The Relevance of Historical Evidence for Christian Faith

Faith and Philosophy 7 (4):470-485 (1990)
Abstract
If we assume that Christian faith involves a propositional component whose content is historical, then the question arises as to whether Christian faith must be based on historical evidence, at least in part. One of Kierkegaard’s pseudonyms, Johannes Climacus, argues in Philosophical Fragments that though faith does indeed have such an historical component, it does not depend on evidence, but rather on a first-hand experience of Jesus for which historical records serve only as an occasion. I argue that Climacus’ accountis coherent, and that on such a view historical evidence is not sufficient for faith for anyone. However, in contrast to Climacus, I argue that evidence might still be valuable and even necessary for some people. The resulting danger that the decision about faith might become a question for scholarship is best met, not by insulating faith from historical scholarship, but by recognizing the ability of faith to supply a context in which the evidence available is sufficient
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