PRESS RELEASE - September 2013

Theologians will explore what a fully human, non-divine Jesus has to offer modern society on October 23–26, at the Westar Fall 2013 Meeting, “Early Christianity: Heritage or Heresies?” in Santa Rosa, California, the Institute announced.

Regardless of how faith groups later defined him, the historical Jesus was a human being crucified by Roman authorities as a state criminal. “Christianity is the tragedy of Jesus. It is the story of how his teaching slipped through his hands.” So argues guest speaker David Galston in his 2012 book, Embracing the Human Jesus: A Wisdom Path for Contemporary Christianity. Questions related to the historical Jesus movement will be discussed at the all-day workshop “The Once & Future God” on Wednesday, October 23 from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Galston has practical experience with communities oriented toward a fully human Jesus. He serves as University Chaplain and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, and is the academic advisor to the Snowstar Institute in Canada, a community that advocates honesty in religion. Fellow author and presenter Joseph Bessler, A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better (2013), is the Robert Travis Peake Associate Professor of Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma and was interviewed recently on the radio program Religion for Life.

Other featured speakers include Jason BeDuhn (The First New Testament: Marcion’s Scriptural Canon), Shelly Matthews (Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire), and Joseph B. Tyson (Acts and Christian Beginnings: The Acts Seminar Report).

Westar Institute was founded in 1986 to support research on the origins of Christianity and to disseminate the results of serious scholarship on religion to the interested public. Polebridge Press, an imprint of Westar, publishes books related to Westar’s mission. Both Westar and Polebridge are located on the campus of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. Registration fees and more information about the Fall Meeting can be found at or by calling 503-375-5323.

Where Galston explores new forms of Christian rituals and liturgy in light of historical evidence, Bessler asks why the figure of Jesus cycles through public debate again and again. He doesn’t see it as the “same old issue.” Rather, he says, people renew the debate for political reasons. The first quest for the historic Jesus, for example, was also a quest for “an open civil society, free from the imposed constraints of church dogma.” Different generations reach for Jesus as a way to “hold open the horizons of religious and cultural life.”

Westar Institute 2013 Fall Meeting Schedule

Wednesday, October 23
9 am – 3:30 pm—“The Once & Future God” (David Galston & Joseph A. Bessler)
4–5 p.m.—Polebridge Press, Books & Authors

Thursday, October 24
9–10, 10:30–11:30 am—“The Acts of the Apostles: Taming the Tongues of Fire” (Shelly Matthews)
1–2, 2:30–3:30 pm—“Marcion: Forgotten ‘Father’ & Inventor of the New Testament” (Jason BeDuhn)
4–5 pm—Polebridge Press, Books & Authors
8–10 pm—Reception

Friday, October 25
9–10:30 am—Celebration of Publication of the Acts Seminar Report
11 a.m. – 3:30 pm—Christianity Seminar
4–5 pm—Associates Forum
7:30–9 pm—Keynote Interview: Joseph B. Tyson

Saturday, October 26
9 a.m. – 3:30 pm—Christianity Seminar
7–10 pm—Closing Banquet

See the full program