Never More Noble a Cause
As if to suddenly lift a resting symphony to abrupt crescendo, controversy has leaped into view, demanding an answer (for controversy always demands an answer). Having heard the plea for action, let’s consider a just , that is, scriptural answer.
Indeed, many opinions are lifted into contention, and we would be told that all the righteous are in unison this time. Defending Jesus from the likes of the Universal Studios raises such zeal in Rev. Don Wildeman that he says “I’m going to work harder on this than on anything in the last ten years”. Rev Wildeman has been involved in efforts to remove pornography from public availability and the public discussion of non-wholesome elements of the television diet of American children, and I’m sure many other worthy endeavors. He feels this is the ‘big one’. On the other hand, I want to talk about the controversy, not the subject of the controversy.
Briefly, we understand by reviewing considerable opinion second hand, that these statements have been implied in “The Last Temptation of Christ”.
1. Jesus was tempted as a man, and in some ways yielded as a man.
2. Jesus experienced the substance of these temptations mentally, that is, He mentally explored the possibilities.
3. Jesus in public and private statements revealed double mindedness, and weakness, in effect, yielding to temptation.
4. Judas was an obedient servant in the matter of the betrayal, and his faith accomplished the crucifixion,
5. It is ‘spiritual’ to share these concepts in a motion picture experience.
To anyone with moderate understanding of the text of the King James Bible, most of the above statements will appear immediately sinister. I add the last to give the benefit of the doubt to the writer and producer.
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property announced that Jesus is presently subject of a vicious slander campaign. While well intentioned, the authors cry for rights, suggesting that Jesus, like a former president, or for that matter any American is protected against public defamation of character.
I’m certain that Jesus of Nazareth is not a citizen of the USA, and consequently no matter how emotionally persuasive the argument, He cannot be protected by U.S. slander and libel codes.
Furthermore, the parallel between a desecration of the memory of an esteemed U.S. President, and an opinionated, and fictional presentation of Jesus Christ is untenable. At the bottom of the comparison a joyous fact is revealed. The reputation of the former Presidents are based on histories partially documented by their contemporaries. The man’s place in history is further affected by subsequent analysis and public discussion. This is illustrated by contemporary Soviet Russia, where history books must be delayed in publication while history is ‘established’.
While the political nature of the bias exaggerates the illustration, all humankind lives with a partial picture concerning the past, and frequently accepts redefinition of ‘facts’. On the other hand, the name and life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have been certified by the hand of God, and is made available by divine purpose to even the most deafened ear. The strength and endurance of ALL truth can be gauged by the record of the heavenly cherubim in our FOUR gospels. If the ‘gates of Hell cannot prevail’ against the Church and the Gospel with which it has been charged, how can one imagination exercising within an already perverse ‘art’? Be assured, Martin Scorcese cannot cause one obstruction to hide the face of the Savior to the earnest seeker! Jesus gave power to Pontias Pilate, but not to Universal Pictures. The real record is written in the hearts of the eye witnesses and their successors, or ‘seed’ (Psalm 102:18,28)
Many other similarly outraged arguments have recently been aired, but is the Christian actually locked into a battle with artist, media, and secular philosophies ?
How do you know who He is? So-called ‘Fundamental Christians’ have stressed literal ‘interpretation’, while denying the inherent necessity of interpretation. A game of words? Webster’s New World Dictionary defines ‘interpret’ as ‘to explain’. There are many times when an explanation may be given by one learned in scripture to explain the broad purpose of God to another who has limited understanding or a private viewpoint.
To suggest as some critics, that Jesus was not a mortal man, with ALL the attributes of common man, is to call God a liar for Hebrews 4:15 states “We have not a priest which cannot be touched with feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”. The Bible teaches that Jesus was (as well as being the Son of God) every bit man. That is to say, that all the natural strengths, qualities and limitations which are ascribed to the human spirit and flesh, were shared by the man, Christ Jesus.
