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I recently registered my blog at BlogCatalog, and in the process I stumbled upon A Penitent Atheist.

What’s that? Is he okay, you ask?

No, no, no, silly — it’s a blog, not an actual penitent atheist. And besides, if I actually did trip over a penitent atheist, shouldn’t you be asking ME if I’M okay? I mean, I’m the one who tripped, right?

Anyway, the guy behind the A Penitent Atheist blog (APAB) was once involved in pastoral ministry — a fact that he seems to regret deeply:

The title of my blog, A Penitent Atheist, indicates a degree of regret, even remorse, that exists in me because of the things I taught and preached as a Christian minister.

Now, the puckish side of me wants to respond by saying, “Dude, what’s with the guilt? Atheistic morality is all about human whimsy anyway. Embrace your worldview, man — if it’s true, feeling ‘bad’ about your past is a meaningless exercise.”

For now, we won’t go there (not in detail, anyway). I’m more interested in responding to a post on APAB asserting that Jesus didn’t live up to his own teachings:

I submit to you that even Jesus, as portrayed in the Bible, could not live up to his own edicts.

Interesting claim. Let’s see how he backs it up:

Luk 6:27-28 NASB “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, (28) bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

An admirable, if somewhat naive command. Did Jesus always obey it? According to the story, Jesus had some enemies. He had some folks who hated him, who cursed him. Who seemed to dog him at every turn. Did Jesus show them love? Did he do good to them? Did he bless them? Let’s see.

Mat 23:33 NASB “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?

Those words sound more like a curse than a blessing, do they not?

Ugh. There are a number of problems with the way this example is presented and how APAB reasons from it:

  1. He divorces Matthew 23:33 completely from its context. Note how APAB subtly frames Jesus’ words as though they were were a random execration he just let fly with when his anger at detractors got the best of him. That’s part of the luxury proof texting affords, but unfortunately it doesn’t do anything to help us understand what Jesus really said or why he said it.
  2. He hasn’t shown that this is actually a curse. Why couldn’t Jesus have been openly telling the truth about the character of his adversaries? And if the condition of their hearts and eternal destinies really were at stake, wouldn’t such truth telling actually be an act of “[doing] good to those who hate you?” APAB simply assumes instead that Jesus is throwing a hateful verbal fit that falls short of his own teaching. For all the derisive talk in his post about the assumptions Christians make, this seems a lot like the pot calling the kettle black.
  3. APAB’s treatment of Luke 6:27-28 assumes (there’s that nasty word again) that those verses exhaust the responses one could licitly have to one’s enemies. Why couldn’t Jesus’ response in Matthew 23:33 be a non-contradictory complement to the prescriptions of Luke 6:27-28?
  4. Just because Jesus was angry with his enemies, does it necessarily follow that he ceased to love them? After all, we’re talking about the same Jesus who prayed, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do,” while being crucified as a direct result of the machinations of his enemies. Besides, how many of you out there have kids? You ever get angry with them? Do you stop loving them or doing good to them when they make you angry? Do you ever get angry with them because you love them?

Of course, none of these objections deals sufficiently with the substance of what Jesus said in Matthew 23:33. I intend to talk about that, but it’s late and I’ll have to save it for another post. However, I think what I’ve posited here is enough to demonstrate that APAB’s treatment of Jesus’ conduct falls way short of disproving his sinlessness.


aka The MonT-SteR