Were You Horrified ?

Think back a few years ago, when Moscow was all abuzz about slavery, serrated edges, and Jesus using the “N” word . . .

Were you among the crowd, Christian or not, who was horrified when Doug Wilson wrote in his execrable book “The Serrated Edge” that Jesus Christ used the equivalent of the “N” word when dealing with the Syro-Phoenician (Canaanite) woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30?

If you’re not a disciple of Jesus, did it puzzle you to think that Jesus would use a phrase as ugly to first-century Jews and Gentiles as “N—–” is to us now to describe another human being, especially one pleading for his help?

And if you’re a Christian, were you gobsmacked, heartbroken, and gut-wrenched that a Christian pastor and teacher was so sloppy in his exegesis of an admittedly difficult passage that he reverted to obvious and intentional offense to make his already tenuous point? Did you wince at his choice of rhetoric because you knew it was grossly offensive and, worse, that the advocate of the “serrated edge” in dealing with non-believers knew it?

Demeanor, character, wisdom, humility — they all matter, both for teachers of disciples and for teachers of non-believing, potential critics. Wilson’s was a failure not just of exegesis, but of decency. In proudly announcing that he would not be “embarrassed” by any part of Scripture, he then proceeded to bring shame on the character of Christ.

The teaching of Scripture is not just an academic exercise; Christians believe that the Word is alive, that the Holy Spirit speaks through it and that understanding of the text is important because it informs and shapes the believer’s conduct and character. Teaching is a heavy calling, and the Bible charges teachers with enormous responsibility to not just get it right, but get it so that others can grasp it. This is typically done, as I think you would imagine, with a sensitivity toward one’s students and audience — never compromising the Word, but never corrupting it, either. It should go without saying that giving deliberate offense is a violation of the charge given teachers of Scripture.

Consider, please, the larger context in which Wilson offered the “N” word gem. A firestorm of controversy had erupted when it was revealed that he and co-author Steve Wilkins termed the enslavement of Blacks a “harmonious” relationship based on “mutual affection” between slave and “Christian” master. After that vomitorium of scholarship and historical analysis, did you think that his attributing, in effect, the “N” word to the Savior was astonishing proof of a hard heart, tin ear, and dense mind — right on the heels, as it was, of his exaltation of the slaveholding American South in “Southern Slavery As It Was”?

Or were you just kind of blown away, first by the fact that a pastor would publish a manual on the proper practice of snottiness for the Christian and include in it an example of our Lord’s wielding the “serrated edge” by calling a woman, in first-century terms, a “N—–”?

Pretty disgusting, wasn’t it all? It ought still to leave a sour taste in your mouth.

But help is on the way, in the form of true, solid, and accessible exegesis of the Bible passages by a Christians For Biblical Equality scholar. My friends at CBE have given me the OK to offer, at my expense, copies of the article published in its academic journal, The Priscilla Papers. It’s a profoundly rich analysis of the passages that describe Christ’s interaction with the Canaanite woman. I can say without hesitation that this article represents probably the best exegesis of Scripture — any part of Scripture — that I have ever read in my 29 years of study, and it’s a balm of healing for those cut by the insensitivity and nonchalant stupidity of Wilson’s scholarly serrated edge. Please — take me up on my offer; you can email me at kjajmix1@msn.com and tell me where to send it. It’s on me.

And next week I’ll have a few copies nicely stapled and folded to hand deliver to the merry men of Anselm House. Bible study is good, and Bible teaching is, too. It’s more important to me to point readers to an outstanding, perceptive study of the Word than it is to refute Wilson. But it’s foolish to not recall the offense I’m hoping to correct. Maybe the article will remind the Kirk leaders that being offensive for the sake of being offensive doesn’t just lead to lousy scholarship, but it’s troubling to the Prince of Peace. If that sort of thing matters.

4 Responses to “Were You Horrified ?”

  1. Ashwin says:

    Mr. Wilson’s reading of the incident of the Syro-Phoenician woman is spot-on. Jesus – our Lord and Saviour, by Whose blood we may approach the very throne the the Holy One of Israel – addressed the desparate woman with a racial slur.

    Mr. Wilson is quite right to interpret it the way he did. The way Jesus used the word “dog” was every bit as offensive.

    What it should tell you is that using racial epithets is NOT a sin.

    As for offending and so forth, there is no getting away from it. Cardinal Richelieu, that master mandarin, is reported to have said: “Give me six lines written by the most honest man and I will find something in there to hang him by.” This sort of mentality pervades the Left – communists, socialists, “liberals” etc.

    Like the landless knight the Left “seeks offence from the very dogs and finds it everywhere.”

  2. You wrote that “using racial epithets is NOT a sin.”

    I’m afraid, Ashwin, that based on that, we have very little commonality in our understanding of the Gospel. And should anyone ever use a racial epithet against you, an East Indian, I would condemn it and them with the same fervor. It’s sad to me that you wouldn’t.
    Keely

  3. Ashwin says:

    If someone used a racial epithet against me before I came to Christ it would have angered me. Now that I have come to Christ, increasingly it will only sadden me. I am not afraid of the racist – what can man do to me? But my heart will break over the brokenness of the world because His heart breaks over it.

    If a Christian were to break fellowship with me for whatever reason, that would be reason for mourning. But even here, the joy of the Lord is my strength.

    And we do interpret the Gospel very differently. My interpretation leaves plenty of room for Mr. Wilson. Your’s doesn’t.

    I like my interpretation better.

  4. Ashwin says:

    From my previous comment it may appear that I agree with your take on Mr. Wilson’s character. This is to clarify that I do not.

    I still think Mr. Wilson is a gifted author with a fine sense of Heavenly things.

    God bless you.

Leave a Reply