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RE: [John_Lit] No one comes to the Father...

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  • Steve Black
    ... I think you make a good point, but I think that it is probable that John WAS at least in part also thinking polemically against The Jews . It seems
    Message 1 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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      >Bob wrote
      >
      >In Christendom, for those who sought the face of the God of Jacob prior to
      >TV, the Way was clear - it was not so much exclusivity as adoration.
      >
      >I think adoration is more likely in the mind of the author of the gospel
      >than polemics or exclusivity.
      >
      >

      I think you make a good point, but I think that it is probable that
      John WAS at least in part also thinking polemically against "The
      Jews". It seems likely that he was thinking (in part) something like,
      "THEY ("the Jews") do not have the way to the Father.

      >
      >-----Original Message-----
      >From: Steve Black [mailto:sblack@...]
      >Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 6:17 AM
      >To: johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com
      >Subject: [John_Lit] No one comes to the Father...
      >
      >
      >Christians have mostly till late (of course - many still do) believed
      >it was the only "true" way to God on the basis of John 14:6.
      >In the light of what is happening in the world it is more timely now
      >than ever to revisit these assumptions.
      >
      >So what do we do with texts like this in the pluralistic world which
      >we inhabit?
      >--
      >Steve Black
      >Vancouver School of Theology
      >Vancouver, BC
      >
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      --
      Steve Black
      Vancouver School of Theology
      Vancouver, BC
    • ProfRam@aol.com
      In a message dated 1/10/2002 9:17:24 AM Eastern Standard Time, sblack@axionet.com writes:
      Message 2 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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        In a message dated 1/10/2002 9:17:24 AM Eastern Standard Time,
        sblack@... writes:

        << In the light of what is happening in the world it is more timely now
        than ever to revisit these assumptions.
        >>

        Exactly *how* do recent events in the world make exclusivity a less viable
        option than before? There are those who would be willing to argue just the
        opposite. I've been reading Robert Gundry's "Jesus the Word According to John
        the Sectarian," and he suggests that we ought to not only recognize John's
        sectarian dualism, but actually follow it (which not even fundamentalists
        do). I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it's worth discussing.

        I suspect the world John lived in was just as "pluralistic" as our world.
        Isn't that in fact why he represented Jesus as pointing out "the way" among
        the maze of options people faced?


        Ramsey Michaels
      • Steve Black
        ... I suspect that exclusivity will always be an option for people, much like the subordination of women will always remain as an option. The question is, of
        Message 3 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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          >In a message dated 1/10/2002 9:17:24 AM Eastern Standard Time,
          >sblack@... writes:
          >
          ><< In the light of what is happening in the world it is more timely now
          > than ever to revisit these assumptions.
          > >>
          >Ramsey Michaels
          >Exactly *how* do recent events in the world make exclusivity a less viable
          >option than before? There are those who would be willing to argue just the
          >opposite. I've been reading Robert Gundry's "Jesus the Word According to John
          >the Sectarian," and he suggests that we ought to not only recognize John's
          >sectarian dualism, but actually follow it (which not even fundamentalists
          >do). I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it's worth discussing.

          I suspect that exclusivity will always be an option for people, much
          like the subordination of women will always remain as an option. The
          question is, of course, is it the best available option? We'll have
          to look beyond John's gospel to answer this.

          >
          >I suspect the world John lived in was just as "pluralistic" as our world.
          >Isn't that in fact why he represented Jesus as pointing out "the way" among
          >the maze of options people faced?

          There is a difference between "plurality" and "pluralism". Plurality
          simply realizes the fact that there is more than one way being
          presented to God. It does not say anything about the truthfulness, or
          the effectiveness, or what have you, of any of the given ways -
          merely that they exist. Pluralism, on the other hand, makes an
          affirmative statement about paths other then one's own. This latter
          phenomenon did not readily occur in Judaism or in Christianity, until
          recently.

          In other words, John, by having Jesus proclaim himself as the only
          way to the Father, was acknowledging that the world of his day
          included plurality while he denied pluralism.

          This is true, unless you envision 14:6 as being spoken by the Logos.
          This might create some room to think that this same Logos that
          enlightens every person who comes into the world may be present in
          other world religions. This I would mean not as Christ, but as Logos.
          Before the incarnation there was no Christ (the human Jesus) - only
          Logos. This maneuver would keep us from moving towards the idea of an
          anonymous Christian popular in the 70's. This would also not
          privilege Christianity, yet would leave enough room for
          Christological development. This, I think, is theologically sound,
          but probably not what was on the mind of the fourth evangelist.

