Do you have to be saved to properly teach Christianity?

There is a very old argument used by some early Christians that those who are not Christian (or their form of Christianity) have no business discussing Christianity.  That argument still can be found today.  A good example is Mark at Chesterstreet.  He writes (in response to another post in his discussion section):

“Those who are interested in the Bible chiefly as historians of religious literature have naturally little use for the concept of a canon” F F Bruce. How true this is! The unsaved professor instructing students in Christian history will inevitably avoid the historical facts and relationships that divinely marry the Old Testament and New Testament texts into the universal pronouncement of a sovereign God’s incarnation into our human world –Jesus Christ. The necessity of opposing heresies or the quest for political and social power, does not replace the fact that God’s word was not of human invention. In fact, God’s word has been delivered to us – it has always been eternal. The two hundred plus year process of canonization may have been a church task involving men with varying degrees of theological perspectives, but its results- the canon of scripture, was anything but worldly.

 

(I would disagree with this little snippet of FF Bruce, but without seeing the context, I don’t want to argue the point).  Mark misses the point about teaching history. To teach history means to teach facts, or at least what is guessed to be facts (found in primary sources and/or archaeology). He misunderstands what is history and what is belief. If I taught: “The universal pronouncement of a sovereign God’s incarnation into our human world –Jesus Christ” then I would not be teaching history, I would be teaching what someone believes.  Yes, that is what the Bible says, but history cannot show that this Jesus was the incarnation of God on earth.  To teach that someone (whether he is Achilles or Jesus) is the son of a God and the son of a human mother is belief, not history.  Yes, I do think that a man Jesus existed in the first century.  But no one really knows whether he was the son of God or just a good speaker or a good person who later people makes into the son of God.  We cannot prove that Jesus was the son of God and more than we can prove that Achilles was the son of Zeus.  Greeks definitely believed that he was, but that is their belief, not a historical fact.  These statements are based on faith with a tiny bit of history thrown in—but the history has to do with the man Jesus and not the belief that he is God’s incarnation.

He believes that one has to be a saved Christian in order to correctly teach Christian history (many early Christians said the same thing—if you didn’t believe in their form of Christianity then they believed you weren’t qualified to debate Christian issues). If that were true, then I could argue that those who are saved should keep their noses out of making/changing secular laws. I might stop teaching history if all those saved Christians would stop trying to force their religious beliefs on the rest of the population (especially regarding gay marriage and gays having/adopting children and getting equal rights and treatment and so on). But that isn’t going to happen, and I’m not going to stop teaching Christian history. And besides, when I teach Christian history, I do teach about the links between the Old and New Testaments—anyone who knows anything about Christianity knows that it wouldn’t be Christianity without the belief that what is said in the Old refers to what is in the New (Christ).  So to say that an unsaved professor "will inevitably avoid the historical facts and relationships…" is way off the mark and inevitably it puts into question anything this person writes about those who teach Christianity and who are not Christian.  I’m not afraid to teach the links between the Old and New.  However, I’m also not afraid to state that Christians believe that there are links.  I am also not afraid to ask my students to think about asking a person in the Jewish faith about these ‘links’ and what kind of a response that person would give.   And the answer is that the Jewish person does not believe that the Old is referring to what will come in the New Testament. And I am even careful about using the words Old and New, since saying ‘Old Testament’ automatically assumes there is a New that comes after.  To the Jewish person, their Bible is not the Old Testament–it is the Jewish Bible. 

And I could go on and on about the fact that regardless of the canon, you must look at the history of the texts themselves. We don’t have the original New or Old Testament. Period. What we have is a best guess by scholars on what the original probably looked like. All you have to do is pick up a decent Greek or Hebrew bible and look at the critical apparatus—it shows the manuscript differences and the text itself that we have today is a best guess. It is a good guess, but I wouldn’t stake my life on the idea that the text we have today is EXACTLY what the text looked like when it was written out (and with the New Testament we are looking at around 40 years of written material). People can believe that what they read in the Bible is God’s word, but history shows something slightly different.  At best, what we have today as the Bible and God’s word is a best guess.  Until someone digs up the actual letters of Paul and the others who wrote the New Testament, then we are stuck guessing. 

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2 Responses to Do you have to be saved to properly teach Christianity?

  1. Robert says:

    I personally feel that those who have studied History and Theology, are far more qualified to teach the Bible. Historical accounts and the Bible are two important factors when teaching Christianity, without knowing or including Historical Accounts, I think you can easily be swayed to believe the junk that comes from Fundamentalist. The Bible should never be taken literal, but rather as this what some people felt about God, but in the end from a spirtual stand point it is up to us to decide what is right for us, just like the writers of the Bible did.

  2. Rob says:

    Of course there was a Jesus in the first century.  There were lots of them.  There are lots of people named Jesus today, maybe that\’s what they mean with him being immortal.  And as any Jew will tell you, the bible Jesus didn\’t fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah.

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