THE McJESUS SEMINAR
By Marsha West
May 25, 2007
The Apostle Paul has this advice for Christians, followed by an important question: "Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail thee test?" (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Ever heard of a group of scholars called the Jesus Seminar? I thought not. Most folks haven't. Because the group employs the name of Jesus it's necessary for outsiders to find out who they are and what they do. So let's examine whether they are in the faith, or if they fail the test.
The Jesus Seminar (JS) was founded by the late Robert Funk of Westar Institute in 1985. What was Funk's purpose for forming the group? To quote from Greg Koukl's article, The Jesus Seminar Under Fire , Funk said, "It is time for us [scholars] to quit the library and study and speak up....The Jesus Seminar is a clarion call to enlightenment. It is for those who prefer facts to fancies, history to histrionics, science to superstition."
Included in those who "prefer facts to fancies" are 135 "unbiased scholars," mostly men and a handful of women, who meet twice a year to "evaluate the historical significance of every shred of evidence about Jesus from antiquity." Basically their goal is "distinguishing historical fact from rumor & speculation."
The diverse group includes Protestants, Catholics, Jews, atheists, university and seminary professors, even a Hollywood film director whose scholarly films include Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Total Recall.
The JS reject 82% of the teachings attributed to Jesus and say that only two words, "Our Father," of the Lord's Prayer are authentic. They also reject: The virgin birth; Christ's resurrection from the dead; the Gospel miracles. They claim the historical evidence for these beliefs is lacking.
In the words of distinguished scholar Dr. Howard Clark Kee the JS is "an academic disgrace." Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, a Roman Catholic and the professor of Theology of Emory University, says the group "by no means represents the cream of New Testament scholarship," as their method is "biased against the authenticity of the gospel traditions." Dr. Johnson believes its results were "already determined ahead of time." About their scholarship, he declared, "This is not responsible, or even critical, scholarship. It is self-indulgent charade."
Even though the JS is held up to ridicule and scorn, many journalists pass off the "scholars" as those who represent the mainstream of biblical scholarship, when nothing could be further from the truth! "Being a bona fide scholar," says Koukl, "means more than just having a degree. Generally, a scholar is one who demonstrates a mastery of his discipline and who makes an academic contribution to his field. … [T]hhe Jesus Seminar cannot be viewed as a relevant cross-section of academic opinion. This doesn't mean their conclusions are false; it means theirs is only one voice of many, viewed even by liberal scholars as suspect and on the extreme fringe."
So did the JS use scientific methods to draw their conclusions? Well, no. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ is based on myth, are their findings based on scientific historical analysis? No again. Koukl explains the reasoning behind their conclusions: "It's impossible for the Gospels to be historically accurate, because they record things that simply can't happen, like dead people coming alive again and food multiplying--miracles, in other words. We live in a closed universe of natural order, with God (if there is a God) locked out of the system. If miracles can't happen, then the reports in the New Testament must be fabrications. Therefore, the Gospels are not historical."
Presuppositions and assumptions do not prove anything! "This is not history," says Koukl, "it's philosophy, specifically, the philosophy of naturalism."
Internationally known theologian and best-selling author Gregory A. Boyd comments, "The Jesus Seminar paints itself as being on an unbiased quest for truth, as compared with religiously committed people-people…who have a theologicaal agenda…The participants of the Jesus Seminar are at least as biaseed as evangelicals - and I would say more so."
The JS are committed liberals. They don't cotton to the term liberal, of course; instead they declare themselves "progressive Christians" (PC). The group includes such notables as retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg of Oregon State University, and co-founder of the JS John Dominic Crossan of DePaul University. The 3 wise men regularly turn up in different venues to offer their views on the latest Jesus bashing project.
Case in point. A four-hour documentary "From Jesus to Christ, the First Christians" aired on taxpayer funded PBS (Public Broadcasting System) in 2000. According to ChristianAnswers.net the film "cleverly promotes the beliefs of a carefully chosen group of liberal scholars." Here are 4 examples of what the â€śscholars," which includes John Dominic Crossan, purported to millions of viewers:  The teachings of Jesus were often greatly exaggerated and distorted by the early church. The gospel writers invented sayings of Jesus that had little-or nothing-to do with what he actually taught. Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God. Because the resurrection is a supernatural occurrence it cannot be proven. Therefore the words attributed to Jesus after the resurrection cannot be legitimate. There is a fifth Gospel, "Thomas." In this document Jesus was only a great teacher; he inspired people to live a good life. (Most scholars believe "Thomas" was influenced by Gnosticism, a religious movement of the second, third, and fourth century.)
