I spent time yesterday studying the Parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10 - preparing to lead a Bible study on the famous story.
Several commentaries mention Augustine's over-allegorising of the story. Bock correctly notes in his impressive two volume masterpiece on Luke that there is absolutely no grounds to interpret the parable allegorically - it is intended to teach something about the nature of the Christian life. The lawyer is not to allegorise the story to mean anything other than what Jesus challenged him with at the end of the encounter - 'You go and do likewise.'
It strikes me that evangelical commentators and preachers avoid Augustine's excessive allegorising, but shy away from the clear and plain meaning of Jesus' parable - and return to a version of allegorising. So, to argue as several have done, that the good samaritan is Jesus and we are the man attacked by thieves - may be good theology of grace, but is emphatically not what Jesus was teaching here. It is an allegorising of the passage, imposing external meaning without internal exegetical warrent.
The reason for this may be that the story as a whole, unallegorised, appears to teach works righteousness. (See the original question and the final challenge)
However it need not be so if:
1. Jesus tells the lawyer truth about love and neighbourly love - but omits telling him everything about New Testament love - such as that it is a gift of God's Spirit and is itself a work of grace.
2. The reformed distinction between faith and love, correct though it is, does not do justice to all Biblical material on the topic. That is, though there is a distinction between faith and love/works - the NT often views them as organic and inter-related. Thus the love Jesus commands is a work of God's Spirit, reflects the nature of God and is in many ways analogous to faith.
There is a valuable teaching point from refusing to allegorise the story. It is that we find that the lawyer was trying to justify himself by restricting his love to a particular group of people.
He was trying to limit who he had to love, who his neighbour was, so that love becomes a task that can be completed. Once love becomes a task that can be measured and fulfilled - it can be done and admired and pride can be taken in it. Loving some people - but not all we could - is not admirable, it is a form of justifying ourselves before God. As shocking as it is, Paul insisted in Rom 13 that love was to viewed as a never repaid debt - we must adopt a posture whereby we keep loving, dont stop, dont limit and feel the demand that never exhausts itself.
Such an insight gets obscured when we take shortcuts out of fear that Jesus is teaching works righteousness - we need to have the courage to stick with the plain meaning of the passage!
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Two friendly creatures found their way into our garden, and have decided to join our family.
We are open to suggestions of names - Feel free to make your suggestion by leaving a comment.
These cats were lost and dying in our garden, the mother had died. Augustine often preached on the theme of being lost and found. On one occasion he was traveling to the church he was speaking at; unknown to him there were a group of Donatists waiting en route to kill him (Yes theological difference was a big deal in those days!)
Augustine however got lost on the way and as a result did not pass along the road where the ambush was laid. When he got to the church he was told about the plot and was delighted - what a terrific sermon illustration!
He used it to speak movingly of the God who seeks the lost - even our mistakes and our getting lost is part of his way of pouring protection and grace upon us. He argued that providence and grace interweave and focus in upon the people who need grace the most. Us.