“The Truth About Jesus”

By Billy Ashworth

Recently, Vanderbilt University sponsored a “Dialogue” on the subject of “The Truth About Jesus.” Attractive brochures were sent out to various churches here in Nashville, including the Hillview church where I preach. A panel of “distinguished” scholars, according to liberal religionists, was to discuss such subjects as “The Truth About Jesus,” “Portraits of Jesus in Cultural Context,” I ‘Can We Tell The Truth About Jesus?” For the full week of September 17-23, the blasphemous movie, “The Last Temptation of Christ,” was shown twice daily – a total of 14 times!

This “Dialogue” is a classic example of extreme liberalism in religious matters. I dare affirm that not one single panelist believes the Bible to be the Living Word of the Living God (Heb. 4:12). 1 also affirm that probably not a single panelist believes in the virgin birth of Christ, his bodily resurrection and ascension, and/or the miracles of Christ being reality.

Although I did not, of course, attend the “Dialogue,” I have several news articles about it taken from the Nashville Tennessean. On September 20, 1989, an article appeared written by Ray Waddle, religion news editor of the Tennessean. I quote:

“Jesus would have refused to join the Christian throng who protested The Last Temptation of Christ, author Will Campbell argued last night at a forum on ‘the Truth about Jesus!’ It behooves me to remind those brethren that, in my judgment, Jesus wouldn’t have been with them, I Campbell, the Mount Juliet-based preacher, told about 200 people at Vanderbilt University as a guest panelist. If they are going to hold up signs, they ought to say, He was against killing and war and wanton destruction of the earth. We love our Jesus so please don’t tell lies about him.’

“The question of the truth about Jesus – was he the God-man or the man nobody knows? – was taken up by Campbell and seven other panelists last night, hoping to make sense of the furor over the film, Last Temptation of Christ, which opened on campus this week. Based on a work of fiction, the movie explores the painful temptations Jesus was likely to face. (Notice, they admit the movie was based on fiction! Subsequent articles about the discussions seem to place the fictional movie on a par with, or a notch above the New Testament which reveals the only truth man can know about Jesus, and all one needs to know.)

“Some panelists expressed confidence that the real Jesus can be known with reasonable certainty though the scriptures. (This is the only sound statement made in the entire reviews I can recall. I suspect such statements were ignored by the writer while he emphasized the liberal garbage. BA) Others argued more pessimistically that the truth and message of Jesus were distorted beyond recognition almost immediately by the church that sprang up after his death and resurrection as recorded in the New Testament.

“Theologian Thomas Altizer (of “God is dead” infamy, BA) defended Nikos Kazantzakis, the Greek author of the 1955 book on which the movie was based, as a man firmly in the mold of radical prophet who constantly offends most deeply held religious doctrines of the day. ‘One must negate our traditions about Jesus in order to open oneself to Jesus,’ said Altizer, an influential thinker who teaches at the State University of New York. Altizer asserted that no religious figure in history has inspired more resistance and controversy than Jesus, whose revolutionary use of parables was soon lost or rejected by the church, which turned his message into alien philosophical doctrines of ‘infinite distance from the original event.’

“Campbell similarly argued that the church replaced Jesus’ dangerous message about the Kingdom of God being at hand with safer dogmas that require loyalty and assent. (I would like for these “wise and prudent” theologians to tell how they learned the truth about the “revolutionary use of parables of Jesus being lost or rejected by the church” or that the church “replaced Jesus’ dangerous message about the Kingdom of God being at hand with safer dogmas that require loyalty and assent.” After nearly four decades of diligent study of the New Testament, I have failed to find any such foolish and rotten doctrines. Since we have over forty parables of Jesus in the New Testament, I wonder how many parables of Jesus were rejected. And Campbell’s assertion about Jesus’ “dangerous message about the Kingdom of God being at hand being replaced by the church with safer dogmas that require loyalty and assent,” is totally unfounded in the Word of God which is all Truth. It would be interesting to hear Campbell tell what the “dangerous message about the Kingdom of God being at hand” was. Oh, how I wish I had been there and had a chance to ask him!)

In the Tennessean (September 26, 1989, Section B-1), an article by Ray Waddle was headed “Panel says Jesus, Scriptures conflict. ” I quote:

“The historical Jesus of Nazareth will always be an elusive figure who bears little or no resemblance to the Scriptures Christians use in worshipping him, a panel asserted last night. But modem liberal pessimism about the possibility that people can know anything about the real Jesus does nothing to invalidate his mysterious, inspirational hold on millions, one of the panelists added.

“He is a figure around whom people gather – and revelation happens, Walter Harrelson, Old Testament professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, said near the end of a panel discussion on ‘The Truth about Jesus’ at Vanderbilt University. ‘I don’t want to say that questions about his history have no relation to these affirmations of faith. They must intersect in some strange way.’

“Harrelson appeared with Jean Elshtain, Vanderbilt political science professor, and Robert Funk, director of the Westar Institute in Pomona, Cal., in the final panel capping a week of campus discussions centered around questions of Jesus raised by the movie The Last Temptation of Christ. Funk’s Wester Institute sponsors an ongoing study group of mainstream liberatsabplars called the Jesus Seminar, which has won notoriety by concluding that most of the various written sayings of Jesus in the New Testament and Other sources are not likely authentic.

“‘He seems to have been a wanderer, which puts him in the category of living on the margins of society,’ Funk said. ‘He seems to have flunked the Fifth Commandment, to honor your father and mother. To say, Unless you hate your father and mother you’re not ready for the kingdom of God What does that mean? Was he ready for the funny farm? Did he mean it literally?’ (Consider the blasphemous, irreverent statements here. How could such a person direct an “ongoing study group of mainstream liberal biblical scholars called the Jesus Seminar” with any objectivity? Also, why do they continue such liberal activity based on infidelity, unless it is to destroy faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? BA)

“The ‘vulnerable, perplexed’ Jesus of the movie Last Temptation says much more about director Martin Scorcese’s view than it can about the historical Jesus, Elshtain said. During a question-and-answer period, some students questioned Funk’s assumptions about the historical unreliability of the New Testament.

“One argued that scholars impose a double standard if they question the New Testament, but accept the veracity of surviving accounts about Roman emperors such as Tiberias.”

I believe these accounts adequately expose this whole “Dialogue” as a sham as far as the theme “The Truth about Jesus” is concerned.

To the question, “Can We Know the Truth about JesusT I can answer for myself with an emphatic yes! The reason for my answer is that the New Testament reveals the truth about Jesus. For the majority of the participants and panelists I can the answer the question for them with an emphatic no! Why? Because they have rejected the only source that reveals the truth about Jesus – the New Testament. Of course, these way-out liberals apparently think that such uninspired and biased men such as the author of the book from which the movie, The Last Temptation of Jemis, was made, can shed some truth about Jesus.

The wonderful statement that Jesus made and has been recorded in the gospel according to Matthew 11:25, “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent (intelligent, NASB), and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight” is so appropriate for the infidels of our day.

Several years ago, brother Harris Dark told me concerning the infidelity that emanates from Vanderbilt School of Divinity: “They don’t come out and say that the Bible isn’t true, they just ask leading questions of doubt.” That is the same tactic used by the devil since the seduction of Eve in the garden – asking leading questions of doubt that lead people into agnosticism. The fledging theology students who come under such influence leave and go out and make other infidels.

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 23, pp. 707-708
December 7, 1989