Shuck and Jive

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lament for Presbyterians

It came to me today why I feel a bit like a fish out of water with my own denomination. I don't want to make too much of this, but I realized that there have been no professors in PC (U.S.A.) seminaries that are also Fellows in Westar.

I may be wrong. I may have missed someone. If I have I will apologize and correct my error, but I know of no teachers of Early Christian Origins, New Testament, Philosophy, or Theology who both are connected with a Presbyterian seminary and Westar. It is true that most Fellows involved with Westar do not teach at a seminary but some do. But none is from a PCUSA seminary.

It is not a criticism. It isn't for me to tell professors what to do. (Although I do think that they and their students--future ministers--would gain a great deal by participating in the most unique theological scholarly enterprise in the U.S.) It does bring awareness of the huge gap between PCUSA scholars and me.

More than anything (including seminary), it has been the work of Westar that has helped my ministry. Their honesty, courage, collegiality, and commitment to informing non-professionals about higher criticism have shaped the way I preach and teach.

On this 25th anniversary, I salute the late Bob Funk and the Fellows and Associates of the Jesus Seminar.


  1. I don't have enough first had knowledge to make a real judgment, but my impression is that a divide has developed between seminary profs and dept of religion folks. I know that has always existed to some degree but it seems to have become more pronounced. Frankly, most mainline churches still don't know what to do with higher critical biblical studies, especially where they call into question the basic belief traditions. I think denominational seminary profs know where their bread is buttered and so just don't pursue their studies in those directions. They know the stuff, and might even believe it, but know there is no pay-off in pushing it so go into less controversial subject areas. Unfortunately, I think that also makes less relevant and more boring.

  2. In defense of some Presbyterians, it was at DairyStateMom's PC(USA) church that I first had the opportunity to be directly exposed to Crossan's work (although I'd read about him previously), in some adult RE programs.

  3. John, Howard Rice (who died Aug. 9) was a presby minister and prof at SF seminary, and a fellow of Westar. I took him to lunch where I learned that he entertained some radical thoughts and basically supported any enlargement of our knowledge about Jesus and the Bible.

    Another fellow was Herman Waetjen who taught NT at SF. He quit in a huff when, as a member of the old sociology seminar (or some such name), Bob F entered the room and told them they were all idiots and should stop what they were doing. Several fellows quit over that.

    Another fellow I think was my prof from mccormick who taught Paul. I think it was Bob Evans who was into philosophical theology in the 70's but gave up the intellectual stuff and did a lot of good in the 80's and 90's with peacmaking in S. Africa and eastern Europe.

    One OT and archaeology prof from SF spoke openly at a Westar gathering in 02 or 03 about how corrupt biblical archaeology was in claiming that arch. proved Biblical stories.

    Denny Maher, Lake Luzerne NY

  4. I will further state that Howard asked my counsel on helping a former president of SF Seminary to publish a book that would deny the virgin birth, divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, etc. I urged Howard to continue work on that in conjunction with Westminster where he had clout, and with Polebridge. Nothing ever came of it, which means that there is a very interesting manuscript out there....

  5. More of some history (I need my own blog): When I took the job at Westar I went to the big annual theology and bible confab and met John Burkhart and Ted Parker, my theology profs from McCormick. They told me I was nuts, said terrible things about Bob (cheap shot) and JSem. ***k em. Also, I spoke with Jack Stotts (my good ethics prof) in '99 about how the Bible was becoming older and less accessible to people, and that the world view of the Bible was an impediment to modern acceptance. He was quite upset that I would think such things and thought that we could continue to interpret the old in our time. As my 2.5 year old granddaughter said when I asked her yesterday if she were cold, "I think not."