Thursday, August 27, 2009

Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan - Can we have Faith in their Reason?

Back in February, I had the dubious honor of attending the Faith and Reason conference entitled Jesus and Paul: Continuity or Discontinuity? For those who don’t know, the 2 rock stars of Faith and Reason are Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. If you want to know more about them, just Google their names. You’ll pull up plenty, trust me. My goal is not to attack them personally, but to offer counterpoints to some statements made during their presentations.

1. Probably the biggest deviation from Orthodox Christianity is the denial of substitutionary atonement by Crossan and Borg. One claim is that the doctrine did not appear in Christianity until the 11th century AD at the hands of Anselm of Canterbury. To quote their handout:
“the death of Jesus is not about substitutionary sacrifice, not about substitutionary atonement. “
“But the death of Jesus in the NT is not about the punitive justice of God.”

They describe this key doctrine of the Christian faith in the following statement:
“God loves the world so much that God sent God’s only Son to die for us, and anybody who doesn’t believe that will burn in hell forever.”

It doesn’t take much digging to find verses in the New Testament that support the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The problem is that Borg and Crossan (along with their Jesus Seminar associates) pick and choose the verses they believe are truly the words of Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. I could provide a list of verses, but they would view most of them were not authentic.
Interesting fact: One member of the Jesus Seminar, along with Crossan and Borg, is Paul Verhoeven, director of Robocop and Starship Troopers. No joke.

2. During one of Crossan’s lectures, he made the statement that “evil consists of only violence” and that he “couldn’t think of any type of sex that would be evil.” During the course of a later lecture, Crossan stated that he truly believed, along with mainstream scholarship, that both Romans and 1 Corinthians were authored by Paul. The problem Crossan has is that Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 5 both proclaims that sexual immorality is evil. Romans goes so far as to list it with murder.

3. Borg stated in the first lecture that they only take into account “mainstream” scholars that do not believe in infallibility of inerrancy. Just from an honest intellectual standpoint, this seems extremely dishonest. Just by nature, the area of Biblical studies is full of believers who hold to both inerrancy and infallibility. It shouldn’t matter who does the research, if the evidence points in a factual direction, deal with it and go on.

4. Finally, during a Q&A session, a question was asked about Paul’s Damascus road conversion. Within the answer Crossan gave, he stated that the Roman government would not have allowed Paul to bring Christians back to Jerusalem for trial. As soon as this statement was made, it brought to mind the following events that give historical credence to Paul’s Damascus mission and him having extradition papers in Acts 9.

A. Julius Caesar gave the Jewish nation, and particularly the priesthood, the right.
– Josephus, Antiquities 14:192-195; The Jewish People in the First
Century – S. Safrai and M. Stern

B. 142 BC – Romans patronized the new state they acquired (Israel) by giving them
privileges of a sovereign state, including extradition rights – during Hasmonaean dynasty
– New International Commentary of the New Testament – Acts of
the Apostles – Acts 9 – F.F. Bruce

C. Ptolemy VII handed gave the priesthood (specifically Simon) extradition rights.
– I Maccabees 15:21

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