The following discussions can be attested by my personal presence at both the 2008 Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting and the 2010 Wheaton annual conference as a witness to the dynamics of Wright and Hays’ exchange of views.
Wrights asks: how do we know what the gospel witness (ie. the Evangelists) see if we don’t share their perspective by also turning our head to what their fingers are pointing at and seeing with our naked eyes?
(by naked, we are actually talking about critical realism as a historical approach and biblical criticism.)
This to me is a valid concern. It is acknowledged that each Gospel has its individual shape and distinctive voice, grouped together within the accumulated church tradition as the canonical gospels. In some sense, the Bible itself is part of the church tradition as the formal principle of Christianity. We also agree that the distinctiveness concerning literary and theological shape of each particular Gospel will be fuller appreciated only if we are able to test it against certain valid, tested historical backdrops—even though we also know that reconstruction of history is never value-neutral and hermeneutically worry-free.
Or, taking a step back and practically speaking, the fact that we have the G/John at least tells us that understanding Jesus as the divine logos incarnated is certainly not a post-Constantine invention, but rather may well have its first-century roots. If most of us are ready to admit that synoptic gospels are not just about factual history, and G/John is not just about saga or theology, either, then Why should John the Evangelist’s voice be excluded in Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God (1996)?
However, more issues will arise when the historical facts we possess seem to lead us to call into question the intention of our church fathers. As the case has already shown, what had meant ‘“the kingdom of God has come upon you” concerning Jesus in the first century has been developed/twisted to mean « Jesus is the divine logos incarnated as second person of the Trinity » in the fifth century. How do we deal with new-found truth of theological procession?
Are we more apostolic by believing in Wright’s reconstruction of the 1st century apostolic faith or by clinging to the not-so-infallible church tradition even in light of this new-found truth? Or is there even a third way given that history and tradition are always in the making?
As a postliberal who also works with Wright, I cannot help but want to ask: once we allow revisionism based on historical considerations to plague the very Church Councils that have given us the canonical-Christocentric framework and Trinitarian perspective to understand the Scripture, how do we ensure that one day the historical insights we gain will not lead us to challenge the truthfulness of our dear gospel witnesses?
In other words—borrowing the premise in the Resurrection of the Son of God (2003; the book by Wright which I am translating into Chinese), what would happen to our understanding of the gospel and our faith had the historical evidence been overwhelmingly arguing against the historicity of Christ’s resurrection?
Will that call for all of us to become a Bultmannian neo-orthodox then?
Welcome to the biblical playground of fides quaerens intellectum.
via Near Emmaus