“When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” – Galatians 4:5
The purpose is briefly explained in Heb 2:18.
The controversy deepens when we sincerely face the question: “how then can it be, that he was ‘yet without sin’ “. Hebrews 7:26 shows Jesus “undefiled, separate from sinners”, while in John 17:19 explains that for our sakes he “sanctified [or separated himself] that they [the church] also might be sanctified”. 1 Peter 2:22 confirms “[Christ], who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth”.
Here I want to note, that the nature of Jesus Christ is the greatest marvel which mankind will ever behold: “Without controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,
justified in the Spirit, seen of angels [messengers], preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world and received up into glory” – 1 Tim 3:16
Among the innumerable notes which can be raised to magnify His nature, God and Man, are:
1. It was necessary that the price offered for the redemption of humanity be legally human. (see Heb 2:14-18)
2. The means for God to communicate His love to man required enormous self-abasement on God’s part, since Man could not elevate himself. – 1 Tim 2:5
3. One Human body, fleshly as we are, could contain the “all the fullness of God’, by His plan.
4. So that many could inherit from the will of the almighty, a son of Man became the “first fruits” of the new creation [the present and future condition of the heirs of salvation].
5. Since Jesus is a resurrected human being(!) our “high priest” is a proper and effective representative.
6. His dual nature is not inconsistent with his parentage: The Eternal Spirit and the virgin, Mary. Of course, absent from his being is the inheritance of sin through the father’s bloodline.
But most significantly …
7. As our teacher, and example, He is perfect lacking nothing, and was Himself, sinless.
This means quite a lot. First and foremost, the manner in which Jesus walked is precisely the way His children must walk (He is the Counsellor of Isa 9:6, and the Everlasting Father).
“For even hereunto were ye called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guilt found in his mouth. … ” – 1 Peter 2:21-23
I fully believe that Mr. Scorcese has pressed a valid point to our attention, although his expression is ignorant and perverted. It is high time that out-spoken Christians together confront a serious matter of doctrine: Jesus was tempted in every way, Martin Scorcese addresses the fact that Jesus, ordained, and appointed of God must therefore have been tempted by the desire to do his own
will, or more properly, the will of his flesh. To most of the will of the flesh manifests in many ways, lust is talked about most often, and most fanciful. The middle aged sometimes acts out a restoration of youthful affectations: a car, a girlfriend. The self-centered make his belly a God. The religious promote interpretations of scripture and various self-justifications. The double minded say “I’ll get right with God soon, maybe tomorrow”. The world ‘turns-off’ the voice of conscience, placed there by the Lord. We all ‘do our thing’ right to the grave, boasting a wholesome, and full life, with various pennants of self-promotion. The zeal to ‘enjoy life’ implies a right to make ones own decisions, and bear the consequences thereof. I will say with a sound of soberness, Jesus did not!
It is unconcievable to Martin Scorcese that temptation may exist without mental exploration of the details (i.e. fantasy). Fantasy is this generations buzz-word for ‘harmless consideration’. To indulge in fantasy is to serve the Devil, pure and simple. When we give our minds to indulgence in self-will and deeper into the abominations which Scorcese feels are universal, we cannot know that we have not yielded forever. What you will entertain for minutes, hours, days or years, marks your nature, and spends the gift of life upon the fruit of those imaginations.
“But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in the darkness, how great is that darkness.” – Matthew 5:29b
For Christians it is inconceivable for the scripture commands:
“Casting down evil imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5
Do you expect better from those who crucified Him ?
Do you notice anyone standing up for Jesus as Roman centurions do the will of the masses. Were you there to cry out that you would be strickened with Him, or would you today give your flesh to suffer with Him. Most will not even suffer a public reinterpretation of their so-called faith. Faith cannot be based upon a result of public opinion, for biblical faith is not destroyed.
