Here is one of the most profound and concise arguments on the significance of the historical accuracy and supernatural nature of the events in the Gospel accounts, and how it relates to the gospel message.

“Other religions are primarily philosophies. That is, they are sets of teaching about how to live. Christianity is primarily an announcement of events in history, things that happened. Those events include the incarnation (God becoming a human being), the crucifixion (the God-man dying in our place), and the resurrection (the God-man breaking death so he can live with us and us with him).

Other religions have accounts of miracles, but they only authenticate or exemplify the founders’ teaching. But whether the miracles happened or not does not ultimately make any difference, because it is the following of the teaching that saves us. But in the Christian faith, we are saved by grace, not our performance. We are saved not by what we do but what he has done. Therefore, it is the miraculous events which actually save us. We’re saved NOT by the teaching, but by these historical events.

Thus, if you take away the historical events of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, you take away the heart of Christianity, and it becomes just another life-philosophy that saves you through your own self-effort.”

From Redeemer’s study on Mark.

One thought on “The gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel accounts.

  1. Hello Matt! Thank you for your post. I feel that this excerpt offers a great insight into many Christians’ faith and it creates a great launching off point for discussions of inter-faith dialogue and even what the ‘heart of Christianity’ is.
    (There is a great book I will suggest called “The Heart of Christianity” by Marcus J Borg I found it very helpful)
    I largely disagree with the passage you cite and I will briefly respond to portions to explain why-

    “other religions are primarily philosophies…”
    1) this comment is often heard from pulpits and it is intended to mean, I believe, that other faiths are ’empty philosophies’ that are untrue and speculative imaginings. Many within Islam take seriously the life events of the Prophet Muhammad. Mormonism is largely a ‘history’. In fact since most religions integrate stories of prophets/mystical visions/miracles/angelic visitations/Godly incarnations it is misleading to say that they are merely philosophies as say Mill’s “Utilitarianism” is.
    2) Christianity has been the backdrop of much of Western Philosophy. From the Church Fathers to Paul Ricoeur it is easy to place much of your college philosophy class in the context of Christian church history. (That’s not even including non-Christian identifying folks who are still commenting largely about the state of the church ie Nietzsche)
    3) Philosophy is not as ‘dead’ as many Christians who would be reading your excerpt commonly believe. Philosophies are recordings of individuals and cultures’ value systems, their life commitments, the motivations and faiths that are closest to their heart. Perhaps the best example would be Whitehead’s philosophy which has been popularized as Process Theology or Process Christianity.
    “…Christianity is largely an announcement of events in history…”
    1) Framing Christianity as a ‘history’ has many complications and leads to a lot of inherent tension to hermeneutics, preaching, and Christian sects. Is the story of Esther historically accurate? Shadrach Meschach Abednego? The Exodus? The settlement of Canaan, the Garden of Eden? The Earth reversing its rotation? Fundamentalism relies on this historical frame, but we can see often even within Fundamentalist, or Evangelical, Pentecostal, (“Bible believing churches”) there will be different understandings of what literally happened or what is ‘allegorical’. Many of these Churches can worship together despite the differences of these opinions. It is my contention that those Christians that believe that the physical resurrection of Jesus is unhistorical are equally Christian and should be accepted as equally devout and ‘saved’.
    2) A key point I feel is that the dichotomy that seems to be set up in this post’s passage of ‘historical’ (‘salvation history’) and ‘philosophical’ breaks down quickly. To even begin to speak of the God-Human entering history and saving from sin and glorious resurrection is purely metaphysical and theological. That is, they require interpretation and are loaded with meaning outside of the immediate history. If someone pushes you out of the way of a train they don’t need to explain to you “You were tragically lost and without hope and I took on your guilt of being on the tracks….” Sin, Redemption, Incarnation, these rely on mountains of theological/philosophical explanation and have been re-imagined literally hundreds of ways throughout history.

    “…But in the Christian faith, we are saved by grace, not our performance….”
    1) The faith/works issue in Christianity has been discussed in roughly 25% of the sermons I have heard in my life. It is more complex than perhaps pictured here.
    2) The idea that other religions are ‘works based’ is a poor portrayal of other faiths and it is found to be not true when one enters into a thorough dialogue with a person of another faith. It is a carry over I believe of the NT rhetoric which was meant to distance the early Christianities from other non-Christ Jewish groups. It wasn’t accurate then and isn’t now. Grace and mercy freely given are quite common to be found in religions where a God has been sinned against. I urge Christians to pursue more occasions of respectful listening where other faiths can express this truth.

    “…If you take away the historical events of Christ’s life and death and resurrection…it becomes just another life-philosophy that saves you through your own self-effort…”
    1) Many Christians prove this statement to be untrue. There are plenty of Christians who live their lives fully in the grace of God but do not believe in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus. I invite you and any other Christian who are interested to explore this issue further with the Christians who live their life in Christ this way.
    2) I feel this is very important: Faith to me is more than adhering to a statement about history. Did Caesar cross the Rubicon? Did Sojourner Truth ride in Washington streetcars? Placing oneself into the hands of a loving, sacrificing God in trust and worship to me means more than mental ascent to any ‘historical fact’–even doctrinal statements. A life in the Spirit of course can include that, but if a different understanding of history is present I feel that it does not preclude a vibrant ‘Cruciform life’ in Jesus.

    Thank you for your thought provoking post,
    Ryan McGivern

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