Read an archive of Westar news items below.

Thank You

Thank you to all who made the Spring 2015 national meeting and celebration of Westar's 30th anniversary such a success! We are excited to announce a number of new initiatives:

  • Contribute to a new $30,000 challenge grant
  • Nominate someone you know for the inaugural Advocate for Public Religious Literacy (APRL) award
  • Join the Young Leaders in Religion Forum

As always, you can read and share reports on all national meeting sessions on the Westar blog.[divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

How We Talk about Religion Matters

Religion Scholars Team up with the Public to State the Problem Plainly

Press Release | March 2, 2015

It matters how we talk about religion. It shapes the way we understand pressing social problems from terrorism to gay marriage to end-of-life choices. A change in the way we talk about religion can lead to unexpected breakthroughs—good and bad. On March 18–21, 2015, experts in religion, philosophy, and theology, from across North America, will meet with interested members of the public to address misunderstandings about religion created by modern and ancient rhetoric. This national meeting of the Westar Institute—titled “Tales of Power, Tales of Sorrow: Critical Questions about Religious Rhetoric”—will convene at the Flamingo Resort Hotel, 2777 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa, California. All events are open to the public.

Read the full release[divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

New Book by Bernard Brandon Scott

The Real PaulThe Real Paul
Recovering His Radical Voice

“… An engaging all-out attack on the Augustinian-Lutheran reading of Paul and his letters. The Real Paul gives new interpretations to what it meant for Paul to be called as the apostle to the Gentiles and takes Paul’s claims seriously …” —Stanley K. Stowers, Brown University
» Read more[divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Save the Date! Fall 2015 Meeting

The Fall 2015 Meeting will take place in Atlanta, Georgia, at the Hyatt Regency in conjunction with the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) and the American Academy of Religion (AAR), Friday, November 20th, through Tuesday, November 24th. Program details are coming soon![divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Marcus Borg: In Memoriam

Dear Westar Community,

It is with sadness that we received the news of Marcus Borg’s death on January 21. Marcus Borg was a major contributor to the work of the Jesus Seminar in its seminal period. In his career, he modeled the ideal of a Westar Fellow. Marcus ably bridged the gap between the academic guild and the general public. His books are cherished by Westar associates for their clarity and honesty. We at Westar will miss him terribly. Our sympathies go out to his family. » Read more[divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

New Book by Don Cupitt

Creative Faith: Religion as a Way of Worldmaking (Cupitt, sm)

Creative Faith
Religion as a Way of Worldmaking

At some point very early on in its development, Christianity split between two different pathways: one path stayed with the teaching of Jesus and the primacy of ethics, the other started with the return of Jesus and, therefore, with supernatural belief. Today, ethics has been largely sidelined, viewed as secondary or subservient to belief. Don Cupitt argues that the time has come for that to change. » Read more[divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

The Fourth R 28-1 (Jan/Feb 2014)

28-1-coverIn the January-February issue of The Fourth R magazine, Richard Trudeau reconsiders the story of Eve and the forbidden fruit while Gordon Raynal and Robert J. Miller spar over the meaning of the Nicodemus story found in John 3. Lloyd Geering looks back at the "before and after" impact of a little book entitled Honest to God published by Bishop John Robinson in 1963, and Gerd Lüdemann thoroughly revises a letter to Jesus he wrote nearly 15 years ago in The Great Deception. Charles W. Hedrick in "The Basic Problem of Historical Jesus Studies" explains why we still can't take for granted that scholars have carefully sifted what Jesus said from what the community said about him. A 4-star book review of Questioning Assumptions: Rethinking the Philosophy of Religion by Tom Christenson invites readers to "pull the rug" out from under the traditional approach to philosophy of religion. Read the editorial and learn more about subscription options.[divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Fall 2014 Meeting Resources

Thank you to all who attended the Westar Fall 2014 Meeting in San Diego. Meeting-related resources are now available from all sessions, linked from the Fall 2014 program page. Watch for the Christianity Seminar voting results in an upcoming issue of The Fourth R magazine. We hope to see you at the Spring 2015 Meeting , "Tales of Sorrow, Tales of Power: Critical Questions about Religious Rhetoric," March 18–21, 2015, in Santa Rosa, California.

