31 Jul 2012
If the author has a quarrel with the aphorism about the rich man and the needle's eye within the synoptic gospels, and thinks that because of the putative pernicious influence of this one saying - and how much else of the Gospels similarly meets with Mr Donovan's disapproval? - Christianity as practised worldwide in all its forms pre-Reformation was, to be blunt, ultimately a dead-end/ disaster because of its deleterious or inhibiting influence on commerce, enterprise, etc (though one then has the problem: the Reformation was supposed to be, or intended to be, a return to Biblical first principles, New Testament as well as Old Testament) then he had better be brave enough to come right out and say bluntly that his quarrel is with Yeshua of Nazareth. Who is, after all, credited with originating that particular aphorism. And who must therefore be, one presumes, be written off as a bad influence that required to be judiciously de-clawed?
Further, I would remind Mr Donovan to have another look at the context in which the aphorism appears.
In Matthew, the context is that the Lord has encountered a rich young man who is possessed by or even addicted to his possessions (and would Mr Donovan be willing to accept that this does not, occasionally, happen? That there are people who are blinded, or crippled, by their wealth? ). Then said Jesus unto his disciples, "Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly [i.e. with difficulty - CM] enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven". When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them and said unto them, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible".
He's not saying that a rich man can't be saved; indeed, what we then get is an emphasis on the difficulty of anyone's being saved; and then a statement of the efficacy of divine grace - 'with God all things are possible'.
Mark tells the story slightly differently: Jesus says, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God".
Mark is usually seen as the oldest and 'starkest' of the gospels. There is a difference between simply being rich, and trusting in riches. It is possible to be rich without worshipping riches; to sit lightly to one's possessions. BUT it is also possible to make money, or possessions, or any other worldly object, one's 'god'...in place of the real God.
(It is worth noting that in Jesus' conversation with the rich young man, there is one out of the second table of the Commandments that is not mentioned - the one that says 'thou shalt not covet'; and that the first table is not mentioned - when Jesus listed only five of the commandments, was he 'testing' his interlocutor, hoping that the young man would notice that not all had been listed, and say, 'but hang on a minute..?").
In all three of the gospels that tell this story, the real punchline is the question, "Who then can be saved?" and the reply: "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."
10 Aug 2012
G. Murphy Donovan
Thanks, Christina. It is my opinion, and only that, that the more benign, or practical, sentiments of Christianity were hijacked in Europe by secular socialists for other purposes. The moral vacuum left (pardon the pun) has been filled by unsupportable communitarianism and mindless Islamism. For both, capitalism is a target not a model. The "eye of the needle" is not the only admonition in scripture about the hazards of pursuing worldly gains. Unfortunately, for too many, the baby is now to be tossed with the bathwater.