Lessons on God from Biblical Genre: History

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.

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6 thoughts on “Lessons on God from Biblical Genre: History

  1. Hello,

    The statement that the Bible is “phenomenally trustworthy historical source material” is absolutely false. If it were true, every historian of ancient history would be a Christian.

    William Dever, Professor Emeritus of the University of Arizona, stated:

    “The truth of the matter today is that archeology raises more questions about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible and even the New Testament than it provides answers, and that’s very disturbing to some people.”

    • “If it were true, every historian of ancient history would be a Christian.”

      This is a bifurcation fallacy, an ‘either-or’ which implies there are only 2 answers and makes no sense, such as “if I can ___, anyone can” which is falsehood masquerading as truth.

      Never has an historical event in the Holy Bible been proven false. Some have sought to prove events false, only to be corrected later once more evidence had been discovered. Archeolgy is continuingly proving the accounts in the Bible correct, not the other way around.

      • This is a bifurcation fallacy…

        Incorrect; I’m not presenting two choices. Rather, my claim is based on a reasonable deduction. If the Bible is “phenomenally trustworthy historical source material,” then historians would be forced to accept its truth claims and essentially become Christian. It would be odd indeed to grant that Jesus is God, resurrected from the dead to pay for the sins of humanity, but reject Christianity.

        Never has an historical event in the Holy Bible been proven false.

        Of course many have. Humanity isn’t descended from two persons about 6,000 years ago. There was no exodus. No worldwide flood. There are hundreds of incidents for which no evidence can be found, but should exist. You’d think, for example, that a bunch of dead saints walking around Jerusalem would capture someone’s attention. (Matt. 27:52-53). Yet, this amazing event is not recorded even in any other gospel or the epistles, not to mention by first century Jewish historians like Josephus. Do you think it really happened?

        In any case, it’s not for us to disprove your Bible claims, but for you to prove them. Your standard would make the Book of Mormon or the Qu’ran just as true as the Bible. And just because a few items here and there prove to be true, doesn’t mean the whole book is.

        Archeolgy is continuingly proving the accounts in the Bible correct, not the other way around.

        I quoted one of the most renowned ancient near east historians who says precisely the opposite. He’s not alone. Sorry, but the experts disagree with you.

  2. Robert, you keep using that word “proven”.

    “I do not think it means what you think it means.”
    – Inigo Montoya

    If Biblical creation has been proven wrong, no one would continue to believe the Bible. Maybe you can see the problem there that Peter was referring to in your statement when you used the same argument in reverse. Hope that helps, not meaning to argue but merely clarify what has been said.

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