You heard that right, folks: “Chili, Tossed Salad, or something else!” LOL. The first time I heard the phrase Tossed Salad applied to the Gospels — you know, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — was somewhere in the early 1980s. It’s used by some Christians as a metaphor meant to describe why we often have such difficulty making sense of the wide variety of things Jesus said. Let’s face it, we might love some of the stuff he said — and we’ll quote those things and hang plaques on our walls with a few of his comforting words — but he also said many things that are downright disturbing … things that we only hear from preachers who want to put the fear of God into the hearts of an apathetic and wayward people. And I’m guessing that some of you who are listening right now have been there. You want to hear “For God so loved the world” and “I will be with you always,” but you’ll shake in fear and trembling when you hear “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire!” Tell me that kind of back and forth message doesn’t unsettle you.
And isn’t that just like your own experiences with a girlfriend or a boyfriend when one day it was “I’ll love you forever” and the next day it was “I don’t even know who you are!” And how about that game of plucking the petals from a daisy while saying “He loves me, he loves me not…”? You see, I think you’ve come to expect that kind of behavior from other people, which is most likely why you’ve projected the same upon Jesus. It fits your expectations. But I suspect you also know what it is to create your own fantasy world where you only hear the good stuff because you’ve learned how to filter out the bad, and after having had that fantasy shattered, you don’t want to pretend that you can do the same thing with God. After all, the stakes seem way too high to play around, don’t they? I mean, what if your eternal destiny really hangs upon whether or not you do something like sell all your worldly possessions?
But what if there are legitimate ways to explain why and how Jesus could promise that he would never leave but then turn around and tell us that we have to go to hell? One of those ways is what some refer to as the Tossed Salad viewpoint of the New Testament. Now, let me say right up front that the basic premise of this viewpoint does, in fact, cut through a lot of the seeming contradictions spoken by Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but I’ve seen it used as a convenient way to stuff everything not understood into safe storage … as if it is actually understood. But this is the stuff that adds up — like all those things you don’t know what to do with, but don’t want to toss out, and so you pack them away in a closet until you can’t get any more in, and you can’t even open the door without something falling down.
Anyhow, now that I may seem to have stacked the deck against the viewpoint, sneaky fellow that I am, I want you to hear the simplicity of the basic concept of the Chili versus Tossed Salad viewpoints. Like I said, it’s not the basic idea that I question — for it’s all about context — but rather it’s what’s often been done with it. I found this statement online when doing a search on the phrase tossed salad:
The question is whether the New Testament is more like chili or like a tossed salad. The common assumption in interpretation is that the New Testament, and the Bible as a whole, may be dealt with as chili: no matter which part you sample it is the same as the whole. This assumption is not born out by the character of the various books of the Testaments. In fact, the diversity of types of books suggests that the metaphor of a tossed salad may be closer to the mark.
Let’s consider a couple verses; one from John, the other from Paul:
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17 (NASB)
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5 (NASB)
Now then, it’s been proposed that since Jesus was born under the Law, he was only being true to his nature and calling by preaching Law. And it does make a lot of sense when we consider how often Jesus appealed to the Law. But then we take John’s statement about grace and truth being realized through Jesus Christ, and we might question how this could be true — unless we also hold that he preached the Law while being under the Law but then brought grace and truth into reality through the cross. And is this what Paul meant when he wrote to Timothy about “rightly dividing the word of truth?” 2 Timothy 2:15
Now, I want you to know that I’m not pooh-poohing everything I’m telling you here, but at the same time I want you to pay attention to how easily we can separate and categorize the legal-sounding things Jesus said in order to get a handle on them. Well, at least we want the sense of having a handle on them. From experience, I can tell you that me and my fellow grace learners were quite happy cramming all kinds of difficult statements and problem passages into our more-explainable, mental file cabinets. That way, any statements Jesus made that seemed to present works for salvation could easily be explained away by saying “Well, that was said BEFORE the cross!” And of course there’s truth to that, but what about all the legalistic sounding statements made in the Bible AFTER the cross?
So, is this really how we’re supposed to rightly divide the word of truth? I mean, although we’ve used things Paul wrote to come up with this approach, do you actually hear Paul coming across the way we do when we say stuff like that? I don’t think so. Instead, the fact that we find ourselves struggling with what comes across as legalism to us in many of Paul’s statements suggests that we’ve only set ourselves up by our attempts at simplicity.