A Christian who is genuinely grateful for the gift of his salvation does not need to look long at the statements of director Martin Scorsese to find the hypocrisy of which he has recently been charged. Neither will his crafty profiteering escape us, since crusaders will all soon realize how they have helped to greatly multiply the viewing audience. No matter what character Mr. Scorsese has produced, summarized reviews show that he leans toward portraying obsessive personalities. His portrayal of Jesus reportedly displays the deep disturbance that is probably part of the director’s own life. One can say (like J. Salamon in the Wall Street Journal 3) that Scorcese would like Jesus to be like him. We should look deeper. Can any man consider Jesus Christ in the light of truth and speak evil of him ? Why do some expect the world system to present an accurate, loving and conscientious picture of Jesus, or the Church, or our favorite morals and traditions. These
things are not our rights, who are truly citizens of the heavenly Kingdom. Has anything changed since the days that the Lord Jesus said “The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (Jn 15:20). Furthermore, whom can say that He is acquainted with the King of Saints, who does not know Him by divine (spiritual) revelation?
“Blessed art thou Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven.”
Nothing more is possible from the world. How is knowledge of truth obtained ?
“If any man will do his [God’s] will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” – John 7:17
What is truly remarkable is that the unregenerated commonly concede that Jesus WAS the Son of God! If this were printed on all the newspapers of the world, and broadcast from each microphone, would it be victory? Yet I suppose that some would wonder why the gong had sounded tinny.
But the bible clearly states that salvation is transformation: from death unto life, and from darkness to light (Col 1:13). Pre-conversion Peter was ready to dispute the things of God a few days before he stammered for meaning at the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 8:31-9:6). In actuality, those whom we contend with for an inaccurate vision of the Lord of Glory are those who He seeks for. We, like Queen Esther, have the present affections of the King by nothing but His grace. We were converted from such as we accuse (like it or not). Consider:
“For who maketh thou to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why doest thou glory, as though thou didst not receive it ?” – 1 Corinthians 4:7
If we are to say confidently, “I do not glory”, let us then obey as unprofitable servants:
“In meekness instructing those who oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” – Timothy 2:25
The proposal that Martin Scorcese can provide illuminations into the life and meanings of Jesus Christ is also to be expected, for it is the cry of men’s hearts to say that they cannot be that far from God. The idea of exclusion of sinners from God’s presence, is revolting to the professing christian who cries that the pharisees would at once assign him to hell, but God’s love has surely paid for his sins. We who have tasted of the heavenly gift must, even today, pause to know how serious an offence it is to distort the gospel, but moreover what grief and what sorrow is born by those
laboring to sew good seed, and save the hopeless souls of our own kind.
Regarding the points made in error by the maker of “The Last Temptation of Christ”:
1. “Jesus was tempted as a man, and yielded as a man.” Yes, Jesus was tempted as a man. God cannot be tempted (James 1:13). Yielding in any small way to temptation would negated the incarnation of sinless man. The measure of sin is not what we judge by appearance, but rather the bending of the will to the flesh, to the spirit of the world, and ultimately to Satan.
2. “Jesus experienced the substance of these temptations mentally, that is, He mentally explored the possibilities.” Jesus experienced temptations, not indulgences. This would have been sin and He was sinless. Note carefully: a temptation is the invitation to come further. The righteous Job deals with temptation summarily
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” – Job 31:1
Submission to temptation has occurred the instant that one does not refuse further involvement. This is confirmed in James 1:14-15. Presumably the film maker was familliar with the record of the true temptations of Jesus Christ, recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. Here the record forever declares that Jesus dealt with the world under the worst affliction, yet in a consistent manner. His beloved John instructs us in His stead:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” – 1 John 2:15
Again, the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record Jesus dealing with these three temptations. The same scriptures record that Jesus went into the wilderness to be tempted directly from the confirmation of Holy Ghost baptism at the Jordan.
