Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Heresy of the Jesus Seminar

I mentioned in a previous post how much I am enjoying Douglas Harink's commentary on 2 Peter. There is quite simply no way someone can read this commentary and come away not realizing the utter seriousness of the issue of heresy. Heresy is to the church what cancer is to a body. Furthermore, Harink doesn't leave the discussion to vague generalities but gives concrete examples of heresy in the church today. The quote I give today concerns the Jesus Seminar and after reading it I've got new eyes on the other book I'm currently reading (The Historical Jesus: Five Views) which has two members of the Jesus Seminar as contributors! The quote is a long one but it almost took my breath away after I read it. It's that good.

"But, with Peter, they [Luther and Calvin] believed that the life or death of the church was at stake in the question of heresy--and so it is. . . The Church will not stand, for example, by faith in the insubstantial figure often presented to us by the Jesus Seminar, which denies his divinity and lordship and his coming again. Should we not mock the irrational and fundamentalist seriousness of this group, which markets itself as the very paradigm of scientific rationality in search of the pure facts about the historical Jesus, by which they might save gullible and hapless Christians from the church and the creeds? But 'they are waterless fountains and a fog driven by the storm' (2 Peter. 2:17 DH): their supposed rigorous rationality--in a mode discredited by most contemporary philosophy--is dry and spiritually fruitless, yielding a nonapocalyptic Jesus who is theologically insubstantial and boring as hell. Should we not expose the seminar's media publicity, public acceptance, and publication royalties for what they are--the benefits that come from finding so many eager consumers in the church as well as the world, ready to pay well for its cheap and diminished Jesus who was neither rescued from the powers of unrighteousness himself nor has the power to rescue anyone? 'They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed' (2:14). Should we not mention that where such a diminished Jesus is bought and sold in churches, those very same churches also often display and promote a moral life, particularly in matters of human sexuality, that is no different from that found in the wider society? Should we not ask about the relationship between theological heresy and immorality, between the act of 'despis[ing the] authority [kryriotetos] of Jesus Christ and 'indulg[ing the] flesh in depraved lust' (2:10)? 'For with fatuous and vacuous teaching and through lust and sexual immorality [the false teachers] lure back those who are only just escaping from their life in paganism' (2:18 DH)." (171-72)

1 comment:

jo_jo said...

I agree fully with your assessment of the Jesus Seminar. I stand by the objective choices when it comes to classifying Jesus, either he was Lord, liar, or lunatic. The Jesus Seminar has reduced him to a mere lunatic, who, when read in the JS's "red" sayings, is not even worthy of a mention in history, much less worship. Further, in addition to tossing Jesus in the "lunatic" bin, they've tossed the apostles into the "liar" bin.

Personally, I'll stick with Jesus as Lord, and the apostles as being true to Jesus.