"Nonviolent Civil Disobedience in the Temple"

| | Comments (2)

The optic through which Fr. John Dear chooses to view the life of Jesus seems to have a curious flaw, or perhaps merely blinders:

from Transfiguration
Fr. John Dear

He was on his way to Jerusalem, where he would engage in nonviolent civil disobedience in the Temple, an act that would lead the authorities to arrest and execute him. On the mountain, in that place of solitude and beauty, God transformed him and gave him a taste of the resurrected life to come. He became the Christ he would become.

I found the first sentence provocative and the second mildly disturbing. Did Jesus "become the Christ" or was He born as the Christ? I didn't know that Jesus was not the Savior from the time of His birth, that this title was only conferred upon Him as He "earned" it or merited it. Perhaps what Fr. John meant to say here is that He was revealed to some of his disciples as the Christ. But that is not my sense of this passage. I won't go on because my Christology is not exemplary, but it just struck me as a very wrong-headed way to go about looking at Jesus.

More than that, was it "nonviolent civil disobedience" that led the authorities to arrest and execute Him? Or was it something more? Certainly one could argue that Jesus did often commit "nonviolent civil disobedience" and it caused enormous discomfort among those in charge of things. But to reduce the cause of Jesus' death to this strikes me as reducing the cause of World War I to the single event of the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand.

Tom at Disputations pointed out currents in the book that worked to reduce the Gospel message to one of nonviolent civil disobedience, and this seems an overt instance of it. However, I'm still in the act of synthesizing and thinking about the argument, rereading and trying to understand the focus and the fullness of what is here.

One thing I can say is that the book is worth reading for the points it brings up and for the argument that surfaces. Agree or disagree, it will get you thinking about Jesus and His life and teachings, and that in itself, regardless of whether you end up agreeing or disagreeing with Fr. Dear's arguments, is a worthwhile pursuit.

Bookmark and Share


Fr. Dear has a rather low Christology, which I gather is the typical kind among academic Catholic theologians: Jesus didn't know Who He was until the Holy Spirit came upon Him when He was baptized (though He had always been the Son of God); the Transfiguration was a way of the Father counselling Him about what He should do; and so forth. (He also mentions in passing that the whole episode of the Transfiguration may have happened after the Resurrection, another reportedly popular academic notion. I'm not convinced his take on that -- that in effect it doesn't matter whether it happened before or after -- really makes sense, but maybe it was just a bone to people sold on the academic notion.)

All that is orthodox enough, as far as I know, though trendy, contrary to tradition, and in my opinion incorrect.

I'm not sure what to make of his "the Christ he was to become" -- I think he uses basically the same phrasing earlier in the book, too, in a way that suggests the old "Jesus of history"/"Christ of faith" chestnut. Still, I can take him as meaning merely the glorified Christ, which He was to become forevermore Easter morning.

Dear Tom,

Thank you. I know only enough about it to say that it disturbs me. It's good to hear another opinion. And it's also good to know that things out of my range might be orthodox. It broadens the horizons, as it were. But because it is so unlike the way I think of Jesus, I find it subtly disturbing.





About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 14, 2007 8:41 AM.

Pacifism and Nonviolence: Addressing Comments was the previous entry in this blog.

Comes a Horseman is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll