Is Christian Faith based on Real History?
It took me way more years than I like to admit to realize one simple thing about the origins of my Christian faith: That its attempt to demonstrate an historical foundation relies only on non-historical contentions.
The meticulous, thorough, brilliant historian, Donald H. Akenson, covers the historical development of the Bible (and the Talmuds… important to trace together). He, among many others, documents in careful detail, the few “facts” that can be reasonably asserted about Jesus and his earliest Jerusalem-based followers. The resurrection stories of the Gospels are not included, and for good reason. If you have not, do a comparative reading of those accounts in the four Gospels and see if you can summarize a consistent statement making sense of it all. There is no harmonizing some of the clear, definite differences, for just one problem.
Similar problems arise with the Virgin Birth and other supernatural aspects of Jesus’ birth story, with specifics of his trial and crucifixion, etc.
Theology and community-building (“social interest”) guided what was said in the Gospels, not supposed “eyewitness accounts.” Akenson is right that it is predetermined belief that causes Christians, from laity to conservative scholars, to assume historical reporting and evidences in the Gospel stories. It is not real history which leads people to faith, despite attempts by many to claim this. These people, as virtually everyone else, come to faith for a variety of other reasons, and THEN accept the Gospel writers’ attempt to fuse their theology to supposed events. And to a great extent, it seems the Gospels’ initial readers didn’t have our kind of concern to separate fictional story from historical fact… Paul himself wasn’t much concerned about what Jesus really had said or done, nor with his PHYSICAL resurrection.
What is YOUR story in regard to the way you thought at one time and now about this, whether there has been real change or not? Does history matter when it comes to what Christian faith is now? Can a non-history-based faith still be valid and have power in the case of Christianity?