Re: History and Theology

I normally prefer the role of lurker on this list, since Bible is not my
specialty and I'm not an academician; but Sterling's last post demands a
response.  My disagreement with him is emphatic and decisive.

On Wed, 20 Apr 1994, Sterling G. Bjorndahl wrote:

> I find it ironic that in the great debates between Fundamentalism and
> Modernism (which ultimately lie behind statements such as the one
> above), neither side noticed that Fundamentalism had unconsciously
> adopted a philosophical premise of Modernism, namely, that if something
> can be shown to be unhistorical, it is therefore untrue.  This link
> between truth and history is not a necessary one.  It is an artifact of
> Modernist philosophy.

Come now.  I'm all sympathetic to Hans Frei and narrative theology, but
this severance of gospel and history cuts to the heart of the Christian
faith and must not be allowed.  It is quite one thing to acknowledge that
the stories of Adam and Eve, for example, are profoundly true but not
historical accounts of humanity's beginnings.  It is a quite different
matter to say that the gospel is true even though, say, Jesus did not
exist or did not rise on the third day.  I want to assure you that we
everyday Christians are not the least bit interested in a mythology of the
Christ.  If Christ (i.e., that Jesus fellow who was crucified under
Pontius Pilate and not some imaginary being) be not raised from the dead,
our faith is futile and we are still dead in our sins.

The whole point of the trinitarian dogma is that God has, in his sovereign
freedom, identified himself definitively in history--that his economic
self-revelation constitutes his eternal being.  

> Critical scholarship has, I think, proven quite well that Christianity
> is as mythological as any other world religion.  To claim otherwise is

It has _proven_ no such thing.  Please show us these proofs.  And what are
the philosophical presuppositions that lie behind them?  

> to engage in wishful thinking of a Modernist sort.  The assertion that
> Christianity (or the western monotheistic tradition) is superior to
> eastern religions because they are mythological but we are historical,
> is an old neo-Orthodox (Barthian?) cavil.  It just ain't so.  

The point is not that Christianity is superior because it is historical
and the others are not, but that is is qualitatively different.

> If you really want to escape from the evils of modernism, don't attack
> historical scholarship (which is, I admit, modernist), but learn
> that truth can be communicated through poetry and myth and parable as
> well as -- perhaps better than -- through history.

What is missing here is a critical appraisal of much of modern historical

Al Kimel

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