“Flies on Jesus”

Saul Bellow in his novel Herzog quotes what he says is an old song, “There are flies on me; there’s flies on you, but there ain’t no flies on Jesus.”  O yes, there wereso much so did He become Man for us men and our salvation.  So much so did He take on our flesh and blood that He shared not only our sins but our infirmities even the ones “that have entered into our nature as the penalties of sin” (Chemnitz, The Two Natures in Christ, 49).  As flies land on us to drink our sweat, eat our sores, and lay their eggs in open wounds, so did the flies land on Jesus.

And that is a problem, a downright embarrassment for many in Christianity, even in Lutheranism, even in conservative Lutheranism.  Take the Rev. Dr. Herbert Hoefer, a 1967 graduate of our St. Louis seminary now serving at Concordia University, Portland Oregon.  In an article entitled “Muslim-Friendly Christian Worship,” he with an apparently straight face but bent theology advocates we not use wine for Holy Communion, not use Epistles in divine services, and change century old creeds to insure Muslims “feel comfortable in our Christian worship services.”  The whole piece (of what I won’t say) was at http://faculty.cu-portland.edu/herbhoefer/MuslimFriendly.html, but I can’t find it now.

In the above Herb only advocates what contemporary worship has been doing for some time now to make unbelievers feel comfortable in Christian worship.  Herb, however, goes a step beyond and very far beneath.  He advocates Christian Worship sans Christ.  He thinks Muslims have this “misconception about Christian worship.”  “They think we worship a human being.”  He thinks we should address such a “misconception” as follows: “We are called to pray in Jesus’ Name, but are we called to use that name as our object of worship and prayer?  Even if prayers and worship might justifiably be addressed to the name of Jesus, I would urge that such a practice is unhelpful as Christian witness in a Muslim context” (Emphasis not to mention indignation added.).

Herb must have snoozed in his seminary classes on systematics, the Lutheran Confessions, and Luther’s theology.  In any event, he couldn’t have been paying attention when his pastor taught him the Explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles Creed.  “I believe that Jesus Christ true God begotten of the Father from all eternity and also true man born of the Virgin Mary is my Lord.”  Sorry you didn’t get the memo Herb; Christians do worship a human being. Thomas with a finger in a nail hole and a hand in Jesus’ side said to this Man, “My Lord and My God.”  Thankfully, there were no Muslims present or he might have said, “Hey, it’s you.”

As a friend in the ministry liked to say, “You can’t swing a dead cat” in the writings of Luther and fail to hit this point.  In his 1527 work “That These Word of Christ, ‘This is My Body,’ etc., Still Stand Firm against the Fanatics” we read this, “Apart from Christ there is no God” (AE, 37, 56).  “Apart from Christ there is simply no God or Godhead at all” (Ibid., 61).  In his 1528 work “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper,” we read, “Apart from this Man there is no God” (Ibid., 218.).  For Muslims, and apparently for Herb too, there is.

If Luther’s theology isn’t good enough for Herb, how about our Lutheran Confessions?  (You know the ones Herb took a solemn vow to preach, teach and presumably write in accordance with.)  The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, VIII, 16 quotes Theodore the Presbyter approvingly when he condemns Manes as follows: “He wickedly taught that the Lord Christ was nothing other than a mere man in whom God the Word dwelt, just as in every prophet.”

If Herb gags on his vow to regard the Lutheran Confessions as a true exposition of the doctrines of the Word of God, perhaps he will believe the Bible.  Saint Paul says, “All the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him (Jesus) bodily” (Colossians 2:9).  Oops! That’s an Epistle writer, drat!  Okay, maybe He will believe Jesus even though He is suspect because of the whole human nature thing.  He says, “All may honor the Son [that would be the One incarnate in our flesh and blood], just as they honor the Father.  Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22).  And, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself.” 

We eat His Body and drink His Blood because it is life-giving, and I don’t know about Herb, but I do so worshipping and adoring that Body and Blood even though it appears to be nothing but bread and wine.  And yes, much to the horror of those who believe it’s the Body and Blood of Jesus only once it passes their lips, flies can be on the Body and Blood of Jesus on my altar.

I digress, but not really.  All this is interrelated.  What you do or do not confess about the inscripturated Word, the incarnate Word, or the “inbreaded” Word will be the same.  Each of these miracles: Bible, Incarnation, and Sacrament can be and are attacked from their human side, and yet their human side is the only ladder (I know I am paraphrasing Luther.) that the God who dwells in light unapproachable and is a consuming fire has let down from heaven for us to safely climb up on. 

Herb thinks we should saw the ladder off.  Too many blasted flies buzzing around it.  Muslims hate flies.  No, they hate a Man who is God.  Christians worship Him.  If we just tone down that, we will be able to get along with them.  Of course we won’t be Christians for long and the flies will still land on our sweaty, decaying, dead bodies but devoid of a Divine Savior who had flies on Him we will be left to the mercy of the flies.

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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2 Responses to “Flies on Jesus”

  1. christopher says:

    I saved and added the article in my April 17 post on Muslim friendly worship. I had a feeling this might be pulled from the web.

  2. Jim says:

    It’s very unnerving to see how our society (and now our LCMS) bends over backwards to be sure Muslims are not offended. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if a Christian is offended. In the end, how society – or even the church – treats Christians or the Name of Jesus. I read the book – the Good Guy has already won. That can’t be changed.

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