Christianity is at its nature experiential. Jesus challenged his followers to:
“Taste and see,”
“Come all who are weary, “
“He who has ears let him hear,”
“Ask, seek, knock…”
Jesus commanded His followers to experience Him. This experience, of course, transcended the tactile and entered into the realm of contemplation:
“Who do you say that I am?”
“Love the LORD with all your mind.”
“Why do you call me good?”
The sacraments represent a combination of the tactile and the cerebral; they are meant to be an experience. I remember the first time I attended church and noticed carved into the wooden altar the words:
“Do this in remembrance of Me…”
My first question was “Do what, and in remembrance of whom?” Somebody did not do his job because I did not know what I was meant to remember or even who was charging me to remember it. It did not take a very long time before I understood the notion of communion, and that it was a sacrament implemented by Jesus as a reminder of his sacrifice on the cross.
Now when I take the bread and the wine I have my own ritual that goes on in my head as I remember His sacrifice.
It begins with the cerebral
“For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you…” I know that the Apostle Paul is employing technical Rabbinical language to claim that Christ Himself was Paul’s Rabbi and that He entrusted to Paul the importance of the sacrament. I think about Paul’s conversion and subsequent life change; I think about my own conversion and subsequent life change. The experience has begun.
Enter the tactile
For the bread, I put it in my mouth and hold it between my teeth and wait for the Pastor to reach a certain portion of the text; “broken.” “…that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken…’” My teeth crush the bread as I simultaneously picture Jesus on the cross, “broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me…”I remember. The experience is heightened.
For the wine, it begins with the eyes. Red. Red like blood. The perfect blood of Christ that alone can wash away the sins of mankind. I smell the wine and when that first waft hits my olfactory glands I picture Jesus laughing and fellowshipping with His disciples at the last supper- it is bittersweet. I let the wine sit on my tongue and rest in my mouth- it is bittersweet. My savior was tortured and bled, but the blood was necessary because the blood pays the price, it pays the price for the sins of the world. The experience is deepened.
Back to the cerebral
I pray and think about the promise I made to God, “If You can save me, if You can change me, I will do whatever you ask me to do. “ He followed His end of the bargain, now I must follow mine.
Communion ends and the purpose of the Sacrament is accomplished because it stirred in me a cerebral and tactile experience; it reminded me of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Christianity is experiential in nature. The Sacraments are important because they remind us of those key experiences.
With increasing volume and frequency the motivations of the Apostle Paul’s contributions to Christianity have been called into question. For sometime, most critical scholars would not dare to paint Paul in a negative light. Even the Jesus Seminar, the group of skeptics that deny nearly every recorded word of Jesus except for easily recalled platitudes “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render to God, that which is God’s” still accepts the majority of Paul’s writings as authentic. Most critical scholars accept everything from Paul except for the Pastoral Epistles (1st and 2nd Timothy and Titus). Robert Price (who thinks that the extreme skepticism of the Jesus seminar is far too conservative) is one of two New Testament scholars, with pertinent terminal degrees, who argue that Jesus never existed. Even with Price’s extreme skepticism he still held to the authority and authorship of Paul for some time. Price’s view concerning Jesus and Paul however became highly problematic when scholars began to utilize the accepted writings of Paul to refute him. This tactic became so successful that Robert Price eventually relented and…decided that Paul never existed as well.
The problem with Presupposition
The difficulty when considering the New Testament as a purely historical document is that no one is impartial when it comes to this text. It seems there is no one who does not have a strong opinion concerning the New Testament and strong opinions always carry with it the weight of “presupposition” or bias. Humans are already incurably biased (a good litmus test to determine if one is biased, is to simply ask her if she is). People who are the most limited by bias and presupposition will always be the people who think that she is completely free from it. I am horribly biased toward Christianity; it is not only my life but also my livelihood. However, there are a few safeguards I can implement to limit the degree of presupposition when bearing in mind the New Testament, specifically when considering the text purely as an historical document.
Every “skeptic” I dialogue with concerning doubts about the historical reliability of Jesus, The Apostle Paul, or The New Testament has never reached her errant conclusions via a systematic or methodological approach to history—most “skeptics” base her errant conclusions off of vague talking points given by other skeptics. Further, my suspicions concerning lack of method become apparent when the skeptic’s plight for obscurity in history is limited solely to the New Testament. If one is only skeptical concerning the New Testament, then not only is this not true skepticism, but it is presuppositional imbedded skepticism.
Even when pressed, the skeptic cannot even create (or know how to begin to create) a logically consistent and sustainable model of philosophy of history that could be applicable to any historical event, person, or document, let alone the New Testament. My usual response is to (via Socratic method) create a philosophy of history with the skeptic in tow. By the time we have completed the list of desirable attributes for a profitable philosophy of history, the list usually includes every areas of which the New Testament has abundant evidence (Early eye witnesses testimony, multiple eyewitness testimonies, embarrassing facts, enemy attestation, documents that undergo textual criticism, and documents that have a short time frame from when they were written and when the earliest copies were found). At this point, it is quite easy to determine if this skepticism is based on presupposition or not. If after laying out the historical method and how this method provides sufficient evidence for New Testament reliability she is still skeptical then the evidence is not at issue but rather the culprit is presupposition.
Since attacks on Jesus have for the most part completely failed, the source of these attacks has switched targets and become focused on Paul. Thus, instead of questioning the scope of Jesus’ claims, “skeptics” have left Him alone (for now) and have gone after Paul arguing that he never knew Jesus, and that he created a religion independent from Jesus and Jesus’ message. This view will not last long because it is completely absurd. I wish to present a series of evidences, which will not only expose the inherent presupposition against Paul, but also utilize internal Biblical evidence, historiography, and reason to prove that Paul was the disciple of the historical Jesus.