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Render unto Caesar
- The Struggle over Christ and Culture in the New Testament
- Narrated by: Derek Perkins
- Length: 10 hrs and 43 mins
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The revered Bible scholar and author of The Historical Jesus explores the Christian culture wars—the debates over church and state—from a biblical perspective, exploring the earliest tensions evident in the New Testament, and offering a way forward for Christians today.
Leading Bible scholar John Dominic Crossan, the author of the pioneering work The Historical Jesus, provides new insight into the Christian culture wars which began in the New Testament and persist strongly today.
For decades, Americans have been divided on how Christians should relate to government and lawmakers, a dispute that has impacted every area of society and grown more rancorous over the past forty years. But as Crossan makes clear, this debate isn't new; it can be found in the New Testament itself, most notably in the tensions between Luke-Acts and Revelations.
In the texts of Luke-Acts, Rome is considered favorably. In the book of Revelations, Rome is seen as the embodiment of evil in the world. Yet there is an alternative to these two extremes, Crossan explains. The historical Jesus and Paul, the earliest Christian teachers, were both strongly opposed to Rome, yet neither demonized the Empire.
Crossan sees in Jesus and Paul's approach a model for Christians today that can be used to cut through the acrimony and polarization roiling our society and dividing us.
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Honest, sharp scholarship bogs down
Trying to parse the Book of Revelation in its cultural context takes one into an impenetrable thicket of kaleidoscopic noise. That is not this very bright and earnest author's fault. Instead it seems like a white whale over the horizon he is drawn to chase. It is respectable that he feels the need to unpack all of it, on the way to something resembling the Publisher's Summary. But we spend so long in this thicket, chasing micro-narratives in all directions, we wind up with a book I had not signed on for, which is far too long to cleanly make its supposed point. At 10 hours plus, it frosts my brain with a blizzard of side-stories chasing off into, what for me now, is noise and trivia, attractive to the merely superstitious, pawing through the wreckage and endless scenes of ultra-violence, matching up shards of supposed meaning. Yes, it is about what it claims to be about, and carefully crafted, but the path there is a swamp. Revelation models Jesus as vengeful against Rome, and by extension, earthly government, depicted through a bloodbath as the path forward to better things. Can't we just say that, give a few samples, and move mercifully on?
Statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels have surpassing beauty and resonant, enduring meaning, not for their technical pyrotechnics, but for their elegant simple phrasing. Some sense of this appears elsewhere in the arts, as in the Beatles, who were not flashy technicians. This very day, in my work, I am chopping big chunks out of my own beloved "brilliant" writing for the sake of readers. I need to stand back and extract what is crucial and graceful to say. That last editing pass makes all the difference. The technical pyrotechnics here are the problem. I have a vast appetite for nimble word-play and great patience for cultural variance and intellectual complexity. I am a legal writer, for gosh sake! I am defeated, here. It clarified some things for me, but only very obliquely, and I must abandon this one.
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3 people found this helpful