Friday, 21 January 2011

cjbanning: (Palm Sunday)
Fr. Dan Dunlap, writing at Catholic in the Third Millenium, nicely puts his finger on the way that both conservative and liberal approaches to the historicity of Scripture manage to miss the point completely:
[A]cademic honesty compels the scholar to admit that "proving" the historicity of the mythos is impossible. But then it should be noted that disproving the historicity of the mythos is just as certainly impossible (a fact that the likes of John Shelby Spong and company disingenuously dismiss). Simply put, the mythos – the very object of the Church's faith – is not subject to historical or scientific investigation (either in proof or disproof). Rather it transcends critical inquiry, while, paradoxically, benefiting in the many new ways of understanding the Faith that may thus emerge from such investigation into the biblical milieu itself.

[. . .]

The Christian Faith is not a belief in the historicity of the resurrection (as an end in itself), but rather faith in the resurrected Christ; it is not a belief in the historicity of the virgin birth (as an end in itself), but rather faith in the Christ who was born of a Virgin.
While Fr. Dan is, in my opinion, quite too quick to expel from the big tent of Christianity those who don't adhere to the doctrines that he and I see as central (e.g., the Trinity), he has an interesting view (which I can't disagree with) on how the apostolic churches (Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, some parts of Lutheranism, etc.)  have a "unique and peculiar calling within the kingdom of God to preserve and guard what can be termed the 'Great Story' or 'True Myth' (in Lewis' sense)." I in particular agree that it's not always clear how the process of demythologization inherent in the type of liberal historicism represented by "the likes of John Shelby Spong and company" serves to achieve this aim, which in many ways is the argument I make in my post Why the Quest for the Historical Jesus is a Spiritual Dead-End. (All through college I was convinced, albeit falsely, that Protestantism simply had no place for any viewpoint other than either this sort of liberal historicism or else biblical literalism.)

Of course, a large part of why this resonates with me is my peculiar mix of a relatively low view of Scripture (without disagreeing that the Bible contains all that is necessary to salvation, whatever that means) and my relatively high ecclesiology, which makes me committed first and foremost to what Fr. Dan calls "the mythos to which the early fathers provided normative articulation in ancient creedal and doxological symbols that are with us to the present day -- preserved in the liturgies of the great apostolic churches."
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"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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