South African celebrities

South African celebrities, who have considerable influence over the young and older generations alike, have also actively joined the stream of criticism of the Church and the status of the Scriptures.

Koos Kombuis, a prominent South African writer and musician declared in an article in Kerkbode, the official publication of the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, that

  • Jesus was probably a very nice guy; and
  • that he also liked Bhudda, feeling that despite the latter's weight problem, he was probably almost as nice a guy as Jesus. [1]

Another popular musician and former actor openly declared that he did not want to believe.  He wanted to know.  Acknowledging that he was gullible, Steve Hofmeyr declared that he thought God would some day appreciate that and send him to heaven.  According to Hofmeyr Lucifer was God's creation and therefore God had to accept responsibility for Lucifer's sin of pride.  Even with His foreknowledge, God created a world on which the cartoon character, Bart Simpson could improve. [2]

Hofmeyr earlier declared that he might consider returning to church if the church would remove what he terms the alienating command of Jesus, that He is the Way, the Truth and Life in John 14:6.  He added to this argument the viewpoint that God does not do well at all against the upper hand of reliable scientific data.  Hofmeyr did not elaborate on the scientific data that would disprove the existence of God. [3]  What it does show is that his references to God are no more than wordplay.

The Jesus Seminar

New Testament scholar and Greek grammarian, Robert Funk, founded the Jesus Seminar.  Desiring to write a book on the historical Jesus, Funk assembled a team of scholars that would vote (sic) on each reported saying of Jesus in order to establish the so-called true sayings of Jesus.  As many as 200 scholars initially participated, but by 1994 their numbers had dropped markedly since its inception.  Despite the system of voting, the Jesus Seminar claimed to represent a ‘consensus of critical scholars’. [4]  (I’m afraid that it does not portray anything which can remotely be called ‘scientific’ or ‘integrity’).

The Jesus Seminar members use a basis of suppositions that are openly hostile to the biblical record:

  • They presume the Gospels to be error-ridden and implicitly inferior to all other sources contemporary to them.  For example, they give the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas greater weight than the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
  • They reject accounts of miracles as fiction on the basis that miracles are not possible.
  • They presume the faith-motivated first Christians were not interested in history and willingly put words into Jesus' mouth to serve their own needs. [5]

It is important to note that they don't discriminate as to whom they accept as members.  At least one, New Testament scholar Robert M. Price, who teaches philosophy and religion at the Johnnie Colemon Seminary in the United States of America, and is also a Professor of Biblical Criticism (Center for Inquiry Institute), is a self-declared atheist who not only believes that the prophetic Jesus is a myth, but that there was never even an historical Jesus.  Two of the books he wrote bear the self-explanatory titles of Deconstructing Jesus and The Incredible Shrinking Son Of Man: How Reliable Is The Gospel Tradition?  He is consequently one of the scholars who votes (or voted) to decide what the truth is, or is not, about the Christ. [6]

Yet, South African theologians in the ‘New Reformist’ fold plead that the Church should take serious note of the research of the Jesus Seminar and should stop denying Church members insight into this new (scientific) knowledge. [7] They are perhaps right that the church should take serious note, but then it should be to equip the believers to discern the biblical truths and not the many misrepresentations that are so often heard from the pulpit or followed on television.

A Muslim perspective

In an article on the imminent end of Christianity, one A.N. Wilson concluded that when all the mythologies of religion have been discarded and all the false theories of Christianity have been exposed by patient and honest scholars, men and women of a reflective turn of mind will remain convinced that there is underlying this universe a deep moral purpose … They will then find that there is a religion that satisfies this deep human need for a moral code without a mythology.  It is not Christianity.

Wilson continued that the mullahs and imams of Islam today still preach the same undiluted message that was first given to the world by Mohammed in the sixth and seventh centuries.  While the West tries to dub the followers of Islam fundamentalist lunatics, increasing numbers of people find in the Qur'an a moral and intellectual acknowledgement of the lordship of God without the encumbrance of Christian mythology in which almost no one really believes.  That is why Christianity will decline in this millennium and the Crescent of Islam, not the Cross, will answer the next religious hunger of the human heart. [8]

It is important to note that with his declaration, Wilson by implication underlines the Christian habit of continually questioning the truth of the biblical Scriptures and adapting those Scriptures to justify contemporary viewpoints and moral decline, as an inherent weakness and flaw.

Personality and faith

Scholars in the field of psychology state that a study of the psychology of religion has shown that the way humans believe is determined by their individual personality.  According to this view, it is only possible for an individual with a certain personality to believe in a certain way.  The result is one group of people, who will advance ‘reform’ of truth systems of religion, while another group will hold bitterly to the ‘old truths’. [9]

According to these scholars a person's faith is therefore dependent on one's personality.  The Holy Spirit and His work in the individual are completely removed from the equation.  Truth and knowledge, once again, become relative.

Bart Ehrman

Bart Ehrman, a former professed Christian now writes books seeking to expose the alleged inaccuracies of the Christian Bible. The title of his latest book, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee, speaks for itself. He is currently the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, giving him an academic foothold from which to exercise his destructive influences. Ironically, material on YouTube leaves the impression that his anti-Christian zeal has made him a handy workman for teachers of other religions, including Islam.

I have personally been in touch with a former pastor and dean of a Bible college, a man with two doctorates in theology, who has fallen by the wayside. He contacted me following my answer to a readers’ letter by him in a prominent Suth African newspaper. A quick visit to his website and reading of an article about the liar named Paul showed that he has undoubtedly fallen for the teachings of the likes Ehrman. His website also contained specific references/links to Ehrman.

Questions arising

Two important questions consequently arise:

  •  What is truth? 
  • What is knowledge? 

God’s reprimand in Hosea 4:6 provides a mirror in which the scholar should reflect whatever he or she proclaims:

  • "my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge . . ."

But, the knowledge God deals with in this Scripture entails more than simply general knowledge, and even more than an intellectual knowledge of the Bible.  It refers to knowledge that will devote the people to the Lord God of the Bible, to Elohim Yahweh.  A life of continual sanctification lies at the root, a life in which the truth will triumph.

In the next post I will start to provide my answers to the above two questions.


      [1] DE VILLIERS, J. 2004. Kombuis hou van hotelle met Bybels. Beeld, 19 October: 3.

      [2]  SMITH, E. 2003. Debat oor God loop wyd op web. Beeld, 12 January: 5.

[3]  SMIT, M. 2003.  Steve Hofmeyr dalk Sondag terug in die kerk mits... Beeld, 9 January: 6.

[4]  BLOMBERG, C.L. 1994. Who does the Jesus Seminar really speak for? 

[5]  JENSEN, G.W. Edited and expanded by Taylor, P.S. 1998. Are the “Jesus Seminar” criticisms of the gospels and Jesus Christ valid?

[6]  PRICE, ROBERT M. 1997. 1995-2005. Christ A Fiction (1997). Internet Infidels.  

[7]  JACKSON, N. 2000. Die groot soektog na die Ware Jesus. Beeld, 13 October: 15.

[8]  WILSON, A.N. 2000. Christianity: The end is nigh. Mail & Guardian. 1 December 2000.

[9]  VILJOEN, H. 2002. Editorial letters: Persoonlikheid bepaal geloof. Beeld, 24 April: 14.


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