Friday, June 09, 2006

Real Christian Faith

Thomas Thompson is a well-known name in the scholarship of ancient Israelite history. What sets him apart and makes him perhaps more infamous than famous is his hyperskepticism of the biblical records. But he does have a great many things to say and has contributed substantially toward the progress of historical studies.

One observation he made was in relation to faith. Should faith be based on evidence and history or not? He concludes that a faith based on history puts a severe strain on faith when it is difficult to accept the factuality of the events that faith is based on. And he is correct. But this is the nature of Christian faith--that we believe in that which is evidenced, not that which is not.

Throughout the New Testament, when Christians proclaimed the resurrected Christ, they based their proclamations of faith on an appeal to public evidence and knowledge: "you saw", "you heard", therefore you know what we say is true. And Paul said that if Christ did not really rise, then his own faith is worthless. Yeshua himself appealed to the evidence of what people had seen with their own eyes and touched with their own hands as the basis for believing and following him.

The Old Testament is no different. When Moses was told to go to the Israelites and he said what if they do not believe that you, God, have sent me, what did Yahweh say? That those were unbelievers and would feel his wrath? They must simply trust what Moses said is true? He caused evidences of his deity to come alive in history through many signs and terrible wonders. Abraham was not willing to sacrifice his son on blind trust, but because he had been told fire would fall from the sky and annihilate an entire geographic area and it did, because he was told he would have a son beyond the age of child bearing and he did, because he was told he would gain prosperity and blessing from all the peoples around him even though he was a suspicious foreigner and despite a great many fuck-ups among them, and he did. And Yahweh himself said that if a prophet says something and it cannot be evidenced historically in the real world, then Yahweh has not said it--so God himself places the authenticity and authority of his own word on historical evidence.

Yes, it is difficult to have a faith that refuses to believe something unless there is historical factuality and evidence. But that is Christian faith--an appeal to truth for its own sake at the possible cost of itself. That is why I can have respect for the man who says he does not believe in a God--because God has given man the right to accept or reject Him and the burden of proof rests not in the man, but in God.


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