Roots, Shoots and Ladders

The scandal of particularity particularly scandalizes if we ignore our God-given roots, shoots and ladders.

Christianity claims to be grounded in actual history. God actually created and did it in real time. Moses actually led God's people through the Red Sea. Jesus actually was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried. We keep going...he descended into hell and, on the third day, he rose again. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. That is, according to us.

A historical foundation for our faith actually proves quite problematic. Historicity might seem like a huge asset. You might picture yourself saying "This really happened. Adjust your life accordingly." Well, bad new, that's a problem. We weren't there, so it's not fair!

Not fair! Not fair! Not fair!

Some folks, because of where and when and how they grew up, are more likely to trust Christ. Yesterday, I briefly mentioned the influence of family of origin on the development of faith.

But the scandal of particularity goes beyond that. Jesus' Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection happened in a particular time and place. Some people got to be first-hand witness to the events recorded in the Gospels. And some didn't. We didn't. Not fair, right?

These people trusted Jesus before the New Testament was even written. (Now, some had read the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, but we can circle behind that. Abraham and Moses trusted God before the Scriptures were written.) So, it is possible to trust Jesus first.

In fact, Christianity got passed along for generations before the writings that make up the New Testament were even collected in the same place. We have our roots in an oral tradition, in a passed along from parent to child, from one person to another tradition, a personal tradition. Trust in Jesus (a person) was passed along from person to person until it reached us, like shoots springing off a vine. The Bible serves as a ladder, ascending from our ancient roots to the current day, supporting the shoots as faithful men and women emerge from the vine.

Our modern era didn't value roots, shoots and ladders. We wanted boxes and packets, data bundles, propositions that could be evaluated and accepted (or rejected). We approached all things with skepticism, assumed that all things were what they really were only when divorced from their context and environment. We loved dissection.

But organic is in now. Communal is in now. History and tradition are making a comeback. We're hungry to know about our roots, to be a part of something that goes way back, to stand on the shoulders of giants.

This intersects interestingly with Biblical Criticism. The questions for us are not "Is the Bible reliable?" but "Does the Bible portray the real Jesus?" These may seem like the same questions, but they're not. One tries to defend the Bible from cover to cover, the other focuses on the Gospels. If the Gospels faithfully portray the Jesus that I trust and love, then the whole Old Testament comes into play (because the Gospels display Jesus referring to and arguing out of the OT). If the Gospels and later NT writings faithfully portray the Jesus that I love and trust, I'm more likely to trust them when they're talking about other things.

Craig Blomberg's book on the Historical Reliability of the Gospels is so helpful here.

Trust Jesus-in-the-Gospels, trust the rest of the Bible. A spiral is starting to develop. Trust Jesus. Trust some of the Bible. Deepen your trust of Jesus. Trust more of the Bible. Etc, ad infinitum into the depths of trust.

It's beautiful, but there's more to the story.

No comments:

Post a Comment