Here are a few quotes from a famous Christian who really had a slash and burn approach to the established "church" of his time. The quotes are from the NRSV and you can find most of them in Mat 23.
- Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.
- You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
- You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell?
- They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others
- For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. For you do not go in yourselves, and when others are going in, you stop them.
- You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!
- For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth.
The truth is the people of which Jesus speaks would often be highly regarded. We know that a great many of these Pharisees believed in Jesus. An examination of the rabbinic tradition reveals that the were some very genuine, sincere dedicated people among their ranks. Jesus consistently makes sweeping blanket judgments about the entire group. At times he seems to do and say things that would intentionally irritate them.
My point in all this? Sometimes you have to tell people the unvarnished truth regardless of how many people you tick off. I was thinking about this today as I pondered Frank Viola’s less than irenic spirit in Pagan Christianity. For years I’ve challenged people I’ve known personally in conventional Christian ministry. I’ve done my level best to be charitable, respectful and sensitive. After years of trying the net impact is still pretty much zero. If the issues you challenge people on go too deep they just ignore them no matter how constructive you are.
A number of people are saying that Frank Viola would need to tone things down to get better acceptance. I’m not convinced. I think he is right about most of what he says. He might overreach in a few areas but even if he didn’t people wouldn’t accept most of what he is saying. The cost of dealing with the truth is too high. It is too easy to ignore or write off.
Sometimes one needs to be so strong you polarize opinions to get people to move or change.