12 December 2006

Is anyone else getting a bit weary . . .

. . . of contemporary Christian writers claiming to have discovered the long lost real truth (gnosis?) of the biblical story?

Steve Chalke, The Lost Message of Jesus
Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus
N. T. Wright, What St. Paul Really Said
John Dominic Crossan, The Essential Jesus: What Jesus Really Taught
Stephen Mitchell, Jesus: What He Really Said and Did
Gerd Ludemann, The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did
R. A. Bacon, You Won't Believe . . . What the Apostle Paul Really Taught

Have we really been so dense for 2,000 years as not to have grasped the basic thrust of Jesus' or Paul's teaching? I suspect much of this kind of self-alleged innovation is more the result of creativity than faithfulness, more reactionary than balanced. Plus these titles are more marketable?


ErinOrtlund said...

So what are they saying the real truth is?

Dane Ortlund said...

Chalke thinks we need to get over the idea that Jesus died as a substitutionary sacrifice at the hands of a blood-thirsty Father (he calls it cosmic child abuse). Insead we need to see that Jesus was all about love. (false dichotomy)

McLaren (in this book) has similar concerns and wants to get away from the idea that the significance of Jesus is to forgive my sins and get me to heaven. Rather, with his proclamation of the Kingdom and all that that entailed, he was announcing a new world order in the here and now, but he did it subtlely and even subversively, so that it would not blow up and backfire. So we need to read between the lines of the Gospels and see that, e.g., the Kingdom is received like a little child, in weakness, etc. It is good stuff, but unbalanced, and again a false dich.

Ludemann and Crossan are liberals who think much of what is recorded in the Gospels is unreliable. Ludemann is German, and Crossan is an American who is part of the Jesus Seminar, which votes on which sayings of Jesus were likely historical and which weren't, based largely on the criterion of dissimilarity, which says that a saying is probably reliable if it is not what one would expect.

Wright argues that Paul did not found Christianity, as much German historical-critical scholarship has suggested, but carried on the teaching of Jesus. Despite his denial of imputation and (I think) his overemphasis on salvation as return from exile, I am thankful for this bk.

ErinOrtlund said...

Just saw your answer! Thanks! I've read some Crossan at Trinity, and also NT Wright. Haven't kept up with those authors though.