Christ Was Not a Revolutionary - 2020-11-20
"Jesus was a revolutionary", "Jesus Christ's revolutionary message", "the Christian revolution." These are phrases we've probably all heard before in reference to Jesus Christ and His teachings. Most notably, the equivocation of Jesus Christ with any kind of revolutionary spirit tends to come from those who wish to change some fundamental Church Teaching, and by framing our Lord as a revolutionary, it makes it appear that such changes are "what Christ would've done", or indeed possible in the first place. Yet, this makes little to no sense, neither biblically nor philosophically.
To start, what is a revolution? Well, as the Oxford Dictionary would define it, a revolution is: "A forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system." In this case, we know certainly that our Lord was not trying to overthrow any government. In fact, He purposefully avoided titles that would associate Him with the political liberation from foreign powers that the people of Israel had been hoping for, preferring instead to use the title "Son of Man." Therefore, it is clear that if one wishes to imply that Jesus caused some kind of revolution, it would be to the social order and not the government. But even this is unfounded in any real biblical evidence. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Jesus makes clear that His mission is not to change or abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished."
- Matthew 5:17-18 (NRSVCE)
However, we do know that Jesus does continuously make efforts to correct the Pharisees on their interpretation of the Law. So what does this mean? Did Christ lie when He said He had come to fulfill the Law? No, it means that, much like many Christians of today, the Pharisees held to their own traditions rather than those of God. In their pride, they held their own customs to the same standard as the Law given by God (or perhaps even higher).
"'You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.' Then he said to them, 'You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition!'"
- Mark 7:8-9 (NRSVCE)
Therefore, it becomes clear that it was not Jesus Christ who was the revolutionary, but the Pharisees. Our Lord came to fulfill the Law which the Pharisees had manipulated.
However, even from reason alone we can see how calling Jesus Christ a revolutionary is illogical. Jesus Christ is God the Son, who has existed since the beginning, eternally with the God the Father. He is also the Truth and the Word through which all was made. As God, He is also all good, and perfect, and ordered. God cannot contradict Himself, otherwise there would be disorder and falsehood. What Christ teaches is the same Law with which God created the Universe: Divine & Natural Law. These have existed since always, and are prior to any Man-made conceptions of law. As such, since Divine & Natural Law precede the laws of Men, it would be the laws of Men that are revolutionary, and Jesus Christ, who upholds Divine & Natural Law a reactionary or counter-revolutionary.
Now, of course, usually the retort is that although all this is true, the we say something is revolutionary or not in contrast to the anthropological social order, not the metaphysical. But even if we accept such an excuse - which I do not - it encourages certain very false ideas as to what can and cannot change with regards to Church Teaching. Namely that fundamental Church Dogmas & Doctrines can be changed, which they cannot. The idea is that if Jesus came and revolutionized all that God had revealed to the people of Israel prior, then who is to say that teachings cannot be revolutionized again? It calls into question the Dogma of the Church that the fullness of Divine Public Revelation was received with Jesus Christ, and all we need to know for our Salvation is present in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, which are interpreted by the Magisterium of the Church (see CCC § 74-87). As such, even if it is just for the sake of avoiding scandal, we must refrain from calling Jesus Christ a revolutionary.https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a2.htm