Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Imitating Jesus

I just finished Imitating Jesus by Richard Burridge, who is dean of King's College in London. It is a New Testament Ethics book that begins with the historical Jesus and moves through the works of Paul and the Gospels with the narrative background of Jesus' words and deeds in dialogue with ethics in his test case of South Africa. I enjoyed it very much, although I did not agree with everything he said as he never addressed officially the "elephant in the room" in regards to women in ministry and homosexuality. I am looking forward to comparing it with Hays' Moral Vision of the New Testament, as Burridge is critical of Hays several times. I leave you with an excerpt from the conclusion:

"Thus we cannot ignore the Bible, or tame the wolf (he uses the metaphor of an untamed wolf for scripture), or revisit the canon to remove the 'texts of terror' as some suggest among teh so-called 'liberal mainline denominations' - even if we wanted to. Nor am I prepared to do so. Speaking personally, this book is the word of life, which changed everything around for me when I was an undergraduate and which ahs directed my personal life, ministry and academic career ever since. So I want to grapple with it, read it and try ever to get a better understanding of it, so that I can make sense of it, and yes, apply it to my life and the life of the world in these complext and perplexing times. I am simply not prepared to let the fundamentalist lobby, or even the so-called conservatives, have the monopoly on what it means to be 'biblical' any more than I am willing to all so-called 'liberals' to dismiss it."(407).


Mason said...

Thanks for posting this review Ray.
It sounds like a good read. The way he speaks of not taming the text resonates with me, I think we too often do just that. McKnight's Blue Parakeet uses a similer approach which I thought was dead on. If only more of us took Burridge's advice to stop letting certian segments of the faith portray it as if their way was the only way to be biblical.

I just read Hays' "The Moral Vision of the New Testament" and thought it was quite well done, so I'll be interested to hear how you feel they compare when you finish it.

Kurt said...

sounds like an interesting book. I will keep it in mind when i read Hayes' book (i will be reading it for a seminary class so i have been holding off for now.) Interesting quote... I like the end: "I am simply not prepared to let the fundamentalist lobby, or even the so-called conservatives, have the monopoly on what it means to be 'biblical' any more than I am willing to all so-called 'liberals' to dismiss it."

This is a great quote about living in the tension of the theological polarities that have been constructed over the years.

Dan Martin said...

Hello Ray,

I really appreciate Burridge's perspective as you have summarized it. Too often both liberal and conservative groups try to housebreak one or more aspects of the history and words of Jesus, and both must be confronted when they do.

I'm curious about your comment re: the "elephant in the room" of homosexuality and women. My question would be "who brought this elephant into the room, and which room is he in?" By this I mean, those questions, while valid given our 21st-century culture, are not given as much focus in the N.T. texts as either side of those debates might like.

I am not implying that there isn't good biblical foundation for a position on gay- or women's-related issues. As I have written on my own blog I believe there ARE important points to be taken from scripture. But is it necessarily true that someone who's writing about imitating Jesus is dodging if he doesn't address those subjects? I'm not so sure. . .



Ray said...


I went back and reread what I wrote and I did not make it clear that Burridge himself labeled women's issues and homosexuality as the "elephant in the room." He does apply his ethic in a case study to the S. African situation, but not to these two particular issues that cause ethical division today. I think one could easily tackle women's issues, especially if you've read the book of Luke. Homosexuality is a little more difficult, but Richard Hays, who does address contemporary issues, does as good a job as possible. Sorry for the misunderstanding, and for the blogging hiatus I've been on. I will return as I have only 40 more days of school left!

Grace and Peace,