Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Historical Jesus, Liberalism and Faulty Metaphysics

One of the topics I've recently had to do quite a bit of reading about is the so-called "Historical Jesus" movement. Basically, some people don't like Jesus claiming what the gospels claim he said and doing what the gospels claim he did. This is usually because they realise that if Jesus did what he did and said what he said, then they really ought to obey him, and they don't want to do that.

So they come up with all kinds of interesting but ultimately rubbish ideas for how to come up with an idea of Jesus who didn't say the things the Bible says he said or do the things the Bible said he did. Most of the ideas involve going against how historians say you should do history when working with sources and end up with a Jesus who often looks very like them and who couldn't possibly have given rise to the early church. The early church, of course, seemed to have as its core lots of people who were in a position to know what had happened with Jesus and were willing to die for the belief that he rose physically from the dead.

Those people who say Jesus was just a normal bloke are pretty easy to disprove - Tom Wright does it very well (and at very great length), for example, in The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God and The Resurrection of the Son of God. Alternatively, you could sit and think about it for a few minutes or have some fun and read CS Lewis's Fern Seed and Elephants.

But the people I'm more interested in are the Christians who go along with that kind of thing - like Marcus Borg. They tend to be coming from the point of view that Christianity is still in some ways true but that miracles don't happen.

The problem with that is twofold. The first is that it's really stupid to look at whether something happened by assuming before you start that it didn't, especially when it involves saying that God couldn't do something.

The second is that people usually say that you can have a genuine experience of God but that God can't intervene physically in the universe. That's a problem because if God can't intervene physically in the universe, there's no way of having a genuine experience of him. Our physical bodies can't just relate to something spiritual unless that spiritual thing has in some way some ability to control the physical. But if God doesn't have that, then we can't have a genuine experience of him.

I'm waffling now. I'd better stop.

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