Scot McKnight on Heretics vs Hypocrites

Recently, Scot McKnight commented on Owen Strachan, the new ‘hawk’ in the Southern Baptist army, accusing Rachel Held Evans of ‘heresy’, because of her egalitarian stance.  In doing this, Strachan used a typical fundamentalist tactic: extending the borders of the Gospel, in order to include in them their favourite non-essentials.

This time, Scot discusses the fact that, in the gospels,  Jesus was much more interested in matters of religious hypocrisy than in matters of doctrinal accuracy, a topic on which my Southern Baptist friends should do well to meditate seriously. And look in the mirror, from time to time.

Here is what Scot write on this topic:

* * *

In a recent post on the meaning of “heresy,” a post generated because unauthorized people seem to take it upon themselves to determine who is and who is not a heretic, and often enough use the term carelessly, I wrote this: it is too bad we don’t have such an evocative term for praxis. Jesus’ focus was on “hypocrisy” more than “heresy,” and it might just be an indication of how far we’ve strayed for us to give so much attention to “heresy” and not enough to “hypocrisy.”

So I want to give the word “hypocrite” in Matthew 23; it’s most important passage, a good look today to show that in fact the hypocrite when used by Jesus is not that far from the word “heretic.” More important than similarity is the added beef given to disapproval when we look at the term “heretic” through the lens of the term “hypocrite.”

Five observations, leading to a summary definition of what Matthew (Jesus) meant by “hypocrisy.” I have attached at the bottom of this post the entire text of Matthew 23 from the NIV 2011.

Hypocrisy is…

1. Inconsistency between what one teaches and what one does (23:3-4)
2. Desire for prestige and power and congratulation (23:5-12)
3. Abuse of teaching authority through both false teachings and false practices (23:13, 15, 16-22, 23-24, 25-26, 27-28).
4. Overconcern with minutiae and lack of focus on the major issues (23:23-24, 25-26, 27-28): that is, moral myopia.
5. Inconsistency between appearance and practice (23:27-28).

Put together, Jesus accuses the Pharisees for “hypocrisy” because (1) they had abused their teaching authority by teaching false things, (2) not living according to what they taught, and for (3) their desire for power and control. In addition, (4) their teaching was a focus on minor issues to the neglect of major issues.

They flattened the Torah into a listing of God’s will while Jesus saw love of God and love of others as the center of that Torah. If the Pharisees saw love as one of the commandments, however important, Jesus saw love as central and everything as expressive of that love. This reorients all of the Torah, all of teaching, and therefore all of praxis.

To be “hypocrite” is to be a false teacher who leads both self and others astray from the will of God. The term should not be limited to “contradiction between appearance and reality” (the classic definition of hypocrisy).

* * *

Read HERE the entire article.

Advertisements

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s