Presentation on theme: "Miracles and History: Martin. * Martin addresses himself to the challenge posed to students of history by analyses of miracles like Hume's (or Spinoza's)."— Presentation transcript:
Miracles and History: Martin
* Martin addresses himself to the challenge posed to students of history by analyses of miracles like Hume's (or Spinoza's). * As he summarizes it, the challenge is that historical analysis would seem to be the appropriate context for deciding whether reports of miracles like the resurrection of Jesus, but arguments like Hume's seem to require historians to rule the possibility out in advance. * Martin wants to carve out some space in which legitimate historical work on miracles could be responsibly conducted.
* Martin begins his discussion with a review of the major historical discussions of the life of Jesus. * As he summarizes the history of these historical discussions, he observes that a substantial obstacle to any such discussion is cultural or theological bias. * Early discussions of the life of Jesus had a very explicit Christian and theological point of view (cf. 414c1-2). * In order to overcome this bias, more recent historians have tried to approach the life of Jesus from an explicitly a-theological standpoint. * Marin thinks that they've failed in this, not because of bad faith, but because the task is impossible (there's always an implicit theology at work).
* Martin reviews the work of a number of historians whose work has focused on the life of Jesus. Sanders serves as a paradigmatic example of Martin's concerns. * For Sanders, historical inquiry into the life of Jesus must be dominated by the ideal of disinterestedness: an historian should have no stake in the religious or theological implications of their work. * As Martin highlights, however, that does not mean that Sanders does not have a point of view. As Martin reads him, Sanders is a "methodological naturalist:" someone who believes that "the world is a closed causal system" (415c1). * This commitment turns out to have some significant theological commitments: Sanders's reluctance to address the possible truth of the theology implicit in the gospels turns out on Martin's reading to mask an implicit anti-theology (see the quotations on 415c1-2 and 419c2.)
* Other historians (Meier and Crossan) fall prey to the same error in their own ways, but this should not be surprising, suggests Martin. * After all, it is not only historians which are methodological naturalist/atheists: all scientists (disinterested researchers) are (419c1). * The difficulty for Martin in this is that he assumes that all methodological naturalists have a "secular faith," the conviction that the world is as they methodologically assume that it is. * But, as Martin quickly points out, even today we are far from being able to provide a complete naturalistic account of things. * As such, he insists, it should be, "rationally permissible for someone to leave the matter open" (421c1).
* In contrast to a historian like Morton Smith (inset, p. 416), who insists that the work of a historian identifying the most probable explanation of a past event precludes the possibility of an active, intervening divinity, Martin believes that the standards governing historical studies are consistent with this possibility. * In order to motivate his account of this consistency, he first considers the work of theologically oriented participants in the historical studies of Jesus.
* Martin turns to the work of two individuals who are critical of the insistence on methodological naturalism. * Evans is a conservative Christian philosopher who criticizes work like that of Sanders on the basis of their implicit philosophical assumptions, insisting that they are inconsistent with the task of identifying the historical significance of Jesus (which may just be as the word made flesh). * Dunn, on the other hand, is much more sympathetic with the methodological naturalists, but he too ultimately parts with them, concluding that there is sound historical evidence for concluding that Jesus was resurrected. * Martin is ultimately dissatisfied with both approaches. Evans plays too fast and loose with his theology and Dunn seems as implicitly motivated by belief as the others did by non- belief.
* Martin thinks he's identified a hidden middle- ground between methodological naturalism and methodological theism: Faith-History. * Faith-History is the consequence of adopting three methodological principles: 1.Generally, a historian should work as a methodological naturalist. 2.However, such a historian should be willing to specify certain circumstances in which this basic methodological commitment should be suspended. 3.Then, the historian should specify which method to use in those specific instances.
* Clearly, the third step is the tricky one. * Martin suggests that what is required is an explicitly theological treatment of the apparently super-natural abilities of certain historical figures (e.g., Jesus), while explicitly limiting the scope of such treatments to the actions of only those figures (that is, holding on to as much naturalism as possible). * How is this different from folks like Dunn (or Meier)? Only in that the theology is explicit. * Does this solve the problem?