Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Jesus of History vs. the Christ of Faith?

Though still more than 60 days away, Christmas seems to be just around the corner despite the calamities. Though there are those who will be celebrating the birth of Christ, sadly there are others also who will be criticizing it. A few years back, Newsweek came up with a cover story on “The Birth of Christ.” In that article, managing editor Jon Meacham debated the historicity of the nativity. “Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, some scholars treat the Christmas narratives as first-century inventions designed to strengthen the seemingly tenuous claim that Jesus was the Messiah. (Issue 12/13/2004) He claimed that the Gospels mixed faith and history to the Christmas story and make the case for Christ.” (Ibid) Later on, when Larry King interviewed him, Meacham made this assertion: “Things don’t have to be accurate to be true.” (“Who was Jesus,” CNN Larry King Live, 12/24/2004) In other words, even if something is not accurate, it is still considered true or valid to you as long as you believe it.

But we cannot really separate the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. The Gospel writers were concerned with the factual basis of what they wrote. We have the eyewitnesses’ accounts in the Gospels such as Matthew, Luke and Peter. (Scholars believed that the source of the Gospel of Mark was Peter’s preaching.) “When we told you about the power and the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not telling clever stories that someone had made up. But with our own eyes we saw his true greatness. (2 Peter 1:16, CEV) Luke, who wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, did careful research as a top-notch historian. “I made a careful study of everything and then decided to write and tell you exactly what took place… I have done this to let you know the truth about what you have heard.” (Luke 1:3-4) Thus, Dr. Norman Geisler, a top Christian apologist (defender of the faith), wrote, “The separation of historical Jesus from historic Christ is based on a false dichotomy of fact and faith or of fact and value. The historic significance of Christ cannot be separated from his historicity. If he did not live, teach, die, and rise from the dead as the New Testament claims, then he has no saving significance today.” (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics) With Christmas fast approaching, we need to make the most of the opportunity to defend our faith. “Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.” (1 Peter 3:15b)

Brethren, the Jesus of history is the Christ of our faith!

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