For all you New Yorker readers out there, I’d like to recommend an interesting (though unsurprising) article in this week’s issue entitled “What Did Jesus Do?”.  The premise of the article is a familiar one: to strip away all the tradition and fairy tales of Christian tradition, and get back to who the historical Jesus really was. In typical New Yorker fashion, the author, Adam Gopnik, pays homage to the usual suspects (Richard Dawkins, Bart Ehrman), while also admitting that these guys basically “write the same book over and over” (true).

All that aside, here’s what I found interesting: after taking away all the apparent contradictions and unbelievable parts (the virgin birth, the resurrection, Jesus claiming to be the Son of God), the author, and everyone following his train of thought, hits an impasse.  How do you connect the Jesus who one moment preaches a message of death and doom to those who don’t repent with the one who dines with the lowest of the low the next? There’s a pretty wide canyon between the judgment he often espouses and the love that he even more often shows.

That gap is bridged, of course, through Paul’s exposition of Jesus’ life and teaching that occurred a few years later, where it becomes clear that Jesus preaches both a stern message of the Law’s severity and the overwhelming forgiveness of the Gospel, which is all accomplished when the two intersect on the cross.
This gap remains open, however, when you strip away theology in its entirety, beginning with Paul, as Gopnik does in his article (he describes theology as little more than people coming out of a below-average movie trying to fill in its many plot holes together).  This is pretty much where the article wraps up, and it left me with a question: if we dismiss minds like Paul who expound on what the Gospels say because we don’t trust them, why should we throw them out in favor of a new theology that creates more questions than it answers?  Why should we trust 21st century western thinkers to interpret the Gospels over those who lived in the time and culture of Jesus?