Judgement Day: The Passion

by Kim on March 26, 2008

I finally got around to viewing my recording of the BBC’s The Passion. I was right: it was not very good. But I was also wrong: it was not as bad as I had expected – and it could have been a lot worse. To be honest, I kind of enjoyed it.

Mind you, I almost didn’t get past the initial cliché of Moroccan mountains and “oriental” music. But then I was disarmed and robbed of my dismay by the opening scene of our gang on the outskirts of Jerusalem, as Jesus buys a donkey from a fellow traveller. Never mind the biblical falsification (and there is much more to follow), the twin themes so central to the ministry of Jesus, and to the film – non-violence and money – are nicely flagged up: “John, put away your sword,” Jesus chides John as the pilgrim arrives; “Does this look like an army?” he asks the pilgrim as he and the disciples depart; while Judas the penny-pincher is characteristically miffed that Jesus won’t haggle over the cost of the beast.

Unlike the Gibson fiasco, the film goes out of its way to avoid any hint of anti-Semitism. There are no swarthy stereotypes, and Caiaphas is portrayed as a humane (as well as horny) High Priest, a family man (the missus is pregnant), yet also a true patriot and consummate politician (he knows “it’s the economy, stupid!”), replete with the vice of sincerity. A black Joseph of Arimathea I take to be an acceptable bow to what is sneeringly called PC.

The script is thinnish, but there are some nice lines: “Where else does a child pay to go into his father’s house?” Jesus asks at the Temple; “This is your brother Annas,” he tells a child in his arms, to the former High Priest’s angry chagrin. There are also some cleverly conceived vignettes: the children to whom the kingdom belongs throw petals from the rooftops at the Triumphal Entry – and then, ironically, again on the Via Dolorosa; Judas pukes up the last supper in the street; and, in an image resonant of the passion Psalms, Jesus is lowered into a pit after his trial before the Sanhedrin.

The acting is variable. James Nesbitt as Pilate is particularly good, Irish accent and all, as is Ben Daniels as Caiaphas, each probing his character’s complexities, but the disciples, above all Paul Nicholls as Judas, are all rather wooden. And why is everyone so clean, and why are all the women so fetching? On the other hand, some scenes and conversations that could have come a right cropper actually work pretty well, notably the gratuitous tête-à-tête Jesus has with his Mum: “There’s nothing you can teach me, Jesus, about trusting God’s will” (which even forestalled the tempting interpolation, “You’re a very naughty boy!”).

The crucifixion scene starts well, and the close-ups of Jesus looking up to the heavens, filmed from above, are a brilliant coup. The cry of dereliction, coupled with an avowal of eternal love, is also an inventive touch. But the words of the penitent thief are almost Pythonesque, and the rendering of the Third Word from the Cross as “John, will you look after her?” borders on bathos and completely misses the point.

And then there is the resurrection. Well, full marks for audacity: three different actors play the risen Jesus, presumably to suggest both mistaken identity and physical discontinuity, but there is no aura of mysterium tremendum whatsoever (nor is there a scar in sight), and it just doesn’t work: the blokes are too ordinary. It’s fair to suggest that erring in the opposite direction would have been even worse, but that’s the point: the resurrection, of all events, cannot be done in celluloid. Wisely, at least, there is no ascension; rather the Lord, after a parting private chat with Peter – the Great Commission, reduced, boldly it must be said, to the message of forgiveness – wanders up a side street in Jerusalem and merges with its denizens. I get the point, but is that it? It’s not enough.

Which brings me, finally, to Jesus. Joseph Mawle’s character is charming, winsome, sensitive (very “new male “) – you like him – even Caiphas and Pilate like him! – and that is precisely the problem: it inexplicable why anyone would want to crucify this guy. There is no way he is a threat to Rome – too much of “the kingdom of God is in your heart” for that. And why would the Temple establishment fear the crowds, when for them Jesus is a sort of first century Jewish John Lennon, with a comedic penchant for sharp wit and swift repartee, and liable at any time (you think) to start singing “Imagine”.

That’s the execution of the film. But there are two fundamental flaws in the production from its conception. First, the producers clearly don’t want to offend anyone; Jesus of Nazareth, however, was nothing if not offensive, at least to the rich and powerful. But I don’t suppose Gordon Brown or Rupert Murdoch will be losing any sleep over The Passion, nor the poor and powerless take much encouragement from it, for its gospel is all too individualistic. Second, the producers go relentlessly for a human Jesus. Martin Scorsese tried this approach and failed, though even the great one deployed some tricks, so like the BBC, playing it straight, has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding? There is not so much as a hint of the miraculous or the apocalyptic in the Jesus of The Passion, no sense of his transcendent exousia, and the Son’s relationship with the Father is only superficially explored. The point is quite elementary: there simply is no historical Jesus divisible from the Christ of faith, or extractable from the gospel accounts. Still, I appreciate why the film industry will continue to try to make movies about Jesus of Nazareth: because he is there. Unlike Everest, however, attempts on the summit will always fail. The best one can expect is to fail better.

Kim Fabricius

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }


Beth 03.27.08 at 2:52 am

Thanks for this, Kim. I, too, was severely underwhelmed by the BBC’s Jesus. For one thing, it was awful dramatically - the script could have been written by eleven-year-olds producing a school play (”Well, Mary Magdalene, let me tell you something since you are Mary Magdalene, and I hope everyone is now aware that that is who you are”, or “Goodness me, Joseph of Arimathea, you cannot be telling me that you are actually supporting this man “Joobers” or however you pronounce his name which I have never heard before and am unfamiliar with.”)

