of serious and prayerful study. I’ll let you, gentle reader, decide if there is evidence of that obvious in his responses. Now let’s get on with it.
The questions Craig asked of Dan revolve around Dan’s use of the words of Christ to the effect of, “I have come to bring good news to the poor.” Craig asks of Dan to explain what he thinks it means. It’s the first question of Craig’s that he attempts to answer.
1. You use this quote a lot, but what do you think it means?
Dan’s initial response is that he cannot know. No one can know. Jesus didn’t say. But Dan goes on to “take a crack at a guess”.
There’s really no guessing required. The line comes from Isaiah 61:1-2. Jesus read from that scroll in the synagogue in Nazareth as told us in Luke 4:14-19. What Jesus read was that which identified Him as the Messiah. That’s what the Isaiah piece was describing and Jesus applied these verses to Himself as a way of describing just Who He really was. This is cemented by Jesus saying in verse 21, “Today this scripture if fulfilled in your hearing.” The message was quite clear to those of the time who were students of Scripture. What’s more, that Jesus used the Isaiah piece in this manner is the reason the people of Nazareth moved to throw Him down a cliff.
Now, I must stop here and elaborate a bit. Some will look at the verses 24-27 and proclaim them the reason the Nazarenes took umbrage. Jesus is not speaking well of Israel and suggesting better toward Gentiles. But the original language that is verse 22 is often interpreted as if the people were impressed in a good way by Christ’s use of Isaiah to introduce Himself as Messiah. This is not necessarily so and not every Bible version interprets it in such a positive manner. To some, it is more like they were stunned by His words. Regardless, His use of the Isaiah piece is indeed meant to imply to His listeners that He is the Messiah.
None of this shows up in Dan’s response to the question. He can’t help himself but to put a spin on it that revolves around the people being oppressed by the MAN. Even when Dan refers to Jesus using this verse in response to John the Baptist, it is to confirm for John that He is indeed the Messiah. That was, after all, what John was asking of Jesus: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect another?” Jesus answer was, in so many words, “Yes. I am that One.”
Craig’s next question to which Dan takes a guess is:
”2. What, specifically, was “the good news” that Jesus preached to the poor?”
Again, Dan doesn’t seem to know or even believe that Jesus explained it. I don’t know how one can “seriously and prayerfully” study Scripture and then say that Jesus didn’t state what “the good news” was. The message of the “Good News” was proclaimed from the time of the Immaculate Conception. It was proclaimed by Zechariah at the birth of his son John, when he said, “...for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins…”-Lk 1:70. It was proclaimed by angels to shepherds: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” Lk1:11. When Joseph and Mary presented their baby in the temple, Simeon praised the God for having allowed him to live long enough to see the Christ, and the prophetess, Anna, “gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” Lk2:38. John the Baptist proclaimed the Good News when he “saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jn 1:29. And of course, Jesus Himself said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jn14:6.
Throughout His ministry, Jesus spoke of Himself and His purpose, which was to be our Way to God through His sacrificial death on the cross. Not all who heard Him understood Him. Even His apostles were hazy on the true meaning of His teachings in this regard, even when, as Peter did, they acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, they didn’t quite get it entirely. But Jesus, while not being as straightforward as Dan obviously needed Him to be, did indeed express what the Good News was. And we certainly should know it by now, with the knowledge of His apostles’ subsequent teachings in Acts and their Epistles.
Put another, but very accurate way, Jesus was the Good News that Jesus preached to the poor. So then, the third question of Craig’s…
”3. What, specifically, does this mean for us?”
It means, quite plainly in fact, that we, as sinners, have the very same path to God. Jesus is that path and He died for us so that we, as well, can be sanctified and made worthy to be in the presence of God by virtue of His atoning death on the cross. We accept Him as our Savior and our sins are washed away by the Blood He shed for us. It means, specifically, we are saved. Hallelujah!
