Tag Archives: jesus seminar

A simpler way to defend biblical inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration

Inerrancy and the Death by a Thousand Qualifications brought up some interesting points about how to defend the truth that the original writings of scripture were without error. If you offer too many qualifications then it seems to neuter your statement, but you do need to offer some sort of support.

I prefer to say that the original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers desired, and that we can easily demonstrate that they have been faithfully transmitted to us in our language.

That appeals to the simple truth that the real God could — and would — easily ensure such a thing.

To the latter point I have found it persuasive to share a brief reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls and/or to the way even atheist Bart Ehrman will strenuously argue about what he thinks the originals really said on some finer point (meaning that even he thinks it can be known).  I have seen skeptics, Mormons, etc. immediately change their views on the transmission process (if not the inspiration) once they hear that.

Even though I believe that the original writings of the Bible were without error, God-breathed and incapable of error, those views aren’t required for belief in God or the resurrection.  You can take a minimal facts approach and see that even if there were slight discrepancies in the accounts about Jesus that the resurrection could still be true.

Just look at key facts that virtually all historians agree on, such as the following, and realize that his resurrection is the best explanation for those facts.

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead and appeared to them.
  • Paul believed that Jesus appeared to him.  Even skeptics concede that Paul wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, Galatians, I & II Corinthians and others.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, was a skeptic who converted after Jesus died.

There are skeptics who endorse alternatives to the resurrection (e.g., Jesus’ body was stolen, it was ripped up by dogs, the swoon theory, etc.).  These folks unwittingly  give a lot of support for the resurrection: They show that the historical facts are so strong that one must concede that a real person named Jesus lived and died on a Roman cross and the body did not stay in the tomb. 

—–

bible5.gifClaims of Biblical inerrancy, inspiration and infallibility apply to the original writings.  I have researched countless difficulties and found answers that satisfied me.  Some are tougher than others.  Some things are in the Job category (as in, I’m not capable of understanding them or God doesn’t need me to understand them).

I learned enough about the book to be comfortable that God “wrote” it, and I trust that if there is something in the 1% that appears to be a contradiction then either there was a translation error or – much more likely – there is something I’m just not understanding properly.

In short, after working through enough difficulties with satisfactory answers I tend to give God and his Word the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure this thrills him to no end.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, because on the one hand He certainly doesn’t need the Neil-seal-of-approval but on the other hand He does love it when we exercise faith.  Not blind faith, not faith despite the evidence, but faith grounded in the truths He has revealed to us.

Are there passages in the currently published Bibles that don’t belong?  Perhaps.  The ending of Mark and the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery are not in the earliest and best manuscripts.

Also, some verses sometimes lose a little meaning in certain translations.  For example, when Exodus 21:22-25 is properly understood it is a pro-life passage, yet pro-choice people will use a poorer translation (for that passage) such as the RSV because it supports their position.

These issues don’t bother me that much because they show that the system works: We have so many copies of ancient manuscripts and different translations that it possible to figure out what the originals said.  The exceptions are limited and we can show why they are exceptions.

But on most of what really matters there is no debate.  Every version I’ve seen says, “Love your enemies.”  There are 100 clear passages saying that Jesus is the only way.  That is plenty for me.

I know enough of the Bible and the difficulties to have great faith (trust in evidence) that God inspired the originals.  And I have faith in the copying and translation process so that I can read the Bible with confidence.  For difficult or controversial passages there are plenty of ways to resolve issues on the essentials.  But on the non-essentials I don’t lose sleep.

If people want to have church meetings to debate how often to serve communion, whether to use wine or grape juice, etc., I say go ahead and have a swell time.  Just don’t make me participate.

We can read the Bible with confidence that God has transmitted his Word to us accurately.  Sometimes the words inerrant, infallible and inspired are too loaded with various meanings to be helpful, so I like to emphasize that the original writings of the Bible turned out just the way God and the human writers wanted them to.

A simpler way to defend biblical inerrancy, infallibility and inspiration

Inerrancy and the Death by a Thousand Qualifications brought up some interesting points about how to defend the truth that the original writings of scripture were without error. If you offer too many qualifications then it seems to neuter your statement, but you do need to offer some sort of support.

I prefer to say that the original writings turned out exactly as God and the human writers desired, and that we can easily demonstrate that they have been faithfully transmitted to us in our language.

That appeals to the simple truth that the real God could — and would — easily ensure such a thing.

To the latter point I have found it persuasive to share a brief reference to the Dead Sea Scrolls and/or to the way even atheist Bart Ehrman will strenuously argue about what he thinks the originals really said on some finer point (meaning that even he thinks it can be known).  I have seen skeptics, Mormons, etc. immediately change their views on the transmission process (if not the inspiration) once they hear that.

From an earlier post of mine

Even though I believe that the original writings of the Bible were without error, God-breathed and incapable of error, those views aren’t required for belief in God or the resurrection.  You can take a minimal facts approach and see that even if there were slight discrepancies in the accounts about Jesus that the resurrection could still be true.

Just look at key facts that virtually all historians agree on, such as the following, and realize that his resurrection is the best explanation for those facts.

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead and appeared to them.
  • Paul believed that Jesus appeared to him.  Even skeptics concede that Paul wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, Galatians, I & II Corinthians and others.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, was a skeptic who converted after Jesus died.