But, beyond that, the crappy additions to the Bible were more than I could cope with - there’s a serial killer on the loose in Jerusalem, prostitutes are getting beaten up by their pimps because Jesus was nice to them, Mary Magdalene is the Christ’s right-hand-man, and some guy whose name turns up once or twice in the Gospels (Jos. of Arim.) suddenly is a major player. And since he’s a nice guy, let’s make him black too. Even though the Bible says he’s Judaean.

Okay, I’m mocking rather than engaging in a serious discussion. But that’s the point - it didn’t make me want to engage in serious discussion. It made me a bit bored and annoyed.

Oh, and you seem to have given Scorsese a sex-change :)


fatprophet 03.27.08 at 7:49 am

I had intended to watch the whole thing on Sunday afternoon but caught about ten minutes of it on the Thursday night and decided it would probably not be something I wanted to watch. I know I only watched it for a very short time but that bored me enough not to want to spend much longer watching it. Having read Beth’s comments I am glad I followed my instinct on this.


Kim 03.27.08 at 9:34 am

Scorsese has now been re-duded. :)


Methodist Preacher 03.27.08 at 9:45 am

I found the supportive website more useful than the film!

Fellini’s “Gospel of St. Matthew” still remains the gold standard for the portrayal of the gospel - I know it takes a Marxist perspective but having seen it several times it still takes my breath away.

However I think that these portrayals of Jesus, are always risky. A few years ago a well meaning lady bought a picture of “Jesus” into our church and asked us to put it up. “Jesus” had blue eyes, long blonde hair and very fair skin. She was upset that we wouldn’t put it up, but it seemed totally inappropriate in our majority Black church.

Personally I prefer to read the Bible (definately not the Good News version), the pictures enshrined in the word are always better than any man-made idols or icons.


Kim 03.27.08 at 9:58 am

Hi David,

You mean Pasolini, but you’re right about The Gospel according to St. Matthew being the gold standard. I went out of my way to judge the BBC production as charitably as possible, and won’t argue with people who think I’m too kind. And, yeah, I know that Aryan Jesus - he’s a hoot!


Methodist Preacher 03.27.08 at 10:48 am

Yes Passolini - early morning blogging and jogging. I persuaded the Christian Union to screen it at Sussex University way back in the 1960s. We had our best ever turn-out (about 400 people) and each left with a copy of the book. We even had one or two non-Christians turn up at subsequent meetings saying how impressed they were with the film and the CU’s decision to screen it.


Methodist Preacher 03.27.08 at 12:18 pm

Oh yes, we had a full turn out from the chaplaincy team who were very supportive seeing this as an imaginative way to spread the good news - in fact I think it was the Anglican chaplain who laid on the little St Matthew gospel booklets!


Kim 03.27.08 at 12:38 pm

Hey, David, you’re a jogger - great! Me too - though I prefer to call myself a “runner”! You’re not doing the London Marathon by any chance, are you? The most I’ve ever done is a half-marathon - once! It’s good for both body and soul, don’t you think?

Once, when I was running along the beachfront here in Swansea, I passed a well-known local wearing a sandwich board with a Bible quote on it. He shouted, “Keep running for Jesus!” “Amen!” I shouted back.


DH 03.27.08 at 3:40 pm

While Kim’s explaination of why he didn’t like the film was a combination of agreement and disagreement, Beth, your reasoning for not liking the film seemed like I would agree that one shouldn’t see it. When a writer goes too much “extrabiblical” that is when I have problems with it.

With regard to the Passion of the Christ and what Kim said: I understand Gibson was extrabiblical on various occasions which I would have appreciated he not do. However, what he said about the High Priest and Pilate were straight from Scripture and to say we should be “kind” to the Priest’s who truly wanted Jesus crucified, it seems pretty clear that while it wasn’t the Jews overal in the physical sense crucified him that the High Priests truly wanted him dead. Why else would the Paul as Saul did what he did? Also, we cannot forget the personal respo0nsibility to accept Christ as one’s Savior to be part of the Body of Christ as important to the Gospel. One must not focus overboard on the community or the individual. It is both 100% equally. Just going to a church with a bunch of believers doesn’t save anyone nor inviting Christ as ones Savior without giving ones entire being (heart, soul and mind) to Christ. It is a combination of both.


Catholic Richard 03.27.08 at 5:08 pm

I liked it, and was glad they didn’t attempt the ascension into Heaven- I was watching the last scenes terrified that Jesus was going to suddenly rise above the crowds like David Copperfield.
Also, the Jewish priest Annas was played by Denis Lawson, who was Wedge Antilles in Star Wars, so I can forgive the production a lot for that.
The only thing that irked me a bit was the portrayal of Mary, (see username for reason), especially in her first scene when she seemed quite angry and unsympathetic. But thinking objectively I could see her reactions as quite normal for a mother watching her son doing things which will get him crucified.


James 03.27.08 at 5:11 pm

Fellini’s “Gospel of St. Matthew” - now that I would like to see :)

It seemed to me that they didn’t have a clear intrepretation in mind. They didn’t know whether to go by what the Gospels said or whether to try a more daring historical approach. They tried both and the result was not good.


Kim 03.27.08 at 7:49 pm

Hi Catholic Richard,

This is Protestant Kim! If you check out the evidence, after the birth and post-natal narratives (Matthew and Luke), there are five references to Mary the Mother of Jesus in the New Testament:

(1) Luke 2:41ff. - where Jesus, aged 12, scares the hell out of his parents by remaining in Jerusalem after the Passover to discuss theology with his elders. Mary scolds him for being a very naughty boy (v. 48), and when Jesus says that she should have known he’d be “in my Father’s house” (v. 49), Mary doesn’t understand what he’s talking about (v. 50).

