CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Bill Tammeus, a columnist for The Kansas City Star, has written an interesting piece entitled "For all we know, Jesus may have been apocalyptic prophet", in which he opines on the work of historians seeking the historical Jesus starting with Albert Schweitzer. After noting that Schweitzer concluded (wrongly, in my opinion) that history can tell us nothing about the historical Jesus, Mr. Tammeus then makes a rather interesting observation.

The authors of [Jesus biographies based upon a search for the "historical" Jesus], it turned out, were using new scholarly tools called historical and textual criticism — ways to dig beneath the words to understand more about their historical context.

But there was something odd about the Jesus these writers found: He very much resembled them. This Jesus easily could have taught theology in a German seminary and fit right in.

In other words, historians looking for the historical Jesus inevitably found, instead, the historian’s Jesus. And that Jesus might not have much to do with the person Christians call son of God, lord and savior.

So scholars began to divide Jesus. They spoke of the Jesus of history on one hand and the Christ of faith on the other, as though the two had precious little to do with one another.

This is a remarkably accurate assessment. Marcus Borg, one of the scholars in the process of redefining Jesus, talks about his own struggles with orthodox Christianity in his book Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time : The Historical Jesus and the Heart of Contemporary Faith . In this book, Borg admits that he is not a Christian in any orthodox sense of the word. Borg is quoted on Faith Future's Marcus Borg biography page as saying:

When I was a child, I thought that being a Christian was about "believing," and belief was no problem. When I was an adolescent and young adult, I struggled with trying to believe, and finally was no longer able to do so. Now I see that it is not a question of belief, and there is much that I do not believe. I do not believe that Christianity is the only way of salvation, or that the Bible is the revealed will of God, or that Jesus was the unique Son of God. Rather, I now see that the Christian tradition—including its claims about Jesus—is not something to be believed, but something to be lived in. I see the Bible and the tradition as "icons," mediators of the sacred. The point is not to believe them, but to be in relationship to that which they mediate: God, the Spirit, the sacred. My own journey has thus been "beyond belief." It has moved from belief through doubt and disbelief to relationship. For me, to be a Christian is to be part of a community that tells these stories and sings these songs. It feels like home.

Apparently, Borg didn't like Christianity as it has been passed down through the ages, but he wanted to continue to be associated with the Lutheran Church where he was raised. Thus, being unable to broaden his mind enough to intellectually reconcile his doubts with the Jesus taught in the Bible, he began the process of redefining that historical Jesus in order to justify his "faith" in whatever it is he has faith in. By redefining Jesus as something other than the unique Son of God (as clearly taught in the Bible), Borg is able to create God in his own image. Or, to paraphrase Mr. Tammeus, "Borg looking for the historical Jesus inevitably found, instead, Borg's Jesus. And that Jesus did not have much to do with the person Christians call son of God, lord and savior."

In my view, Marcus Borg -- like all of the scholars of the Jesus Seminar vein -- is not really interested in the historical Jesus. He is interested in reinventing the Jesus of the Bible -- who is the historical Jesus -- in order that he can pick and choose from His teachings while still being able to sit around the campfire and sing "Kum Ba Ya". The only trouble is that the Jesus he is calling upon, if he is as Marcus Borg claims, is incapable of kum ba yahing because the Jesus of Marcus Borg was just another human being who could do nothing to save himself or Borg.

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