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August 19, 2009


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Wayne Northey

Thanks, Brad!

Generalizations are always dangerous. I highly respect Marcus Borg's reading of Jesus - of any of his works I have read. The historical/theological split about the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith is finely nuanced by even a small group of scholars I read, who take Jesus and the New Testament seriously: Luke Timothy Johnson; N. T. Wright; Richard Hays; Marcus Borg.

I guess I'm responding to the "dismissive" aspect of the Jesus Seminar phenomenon on the one hand, and to the "self-deceptive" aspect as well of making Jesus too readily over into one's own image.

That said, I confess to a yen to dismiss what in Jesus I find uncomfortable, and to making Jesus say only what I want to hear.

It is oh so hard to pursue faithfully the makeover Jesus endlessly calls us to... Maranatha!

As to your first comment, the very fact that Dawkins' and Hitchens' books shot to bestseller status almost immediately shows at least two things about our Western culture:
1. the phenomenal interest in things spiritual;
2. the enormous anger towards the Western Church that so has betrayed its own values,
when, one could suggest, our culture cries out for the very certainties of Mother Church but fears, (only) considering its appalling track record, it's all a sham.

While we must ever confess past and present Church failure, an Orthodox acquaintance recently suggested that the 20th century in particular saw similar enormous betrayal of the best of "secular humanist" values (something Eagleton notes repeatedly), such that Western culture's favourite scapegoat/whipping boy - the Church - can only be excoriated for so long before varieties of atheistic/secular "beliefs" in all fairness need to invite shrill drubbing too! Guaranteed Dawkins, Hitchens, and several of similar ilk will not be offering themselves for that too readily or soon!

Thanks again!


Clarion Journal

Dear Wayne,

I was just noticing yesterday how 'Ditchkins' and the 'Religulous' crowd are recapitulating the discovery of Spinoza in years gone by: that you don't need a sound argument that disproves belief in God (because there isn't one), but the rhetoric of ridicule and scoffing will suffice for the masses. The impact of these books and films is a testament to how rusty modern readers are at thinking.

On another note, while I think the Jesus Seminar is generally misguided in its purpose and methodology, I would say in defense of some participants (like Marcus Borg) that they are sincere in their quest. The sense I get from him is NOT that he is trying to strip away and discard the sections of the Gospel they deem non-historical.

Rather, Borg says that the Gospels are a special genre that amalgamates three and a half years of Christ's earthly ministry with a whole generation's worth of testimony of the risen Christ's ministry in their churches. To distinguish the influence of the latter in the gospels, according to Borg, is not to negate those sections as non-historical, but to ask, 'What is the more-than-historical truth they are trying to convey?'

While I don't buy into the Jesus' Seminar or the bulk of their 'findings', I would resist writing off Borg's part as disingenuous. I do appreciate his exhortation to take note of the POINT (on top of, not instead of, the FACT) of the authors' inclusion of particular pericopes in the Gospel. E.g. healings of blind men that bracket a message on spiritual blindness. Stuff like that.

Anyways, thanks for this splendid bit of reflection of the classic Northey tradition.


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