This is sort of a "poll without a poll" post. I am currently reading a book called, "The Real Jesus", by Luke Timothy Johnson. In this book Johnson argues that the Jesus Seminar's members (John Crossan, Borg, Funk, etc) and other high profile people (Spong, etc) have had a negative impact on the study of the historical Jesus. In fact the sub-title to Mr Johnson's book is, "The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels". While Johnson has no problem (per say) with the study of the Biblical/Historical Jesus he does have a problem with modern "quest" methods. He blames this, in part, on "secular" (non-seminary) religion programs/departments. He says that these programs have created an environment where "scholars would now be answerable only to the criteria of scholarship rather than to church tradition. The study of religion could be carried out in the value-free and neutral enviornment of the other human sciences, having as its conversation partners not only (or even especially) theology, but disciplines such as philosophy, history, classsics, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, and sociology" (pg71-72). Johnson goes on to claim that, "Biblical scholarship in America increasingly found its home to be secular universities and schools of theology related to such universities" (pg72). He claims that graduates of such programs "were...trained in contexts that had little allegiance to theology in any sense, certainly not to Christian tradition or the institutional church" (pg72). The results? Johnson states that, "more scholarship is written than can seriously be read or responsibly reviewed. Disturbing amounts of inferior work are produced" (pg73). So my question is this: Do you believe that secular religion programs are harmful or helpful? Personally I only had bad experiences in secular "religion" courses. While I was in college (at a secular university) I took an "Old Testament Introduction" course. The professor was not a Christian, did not believe in inspiration, and claimed (among other things) that David and Johnathan were homosexual lovers. Of course the class, by a large majority, strongly took issue with his claim (and he did not strongly defend his claim either). So I can see how careless "scholarship" is allowed and even promoted at secular (state) universities and community colleges (where no controls are in place). However I have often seen how church connected Divinity schools and seminaries have suffered the same problems (Duke Divinity School, etc). So I am not sure that Johnson's theory works (all the time). For me the answer is not found in the nature of the program but the quality of the program. Secular or religious, a quality program will have quality teachers who will exercise academic control. Thus students (and parents) must examine a college's (or seminary's) program before entering the program. That way they will know to avoid certain schools, programs, teachers, or courses. Secular programs are not "bad" in my view but they are not going to be as theological as a seminary would be. That, in my view, is not always a bad thing (if one is not going into "offical" ministry...pastor, etc). However if a person wants to be a pastor they should attend a Theological Seminary. Also Bible believing Christians should seek out Bible believing universities where they can take religion courses. Schools such as Liberty University, Luther Rice University, Piedmont Baptist College, and Moody Bible Institute come to mind. In general I would not advise a young Christian (in age and/or maturity) to take religion courses at a secular school unless the program is conservative. Has secular programs damaged the study of the historical Jesus? In my view the answer is yes and no. (1) Yes. I agree with Johnson that there is way too much "inferior scholarship" on this subject out there and much of that comes from secular campuses. However there are secular teachers who support the Bible (Dr Paul Maier, etc) who teach in secular schools. So not all the scholarship is bad or inferior. (2) No. Groups like the Jesus Seminar do serve a purpose. What is that? To show how silly and bankrupt critical scholarship really is. What do you think? Martin.