3. “Jesus in public and private statements revealed double mindedness, and weakness.” On the contrary, His presentation and doctrine was like nothing ever heard, because of the perception of authority and unflawed content. (Matt 7:28-29). The disciples were sometimes bewildered, but there is no record of Jesus ever expressing confusion, frustration or strife with His position. As a child of twelve:
“How is it that ye have sought me? Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business” – Luke 2:49
And as a man approaching his end:
“Father, is thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” – Luke 22:42
4. Judas was an obedient servant in the matter of the betrayal, and his faith accomplished the crucifixion. Foolish, and untrue. The Bible states “Satan entered him” (John 13:27), and above all that the devil put it into his heart to betray Jesus. (John 13:2). Indisputably, the horrible darkness of sinful pride accomplished the crucifixion.
5. It is ‘spiritual’ to share these concepts in a motion picture experience. Well, if you can’t claim good art, many people will fall for the ‘spiritual’ or ‘mystical’ label. Those of us who find it too difficult to lay the ax to our indulgences (TV …etc) may also employ the term ‘entertainment’ (read ‘harmless’).
Why dispute the response of well meaning people ? Some of the dispute comes, as already stated, from inadequate understanding of the doctrine of Christ and the Apostles concerning salvation and the very identity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul counsels us with the wisdom of Solomon:
“For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law … Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live” – Pro 4:2-4 “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing thou shalt save thyself and them that hear thee” – 1 Tim 4:16
We believe that reconciliation with God was necessary before man could be shown the “paths of righteousness”. God prepared the sacrifice needed for our atonement the body of this perfect Man whom we discuss. The angels thus announced His name “Jesus, for He shall save the people from their sins”. If this were the extent of God’s work, there would be a provision for man to stand faultless before God in an instant. The clear recognition of our faulted souls is all that is necessary to be compelled to fall before the God who has offered mercy in this most appreciable manner. In Luke 23:40-43 we read a man who has placed the blame where it belongs. Like this thief, the sinner will be entitled to a restored place, since his repentance leads him to personally require the atonement of the nearby flowing blood of the Son of God. The thief goes on to meet the death of consequence for his sins immediately. Although we see this by literary access, the thief’s cross is very real, and death is the wages of sin, as always. In following Peter’s commandment (approved of the angel of the Lord) in Acts 2:38, the body is laid down into the grave, in following the “sign of the prophet Jonah”, and Jesus’ example (illustrated at the Jordan river, and realized in Joseph’s tomb). Romans 8:11 clarifies the ultimate purpose of the faithful and repentant sinner. The baptism of the Holy Spirit brings into being the promise of redemption: “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.
It is essential that we understand that Jesus was NOT the person that orthodox christianity portrays Him to be, that is the second person of an imagined triune God. This portrayal invites controversy because it fails to provide a picture of the one who overcame as a Man for individuals.
The purity of the second person is incomprehensible, and unapproachable, as was the presence of the God of the Tabernacle of Moses. But our Jesus came here on His own initiative. The Holy One of Israel humbled Himself, that He might know our nature, and give His love a vessel to impart to us a cure. He, being God, learned the scriptures using a human mind. He, being God, submitted himself to the will of God using human will and strength. He, being God, suffered all righteousness in fulfilling the law, and pointing the way to salvation, participating as a man. He, being God,
died our death on the cross. And He, being God, is raised up a new man, upon a promise of God, that we might follow. The humanity of Jesus Christ is a sweet fragrance to the sinner. He somehow knows, without being told:
“For he took not upon him the nature of angels; but he took upon him the seed of Abraham” – Hebrews 2:16
The unregenerate cannot perceive the glory of the Holy Ghost, and are confounded by the ‘foolishness’ or simplicity or water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. Is it not understandable that the lost are comforted by an image of Jesus with demonstrable weakness in the absence of a doctrine that can clearly show his power for them? Again, the church is responsible for the preaching of doctrine, not clamoring confrontation of sinners!
