March 23, 2017

June 10, 2014


“Jesus only excluded those who excluded others”

I’m not sure if the “Jesus only excluded those who excluded” slogan is still making the rounds.  During my Diocese of L.A. days, one bishop was fond of it.  It is part of the progressive canon.

It packs a certain punch.  It at least glances toward the Bible as our primary and unique testimony to Jesus; it is short and punchy; it seems to make a point Jesus himself made about mercy, in that those who receive it from God must extend it to other people or face divine wrath.

But of course that’s not what was meant at all.  It was about “inclusion,” meaning ordination and marriage rites, for those celebrating sexual proclivities either warned against or not affirmed in the Scriptures.  “Jesus only excluded those who excluded others” became a debate (and *gasp* even listening and dialogue) stopper.  Anybody and anything had to be affirmed, or run afoul of the inclusive Jesus, independent of what he actually said or did according the the Scriptures.

More than that, the slogan isn’t true.

In the Gospel of Luke, arguably the most “inclusive” Gospel by virtue of the prominence and roles of women and Gentiles, and provocative parables like the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son, Jesus makes a staggering, exclusionary claim,

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’  (Luke 8:9-10 ESV)

The parables, the much beloved story telling method by which Jesus imparted knowledge of the Kingdom of God and his place in bringing it to completion, are meant to sort people out, by design excluding those who don’t know “the secrets of the Kingdom of God.” 

Matthew is more emphatic, noting that the disciples asked not just the meaning of a story, but why Jesus used parables at all,

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’  (Matthew 13:10-15 ESV)

Mark makes clear the exclusionary impact of what Jesus is doing (key phrase emphasized),

And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”  (Mark 4:10-12 ESV)

Jesus says that the parables are intended to create “you and them” (Matthew), “insiders and outsiders” (Mark) and “you and ‘the others’” (Luke). 

Were I to argue back as a progressive, I would say something like, “Well, the ‘secrets of the Kingdom’” must include the inclusion of those who were previously excluded;” or “The ‘them/outsiders/others’ are those who did not respond to Jesus’ message of inclusion.”

Except that in all three Gospels cited, the exclusionary impact of the parables is attached to the Parable of the Sower.  Jesus there explains who are his disciples, following him into the Kingdom of God, and who are the “them/outsiders/others,”

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.  (Luke 8:11-15 ESV)

Those who hear, hold onto, minister from and endure for the word of God are headed into the Kingdom of God.

Those who are deceived by other worldviews and have the word “taken away from their hearts,” those who will not endure for the word when challenged, and those who devote themselves either to perceived problems or to pleasures are the ones who won’t be saved.  It isn’t about their capacity to “include” others, it’s about their capacity to be both hearers and doers of God’s word.

The “weed choked” group in the parable comes remarkably close to those who’ve made the most noise about “inclusive Jesus.”  They’re the ones who’ve gone on and on about their cares - their sense of oppression and entitlement - and their pleasures as the defining works of The Episcopal Church.  And whose results as far as the overall vitality of the church have been manifestly fruitless.

Willful Biblical ignorance among the laity (“seeds on the path”) and too much wilting in the face of revisionists on the part of clergy (“no root”) have enabled the blight, of course.

“Jesus only excluded those who excluded others” is just the sort of sloppy religiosity, deaf to the word of God, that can make a soul’s difference between citizenship in the Kingdom of God and eternal exclusion from it.


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10 comments

Yeah, but reading the Bible and thinking are so much harder than thinking up a pithy slogan.

Why all the hate?  If they read your post they won’t feel as good about themselves.

[1] Posted by Bill2 on 6-10-2014 at 03:41 PM · [top]

By progressive standards, I guess Jesus would have been considered a “hater”, right?

Matthew 10:32-
32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven. 34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn


“‘a man against his father,
  a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

36
  a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[c] 37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

[2] Posted by B. Hunter on 6-10-2014 at 05:11 PM · [top]

By progressive standards, I guess Jesus would have been considered a “hater”, right?

Right, so that’s why we need Gnostic Gospels, the search for the “historical Jesus” over against the “Jesus of faith,” and other means of creating a Jesus who we find to be remarkably like ourselves, who came into the world to teach our preferences to the stupid.

I am impressed that the first two comments here nailed it - a fair read of the Gospels reveals a Jesus who is not representative of the “new thing” the church wants.  He would be a “hater” and disciplined (reconciled, I mean).  It is a lot like Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.

[3] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-10-2014 at 06:06 PM · [top]

Jesus was definitely a Hater:

“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

(from Revelation ch. 22)

[4] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 6-10-2014 at 06:12 PM · [top]

Thanks Jim the Puritan… there’s “outside” again. 

It is interesting that in the Synoptics, Mark uses that word - it is in some ways the most exclusive phrasing of Jesus’ explanation of the parables.  If one takes the position that Mark is the first Gospel written down, and that Matthew and Luke used it as a source, the “deepest strata” or whatever one might call it is clear that it isn’t just that some people have trouble understanding, but that many are not getting in to God’s Kingdom.  They are outside looking in.

Note: nobody take the thread way off into a hermeneutic wasteland, unless you are using hermeneutics to address some specific point of this post.

[5] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 6-10-2014 at 06:24 PM · [top]

In all my years under revisionist rule, I have never heard that expression. It sounds so totally false and so totally opposed to the radical hospitality so often touted by progressives that I can only imagine that it would be believed by a progressive laity who willfully refused to study the Bible. In fact, the laity in TEc has for decades been taught that Bible study was not necessary and that they received a full dose by the Sunday lectionary. At least that is what went on in my parish for twenty plus years.

[6] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 6-10-2014 at 10:07 PM · [top]

It’s a subtle form of universalism.

[7] Posted by BlueOntario on 6-11-2014 at 08:09 AM · [top]

#6 - that “lack of teaching” is straight from the gates of hell.

I teach the children’s ministry at my church.  I also have 5 kids.  I tell them all to read the Bible and pray DAILY - first thing in the morning - it’s how we connect with God - by communicating with him.

All of my kids have told me their lives go much better when they follow this discipline.  I will tell you in an 8-hour conversation with my wife that we both agree the only thing we would really have done differently in our lives is to have started this discipline earlier.  Would have made a profound difference in our lives much earlier.

[8] Posted by B. Hunter on 6-11-2014 at 08:48 AM · [top]

Seems to me Matthew 7:21-23 is rather exclusive:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

[9] Posted by Michael D on 6-11-2014 at 12:30 PM · [top]

Very well said and thought out!  Naturally it won’t play in TEC and other “revis-a-ligious” denominations (or demonizations?)  but they’ve already made their minds up and a ‘sloganized’ Bible is much more to their liking and agenda than The Truth!

[10] Posted by ckaem on 6-11-2014 at 05:37 PM · [top]

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