Unit 4: Objective Nature of Christianity
We are going to begin our study by defining it, by defining what it is and what it is not. We want to make the definition by means of a contrast. We want to contrast the objective nature of historical Christian religion with religious subjectivism. Subjectivism is not hard to define. And once we define it, it will not be hard to identify.
Subjectivism is really an appeal to what we FEEL is a proof that something happened in the past. Now, of course, there is no substance in that. There is no evidence of a material nature or of an historical nature. But people are operating on it. Many a person today is saying, “ I know that I am saved because I feel like it in my heart.” But the Bible never defines for us what it “feels like” to be saved. Now, granted, when a person is saved he ought to have the joy of his salvation. But isn’t it also true that a false teacher can bring false teaching to sincere people and convince some of those people that what he has is true?
Some will accept it and think they are saved and go on their way “feeling saved”, when in fact they are not. Can’t we see that subjectivism is a very dangerous thing? As a matter of fact, people would try to prove that Jesus Christ has been resurrected from the dead by means of a feeling they have in their heart. Today, there are people who actually say, “I know that Jesus is alive. I know that He was resurrected from the dead because He is in my heart.”
Surely everybody ought to be able to figure out that we are not going to be able to prove that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead or anything else happened in the first century because of a modern emotion that takes place within a man’s breast (or head). But that is the idea of subjectivism.
LESSON AIM: To define and contrast subjectivism with the objective nature of Historical Christianity and understand the danger of subjectivism.
Learn the definition of subjectivism and the Bible’s warning against it.
Become aware that Christianity is an historical religion supported by reliable eyewitness testimony.
Learn the Proposition Statement and the Methodology of our study.
SUBJECTIVISM DEFINED AND EXPLAINED
- It is an Appeal to one’s Feelings
o Its danger – It can make a person believe something is true when in fact it isn’t
o Its Latitude – It could also prove other religions. (Hindu, Muslim, Islam)
- God’s Word is to be the standard, Numbers 15: 37 – 40 ”When you see the blue garment in your clothing, you are to remember to keep the commandments of God.” Remember the word of God:
o Remember the blue cord
o Remember not to follow after your heart and not to follow after your eyes.
- Man’s Heart Not a Source of Reliable Facts, Proverbs 28:26 ”The man that trusts in his heart is a fool.”
- The Heart Corrupted By Sin – Not to be trusted, Jeremiah 17:9 ”The heart is deceitful above all things. It is exceedingly corrupt. Who can know it?”
- Feelings Are Not To Determine Truth, Pro 14:12; 16:25 ”There is a way that seems right unto man but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (See Proverbs 16:25)
- Man’s Way Is Not In Himself, Jer 10:23 ”Oh, Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man that walks to direct his steps.”
o There is not a man that tries to go the right way, do the right thing, but that he will fail to do it without God’s word as his counselor
o Jeremiah knew this because God revealed it to him.
The bible, then, is very clear. There is a danger in religious subjectivism. It can lead people to think things are true when they are not. It can lead people to accept false religion when they should not. The Bible position is: You are not to follow after what you feel. Subjectivism is no proof that Christianity is true.
THE OBJECTIVE NATURE OF THE HISTORICAL CHRISTIAN RELIGION
THE NATURE OF Christianity is historical and redemptive, not simply moral. Morality is certainly inherent in its nature, but its great thrust is redemption from the death penalty. Its promise is eternal life. No social gospel or moralistic doctrine can make good on promises like that. Only Christ’s own sinless life, substitution death, and resurrection has power to bring that about. It is essential, therefore that a truly sinless life, a real death by crucifixion, and a resurrection back to life in his own body be experienced by a genuinely historic Jesus in order to give power to Christianity’s claim to a future life without end. (The case for Historic Christianity, Ed Wharton, p. 1)
A: Christianity is a Historical Religion
- Christianity is a space-time religion.
- Christianity is not grounded upon teachings.
- Christianity is grounded upon events that took place in history.
iii. Apart from the New Testament we cannot know what happened.
- How do we know that Christianity’s events occurred? How do we know:
- There was a man named Jesus?
- Jesus Christ fed 5,000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread?
iii. Jesus raised the dead or that He was raised from the dead?
