April 26, 2010

Knowing Jesus... through History??

Nuh-uh. Perish forbid. Knowing Jesus is NOT the same thing as knowing the Historical Jesus. Nor is it the same thing as knowing the Jesus we find in the pages of the Gospels. In order to know Jesus, personally, we must know Him who comes OUT FROM the pages of the Gospels, and into our 'hearts' by faith. More typically, hopefully, we come to know Him through those vessels of Him who bring Him into our lives.

In that sense, I do not understand these, among Richard Hays' questions for N.T. Wright:
What roles, if any, do the church’s scriptural cannon and tradition play in helping us know the truth about Jesus? Is there a legitimate discipline of historical inquiry that can operate outside and apart from that tradition? And if so, what claim does such a discipline have on determining the ways in which Christians know Jesus?
Let me try to condense that: What claim would any legitimate discipline of historical inquiry - which is also non-traditional - have on determining the ways in which Christians know Jesus?

I admit, I'm stupefied by this question. Knowing Jesus? How can History help us know Jesus? Seriously? Does Hays, Wright or anyone really think that's the goal of reading the Gospels historically? To "know" Jesus?

In my humble opinion, the best thing a historically contextualized view of the Gospels could EVER do for us is give us a more precise view of the FACTS ABOUT Jesus.

And yes, we need to know more about Him, and about His life. I believe we need that much more than most people can possibly imagine.

But knowing Him? Actually, presently, Him?

To be fair, I'm not sure if Richard Hays was really suggesting that we "KNOW" Jesus primarily because of what we read about Him in the Gospels, whether traditionally or otherwise. I hope somehow he misspoke or I misunderstood him. However, if Richard Hays DOES think that, then I don't mind saying that he's wrong. Dead wrong.

Furthermore, IF that actually is to any significant degree the established view of christendom in general - and let's be frank, institutional christendom has purposely kept the more mystical expressions of our faith at arms length for many centuries... IF that were the traditional view... it could go a long way toward explaining why Theologians don't want to see History written on top of the Gospels.

If all you have is what's written on paper, you'd better not let anything challenge whatever you've already built up.

That is, you'd better not let anyone ELSE build on top of that paper.

4 comments:

ddflowers said...

Bill, I understand what you're saying. I have said the same in a post called "Christ the Center" where I discuss the difference in Christ-centered vs. Bible-centered Christians.

However, I am presently seeing that it is possible to learn "about" Jesus in a way that is in keeping with "knowing" the indwelling Christ. It's the same Christ. It depends on the heart of the seeker. I am learning that we should guard our hearts against trying to judge who is really knowing Jesus.

We need to be careful we don't swing out of biblical studies to a mystical expression of Christ that is disconnected from the Jesus of the Scriptures. I don't believe we should prop one up against the other. They need each other.

In short: it's a false dichotomy. It is possible to learn "about" Jesus in a way that is in keeping with "knowing" Jesus in the spirit.

Bill said...

I think we agree on all that, David. Note that I tried to ward off the impression that my goal was to judge the presenter. (On the basis of one phrase? As if I could.)

What confuses me is trying to figure out what Hays was really talking about.

What drives me is trying to figure out why the traditional mindset seems to be so inherently anti-historical.

brian said...

indeed! ;-)

knowing Jesus said...

thanks for the article,

i just want to comment on something you said:

the article said, "If all you have is what's written on paper, you'd better not let anything challenge whatever you've already built up."

I would say we have to test what we know about Christ to what is revealed about Him in scripture. Otherwise if i base who Christ is on my feelings, i could be wrong.

All our knowledge of Christ isn't gong to run contrary to Christ revealed in the Bible.

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