Liberal Arts Blog — What Is the Most Important Thing Jesus Said? When Did He Say It? What Does It Mean?
Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Religion, and Culture Day
Today’s Topic: What Is the Most Important Thing Jesus Said? When Did He Say It? What Does It Mean?
Opinions differ. The fundamentalist tends to give an exclusivist answer. The pluralist gives an inclusivist one. Which one is right? Which one is more widely held? Are all opinions on both questions created equal? My own view is that all great religions from Christianity to Islam and Judaism to Buddhism and Hinduism have inclusivists and exclusivists. And my experience meeting large numbers of all of the above is that the former outnumber the latter by a wide margin but that the latter get all the press. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE FUNDAMENTALIST (aka exclusivist) — John 14:6, 10:9, 11:25
1. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
2. Preceding sentence: “Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered…
3. Similar passage from the Gospel of John: “I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
NB: Another: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies.
THE PLURALIST, INCLUSIVIST, ECUMENICAL — Matthew 23:37
1. “Love the Lord Your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind.This is the greatest and first commandment”
2. Preceding lines: “When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together one of them a lawyer asked him a question to test him. Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest? He said to him….”
3. What Jesus said next: “And the second is like it. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
NB: Jesus just echoes the Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament: “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
TWO SECULAR TRANSLATIONS OF THE PLURALIST VERSION
1. Attributed to Cicero: “Gratitude is not only the first of the virtues but the parent of all the others.”
2. Call it gratitude, call it piety, whatever you call it, it means waking up in the morning with a primal scream of “Yes! Thank you! Another chance to become a better person and thereby make the world a more beautiful place!”
3. In a word, “Hallelujah!”
NB: Translation: “Eureka!”
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Here is a link to the last four years of posts organized by theme: (including the book on foreign policy)
Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.
This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.