Wednesday, January 06, 2021

A Second Opinion

One of Stand to Reason’s most popular posts last year was a Tim Barnett article entitled “What Must Ben Shapiro Do to Be Saved?” Barnett had been watching a 2018 YouTube interview in which the conservative pundit Shapiro got into a lengthy discussion with Roman Catholic bishop Robert Barron.

Shapiro and Barron found plenty of common ground, as one might expect. Then things got interesting.

Where Do I Stand?

Shapiro asked Barron flat-out where he stands with God:
“What’s the Catholic view on who gets into heaven and who doesn’t? I feel like I lead a pretty good life — a very religiously based life — in which I try to keep, not just the Ten Commandments, but a solid 603 other commandments, as well. And I spend an awful lot of my time promulgating what I would consider to be Judeo-Christian virtues, particularly in Western societies. So, what’s the Catholic view of me?”
Sadly, Barron’s response toed the Vatican II party line:
“If you’re following your conscience sincerely — or, in your case, you’re following the commandments of the Law sincerely — yeah, you can be saved. Even, Vatican II says, an atheist of good will can be saved.”
In his commentary on the interview, Tim Barnett goes on to say what Robert Barron did not, explaining in the process why he does not believe in inclusivism, and detailing what the Bible teaches about how men and women may receive the free gift of salvation, citing both the experience of Cornelius and the words of Christ himself that “unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins”.

As STR’s seventh-most viewed post of 2020, Shapiro’s remarks and Barron’s reply got plenty of attention.

What’s interesting is to see that this is not Ben Shapiro’s first rodeo, so to speak. It turns out Ben was actually asking Barron for what amounts to a second opinion. Like a man diagnosed with terminal cancer, he didn’t much like the first one he had received.

An Earlier Interview on the Same Subject

Shapiro’s interview with Barron took place almost a year after another interview, this one with evangelicals Toby Sumpter and David Shannon, in which Shapiro was asked what he thought of Jesus Christ. Editing out the not-inconsiderable hemming and hawing that ensued as Shapiro bobbed and weaved trying to find common ground with Christians while answering the $64,000 question honestly, Shapiro replied as follows:
“So, my view of Jesus is that Jesus was in all likelihood an Orthodox Jew who ... tried to lead a political revolt against the Romans and was crucified for his trouble.

Maimonides lays out like a whole series of things that somebody has to do in order to be considered the Messiah. The concept of the Messiah as actual embodiment of God in Judaism is anathema. Jews don’t believe that God takes human form. They don’t believe that God takes physical form.

If I believed that the New Testament was a factual history of Jesus then I would say that Jesus was not a good Rabbi.”
So, not God, not even a good rabbi, and the New Testament is not a factual history of Jesus in any case. Shapiro wound up the awkward exchange by saying, “The truth is I have more fun talking about the stuff that we have in common rather than stuff we differ on.”

Er, no kidding.

His host replied, “I want to get you saved, Ben.” Amen to that.

Candid, Meet Even More Candid ...

Shapiro’s candor is to be commended, and his view of the Lord Jesus is nothing out of the ordinary in Orthodox Judaism these days. But it doesn’t really leave him all that much common ground with evangelicals after all. I am reminded of this even more candid statement from the apostle Paul:
“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.”
Notwithstanding the stated opinion of the Vatican, the issue of where we will find ourselves when we step into eternity does not turn on whether we lead a good life, keep ten commandments or the entire original 603 (which, by the way, Orthodox Jews absolutely do not), or promulgate Judeo-Christian virtues (of which there are actually not that many).

No, the teaching of the New Testament is that a man’s eternal destiny is bound up not just in what he believes about Jesus Christ, but in whether he responds to the person of Christ with love, loathing or, like Shapiro, with dispassionate indifference.

Ben Shapiro’s position on Jesus may be commendably candid, but it is fatally flawed. And if the apostle Paul’s blunt proclamation has any divine authority behind it, then a second opinion — even one from so august a religious presence as a Catholic bishop — isn’t likely to help Ben much in the day he is called upon to give his account.

What IS interesting is why he would feel the need to ask for one.

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