There are skeptics who endorse alternatives to the resurrection (e.g., Jesus’ body was stolen, it was ripped up by dogs, the swoon theory, etc.).  These folks unwittingly  give a lot of support for the resurrection: They show that the historical facts are so strong that one must concede that a real person named Jesus lived and died on a Roman cross and the body did not stay in the tomb. 

—–

bible5.gifClaims of Biblical inerrancy, inspiration and infallibility apply to the original writings.  I have researched countless difficulties and found answers that satisfied me.  Some are tougher than others.  Some things are in the Job category (as in, I’m not capable of understanding them or God doesn’t need me to understand them).

I learned enough about the book to be comfortable that God “wrote” it, and I trust that if there is something in the 1% that appears to be a contradiction then either there was a translation error or – much more likely – there is something I’m just not understanding properly.

In short, after working through enough difficulties with satisfactory answers I tend to give God and his Word the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure this thrills him to no end.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, because on the one hand He certainly doesn’t need the Neil-seal-of-approval but on the other hand He does love it when we exercise faith.  Not blind faith, not faith despite the evidence, but faith grounded in the truths He has revealed to us.

Are there passages in the currently published Bibles that don’t belong?  Perhaps.  The ending of Mark and the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery are not in the earliest and best manuscripts.

Also, some verses sometimes lose a little meaning in certain translations.  For example, when Exodus 21:22-25 is properly understood it is a pro-life passage, yet pro-choice people will use a poorer translation (for that passage) such as the RSV because it supports their position.

These issues don’t bother me that much because they show that the system works: We have so many copies of ancient manuscripts and different translations that it possible to figure out what the originals said.  The exceptions are limited and we can show why they are exceptions.

But on most of what really matters there is no debate.  Every version I’ve seen says, “Love your enemies.”  There are 100 clear passages saying that Jesus is the only way.  That is plenty for me.

I know enough of the Bible and the difficulties to have great faith (trust in evidence) that God inspired the originals.  And I have faith in the copying and translation process so that I can read the Bible with confidence.  For difficult or controversial passages there are plenty of ways to resolve issues on the essentials.  But on the non-essentials I don’t lose sleep.

If people want to have church meetings to debate how often to serve communion, whether to use wine or grape juice, etc., I say go ahead and have a swell time.  Just don’t make me participate.

We can read the Bible with confidence that God has transmitted his Word to us accurately.  Sometimes the words inerrant, infallible and inspired are too loaded with various meanings to be helpful, so I like to emphasize that the original writings of the Bible turned out just the way God and the human writers wanted them to.

Who is a Christian? Who is a Muslim?

church.jpgIf I claimed to be a bacon-loving, Jew-loving, Koran-denying, Mohammad-denying Muslim, would you take me seriously?  I doubt it.

I have found that for many people the word “Christian” has lost or changed meaning.  It used to mean someone who was an authentic follower of Jesus.  Now it is often used as a synonym for “nice,” as in, “She’s a really Christian person,” or to describe someone who goes to church sometimes but rejects the essentials of the faith.

Theological liberals tend to get very wounded if you imply that they don’t hold Christian views.  They’ve been in theologically liberal churches so long and have such a low view of scripture that they think that is the way church is supposed to be.

Mind you, I don’t go around saying who is and isn’t an authentic Christian.  That’s God’s job.  I’m not qualified and wouldn’t want it even if I were.

Jesus did say that you will know them by their fruit, so it is fair to examine people’s lives to see if they have evidence for their faith.  But mistakes can be made during fruit inspection.  We would have probably thought that Judas was the real deal, and we probably would have thought that the criminal on the cross was not.

But it does seem fair to point out when self-described Christians don’t hold views that have historically applied to Christians, as evidenced in the Bible, countless creeds and denominational statements of faith.  That means that they are either “saved and confused” or not real Christians.

First, consider this conversation:

Me: I’m a Muslim.

Real Muslim: No, you’re not.

Me: Really, I am, and I’m offended that you say I’m not.

RM: Do you believe the Koran is the word of God?

Me: No, of course not.  It was written by a man, and has obvious historical errors like saying that Jesus didn’t die on the cross.  It was written hundreds of years after Christ, and even sources outside the Bible claim that Jesus himself died.  And don’t get me started about all the violence it encourages!  Why trust the Koran?

RM: Do you believe in Allah as the one true God?

Me: No.

RM: Do you like Jewish people?

Me: Yes.

RM: What do you think about pork?

Me: Mmmmmmm . . . bacon!

RM: You aren’t a Muslim.

Me: Yes I am!  How dare you question my faith!

Sounds ridiculous, right?  Now consider this:

Me: Are you a Christian?

Liberal theologian: Yes.

Me: Do you believe the Bible is the Word of God?

LT: No.  Even though it claims to speak for God roughly 3,000 times, I think those are all made up by people.

Me: Do you think Jesus is God?

LT: No.

Me: Do you believe any of the miracles as recorded in the Bible are true?

LT: No.  Miracles can’t happen.  Writers made those up.

Me: Do you think Jesus is the only way to salvation?

LT: No.
Me: But the Bible teaches that in over 100 passages!

LT: [Pause] Uh, so what?  The Bible was written by men . . . [trails off because he didn’t know that]

Me: Do you believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead?

LT: No.

Me: Do you look for opportunities to share the Gospel as outlined in the Bible?

LT: Of course not.  All religions (or no religions) are valid paths to God.

