Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Road to the Jesus Seminar


I am excited about our Jesus Seminar on the Road coming to Elizabethton this Fall. As soon as the details get worked out, Shuck and Jivers will get the good news! For those unfamiliar with the work of the Jesus Seminar, I thought I would post a helpful article.

You can read other articles on-line. You might find it helpful for your own exploration to subscribe to the Fourth R, attend a JSOR in your area, or host one of your own.
Perry Kea and Hal Taussig presented a JSOR for us in 2006. Here are some pics.


Perry Kea teaches at the University of Indianapolis.
In his paper, The Road to the Jesus Seminar, he explains the history of the Jesus Seminar and the history of higher criticism as a whole.


Perry begins his article with the following:

The quest for the historical Jesus was a product of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement in eighteenth-century Europe and North America that promoted reason as the sole standard for establishing matters of truth. The ramifications were enormous. The political underpinnings of the American and French revolutions were established by Enlightenment figures (for example, Locke and Voltaire). The scientific method was born out of the Enlightenment. The privileging of reason over other modes of knowledge (such as tradition) meant that history was brought "down to earth" so to speak. The reasons why things happened in the past had to be sought within the space-time continuum of human life without appeals to divine agency. Just as the scientist could not appeal to supernatural forces to explain natural events, so the Enlightenment historian could not claim that historical events happened because "God so willed it."

When scholars informed by the Enlightenment considered the figure of Jesus in the gospels, they began to ask if the claims made for Jesus could be supported by rational evidence or arguments. So began the quest for the historical Jesus.

History, like science, is limited. It cannot tell us about God. It can only seek to uncover what people thought about God. It can, however, evaluate sources and seek to make historical judgments about them (ie. the type of literature and how this literature is used). Theology is a different matter altogether. It is an important matter. Mystical Seeker in commenting on a previous post wrote something that needs to be said again:
I do want to make clear one point. It has been stated that some people here have "faith in a myth". I don't know where this idea comes from, but I've stated this before, and I'll repeat it, that this is a misconception. Those of us who recognize the mythological character of the resurrection stories do not have faith in myths, but in what the myths point to. The myths are only a means of expressing what the faith (faithfulness) is about. Take away the myth, and you still have the faith. Myths are just the symbolic language of faith. But, as the saying goes, the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.

15 comments:

  1. Ok, I'll bite.

    Let's take away the myth.

    Can you explain your faith without reference to myth in non-symbolic language.

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  2. Mystical,

    Are you able to share what is the essence of Christian faith to you?

    Or, if anyone else wants to jump into this. What does it mean exactly to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ?

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  3. Hey Harry and Grace,

    I will let Seeker answer that question for herself if she wants. I will offer you my statement of faith. This is what I presented to my presbytery upon admission.

    Feel free to rip it apart. Just know that it is my faith statement and you will be ripping out my heart. : )

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  4. Grace,

    I think I would need some clarification as to what you're asking. If you are asking me to provide what I consider a universal and comprehensive list of "essentials" that should apply to all adherents of the Christian faith, I don't think there is any such thing (as I explained here.

    If you are asking me what the essence is of my personal faith, that's another question that I'd probably have to think about before I put together an answer for you. A long and rambling expression of what faith means to me can be found here, which I wrote almost a year ago, and although it doesn't necessarily boil my beliefs down to a concise formula, it does convey a lot of where I was (and I think mostly still am) coming from.

    Of course, that what it means for me to be a follower of Jesus isn't necessarily what it means for others in their own life. I realize this, and I don't have a problem with it.

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  5. Thanks Seeker. That was a great statement. All right, Harry and Grace, your turn.

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  6. Thank you, John, and Mystical so much. Mystical, you are looking at Jesus as sort of like a gateway to what God is like??

    John, your statement of faith is so beautiful. Far be it from me, to ever want to rip it apart, or wound your heart. (I would be feeling awful.)

    But, I am having a reallly difficult time understanding, and it may very well be that I"m misunderstanding. :)

    Your statement seems to reflect orthodox faith to me, the reality of the incarnation. But, yet you also greatly admire the writing of Spong, or Crossan, and other fellows of the Jesus Seminar. Do you agree with all of their opinions? (Is there more diversity between them than I think?)

    As far as I know, John, and I may be wrong about this, none of these scholars believe that Jesus is truly anything more than a mere man, a great sage, social revolutionary, perhaps a shaman like figure, nothing more.

    If you also accept this definition of the historical Jesus, then how can Jesus Christ be truly present for you, and mean all these wonderful things in your life?

    How is He able to be the Savior, in what sense? On the surface, there seems to be a disconnect to me. But, are you able to explain? I hope you're ok with my questions.

    For me, being a Christian is to share in the fellowship, and worship of Jesus Christ. I think that by the death and resurrection of Jesus, we come into relationship with God, and with each other. We, and all the world are made a new creation in and through Him. In Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God is truly "at hand." He is my Savior and Lord.

    But, I'm not at all able to see how any of this makes sense, or is even possible if Jesus is nothing more than a mere man, however wise or godly. Why should I be even concerned to follow Jesus, anymore than any wise teacher such as Ghandi, or Martin Luther King?

    I also think there is a huge difference between agreeing, respecting, and following after the moral and ethical teaching of Jesus, and actually knowing, trusting, and worshipping Jesus Christ as Lord.

    But, what does everyone else think?

    Respectfully,
    Grace.

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  7. Thatis a beautify statement of faith John. It resonates.

