In my prior post I shared about Sean and how his new found progressive religion reshaped the entire faith of his upbringing.
Here is my response to Sean:
- Since traditional Christianity was no longer relevant to Sean – and even seemed to block the pathway toward his ideals of justice and compassion – he merely dismissed it.
- But it seems to me the faith historic doesn’t go away so easily. The ultimate viability of Christianity is not based on its perceived usefulness or relevance, but on whether or not it’s true.
- And the truth question depends on whether the early church’s telling of the Jesus story through Scripture, the patristic writings,* and the creeds is accurate and reliable.
- Thus, as in most cases of “traditional Christianity versus other options,” the ultimate question is the identity of Jesus. If the early church got it right, then we need to submit our beliefs and lives to him. He is the Son of God, raised from the dead, ruler of the universe.
- But if the early church got it wrong about Jesus, then everything is up for grabs. And Sean’s position is as good as any.
One of the main reasons the church of the first four centuries presented us with this particular Jesus is that there were challengers, such as Gnostics, Montanists, and Arians. Each had other ideas about the nature of Jesus and the life of faith.**
Their contrary doctrines served as impetus for bishops of the church to define “true orthodoxy” (right doctrine) – the established tradition of which we are heirs. This is summarized in the Apostles’ Creed.
Twenty centuries later, I ask myself – Who am I to disagree with the early church’s presentation of Jesus?
Do I know better than them? They were there, I was not. They heard the teachings, witnessed the miracles, watched Jesus suffer on a cross, encountered him after the resurrection, suffered martyrdom for their beliefs.
I think I’ll take my chances with Jesus . . . not Sean.********
This is the conclusion of the five-part “Slippage” series. To return to the first post, click here.
* Patristic writings: the massive volume of material produced by church leaders and theologians of the first few centuries of Christianity.
** On Gnostics, Montanists, Arians (and other heretical groups), See Roger Olson’s The Story of Christian Theology, parts 1-4. Olson emphasizes that Christianity was in danger of devolving into a mishmash of folk religion where anything goes, had true doctrine not been defined by the church.
For further reading on the reliability of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, I recommend scholars such as Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy, James Dunn, Craig Keener, Darrel Bock, and Ben Witherington.
For more popularized versions, it’s still hard to beat Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. My own summarized version can be found in Faith is Like Skydiving, chapter 5.