Me: Do you realize how radically different your basic views are compared to Christians throughout the last 2,000 years, especially to the countless Christians who died rather than recant their faith?

LT: Sort of . . . but we’re smarter than they were.

Me: Indeed.  But you say you are Christian?

LT: Yes.  How dare you question my faith?!

Is the first conversation that much different than the second?

I haven’t had that precise conversation with any liberal Christians, but it is a highly accurate composite.  Try it yourself.  I’m virtually certain that any of the “Jesus Seminar” members would answer the questions that way.  For example, I read a book co-authored by Marcus Borg (a member of the Jesus Seminar) and he held all the heretical views noted above, plus more.  Most of the theologically Liberal people at the Sojourners’ blog are just like that.

These people may be terrific citizens and friendly neighbors, but calling themselves Christians distorts the traditional and real meaning of the word.  Again, if I claimed to be a bacon-loving, Jew-loving, Koran-denying, Mohammad-denying Muslim, would you take me seriously?  So why take seriously those who claim the name of Christ yet mock the essentials of the faith?

A look at the sermon of a false teacher

Reading the sermons of wolves in sheep’s clothing so you don’t have to!

False teacher Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie took a break from taking little girls to gay pride parades to preach a “sermon” about John 18:33-37.  He is symptomatic of the theological Left and their anti-Christian teachings.

I wrote previously in Heretics ‘R Us about Chuck’s abuse of John 14:6 (Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”) and how Chuck’s key points were to claim that Jesus was not the only way to the Father (despite the Bible claiming that over 100 times), that other religions such as Islam should inform our view of the Gospel, and that the Bible is not accurate or reliable — specifically that the Gospel of John was written 100 years after Jesus was crucified for being such a nice guy.

Never minding that even Liberal scholars concede a date around 100 A.D., and the case for a pre-70 A.D. dating is very strong, Chuck is now claiming that it was written 200 years after the crucifixion.  (Note that his dating is relative to the crucifixion, not the resurrection, because “Reverend” Chuck and other theological liberals don’t believe the resurrection really happened.  We have a name for those who hold that view: Non-Christians.)

Via Thy Kingdom Come:

In our on-going Sunday night adult education group we’ve come to know that the Book of John was written nearly two hundred years after the death of Jesus and far from recording historical accounts of his life it reflects theological understandings of his ministry and existence.

Well, there you have it!  Chuck now says it was 200 years, not 100 years.  So his view is that the author(s) were complete liars, because the Gospel of John explicitly claims to contain eyewitness accounts and evidence for believing that Jesus rose from the dead and is the source of eternal life.

Chuck seems to make up things as he goes along, kind of like Benny Hinn.  But even if Chuck was right, why on earth would he do an entire sermon on a book he “knows” is thoroughly fraudulent?

Sadly, as the latest of the Gospels, it also reflects the reality that by this point in history the early Christian community is becoming separate from the Jewish community that Jesus was apart of.  With this separation comes persecution of early Christians and the narratives of Jesus death change in ways that blame the Jews more directly as a people for the death of Jesus, when the Romans where truly responsible.

Knowing all this we can sit back from our vantage point and see how it was that Pilate must have been confused about Jesus.

This lowly son of a carpenter was actually wildly popular with the Jewish people and word had reached Pilate that some referred to Jesus as King.

So Chuck seeks to absolve the Jews of blame for the crucifixion, even though all the Gospels record that Jewish people were the cause of Jesus being killed.

Luke 23 18 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”– 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

Chuck & Co. will claim that is anti-Semitic, but there is another more accurate term: Fact. No one claims that all Jews killed Jesus or that Jews should be persecuted.  We just point to the obvious truths of the Bible.

The church too quickly forgot the lessons of Jesus.

But wait — Chuck & Co. insist that the documents containing Jesus’ words are hopelessly flawed.  He and his (apparently former) employer the “Jesus Seminar” insist that Jesus only really said a small fraction of the words attributed to him — and of course they deny that He is part of the Trinity and on board with the entire Bible.

We spend too much time in the Christian church debating what happens to us after we die and not enough time talking about how to improve the world we live in.  Jesus was never obsessed with death and salvation the way he was obsessed with building up the Kingdom in the here and now.

Again, Chuck refers to a Jesus that he made up.  The real Jesus spoke plenty about eternal matters:

Mark 8:36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Back to the false teacher:

We pride ourselves on being places where all points of view are accepted.

Uh, sure — views like pro-real marriage and pro-life?

But I also agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. who once preached at Riverside Church that: “…I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”

Wait — does Chuck actually believe in Hell?

There are too many great moral issues being debated in our community today – in our state and the world – that require the attention of the church.  These issues – whether it be the coming debate over marriage equality or more life threatening issues concerning global climate change – that demand that we not be silent but take stands, not just as individuals but as a church community.

“Marriage equality” is a fiction.  “Same-sex marriage” is an oxymoron.  Unions that can’t produce children or provide a mother and a father to children are not equal to unions that can.

As a play on the favorite line of pro-gay theologians, “Jesus never said anything about marriage equality,” so their pet issue must not be very important.

Global climate change = made-up Leftist power grab.

What would Pilate think of us?  This is a serious question.  If we dropped Sunnyside Church and University Park Church through a time warp and into Pilate’s time would we been seen as a community that was at all threatening?  Or could we easily be ignored?