(2) John 2:1ff. - at Cana, where Jesus is, again, rather rude to his mother when she tells him that the wedding guests have already drunk the reception dry.

(3) Mark 3:31ff. (par. Matthew 12:46ff. and Luke 8:19ff.) - where Jesus is told that his mother and brothers want to see him, and he dismisses them with the words, “Who is my mother? … “Whoever does what God wants … is … my mother.”

These three passages hardly suggest a stained glass relationship betweeen Jesus and his mother; what they do suggest is that Mary was loyal, loving, and ver concerned about her boy and his ministry. Indeed, according to Mark 3:20f., his family tried to restrain Jesus, presumably in agreement with the crowds who were saying, “He’s gone mad!”

(4) John 19:25ff. - Mary with the beloved disciple at the cross. Interestingly, John does not mention the virginal conception, and he is the only evangelist to mention Mary at the cross.

(5) Acts 1:14 - where Mary seems to be actively involved in the life of the very early church.

And that’s it. I don’t think the portrayal of Mary in The Passion should disturb Catholics (or the Orthodox): in my view it is sensitive and respectful (whether it is successful is another matter).

Out of interest: Marian devotion arose in the eastern church from the third century, including the notions of the “Queen of Heaven” and “perpetual virginity” (it was fallaciously argued that Jesus’ brothers were actually his cousins). Eventually, though not without some resistance (Augustine is quite quiet on the matter - or mater!), Marian devotion also took root in the West - and indeed took off - from the fifth century.

Protestants, I am glad to say, for a few years now have been re-examining the role of Mary in the church, though the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption remain a real stumbling block for most (apart from Anglo-Catholics) - as indeed they were for some major Catholic theologians before being papally promulgated.

I hope that’s helpful.


Beth 03.28.08 at 3:39 pm

Tangentially, but relatedly (is that a word?), I just saw the South Park episode “The Passion of the Jew”. It’s not as LOL funny as SP often is, but an utterly brilliant episode and very thought-provoking as to how we react to the Passion on film.


James 03.28.08 at 10:41 pm

You talk about how non-violence was essential to the message of Jesus. As it is recorded in the Gospels yes but do you think it was actually important to Jesus historically?


Beth 03.28.08 at 10:54 pm

James, I’m confused by your question. Where would you look for evidence of Jesus’ beliefs and teachings outside of the Gospels?


Methodist Preacher 03.29.08 at 1:36 pm

Kim, the “jogging” was running for the bus. No I’m not doing the London marathon!


PamBG 03.30.08 at 9:51 pm

I can’t do reviews, but I liked ‘The Passion’. I didn’t see the non-biblical parts of the script as ‘falsification’ but as a rounding out of the narratives. A lot of these different perspectives made me think.

I’ve never imagined Jesus as a macho wonder-worker. Martin Luther King and Gandhi do just fine for me as disciples of Jesus who might give us insights into what Jesus was like. Both of them did a darn good job of murderously offending the established order ‘despite’ their humanity. (And yes, I know Gandhi wasn’t assassinated but I suspect that was just a matter of luck.)


Beth 03.30.08 at 10:54 pm

Erm… Gandhi was assassinated, I always thought? And he wasn’t a “disciple of Jesus” either - he was a Hindu. Did you mean someone else?

Problem with BBC-Jesus, for me, was that compared to a rhetorical genius like King he was an utter damp squib.


PamBG 03.31.08 at 11:06 am

Gandhi was a Hindu disciple of Jesus. Not a contradiction except to some Christians. And you’re right, he was assassinated. Blush. Too late in the evening it was!


DH 03.31.08 at 2:30 pm

Hindu disciple of Jesus when he didn’t believe that Jesus was God in light of “If you deny Me I will deny you before My Father in heaven.”? How can any Christian think of him as a “disciple of Jesus”. Was he used by God for His glory? absolutely but the fact remains to be a disciple one must believe that Jesus is God and that there is no other God but the one true God. With Hindu having many, many gods how can he be a disciple of Jesus when he has other gods equal to the one true God and didn’t believe that Jesus was God but that He was a “good teacher”. You know what happened to the young ruler in Jesus’s day who referred to Jesus as “good teacher”.


Richard 03.31.08 at 3:41 pm

>> “You know what happened to the young ruler in Jesus’s day who referred to Jesus as “good teacher”.”

No, and nor do you. He ‘went away sad’, but we don’t know what became of him after that.


PamBG 03.31.08 at 4:19 pm

In any other field a ‘disciple’ is a person who imitates their master. Gandhi qualifies more than I do on that count.

In Western Protestant so-called orthodoxy, a ‘disciple’ is someone who does not imitate Jesus but who believes a few key theological propositions about him.

Go figure.


DH 03.31.08 at 6:21 pm

Pam, I never said that being a disciple was someone who believes a few theological points alone. It is a combination of both following and believing who Jesus truly was. Not all people who follow Jesus are truly Believer and/or have eternal life. When one looks at Judas who Scripture says “Satan entered Him” that is one person who followed Jesus who didn’t truly Believe who Jesus was.

Richard, with regard to the rich ruler, I’m referring to at that moment. At that particular monent that he went away sad he was not a Believer and thus didn’t not have at that time for sure eternal life.

