Our conclusions [“there is good reason to accept the gospel portrait as basically sound” historical accounts] raise the question of the relationship between history and faith. Does historical and critical study prove the transcendence of Jesus? How can faith really be faith if it is established by historical and critical findings? Bultmann is the outstanding advocate of the position that faith must be faith in the Word of God alone. If faith rests upon historical verification, it is no longer authentic faith but is reduced to good works — of the historian.If you take the phrase “the historical Jesus” and then you look at how “the biblical portrait of Christ is the product of the apostolic biblical witness. There is a real Jesus Christ there in whom to have faith. The real Jesus is not the product of a philosophical presupposition.
However, it has not been our purpose to verify faith by critical findings. Our purpose has been to try to discover the historical situation in which Jesus taught and lived, for it is the first task of biblical theology to be a descriptive discipline. It is difficult to agree with Jeremias that the final result of critical study of the historical Jesus is “always the same: we find ourselves confronted with God himself.” History does not necessarily lead to God. A rationalistic orthodoxy could give intellectual assent to the findings of the present study and not be confronted by God. Theology and history are intellectual pursuits; faith is commitment of the whole person. The historian might possibly conclude that Jesus claimed to be the incarnate Son of Man, the unique Son of God, and yet laugh at his claims. History is studded with those possessed of a Messiah complex. Faith is a second step to historical research and is not necessarily demanded by it.
While history does not prove the validity of my faith, history is essential to true faith — at least to the individual who is concerned about history. Most people come to faith in response to the proclaimed Word of God without critically testing the historicity of the events that Word proclaims. But when one has believed the Word and then becomes aware of history, if he or she is compelled to conclude that the alleged events are unhistorical, it is difficult to see how faith can sustain itself. In this sense we agree with Moule: “Neither is blind faith real faith. For belief it is necessary to see — at least something. The decision to accept Jesus as Lord cannot be made without historical evidence — yes, historical — about Jesus. If it were a decision without any historical evidence it would not be about Jesus (a historical person) but only about an ideology or an ideal.”
If the construct “the historical Jesus” is the product of philosophical presuppositions about the nature of history, is not the construct “the biblical Christ” the product of faith? The answer is No. the biblical portrait of Christ is the product of the apostolic biblical witness. My faith does not create that construct but my faith that the nature of God and history has room for such a Jesus as the Gospels picture makes it possible for me to accept the biblical witness. For the person aware of history, history must provide an adequate foundation for faith. But in the last analysis, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17)
On the contrary, Roman Catholicism, having looked at its own history of the papacy, has discovered that for the years 33-155 ad (or somewhere thereabouts) there is no one there “in whom to have faith”.