          --
          Steve Black
          Vancouver School of Theology
          Vancouver, BC
        • ProfRam@aol.com
          Dear Steve: I think we are pretty much in agreement as to what John thought. He was not a pluralist. The only question is, Do we agree with him or not? It is
          Message 4 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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            Dear Steve:

            I think we are pretty much in agreement as to what John thought. He was not a
            pluralist. The only question is, Do we agree with him or not? It is not a
            matter of interpreting John, but of reacting to him. It's a purely personal
            matter. You either like what he said (for example in 14:6), or you don't. Or
            am I missing something here?

            Ramsey Michaels
          • Steve Black
            ... I guess there is a few extra details to consider. For a modern first world Christian to say No one comes to the father except through Jesus - it will
            Message 5 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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              >Ramsey Michaels wrote
              >I think we are pretty much in agreement as to what John thought. He was not a
              >pluralist. The only question is, Do we agree with him or not? It is not a
              >matter of interpreting John, but of reacting to him. It's a purely personal
              >matter. You either like what he said (for example in 14:6), or you don't. Or
              >am I missing something here?
              >
              >
              >

              I guess there is a few extra details to consider. For a modern first
              world Christian to say "No one comes to the father except through
              Jesus" - it will mean something radically different from what John
              meant when he wrote it. He was in a marginalized sect that felt
              persecuted, not a member of a powerful religion with a long history
              of power and domination. Also, at that time there were no world
              religions! All religions were much more local. So for a modern
              Christian to lift this text out and use it "against" Muslims Hindu's,
              or what have you, is not really being faithful to the intent of the
              author.

              --
              Steve Black
              Vancouver School of Theology
              Vancouver, BC
            • Joe Gagne
              ... I continue to be amazed at how people respond to this gospel. It was several years ago that I originally started this ListServ, and usually remained quiet
              Message 6 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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                Steve Black wrote:

                > Christians have mostly till late (of course - many still do) believed
                > it was the only "true" way to God on the basis of John 14:6.
                > In the light of what is happening in the world it is more timely now
                > than ever to revisit these assumptions.
                >
                > So what do we do with texts like this in the pluralistic world which
                > we inhabit?
                >

                I continue to be amazed at how people respond to this gospel. It was several
                years ago that I originally started this ListServ, and usually remained quiet
                and simply observed. But I feel that I must speak out at this point, with
                some observations of over 40 years in studying this gospel, looking at its
                position with regard to the Tanak, or Old Testament. John's strong belief in
                the importance of Jesus is founded on the premise that God was in Christ, as
                Paul thought, attempting to reconcile the world to Himself. It was a love
                (agape) that sought only man's return to his Creator. The gospel does not
                seek to overcome the world through brutality, war or forcing people to become
                believers in Christ. It simply seeks (John 20:31) to make people respond to a
                Loving God who personally intervened in this world. Whether the world at the
                time of John had large religions, or small ones, the gospel sought in John's
                thought to show God's involvement, and to seek men and women to respond to
                the message of Christ as John saw it. Yes, to John there was an exclusivity
                to the Gospel, and that was found in Christ. That message must never be
                enclosed with the fundamentalism of any group, but it is exclusive, in the
                mind of John, to those that follow Christ.
              • ProfRam@aol.com
                I think I understand what you re saying, but the fact remains, it is either true or it is not. If it was true then, it is true now. If it is not true now, it
                Message 7 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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                  I think I understand what you're saying, but the fact remains, it is either
                  true or it is not. If it was true then, it is true now. If it is not true
                  now, it was not true then.

                  And if it is intended as a simple statement of fact, it is not being used
                  "against" anyone. If John was using it against anyone, it was surely against
                  Jews, not Muslims or Hindus (obviously).

                  And besides, if we look at the whole world, are not Christians again a
                  marginalized minority in much of the world, even today? Surely they are in
                  Europe, in the Far East, and in the Muslim world. If, say, Muslims, affirm
                  that their religion is the only way, why shouldn't Christians? Do you really
                  think John's viewpoint would have changed with the passage of centuries?

                  Ramsey
                • James F. McGrath
                  I wonder how the list members see the relationship between the universal and the exclusive in John: I am referring here to the fact that the one who says No
                  Message 8 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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                    I wonder how the list members see the relationship between the universal and
                    the exclusive in John: I am referring here to the fact that the one who says
                    "No one comes to the Father..." is the incarnation of the Logos who gives
                    light to every human being.

                    Looking forward to your thoughts!

