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The Harm the Good Do
My Reflections
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December 6, 2010

Question/Topic in focus: The harm the good do


PhariseesWithout mincing words, the world has rejected Christianity because, to them, neither the Bible nor the Christian life is consistent. Now, although I contend that both, if properly understood, are consistent, the fact of the matter is that the "Christian" world has propagated a religion full of inconsistencies. So which is it, someone might ask, a God of law or a God of grace? A God who annihilates his enemies or a God who loves them? And to the church, another might ask, So what are your priorities? The poor or your rents and capital campaigns?


Because Jesus and his Word are my foundation, I do not agree with many of the conclusions philosophers such as Friedrich Nietzsche came to. But as I have grown older, I now sympathize with their honest questions and sometimes profound answers. Below you'll find one such insight. Nietzsche essentially comes to this conclusion: those engaged in the Christian religion inadvertently kill the good because they, thinking themselves to be good, mistake the true good for evil. Hence, they killed their Messiah.


The Harm the Good Do
Excerpted from Exclusion and Embrace by Miroslav Volf

Nietzsche CartoonIn a profound reading of the Gospels in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche underscored the connection between the self-perceived "goodness" of Jesus' enemies and their pursuit of his death; crucifixion was a deed of "the good and just," not of the wicked, as we might have thought. "The good and just" could not understand Jesus because their spirit was "imprisoned in their good conscience" and they crucified him because they construed as evil his rejection of their notions of good (Nietzsche 1969, 229; Westphal 1993, 262f.). "The good and just," insists Nietzsche, have to crucify the one who devises an alternative virtue because they already possess the knowledge of the good; they have to be hypocrites because, seeing themselves as good, they must impersonate the absence of evil. Like poisonous flies, "they sting" and they do so "in all innocence" (Nietzsche 1969, 204). Exclusion can be as much a sin of "a good conscience" as it is of "an evil heart." And Nietzsche's warning that "whatever harm the world-calumniators may do, the harm the good do is the most harmful harm" may not be entirely out of place (Nietzsche 1979, 100) (Volf 1996).


My Reflections

 Magnifying glass
As clans of disciples, we must perpetually recognize our proclivity toward Pharisaism. In what ways, thinking we are good, do we reject and crucify the true good?


Here's the big question, How can we avoid such traps? Let's listen to Paul: "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect" (NASU, emphasis mine).


Now let's be honest. Didn't the Pharisees think they were the epitome of all that was right and good in the world? But they were wrong, weren't they? So what was it? What led them down the path of destruction? Was it their passion for purity? No. Was it their zeal for Yahweh? No. In fact, Paul stated earlier in Romans, "For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God" (NASU, emphasis mine).


In the end, what got the Pharisees in trouble was all the extra stuff they added to God's Word. What they thought was good (i.e., Pharisaical law) turned out to be bad. In other words, it was their concept of good Christian living that clouded their judgment. People of God, the extra stuff we add is not benign (let your imaginations roam on what that might be). Let's identify it and rid of it like the plague. Let's no longer conform to the false "good" of the world, but let's rather be transformed by the simplicity of obedience to God's untwisted and un-added-to Word.


As always, The Banqueting Table hopes this was of some benefit to you.


Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table

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