Jesus said, “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning. “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.”
‘We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,’ wrote Paul (1 Corinthians 1:23). What Christians proclaim is an event that has taken place, not a religious system or simply a ‘message’. “The New Testament,” said a scholar, “is neither a collection of thoughtful essays nor an attempt to construct a system of ethics. It bears witness to a unique history, and it discovers the truth in the history.” Paul once tried the way of sweet reason (Acts 17), but people only laughed at him. It may have been at that moment that he found his own voice. From that point on he would proclaim “Christ and him crucified,” the event that was the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
This is why eyewitness and testimony are crucial. Philosophical arguments and theories, while they may propose faith to you, can never bring you there. Some people are hindered rather than helped by them. A scholarly lady said to a confrère of mine, “It was Aquinas’s proofs for the existence of God that brought me into the Church.” “I’m happy for you,” replied my friend, “they almost drove me out of it.” Philosophical arguments, by their very nature, express skepticism and chosen limits to what one is prepared to accept. In some periods of history there was a wide streak of rationalism in theology that alienated many and boxed up the faith in a suffocating system. Traces of this still exist. The faith is not plausible, and any account of it that makes it so is throwing away the kernel of it. There is nothing plausible about existence, or the world, or God, or the Incarnation, or the death of Jesus, or his resurrection…. What we proclaim is not a plausible account of life, a ‘philosophy for the millions,’ made palatable by striking images and stories, but a series of extraordinary events: the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
“You are witnesses of these things,” said Jesus (Luke 28:48). This was spoken to “the eleven and their companions.” But ultimately it is spoken to every disciple. We are to witness what the Spirit, the ‘Advocate’, has witnessed to us in our hearts and in our lives, among the community of believers. We are to speak from experience.
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