I’m not sure why I continue to be surprised by the conventions of the “spiritual-but-not-religious” movement, but find myself here again. I was recently alerted to the release of a self-proclaimed “new New Testament” edited by Hal Taussig of Union Theological Seminary (New York). The book includes the original texts found in the New Testament supplemented by texts such as the Gospel of Mary, The Secret Revelation to John, and the well-known and loved Gospel of Thomas.
This compilation of texts stems from a council of scholars and “spiritual leaders,” who thoughtfully considered what Bible would serve the twenty-first century. Herein lies the impetus behind this project: modern men and women need a modern Bible. For too long orthodoxy has bound individuals seeking to connect with the divine, but now it is time for a bigger picture of God that accommodates the contemporary climate of our world. The list of contributors alone, including the likes of John Dominic Crossan and Barbara Brown Taylor, alerts the reader to the spiritual trajectory of the work. This inclusive view of God stands in direct opposition to historic orthodox Christianity, which now is cast as the younger brother of Fundamentalism.
This brand of revisionist Christianity is nothing new. Certain schools of scholars have long since sought to redefine what has been considered orthodox by the Christian church for centuries. But, surprisingly, these theories rarely enjoy a long track record, though the ghost of Walter Bauer has been sighted in the pages of some contemporary works such as those of Bart Ehrman. It seems that orthodoxy has a pesky way of sticking around.
Now let me be clear what I am not saying. I am not suggesting that anyone be shielded from non-canonical Gospels and Epistles. In fact, I advised Christians to read the stuff. But what I am saying is that these ancient texts need to be set in proper relation to the New Testament canon itself. While some of these texts must be recognized as heretical, others actually provide valuable insight into the world of early Christianity (defined in the narrow sense). And while these texts may prove helpful, they must remain distinct from the NT canon itself. So, everyone should read the texts found in this book, but everyone should know what they are and what they aren’t.
This discussion is directly linked to the question of the New Testament canon. And though such questions are complex and at times messy, a better resource could not be found than the work of Michael Kruger, President of RTS Charlotte ( See here). Kruger has penned some of his initial thoughts on “a New New Testament” here.
Also, Dan Wallace has written an additional review of “a New New Testament,” which I highly recommend. Read it here.
In the final analysis, the issue comes down to whether we can be ok with a God who talks about sin and the need for a savior. Whether we can allow God, not our feelings or natural inclinations, to define reality. Whether we will hear the bold claim of Jesus that any attempt to connect to the divine apart from a bloody cross and an empty tomb is folly. Or will we content ourselves to a “I’m ok, your ok” form of spirituality? I recommend sticking with the “old” New Testament, by which millions have met an able savior in the Lord Jesus Christ.