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October 09, 2004

Comments

Chris Jones

As soon as you qualify your sources by saying "At least according to the synoptic Gospels," you have cut yourself off from understanding the meaning of the Church's proclamation of the good news. By choosing that subset of the Scriptures which is (seemingly, but not really) most congenial to the point you wish to make, you have separated the Scriptures from the Church's rule of faith, and reduced them from being the Word of God to being a mere historical source.

The Holy Scriptures are of theological interest only because the Church has canonized them as part of her rule of faith. If you're only going to look at part of the Scriptures, you are no longer following the Church's rule of faith, you are following your own rule of faith. And with all due respect, that is of no value.

Needless to say, by abandoning the Church's rule of faith, you have wrongly identified the "essence of Christianity".

D. C.

Chris, before I can accept that the Scriptures are the Word of God (to some degree or another), I first have to assess them as historical sources -- using the same criteria that I apply to other historical sources.

Chris Jones

No, you must either accept the Scriptures or reject them as they are claimed to be by the Church which published them and which gives her authority to them. Apart from the Church's proclamation, the Scriptures' historical value is irrelevant.

If Jesus were not Who and what the Church proclaims Him to be, and if His Gospel is not what the Church proclaims it to be - that is, that He died on the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins and rose again to destroy death - then the Christian Scriptures would be mere antiquarian curiosities of no spiritual power, whatever our assessment of their historical value might be.

Jackson Moore

Hi D.C.:

If my choices are between you and the Salty Vicar and modern scholarship, on the one hand, and Paul and Church tradition on the other, on what basis do I choose your analysis of the core of Christianity and reject Paul's?

You are a fellow member of the bar who has presented a premise. I invite you to defend it with reference to Paul's discussion of the resurrection, which I reprint below. In it Paul discusses the resurrection as though it were a historical fact. If it is not a fact, Paul suggests that Christianity is a fraud because its proponents are bearing false witness to God.

I hope you are well in Houston. I am pleased that the Astros finally beat the Braves!

-----

1 Cor. 15:12-19 (NIV)

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Jackson Moore

I noticed after posting that this thread has migrated over to the Pontificator's blog. If I can possibly add anything there I will.

Anyway, I hope you are well, D.C. The Astros comment still stands!

D. C.

Chris Jones, if we expect to ground our faith on historical events, we ought to be reasonably sure that the events in question actually happened the way we assume. Otherwise we're worshipping human wishes rather than ultimate truth (to paraphrase David Paillin).

Jackson, it's good to hear from you. The short version of my response is that Paul was wrong -- if Christ was not raised, it doesn't decrease my trust in God one whit, nor do I assume that the dead are lost.

David Huff

Chris wrote:
No, you must either accept the Scriptures or reject them as they are claimed to be by the Church which published them and which gives her authority to them. Apart from the Church's proclamation, the Scriptures' historical value is irrelevant.

Sorry, but I can't find any real meaning in those stmts, as they are classic examples of a False Dilemma and Begging the Question (petitio principii). There are also definite issues of an Appeal to Authority (argumentum ad verecundiam), as it's clear that theologians hold many, different views on scriptural interpretation.

Chris Jones

David

I think you misunderstand (through my lack of clarity, I am sure) what it is that I am trying to say. The point at issue is not whether the Resurrection (or any other event recorded in the New Testament) actually occurred; the point at issue is whether or not belief that it did occur is constitutive of Christianity as a distinct religion.

If I were trying to prove the historicity of the Resurrection on the basis of the Church's proclamation, your charge of "Appeal to Authority" would be fair. But that's not the question. The question is, what is the definition of "Christianity"? and in particular, can one be an adherent of Christianity without believing that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead?

My definition of Christianity is: those teachings and practices set forth after the death of Jesus by those who had been His closest followers before His death. Even if the New Testament were less than perfect with respect to historical events, with respect to what the teachings and practices of Jesus' first followers were, it is definitive.

DC's stance seems to be "I don't want to believe what the early Church said about Jesus (that He was and is God Himself, who became a human being, died to pay the price for our sins, and rose from the dead); but I want to create my own belief system using the Christian Scriptures as source material, and call it 'Christian'". He is, of course, free to believe what he will, on whatever basis he chooses. But I object to calling it "Christian". It's neither accurate nor intellectually honest.

