Thursday Lunchtime Camel Theology Blogging
Yet more evidence that the economics coverage of the National Review is not the nadir of the magazine. Here we see it flunking theology:
Ross Douthat: [T]he traditional Christian attitude... wasn't that every rich man needed to sell all he had and enter a monastery, but that some did. Christ told the rich young man to give away all his possessions and follow him, but he didn't tell that to everyone he met -- it was a specific mission for a specific person, or kind of person.
Oh yeah? Context, boys, context. Let's roll the videotape from today's Gospel Lesson:
There came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, "Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
And Jesus said unto him, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not bear false witness. Defraud not. Honour thy father and mother.
And he answered and said unto him, "Master, all these have I observed from my youth."
Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, "One thing thou lackest: Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."
And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them: "Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God."
And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves: "Who then can be saved?"
And Jesus looking upon them saith: "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible."
Then Peter began to say unto him: "Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee."
And Jesus answered and said: "Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.
"But many that are first shall be last; and the last first."
The injunction "sell whatsoever thou hast and give to the poor" is addressed to "they that have riches" because "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God." Jesus is not issuing "a specific mission for a specific person, or kind of person"; Jesus is warning all with "great possessions" of the danger he sees that they are in.
Jesus doesn't shut the door: God will move mountains and make miracles in order to get the camel through the eye of the needle, "for with God all things are possible." Nevertheless: "many that are first shall be last; and the last first."
By cutting off the passage at "follow me" and suppressing the subsequent dialogue between Jesus and the disciples, Ross Douthat is performing the equivalent of putting his fingers in his ears and screeching: "I can't hear you!! You're not talking to me anyway!!" This is common practice at National Review. But screeching "You're not talking to me!!" is a distinctly odd posture to adopt when one is addressed by one's God.