Friday's Discussion

This past Friday, the PFC had a very interesting conversation about the importance of the historical veracity of the life of Jesus Christ. I feel we reached a good synthesis of ideas which I here make an attempt to lay out.
The event of the incarnation and atonement are historical incidents. Jesus of Nazareth, according to the record (primarily the canonical Gospels), was a real man who lived, died, came back to life and ascended into heaven. These actions are significant whether we know about them or not (VDB's observation).  Now, if nobody had recorded these actions, if they in fact had happened, that would still be significant (VDB). The fact remains however that these events were recognized for their significance and remembered by a community (RT's observation).  If the events had not been recognized for their significance, not recorded, and subsequently not remembered - i.e., the Church did not start - this would cast doubt on the crucial claim of the man Jesus (RT, see note below regarding the crucial claim of Christ). This doubt, however, would not be sufficient for dismissing the reality of Christ's actions; the observation and recognition of an event have no bearing on whether an event actually happened (VDB).  Now, the fact that the Church did indeed recognize and preserve the history of Jesus is good evidence to suggest that, in fact, it did happen, and that the event did have the meaning that it is alleged to have. The effect that Christ claimed to come to enact has indeed happened (i.e., his claim to be an atoning sacrifice, seeing the fruits of that sacrifice in a community that responded to his atoning work), supporting favourably the claims made that what he did in his life, death, and resurrection really mattered.

The theological significance of Christ has no foundation without the actual real events (VDB). But it seems significant that we know about the event, and the significance of the event due to the work of the Church, that community that continues to embody Christ and is made up of individuals who have been radically affected by the event of Christ (RT). The event is not logically contingent on the change it affects, but it would be reasonable to doubt the veracity of the claims surrounding the event if no change was affected. (Note: My understanding is that Christ's claim is that he is God which I understand as being closely accompanied by the claim that he would, in the words of Isaiah, "set the captives free" and build his Church. His primary claim would be suspect if the secondary claims that are closely associated with it did not occur. At best I would suggest a suspension of belief because of our inability to know; luckily, there is evidence that those secondary claims occurred, allowing for belief in the primary claim.)

Is it not wonderful that there was a community that recognized that Jesus truly was the son of God and recorded the historical events of his life, alerting us to the fact that he indeed did matter? Now let us gaze upon the Risen Christ in thanksgiving for the work of his life, and the continued work of his body the Church.