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Responding to the Jesus Seminar
About once or twice a year newspapers and magazines all across America explode with headlines that seem to place a huge question mark over the historicity of Jesus Christ – Who was He really? What did He really say? Such speculation has enjoyed particular popularity and credibility since 1985 because of the work of the Jesus Seminar, a group of liberal scholars whose self-stated charter is to “play to the media” as they advance the most radical and unorthodox of views about Jesus. For a long while it seemed that no equally scholarly response was forthcoming from the evangelical community. No longer is that the case. In 1995-96 a host of impressive resource material began to surface. In this issue of the Proclamation we review four of the best of those resources.
This Christmas, whether you are a Christian or not, one of the following four resources may be the very best gift that you could either give or receive, because each or any of these four will place before you “the other side of the story”, a credible and intelligent response to the typically contorted verbiage of the Jesus Seminar. AIIA does not sell these items, but we do endorse them as most useful in any sincere effort to set the record straight on who it really is whose birthday we pause to commemorate on December 25th.
The newest, and perhaps the most readable of the three books we’re reviewing here, Jesus In An Age of Controversy, ©1996 Harvest House, by Douglas Groothius, Ph.D., 374pp, distills the often obvious incongruity of the Jesus Seminar’s notions by citing in-stances such as their “Scholars Version” (The Five Gospels) rendition of Jesus’ words in Matthew 23:13, “You scholars and Pharisees, you impostors. D— you! [our deletion, not theirs] You slam the door of Heaven’s domain in people’s faces.”
Groothius cites D. A. Carson’s insightful comment that “Somehow this does not sound like the Jesus who simultaneously denounces and weeps over the city.” This book actually goes well beyond a response to the Jesus Seminar, dealing also with subjects like The Dead Sea Scrolls, A Course in Miracles, angels, New Age interpretations, and Near Death Experiences.
Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus, ©1995 Zondervan, 243pp, is second to none in scholarship. General Editors Michael J. Wilkins, Ph. D., and J. P. Moreland, Ph.D., have assembled a collection of eight essays that expose every nuance and detail of the Jesus Seminar’s typically flawed approach to what is referred to as “life and death issues.”
Next time you see a headline asking, “What Did Jesus Really Say?”, or “Modern Scholarship Casts Doubt on Historical Jesus”, reach for this book. Cynic Sage or Son of God, ©1995 Victor Books/SP Publications, by Gregory A. Boyd, 416pp, is without a doubt the most thoroughly indexed and documented text of the four we mention here. The Notes section alone is over 80pp long! After a detailed chapter-by-chapter treatment of the methodology and basis for the conclusions of the Jesus Seminar (Q, Gospel of Thomas, et al), Boyd says that “whether one holds that Jesus was the Son of God…or that Jesus was a Cynic sage… faith is necessarily involved. The point of this whole book, however, has been to establish this: the first act of faith is firmly rooted in all the available evidence: the second is rooted only in human speculation.”
I’ve saved the ‘best’ till last. Here’s a live debate between Dr. William Lane Craig, an evangelical scholar’s scholar, and Dr. John Dominic Crossan, extremely articulate spokes-man and co-director of the Jesus Seminar. The liberal media often seem to give Crossan the benefit of the doubt, but this time the tables are turned, and in the end Crossan almost appears to be a “Lion in the Daniels’ Den.” To order this two-cassette audio tape package, Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?, ©1995 Turner-Welninski Publishing, dial 1-818-335-1480.