Viewers had no way of knowing that the JS promotes scholarship that undermines historic orthodox Christianity and that they have an ax to grind against conservatives. This was evident in "From Jesus to Christ" and in Robert Funk's book "The Five Gospels: What Did Jesus Really Say?"
Progressive Christianity is a euphemism for liberal Christianity. The Center for Progressive Christianity's homepage makes that abundantly clear: "By calling ourselves progressive, we mean we are Christians who recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God's realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us." Their stated mission (among other things) is "Being a constructive force for social and environmental justice and peace in the world." They say they are finding allies "in the struggle to bring social and environmental justice and peace to all people, especially those who have been oppressed and powerless." If you click the tab "About us" then "Mission" note that there is no mention of Jesus. What's mentioned, though, is that liberal "Christians" are working to fulfill their mission by "Creating open and welcoming communities of faith." Plus they're developing strategies for evangelism that "do not assume the absolute superiority of Christianity so that we do not contribute to the worlds tragic divisions." Say what?
The real tragedy is that so-called Christ-ians will not acknowledge the absolute superiority of Christianity over all other religions, when the fact is orthodox Christianity holds that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to God. Jesus did not beat around the bush when he said, "No one comes to the Father except through me." But of course liberals can't bear to think that Jesus Christ would exclude anyone from heaven (with the possible exception of Jerry Falwell). Good ol' Jesus wants you to be happy and prosperous, to feel good about yourself, and to do whatever your little heart desires "as long as you're not hurting anyone."
What consumers are being fed is counterfeit Christianity! In our fast food, you deserve a break today, have it your way culture, what you end up with is McJesus! (True followers of Jesus Christ expect Him to lead.) Liberal's want the cut and paste version of the Bible designed to suit their felt needs and their unwholesome lifestyle. They ignore the fact that Jesus set boundaries - and He expects His followers to, well… operate inside the lines. In the book of Revelation we meet the Jesus of the Bible. On Judgment Day the Son of God will pour out His wrath on the Earth. The Jesus the Apostle John saw in his vision is a far cry from the PC's toothless Lion of Judah.
Oh' but Revelation is in the Bible and PCs out and out reject the infallibility of Scripture, even though most of them have never read it, let alone been involved in a serious Bible study. Moreover, they don't have a clue what Jesus did or did not say, or even what His actual mission was during His time on Earth. They choose to believe -- whatever they want to.
The Bible says Jesus Christ is "King of kings and Lord of lords." But for the PC all kings and lords are equal and relevant. Jesus Christ is just one of the boys.
The PC movement rejects what Scripture teaches about sin and God's solution. Their goal is to build an international network of progressive Christians. As Greg Koukl so aptly puts it, "These preachers practice evangelism in reverse, for they don't want you to commit your life to the Christ of the Gospels; they want you to surrender that commitment. And they claim to have history, science and scholarship on their side."
The JS doesn't pass the smell test. In order to explain what the real Jesus is like one must consider all of the historical evidence. Most scholars agree that Jesus thought of himself as more than a political revolutionary, more than a wonder worker, more than a feminist, more than a subversive; there is abundant evidence to prove that Jesus of Nazareth believed He had the authority to speak for the Father. He said plainly, "I and the Father are One," and, "If you reject me, you reject the Father."
Does an individual or group have a right to distort the Scriptures? The answer is an unequivocal NO! Scholars have an obligation to interpret the Bible accurately. The Scripture itself is the final arbitrator. A true understanding of the Word of God comes to us through divine revelation, given to us by the Holy Spirit. Jesus says, "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (John 14:26).
Taking verses out of context and manipulating Scripture was Satan's earliest devise to cast suspicion on the Word of God. How did Jesus feel about Scripture? "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (John 8:31-32).
© 2007 Marsha West - All Rights Reserved
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Marsha West is the Founder and Editor of the E-Mail Brigade News Report, an online news report for conservative people of faith. Marsha is a freelance writer specializing in Christian worldview. She is a regular contributor to NewsWithViews.com, Alainsnewsletter.com, CapitolHillCoffeeHouse.com, plus her commentaries appear in MichNews.com and bibleteacher.org.
is also designer and webmaster of a Christian apologetics website, On
Solid Rock Resources. She is currently writing a series of children's
books for homeschoolers. Marsha and her husband reside in historic Jacksonville
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