He’d probably think they were a bunch of fake Christians, especially since their #1 issue in the election was forcing pro-lifers to pay for abortions, because Chuck & Co. think our biggest problem is that not enough babies are getting killed in the womb.

We need to be marching alongside workers at Wal-Mart calling for livable wages. We need to be demanding of our President and our Congress a carbon tax and other measures to dramatically shift the way we all live to save God’s creation.  We need to be demanding of our local community permanent funding sources to create affordable housing and standing with those facing foreclosure.

“And we need to do it by taking the money of other’s by force!  Because Jesus would never expect us to use our own money!  And it would take way too much work to open businesses ourselves to compete against Wal-Mart and pay those “livable wages.”  And besides, we don’t have any business skills!  We just need Caesar to solve all of our problems!”

And Sunnyside Church and University Park Church should be the first churches to Oregon to publically endorse a ballot measure calling for marriage equality in 2014.

Well, sure, go ahead and make your Romans 1 Poster Children picture complete.

If we do these things and more, we can stop being the church of Constantine and start being the movement of Jesus.  We’ll be controversial.  New people will come to worship with us and others will mock us.

Yes, some people will worship (Satan) with Chuck & Co., but not many.  Just look how much Chuck’s apostate employers (the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church) continue to shrink.  Why get up early on Sunday to go hear what MSNBC tells you  for free 24×7?

Here’s the final irony of Chuck’s “sermon.”  The last line of his text — you know, from the book Chuck says was full of lies and not written by John and adopted by the early church — says this:

John 18:37 Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Chuck & Co. explicitly do not listen to Jesus’ voice, and they miss the self-parody of quoting that verse. By their own words they do not belong to the truth.

Make no mistake: If you follow people like this you are lost. You are like the people in Romans 1 who God gave over to their sinful desires. You are like Pharaoh, who continually hardened his heart until God finished hardening it for him. Get out of those fake churches while you still have time.

A portrait of perversion

I’m used to Chuck “Jesus is not the only way but He sure is a bigot” Currie saying all sorts of anti-Christian things. Having done prison ministry and pregnancy center ministry for years I deal regularly will all sorts of humanity that is even more fallen than average, at least in terms of outward behavior. I am friends with lots of drug dealers, killers, robbers, drunk drivers, people who have had abortions or encouraged others to have them, etc., and am glad to share a message of grace with them. So I’m pretty shock-proof.

But even I cringe when I see photos like the one at Central Pacific Conference Of The @UnitedChurch Of Christ Marches in #PDXPride Parade.

There we see Chuck Currie “proudly” wearing a collar and pretending to be a Christian while literally leading a gay pride parade.

But it gets worse. Much, much worse. This moral freak has his twin daughters there as props. I’m not sure how old they are now, but he bragged about taking them to a gay pride parade a while back when they were six.

I pray that one day they have a godly influence come into their lives that will tell them the real Gospel and help them forgive the wolf in sheep’s clothing who subjects them to perversions like this, and also his atheist wife who apparently gives her approval for it.

Sadly, those pro-aborts who pretend to care about the “least of these” can’t even be trusted with those in their own household. If you love children you would never take them to a gay pride parade.

I pray that when false teacher Chuck is busy ripping verses out of context to prepare one of his politics-disguised-as-religion “sermons” that God will use the scripture to open his eyes to the truth. For his own good reasons God rarely makes these people spiritually alive, which is bad news for Chuck & Co. Their hearts appear to be fully hardened and they are working for Satan full-time.

This is what you get from apostate denominations such as the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church and anti-Christian organizations like the “Jesus Seminar” Westar Group. They not only permit perversions like this, they applaud them, just like in Romans 1.

Here’s a sample of what people like Chuck think 6 yr. old girls should witness to show how diverse they are.  This is from the Portland Pride Parade.  I’m sure there are worse things that they didn’t even show, like other parades have.

PPP061409_11

PDXPride06130941

Come, Lord Jesus, come.

False teachers and dating the Gospels

Via Evidence for Early Dating the Gospels:

But this new research shows that the Gospel writers were “spot on” in regard to the popularity, frequency, proportion and usage of personal names in the text of Scripture, indicating very deep familiarity with life in the exact area and timeframe of Jesus and his earliest followers. British New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham did some exhaustive work correlating New Testament names (see chapters 3 and 4 of his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Eerdmans, 2006) with the list of 3,000 names compiled by Ilan and concluded the following:

  • The Gospels were nearly perfect in how they captured the frequency of names among Palestinian Jews of the time. For instance, Ilan’s list of the 10 most popular names matched rank for rank the list of the most frequent names in the Gospels and Acts. This is an extraordinary confirmatory correlation.

  • By contrast, if you examine the most popular Jewish names in a different region (such as Egypt) at the time, the list is dramatically different. The pattern of names does not match what we know the pattern to be in Palestine.

  • Also by contrast, if you examine the names that appear in the Apocryphal Gospels (such as the Gospels of Thomas, Mary, Judas), you discover that the frequency and proportion of names in these writings do not match what we know to be true of names from the land and time of Jesus. Hence the Apocryphal Gospels do not have the ring of authenticity with regard to personal names and are rightly called into question.

 

Things like are important when you have false teachers such as Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie from the Westar Institute (home of the anti-Christian “Jesus Seminar”) who insist that the Gospel of John was written 100 years after the fact and should not be in the Bible and that the Gospel of Thomas was written early and should be in it.

