In my previous post in this series, I talked about a discussion group I was a part of at our local university with one of the founders of the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar was a group of scholars intent on debunking the historical accuracy of the Gospels. They said what the Gospels tell us about Jesus cannot be trusted but that they can get behind the Gospels and relay to us what Jesus was really like. Today this mantle has been taken up by Reza Aslan and his best selling book, Zealot. In this post, I will focus more on the Jesus Seminar than on Reza Aslan as I am not sure what Aslan believes about the point I making.
In one session of the discussion group I attended, the Jesus Seminar scholar was talking about the historical accuracy of the story of Jesus walking on the water. He said it was impossible for the story to be true because no human being can walk on water. Another participant in the group who was known for his scepticism about historic Christianity turned to me and said he wanted to know what I thought about this. I said something like, “It seems to me that his conclusion was predetermined by what presuppositions he started with about whether miracles were possible.” To my surprise, he agreed with me.
In other words, if you are a secular fundamentalist and refuse to acknowledge the possibility of supernatural events in the world, you will refuse to recognize them because of your prior philosophical commitments even if a miracle is staring you in the face. This seems to me to be a very narrow minded approach in evaluating historical evidence by deciding in advance what it could possibly be. But the Jesus Seminar scholars and their supporters advocate this very closed minded methodology.
On the other hand, if you start with the presupposition that it is possible there is a God who can supernaturally act in this world, then you would be willing to consider the possibility that a historical account of a miracle was true. If you simply allow for this possibility, then there is nothing improbable about the biblical account of the miracles of Jesus. Then you can evaluate the account using the other tools of historical investigation.
My point is that sceptical evaluations of the historical truthfulness of the Gospels is often not driven by historical analysis but by philosophical prejudice.