It was fine but cold today, so the son and I went walking in the Maniototo. During the conversation he turned to theology… and said that the rules G-d sets us are complicated.
I said that they are simple, but the implications are complicated.
23The same day some Sadducees came to him, saying there is no resurrection; and they asked him a question, saying, 24“Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies childless, his brother shall marry the widow, and raise up children for his brother.’ 25Now there were seven brothers among us; the first married, and died childless, leaving the widow to his brother. 26The second did the same, so also the third, down to the seventh. 27Last of all, the woman herself died. 28In the resurrection, then, whose wife of the seven will she be? For all of them had married her.”
29Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God. 30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, 32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is God not of the dead, but of the living.” 33And when the crowd heard it, they were astounded at his teaching.
34When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38This is the greatest and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Jesus is quoting not only scripture in his second reply, but he is alluding to a set of interpretations that came out of the Pharisees themselves. You can reduce the law of God to two principles and from that build the remainder. The other commandments are, if you like, a divine commentary on these principles.
But that requires that we think It is easier to live with a set of rules — to say that this is correct or that is incorrect because of church teaching. This has led to certain groups, particularly the ultra-reformed and the ultra fundamentalists — to reinvent the law. To state that certain activities are bad — as the joke goes, Baptists ban fornication because it will lead to dancing — (when the reverse applied).
Schaeffer wrote a generation ago that the law acts like a veil. For behind the law is these principles, and raw accountability to God. And we cannot stand that. We retreat into tradition.
The principles of Christianity — mere Christianity, to quote Lewis, are simple. The implications have always been difficult.
In modern societies this has led to two conversations — one licit and the other illicit.
The licit conversation is around what this means. This conversation has gone on for two thousand years. How we live, how we apply the law to our society, in our society, has to be addressed by every generation. I think it was Luther who said that he can preach the entire gospel — but if he does not confront the issues of his day , and his time, he is not preaching the gospel. Serious Christians tend to club together on many of these issues… and learn from each other’s mistakes and successes.
The illicit conversation is to push the second law… that we should love our neighbour — and ignore the first. If we love God, we will do his commands. Including the ones we hate. The best example of this is the gay controversyy — where my local town has an openly gay Anglican priest, and this is defended as “love your neighbour” — missing the need to love God and keep his commands.
(The irony of appointing a Methodist, a congregation that is dying, to a commission for the Anglicans, where there is still life, is a little too close to the bone).
The gospel is simple. Our salvation is simple. Walking with God, however, is not easy, is a challenge.