Upfront, I admit that I side generally with McGrath on this inclusivity. The main difference between us, I think, is that I go a step further than him in my "inclusivity"; that is, I release Jesus from his role as pre-requisite mediator in some imagined process of salvation altogether, where McG sees value in the maintenance and upkeep of the inherited traditions. He feels that the house can be cleaned up from within. I pray (as hard as a heathen can) that he makes a good dent in this (it really needs it) and I wish him luck. In fact, I think he should write books for the layman, as I think he has a way of encapsulating his ideas with clarity and cogency, ideas which I think will resound out there in the general readership.
Like McG, I find the profound insights expressed in the writings of certain Sufi and Asian mystics to reflect the perennial philosophy which is the kernel at the heart of the Christian faith (and to my eyes, of every form of higher religion). I find more solace, in fact, in the poetic, spiritual, or even just æsthetic beauty of some of these texts than I do in the New Testament.
One like Halcomb might conclude that, because I do not "confess" J as kyrios, I am "disqualified" for a salvation scheme which requires not just that I conduct myself in a certain manner, but that I adhere to some theological or epistemological allegiance. With all due respect, he comes dangerously close to relegating Christian faith to a "confession"— some talismanic magical set of beliefs which one must recite in order to gain access to god.
Who knows, maybe he's right: maybe I'm doomed to be denied "salvation" (Would someone please be so kind as to define that word in relation to this discussion? :) but I highly doubt it and in fact see worrying about such things as so much ado about nothing. To my eyes, this sense of "salvation" is just some artificial abstraction in the initiate's mind. A rationalized yearning. Nothing more.
It's not about beliefs. It's about conduct. Your conduct will reflect your faith more than your profession ever will. (see Matt 6:6+ or 7:15+ . . . or the Scribe and the sinner, etc . . .—it's a recurring theme in the texts).
In one of the latest installments, Halcomb reveals what I think is an overt credulity regarding biblical matters. He says that Paul "probably" wrote the epistle we know as Hebrews. However, as McG points out, the Greek is altogether different, which by itself is enough to conclude that Paul was not the author. More than that, though, the smoking gun for me comes indirectly from Marcion. Marcion, we know, was the Paul-freak per excellence of his day, yet Marcion's list of known Pauline letters does not include Hebrews (nor Titus nor either Timothy). Coupled with the fact that other early commentators either don't list it in their makeshift canons (Muratorian) , or they dispute its authenticity (Iraneus, Origen) or even reject it altogether (Tertullian), it's fairly clear that Paul did not write Hebrews. Saying that "he probably did" could only be based on a theological committment and does not reflect awareness of the consensus view in current scholarship.
A final note:
- I'm surprised to see most sides of this discussion stress a distinction between "gentile" Christians and a "Jewish" variety. I think it is fairly easy to demonstrate that Paul's audience was not Jewish. Very early on, as the texts reflect all over the place, the movement was all but completely gentile in makeup by the time Paul wrote. The complete severance was already there by the time the Gospels and the later epistles came along. Paul found the example of Abraham a perfect one to convey to the god-fearers who were his primary target audience that the covenant was based on a commitment to faith in and submission to god, irrespective of cultural lineage. Paul welcomed these "inclusivists" into the Abrahamic faith without demanding the pains of what McG calls "boundary markers" (circumcision, dietary restrictions, purity code, etc). Paul's letters were not meant for "Jews" at all, but for Hellenists. The constant exhortations to uphold the Law that Paul is bent on refuting as products of an obsolete paradigm would have been unnecessary to a pious Jew. These opponents of Paul are also evidence of the contemporaneous Jewish complaint against the co-option of their tradition. After the initial commemoration of Jesus in Jerusalem was transposed through Paul's glass darkly, Christianity was almost exclusively a gentile thing. He probably wasn't alone in inventing "christology", but his are the only texts that survived unfortunately.
- I wonder what the gentlemen engaged in this ongoing discussion think of Hyam Maccoby's general denial of Paul's "Pharisaism."
- Also, I always object to people taking for granted that the author of Acts was the same as the author of Luke, but I realize how entrenched a convention that is.
It's a pet peeve of mine, though, and I do my best to point out the presumption whenever I encounter it.
Anyway, I'll continue to follow along and possibly add my own comments here as the blogathon proceeds.