False teacher follow up

As I noted in The Westar Wolves broke my irony meter, false teacher Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie used the Huffington Post to market the false teachers at the Jesus Seminar in The Bible Seminar: Rescuing the Text.  I made a comment that actually got through the far-Left leaning editors there.  I was merely pointing out that Chuck’s group believes the opposite of what authentic Christians do:

Just check out what Wikipedia says about these “Christian­” Jesus Seminar scholars: They deny the resurrecti­on, the deity of Christ, the exclusivit­y of Christ for salvation (even though the Bible teaches over 100 times that Jesus is the only way to salvation)­, the inspiratio­n of the Bible (they claim it is just written by men, though it claims to speak for God over 3,000 times), and more.

They are welcome to their views, of course. I respect religious freedom and wouldn’t want anyone to stifle that. But I find it completely dishonest for Chuck and the Jesus Seminar to claim to be Christian when they disagree with so many essentials of the faith.

And then there is the hypocrisy: Their politics-d­isguised-a­s-religion is the same thing they claim to oppose. They twist the Bible to say that Jesus is fine with abortion, same-sex marriage, having the government take from neighbor A by force to “give” to neighbor B and calling it charity on your part, etc.

Usually Chuck knows enough to ignore me, because he can never back up his points and can only resort to personal attacks.  But he slipped and actually responded to me.

Note how he completely ignored my assertions and just resorted to personal attacks.  (BTW, I know that he probably thinks I attack him, but if you read carefully you’ll see that I always point to his content and errors and I back up my claims.  I don’t just say, “Chuck is ignorant.”  If I say he lied, I show where and how he lied.  If I say he got a Bible verse wrong again, I show what he got wrong.)

Perhaps the biggest symbol of ignorance is using Wikipedia as a source of informatio­n on theology. There is a reason middle school and high school teachers won’t let students use it as a source for papers.

But I’m not surprised this reference showed up here. It happens all the time. We need more than a third grade theologica­l education to debate these important issues and that is what is clearly missing in theologica­l debates over the meaning of the Bible.

You’ve illustrate­d the point that Biblical literacy is important.

– Rev. Chuck Currie

That was sweet of him.  Note how he implied that Wikipedia was wrong and used the entire comment to just attack me.  Here’s my response:

Chuck,

I appreciate you taking the time to respond, but I’m puzzled by the content.  I’m familiar with the limitations of Wikipedia, as most people are (including the fact that it leans Left), but I wouldn’t personally attack someone who referred to it as being the “biggest symbol of ignorance” and implying that he is biblically illiterate.  I would tend to dig deeper before making such claims.

Since you are an Associate Director at Westar, I figured you would be interested in what Wikipedia said about your organization and would want it to be accurate.

I think most readers will see that you implied that the Wikipedia information was incorrect.  Therefore, perhaps you can clarify a few things for us:

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the physical resurrecti­on of Jesus?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the deity of Christ?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the exclusivit­y of Christ for salvation?   (Note: It is public record that Chuck directly denies it.  He did a whole sermon on why Jesus is not the only way to salvation, even though the Bible teaches over 100 times that Jesus is the only way to salvation­.  I’m sure he’d be glad to link to the sermon here.)

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the divine inspiratio­n of the original texts of the Bible, just as the writers claim?

If you can confirm that the Jesus Seminar affirms all those things and point to documentation of it, I will gladly retract my reference to Wikipedia.

This is a great opportunity for you to clear up some confusion.  After all, if all the Wikipedia claims are in error, as you implied, and if Westar is all about increasing biblical literacy, wouldn’t you relish the opportunity to set the record straight about Jesus being divine, the only way to salvation, etc.?  I know the Bible teaches those things to be true.  I’m encouraged that your response implies that you do as well.

After a day he hadn’t responded, even though he was very active on an Oregon Live thread (so I know he was at his PC).  So I left this comment:

Chuck, are you going to respond? As a Westar Associate Director on a mission to “rescue the text” of the Bible I figured you’d welcome the opportunity to clear things up.

To recap, you implied that Wikipedia was incorrect about the Jesus Seminar beliefs. Wouldn’t this be a great place to clarify those?

You ignored my comment and insisted that I was ignorant for daring to refer to Wikipedia. Of course, I just used that reference out of convenience, because it mirrored everything I have ever heard from the Jesus Seminar.

So I ask again:

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the physical resurrecti­­on of Jesus?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the deity of Christ?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the exclusivit­­y of Christ for salvation, even though you preach the opposite?

Does the Jesus Seminar affirm the divine inspiratio­­n of the original texts of the Bible, just as the Bible writers claimed?

If you can confirm that the Jesus Seminar affirms all those things and point to documentat­ion of it, I will gladly retract my reference to Wikipedia. You’ll want to set them straight as well. That’s how Wikipedia works.

Three days and still no reply from Chuck.

Kudos to HuffPo for not censoring my comments.  Yet.

The Westar Wolves broke my irony meter

Wolf

The Westar Institute is home of the Jesus Seminar, the group of fake Christians who literally voted on which things Jesus “really” said in the New Testament and which He did not. Not surprisingly, the “Jesus” they ended up with looked remarkably like contemporary liberal culture — in other words, just like them.  They deny his divinity, his miracles, his resurrection and more in making him out to be an early Occupy Wall Street-type rebel.  In other words, no one holding their views should claim to be Christian.  They may have degrees but they speak nonsense, such as what Jesus Seminar member Marcus Borg said here.