- How do we know anything happened in the past? How do we know:
- That Napoleon Bonaparte was soundly defeated by Wellington at a place called Waterloo?
- That George Washington was the first president of the USA?
- There is only one way for people to know what has happened in the past when they weren’t there to observe it, and that is by historical testimony. That is exactly what the New Testament is, a history book.
NOTE: While ancient Oriental cults linked the annual cycle of winter and summer to the death and resurrection of the mythical Adonis, Christianity deals with no such mythology. It offers to us a real historical founder, plus accounts of His remarkable death, burial and resurrection in well written documents which have passed the most severe tests known to us today for historical accuracy and authenticity. Christianity exists now because of what happened to the historical Jesus. It is not the result of doctrines and principles, but of events in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.
B: The Bible is a Historical Book
- Christianity comes from historical eyewitness testimony. We know that things happened in the past because it is recorded in reliable historical documents.
- If the New Testament is a reliable historical document:
o Then there was a Nazarene named Jesus and He claimed to be the Son of God
o Then when it says Jesus walked on water, He did!
o When it says that He fed 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of bread, He did!
o When it says that He raised the dead and was raised from the dead, He did and He was!
NOTE: there are records from the past, which we have every reason to believe, are true since both archaeology and contemporary documents from the same time zone have confirmed their general reliability. Whether we believe the Bible is the word of God or not, one thing is for sure. If is is a history book, then these things are true.
C: An Example of Historical Context, Luke 1 1- 4
Written to Theophilus an official in the imperial network of the Roman empire. “Most excellent Theophilus.”
Three times in the book of Acts (also written by Luke) the phase “most excellent” is used of Roman governors.
This man had access to the police files.
He had access to records.
He Would be able to check things out to know whether or not they were so.
He had been instructed in the way of Christ. Luke opens his account to Theophilus by assuring him that the material he was about to read had been carefully researched, secured from eyewitnesses, that the material was accurate, and that the events were to be presented “in order” of their occurrence. Then he states the reason for such precision of research and accuracy of writing: “that thou mightest know the certainty concerning the things wherein thou was instructed” (Luke 1:4).
NOTE: What Luke claims then is that his book is reliable historical testimony, that it contains the facts as they literally and really happened.
Your new Testament records the events that eyewitnesses like Matthew and John and peter and Paul and careful researchers like Luke and others, the authors, the writers of the new Testament were able to record.
The ground of our faith is the testimony of eyewitnesses. John 19:35 “He that hath seen hath born witness and his witness is true and he knoweth that he saith true that you may believe” JOHN SAID:
“What I am writing is what I saw.”
“I was a participant in what I saw.”
“I know it is true, and I am writing that you might believe.”
The testimony of Thomas the apostle, John 20:24 – 29 “My Lord and my God.”
NOTE: Why do we believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead? Not because of a feeling or an existential experience. We believe because of men like Thomas and Matthew and John and Peter and others who saw and recorded their eyewitness testimony.
D: The propositional Statement and Methodology of Study
Propositional Statement (The thing to be proven): “There is abundant evidence from historical sources which is adequate to prove that Jesus is the Son of God and the Bible is the word of God.”
The Methodology (How to prove the proposition): A Two-fold methodology
“To establish the historical reliability of the New Testament documents – to prove to you that the New Testament is a history book.”
“To reason those historical evidences which the New Testament contains, and by a systematic argumentation of thse facts to the conclusion that Jesus is the Son ofGod and the Bible is the word of God.”
Here is the beginning place for an investigation into the genuineness of Christianity. It must begin with a real historic space-time Jesus for apart from His own historical existence neither redemption nor resurrection could amount to any more than pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by.
Belief is the result of an honest evaluation of reliable, convincing evidence. An unwavering faith in God, Christ as the Son of God and the Bible as God’s Word must be grounded on actual documented evidence rather than being inherited from our family or derived from our feelings. The case for belief is not to be found in either science or philosophy.
Christian Evidences seek to confirm the Deity of Christ and the inspiration of the Bible by presenting various evidences to substantiate this. The historical approach of Christian Evidences seeks to confirm that the Christian faith rests upon a reliable foundation of historical facts. These facts of history from the basis of the evidences for belief. It is this kind of evidence, its historical reliability and its weight in relation to the Biblical claim, which we shall investigate during this course.