Geoff

Chris Jones can define Christianity like that if he chooses to! But there are many, many people who choose the Christian faith and are accepted by their communities as Christians, but whose belief system fails the "complete acceptance of the literal truth of the scriptures test". Surely their definition of Christianity is quite valid.

dh

I agree with Chris Jones. Also it is not Chris defining it but God. Geoff, I say not.

That is the problem with Christianity today it is a watered down Gospel.

dh

The Christianity that isn't watered down is "I am the way the truth and the life no one comes to the Father but through Me." "Without Faith it is impossible to please God." "Abrahams Faith was accounted unto him as righteuosness."

John

I don't beleive you can be considered a Christian if you don't beleive in Jesus Christ as God incarnate. The Muslims beleive he was a prophet and accept many (most?) of his teachings, but that doesn't make them Christians. Christ claimed divinity for himself. Therefore He either is God or he is deluded. The heart of christianity is not Jesus' philosphy or the three essenses of the original post, but that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son ..." If he is not God's son, sacraficed for the salvation of the world, then he is nothing more than a mad man who is famous for reciting quotations which already existed in the old testament.

Steven S

You said:

1) Love God above all
2) love your neighbor as yourself -- and your neighbor is everyone who crosses your path, not just your fellow tribesman; and
3) be willing to change your life to more closely match God’s will.

But don't we need to ask:

1) Who is God? What is He like?
2) What is love? How should I love my neighbor?
3) What is God's will? How do I conform to it in light of the destructive and addictive forces in my life that I am powerless to control?

I understand Jesus, Paul, John, et al to be saying that these questions are answered precisely by the Crucifixion and Resurrection; not as concepts, but as the bedrock reality upon which the universe is based.

Love to hear your thoughts...

D. C. Toedt

Steven S, please see "A response to an inquiring nonbeliever," which I posted in February of this year — scroll down to the subheading "Christian is as Christian does." There I address the fact that (so far as I know) you can't will yourself into "loving" God or your neighbor; the best you can do is to conduct your life in certain ways consistent with loving them. (The rest of the post is worth considering too, IMHO.)

Thanks for stopping by.

Steven S

Hey DC,

Still wondering how you would define some of the terms your using, it seems that there is no real way to distinguish 'God' the way you use the word from the pantheist deity of Hindus or the deist deity of post-enlightenment westerners.

Isn't the Christian claim precisely about the definition of the word 'God?'

Defining God in terms of His self-revelation through Jesus' crucifixion then becomes the central mark of a Christian theology, doesn't it?

Same thing with love. If Jesus is the revelation of God (as He himself claimed, "If you've seen me...") then what we mean by love has to be defined by Him, not by us, doesn't it?

And how do you define God's will if you are unwilling to define Him? Where do you look to determine it?

I understand your position, it has a large attraction value in that it appeals to some of the better elements of human nature, however, it seems like there is no outside referent to what you claim to hold onto. Obviously that is an observation born out of a very brief overview, would you agree?

Also, it seems you and I are reading very different sources when it comes to our knowledge of the history of the first Century. Who are you reading that informs your views of the New Testament writings, the life of Jesus, the early Church, first Century Judaism, Rome, etc.?

D. C. Toedt

Steven S., I responded to your first questions in a new blog posting (this post is so old that few will see our conversation).

As to our different sources of history, can you be more specific? I've read the Old- and New Testaments pretty carefully, along with many of the writings of the first- and second-century church fathers. I've also read many of the standard defenses of orthodox faith, as well as some of the popular apologetics works such as Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. I've unavoidably read these documents through the eyes of a technology litigator, applying various critical skills picked up through nearly 30 years of professional training and experience. As a result, I'm profoundly skeptical of many of the more fantastic claims of the NT, in part because I know quite well how memories and stories can mutate, and also because I can easily imagine simpler explanations for some of the reported phenomena. For more on this, see the postings listed in the right-hand column of this blog under the heading "Some Inconvenient Difficulties with Traditionalist Christianty," especially Reasons to Question the Reliability of Scripture

Again, thanks for stopping by.

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