Friday, August 20, 2010

Historical Jesus

Eric Sammons has a few posts on the gap between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith.  It is a very important point. Most Christian theological scholarship today is caught up in this heresy. That means it commonly preached from pulpits, taught in classrooms, and reflected on in books. It is the idea that the story of Christianity is not really true but developed over time. That the religion of Christianity didn't grow out of the person of Christ but the other way around. Christ, although real, was largely an invention of Christianity. That is the resurrection and most of His miracles were inserted into the story later.

These ideas don't stand up to rational scrutiny. They can't tell a plausible story that does not have many people doing things that just make no sense at all. In fact, these scholars are big on the idea that faith and reason are incompatible. But they don't really have faith. They have a desperate attempt to put secular thinking and Christian thinking together. Mostly it is based on doubt. So they should say doubt and reason are incompatible. Or more broadly that sin and reason are incompatible. Faith and reason are compatible. They both pursue truth.

This flows from the reformation in many ways. First of all, there is a sense that if you can question the faith then why can't you question the scriptures? They were passed down to us just like the teaching about popes and bishops and sacraments. If Christianity can be wrong about one thing then why can't it be wrong about another?

Then there is the disconnection with the early church. Protestants ignore the early church because it does not fit into their belief system. Sure there are a few quotes they pick out but they don't really understand the mind of the early church. That mind very much understood Jesus and the apostles as real people. The connections were strong because of apostolic succession and the fact that they were just so much closer in time to the apostles. When you lose that then suggestions that these stories might be myths are easier to accept.

One thing a protestant would be quick to point out is that many of the scholars in question are Catholic and continue to teach at Catholic Universities and many are priests in good standing in a Catholic diocese or a Catholic religious order. There are a lot of protestant ones as well but they are not tolerated in the conservative evangelical denominations. So they would see the presence of liberal scholarship as a major reason to reject the more liberal mainline churches including the Catholic church.

The first thing to note is that just because ideas have found there way into catholic institutions does not mean they do not have their roots in protestant thinking. Should they have excommunicated more people? Probably. But the wholesale excommunications they did with the reformers did not have great results either. There are no good choices when faced with a widespread heresy.

So what do we do? Teach the truth. Only the Catholic church has a good answer to why the scriptures are trustworthy. How the gospel of Christ has been preserved by Christ and does not need some scholar to recover it for us. How beautiful and life-transforming it is that Jesus is really true God and true man. That he really died and rose again. That miracles do happen. That it all makes sense historically, scientifically, philosophically, in every possible way.

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