... this year it isn't your Jack Spong type declaiming on the possibility (or impossibility) of the Resurrection. No, it's yet another lost Gospel, hidden by the evil, power-hungry Church, bent on hiding the truth about Jesus, covering it up, to oppress humanity for the next two millenia.
Oh just go read Amy's series of posts on the Gospel of Judas, and this piece by Philip Jenkins at Beliefnet. The whole point, which has so taken a hold of everyone's imagination is this: we really cannot know anything, with any certainty, about Jesus. The winners made it all up. The losers, well, we are finally discovering what they believed. And boy, it's so much better than what we've been fed. Woo hoo!
I recall this class in historical-criticism that was taught by a dear Jesuit friend (the same one who ended up baptizing me, incidentally) at a parish in Pune, near Bombay, oh some 12-13 years ago. He taught it during his diaconate pastoral assignment at this parish. I found it intriguing, and energizing. Most of it was lifted from the Jesus Seminar, actually. Eventually, the seeds planted there led to an MA in Religious Studies, focusing on the New Testament.
However, I remember this moment, when the whole idea of "these are not eyewitnesses" was coming through. The old ladies in the class were scandalized. I was delighted. I thought, very clearly, "Hmm. Maybe this means that the rest of it doesn't go back to Jesus as well." The "rest of it" being those various teachings of the Church that I found hard to stomach. You know, about sex, and women, and the like. And those implications were left unexamined, unexplored, hanging. It was "silly superstitious old ladies" versus "daring, exciting scholars uncovering the real story." Which was more enticing, do you think?
Generations have grown up with this now. "You know, that we really cannot know. It's all made up." Like rainwater slowly effacing a gravestone, these ideas work their way into the minds of the faithful, slowly dissolving the foundations of faith.
No, I don't think this means that one abandons the historical-critical method. Despite all the vitriol, there's been some great fruit (such as, say, a much richer and deeper understanding of the Judaism of Jesus' time). No, the answer isn't to retreat into some mythical "pre-critical" era, and pretend that none of this every happened. Some more context, yes. Lots of reasonable argument, sure. Apologia, of course. Solid scholarship too, that doesn't shy away from asking tough questions, and that can meet all of this head on. Tons of skepticism, especially, as Amy put it in her talk, at those who ask one to be sketpical.
But really, the proof is in the pudding. The "proof" of Christianity, really, is in the lives of the saints.
So (and by no means do I mean this to trivialize an intellectual enagagement with the challenges), and echoing Pope John Paul, let's just go be saints!