Now here’s some news from their new employee Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” CurrieThe Bible Seminar Set To Increase Biblical Literacy – Just In Time.

It is hard to imagine a more ironic title.  These “Christians” can’t go three sentences without creating a god in their own image but they think they are going to increase biblical literacy?  Sure.  Just like their spokesman did a whole sermon explaining why Jesus isn’t the only way to salvation because he insisted that John 14:6 didn’t belong in the Bible but that the Gospel of Thomas did (yeah, what did the early church know, anyway?!).  And he didn’t even realize there were 100+ additional verses to rationalize away to make his point!  He insisted that the Gospel of John was written after 130 A.D., even though atheist textual critics like Bart Ehrman and others place it at 90-95 A.D.  (I think it was written before 70 A.D., but that is another topic.)

The Westar Institute – home of the Jesus Seminar and Polebridge Press – will be launching a new initiative called the Bible Seminar this month to promote Biblical literacy and the timing couldn’t be better.

I agree that biblical illiteracy is rampant.  But looking to the Westar Wolves for assistance is like asking Jerry Sandusky to fight pedophilia.  I mean, he appears to know a lot about it, but there is a difference between a cause and a cure.

You have to feel bad for White House Press Secretary Jay Carney who made the unfortunate mistake recently of attributing the phrase “the Lord helps those who help themselves” to the Bible.  It’s a common mistake.  In fact, pollster George Barna has found that 75% of Americans believe this phrase, most likely from Benjamin Franklin, comes from Scripture.

Again, let’s remember that Chuck distorts every verse he touches.  How can someone get a seminary degree and not know that the New Testament claims countless times that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that Jesus is divine?  That isn’t what makes those true, of course, but they are obviously positions every authentic Christian should hold.

Carney’s mistake isn’t very worrisome.  What is truly concerning are how many Americans, for example, would claim that Jesus is opposed to gay marriage.  Jesus never uttered a word about homosexuality as far as we know – for or against – but people will claim that he did.

Predictable.  Of course Chuck hasn’t read where Jesus reiterated who God made marriage for: One man and one woman (Mark 10).  And yes, that statement was in response to the issue of divorce, but it still indicates God’s plan for marriage.  You can’t get away from it.

And Chuck offers no evidence and uses the “what Jesus didn’t say” argument from silence, which fails on many levels: Arguing from silence is a logical fallacy, Jesus inspired all scripture, He supported the Old Testament law to the last letter, the “red letters” weren’t silent on this topic in the sense that they reiterated what marriage is, He emphasized many other important issues that these liberal theologians completely ignore (Hell, his divinity, his exclusivity, etc.), He was equally “silent” on issues that these folks treat as having the utmost importance (capital punishment, war, welfare, universal health care, etc.), His failure to mention bestiality, child abuse and other obvious sins wouldn’t justify them, and homosexual behavior simply wasn’t a hot topic for 1st century Jews.  Other than that, it is a great argument.

More importantly, note how this false teacher tips his hand by saying Jesus never addressed homosexuality.  Remember, the clear claim of scripture and an essential of the Christian faith is that Jesus is part of the Trinity.  Jesus is God, the Bible is the word of God, therefore the Bible is the word of Jesus.  The original writings turned out exactly the way He wanted them to.  Therefore, all the verses about human sexuality turned out exactly the way Jesus wanted:

  • 100% of the verses addressing homosexual behavior denounce it as sin in the clearest and strongest possible terms.
  • 100% of the verses referring to God’s ideal for marriage involve one man and one woman.
  • 100% of the verses referencing parenting involve moms and dads with unique roles (or at least a set of male and female parents guiding the children).
  • 0% of 31,173 Bible verses refer to homosexual behavior in a positive or even benign way or even hint at the acceptability of homosexual unions.
Also, Chuck is implying that Romans and other writings addressing homosexuality aren’t the word of God.  That’s a peculiar thing for a Christian to say.
There are three types of pro-gay theologians, and Chuck and the Jesus Seminar are in the most explicitly anti-Christian group, the one that believes that the Bible is either not the Word of God, or that most parts of it aren’t.

Our level of Biblical literacy is low in the United States.

Twenty five years ago, The Westar Institute started the Jesus Seminar to bring Biblical scholars out of classrooms and into the public square to discuss the life and ministry of Jesus in new ways.  The project largely focused then on the historical Jesus and sought to set Jesus within his own historical context and to explore the meaning of his life and death free from dogmatic constraints that had for centuries limited our understanding of who Jesus was.  For many Christians the work of the Jesus Seminar was liberating – for the Religious Right is was blasphemous.

Not just the religious right thinks it is blasphemous.  Chuck & Co. are so comfortable in their little Western Liberal religious cocoon that they don’t know what real Christians have believed for 2,000 years and around the world.  I know lots of Christians outside the U.S., and I assure you that Chuck and Westar do not speak for them.

Dr. Stephen Patterson, director of The Westar Institute and George H. Atkinson Professor of Religious and Ethical Studies at Willamette University in Salem, Ore., notes that the mission of Westar is to “facilitate collaborative, critical scholarship and bring it before the public for the common good.  Lately, however, we have not been heard.  Our evangelical friends are well-organized and well-funded and consequently can raise their voice above all others.  Our new project, The Bible Seminar, is our attempt to re-ignite the fires of the Jesus Seminar and raise once again the voice of critical scholarship in a conversation that has veered far to the right.”

