Collin Garbarino responds to John Dominic Crossan’s “nonviolent” reading of the Bible, or more specifically, his use of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as a hermeneutical control:
In Crossan’s understanding of the Incarnation, Jesus came to tell us to share and to avoid violence, and it’s up to us to follow his advice. Jesus the Messiah becomes Jesus the kindergarten teacher. Crossan thinks this message of nonviolence is so urgent because now we have nuclear weapons, and he suggests that some fool fundamentalist will use these nukes to bring about the Apocalypse. But this won’t be a Biblical apocalypse of judgment that ends in restoration. It’s just the end of evolution. It’s somewhat amusing to see that Crossan hasn’t outgrown his generation’s fear of nuclear winter.
But Crossan’s central idea is not amusing; it’s disingenuous. He talks about finding the “heartbeat” of the Bible, but he’s interested in no such thing. Instead of honestly trying to understand how love and wrath can both find their source in a holy God, Crossan seeks to tear God in two. The violence of God must be dismissed as Crossan looks for the nonviolence of God. Crossan says that he’s looking for the diastole and the systole of the Bible’s cardiac cycle, but he isn’t. He’s actually trying to have one without the other. Any heart that only has one and not both will die. In the same way, the heavily edited Jesus of Crossan’s imagination is not the living Christ, and the faith that Crossan offers is a dead one.
This is the same problem that faces left-leaning evangelicals who espouse a “Red-letter” approach to Scripture (wherein the words of Jesus are seen as authoritative and the rest of Scripture as more or less fallible commentary). In order to maintain the fantasy that Jesus can be obeyed in isolation from the Holy Spirit-inspired whole canon of Scripture, one has to carefully redraw the Jesus of the New Testament to not mean what He actually said. There’s not much to respect about that kind of theology.