Questions and observations for discussion:
1. Basically every Christian must ask the question, “What is the truth of the gospel?” What is it that made and makes the N.T. revelation of God in Jesus Christ believable?
Many Christians base their belief in Jesus on another belief, i.e. their belief that the New Testament is the “Word of God,” that it is authoritative because it is inspired by God. But one must ask, what about the thousands in the first few centuries who never had a New Testament as we have it? Our New Testament only found its final form of twenty-seven documents in 367 A.D. Before that there were various smaller or larger collections that included documents that were appropriately left out of the final N.T. canon.
Ultimately the N.T. is the repository of the eye-witnesses of Jesus and their close associates. What makes the content of their remembrances and interpretations any more believable, authoritative, and inspired than the those of the followers of, e.g., Buddha?
Is it the coherence between their words and their lives? the coherence of the teaching and life of Jesus himself as reported by them? the fulfillment of messianic prophecy from the Old Testament? the fact that Jesus himself made claims to be God (see John 8:58)? Are all these things proofs?
One must admit that there is also a palpable coherence between the teaching and the life of Buddha? What gives Jesus’ teaching and life a claim to greater truth?
While there were many who chose to believe him, there also were many who did not. Was this simply because some opened themselves to experience God as revealed by Jesus and found that it truly put their lives together in a way that nothing else did, while others never opened themselves to that journey for whatever reason? How important is ‘experience’ in coming to belief? See 1 Peter 2:3 (Psalms 34:8).
2. How can eternal truth reside in the particularity of history without being integrally distorted and compromised?
Today we tend to want dramatic evidences for the “truth” of Jesus and bypass the very fundamental fact that God did not reveal Himself in Christ in a dramatic way, but chose for him to appear in a political backwater of the Roman empire, in an ignominious town in Palestine, in the home of a simple carpenter, in ordinary human flesh. How can John subsequently move from “the Word was God” (John 1:1) to the word of life “which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands” (1 John 1:1)? What is the relation between eternal truth and historical manifestation? Apart from our arguments regarding the atonement, was incarnation necessary?
3. What is the connection between what Jesus taught and how he lived (and died!) that lights the flame of belief in human hearts? Was it primarily with compelling propositional truths or with his paradoxes of life and death that he draws us? See Mark 15:39. How important a part of all this is the witness to his resurrection? See 1 Cor 15.