January 31, 2012

"Historically" having it both ways?

Why do conservative scholars defend the Gospels as historically reliable yet deny that it's possible to write a reliable History based on the Gospels? If daunting chronological work were the only obstruction, I suspect we'd have more people working on fixing those problems. So what's the real hold-up?

Apparently, and for whatever reasons, Institutional Christendom has thus far felt better served by keeping Jesus in this vague historical limbo. The Gospels can be relied upon, but not built upon. That is, unless we're writing Theology...

Two questions: What will it take to finally alter this indefensible trend? When it changes, will it change for the better?


Chris Jefferies said...

It's very strange, Bill. And somehow, it just hadn't occurred to me. I've always liked and admired what you do but you are right; there's something of an unspoken conspiracy to not disentangle the history.

I think you yourself may be part of the answer because you keep on keeping on, you make history interesting to ordinary people like me, and you ask lots of questions.

Maybe we need to get the word out and encourage wider conversation. More exposure, more debate - that might help.

Do you think there is real resistance to unravelling New Testament history, or is it simply lack of interest? Or perhaps there's little awareness of the opportunities for historical work.

Bill Heroman said...

For years I've often encountered real resistance among the seminary trained, although what's starting to change is the growing effects of postmodernism... which is mainly what leads me to the 'better or worse' question.

In all sympathy, my top theory is that the inherent uncertainty of historical work simply doesn't support ecclesiastical agendas.

That is, uncertainty itself, of any sort, seems to be the opposite of what christian leaders for 1700 years built their kingdoms upon...

until just recently, as leading minds now sometimes prefer questions above answers.

It's a cultural shift. Not a spiritual one. And I struggle with that... but I'm not complaining quite yet. It's more honest, at least. It's more humble. And that's good.

A lot more can be said. We're in the midst of great change here, and I just hope we can impact it for the better.

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