The Jesus Seminar

by Robert G. Witty

When the media evaluate the validity of the Bible and of the teachings of the Christian faith, they often publicize the decisions of the Jesus Seminar. To many, both within and without the church, this action may appear authoritative, even though the Seminar's decisions nearly always contradict the teachings of historic Christianity.

Is the Jesus Seminar a proper voice to evaluate questions of biblical faith? I invite a consideration of the facts.

First, notice who fathered the organization. In 1985 Robert W. Funk, the director of Westar Institute, assembled thirty scholars for the first meeting of the Jesus Seminar.

To evaluate how he chose his associates, consider these condensed statements of some of the 21 theses that Funk published to express his religious convictions:

1. There is no personal god out there external to human beings and the material world.

2. The doctrine of special creation of the species died with Darwinism.

3. The deliteralization of the story of Adam and Eve brought an end to the doctrine of original sin.

4. The doctrine that God intervenes in history is no longer credible.

5. Prayer is meaningless except as meditation.

6. Give Jesus a demotion for it is not credible that he is divine.

7. Jesus as Redeemer or as returning is no longer credible.

8. The doctrine of the virgin birth is an insult to intelligence.

9. The doctrine of the substitutionary atonement is sub-rational and sub-ethical.

10. Jesus did not rise from the dead.

11. Jesus will not return.

12. The New Testament is an uneven and biased record of an attempt to invent Christianity.

13. The Bible, even in the 10 Commandments, does not contain any fixed standard of right or wrong.

These 13 theses from the 21 are adequate to clearly indicate the founder's beliefs, in contrast with the essentials of the Christian faith.

Secondly, the stated purpose of the Jesus Seminar sets its decisions above the teachings of the Bible record. They admit that "we will be asking a question that borders the sacred, that even abuts blasphemy." To quote an official statement: "The goal of the seminar was to review each of the fifteen hundred items and determine which of them could be ascribed with a high degree of probability to Jesus."

This Jesus Seminar meets twice each year to review the validity of the Bible and all related sayings and teachings. The present 200 scholar-members vote with colored beads to decide what part of the Bible record is fit to be included as the words or works of Jesus.

What is the only possible evaluation of this supposedly prestigious group for the Bible-believing Christian? "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"

(Matt. 7:15,16).

Read Jude 18-25.