The Greenville News had an article last weekend about a pair of lectures in Anderson by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. (The sponsoring group has nothing to do with Anderson University, but their name did give us some concern that a casual reader might think that our College of Christian Studies had been the sponsor of the lecture.) The following is an op-ed piece I wrote, which the News published on Saturday, Feb. 26. Since the full op-ed appears to be available online only to subscribers, here is the text:
As the Greenville News recently reported, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan – two well-known liberal biblical scholars – spoke last weekend to the Anderson School of Theology for Laypersons, a private organization unaffiliated with Anderson University. As reporter Paul Hyde noted, their perspective was clear: “Sometimes the Bible is wrong. Get over it.”
To that, my response would be: The Bible is right. Get into it.
Borg and Crossan have made a career out of being the “Bible scholars” who reject the Bible. They see it as dated, biased, the result of human culture rather than divine inspiration. Actually, culture has a lot to do with shaping the views of Borg and Crossan, as they casually toss out 2,000 years of Christian reflection on scripture and substitute their own interpretations based on contemporary cultural trends. This progressive pair will toss out any biblical injunction that would offend the editorial board of The New York Times.
Both Borg and Crossan are leading members of the Jesus Seminar, a relatively small collection of like-minded liberal scholars who drew ample media attention for their efforts to reconstruct the “real” words of Jesus, using colored beads to vote on whether a biblical statement attributed to Jesus was authentic, questionable, or slated for rejection. The end result was a Jesus who apparently said nothing that would offend a liberal academic in the 21st century.
And as for miracles? Obviously they didn’t happen because, well, in Borg’s and Crossan’s world, such things just don’t happen. They lament “biblical literalists” because their allegiance to the historicity of the biblical events means they can’t possibly understand the metaphorical aspects of biblical teaching. Apparently for progressive scholars, if something actually happens in history it is not allowed to have any additional, richer meaning.
The truth is, evangelical scholars like those who teach in our program in the College of Christian Studies at Anderson University understand that scripture is rich in metaphor and symbol, made even more significant by the truth and veracity of biblical revelation. We can mine the riches of scripture for a lifetime because it is not simply the product of human invention but is a gift of God, revealed through men but bearing the signature of the divine.
Contrary to Crossan’s view, we can believe that Jesus actually performed a miracle in the feeding of 5,000 from a small basket of loaves and fishes, yet also recognize that there is a richer meaning to the event beyond its historical accuracy.
At perhaps no point is this more important than in the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus. As Borg told the Anderson group, his view is that “The empty tomb is irrelevant.” And Crossan has written plainly of his position that “I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time brings dead people back to life.” For both of them, all that matters is that the spirit of Jesus lives on.
To which the apostle Paul clearly responds: But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain” (I Corinthians 15:13-14). It is unlikely Paul would have been selected to join the Jesus Seminar, but he did at least have one thing going for him: he was there and actually witnessed the risen Christ. He didn’t need any colored beads to affirm the truth of Christ’s resurrection – it became a part of him as he acknowledged the sovereignty of Jesus in his own life.
Ultimately that is what this issue is about – do we need a risen Savior? For many progressive thinkers like Borg and Crossan, the very notion of sin is an antiquated idea with no place in a tolerant age. Who needs a cross and a risen Christ when you can simply portray Jesus as a pithy Palestinian sage who would fit comfortably in the faculty lounge with the other intellectuals?
But for those of us who have met the risen Christ in our own lives, who have found His forgiveness and experience His direction daily, the truth of scripture is not an intellectual exercise but a living reality. I’ll go with Paul rather than Borg on that one.