Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Episcopal Diocese of Virginia Promotes John Dominic Crossan

In the Prayer Book's "Invitation to a Holy Lent" in the Ash Wednesday liturgy, Christians are invited to practice fasting and self-denial.  Apparently, for some this includes fasting from core orthodox tenets of the Christian faith by calling those tenets into question and/or jettisoning them.

Such appears to be the case with the recent lecture by Jesus Seminar luminary John Dominic Crossan at Holy Cross Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia.  Crossan is well known for denying Jesus' divinity and his bodily resurrection from the dead, among other orthodox teachings.  But apparently, such denials of the dogmatic core of the Christian faith pose no problems for promoting Crossan's views among Episcopalians.

Writing at Juicy Ecumenism, Jeffrey Walton shares key moments of Crossan's lecture on "The Last Week of Jesus."

First, Crossan dismisses the resurrection and the life of the world to come:

Arguing that the first century idea of Resurrection was significantly different than now, Crossan charged that scripture up to the book of Daniel took for granted that there was no afterlife. Claiming that afterlife was dismissed as a “typical pagan impertinence” by Jews familiar with the concept from surrounding cultures, the idea of an afterlife, Crossan asserted, was folded into Jewish belief during religious persecutions perpetrated by Syrians.

“Where is the justice of God when looking at the bodies of martyrs?” Crossan asked. The answer of some Jews was that there must be a great public vindication of the martyrs when God “cleans up the mess of the world.” Crossan jokingly referred to this eschatology as “Extreme Makeover: Cosmic Edition.”

Crossan stated that he would not attempt to dissuade a person from belief in the afterlife. But “if you’ve spent your whole life with Christ, why should it [afterlife] matter?” The retired professor from Chicago’s DePaul University recounted a conversation in which Sojourners President Jim Wallis defended the physical resurrection of Christ by explaining “no one dies for a metaphor,” and Crossan retorted “that’s the only thing they die for.”
Then Crossan aimed his guns at the belief that the Kingdom of God actually refers to an event in which (as the Prayer Book puts it) "the completion of God's purpose for the world" is fulfilled and Christ "make[s] all things new" (BCP, pp. 861, 862):

The past Jesus Seminar president also repudiated the Kingdom of God as an eternal rule at a moment of time, instead proposing that it was a “process” and dismissing writings credited to the Apostle Paul about the idea of Christ coming soon, appraising that the writer “isn’t Paul.”

“Jesus proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was already here, insofar as you enter into it,” Crossan said. “Jesus probably didn’t self-proclaim that he was the messiah.”

Crossan continued by completely discounting anything unique about Jesus and his mission, noting that the only differences between our Lord and figures like Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks come down to the historical contingencies of "time and place":

Asked what difference there was between Jesus and Ghandi, Crossan was succinct. 
“The difference is two things: time and place,” Crossan answered. “There are windows of opportunity within which certain things can happen. Jesus could have done everything that happened to Jesus – including resurrection taken as literally as you want – and this could have all died out in the villages of Galilee in the 66-74 war.”
Adding that “Rosa Parks didn’t do anything other civil rights figures couldn’t have done,” the DePaul University Religious Studies professor recalled Jesus similarly, as part of a river pushing against a logjam, with it breaking through due to several variables at the time of Jesus’ ministry.
“But the river didn’t arrive at that moment,” Crossan asserted. “What happened was a breakthrough, and the breakthrough has a lot to do with time and place. Jesus is not really dropped down from heaven and happens to land in Galilee when he could have landed in Galway [Ireland] and been much different.”

Writing at Stand Firm, David Fischler offers these summary comments:

We have a “biblical scholar” who claims to be a Christian, and who at the same time dismisses every significant teaching of Scripture and every significant belief of historic Christianity. He represents a strain of religion that is best embodied in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, where skepticism of any form of Christian faith or belief is the norm, and even speaking of “God” (except as metaphor, of course) is discouraged. This is the “biblical scholar” whose anti-Christian blather was presented to Virginia Episcopalians as a viable approach to the Faith, and whose “dialogue” with the clergy of the diocese was hosted by the allegedly “orthodox” Bishop of Virginia.

The only word that comes readily to mind is “shameful.”

Sadly, David gets it right.


Joe Rawls said...

My (soon-to-be-ex) parish had Crossan speak two weekends ago, charging $30 for the privilege. I took a pass. I did read his book on the Lord's Prayer, which actually isn't that outrageous. But my parish is "experimenting" with different versions of the Lord's Prayer during the main Sunday service. A couple sound like they were written by the clerks at a new age bookstore. That was the tipping point, and they managed to make Crossan look good!

Jon in the Nati said...

Fischler is right.

I'd expect this in a lot of places. New York, LA, Chicago, San Francisco; any of the flagship ultra-liberal dioceses. But my understanding was that Virginia was one of the last strongholds of orthodoxy in TEC. I would hate to think I was misinformed.

Bryan Owen said...

Greetings, Jon in the Nati. Unfortunately, it does get worse in VA, as this article entitled "From Crossan to Spong" attests.