Saturday, April 08, 2006

Just in time for Easter ...

... 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!


pritcher said...

very well put. every time i'm tempted to doubt my faith, it's been the reminder that christianity works--the example of the saints--that's kept me going.

pritcher said...

one minor point, though:

if the proof is in the pudding and the saints are the proof, does this mean jpii's advice is for us to strive to spend eternity suspended in a yummy goo?

i can think of worse, i s'pose.

chez said...

my faith is not one bit unruffled, my faith does'nt need the support of "history" anymore. I'm experiencing Jesus in my daily life and that's all I care. However, I feel bad and sorry for all those who are new to the christian faith, people who could be "potential" christians, I'm feel sorry that they have so much more confusion to tackle before they are strong in their faith.

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...


The proof of the pudding is in the eating. (See Cervantes' Don Quixote.)

There is no "proof" in pudding; it's just there. The qualities of pudding (tastiness, wholesomeness, validity, etc.), are proven only when the pudding is experienced.

That, I believe, is Pritcher's 1st point and Gashwin's last. Folks in the local Gnostic church might disagree.....

not waving around her Bartlett's.

assiniboine said...

I rather like the comment on the ineffable Jack Spong by Gerald O’Collins, Professor of Fundamental Theology, Gregorian University, Rome: Spong’s "work simply does not belong to the world of international scholarship. No genuine scholar will be taken in by this book.... What is said about a key verb St. Paul uses in Gal. 1:15f. shows that the bishop [Spong] has forgotten any Greek that he knew. [Spong argued his case based on a Greek word that is not even in this passage] ... [my] advice for his next book is to let some real experts check it before publication." [Review in The Tablet of Resurrection: Myth or Reality]. But perhaps better the colloquy with the old gal who was offering tours in the Anglican Cathedral here last time I had overseas visitors when she queried me on my accent and therefore my views on Spong (I look like George W. Bush and I sound like Jack Spong? Mon Dieu!): "What do you think of Bishop Spong?" "Well, my apologies if you are a fan of his but I think he's a lunatic, myself." "Well said. I'd go further. An idiot into the bargain."