Friday, January 26, 2007

Come and See

I recently received an invitation to attend a conference where Christian theologians are going to defend the faith against deconstructionists. The best defense, the organizers claim, is wielding the sword of "propositional truth." After all, if deconstructionists maintain there is no absolute truth (oxymoron!), then the best thing we can do is to show them what is absolutely true: arguing for the verities of our faith one proposition at a time.

Ever since my first philosophy class, I've always been a bit suspicious of "propositional truth." My philosopher professor loved to show his students how absolute claims rarely bear the weight of careful argumentation. Like cracks in a concrete foundation, flaws in the premise of an argument eventually brings the whole house down. I decided right then I wouldn't ever find shelter from the storm of doubt in a house built on rationalism. One person's reason is another person's invitation to try to blow the house down.

Greek students know that "abide" or "remain" is a code word in John's gospel and letters. As a matter of fact, it appears so often, they get sick of seeing it. Abide here, abide there, abide everywhere. Abide, abide, abide. That's why most readers miss the irony of the question when a couple of would-be disciples of Jesus asked him, "where do you abide?" They had begun to follow Jesus because their mentor, John the Baptizer, told them to. Jesus, perhaps curious about their intentions asked them, "what are you looking for?" (Jo. 1:38). "Rabbi, where do you abide?" Jesus said, "Come and see."

I'm so glad he said, "Come and see," rather than, "I'm staying in Capernaum" or "The Son of Man has no where to lay his head" or "You have no idea what you're asking. Do you realize the implications of 'abiding'? That's one loaded question. Let's see. Some might say that I abide with the Father. Others might say that I abide in the hearts of believers. . ." or [I'm especially glad he didn't say] "split a piece of wood, and I am there; lift up a stone, and I am there."

Instead, he gave one of the most tempting, tantalizing, curiously inviting, intriguing, provocative, profound replies. Come and see. Come and see. Oh God, I'm so glad he said, "come and see."

Out of my wonder, sorrow, and night. Jesus, I come to thee.


Tom 1st said...

I think most people who use the jargon 'absolute truth' don't really know what they're saying. If they did, they certainly wouldn't want to say it anymore.

But, to be merciful (a rarity in my life), most people don't understand that word has a philosophical meaning that goes beyond popular use. They simply don't understand that for truth to absolute, it must also not be relational. No doubt, even 'absolute truth' would be sacrificed on the altar of the evangelicalisms 'personal relationship with Jesus.'

Rodney Reeves said...


You're right. We "greek thinkers" have a hard time talking about our faith without sounding like gnostics.

Incarnation! The more we try to explain it, the worse it gets.

matt gallion said...

you know...

i find your blog much more beneficial that dr. witherington's solely on the basis of length.

that man is brilliant and long-winded. my goodness!

so... the Beloved Disciple = Lazarus? are we gonna talk about that in class?

ben cassil said...

come and see...I used to read that and it would drive me crazy. What does he mean? i would wonder. But now I'm so glad I don't understand the gospels. The parts I think I do understand are the most challenging, and the most unnerving. Sometimes i think to follow Jesus is to be everything i am afraid of (poor, vulnerable, amoungst sinners, disrespected, hungry). Thank God He abide in me.

Joshua Collins said...

ben cassil said something smart. i was going to comment on the post. but apparently that fresh California air is giving him some good insights that cold Missourians like me can't always put into words. but I love how Jesus constantly doesn't give us the answers we expect Him to. cuz we probably rarely ask the right questions of Him.

matt gallion said...


thanks for listening to me ramble yesterday. i realized afterwards i sort of "dumped" on you.

you're a cool guy.

oh, and is andrew going to be selling that demo? i'd like a copy.

Vernon & Amber said...

Dr. Reeves...
woah. i heard a little rumor this blog was up and going, so i googled it and here i am...and boy am i excited! I am so thankful to have had you while at SBU. SO much to say but i'll just save it...i have to say though, i laughed out loud when i read matt gallion's comment " the Beloved Disciple = Lazarus? are we gonna talk about that in class?" oh how i will never forget those chats. thank you for teaching not just in the class room but with your life.
Amber Gaddis Burger

Vicki said...

Good stuff, as always. Concerning the disciple who "wrote these things," do you think that Lazarus could have been the author of the gospel and the letters? I'm thinking that may be the case, but the fact that the ending may have been added on (so I've read), in tandem with the absence of John from the gospel, keeps me from going that far. Any thoughts?

Darryl Schafer said...

Friend's computer. I (Darryl) an Vicki.

Rodney Reeves said...

Ben, Josh, and Matt, thanks for your encouraging comments and helpful insights.

Amber, so good to hear from you. The conversation continues!

Darryl/Vicki, I never knew: what an interesting split personality you have. Perhaps your entry(ies) gives us some insight on identifying the "beloved one" and the "author" of the Johannine material. One person can speak for someone else!

I think John intends for us to see Lazarus as the beloved one. I think John is the "author" of the Gospel/letter--all these stories/ideas come from him. I think the "elder" is the one who wrote these things down (you hear his voice as the narrator of the gospel and in the postscript). He's John's "amaneuensis." This makes the best sense, to my mind, of the traditions surrounding the Johannine material, the stylistic differences in the material, and the legend of the "beloved one." If I remember right, this is basically the same position argued by Alan Culpepper.

At the same time, while we debate these historical questions, the truth of the story doesn't change (which is why I don't spend much time pursuing these curiosities. As you know, I would rather wrestle with what John's gospel is doing to us as readers.)

God's Word is powerful.

Darryl Schafer said...

Yes, God's Word is powerful. Thanks for your input. And just for the record, Vicki is not some Carl Jung "get in touch with your feminine side" construct...just for the record (although I've been told that I look absolutely smashing in a kilt).

Jon said...

This is a late post, so sorry.

I do agree with you that ultimately we have to "come and see" Jesus. We are talking about a relationship, after all. But there is a place for discussing propositional truth, which I do not find suspicious. For example, if the Bible is not God's Word/Logos--that is, His truth given to us propositionally--then we cannot trust it to lead us into a correct relationship with Him. Just a thought.

Ah, I remember "abide" well...Those were the days.

Jon Clemence