                    James McGrath
                  • Kenneth Litwak
                    ... John wrote in a context of religious pluralism, not particularly different than now. In his day CHristianity had no real political power and it does not
                    Message 9 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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                      Steve Black wrote:

                      > >In a message dated 1/10/2002 9:17:24 AM Eastern Standard Time,
                      > >sblack@... writes:
                      > >
                      > ><< In the light of what is happening in the world it is more timely now
                      > > than ever to revisit these assumptions.
                      >

                      John wrote in a context of religious pluralism, not particularly different than
                      now. In his day CHristianity had no real political power and it does not have any
                      today. ALl the power structures in government are allied against CHristians, from
                      the Senate to the NY TImes. I don't see how this is different than John's
                      context, except that more people know (some form of ) Christianity exists. IN
                      spite of the pressure to be politically correct, we should not try to dissolve
                      JOhn's exclusivism. We should instead be ready to ask if the assertions we hear,
                      that all roads lead to God and that we are all worshipping the same GOd are true
                      or not, in the light of JOhn's statements. It's plainly obvious to anyone who
                      studies the facts that Muslims do not believe in the same GOd that Christians
                      believe in. JOhn would not have been ashamed of or bothered by that fact were he
                      here today,. I don't know why so many people in power are rushing to minimize or
                      eliminate obvious differences between CHristianity and anything else. It's
                      plainly obvious in any other realm of life that two opposing viewpoints cannot
                      both be right, . Why doesn't that hold here? One does not have to accept JOhn's
                      assertion about what is true, but it is not appropriate to claim he has no right
                      to it.

                      > >Ramsey Michaels
                      > >Exactly *how* do recent events in the world make exclusivity a less viable
                      > >option than before? There are those who would be willing to argue just the
                      > >opposite. I've been reading Robert Gundry's "Jesus the Word According to John
                      > >the Sectarian," and he suggests that we ought to not only recognize John's
                      > >sectarian dualism, but actually follow it (which not even fundamentalists
                      > >do). I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it's worth discussing.
                      >
                      > I suspect that exclusivity will always be an option for people, much
                      > like the subordination of women will always remain as an option.

                      That's a completely nonsequitor argument. YOu seem to be taking two things you do
                      not like and putting them together because since one is vilified, the other is
                      tarred with it. JOhn seemed to believe in such a thing as sin, a particularly
                      unpopular notion in U.S. society, and I suppose some of us will continue to
                      believe in that. SOme of us will continue to believe in gravity. It's not
                      reasonable to offer a blanket category "the oppression of women," which you have
                      not defined, and assert that anyone who believes in that would of course accept
                      exclusivity as well. I've never understood this problem with exclusivity. In
                      physics, no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time. THat's pretty
                      limiting and exclusive. If simple facts of physics represent exclusivity, why is
                      it so unthinkable that the same principles might hold true in the spiritual realm?

                      > The
                      > question is, of course, is it the best available option? We'll have
                      > to look beyond John's gospel to answer this.
                      >

                      NO, actually this is not the right question to ask. If you believe in gravity,
                      you don't open up for the debate the existence of gravity because someone dislikes
                      the idea. The question to ask is, of course, is JOhn's statement true? YOu are
                      free to disagree with his view, but that does not mean the issue has changed. I
                      wish that instead of people trying to morph CHristian theology so that it agrees
                      with that of other religions, which is simply not sustainable logically, they
                      would simply say "I don't accept the biblical position"' and go find another
                      position I don't mean that as a personal attack. I mean it as a simple,
                      reasonable perspective.

                      >
                      > >I suspect the world John lived in was just as "pluralistic" as our world.
                      > >Isn't that in fact why he represented Jesus as pointing out "the way" among
                      > >the maze of options people faced?
                      >
                      > There is a difference between "plurality" and "pluralism". Plurality
                      > simply realizes the fact that there is more than one way being
                      > presented to God. It does not say anything about the truthfulness, or
                      > the effectiveness, or what have you, of any of the given ways -
                      > merely that they exist. Pluralism, on the other hand, makes an
                      > affirmative statement about paths other then one's own. This latter
                      > phenomenon did not readily occur in Judaism or in Christianity, until
                      > recently.
                      >
                      > In other words, John, by having Jesus proclaim himself as the only
                      > way to the Father, was acknowledging that the world of his day
                      > included plurality while he denied pluralism.

                      Do you really, honestly believe that adherents of other religions in John's day,
                      or adherents of non-Christian faiths now, actually don't care about truth
                      questions? OF course they did and do. IF that were not the case, Muslims in
                      north SUdan would not have murdered two million CHristians and animists in south
                      Sudan.


                      >
                      > This is true, unless you envision 14:6 as being spoken by the Logos.
                      > This might create some room to think that this same Logos that
                      > enlightens every person who comes into the world may be present in
                      > other world religions. This I would mean not as Christ, but as Logos.
                      > Before the incarnation there was no Christ (the human Jesus) - only
                      > Logos. This maneuver would keep us from moving towards the idea of an
                      > anonymous Christian popular in the 70's. This would also not
                      > privilege Christianity, yet would leave enough room for
                      > Christological development. This, I think, is theologically sound,
                      > but probably not what was on the mind of the fourth evangelist.

