Modern Texting

The following is the headmaster’s response to William Quillian’s “The Christ Experience” published in the News & Advance, Sunday, May 1, 2011

The question of Jesus’ resurrection ultimately turns on one’s view of the text of Scripture. Mr. Quillian’s view of the text offered in his recent letter is the standard theologically liberal position taught at Yale and other graduate schools for the better part of the last century. While this position appears to have the weight of history and scientific scholarship on its side, the fact is that it has neither.

It is obvious from a cursory reading of the New Testament that it everywhere asserts the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ. For the sake of argument it matters little if you believe it or not, but the fact that the New Testament authors baldly make the claim is not debatable. The liberal scholarship of the 19th and 20th centuries recognized and admitted this. Rather than argue against the obvious, liberal scholars undermined the text itself by developing the novel idea that the Gospels and other New Testament books could not and must not have been written by the first century authors whose names they bear.

This position rests on the skinny branches of an a priori and fallacious assumption: a worldview that does not admit of divine intervention in history. In this worldview Jesus was not miraculously conceived, he did not perform miracles or any other “mighty deeds,” and he did not rise from the dead by the power of God as recorded in the narratives. Moreover, it follows that there is no inspired record of his having done so. Such things are simply ruled out as impossible by definition in the modern scientific mind no matter what the New Testament says to the contrary. After all, modern man, prejudiced as he is, knows better.

The liberal view of the text denies authorship to the most obvious of candidates, the apostles themselves, who were not only eyewitnesses, but also highly literate. It spuriously claims that the text did not form until decades or centuries after their deaths. There is no credible evidence for this claim at all and it flies in the face of the clear expectation of Jesus himself that his followers would document his life and teachings, energized and emboldened by the astonishing reality of the resurrection itself. Why would they not write? Liberal scholarship fails to answer this question convincingly.

Faced with the inability to counter the claims of eyewitness accounts, which are accepted routinely in other historical literature, the liberal position attacks the men of the first century as hopelessly archaic, and offers the counter claim that the New Testament itself is far removed the from actual events described. This position posits that the texts are compilations of long oral traditions which were not put into final form until years after the events occurred. The evidence forwarded for this hypothesis is dubious at best, but this squishy view of the text opens the door for exactly the kind of sentiments Mr. Quillian expressed: a reduction of the central historical claim of Christianity merely to warm feelings about dead relatives. This is not the Gospel and the Church has never preached it this way.

Summarily, Mr. Quillian shares a view of the scriptures which is an attempt to de-historicize the claims of the Christian faith and blunt the compelling testimony of multiple eyewitnesses. Since the modern mind cannot accept anything that it cannot empirically prove, it cannot be reconciled with the Christian claim that God himself has intervened miraculously in history to redeem mankind.