”4. What, specifically, should be happening that is not in order for us to ‘preach good news to the poor’?”
This question is not truly answerable to one like Dan who doesn’t even know what the Good News is. That is to say, discovering that News would seem to be the Prime Directive, the first step before any thought could legitimately be given to how to deliver it. Indeed, he claims we can’t know what it even means to preach that Good News if we knew what the Good News was!
One thing is certain, and that is that to Dan, it all has something to do with everyone else giving their stuff to the poor, while he does all he can to avoid acquiring stuff to give away.
Dan goes on to list examples of what he believes are manifestations of what should be happening that is not:
He has a problem with “crystal cathedrals” and mega-churches. I have to assume he doesn’t believe such larger congregations don’t minister to the poor in a manner he finds suitable, regardless of whether or not he has any idea as to their effectiveness. He also apparently believes there should be some limited size beyond which no congregation should grow, as if his preference for small store-front churches should be shared by all and are somehow an indication of…what, exactly, true Christianity? There is also the matter of expectations to which one has no right as regards the spending to tithes. I don’t believe that what a church does with the money it receives in the baskets on Sunday is of any concern to those who donate it. THAT money belongs to God’s priests and ministers. All money for charity is what one gives after.
He speaks of “intentional” community as opposed to gated communities. Gated communities arose in response to crime. They would not be necessary if in preaching the Good News to the poor, the actual teaching of Christian behavior was stressed a bit more heavily.
I really don’t understand the point about art galleries. Is this to suggest he doesn’t like how the art market operates? I have no idea what his concern is in this area and would love to see him post on it. I’m sure it will be entertaining.
Dan speaks of more associating with poor people. I have a better idea. Let’s really help them by voting for people who understand the best that can be done for the poor is to expand our nation’s economy. We can’t help the poor by being poor ourselves.
Dan wants the church to look like what he thinks the early church looked like based on his understanding of the descriptions of it from the Book of Acts. But as was pointed out in the video to which I linked in my April 19 post about ending poverty, there is no evidence that what Dan likes to think was common place throughout early Christendom actually was. That is, there is nothing known to exist as evidence that the pooling of resources was either practiced elsewhere or even was meant to be a permanent practice. In any case, it was a totally voluntary thing on the part of all the believers described therein. What’s more, there is nothing anywhere in the story that justifies the suggestion that the early church did not have expectations about behaviors, rules, if you will, nor that ignoring them would not bring consequences of some kind. Paul, also an early church leader, explicitly taught about expelling the unrepentant.
The most problematic aspect is Dan’s statement that this early church as he sees it was a spiritual home that would be literally good news for the literal poor. It sounds then like the Good News was stuff. That’s not much different than Obama phones and Obama money. What compels devotion once the stuff is no longer provided? This is what Dan thinks churches should look like: stuff for the poor, finding them work, a communal life whether they like it or not. I have to wonder how this would actually work in a community that avoids wealth as Dan claims to in his own life. Where would the stuff come from to provide for the poor so that there was no one in need if no one had excess due to their wealth avoidance practices? This doesn’t even rise to the level of naïve.
I did a little research on the verse “I have come to bring good news to the poor”. I looked for commentaries and found a website called “Studylight,org” which provides dozens of commentaries on Scripture. I looked at what was said about this verse by each of the following:
James Burton Coffman
Joseph Benson, who was a follower of John Wesley, and
John Wesley himself.
There were others, but I didn’t look at all of them. But of the above, they each regarded “the poor” of the verse to mean either the poor in spirit, or both the poor in spirit and materially poor. I don’t recall that any of them were Anabaptists, so they’re all likely full of it. But that’s what they said in their commentaries. However, despite God’s concern for the materially poor, and Christ’s teaching that we should care for them ourselves, it is extremely hard to believe that He would focus on those who were marginalized on earth and by doing so marginalize all others. The thrust of Christ’s ministry was the spiritual, the things of God, not material poverty for material wealth is that which moth and vermin destroy.