The Jesus Seminar Reeks with Rationalism in its Most Primitive Form (and Rejects Creation Along with Christ)

The Jesus Seminar Reeks with Rationalism in its Most Primitive Form
(and Rejects Creation Along with Christ)

Author: John Woodmorappe
Subject: Theology

John Woodmorappe’s Articles
About John Woodmorappe
In BSN 32:4, we reported on the Jesus Seminar, a group of mostly liberal academics who vote on which passages in the Gospels they consider Christ to have actually said, versus those which they imagine were made up by the early Church and then attributed to Christ. Their conclusions are foregone, and appear to be little more than a rehash of claims that have been part of “higher criticism” for over a century. These arguments have been considered and refuted by conservative scholars (see, for example, McDowell 1975; Habermas 1984). Some conservative Bible scholars have argued that the whole notion of “assessing” the authenticity of Christ’s teachings by vote is inane. Here we note how creation is thrown into the dustbin along with the divinity of Jesus.

The Jesus Seminar volume (Funk et. al. 1993) is redolent with rationalism throughout. Thomas Jefferson is mentioned and praised “for taking scissors and paste to Scripture,” as if there were some sort of virtue in making a game of guessing which parts of the Bible are correct or incorrect. The naturalizing critics Hermann Reimarus and Friedrich Strauss are extolled. Conservative scholars are dismissed through pejorative rationalistic buzzwords, such as “dogmatic,” “latter-day inquisitors,” and “witch hunters.” Not one word is said, however, about the anti-supernaturalist prejudices inherent in the rationalist worldview of these latter-day higher critics. Moreover, the writers of this Jesus Seminar volume display no small amount of arrogance when they refer to their methodology by the cliche, “the assured results of critical scholarship” (p. 34). The results are assured, to be sure, but only by the naturalistic assumptions at work.

As far as the foundational doctrine of Creation is concerned, it is interesting to see once again how an attack on the Gospels goes hand-in-hand with the attack on the Creator. To quote the Jesus Seminar (Funk et. al. 1993, p. 2):

The contemporary religious controversy, epitomized in the Scopes trial and the continuing clamor for creationism as a viable alternative to the theory of evolution, turns on whether the worldview reflected in the Bible can be carried forward into this scientific age and retained as an article of faith. Jesus figures prominently in this debate. The Christ of creed and dogma, who had been firmly in place in the Middle Ages, can no longer command the assent of those who have seen the heavens through Galileo’s telescope. The old deities and demons were swept from the skies by that remarkable glass.

Note the equation of anti-supernaturalist preconceptions with a “scientific” (actually rationalistic) worldview. Clearly, these modernist scholars do not distinguish reason from rationalism, just as evolutionists (whether humanists, modernists or confused Christians) fail to distinguish science from rationalistic scientism. To them, a questioning of anti-supernaturalism–or a belief in the reality of divine action–is in itself an attack on reason, scholarship and science.

Those who have personally seen the heavens through telescopes that dwarf the one used by Galileo will find it ludicrous and offensive to hear the legitimate study of the heavens equated with the imagined legitimacy of atheism, naturalistic evolution, and naturalizing Bible scholarship. These sentiments are as misguided as cosmonaut Gherman Titov’s remarks about not seeing any God or angels during his orbits of the earth, and modern evolutionists attempting to equate the “fact” of naturalistic evolution with the factuality of the sphericity of the earth.

Yet at least the humanists and modernists are internally consistent in their thinking when they apply their worldview to the entire Bible, Genesis as well as the Gospels. Confused evangelicals, by contrast, are not. They want to hang on to Christ and His supernatural works while at the same time buying into rationalism when it comes to understanding the origins of this universe, the Flood, and the other events recorded in the first 11 chapters of Genesis.

But naturalism is not a philosophy easily placated. Eventually, as the Jesus Seminar demonstrates, it will come looking for Christ the Redeemer as well–but not to worship Him. Naturalism turns the Lord of all Creation into just another man.


  1. W. Funk, R. W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels (New York: Macmillan, 1993).
  2. R.Habermas, Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1984).
  3. McDowell, More Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, California: Campus Crusade for Christ, 1975).

Topics: theological liberalism, compromising evangelicals, anti-Biblical theories exposed, quest for the historical Jesus, Rudolf Bultmann, neo-orthodoxy, post-Bultmannian influence, anti supernaturalism, news media darlings, eye-opening information, contemporary pop theology, apologetics resources, the battle for the Bible, synoptic Gospels defended. (For a recent and comprehensive refutation of the conclusions of the so-called Jesus Seminar: see the book JESUS UNDER FIRE, by J. P. Moreland and M. Wilkins. 1995. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI).

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