I can’t wait to see their content!

Groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council and figures like Albert Mohler use Scripture to justify all kinds of conservative causes:  oppression of women, opposition to environmental protections, support for U.S. military intervention in places like Iraq, opposition to marriage equality, etc.  But are these Biblical positions? Plenty of scholars who study the Bible would say no and argue that these are political position cloaked in religious language.

Eek!  Bible-believing Christians!  Wait . . . what do they mean by “oppression of women?”  Oh, if you are opposed to crushing and dismembering innocent but unwanted human beings in the womb then you want to oppress women . . . even though gender selection abortions are used almost exclusively to kill females for the sole reason that they are female.

“Marriage equality” = tired sound bite.  “Same-sex marriage” is not, and never will be, equal to real marriage as outlined in the Bible.

The Bible Seminar will help equip those scholars to better engage in public debate and enter into discussion and dialogue with clergy and lay Christians (and non-believers as well) to liberate the Bible from those who would misuse it for their own partisan political purposes.

Yeah, because people would never misuse the Bible to rationalize the government taking by force from neighbor A to “give” to neighbor B and calling it “Christianity,” and they would never use it to justify abortion and teaching 5 yr. olds how “normal” LGBTQ behavior is.

Like the Jesus Seminar before it, the Bible Seminar won’t answer all the questions.  What this project will do, however, is allow the questions to be asked and in the process solicit diverse voices that often aren’t even invited to the table to be part of the discussion.  We can expect the work to be controversial but always exciting.

I used to feel sorry for people taken in by fakes like Chuck Currie and the Jesus Seminar.  Now I tend to think that they get what they deserve: a false god to worship.

Westar is a poster child for Leopard Theology, where they claim that the Bible is only inspired in spots and that they are inspired to spot the spots, as well as Advanced Leopard Theology, where God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling Western theological liberals and progressives.

Jesus warned us many times of false teachers, and He was right.  My guess is that those passages were the first ones jettisoned by the Westar Wolves.

Please note how their “biblical literacy” campaign immediately self-destructs with respect to their anti-Christ mission. Their main point in the past has been dismissing the verses they don’t like as not being of Jesus, or dismissing whole books of the Bible as not belonging.  But they can’t deny what is actually in the Bible.

For example, Chuck can try and deny that Jesus spoke the words of John 14:6, but he can’t deny that it is in the book.  So if they want to debate what the Bible really says — whether they think Jesus said it or not — they are going to lose badly.  They used to cheat by pulling out verses that opposed their made up religion, but if they are going to point to what is in the whole book then they can’t play that game any longer.  

This will be fun.  

False teacher Chuck Currie named Associate Director of False Teacher (Westar) Institute

It is only fitting.  Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie apparently could never land a full-time gig as a real pastor, even though he was a wildly liberal (read: fake) pastor in a highly liberal denomination in a highly liberal city.  But the Jesus Seminar false teachers like him!  See “Rev. Chuck Currie Named Associate Director Of The Westar Institute”:

I’m excited to share the news that I’ve been named the new Associate Director of The Westar Institute, one of our nation’s most important academic bodies focusing on the critical study of religion.  For many, the work undertaken by the Westar Institute is a is a beacon of hope to anyone wishing to embrace a spiritual life that has more intellectual integrity.  The Westar Institute is best known as the home of the Jesus Seminar.

Oh, Chuck is all about intellectual integrity!  Except when he’s being a serial, unrepentant liar.  Or taking his 6 yr. old girls to gay pride parades as props to show how tolerant and inclusive he is (I wonder if Portland’s celebrations are as diverse as San Francisco’s?).  Or when he accuses those who disagree with him of being racist, including  a black pastor (who Chuck didn’t know was black).  (It reminds of when he dismissed Stand To Reason for the racist reason that they are white guys.  Besides it being an example of the genetic fallacy, Chuck didn’t realize that by his own logic we should ignore him.  After all, Chuck is a white guy.  You can’t make this stuff up!)

“Rev. Currie will help us to become better equipped to bring into the public forum the considered views of biblical scholars whenever the Bible is invoked on behalf of this or that cause.”

That is so comical.  Remember, Chuck is the heretic who thinks that the Gospel of John was written in AD 130 and that the “gospel” of Thomas is more authoritative.  He taught an entire sermon on John 14:6 yet concluded that Jesus was not the only way to salvation.  Chuck, the “scholar” and PhD candidate, didn’t know there were at least 100 other passages pointing to Jesus’ exclusivity for salvation.  He says that Christians have as much to learn from other religions as they do from us, but what do they have to teach us about Jesus?  And you can’t even skim the Old Testament without seeing that the Israelites #1 problem was worshiping other gods.

Chuck quotes Matthew 25 over and over, taking it out of context, of course, but always refers to the “least of these.”  Yet he is pro-legalized abortion and pro-taxpayer funded abortion.  Apparently killing 3,000 innocent but unwanted human beings — who surely meet the definition of “least of these” — isn’t enough for Chuck.  He wants there to be more abortions.

Chuck holds those false views and more, yet they named him Associate Director?!  Of course, because they are as transparently false as he is.

This will be fun! I say without exaggeration that I have yet to see Chuck get a Bible verse right.  He’ll grab one from Isaiah, or wherever, because he thinks it makes his point, but if you examine the passage it is easy to see how wildly off the mark he is.  I am looking forward to analyzing his “critical studies.”

