Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Died Funk as a fool dieth?

It's always sad when someone dies, who gives every evidence of being uprepared for it.

In the case of some, there is no reason to believe that they gave any particular thought to God, Jesus, ultimate issues. They just played and played like there would be no tomorrow, and then tomorrow came, as it always has. This was the lot of the fool our Lord so memorably depicted in Luke 12:15-21.

In the case of others, they obviously focused a lot of energy on Jesus -- or on something they called "Jesus." Robert Funk would fit into this category. He was one of the perpetrators of that body of cutting-edge 18th century radical German scholarship repackaged for the 2oth century euphemistically (and misleadingly) called "The Jesus Seminar."

These are the credentialled geniuses who voted on the sayings of Jesus with colored beads and, 1900+ years after the fact, decided which parts of the first-century documents were and were not accurate representations of what Jesus said. Turns out He didn't actually say some 80% of what His contemporaries recorded Him as saying.

This was nothing more nor less than a philosophical grudge match, where the perps imposed their worldviews on perfectly innocent historical documents that had never done them any harm. Or had they? Generally, when one finds this much vitriol and rage, there is a moral issue or two lurking under the surface.

Take a look at Funk's The Coming Radical Reformation. This is nothing other than an angry, hamfisted, arrogant rant masquerading as a statement of detached, glacial scholarship. That same description pretty well fits the work of the Jesus Seminar itself as well. The collaborators proceeded as if the last 150 years of NT studies had never happened; it was a nightmare. (I did a send-up on its work titled How to Make Your Very Own Jesus.)

This whole academic pose is perpetuated in the late Dr. Funk's obituaries. Again and again we read that Funk was "a divinity scholar whose institute questioned New Testament miracle stories," or "called into question New Testament miracle stories and the authenticity of many of the statements attributed to Jesus." No, as a matter of fact, he didn't "question" the miracle stories. He adopted an a priori assumption that such things could never happen and then, with that premise in place, turned to the New Testament histories. The results can hardly surprise. Since Funk had decided that such things could not happen, he further ruled that such things did not happen. Neat little circle.

Nothing in academics, scholarship, nor the evidence called for this conclusion. The last century-plus in particular has shown the NT documents to be accurate, reliable, remarkable and remarkably well-attested literature. Such wholesale slaughter comes from sheer prejudice and personal issues -- not from scholarship, nor the evidence.

And so, having whistled past the graveyard his whole academic career, Robert Funk now finds himself in one. Having ruled out any possibility of Jesus being God incarnate, only mediator between God and man, and sole Savior and Judge of all men, he now finds himself before Him in all those offices.

Perhaps Dr. Funk found repentance in his last days, hours, minutes. I sincerely hope so. Because whether it comes from a gradeschool dropout or a highly-respected academic, "There is no wisdom and no understanding And no counsel against the LORD" (Proverbs 21:30).

Robert Funk knows that now.

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