I find it worthwhile to consider the nature of the things that were recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Obviously, most of what Jesus did and said were not recorded. Even John made some comments about that:
Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 (NASB)
And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. John 21:25 (KJV)
As an aside, I suspect John was either being a little poetic in suggesting that the world couldn’t contain the books that would have resulted from the recording of everything Jesus did, or else he was referring to reality that the world couldn’t receive them (which is another valid meaning of the Greek word). If you follow John’s letter as a whole and pay attention to his running theme, it should become clear that he developed a basic premise of how Jesus was not received, understood, or accepted by the world. He stated why he wrote what he wrote, and it was that they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God — but he knew that most wouldn’t … and that it took the very work of God to cause such a revelation. In view of this, I think it makes sense that how he began his account might show itself through to the end:
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:5 (NASB)
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. John 1:11 (NASB)
Anyhow, I think we’ve been thrown off by having ignored the nature of the events and encounters recorded by the four Gospel accounts. While I believe that what was written provides an adequate picture, it doesn’t give a full picture. If we don’t take into consideration how the things Jesus said came to be recorded in the first place, we’re going to miss their impact. Sure, we can get some general purpose meanings out of them; but let’s face it, the number of times Jesus’ words came as the result of a confrontation with religious leaders and/or religious people should give us some kind of indication as to how and why he said what he did. All we have to do is consider the vast differences found in how Jesus spoke in the first part of John (chapters 1-12) and how he spoke in the second part of John (chapters 13-16). Most of the first part comes from conflicts with the world, the second part is where he speaks in full assurance to those who were his own.
You see, because of the trend among grace-believers to categorize NT statements into a before-the-cross/after-the-cross sense of simplicity, many believers have overlooked the real meanings behind MOST of what Jesus said. And then to take that further, because we’ve misunderstood most of what Jesus said, we’ve also done the same thing to those who wrote in a similar fashion.
ADAM: WE’RE TALKING ABOUT THOSE OTHER GUYS, RIGHT?
Yes, I’m talking about the other guys, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, James, and Jude. And then let’s face it, even Paul to a degree. The key is found in how we’ve attempted to resolve those disturbing inconsistencies in what Jesus said. If we’re satisfied with explaining his so-called legalistic words as Before-the-Cross laws, then we’ve set ourselves up with having to either write off most of what those other guys wrote, since it also sounds legalistic, or we’re going to eventually get pulled into the legalism we imagine they are guilty of expressing. I hope you follow what I’m saying here. If we can’t see, for example, that James wrote his letter much the same way Jesus also confronted the religious mind of Israel, we’re going to mistake just about everything he wrote.
One way or the other, we have to consider any NT writings in view of the influence of Jesus. How he approached the different kinds of people shows through in their writings, especially James. Therefore, as we misunderstand Jesus’ words, we’ll also misunderstand Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Jude, and James. The question remains: Was Jesus speaking according to the Law — aka. as a legalist — except when he spoke in view of his death, burial, and resurrection?
Jim, I find it curious as to how you began your Shovelation of James: “To the diverse Christian Church of America, whether in buildings or homes, organized or not.” I mean, how could you possibly suggest that he would have ever addressed the Christian Church rather than the actual stated audience? After all, he wrote: “To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad”
You see, our understanding of the basic differences between Jew and Gentile is frozen in history. In other words, the distinctions made about the 12 tribes is often more relevant in this day and age when seen in the organized Christian Church than in Judaism. Then again, I could re-address the letter to the Messianic Church of the modern day to bring out the same distinctions; however, that would still leave most of us in the dark as to those distinctions. You see, today’s world is rooted in the idea that Jews are the ones who don’t believe in Jesus, while Christians (aka non-Jews) do. This is so far off the mark it’s not funny. The truth is that when James wrote his letter, the church was still predominantly Jewish. Yes, Jews believed in the Messiah, Yeshua (aka Jesus to us Goyim).
ADAM: What about the similarities you were describing to me between how Jesus spoke to the religious leaders and people of his time and how James addressed the 12 tribes? How does that affect all this?
James’ indicators regarding how he addressed his audience and the continued thread of contrasts:
James 1:1 Letter specifically written to the scattered 12 tribes (those of the house of Israel); however, the message of Jesus Christ had circulated among them (as seen in James 2:1).
James 1:8 The double-minded man. The one who receives no wisdom from God, the one whose faith is described as driven by the sea, tossed back and forth.
James 1:12 The blessed man. When he endures temptation he is “approved” = dokimos. Refers to the genuine article, not a counterfeit. The dokimos were the coin-changers who would only put genuine coins of full value (not shaved off) into circulation.
James 1:18 James declares how they (the apostles) had been brought forth/begotten/given birth by the word of truth.
James 1:21 Receive the word implanted.
James 1:22 Distinction between doers and hearers. Hearer = the word goes no farther than their ears. Maybe no implanted word? A “forgetful hearer” versus an “effectual doer.” One is the genuine article, the other is a counterfeit.
James 2:1 Faith held in view of personal favoritism was not referred to as one possible aspect of faith but rather as a counterfeit. It is nothing less than a way to continue making distinctions and judging according to evil motives. He’s defining the workings of the fleshly religious mind.
James 2:8-26 The infamous faith-without-works-is-dead passage is rooted in this fleshly-minded, preferential, religious substitute for faith. The whole argument as presented by James has to do differentiating between the real and the fake, the genuine and the counterfeit.