Inerrant, infallible, inspired

I’m re-running this post with some more thoughts.  Even though I believe that the original writings of the Bible were without error, God-breathed and incapable of error, those views aren’t required for belief in God or the resurrection.  You can take a minimal facts approach and see that even if there were slight discrepancies in the accounts about Jesus that the resurrection could still be true.   

Just look at key facts that virtually all historians agree on, such as the following, and realize that his resurrection is the best explanation for those facts.

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He rose from the dead and appeared to them.
  • Paul believed that Jesus appeared to him.  Even skeptics concede that Paul wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, Galatians, I & II Corinthians and others.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, was a skeptic who converted after Jesus died.

There are skeptics who endorse alternatives to the resurrection (e.g., Jesus’ body was stolen, it was ripped up by dogs, the swoon theory, etc.).  These folks unwittingly  give a lot of support for the resurrection: They show that the historical facts are so strong that one must concede that a real person named Jesus lived and died on a Roman cross and the body did not stay in the tomb. 

—–

bible5.gifClaims of Biblical inerrancy, inspiration and infallibility apply to the original writings.  I have researched countless difficulties and found answers that satisfied me.  Some are tougher than others.  Some things are in the Job category (as in, I’m not capable of understanding them or God doesn’t need me to understand them). 

I learned enough about the book to be comfortable that God “wrote” it, and I trust that if there is something in the 1% that appears to be a contradiction then either there was a translation error or – much more likely – there is something I’m just not understanding properly.

In short, after working through enough difficulties with satisfactory answers I tend to give God and his Word the benefit of the doubt.  I’m sure this thrills him to no end.  I say that tongue-in-cheek, because on the one hand He certainly doesn’t need the Neil-seal-of-approval but on the other hand He does love it when we exercise faith.  Not blind faith, not faith despite the evidence, but faith grounded in the truths He has revealed to us.

Are there passages in the currently published Bibles that don’t belong?  Perhaps.  The ending of Mark and the story of Jesus and the woman accused of adultery are not in the earliest and best manuscripts. 

Also, some verses sometimes lose a little meaning in certain translations.  For example, when Exodus 21:22-25 is properly understood it is a pro-life passage, yet pro-choice people will use a poorer translation (for that passage) such as the RSV because it supports their position. 

These issues don’t bother me that much because they show that the system works: We have so many copies of ancient manuscripts and different translations that it possible to figure out what the originals said.  The exceptions are limited and we can show why they are exceptions. 

But on most of what really matters there is no debate.  Every version I’ve seen says, “Love your enemies.”  There are 100 clear passages saying that Jesus is the only way.  That is plenty for me.

I know enough of the Bible and the difficulties to have great faith (trust in evidence) that God inspired the originals.  And I have faith in the copying and translation process so that I can read the Bible with confidence.  For difficult or controversial passages there are plenty of ways to resolve issues on the essentials.  But on the non-essentials I don’t lose sleep. 

If people want to have church meetings to debate how often to serve communion, whether to use wine or grape juice, etc., I say go ahead and have a swell time.  Just don’t make me participate. 

We can read the Bible with confidence that God has transmitted his Word to us accurately.  Sometimes the words inerrant and infallible are too loaded with various meanings to be helpful, so I like to emphasize that the original writings of the Bible turned out just the way God wanted them to.

A challenge for Swoon Theorists

cross1.jpg

A small minority of skeptics subscribe to the Swoon Theory, which holds that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross.  He just pretended to expire then convinced the disciples that He rose from the dead.  This isn’t widely held but the fact that it had some fairly strong advocates is illuminating. 

It shows how hard some people will work to come up with an alternative explanation to the resurrection.  It is a tough job when you consider the historical facts surrounding Jesus’ death on a cross, his disciples’ belief that He rose from the dead, the conversion, ministry and writings of the Apostle Paul, the conversion of Jesus’ brother James and the accuracy of the transmission of the Bible, among other things.

Just for fun I thought we should put this idea to the test.  I have a challenge for anyone who thinks the Swoon Theory is possible.

You get to pretend to be Jesus.

You don’t have to be beaten by Roman guards.

You don’t have to have a crown of thorns pressed on your head.

You don’t have to be scourged.

You don’t have to have spikes driven through your hands and hang from them for a few hours.

You don’t have to have a spear stuck in your side until blood and water come out.

You don’t have to walk through walls.

I won’t even ask you to move a large stone by yourself.

I’ll suspend reality and pretend that these highly skilled Roman guards were fooled by Jesus’ deception. 

I’ll suspend reality and pretend that these highly skilled Roman guards didn’t see him get away from the tomb.

“All” I ask you to do is have a large spike driven through your feet and then removed.  You don’t even have to put your body weight on it for several hours like Jesus did.  We’ll give you get the best medical care that would have been available at the time.

Three days later, you need to walk seven miles (roughly the distance from Jerusalem to Emmaus as described in Luke 24) without limping and convince people that you are perfectly fine. 

That’s it.  Even with that extremely watered down version of a crucifixion, I’ll try to believe that the Swoon Theory is a viable explanation for the missing body.

Any takers?

P.S. Please note that the existence of theories like this provides evidence for the evidence, by which I mean that the evidence for the empty tomb, the belief of the Disciples, etc. must be so strong that some feel the need that they must explain it.  Those who put forth theories like this tip their hands that they have a lot of evidence to explain away.