“If Jesus can change, if he can give up his bigotries and prejudices, if he can realize that he had made his life too small, and if, in this realization, he grew closer to others and closer to God, than so can we.”
On her Facebook page, in a post that has since been taken down (I grabbed a digital copy before it was deleted), she cites the narrative in which Jesus initially remained silent in response to a Canaanite woman whose daughter was oppressed by a demon. When she shows persistence in her confidence that Jesus can help her, he praises her – “O woman, great is your faith!” – and answers her prayer – “Be it done for you as you desire” (Matthew 15:21-28).
Ms. Oliveto takes Jesus initial response of silence, not as a test of the woman’s faith, which it clearly was, but as a display of raw prejudice and bigotry. She observes that Jesus “comes around,” because he wasn’t someone who “didn’t have his life figured out,” but was still “growing, maturing, putting the pieces together about who he was and what he was supposed to do.” He was “like a hunk of clay, forming and reforming himself in relation to God.”
She quotes someone else to the effect that “Jesus wasn’t a know-it-all, he was also learning God’s will like any human being and finally he changed his mind…If Jesus…could grow into new and deeper understanding through an openness to God’s people, maybe if Jesus could change his mind then maybe so can we.”
Ms. Oliveto refers to this as a “conversion” on Jesus’ part, as if he needed repentance and salvation himself. According to her, he was someone who learned that “bigotry and oppression…keeps all of us from being whole.”
This is absurd, since Jesus himself angered the Jews by reminding them that Elijah was not sent to the house of Israel but to a widow in the pagan region of Sidon, and that Elisha was not sent to the lepers in Israel but to Naaman the Syrian. “Filled with wrath,” we are told, the members of the synagogue tried to throw him off the top of the nearest hill for his inclusive impertinence (Luke 4:25-30). Some bigot.
The bishop’s view of Christ is both blasphemous and heretical. If Jesus was who she thinks he was, why should we listen to or believe anything else he said? For instance, we’d have to ask this question about his statement that he was “the way, the truth, and the life” and that no one could come to the Father except through him (John 14:6): Did he say that while he was still a bigot? Did he say that because he still, at that point, had not outgrown some of his prejudices?
Her view of Christ is flatly contradicted by the Scriptures, which repeatedly declare that Jesus lived a sinless life. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The writer of Hebrews declares, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
And we must never forget that if Ms. Oliveto is right in her horribly twisted view of Jesus – thank God she is not – Jesus could not possibly have been the savior of the world. In order for him to be our substitutionary sacrifice, our Passover lamb, it was necessary that he be spotless and unblemished. Had he sinned at any point, he could not have died for our sins since he would have had to die for his own.
If Jesus is not who he claimed to be, then all of us are still dead in our sins with no hope of eternal life.