Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interviewing the Eye Witnesses

Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)
Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

The other day I got into a discussion with an old friend from high school. Our lives have taken very different paths. Last I actually saw him face to face he was on his way to become a pastor, I was on my way to do anything but become a pastor. He had been swept up by the evangelical movement, and to be honest I didn’t see that keeping his attention for very long. Well I’m not bringing this up to get into my views of American Evangelicalism. But when he left that church body he seems to have left with a vengeance. He pretty much claims atheism, and seems to be a fairly angry one at that, though he claims not to be angry. I’ll say he is not indifferent. He reads a lot of atheist literature today, literature that when I have dabbled into it, I have found to be quite shallow of thought, perhaps as shallow as the American Evangelical lit I find myself reading from time to time. And I do wish Christian Apologists would spend a little more time getting a grip on the gospel. William Lane Craig convinces me of the existence of God, but he makes me run from what he calls the gospel. Scary.
The thing is though, my friend wanted to challenge my reliance on the New Testament Gospel Narratives as being reliable histories. He kept claiming an bias on behalf of the disciples, a conflict of interest and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t see their conflict of interest. I still don’t. I think he might be confused as to what a conflict of interest is. He merely thought that they had a conflict of interest because they want us to believe what they wrote. Well of course they did. I like people to believe what I write about my experiences too. I hardly hear someone telling us Malcom X had a conflict of interest in writing his memoirs. He may have had a point if he would have been able to show that what they wrote was obviously false by what was written, historical events that didn’t happen and so forth. What he had was an attempt to discount an eyewitness account of the resurrection apriori, that is beforehand, before looking at the evidence presented. He may have had a point if he could show that the disciples had lived extravagant lives off the dreams of the poor. As it is, the disciples gave up fairly good livings to be beaten and stoned for what everyone wants to say was a lie. If it was a lie, it was unbeknownst to the disciples. People die for lies, but not lies they know to be lies. At anytime the disciples could have given up the message and gone back to lives as middle class fisherman and tax collectors etc.
Luke here says he is interviewing eyewitnesses for the compilation of his gospel. He actually shows he is a competent historian. His account is perhaps the most detailed, even if he was not an eyewitness himself. One has to judge his work on the same merits as one would judge the merits of any other work of history from that time. Doing this it holds up, that is if you don’t rule out the use of miracles apriori. You can do that, but doing it you are committing a huge logical fallacy.

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