Sunday, April 29, 2012

Family Life in an Orthodox Rhythm
James Chastek, Two truths in theology and history

Per impossibile, what if there were rock-solid evidence that Christ didn't rise from the dead? I just find the hypothetical question posed rather baffling. "Assume we have, say, rock solid evidence that Pilate was a no-nonsense judge, with no scruples about killing anyone for the sake of order (I’ve heard historians modify or contest this, but assume that it is firmly established)."

What what the rock solid evidence be? Some record, some testimony, plus some reasoning on the part of the historian. Can a historian ever capture the full character or personality of a historical person? It is questionable whether we can even do that with respect to the people we "know."

Mr. Chastek writes at the end:

The Christian can point to the fact that it is possible that the accounts are true, but is it necessary that he be able to transmute possibility into a historically reasonable claim? So do we have some sort of “two truths” doctrine here? In fact, if historical truth is what the theologian calls a probable opinion, and the theologian can admit that some historical facts need not be the ones that are most probable given the historical evidence we have, is there even a tension between the two truths? Why can’t something that is in fact false be what is most probable given the historical evidence that we have?

Any evidence we have is some sort of testimony and subjected to criteria pertaining to trustworthiness/credibility. If history cannot attain the level of certitude necessary for a science, then this isn't really a problem of "two truths, " is it? Can we say that the history given within Sacred Scripture is more reliable than anything constructed by human historians working without the aid of the Holy Spirit? Why not? In addition, isn't the testimony of the authors of Sacred Scripture one more historical source that must be taken into consideration by the secular historian? On what a priori basis can he exclude it as being unreliable?