Thursday, August 08, 2013

Understanding John Dominic Crossan

I am still working through Reza Aslan's book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.  When I finish it, I hope to write some blog articles and comments on the substance of the book.   The ghosts of classic liberals like Reimarus, Adolph Von Harnack, Rudolph Bultmann, F. C. Bauer, Walter Bauer and modern "Jesus Seminar" type liberals like John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, the late Robert Funk, Raymond Brown, and John P. Meier,  James Tabor, and Geza Vermes are all through his book; and the end-notes/works cited/bibliography are full of this stuff. In that sense, Aslan's book is nothing new; and will probably be a "flash in the pan". But many younger people, bloggers, skeptics, and atheists today are reading this book.   It it interesting for me, because Aslan has become a famous western Iranian, and just knowing his material is helpful in my ministry with Iranians.  Therefore, I wanted to read Zealot, as I had also already started his other book, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.  I got it in English and Farsi to improve my language skills.

A lot of Aslan's experiences and thinking are typical for westernized Iranians that fled the Iranian Islamic Revolution, lead by the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.  Aslan was 7 when his family fled the Iranian Revolution; and he says that his family was very nominal Muslims and enthusiastic atheists.  He says his mom prayed when no one was looking, and maybe a Qur'an could be found in a drawer hidden away; and for the most part, his father tried really hard to scrub Islam and religion from his family.  Many Iranians go that route when they flee Iran and come to the west.  I have meet many Iranians like this here in the USA.

In order to get a grasp on what Aslan really means, one needs to understand John Dominic Crossan.

Dr. White debated Dr. Crossan on the Bible - this one is worth ordering here. Debate Title: "Is the Bible True?"  I love Dr. White's comment he has made several times over the years about J. D. Crossan, "He is the nicest heretic you will ever meet."  (something like that)

Dr. White and James Renihan also debated John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg:

William Lane Craig on John Dominic Crossan:  (this is a very good and I think WLC nailed this.  Similar to J. Greshem Machen calling out Liberalism as another religion and not Christian at all.) 

The book that WLC mentions, Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?  (A Debate between John Dominic Crossan and William Lane Craig; edited by Paul Copan)  I read this years ago; and it was good to pull it out and go through some of it again.

Here is a very interesting doctoral dissertation for Southern Seminary by Tawa J. Anderson on John Dominic Crossan's theology. I found this very helpful in getting a better overall handle on understanding John Dominic Crossan.  (the first couple of pages are blank, so scroll down to start reading it.)


Brigitte said...

Wow, I know Tawa Anderson personally. He is from here. I am going to read the whole thing. Thanks.

Ken said...

Now, how cool is that? Small world.

Tawa Anderson said...

Brigitte - thanks for pointing me here. Ken - great blog. And I'm glad you found my dissertation helpful.

Ken said...

Tawa, thanks for dropping by; and your dissertation is very helpful - saved me a lot of time.

Did you know of the 2 debates above that Crossan had with James White? (including the one with Borg vs. White and Renihan)

CD-Host said...

Just to throw in my $.02 as a skeptic. I think traditionalists make a huge mistake in freely grouping history of religions type thinking like Walter Bauer, Bultmann and arguably Borg with more classical liberals like Crossan particularly when it comes to the resurrection. For traditionalists a real being experienced a real resurrection. For Bauer a mythical / imaginary being experienced a "real" resurrection in the world of myth.. For Crossan a real being dies in the real world and a myth emerged about his resurrection. Those are two very different critiques.

Ken said...

CD Host,
I apprecite that distinction between Bauer, Bultmann, Borg and Crossan.

Are you saying Bauer, Bultmann, and Borg didn't even believe Jesus existed? "mythical/imaginary being" ??

I thought they all thought Jesus existed and died like Crossan, but can you point me to a source that proves that?

But, even if that distinction is true; they are still all basically in the same camp vs. believers who believe not only that Jesus existed and died on the cross, but was virgin born, did miracles, and rose from the dead in time and space-history, and taught everything the gospels and NT says He did and means everything the NT says He claimed and taught.

CD-Host said...


Are you saying Bauer, Bultmann, and Borg didn't even believe Jesus existed? "mythical/imaginary being" ?

I don't think they would say anything quite that strong. What they would say is that the gospel accounts and later Christian accounts have little if any tie to a historical individual. So for Bultmann the meaningful source of Christianity is the Gnostic redeemer myths not a historical Jesus. To what extent a or multiple historical persons are combined as sources of the Gospel message isn't his focus. As far as a source, that's more or less the theme of the debates in Kerygma and Myth.

Bauer (Orthodoxy and Heresy) similarly argues for Christianity's origins from Gnostic mythical characters. So again he might believe there might be some vague shadows of a historical Jesus but the dominant source are Elijah, heavenly melchizedek, Seth... not some 1st century Jewish radical. For Borg (The Meaning of Jesus : Two Visions) Jesus' original followers see him as a sage speaking the voice of Sophia. He's nether a messianic claimant not an eschatological figure.

As for them being in the same camp, my point was I don't believe that's true. Two entirely different opinions are present, they aren't the same. I agree neither one of them believes what you believe, but that's not the same thing as saying they believe the same as each other.

Ken said...

They are all pretty close to each other's views of Jesus; almost anything goes except orthodox faith and that miracles and theological revelation are a part of real history also.

Thanks for all the specifics. Trying to figure them all out is very boring and also very difficult; like trying to pit a wet noodle to a wall, to use an over-used expression.