Yesterday we pondered what the epistolary genre might teach us about God, and the implications for our preaching. Continuing with some springboarding off D A Carson’s recent Laing Lecture at LST, let’s think about biblical history.
Carson suggested the following: God discloses himself not only in words, but also in space-time history. We have access to that through witnesses, the standard mode of communicating historical veracity. Thus there is so much emphasis placed on the importance of witnesses.
In fact, Christianity is unique among religions in that if we were to take Jesus out of history, there would be no Christianity (not true of other religions). If Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead, then witnesses are liars and we are still in our sins, our faith is futile. For the Christian, one of the tests of our faith is the truthfulness of the faith’s object. So no matter how strong and precious your faith may be, if that faith is not in something that is true, then you have nothing.
Biblically, a personal and precious faith without truth does not make a person spiritual, it makes them a joke. So Biblical faith is not the same as the contemporary view – that it is either a synonym for religion, or a personal subjective religious choice. This final definition makes it a faux pas to introduce the truth question (since we are talking about something both personal and subjective). But the truth question is absolutely paramount. While there are many elements of Christianity where we are to take God at His word, there are also critical elements, foundations, that require a test in history – notably the resurrection of Christ.
Implications for our preaching? I would suggest:
1. We must overtly overcome the “Bible story as fairy tale” perception. It is not enough to assume people understand the historicity of the biblical record, we need to be overt on this matter.
2. We should seek to overcome the notion that the Bible is a religious book, but good history books are published by other printing presses. The Bible is not only history, but it is phenomenally trustworthy historical source material.
3. We must train believers to know that their faith is resting on reality and fact, rather than the “leap in the dark” nonsense coming from both critics and ill-advised testimonies of people feeling public-presentation fright.
4. We should recognize how unaware Christians tend to be in respect to the differences between biblical Christianity and other religions. This leaves people very vulnerable when other religions are so proactively on the march.