As a New Testament scholar I often hear statements such as these: “One has to be pretty naive to accept at face value what the New Testament writers say about their motives”; or “New Testament documents tell us more about the authors who wrote them than they do about the events they purport to relate”; or “No one can claim to be a scholar who accepts the New Testament’s account of the Resurrection”; or “I don’t mind singing the Apostles’ Creed, but I hesitate to say it.”
What all these supposed maxims have in common is their skepticism regarding the truth value of the New Testament’s presentations, as well as of all later statements that take seriously the truth of those presentations. Scholarship is not averse to descriptive analyses of what the New Testament writers believed and taught, or of how the early Christians acted out those beliefs. That is, in fact, what biblical scholarship today is all about. The truth value of what is studied, however, is another question.
Skepticism regarding the truth value of what appears in the New Testament is far more prevalent than we evangelicals like to admit. And it seems to be growing. This skepticism today seems to have at least two sources. On the popular front, the shenanigans and outright sins of some TV preachers cast a veil of suspicion over all religious statements. Deceit and duplicity, of course, have also been uncovered in politics, business, and sports. But the public rightly judges those more harshly who hide their sinful activities under a cloak of religiosity.
On the academic front, human experience and reason still reign supreme as the arbiters of truth. “Openness to transcendence” is a stance rarely taken, and any idea of the divine inspiration of the apostolic witness ...1
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