A Manifesto To The Thinking Christian (2)
"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading or do things worth the writing." - Benjamin Franklin
There's a very interesting trend that happens in the media every few years, a trend that our secular society loves to exploit. This trend is what I like to call the "Christian discovery controversy". What I mean by that are the sensational claims that pop up by "scholars" and "historians" every now and then about the "true" nature or identity about the "historical Jesus".
We know the ones... the fragment of the supposed Gospel of Jesus' Wife that was "discovered" last year, a scrap of parchment dating from the 3rd century found in Egypt that referred to Jesus being married. Or how about the Gospel of Judas that made headlines in 2006. And of course I can't go very far without mentioning Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code from 2003, a piece of fiction written by an adventure novelist (not a historian, textual-critic, church or Biblical scholar) that everybody seemed to forget was fiction after reading it.
Our society loves these type of "new discoveries" to stir the religious-thinking pot. As a side-note I don't restrict this type of thinking to secular society; much the same phenomenon goes on for those who seem to feel the need to reinvent church, Christianity or Jesus. It gives us a rush when we think we as a society have discovered something that has been buried by the sands of time, or even more so, never been discovered before at all.
While the annual regular of those coming out with sensational claims about Jesus is almost annual, there is another pattern that we can also document annually. Namely, when these things arise Christians find themselves mute, unprepared to respond. Between the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses knocking on our door, and the media throwing out "Secret" and "discovered" "Gospels" at us, the Christian church seems to have a hard time providing answers.
Why are we so ill equipped? As each new claim about Jesus floats to the surface of the pool most believers simply stare silent in the pew. For whatever reason the church doesn't seem to be able to adequately teach its congregations the origins and reliability of that which they claim to stake their lives on.
As I stated in my first post of this series, my intent is not to guilt-trip. My intent is not to make you feel bad about your lack of knowledge about your faith. My intent is to challenge myself and those around me who share the identifying label of Christian: Christ-follower. I do not intend to solve this whole problem in just a few posts and articles. But if I can encourage and challenge even one person to look into why they believe what they believe than I think this series will have served its purpose.
We need not worry about every heresy, cult doctrine, false-gospel and secular attack. If your faith is grounded in understanding what you believe then picking out the bones will come easy. Counterfeits stand out because of their inconsistency with the original. Many congregations are hard set on fellowship and worship, and rightly so, but serious teaching is also needed.
Jesus challenged us with the Great Commission to not simply reach out to people for the gospel but to teach them: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you(1).
You don't have to tackle 2013 years of church history in one go, start small and simple. The Bible... If you are a Christian you're staking your entire life (and the next might I add) on a book. At minimum make sure you're reading it, make sure you know what it is in it; what it teaches, what it doesn't teach, who wrote it, when it was written. The Bible did not fall from the sky in a heavenly beam of light; find out how and why the textual transmission that took place to give you the anthology of books you now hold in English happened.
But don't get stuck there. Read the early church fathers as an example of how to interpret the scripture. Some of the early church writers knew the apostles personally, find out what their take on New Testament books are(2). Study the Jewish sources; Jesus is inherently Jewish in his words within the Gospels(3). Understanding the context of why he said what he said can only further clear up our understandings of the things that he is saying.
My challenge is not only to those reading this, but also for myself, is to have such a solid grasp on my beliefs that every storm and claim that blows my way wont stand a chance. Nearly all the "Christian discovery controversies" I discussed at the beginning of this post stand and fall with the reliability (or supposed unreliability) of the New Testament and its historical reliability. Why believe something you can't defend?
It is only by understanding God rightly that we can press forward in our Christian walk, in other words: I believe that good living is an outpouring of good thinking.
This is my challenge, to you and to myself. This is my thesis, this is my mission, this is my manifesto.
"but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hop that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame." - 1 Peter 3:15,16
A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian, Part 1
A Manifesto to the Thinking Christian, Part 3
God, Church and Spiritualism: A Synopsis of the Discussion
Don't know where to start? How about here:
The Bible, Part 1: An Introduction
The Bible, Part 2: A Story of Scripture, A Story of History
The New Testament Doctrine of Canonization: The Issue of Canon
Scripture, Scrutiny, and Skeptics
Attacking The Integrity Of The Bible: A Christmas Present From Newsweek
Jesus, Man or Myth, Part 1
Jesus, Man or Myth, Part 2: Deceptions and Delusions
Jesus, Man or Myth, Part 3: Misapprehension and Misconstruction
(1) "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." - Matthew 28:19,20
Early Church Fathers: Ambrose
Early Church Fathers: Augustine
Early Church Fathers: Clement
Early Church Fathers: Irenaeus
Early Church Fathers: Justin
Early Church Fathers: Barnabas
Early Church Fathers: Ignatius
Early Church Fathers: Tertullian
Jesus in Hebrew Scripture, Part 1: The Word Became Flesh
Jesus in Hebrew Scripture, Part 2: A Mirror in the Old Testament
Jesus in Hebrew Scripture, Part 3: Rabbinic Tradition
Accusations and Misunderstanding: A Response