One must do more than just imitate the master one must believe in addition who the master is. If I treat a manager only as a “good teacher” and don’t treat him as who the boss really is then isn’t that person being insubordinate with regard to the company even though the employee may be doing somewhat of a good job? I see this as an analogous to Gandhi. However, I have heard that he accepted Christ as his Savior on his deathbed so maybe in the end he ended up as a disciple. I’m not here to judge I can only go by what he has said directly and during his ministry it was clear he only looked at Jesus as a “Good Teacher” and when one looks at the rich ruler at the specific time in question it was clear he walked away sad and at that particular moment was not “Born Again”. That is not to say that later he changed his mind, Scripture doesn’t say, but when one looks at that particular moment he was not Born Again.

Also, just believing a few theological points doesn’t Born Again one alone. One must be Born Again where one gives their entire life: heart, soul and mind to Christ. If one gives their heart and soul but doesn’t give their mind over to Christ they are not Born Again the same goes for any of the other two aspects of human life as well. So I don’t believe Pam or Richard fully understood what I believe on the subject matter.

If a person believes that Jesus is just a “good prophet and teacher” and not God I don’t believe the person is Born Again just like a person who prays a prayer and accepts Christ as being God in their mind but with no change of heart or soul to follow Jesus in their everyday life. It doesn’t have to be either/or like one thinks of my position which is not the case or either/or like it is presented by Richard or Pam. One must give heart, soul AND MIND; HEART, soul and Mind; heart, SOUL and mind; over to Christ.


Wood 03.31.08 at 6:24 pm

How is that different from what Pam actually says?

The two of you are working from different definitions of the word “disciple”. That’s all.


PamBG 03.31.08 at 7:01 pm

Pam, I never said that being a disciple was someone who believes a few theological points alone.

Most of Western Christianity does.

And Wood is right. You’re talking about what you think constitutes a True Believer in the eyes of God. I’m talking about someone who imitates their master. And Gandhi most certainly saw Jesus as his master; just not in a way that you approve of.


DH 03.31.08 at 7:28 pm

Wood, it IS different than what Pam said. She stated that I thought being a disciple didn’t include being an imitator of Christ by following Him and that all it was to be a disciple was someone who believes certain theological points. This concept of the observation by Pam is totally different than what I believe. To me Scripture is pretty clear that one can truly imitate the master without knowing who the master truly is. I refer to my analogy. Also, this isn’t what I think but what Scripture says. Gandhi might have saw Jesus as His master but was Jesus truly his master in light of all of the other masters he had at the same level or greater than the One True God.

When I read the definition of disciple it seems pretty clear that being a disciple goes way beyond just being a follower although it does include it. You guys seem to feel that I don’t think following is included in my definition and that is where I stated my clarification to you for your proper understanding.

Also, most of Western Christianity Ddoes NOT believe being a disciple is believing a few theological points alone. Most of Western Christianity adheres that one must be “Born Again” which is a change of heart, soul and mind for Salvation which is totally different than what you observe of Western Christianity.

Just because a person says they saw Jesus as their master doesn’t mean that in all actuality that Jesus was their master. Anyone would agree with this “Not everone who says to Me Lord Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven.” Again I’m not saying that Gandhi didn’t believe for Salvation. I’m just saying that the teachings he stated went against Christ’s message and as such went against what Scripture says a True Believer is. “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and Believe in your heart that GOD has risen from the dead you shall be saved.”


Wood 03.31.08 at 7:45 pm

She stated that I thought being a disciple didn’t include being an imitator of Christ by following Him and that all it was to be a disciple was someone who believes certain theological points.

No, she didn’t. Read her post again.


DH 03.31.08 at 8:22 pm

“In Western Protestant so-called orthodoxy, a ‘disciple’ is someone who does not imitate Jesus but who believes a few key theological propositions about him.”

Here is what she said. This in fact is not my position and also is not fully Western Protestant understanding. I believe someone who is a discipple IS a person who imitates Jesus AND believes that “Jesus is God and the One True God” with heart, soul and mind like God’s Word says in relation to the subject.

Pam, said that Western Protestant (refering indirectly to myself) definition of disciple was one where a person DOES NOT imitate Christ (clearly not my position or inferred by my posts) but believes a few theological propositions about Him (which is clearly not the case from my posts because it is both imitation of Christ AND believe who Jesus is which is God and not some “Good Teacher” or “Some prophet” like Gandhi adhered to.

It seems to me from what Pam said she DID say what I have said earleir. I still don’t understand how my posting earleir is incorrect. Could you please reread my post and her post again and state where there is an issue? I’m still trying to understand how you can think I misunderstood her when in fact she misunderstood me or at least her understanding of a majority of Western Christianity?


James 03.31.08 at 8:54 pm

I mentioned this to my Hindu friend and he finds it insulting when Christians try to Hijack Ghandi for their own religion.


PamBG 04.01.08 at 9:08 am

James, I don’t know what this means. I’m not trying to ‘hijack Ghandi (sic) for my own religion’.

You don’t understand what I’m saying any more than DH does. I’m not saying that Gandhi was a Christian.

Ask your friend whether some Hindus take Jesus as their teacher; hopefully he’ll be honest with you and say ‘yes’.

What I’m saying is that Western Protestantism often doesn’t care if a person actually does what Jesus taught. It often condemns someone like Gandhi who actually put more effort into following Jesus than most ‘Christians’ do - including myself. It pats people on the back for having The Right Ideas about it’s own theology but still living self-centred, self-interested lives.

And DH: She stated that I thought being a disciple didn’t include being an imitator of Christ by following Him and that all it was to be a disciple was someone who believes certain theological points.

Often when I make a comment about the conservative Christianity that I know because it was part of my life for 40 years you act like I’m talking directly to you personally. Why? Why do you think that all my opinions are directed personally at you?


James 04.01.08 at 11:09 am

Nothing we do can earn Salvation for us. Just because we imitate Jesus’ teachings does not make us saved. It is only down to the Grace of God, nothing we can do can get this for us.