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  8. Thanks Rob and Grace.

    Grace, you wrote:

    "Your statement seems to reflect orthodox faith to me, the reality of the incarnation."

    Thank you. Shuck and Jive is the most Reformed (and orthodox) blog on the web! : )

    "But, yet you also greatly admire the writing of Spong, or Crossan, and other fellows of the Jesus Seminar. Do you agree with all of their opinions? (Is there more diversity between them than I think?)"

    And I admire many others. I think it is important not to lump them. If there is something in common with them and other historians of Christian origins, it would be the use of principles of inquiry that scholars have learned since the Enlightenment to evaluate religious texts and movements. This goes back to Perry Kea's paper.

    "As far as I know, John, and I may be wrong about this, none of these scholars believe that Jesus is truly anything more than a mere man, a great sage, social revolutionary, perhaps a shaman like figure, nothing more."

    I can't speak for their theology or their personal faith. That is another animal. We have three animals roaming about now:

    a) Historical method
    b) Theology and
    c) Personal faith

    My statement was a personal faith statement, yet it was shaped by my understanding of history and theology.

    "If you also accept this definition of the historical Jesus, then how can Jesus Christ be truly present for you, and mean all these wonderful things in your life?"

    I understand your confusion. I get confused too. I am not sure if I can explain it. It is like holding both realities without mixing or confusing them, yet allowing them to converse with one another.

    It is like (not the same, but like) affirming what science teaches us about the cosmos and the natural world on one hand and on the other affirming that God creates it.

    It is like the Chalcedonian Creed that affirmed Jesus humanity and his divinity:

    " in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably;
    the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ;"

    Can you figure that out? : )

    I cannot. Yet, it resonates with me. It is faith, which to me is trust in the Mystery which I find revealed in the person of Jesus, the human and the myth.

    The faith is that it makes a difference in my life. I am not trying to be evasive. I just don't think I can be more clear, because I don't know myself.

    Blessings,
    john

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  9. ** What does it mean exactly to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ?**

    To be Christ-like. To have the faith that Jesus had, to see as Jesus did, to do what Jesus did. To reach the full potential of humanity, to be what God created humanity to be, and I see that being achieved through being Christ-like. Which includes holding to the faith that Jesus had in God.

    The problem for me when saying that a Christian must include the worship of Jesus is that I don't see room for that in the very word of "Christian." Does that mean we say that to be Christ-like is to worship Jesus? Does that mean that Jesus in turn worshipped himself? Does Jesus call for people to follow him, or to worship him?

    I do see a distinction between the risen Christ that Paul teaches about, and the Jesus that we see in the Synoptic Gospels. The former is much more etheral and ever-present, much more like the wisdom aspect spoken about in the Proverbs. The latter is a man walking about around 2,000 years ago.

    **or is even possible if Jesus is nothing more than a mere man, however wise or godly. Why should I be even concerned to follow Jesus, anymore than any wise teacher such as Ghandi, or Martin Luther King?**

    I think there's a bit of a disconnect here. There are more options than simply "God made flesh" or "mere man." Another is the idea of the Logos being physically manifested in a way that could be perceived by mortals. Or the Son of God demonstrating what the Father was like, but in a way that again could be perceived by mortals.

    And even if Jesus wasn't divine -- it's clear that he made a difference, that he presented God to people in a way that really hit home for them. He was connected to God, and invinting others into that connection, in a way that other men didn't do. That they found meaning in the crucifixion and resurrection. So if you don't take the divinity aspect to be true, but do find the resurrection true (in the sense that there was a post-crucifixion encounter, whether spiritual or physical), then that would be why people find value in Jesus, as opposed to other moral leaders. Those other moral leaders haven't demonstrated a post-death experience in the manner that Jesus has.

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  10. What is the essence of the Christian Faith?

    "For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." -- St. Irenaeus

    Salvation is not a matter of getting all the right answers on a theological quiz given on judgement day. It is a process of turning away from all that distracts us from God (i.e. sin), of letting go of the ego, and purifying the heart so that the Holy Spirit can come and dwell in our hearts and transform us by Grace into what God is by Nature.

    It is my faith that this is all literally true. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully Man and through His life, His death, and His resurrection he made it possible for us to be "partakers of the Divine nature".

    "Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'" -- Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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  11. Thanks to everyone for your good sharing.

    John, I know that you are completely sincere, but my mind just isn't able to wrap around what you are sharing.

    But, what I think is that you've been marked with the cross of Christ, and despite the intellectual inconsistency and confusion, you've been miraculously and surely found in Him.

    Praise God!

    Love,
    Grace.

    P.S. I'll be away from the net for a few days in the mountains, but hope to stop by later to check in on the conversation.

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  12. "...what I think is that you've been marked with the cross of Christ, and despite the intellectual inconsistency and confusion, you've been miraculously and surely found in Him."

    Thanks, Grace.

    I am going to tease you a bit. "Marked by the cross of Christ." That to me sounds like a metaphor that points to something real. But neither you or I would say that the raised body of Jesus physically marked me with the cross of Christ, right?

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  13. But neither you or I would say that the raised body of Jesus physically marked me with the cross of Christ, right?

    Not physically, psychically (i.e. your soul), and at your baptism.

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  14. Unless, of course, you bear the stigmata. In which case you indeed have been physically marked with the Cross of Christ.

    (One can tease a teaser, right?)

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  15. You can always tease a teaser, Harry! Not only you can, but you should : )

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