Friday, November 20, 2015

A Brief Response To Antonio Piñero's Interview With Kike R. Tremiño

TWH: We posted Antonio's interview with Kike R. Tremiño here on Across the Atlantic over the past week or so. The first question dealt with Antonio's thesis in his book Cristianismos derrotados (Defeated Christianities). In fact the whole interview sort of hinges on the thesis of this book. Who is Jesus? If you ask me, that is the single most important question anyone in this world can answer. His identity is of paramount importance. According to what Antonio has written, Jesus is "a pious Jew, a Pharisee and rabbi or charismatic teacher of law, different than the others before him, from Galilee, who came opposing the rabbis of Jerusalem, who were much more obedient and connected to the temple." From here, the interview moves to a discussion of how we go from a very Jewish movement to one of unlimited reach, thanks by and large–if not entirely–to the apostle Paul. Be sure you check out Antonio's interview to see his perspective on Jesus, Paul, and his belief that this movement morphed from something intended to be very local to one with a very global focus. Let me just offer a few very brief comments.

1. The Gospels are not inconsistent in their presentation of who Jesus is. For example, one cannot say that one Gospel presents Jesus as an angry man and another presents Jesus as a gentle soul. The Gospels are accurate presentations of Jesus. They present him as approachable and gentle, yet frustrated and angered in different situations, especially as a result of interactions with the religious elite of his day. Supposed contradictions in Jesus' character and identity are in fact reconcilable.

2. Jesus did intend to build a community of believers. And, yes, he also believed that the end was imminent and his kingdom was sure and coming at that time. He called people to repentance, telling them the kingdom was at hand. The same Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 16 that he (emphasis on he) would build his (emphasis on his) community of followers united under his banner. Sure, one could argue that this is all the result of the author's influence on the text at a later date, once that end and kingdom never came. Or, there's another option, specifically that Jesus did actually say what he said, that he said it at that specific point in his ministry, and that he meant what he said. Remember, Jesus did not even know when the end would come (Mark 13:32): "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." This goes for the Great Commission as well in Matt. 28:19-20 (and other passages); Jesus intended at all times for the gospel to go forth to all the nations, not just the nation of Israel, which leads to my next point.

3. The idea that Paul reinterpreted Jesus and, in doing so, created a Hellenized or Gentile-compatible Jesus/gospel is not appealing to me at all. Jesus' teaching needs no reinterpretation in order to extend to the ends of the earth. The gospel is global in focus because God's redemptive plan has always been global in focus (e.g., Gen. 3:15; 12:3).

4. The idea that Peter, James, and Paul were in a race to promulgate their own brand of Christianity is also not convincing to me. It is clear that these men have differences. There are differences, but the differences that we encounter in the New Testament are hardly unexpected. The disciples have difficulty grasping all that Jesus taught even before his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. His disciples cannot fathom the parable of the tares in Matthew 13 (another indication that Jesus viewed the end as coming, but knew that there would be some sort of in-between time). The disciples of the man who had heard the Father's declaration about Jesus' identity, had seen the Spirit descend upon him like a dove, and had declared him the "Lamb of God" are sent to Jesus at John's request to ask the question, "Are you really the one we've been waiting for?" Despite all that Jesus did and said, reconciling the Suffering Servant with the Conquering King was a difficult task for the Jewish mind. The period of time that immediately followed Jesus' ascension to the Father was not much different than that period of time the disciples followed their master throughout Galilee and the rest of Israel. It is for this reason that Jesus gave to his community of followers a group of individuals (apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teaching pastors) tasked with instruction for this new-found group and the proclamation of the gospel to everyone near and far. Jesus was as patient with his immediate followers after his ascension as he was prior to it. And molding and shaping their worldview was not accomplished by waving a magic wand. He led them and shaped them in life. The disciples were not promoting their own brands. No, they were pursuing the same Jesus and the same Jesus was leading and shaping their theology. What we find in the letters of the New Testament are not conflicting theologies. In fact, they are saying the same thing, even Paul and James.

5. I would agree that there were other gospels being promoted in various places throughout the known world during the first centuries. In fact, there still are today. But, like Paul said in Galatians 1, these gospels are not even gospels. They were bankrupt. Basically these false gospels, perverted forms of Christianity, and pseudo-apostolic teachings can be summed up best as works-based religions sprinkled with a little bit of Jesus. But I would not tag any of the teachings of the apostles with such groups.

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