Kim 04.01.08 at 2:25 pm

Pam did not say that Gandhi is a Christian.
Pam did not say that Gandhi is saved.
I think Pam would say - and I am certainly saying - that one may recognise the Spirit of God - who is the Spirit of Jesus - in Gandhi.
In fact, I would have thought that is a no-brainer.


DH 04.01.08 at 2:28 pm

When I say what I say I mean that maybe the church you went to was not representative of the majority of conservative Christianity? I have been part of that for over 20 years and have read books after book and listened to many, many teachers within Conservative Christianity and the focus included Salvation of souls but there was also a very strong aspect of following Jesus and doing what He says. Now they may state it in the context of Sanctification of the Believer, but that doesn’t mean that they had any less focus. I’m sorry you went through what you did for over 40 years but anytime a person, that includes myself, goes through something difficult one must try to see if what is being experienced is indicative of the whole as opposed to rejecting outright or overgeneralizing even though that is an understandable reaction.

James, I enjoyed what you said. I would say that it comes down to the Grace of God that we receive to be saved. For the sake of balance and I’m sure you would appreciate this because we are somewhat on the same side, we mustn’t look at Salvation as a “fire escape”. We need to look at Salvation as the way to begin a relationship with Christ that allows us to closer to Him than we would otherwise. Just like a Father to a child. My favorite Scripture that refers to post-Salvation relationship with Christ is “I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward by Christ Jesus.’ May God bless all James, Pam, Richard, Kim, etc.

I don’t condemn Gandhi. If you read he may have accepted Christ on his deathbed. It isn’t me who condemns it is people who condemn themselves who are “condemned already” and again I’m not saying Gandhi was or is condemned or saved. I just don’t know. His statements before his deathbed refering to Jesus as being just a teacher or prophet are not indicative of a person who is a disciple of Jesus. Also, people who just prayed a prayer but who haven’t lived for Jesus thereafter is also not indicative of a person who is a disciple of Jesus. Being a discple requires a person to imitate Christ and to give ones heart, soul and mind over to Christ. Refering to Christ as a prophet and good teacher but doing what Jesus said gives an indication that the person gave their soul to Christ but not their mind. People who pray the prayer but aren’t living for Christ give an indication that the person gave their mind over to Christ but not their soul. To be a disciple requires one heart, soul and mind over to Christ and to live for Him not for Salvation but for Sanctification thereafter.

I guess I see being a disciple is both imitating Christ AND believing that Jesus is God and the only way for Salvation. To me looking at Jesus as just a teacher or prophet really shows a person isn’t a disciple . That doesn’t put down what so-called “good” things they have done, it just points out what the


DH 04.01.08 at 2:31 pm

Kim, I see what you are saying but to be a true disciple of Jesus one must do more than just imitate Jesus. However, I do like what you said. I would change the Spirit of God working with Gandhi as opposed to through Gandhi because he didn’t have the Spirit of God in him. That is done at Salvation. However, God can use anybody and it appears, so I agree with you Kim, that God used Gandhi. Thanks for your clarification.


PamBG 04.01.08 at 3:20 pm

Pam did not say that Gandhi is a Christian.
Pam did not say that Gandhi is saved.


I have been part of that for over 20 years and have read books after book and listened to many, many teachers within Conservative Christianity and the focus included Salvation of souls but there was also a very strong aspect of following Jesus and doing what He says.

Well, I have asked you a number of times to define sin and what you consider to constitute ‘following Jesus’ and you have declined to comment on some weird grounds that it’s not for you to judge. I acknowledge that very recently conservative American Christianity has woken up to the idea that perhaps God cares about social justice and stewardship of the environment.

I submit, however, that it still champions violent resolution of conflicts over peaceful resistance, that it still champions the rights of the strong majority over the rights of the weak minority, that it still champions the rights of individuals to horde wealth over social justice. I submit that it sees sin mainly in terms of sexual and property rights and that its major moral demands are to refrain from taking one’s neighbour’s money or spouse.


DH 04.01.08 at 3:30 pm

Pam, I don’t see any “asking for the definition of sin” and what constitutes follwing Jesus here on this post at all. In fact I don’t believe you have ever asked me that question. Where on this thread have you asked this question?

I still believe those who champion social justice just don’t do equal emphesis on areas of Salvation and Sanctification.

Here is a story I read:






PamBG 04.01.08 at 5:50 pm

In fact I don’t believe you have ever asked me that question.

Let’s see. On my blog you told me that my elderly congregations were most certainly sinning and flaunting their sins and that, in addition to taking it for granted that humans were sinful, that I should be searching out their specific sins and preaching against them before I allowed them to take communion. When I asked you what you meant by ’sins’ you said it wasn’t for you to judge.

I don’t think I hallucinated the conversation as it’s on my blog and you did persist for an awful long time.


Kim 04.01.08 at 6:28 pm

I am reminded of Bonhoeffer’s remark, somewhere in LPP, about what he refers to as the clerical sniffing out of people’s sins, as if to appreciate a fine sitting room one had first to descend into the cellar. How odious!


DH 04.01.08 at 6:31 pm

Pam, this really only sidetracks this thread in that we are talking about Gandhi and how one can be a disciple. I still don’t understand how this pertains to what we are talking about. I will however respond. Pam, I never said that your entire congregations were sinning and flaunting their sins. I was only responding to your response that you know no one in your congreation who intentionally sin. I in turn responded that every congregation has member/s in their congregation who do that. I have no idea where you got the idea that I thought your entire congregations were intentionally sinning or flaunting their sin. Also, if you read my response in reference to sin, I stated that Communion should be taken in a Holy manner and that people who sin intentionally whatever it may happen to be needs to repent before taking communion. When I said sin I meant ALL sins mentioned in the Bible. When I say “unholy manner” I mean the unconfessed sin that we all have at times that needs to be repented of.

