Crossan on the City

This interview with New Testament scholar John Dominic Crossan (via NT Gateway) makes for interesting reading. Crossan is not a writer I often find myself in agreement with, but his comments are well worth consideration. I share Mark Goodacre’s amusement that “the major new stress in Crossan on Paul and early Christianity as anti- Roman Empire is that this brings Crossan closer to Wright than ever before, does it not?”

I actually started writing some comments on this piece at the end of last year, but they got lost in the works, and I’m not sure I was reading the piece correctly anyway. But with no January Series lecture today, I returned to it and found something that resonated in the wake of Tuesday’s lecture.

In any system, where the economy is booming, it doesn’t boom for everyone. And there might be very conservative people for whom the raw excesses of a booming economy are destroying the values they hold dear. I’m thinking of people who might find the whole dislocation of family life in the big cities intolerable.

So now Christianity offers a society to pagan city-dwellers that it fits in–it looks like the associations we know existed at that time. This Christian society believes in a God who is just, and here’s how that justice works out: We share what we have. If I break my wrist and can’t work for a week, I get supported by this community–and then I’m expected to share with the community. It’s a socio-economic safety net, in other words. But it also gives you a world run by a God who cares about you.

That dislocation of family life loomed large in Eugene Rivers’ talk at Calvin, and shifts in the nature of the family are quite rightly something we should be considering carefully. But these shifts are a natural part of history, and a similar shift probably resulted from the changes people made when they joined the early Church. Crossan’s words speak to me of space and support in wake of changes, with time to consider the strong and the weak in the new paradigm. Perhaps a more useful model for engagement than that expounded on Tuesday?

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