Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The Canons and What the Early Church Believed

USS Ronald Reagan - Port of Brisbane, July 2017
I drove through the bush in an undeveloped spot across the river, then walked along sand in low-tide along the riverbank, 'til I was directly opposite it, and took that picture. I stayed in company of the view, for nearly an hour - taking it in - reflecting on all the history that's associated with the object that was in front of my eyes. I haven't done too detailed a study of the historicity of Christianity and of its canon - because I knew that if I did, it would only lead me to what I already know! Lol. But I do often feel that many people who are prejudiced against Christianity, seem to apply an unequal criteria to the study of the historicity of Christianity than they do to most anything else in history. The thing about an historical hypothesis is that it isn't repeatable, like other scientific hypotheses might be. So balance of probabilities, based on available evidences, is a big part of the discipline - even with regard to secular history. I get the impression, after the little bit of reading I've done over the years, and talking to a Professor etc., that we have all of the types of 'evidences' that we can reasonably expect to find, if the basic story about Jesus really happened. That still mightn't go all the way to proving it did happen. But we've got about as good as we can get - for anything in history, of that nature, of that era. In fact, I think the available evidences we have for the story of Jesus are more numerous than we have for anyone else in history in his category in that era. And yet many critics of Christianity readily accept the historicity of some of those other characters and what they allegedly said and did - despite even fewer available evidences - but they don't accept the basic story of Jesus even with more available evidences. I think that shows prejudice. And my Christian worldview interprets that prejudice as being spiritually driven, not purely academic. I'm not defending nor denying the doctrine of the Verbal Plenary Inspiration of Scripture in the Original Tongues, in this Chat. But after what little study I've done, and talking to Professors etc. I'm satisfied (based on the available evidences, and the balance of probabilities), that the general belief of the early Church was that: Jesus was a real flesh-and-blood man; that God did miracles through Him; that He was crucified, buried and rose again on the third day; that He was Lord and Christ; that His message was for all nations; and that He's coming again. From almost the very beginning there were people from among their own ranks who diverged from some of that. And wrote their views. And it was also largely recognised, from early on, among the churches, what was standard belief and what and who was divergent from that. I just don't see the balance of probabilities (and the available evidences) leaning in favour of the Gnostic Gospels, for example - which had such a different message to the message of all of the books which made it into the 'canon'. I can see that even amongst those who accepted what I think was the general view of things, there was some variation in what books they accepted as canonical. But as far as I'm aware, the issue was not, in any of those books in question, about the generally accepted story of Jesus. So I feel as reasonably satisfied as I think we can be about anything of this nature of that era: that the main canons which we have today pretty-well reflect what the early Church believed. Whether or not we personalise that, and confess Jesus is Lord, and believe in our own heart that God raised Him from the dead, is of course a step further. And might require that we're drawn or taught in our hearts, directly by the Spirit. One thing I can say though is that the rapid acceptance of Christianity across Europe, at a time when Christianity was persecuted, when there was no economic advantage to becoming Christian, hardly compares with the spread of say Islam, at the point of the sword. Especially considering Christianity was based on stories many of which could have been falsified, at its inception, and on location, by the very people who were being preached to. Unlike the Koran which was entirely subjective to the writer's claim, and didn't include anything much that was falsifiable by its original readers. So again, I think the early canons - each of them, despite their slight differences - pretty much reflected the early Church's main story. Their criteria was quite scientific - even though they came to different conclusions about a small number of books. Whereas the divergent groups weren't at all scientific - about anything much.

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