I believe pastors should teach their congregations to not sin and to repent of sin. The Apostle Paul mentioned this, why else would he even mention taking communion in an unholy manner. To me taking it in an unholy manner is coming to the Lord’s Table with unconfessed sin and I’m not focusing on any one sin but all sin. Also some churches condone things which in fact are sin that as well is something that needs to be addressed as well but that was not the entire focus of the response.

I hope this answers your questions and clarifies a response which I made very clear and should not have been a misunderstanding because I never said your congregations were sinning and flaunting their sins but that any congregations have some individual/s who are doing that. For a person to say that an entire congregation was not doing that to me seemed a little presumptuous in light of that fact. We as churches can help congregations in a kind way to repent of unconfessed sin and become a Believer before taking communion. To me this is Scriptural in light of Paul.


PamBG 04.01.08 at 8:59 pm

Pam, this really only sidetracks this thread in that we are talking about Gandhi and how one can be a disciple.

Gandhi was a disciple of Jesus because he followed Jesus. We are using different definitions of ‘disciple’. Your definition of disciple seems to include the idea that the person is a ‘real Christian’ who is ‘really saved’. My definition of disciple doesn’t assume that the person is a ‘real Christian’ who is ‘really saved’. It’s just someone who follows Jesus.

I was only responding to your response that you know no one in your congreation who intentionally sin.

I didn’t say that. I said I have no wilful and flagrant sinners. (My response on 10:32 PM, February 21, 2008)

I never said your congregations were sinning and flaunting their sins but that any congregations have some individual/s who are doing that. For a person to say that an entire congregation was not doing that to me seemed a little presumptuous in light of that fact.

If there is someone in any congregation doing that, then there must, by definition, be someone in my congregation doing that. You make a sweeping generality without knowing anything about my congregations and then you tell me that I’m the one being presumptuous. I’m sorry, but this is astounding arrogance on your part.

And you STILL haven’t said what you think ’sin’ is.

This is mind-blowing presumption on your part. You ARE saying that there


DH 04.01.08 at 9:42 pm

Pam, what is the difference between intentionally sinning and willful/flagarent sinners? I also never used the terms wilfill or flagarent sinners you seem to have done that. I only mentioned intentionally sinning and/or unconfessed sin. It might have been indirectly but only based on the first question mentioned above which is my lack of distinction between intentionally and willfull. To me they seem the same. Wouldn’t it be arrogance to say that no one in your congregation intentionally sins? Well I guess you said you didn’t say that so I believe it appears we have a semantic problem between us. Hopefully we can come to a mutual understanding on “what is the difference between intentionally sinning and willful/flagarent sinners?”.

Can a person truly follow Jesus without being a Believer? While the synonm is follower, that doesn’t mean that it is the equivilent. When I read the definition it does seem to mention Belief. So to me I just don’t see how a person can be a disciple without being a Believer.

I still think this entire discussion is sidetracking the thread. I wish we could stay on the subject matter. I failed to respond because the question is rather a condecending one in that ALL believers know what the definition of sin is. It didn’t seem to deserve a response. However, I will say it anyway: It is the disobedience to God and/or His Word and/or the attitude therein.

To me the most mind-blowing response is to say that any particular congregation doesn’t have a person/s not intentionally sinning.

Being humorous to Kim, I guess if John the Baptist were around today then today’s culture would outright reject him for having a “judgemental attitude”. (okay he was kind of harsh but still there are times where this can be needed). Remember that Lamb of God/Lion of Judah discussion. :)

Back to the point. The fact remains that we as Christians can in a kind way help Believers under the Holy spirit to live for Christ by being obedient to Him and to confess our sins and help non-Believers to become believers with both categories leading to a closer relationship to Christ. To me Scripture is fairly clear about taking Communions in an unholy manner. I think if you reread my entire replies you can see how that was the main point of what I said. You seemed to dismiss this “unholy manner” of taking Communion which I was rather shocked by. I have sense moved on. That’s all.

I’m still trying to figure out how one can follow Jesus without being a Believer. To me a person can move in a general direction but that is way different than following which requires a person Believing. What would be the point in following someone you don’t believe in? It makes no sense. I’m trying to be honest, non-confrontational, etc. I do respect you Pam and care about you. I hope you don’t take what I say as being harsh.

Oh well, if we can move back to the Gandhi thing unless we have exhausted this conversation that is your choice. Otherwise, I have answered your questions and re-clarified them and restated some additional questions that your statements arose. My second paragraph from April 1st at 6:31pm is really the point on your personal site thread.


PamBG 04.02.08 at 8:20 am

I also never used the terms wilfill or flagarent sinners you seem to have done that.

Yes, I said that. In response to your statement that I should withhold communion from people unless I was certain that they had confessed their sins I said that I *might* do if someone was a wilful and flagrant sinner.

What is the difference between an ‘intentional sin’ and a ‘wilful and flagrant sin’? Well, I think I explained that too. An ‘intentional sin’ is something like ‘I know I can forgive this person, but I’m not going to.’ A ‘wilful and flagrant sin’ in the life of a Christian community is something like ‘Yes, I know I’m sinning by having an affair with Mrs. Jones, but I’m not going to stop or say sorry.’