The truth concerning the ‘mystery of Godliness’ is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Jesus promised “I will come to you”. When we are not afraid to preach the oneness of God the listener will understand that His abiding presence is in this Spirit, and indeed, the very identity of Jehovah today sits on the mercy seat of a sacrificed life by His spirit. Trinitarians somehow conceive that they will ‘pass beyond Jesus’ to the ‘the father’, a “person” considered ‘co-equal’ to Jesus Christ, and one with him though distinct. To argue a point of semantics I will agree that we will “pass to the
Father by means of Christ Jesus”, our Savior and Redeemer. Give glory to the God that paid the only price that could redeem us: He took upon Himself human life, so that He could lay down that perfect life in place of ours, paying the penalty for our sin!
It is this knowable, personal Jesus that Scorcese wants (the magazines have claimed). Good News: The angels told the shepherds on Israel’s hills, as we tell you today. This mediator was born in Bethlehem Judea, as predicted by the prophets (Micah 5:2), thus has God declared “Peace on Earth, [God’s] Good Will toward men!”. Men however, want to study the incomprehensible, glorious miracle of grace, as though it were a jar full of bugs, putting it on the shelf when wearied by the mortuary theology.
Those inside the covenant have the privilege to know the fullness of Jesus, and the responsibility to remain available as ‘salt with savor’, and ‘a light in the lampstand’. 1 Peter 1:10-12, and Matt 13:17 indicate that the church, sealed by the Spirit of God and bearing the ‘standard’ or name of the Lord fulfill the expectation of the prophets and angels of God. This same church is the living mystery manifest first by ‘the firstborn’ of the new creation. The Holy Ghost experience provides all of the promised characteristics of God’s people:
1. God in Man: Like The Almighty God in Christ, so Spirit of God in Man
2. He that overcometh: The power to resist sin. Jesus resisted as a man, by the power of the Spirit, living in submission to the spoken Word of God.
3. Led by the Spirit: As in Jesus, so in the church. Servants-sons of God (Rom 8:14, Prov 29:21, Gal 4:7)
4. The Spirit required for sanctification.
5. The superior nature of God to supplant that of the carnal man.
6. Light for understanding: the Spirit of Wisdom illuminates the bread of life.
7. The prophetic voice: The anointed word preached for edification, and correction.
8. The ‘signs’ of the Church. Manifestations of the spiritual gifts for community edification.
9. One body, one spirit, one truth, unity in the spirit. Leading into all truth: The name of the Lord for identification, power and Life.
10. Eternal Life: The Spirit of God is the eternal spirit. If He dwells in a believer according to scripture, the believer is saved, or resurrected from death.
There is no true salvation without the Holy Ghost baptism, and there is no need for popular doctrine to exclude or de-emphasize the importance of it, since all efforts outside of preaching the ‘promise of the Father’ are impotent without it.
This following statements I assess to be the most important contained herein: If we follow Jesus in the pattern of salvation and overcoming testimony, there is NO reason for the Christian
to sin. ALL sin is reprehensible to God, particularly that of a Christian.
Failure to seek out the will of God on a moment by moment basis and to do that will, will always result in sin. Tying back to the singular point that “Last Temptation” had to offer: Once bloodwashed, and free from the mark of sin, the life of man is owned by God. Jesus’ exhaulted purpose to do the will of the Father, is matched in purposes and ways particular to our lives. Though we are not called upon to spill our blood often, Jesus’ example of submission is a commandment which cannot be mistaken (Phil 2:5-10, James 4:10) . Not one apostle passed without instructing in the crucifixion of the flesh. The human, or fleshly desire to step into self-reliance, was recognized by Satan when he tempted Jesus with the kingdoms of the world, and by suggesting the conversion of stones to bread. He sees the same desire in us. If we do not resist the devil, we shall find that he is required to extend little effort, for it is the old man’s desire, like Satan’s, for we will find that Satan, was much like Man.
