Allowing that the gospels contain "stories which we may reasonably suspect of being metaphysical fables", Swinburne insists that they are "a basically reliable source of information about the life of Jesus". Of course, Jesus did not go about saying, "I am God", yet "the historical evidence of the actions as well as the words of Jesus are such as we would expect if Jesus did teach that he was divine".
Thus, Jesus was not revealed to be divine only at the Resurrection, or in the Easter experience of the disciples, as some theologians would maintain. Without quoting any of them, Swinburne obviously aligns himself with the small, though perhaps increasing, number of New Testament scholars who would conclude from the evidence that Jesus knew all along that he was divine.
Much more adventurously, in an intellectual climate in which Christian fundamentalism and militant atheism often seem the loudest voices, Richard Swinburne argues, against both, that the key doctrines about Jesus - that he was God Incarnate, atoned for our sins, rose from the dead, and founded the Church - each is at least "moderately probable", in terms of sheer logic. It is an exercise in what Catholics used to call natural theology that would have taken St Thomas' breath away.
Read it all.
To comment on this article: To article and comments
© 2013 Kendall S. Harmon. All rights reserved.
For original material from Titusonenine (such as articles and commentary by Dr. Harmon) permission to copy and distribute free of charge is granted, provided this notice, the logo, and the web site address are visible on all copies. For permission for use in for-profit publications, please email KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com