                      It probably was not, and once again seems to promote what I think is logically a
                      nonsequitor. Two totally different views of God and our relationship to him
                      cannot both reflect what is true, any more than two radically different views of
                      any empirical phenomenon. I also don't understand why one would want to maintain
                      the presence of the Logos everywhere, unless you simply reject JOhn's message,
                      which you are of course free to do.

                      Ken Litwak
                    • Steve Black
                      ... I think it likely that the Jews were in fact in the mind of John as he wrote this. ... I was speaking specifically of those in the first world who,
                      Message 10 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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                        >
                        >
                        >And if it is intended as a simple statement of fact, it is not being used
                        >"against" anyone. If John was using it against anyone, it was surely against
                        >Jews, not Muslims or Hindus (obviously).

                        I think it likely that "the Jews" were in fact in the mind of John as
                        he wrote this.

                        >
                        >And besides, if we look at the whole world, are not Christians again a
                        >marginalized minority in much of the world, even today? Surely they are in
                        >Europe, in the Far East, and in the Muslim world.

                        I was speaking specifically of those in the first world who, although
                        maybe a minority now, still have the heritage of power. Within the
                        western and American "myth" of identity I think it likely this
                        exclusivism has moved out of the church into the national
                        consciousness making a full appreciation of other cultures and
                        religions difficult. This is an important issue now!

                        > If, say, Muslims, affirm
                        >that their religion is the only way, why shouldn't Christians?

                        Because, I think, they are both here not only inaccurate, but also
                        harmful and patronizing.

                        > Do you really
                        >think John's viewpoint would have changed with the passage of centuries?
                        >

                        John's situation is so distant and foreign to ours that it seems
                        futile to me to attempt to guess what he would say now.

                        --
                        Steve Black
                        Vancouver School of Theology
                        Vancouver, BC

                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • Steve Black
                        ... mind of John, to those that follow Christ. There is an interesting combination of love and hate in John s message. We must not blind ourselves to one
                        Message 11 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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                          >Steve Black wrote:
                          >
                          >> Christians have mostly till late (of course - many still do) believed
                          >> it was the only "true" way to God on the basis of John 14:6.
                          >> In the light of what is happening in the world it is more timely now
                          >> than ever to revisit these assumptions.
                          >>
                          >> So what do we do with texts like this in the pluralistic world which
                          >> we inhabit?
                          >>
                          >
                          >I continue to be amazed at how people respond to this gospel. It was several
                          >years ago that I originally started this ListServ, and usually remained quiet
                          >and simply observed. But I feel that I must speak out at this point, with
                          >some observations of over 40 years in studying this gospel, looking at its
                          >position with regard to the Tanak, or Old Testament. John's strong belief in
                          >the importance of Jesus is founded on the premise that God was in Christ, as
                          >Paul thought, attempting to reconcile the world to Himself. It was a love
                          >(agape) that sought only man's return to his Creator. The gospel does not
                          >seek to overcome the world through brutality, war or forcing people to become
                          >believers in Christ. It simply seeks (John 20:31) to make people respond to a
                          >Loving God who personally intervened in this world. Whether the world at the
                          >time of John had large religions, or small ones, the gospel sought in John's
                          >thought to show God's involvement, and to seek men and women to respond to
                          >the message of Christ as John saw it. Yes, to John there was an exclusivity
                          >to the Gospel, and that was found in Christ. That message must never be
                          >enclosed with the fundamentalism of any group, but it is exclusive, in the
                          mind of John, to those that follow Christ.

                          There is an interesting combination of love and "hate" in John's
                          message. We must not blind ourselves to one because of the beauty of
                          the other. (I think of passages like John 8:44) No, john was not
                          encouraging violence, but as history reflects in Christian treatment
                          of the Jews, he did in fact inspire it.

                          More to the point for me is not what the gospel meant to John
                          (although, obviously that is important) but what do we now do with it
                          in the world as we now have it (being so "other" and different to the
                          world in which it was written)...

                          --
                          Steve Black
                          Vancouver School of Theology
                          Vancouver, BC
                        • Steve Black
                          ... It seems to me that John plants seeds of thought that he does not harvest. I think it is possible to overcome his exclusivism using his own thought world
                          Message 12 of 14 , Jan 10, 2002
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                            >I wonder how the list members see the relationship between the universal and
                            >the exclusive in John: I am referring here to the fact that the one who says
                            >"No one comes to the Father..." is the incarnation of the Logos who gives
                            >light to every human being.
                            >
                            >Looking forward to your thoughts!
                            >

                            It seems to me that John plants seeds of thought that he does not
                            harvest. I think it is possible to overcome his exclusivism using his
                            own thought world and language-games.
                            --
                            Steve Black
                            Vancouver School of Theology
                            Vancouver, BC
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