Happy holidays from the Westar Staff and Board!
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Fourth R 27-6 (Nov/Dec 2014)

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Fourth R 27-6

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The November-December 2014 issue of The Fourth R magazine offers playful, sometimes irreverent, takes on the idea of a "sermon." Robert M. Price reminds us of the ambiguity of both written and spoken word. "Meaning in texts is always elusive, deferred, re-routed, detoured; never easily discernible, never unmistakable," he writes. "Most definitely not something we can all agree on. Attend any Bible study and you'll see my point." Lloyd Geering observes the power of human fellowship, while Richard Trudeau unravels different concepts of God within the Hebrew Bible, and Harry Cook argues for a life of works over faith. Read the editorial by Arthur J. Dewey and subscribe here. [/two_thirds][column_break] [divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Forum 3,2: Assessing the Work of Rudolf Bultmann

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Forum[/one_third][two_thirds]

The latest issue of Forum academic journal is now available! The articles in this issue are based on papers presented at a special Westar seminar on the legacy of the renowned German New Testament scholar and theologian Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann's groundbreaking research on Christian origins formulated most of the major issues that scholars have been addressing for the past generation.

» Read the Preface
» Subscribe to Forum 2015
» Order this issue[/two_thirds][column_break] [divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Scholars to Address Uses and Abuses of Scripture in Culture Wars

Jesus Seminar to meet concurrently with the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature

Press release | NOVEMBER 7, 2014 – Always simmering, sometimes exploding into public discourse, the Bible and Qur’an will receive much-needed historical scrutiny when the Westar Institute — home of the Jesus Seminar — presents its national meeting, “Scripture at the Crosshairs of Culture Wars,” November 21–23, 2014, at the San Diego Convention Center Ballroom 20BC (Upper Floor). The Westar national meeting will take place concurrently with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature.

Sunday lectures will feature Raheel Raza, the President of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow as seen in the award-winning documentary Honor Diaries, and Hal Taussig, visiting Professor of New Testament at Union Theological Seminary in New York and editor of A New New Testament. Friday and Saturday, academic seminars bring together scholars in Westar’s innovative collaborative style. The Christianity Seminar will discuss and debate the viability of the category of Gnosticism for the study of early Christianity based on the groundbreaking work of Karen L. King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School. The inaugural session of the Seminar on God and the Human Future will outline critical issues in current scholarship about the concept of God in a post-metaphysical, scientific world. » Continue reading [divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Reimagining God Online Book Club

Reimagining God, by Lloyd Geering

You are cordially invited to join readers worldwide for a book club, hosted by Patheos.com, on Reimagining God: The Faith Journey of a Modern Heretic by Lloyd Geering. The Patheos website encourages interfaith dialogue by hosting blogs from a variety of faith perspectives. To participate, pick up a copy of the book, visit the Patheos Bookclub between November 1 and 15, 2014, and click on the cover image for Reimagining God. You can also sign up for book club updates on the Reimagining God book page.

The book club will feature special resources, including discussion questions, an excerpt from the documentary The Last Western Heretic, and more. Through vignettes of key thinkers, including Schleiermacher, Feuerbach, Jung, Teilhard de Chardin, and Robinson, Geering offers readers an opportunity to explore the regions where an individual’s intellectual and/or spiritual journey touches on human concepts of God. This is a particularly good book for groups interested in “finding their place” in and among various perspectives on the nature of God—even, or perhaps especially, for readers who are not sure they want the term God to have a future.

We look forward to seeing you there.

