Saturday, November 11, 2017

Have you got dead religion?

We're talking about quantifiable history. The Catholic Church can trace its beginning to Jesus and the Apostles. Everyone else started sometime many centuries later. Unless you have some bona fide historical evidence that suggests otherwise, your opinion means very little.
What a Catholic apologist told me today. That's a stock claim in traditional Catholic apologetics. 

i) One problem with the claim is that it's circular. A Catholic apologist is stringing the beads of church history through a Catholic string. 

Yes, there's a sense in which you can trace the Catholic church, c. 2017, back to events in 1C Palestine. Indeed, you can trace it all the way back to the first moment of the universe. Everything in the present has historical antecedents. 

Suppose you're writing a history of WWI. Where do you begin? Technically, it began in 1914. In fact, you could begin on June 28, 1914. But of course, no historian begins with that, because, considered in isolation, it would be inexplicable to the treader how that particular incident plunged Europe into war. Historians always begin with a backstory. To explain an event like WWI, they describe prior events leading up to that event. Precipitating events. 

But where they begin will always be somewhat arbitrary, for they could always start a year before that. Every event has a prior event. A chain of events going back to the first moment of the universe. What events led up to the Protestant Reformation? Not only can you trace that back to the 1C, but you can go back into OT history. 

ii) In addition, I simply reject a presupposition of his argument. Take one of those scifi scenarios in which most of the human race was wiped out by some catastrophe. A remnant of the human race survived in underground cell groups. Centuries later, they emerge. All the Christians died in the interim. Historical knowledge died with them. The survivors have no knowledge of the past. 

But after they return to the surface, they discover a Bible, and the Christian faith is reborn. It matters not if they are upstarts. It matters not if there was a hiatus in Christian history. It matters not if Christianity was a dead religion for centuries. It matters not if the Christian faith was forgotten for centuries. 

The warrant for Christianity doesn't depend on historical continuity. If the Bible is true, then it's true at all times, regardless of whether there were times when no one knew it or believed it. The Spirit isn't enmeshed in a chain of historical causation. The Spirit can produce true believers at any time and place. The Spirit can turn the desert into a garden. A historical interruption or intermission is no impediment to rediscovered knowledge or the freedom of God's grace. 

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