I don’t know what sorts of sins my elderly people are up to. I expect things like not forgiving their children for something. The question is: Is struggling to forgive someone the same thing as saying ‘I am able to forgive but I refuse’? They aren’t stealing or committing adultery; their biggest issues are loneliness, medical issues and sometimes worry about having enough money to pay the rent and buy food. The idea of interrogating them about their sins and withholding communion from them makes my mind boggle.

To me the most mind-blowing response is to say that any particular congregation doesn’t have a person/s not intentionally sinning.

But I never, ever said that. I repeatedly said that we all sin every day. Do you honestly confess all your sins to your minister before taking communion? And if you don’t then why do you think I should be interrogating people about their sins before giving them communion? And if your answer is that, no, I shouldn’t interrogate people, just make sure that they are good Christians who confess their sins, then how the heck does your minister know that you are a good Christian and how does your minister know not to withhold communion from you?

I agree with your definition of sin. Except that I don’t just think that sin includes things *I* personally do. I think it includes the economic and political situation that I’m caught up in. I sin not only by failing to forgive someone. I think I also sin by living in an economic system that doesn’t pay people a living wage for making some of the clothes I wear. I think I sin by living in a political system that sends refugees back to their own country to be killed. It’s uncomfortable because I’m not directly in control of creating a remedy, but I *do* have a personal responsibility to try to change things.


DH 04.02.08 at 2:01 pm

Well, I never said we should interagate anyone. I really was only trying to say that a pastor should make clear to the congregation that we as individuals and as a congregation should take communion in a Holy manner which includes repenting of our sins to God and become Believers for Salvation as well. Also, sin is more than just not forgiving someone it includes being disobedient to God and His Word.

Well, I’m still trying to understand the difference between willful and intentional sin. I know you tried to explain it but I still don’t understand it. It still sounds the same to me. I’m not being difficult but honest on that one.

Again, I really was pointing out the responsibility of pastors and the congregation to teach the congregation and the congregation to learn that we should be happy and at the same time respectful to take Communion in a Holy manner. I believe if a pastor knows someone to have intentional unconfessed sin and/or is an unbeliever that refusing communion in a loving way or asking the person “Would you like to accept Christ?” or “Would you like to confess your sins?” is appropriate. This is not the norm but I do believe accountibility in the ongregation and to the pastor is appropriate especially in light of what the Apostle Paul says with regard to the subject.

Because I didin’t say that a pastor should interrogate which includes you then the answer is consistent that I am not nor should you nor should anyone. However, there are times in pastoral counseling where I could see unconfessed sin and/or unbelievers trying to take communion and in those instances is the context for what I said.

I understand that you have an elderly congregation. It seems to me you are doing a good job of “pastoral care”. I just like the sermons at communion which discuss the importance oftaking communion in a holy manner and mention we need to become Believers and at the same time confess our sins before taking communion. It seems to me the Apostle Paul was very clear on that one.

Again I agree with you we should interrogate the congregation. However, I do believe we can teach the congregation to take commuion in a holy manner.

I also don’t agree with you that living in an economic system or political system is sin. If something is beyond our control then I don’t believe God holds us accountible for it. I do believe we can point out where a system is sinning but those are the leaders not us. Also, comparing different economic systems one must look at keeping the most number of people from being poor in the future as well as caring for the existing poor already here. To me capitalism, not done wrongly in the extreme, is the best to maximize this. I say this because poverty can never be eliminated but it can be reduced and can prevent more people from being poor in the future. Even Jesus said “The poor will always be among you.” That doesn’t mean we should care for the poor or anything like that but confirms that a system like Communism which forcibly takes from some people to give to others in such a way that causes more people to become poor is not right just like not helping the poor is not right. There is a balance it is not one or the other like you say or you think I have said.

Back to the subject matter of this thread:
I will reiterate this: “I’m still trying to figure out how one can follow Jesus without being a Believer. To me a person can move in a general direction but that is way different than following which requires a person Believing. What would be the point in following someone you don’t believe in? It makes no sense.”


PamBG 04.02.08 at 4:07 pm

Back to the subject matter of this thread:
I will reiterate this: “I’m still trying to figure out how one can follow Jesus without being a Believer. To me a person can move in a general direction but that is way different than following which requires a person Believing. What would be the point in following someone you don’t believe in? It makes no sense.”

Then we’ll just have to agree to disagree again.

Astoundingly, you seem to be saying that even though Gandhi followed Jesus’ teaching on standing up for the oppressed, that he wasn’t really following what Jesus taught. Whatever.

Frankly, this is why I think you don’t have the smallest clue what Jesus taught.


DH 04.02.08 at 6:25 pm

Gandhi only partially did what Jesus said. To be a believer is by Faith in Him as God which Jesus clearly stated. While Jesus taught so much on standing up for the opporessed, Jesus taught so much more than that which was that He was God and that the only way for Salvation was by Faith in Him alone.

Pam, I would say Gandhi was moving in a general direction toward Jesus but wasn’t truly a follower of Jesus because He did not believe that Jesus was God. Was he a great man? absolutely Can we learn from him in the help of the opporessed? absolutely Okay, you won me over. You are correct, he followed partly what Jesus taught but there is a difference between following what Jesus taught and following Jesus. Therefore there is also a difference between being a disciple and just following what Jesus taught or even said.

Did anyone receive eternal life from Gandhi’s teaching? no, but we can learn from him how to care for the poor and oppressed which is part of Christ teaching. Christ’s teaching includes so much on care for the poor and opporessed but His teaching includes so much more than even that. That doesn’t diminsih the importance of Christ’s teaching in the area of care for the poor and the opporessed but that one must look at ALL of Christ’s teaching to truly understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ.


