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.