“Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?”: 2009 Theological Discussion Series by Fr. Manuel Francisco, S.J. of the Loyola House of Studies

Event: Doctrine: Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? (2009 Theological Discussion Series)
With Fr. Manuel Francisco, SJ
Time: 8-10 p.m.
Date: Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Venue: LST, Loyola Heights Campus
Remarks: Fees: Php 2,000.00/module; Php 7,200.00 for 4 modules
Contact Information: Grace Oconer at (63-2) 426-6430 to 35 local 3606, (0916) 535-0862 or marygraceoconer@gmail.com

Source: Ateneo de Manila University website (sidebar announcement dated 23 Sep 2009)

My guess is that this talk will be about the book of the same name: “Will the Real Jesus please stand up?: A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan,” edited by Paul Copan. Here’s an editorial review from Library Journal:

This book, which presents a recent debate between a former co-chair of the Jesus Seminar and an Evangelical scholar, as well as follow-up responses by four other New Testament scholars, brings the reader effectively and movingly into the heart of the contemporary fideist-evidentialist debate about the reality and meaning of Jesus’ life and teachings. Editor Copan (Who Was Jesus?, Word Pub., 1996) gives Craig’s conservatism the last word, but readers of many different convictions will find ample food for thought here.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Fideism and Evidentialism are defined as follows:

Fideism is a philosophical term meaning a system of philosophy or an attitude of mind, which, denying the power of unaided human reason to reach certitude, affirms that the fundamental act of human knowledge consists in an act of faith, and the supreme criterion of certitude is authority. (Sauvage, G. (1909). Fideism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved September 22, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06068b.htm)

Evidentialism is a theory of justification according to which whether a belief is justified depends solely on what a person’s evidence is. Technically, though belief is typically the primary object of concern, evidentialism can be applied to doxastic attitudes generally. Formulating evidentialism in terms of the doxastic attitude of belief its most-defended form comes from Conee and Feldman: Belief B toward proposition p is epistemically justified for S at t if and only if B fits the evidence S has at t. (Wikipedia)

The Catholic Church allows debate on theological ideas as long as the Church has not yet made a definite doctrinal statement.  Let me quote what G. K Chesterton said in his essay, “Why I am Catholic“:

Nine out of ten of what we call new ideas are simply old mistakes. The Catholic Church has for one of her chief duties that of preventing people from making those old mistakes; from making them over and over again forever, as people always do if they are left to themselves. The truth about the Catholic attitude towards heresy, or as some would say, towards liberty, can best be expressed perhaps by the metaphor of a map. The Catholic Church carries a sort of map of the mind which looks like the map of a maze, but which is in fact a guide to the maze. It has been compiled from knowledge which, even considered as human knowledge, is quite without any human parallel.  There is no other case of one continuous intelligent institution that has been thinking about thinking for two thousand years. Its experience naturally covers nearly all experiences; and especially nearly all errors. The result is a map in which all the blind alleys and bad roads are clearly marked, all the ways that have been shown to be worthless by the best of all evidence: the evidence of those who have gone down them.

On this map of the mind the errors are marked as exceptions. The greater part of it consists of playgrounds and happy hunting-fields, where the mind may have as much liberty as it likes; not to mention any number of intellectual battle-fields in which the battle is indefinitely open and undecided. But it does definitely take the responsibility of marking certain roads as leading nowhere or leading to destruction, to a blank wall, or a sheer precipice. By this means, it does prevent men from wasting their time or losing their lives upon paths that have been found futile or disastrous again and again in the past, but which might otherwise entrap travelers again and again in the future. The Church does make herself responsible for warning her people against these; and upon these the real issue of the case depends. She does dogmatically defend humanity from its worst foes, those hoary and horrible and devouring monsters of the old mistakes. Now all these false issues have a way of looking quite fresh, especially to a fresh generation.

In his encyclical, Lamentabili Sane, Pope Pius X clearly marked out ideas which, to use Chesterton’s language, are “roads leading nowhere or leading to destruction, to a blank wall, or sheer precipice.”  These ideas are the Modernist heresies which we must be on guard whenever we ask the question, “Will the Real Jesus please stand up?”:

27. The divinity of Jesus Christ is not proved from the Gospels. It is a dogma which the Christian conscience has derived from the notion of the Messias.

28. While He was exercising His ministry, Jesus did not speak with the object of teaching He was the Messias, nor did His miracles tend to prove it.

29. It is permissible to grant that the Christ of history is far inferior to the Christ Who is the object of faith.

30 In all the evangelical texts the name “Son of God” is equivalent only to that of “Messias.” It does not in the least way signify that Christ is the true and natural Son of God.

31. The doctrine concerning Christ taught by Paul, John, and the Councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon is not that which Jesus taught but that which the Christian conscience conceived concerning Jesus.

32. It is impossible to reconcile the natural sense of the Gospel texts with the sense taught by our theologians concerning the conscience and the infallible knowledge of Jesus Christ.

33 Everyone who is not led by preconceived opinions can readily see that either Jesus professed an error concerning the immediate Messianic coming or the greater part of His doctrine as contained in the Gospels is destitute of authenticity.

34. The critics can ascribe to Christ a knowledge without limits only on a hypothesis which cannot be historically conceived and which is repugnant to the moral sense. That hypothesis is that Christ as man possessed the knowledge of God and yet was unwilling to communicate the knowledge of a great many things to His disciples and posterity.

35. Christ did not always possess the consciousness of His Messianic dignity.

36. The Resurrection of the Savior is not properly a fact of the historical order. It is a fact of merely the supernatural order (neither demonstrated nor demonstrable) which the Christian conscience gradually derived from other facts.

37. In the beginning, faith in the Resurrection of Christ was not so much in the fact itself of the Resurrection as in the immortal life of Christ with God.

38. The doctrine of the expiatory death of Christ is Pauline and not evangelical.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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