Beth 04.11.08 at 12:46 am

Hey, Pam. I didn’t know that about Gandhi and I’ve been reading up on some of what he had to say about Christianity. I was particularly interested by this: “I can tell you that in my humble opinion, what passes as Christianity is a negation of the Sermon on the Mount… I am speaking of the Christian belief, of Christianity as it is understood in the west.” It strikes me again and again that we, as Christians, deserve a lot of the opprobrium that we attract, precisely because of this “negation” of Christ’s teachings that most of us, most of our leaders, most of our churches, practise in a more or less egregious manner.

In reference to the subsequent debate here about whether Gandhi can be thought of as a disciple of Christ, I was also struck by this quotation from C. S. Lewis which someone appended to an article on Gandhi and Christianity:

“I am here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people say about Him: ‘I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I do not accept His claim to be God.’ This is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic - on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

I’m not sure to what extent I agree with Lewis on this. Thoughts, anyone?


PamBG 04.11.08 at 10:03 am

Beth, I totally agree with the first part of your post and I also totally agree with Gandhi’s comments, even as I know that I am neither perfect or without guilt in this regard.

My thoughts about what you’ve said about CS Lewis is that I think that there is probably a difference between ‘being a disciple’ and ‘being a Christian’. Also, different people tend to have different definitions of ‘being a Christian’: if you say that you go to church and that you are following the Christian path is that ‘being a Christian’ or is it something like - to use Protestant jargon - ‘Having made a genuine commitment to Jesus’?

Actually, I probably think that the ‘reality’ is the latter; however, I equally don’t think that it’s generally up to me to try to make that judgement of an individual, bar certain exceptional circumstances like being on a ministerial panel. I’m generally happy to accept someone’s self-definition that they are a Christian. Although if it seems appropriate, I might want to continue that conversation with someone who says that they are a Christian and last went to church in 1999.

However - and here I expect I’ll disagree with some - I don’t think that it’s my place to decide whether or not all non-Christians are going to hell or whether they are devoid of the Spirit of God. My answer to the question ‘Do all religions lead to God?’ is that I know that The Way of Jesus leads to God; I don’t know which religions lead to damnation.

Finally, on Gandhi, I do absolutely believe that a person can be a disciple of Jesus even if they are not a self-defined Christian or that theoretical ‘real Christian.’ To me ‘a disciple of Jesus’ and ‘Most assuredly saved’ or ‘Christian’ are not the same thing. As another poster pointed out, it’s also disrespectful for a Christian to name a Hindu as ‘Christian’ without their own self-definition.

However, I suspect that God holds a special place in his heart for those who actually do his will. We have traditionally said that God prefers those who know what what his will is and who don’t do it to those who do his will without having Correct Theory about it. The older I get, the more I think that Christians have those priorities the wrong way around.


Beth 04.11.08 at 12:47 pm

Pam, I think I pretty much agree with you. I’m still a little wary of the “Jesus as moral teacher” argument, but unlike Lewis I can see how someone could overcome the “Jesus as lunatic” conclusion by accepting His own words without accepting the authority of the rest of the Bible.

There are non-Christians I know about whom I can say that being even a fraction like them would make me a far better Christian. This is not to say that these people are Christians in disguise, or “anonymous Christians” as some would call them - to make such a claim would be to appropriate all virtue as necessarily Christian, which is egotistical and offensive. Rather, these people have a number of qualities which I, as a Christian, feel I should strive for. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a moral person, but you should strive to be a moral person if you want to be a Christian.


Kim 04.11.08 at 2:56 pm

Hi Beth,

Bless St. Jack (Lewis) but this is one of the dumbest things he ever wrote - and, alas, it is a line that is often deployed by conservative evangelicals (it is a textus recepticus in CUs) as an apologetic trump card. Jesus was either demented (or demonic) or God, and since even cultured despisers of religion are hesitant to accuse Jesus of insanity, well, QED.

But quite apart from Lewis’ ignorant fusion of the Johannine with the synoptic Jesus (the synoptic Jesus, and a fortiori the “historical” Jesus, made no claims to divinity), it is, quite simply, abysmal reasoning. For it is quite possible - indeed it is inevitable - that one will be right about some things that one says and wrong about others. (I do it all the time!) So Jesus could well have said some astonishingly brilliant things and yet been wrong about being God (sic). There is no logical contradiction here. So Gandhi cannot be accused of “patronising nonsense”.

But then Lewis always was a lousy philosopher. In 1948, at the Socratic Club, in Lewis’ presence, the formidable Wittgensteinian philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe read a paper in response to his book Miracles. In the ensuing discussion, by all accounts, Anscombe wiped the floor with Lewis, and for days afterwards he felt humiliated and depressed. Thereafter Lewis wrote no more books on Christian apologetics. Rightly he stuck to fiction and lit. crit., at which he was, of course, a master.

And, Pam, thanks for your input. You always talk sense (even when I disagree with you!). And I shall never forget that line on your blog about it being unimaginable that God will ever condemn people for being compassionate. Absolutely.

Btw, if Gandhi isn’t in heaven, then the old saying is certainly true: “Heaven for climate, hell for company.”


PamBG 04.11.08 at 5:57 pm

Pam, I think I pretty much agree with you. I’m still a little wary of the “Jesus as moral teacher” argument

I’m not entirely certain what you mean.

I’m quite happy with ‘Jesus as a moral teacher’ as long as we don’t reduce his teaching to some kind of suburban ‘let’s all be nice’ kind of teaching. I think his teaching was actually pretty radical; radical enough to be beyond my capacities.

But I’m not sure if this is what you’re talking about.

And, Pam, thanks for your input. You always talk sense (even when I disagree with you!).

Thank you, Kim. I appreciate that.

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