ROBERT FARRAR CAPON
WM.B. EERDMANS PUBLISHING
GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN
The parables of Jesus are to be lived. They are so much more than a simple feel good read. Originally published in three volumes: The Parables of the Kingdom, The Parables of Grace, and The Parables of Judgment, Robert Capon brings the 3 into one volume: Kingdom, Grace, Judgment. Capon is an Episcopal priest and exhibits in this work a popular common touch, a New Age sentiment.
Anyone who holds the Christian scriptures to be precious and meditates with them will know that Jesus taught in parables. The central message of his teaching in parables is quite plainly the Kingdom of God. The Christian scriptures are concerned about the mystery of that Kingdom of which Jesus as revelation is central. In parables Jesus rewards bad people, good people are scolded and “everybody’s idea of who ought to be first or last is literally doused with cold water.”
In this work Capon exhibits to this reader a fundamentalist faith that at times borders on Quietism. “What saves us is Jesus, and the way we lay hold of Jesus and the power of his resurrection to do in us what it did in him.” What does this mean in terms of today’s call to discipleship in the North of the Americas? Capon maintains, “No meddling, divine or human, spiritual or material, can save the world. Its only salvation is in the mystery of the King who dies, rises and disappears, and who asks us simply to trust his promise that, in him, we have the Kingdom already.” Yes, but….
Capon maintains that Jesus used parables to show how profoundly the true messianic Kingdom differs from their expectations. Jesus was demonstrating, in parables according to Capon, “left-handed rather than right handed uses of power” – a concept borrowed from Luther. For Luther right- handed power is governed by the logical left hemisphere of the brain while left-handed power is guided by the more intuitive, open and imaginative right side. “Left-handed power is paradoxical power.” According to Capon all the parables of Jesus are examples of this left-handed power. Again yes and no. I detect here vestiges of the faith and good works debate that theologians dealt with for centuries only to have it relatively resolved in our lifetime. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Lutheran student pastor hanged by Hitler at the end of the Second World War, summed it up well when he said: “there is no cheap grace.”
Capon, in Kingdom, Grace, Judgment wants the reader to know that the Kingdom of God – the central message of the parables – is “seed-in-the-ground”or the “yeast-in-the-dough” and all the believer need appreciate is that: “We are as good as baked to perfection right now. We have been accepted in the Beloved; the only real development left for us to experience is the final accolade to be spoken over us by the divine Woman Baker: ‘Now that’s what I call a real loaf of bread.”
This exposé on the parables of Jesus leaves me concerned that all the believer need do is rest in the Lord. Where does that leave the questions of this age? Is the age-old conversation and conviction about faith separated from good works enough? Are we not called to be co-creators in this Kingdom come? We are and we must.
Paul E. Hansen