Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So Soon Removed … (?)

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: (New Testament Galatians 1:6)
Have we become advocates of another gospel of:
▪ following the profits?
▪ win at all costs?
▪ self-sufficiency?
▪ self-interest?
▪ appearances?
▪ pride?
▪ excess?
▪ glory-seeking?
▪ being a law unto self?
▪ meritorious entitlements?
▪ scorning the poor and needy?
▪ forgetfulness and ingratitude?
▪ compartmentalized morals and politics?
I listen to self-proclaimed “Christians,” to defenders of capitalist “democracy,” to “free-market” devotees, and much of what I hear is the song of Babylon. The pursuit of gain. Déjà vu Cain & company—millennium one.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

In Defense of Peter

Saint Peter
6th-century encaustic icon
from Saint Catherine's Monastery
Mount Sinai
Public Domain Wikimedia Commons
Every so often the topic of the Apostle Peter’s denials surfaces for discussion, and each time, I have felt we were missing something vital in the accepted interpretation of those accounts. Then in the early 1990s, I read a talk[1] by Pres. Spencer W. Kimball that opened the door, just a crack, for re-analysis. I decided to put my thoughts into a one-act play, “Witness for Peter” and did so in 1995. (It has remained, with minor tweaks, in various incarnations of electronic storage since that time.) Several years after writing it, I discovered a talk[2] by Bruce C. Hafen, then president of Ricks College, wherein the crack for re-analysis widened. Then in 2005, I encountered a discussion[3] at wherein a Greek word was presented as a trump against such re-analysis. In defense of Peter, I left a comment as follows:
11/4/2005 at 8:04 pm
Belated caution re post #17
  Proposition: As no original manuscripts remain to prove the compositional language(s) of the Gospels; as there is no consensus amongst scholars or historians about the use of Greek in those originals; as most of the relied-upon, copied texts for the KJV are distant from the original authors by several hundred years; as interpretive choices in translation work, even by well-meaning translators, can, and often do, change meaning and intent (not to mention, “corrective” or “correlative” interpolations made by copyists and translators); therefore, it is questionable whether we know the precise words spoken by the Lord and whether the words have been accurately transmitted (e.g., compare the synoptic gospels with John’s). And more to the point, we cannot know with certainty how the Lord meant His words—probably spoken in Aramaic—to be understood.
  Perhaps, in fairness to Peter, the safest course is not to take a dogmatic position either way, but to ask, as Spencer W. Kimball, “Are we sure of his motive in that recorded denial?” And then, to not be afraid of uncertainty about the matter (see, Bruce C. Hafen, “On Dealing with Uncertainty,” BYU Devotional, 9 January 1979, Ensign, Aug. 1979, 63-4 where he also addresses the Peter question).
Two days ago, (Nov. 29, 2011) I discovered a thoughtful, scholarly analysis[4] by Andrew Skinner, that is worth the consideration of every soul who wonders about Peter—an analysis that seems to ably answer the “Greek trump.”

Not only does the command interpretation appear possible, but does it not fit within the pattern of “Abrahamic” tests that God seems to require of all who follow in the footsteps of His Son? A pattern that requires a complete submission of will[5], of nature, of passion, and sometimes, of possessions (Mark 10:17-22)? If Christ had to suffer great contradiction[6], and Abraham, Job, Mary & Joseph, Joseph & Emma, and nigh every scriptural prophet, and many saints and sages in the triumph over self, why not Peter?

For some this is an intensely emotional issue. For them it deeply offends the scriptural account. Yet, is it not strange that the Apostle John, who was present at the trials and witness to the events first-hand, does not include any remark about Peter's sudden recollection of his Lord's words when the cock crew?

Also, in this analysis, the inconsistencies in Peter's character do not arise. As well, Peter seems to have had no reservation about rushing to the empty tomb or of meeting his risen Master three days after his awful denial; nor did the Church seem to hold Simon Peter in less esteem for what would surely have been seen as a monumental failing. So shouldn't we be willing to hear all the evidence before making as reasoned a  judgment as possible in the circumstances?

Of course, we cannot know the full truth of that night, but does it not seem credible that this was a night of supreme testing for Peter, which, as we see with Abraham and others, came as a nigh unbearable contradiction (and denial) of his bold character and convictions—to submit his will, against every inclination, to God’s will?

Even if it turns out that Simon Peter failed this test[7], the account still testifies to the great cleansing power of repentance and to the efficacy of the realized atonement.

[1] Given in 1971 and now found at
[2] Given in 1979 and now found at
[7] I am aware of Pres. Hinckley’s talk on Peter, but find other thoughts and analyses far more persuasive.

See also:

I hope in the near future to publish my one-act, one-person play, Witness for Peter, at
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