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All Commentaries


Put some flowers in your guns. Is this also true of apologetics?

Dott. Raffaele Battista, Librarian and Teacher at Facoltà Avventista di Teologia

Herald of Truth or servant of the world? Hawks or doves? Right or left? Liberal or conservative? Open to dialogue or entrenched in a position? All questions for us as we look for a balance. But a balance between what? Whether the church sees itself as herald of truth or that of a servant of the world, it is a question that haunts everyone. Inside the communities of both political movements and religious groups, as always, two souls, are stirred. That of someone who is taking up the world, and that of someone who want to serve it.

Of course, we are rejecting a priori the literal senseto head for, as we move, in the pure sphere of non-violent action. That being said, at least a couple of the initial questions survived.

In the history of Christian apologetics, (we stay in this area) the church has never disdained the controversy. Sometimes there are even hot debates, made ​​of violent verbal attacks (not to talk about the wars of religion), the mutual excommunications of demonization. Heretic, apostate, cold, sleeping, warm. The vocabulary of religious crisis could go on. Why all this? Probably because, thinking of the transitional categories that we have given, the herald of truth and servant of the world, you could say that, there is a bit 'of the one in the other. The problem is the recipe, the proportions of the ingredients.

The web, makes it possible to attack figures and institutions with some ease. The Christian world is no exception. There are websites that speak against the various churches, against their founders, against their leaders, and against their prophets. In these cases, however, there is a legitimate doubt that, sometimes those who throw over ideological stones are moved more by instincts than values​​.

On the other hand it is also a legitimate point that there are cultural spaces in which it is permissible to express opinions and critiques. These kind of events are public in nature, therefore can have an effect on the conscience of believers. An example of this would be the divisive phenomenon of Medjugorje, about which, the same Catholic church is asking the question whether or not to give his blessing.

Reformist or revolutionary?

Just as in a paradoxical game, we want to copy certain political, revolutionary, categories and paste them into the reality of religious movements. The revolutionary side, as such, perpetrate a frontal attack against the power through an armed struggle and ferocious accusation. In his original vision, the opponent is the absolute enemy. As such he must be eliminated, in him there is nothing to save. The demonization often follows the purge, the physical deletion of the enemy with its symbols. Then, the birth of a new man is announced. This concept is familiar both in Marxism and in fascism. However, that new man will never come to light without taking power. True revolution would begin only after its conquest...

Then, there are reform movements; democratic, respectful of the others. An opponent is not an absolute enemy, he is a person with inalienable rights. Despite the radical nature of the attempted transformation of political and social order, you want to impact the cultural, spiritual and ideal world. Through a natural process, and without bloodshed, they eagerly seek a political result in which a new collective consciousness shall arise.

Fresh complaint and testimony in Jesus of Nazareth.

A look at our ideal. In my opinion, the world vision preached by Jesus of Nazareth expresses the right balance between the two policies, which we have briefly defined as the attitude of the herald of truth and the servantof the world. The particular type of reform, capable of complaint, as practiced by Jesus, I believe, was never an end in itself, nor was it something detached from his original plan. Jesus did not pay attention to what his antagonists did or said against him. Actually, Jesus, in principle, had no opponents at all. In fact, they were quite a few who had chosen him as their enemy!

A few verses remind us of the best known examples.

First a dispute with the Pharisees:

"Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?" Matthew 22:17-18

To the provocation of the Pharisees who were not come there for a fair, rational, debate, but to set a trap, Jesus responds in a direct way, denouncing the wickedness of those men. Technically, Jesus replies to an attack on his territory. They were his opponents who interfered in the action of the Master, not the opposite. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites. Of course it would be unthinkable for us to use such an adjective. It would begin a fight, and end of any possibility of communication. There is a touch of irony in the text, though I do not know how much of it was necessarily intended. They were not themselves who said, almost in an involuntary confession of faith:

And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.” Matthew 22:16

Terrific truth. As in the episode of the liberation of the possessed of Gerasa, in which the legion of demons resided, and even admitted the deity of Jesus:

When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, "What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!"Luke 8:28

Likewise, the Pharisees, despite their negative intentionality, could help but confess Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, we sadly say, in the spirit of the devil, who believes and trembles. (James 2: 19). In his meeting with the Sadducees the hint of discussion was exclusively religious, and we might say today, theological:

The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, saying: "Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Matthew 22:23-29

The carrying out of this second scene is similar, if not identical to the previous one; in his response Jesus did not give up at all, sensitivity or frankness:

Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. Matthew 22:29

Jesus says that the Sadducees were in error with respect to the Hebrew Scriptures. Concepts within the reach of the consciousness of the Sadducees. But, what is the purpose of theological thought, if it is not guided by the purity of intent and does not look at reliable sources of knowledge (Scriptures)? Jesus does not want to offend anyone, but he is throwing a beam of light over the problem.

Are we hawks or doves?

This question does not end with this discussion. On the contrary, it introduces some other topics. In the history of all religious movements, including that of the Adventist Church, there coexist different viewpoints and different souls.
There are those who would like a more aggressive church, protestant, incisive, a criticism of the most controversial political and religious reality. A church that is not afraid to tell uncomfortable truths, a church-proof persecution. Some (I think not many) think that the absence of persecution, is a test of the church's spiritual sleep.
Others think that the church should be arranged at the service of humanity, preaching the gospel positively, and letting the seed—the light of the Kingdom of God—bring forth fruits of conversion and change. Still others, they think of a harmony between the two approaches. I will stop here, looking for a present truth. In balance between the need to tell the truth and assurance of having said it, so that the Spirit can write it in the hearts of those who heard it.