Monday, August 13, 2007

Brick, The Sequel

So I've finished the book on Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. As I said, it was a much tougher and more technical read than I was expecting, but the work is amazing. The bottom line is that Bauckham challenges the last 200 hundred years of liberal Protestant scholarship which says, roughly speaking, that the Gospels are a collection of multigenerational folklore. Bauckham, instead, documents the plausibility that two and maybe three of the gospels are based upon the testimony of eyewitnesses. Mark is something like a dictation of events as recalled by Peter, and John is, in some sense the direct written testimony of John the Elder. Luke may be ascribed to an author attempting to compile a set of testimonies from eyewitnesses. My question is, in terms that Rob Bell would use, is this a "brick" or a "spring". Does it matter, and it what sense does it matter, to our Faith that, for example, as I am reading the final meeting on the shores where Jesus says to Peter "Feed my sheep" that I'm reading the testimony of an eyewitness, not a three generation removal folklore where another local tale about guys and fish got melded into the Jesus story by mistake.

I'd like to address this through a dialogue with my co-blogger Doug.

Mark: I can't fully explain in words why this matters to me, but it does. Part of my problem in explaining this logically is that the two endpoints (either believing the Gospels to be the equivalent of video tape versus believing there is virtually none of the historical Jesus in who we proclaim to worship in church) are discomforting to me. How do we stake out a middle position? That said, I guess that the closer to the reality of the human Jesus who taught and healed and was tortured and crucified and resurrected, the more passion I have for my Faith.

Doug: We want to believe all of those things about Jesus because we want to believe all of those things about God. Jesus gives us a picture of God's love for his people. In the Psalms David sketches pictures of God as a wise man, lover, caretaker, protector, deliverer, and so many more attributes and characters. In Jesus we see God moving on earth among his people for the first time since he walked with Adam in the garden. In his teaching about life that's what God wants us to know. In his healing ministry that's what God wants for us. In his tortured death on the cross that's how much he shows he loves us. That kind of stuff is what The Bible is made of, it's good news (That's what the word "gospel" means), not mediocre news. It's easy to get passionate about good news.

Mark: Can the good news exist without the Good Shepherd? That's what much of modern theology would have us believe. To put it crudely, it says "If Jesus didn't really exist, would we have had to invent him?"

Doug: So what you're saying is that some people want to separate the philosophy from the complete story because the action beyond the philosophy of love isn't real?

Mark: That's right.

Doug: The fulcrum of the argument is the resurrection. The resurrection is a supernatural action not just a philosophy. Also, I would argue that it's not simply (a) brick but (the) brick. If you don't believe in the resurrection story what are you really believing? I don't think you're believing Christianity at that point. As a church we can make a lot of dents into "true Christianity" because we're always trying to find out what "true Christianity" looks like but the one area that would be beyond repair is if we denounced the resurrection. If the resurrection isn't true Jesus didn't literally conquer death.

Mark: I agree completely. I think it is still possible to imagine (like Rob Bell) that there are some things that we should not make "bricks." To choose an extreme example, suppose it was discovered that there were four "wise men." But when I ponder Jesus, his teachings, his death, and his resurrection, then I believe that I am at the core of what it means to be shaped by Christ.

No comments: