The Remnant

One of the most pernicious things in the Bible is the idea that only a Remnant will be saved. It makes sense in Isaiah, where the Assyrians, who murdered and enslaved whole populations, then assimilated them and destroyed original cultures, were a threat to the whole region. It makes a little sense in Romans 9:27, where a tiny church is surrounded by pagan sects, and Paul explicitly quotes Isaiah:

Though the number of the children of Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved; for the Lord will execute his sentence on the Earth quickly and decisively.

This is God in one of his most Old Testament moods. It helps to see it as descriptive not prescriptive: this is the way the world was, not the way the world ought to be.

The trouble comes when people who genuinely want to do right get all bothered about something of lesser importance- the filioque clause, the Assumption of the BVM, the nature of the Eucharist, whatever- and make their differences more important than they need be. Imagining themselves the embattled Remnant is the last stage of this, from which there is little chance of redemption.

So, in the Thirty Years’ War when Christians were slaughtering each other around the Reformation, each denied the Christianity of the other. Bloody Mary burned the martyrs named in Fox’s book. And I really think Christians can do better now. Because thoughts of being the Remnant contradict Jesus’ teachings. First Matthew 12:30, then Mark 9:40

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Whoever is not against us is for us.

These are inconsistent, you might think. What of all the people who are indifferent? They only make sense together if they are addressed to me alone. So, Jesus tells me I must be with him, or I will be doing harm; but when I look at other people, I should see them as friendly unless I have clear evidence otherwise. If I use the former verse to judge anyone else, I go against “Judge not, that ye be not judged”. It is only addressed to me, so I may consider my own conduct. Others must hear and interpret it for themselves.

Neil Peart:

The spaces in between
leave room
for you and I to grow

That is all I want to say on the Bible for the moment.

All comments welcome.

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