“I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation …” (Isa 14:13)
Further, we can never concede that the Christian experience is something related to the carnal and natural life. Only backsliding out of fellowship and the constant presence of the Counsellor can generate this false conception. It is not intended for us to walk in total darkness, but due to double mindedness on the part of fickle people, and deviant behavior, this to often happens. It is best to remember that Jesus’ silent testimony is our encouragement, drawing closer to God in the midst of trials.
“…Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that doeth so easily beset us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith …. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Heb 12:2,3 omissions)
[Notice that when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him, a voice spoke out, testifying of the ordination. Is it any wonder that God preserves this distinction as a seekers tongue yields to languages of the Spirit as he yields to the infilling of the Holy Ghost?]
Public Demonstration or manipulation by the Devil Perhaps Christendom shall finally fall upon the sword of outrage. Reverends Baker and Swaggart today teach forgiveness while Jessica Hawn is making her second appearance in Penthouse magazine which incidentally is read for the information as well as pornographic appeal. We frequently meet those without personal profession who are genuinely empathetic to the humiliation of the church world. Would you believe that non-Christians often disdain the jeering that Christianity Americana uses to identify it’s own approval. in favor of real hope that the brainwashed might recover and not suffer so without sound mindedness? How shall we avoid the devil and his antics ? Scripturally:
“The prince of this world cometh and he hath nothing in me.” John 14:30
Christian parents, will you avoid this trap? Lastly, Christian parents: you are rightfully concerned about the messages which your child will receive from the attractions of the world. For the longest time, television, and the motion picture industries have relentlessly produced filth and defilement. Doubt and fear are the mental byproducts which you allow when feeding at the pig trough of
the world in partaking in these things at all. The polluted and lost vessels were provided under covenant by the Holy God for a limited time. Originally, your concern for your children’s welfare was provoked by the Holy Ghost. Take a look at the film series ‘Halloween’, or ‘Nightmare on Elm Street”. Christian children soak this stuff up, under the guise of ‘not getting too legalistic’, and developing an ability to choose with free will”. If we talk sincerely friend, we know that almost without exception, movie and television drama presentations include material and viewpoints that no christian can conscientiously become mentally and spiritually involved with!
If your child is truly saved, and it’s your responsibility to see that they are educated in the way of salvation, a blurry or blasphemous picture will not unseat them, and with certainty will disgust them. A true Christian is revolted to hear the Lord’s name profaned, it’s a reaction that comes with love for Him. Why don’t you repent of your irresponsibility and separate yourselves and children from the movie theaters as God has called us to do! Very seldom can anyone cite a truly edifying production; going to the movies and watching TV is like regularly skimming through every page in Penthouse, looking for wisdom. If it’s there you wouldn’t want to miss it, would you?
Dear Mr. Scorcese,
Mr. Scorcese, if you have in all sincerity embarked on a search for Jesus, bear in mind that may not be the person you expect him to be. Truly there is much precedent for religious people endeavouring to “pass off” their idea of who He is. If sober, we have access to the true record. Be diligent though because the time is short, and only those who seek a Master will find one. Others are inclined to find an image of themselves, in some fashion. One seeking a master is humble as he seeks. For this reason the Apostles left us the record:
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” – Matt 5:6
“He that cometh to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him”. – Heb 11:6b
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the father but by me. If ye had known me ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know Him and have seen
Him.” – John 14:6-7
1. On the verge of a Public Blasphemy!
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, published in the New York Times, August 11 and 12, 1988
2. Scorsese’s Spiritual Jesus
Peter Bien, New York Times, August 11, 1988
3. File: Jesus as a Mere Mortal
Julie Salamon, Wall Street Journal, August 11, 1988
4. Christ the Man
Jerry Tallmer, New York Post, August 12, 1988
5. Handout recieved by the author within the week of August 1, 1988