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The Last Western Heretic (DVD)
Now available

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The Last Western Heretic (DVD)[/one_third][two_thirds] Filmed in New Zealand and Israel and premiered at the NZ Parliament, The Last Western Heretic explores Lloyd Geering’s worldview through a discussion of his ideas—there is no life after death, the Bible is not infallible, Jesus was not divine, among others. Includes live footage from his 1967 heresy trial on charges of “doctrinal error and disturbing the peace of the [Presbyterian] church” which resulted from Geering’s assertion that the resurrection of Jesus should not be interpreted literally.

» Watch an excerpt and order now[/two_thirds][column_break] [divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Sept-Oct Issue of The Fourth R

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The Fourth R Issue 27-5[/one_third][two_thirds]

The September-October issue of The Fourth R magazine is now available! Featuring articles by Jason David BeDuhn, Kris Komarnitsky, William O. Walker Jr., this issue also includes interviews with Jodi Magness and Raheel Raza, and a review of Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire by Jennifer Wright Knust.

» Read the editorial
» Subscribe to The Fourth R
» Order this issue (27-5)[/two_thirds][column_break] [divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

Religion for Life Radio Interview: Acts and Christian Beginnings

Is the Book of Acts in the New Testament history or myth? Westar Associate and radio host John Shuck took up that question with the two co-chairs of the Acts Seminar, Joseph Tyson and Dennis Smith in a two-part radio interview on his program Religion for Life. You can listen to podcasts of their conversations below:

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Weekly Reading: Embracing the Human Jesus

“The problem … is what to do with a Jesus who was human like anyone else.”
—David Galston, Embracing the Human Jesus

Join this hosted reading on the Westar blog of David Galston’s recent book Embracing the Human Jesus: A Wisdom Path for Contemporary Christianity (Polebridge, 2012). The Seminar on God and Human Futures will convene its opening session at Westar’s Fall 2014 national meeting in San Diego, California. Galston is the chair of the new seminar, and his book provides an overview of changing human ideas about God along with ideas for how to put that into practice. You can join the conversation by sharing your own responses to each chapter of the book in the comments section.

» Read the first installment[divider style="hr-dotted-double"]

The Significance of [email protected]/SBL

Over the past several months, Westar has engaged in a series of negotiations that may make it possible for us to meet with the Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion on a regular basis. The decision to meet concurrently with the AAR/SBL is important for many reasons. Above all, it provides Westar with a much larger venue for its work and makes it easier for scholars to attend both conferences. But it also has symbolic significance: it closes the scholarly circle for Westar Founder Bob Funk and other Westar Fellows. Before Funk established the Jesus Seminar in 1985, he played a major role in democratizing the SBL and founding the AAR. Bringing Westar together with those learned societies consolidates Funk’s legacy as a moving force in the effort to promote cutting-edge biblical scholarship on issues that matter in the larger culture. Continue reading

» See the Fall 2014 Program
» Register Now

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Sponsor a Jesus Seminar on the Road

Have you been wanting to attend a Jesus Seminar on the Road but have never encountered one in your area? Why not sponsor one?

Westar’s popular Jesus Seminars on the Road (JSOR) program forms the core of its public outreach. Every year, teams of Fellows—professors from accredited universities who are skilled at communicating with a general public—visit more than twenty communities across North America. We would like to visit more.

Hear what hosts had to say about their Spring 2014 JSORs:

  • The program was outstanding … even better than the fantastic program we had last year.
  • The Seminar was the best ever!  It truly was remarkable.

Intrigued? We will provide support to guide you through from start to finish.

» Learn more about sponsorship
» Find a Jesus Seminar on the Road near you

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Westar Appoints New Academic Director

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David Galston[/one_third][two_thirds]

Westar Institute has appointed a new Academic Director. David Galston is a University Chaplain and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. He is the author of two books, Archives and the Event of God (McGill-Queens Press, 2010) and Embracing the Human Jesus (Polebridge Press, 2012). He holds a B.A. from the University of Winnipeg, a M.Div. from Vancouver School of Theology, and a Ph.D. from McGill University. As Academic Director David will work cooperatively with Westar seminars, help recruit scholars, participate in conference planning, and assist the development of on-line education.[/two_thirds][column_break][divider style="hr-dotted-double"]