Wednesday, February 13, 2008

thoughts on Christianity and history...

It's been a couple weeks since I've posted anything... been working on ideas for essays and what not. Here are some thoughts I've been milling around lately:

Perhaps history can be viewed like a body of water, moving away from a horizon. History is not static, history "flows," and as we move forward in history, the past moves away from us, toward the horizon, until it is finally out of view. This flow is constant and rapid. Once the past is out of view, we can obviously never see it again. The only things we have to remind us are our memories of the events, the memories of others, and the artifacts/effects of those events that we carry with us, whether tangible or intangible. The past will continue to fade out of view, becoming less and less accessible to us, as even our artifacts decay and memories become clouded. This is unsettling for every one of us.

However, there is for Christians, I think, a very specific fear of losing that which connects us to our past. This is because we recognize that if we lose our connection to the historical events claimed by the Christian faith, we may eventually lose our faith as well. The fear is understandable: We hear every day of individuals who reject or walk away from the Christian faith, because of their inability to believe in the actual resurrection of Jesus Christ or the miracles attested to in Scripture. But I wonder what the proper response ought to be to this situation?

It is my contention that much of modern Christian scholarship is rife with the fear of losing its "historicity." The result has been a continual attempt to re-discover, re-capture and re-package the Christian faith so that it does not lose its immediacy. We want our faith to be "real," in the same way that everything else we experience is "real." (But do we really even know what makes our faith "real"? How do we define "real"?) And while this is not a bad thing in itself, I think we must carefully examine our motivations.

If our goal is to maintain our historical connection to the events of the faith for fear of what may happen once the connection to those events is lost, then, I suggest, we are not in fact living as people of faith at all. Rather, we have capitulated to history, and forgotten that Christ, who (Christians believe) is greater than history, makes "all things new."

I have been asking myself a question: Is it possible, theologically, to affirm that the Spirit of Christ can affect someone’s life so that they respond in faith – even if that person has never experienced ANY part of the historical "stream" of Christianity as it has flowed through the last 2,000 years?

If that is so, then we can also say that Christ may affect our lives so that we respond in faith, regardless of whether or not we have a complete or accurate view of the historical events we claim for Christianity. Might the hope of Christ in us, renewing us, restoring us, supplant our desire to restore historicity out of fear? The Christian faith is certainly a historical faith, connected to historical events which mark its existence. But the proper context for history ought to be (like all events/things) in its relation to Christ/God, through which history functions. When Christ centers our existence, I would argue that historical accuracy becomes secondary. Making historical accuracy primary for faith is, I believe, the cause of many unnecessary woes among Christians today.

Just some things I've been pondering...

No comments: