By: Stuart|26 June, 2010|Categories: Philosophy of History|Tags: Establishing Historical Descriptions . Historical Jesus . Historical Relativism . Jesus . John Stuart Mil . Methodological Natrualism . Michael Green . Miracles
The scandal of Christianity is that it is a religion grounded in historical events, which if they can be demonstrated to be false, would empty it of meaning and all power. Chief among those historical events is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The apostle Paul declares, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” Michael Green was right when he wrote, “Once disprove the historicity of Jesus Christ, and Christianity will collapse like a pack of cards.” If Christians are to maintain that faith is reasonable, it will be crucial to establish that not only the events of history in general can be known, but also specific events of the past are true.
Most people when they come to Christ do not do historical research or consider things like the problem of historical knowledge. Rather, they come to know the great truths of the gospel, such as Christ’s atoning life and death, and his resurrection from the dead on the basis of their experience of the Spirit of God. This experience I take as veridical, and a fully legitimate grounding of knowledge. So although the Christian is warranted in believing what happened 2000 years ago without studying history or philosophy, the following entries in this series will concern themselves with exactly that. I will be summarizing the search for the historical Jesus, then assess some of the search’s surrounding dilemmas. It will not be a thorough treatment. Whole books have been written, and still could be, on any one of these issues. I seek only to summarize, explain and briefly offer what refutation can be given. Included will be an assessment of Historical Relativism, the Problem of Miracles, imposing Methodological Naturalism in the study of history, and three methods for establishing historical descriptions.
I begin this journey with a goal in mind: to establish the description of the person of Jesus of Nazareth in the gospel narratives as truly historical. The pen of John Stuart Mill eloquently expresses the same conviction.
“It is of no use to say that Christ as exhibited in the gospels is not historical . . . Who among his disciples or among their proselytes was capable of inventing the sayings ascribed to Jesus, or of imagining the life and character revealed in the gospels? Certainly not the fishermen of Galilee, still less the early Christian writers.”
 Michael Green, Runaway World (London: Inter-Varsity, 1968), p. 2.
 Philosophers call these beliefs properly basic. They need not have arguments to support them, for they are bedrock beliefs that are wholly sensible in and of themselves, from which we argue to other things.
 John Stuart Mill, Essays on Nature, the Utility of Religion and Theism (London: Longmans, 1874).