Holloway on… Sacramentum Mundi: The Evidence for Jesus
The Evidence for Jesus
In this Editorial in FAITH of May/June 1985 Fr.Holloway reflected on a recent TV programme, “The Evidence for Jesus”, which took a sceptical approach to the reliability of the New Testament.
The modern man or woman looks at the “Evidence for Jesus”, especially the factual evidence of the Bible, Old Testament and New, and murmurs “It was all an awful long time ago. Nobody can be really sure what happened”. Is it fair to say that 2,000 years of time and cultural upheaval, must dim the credibility of evidence that is so far back in time? It surely must — so vast a lapse of time lessens the credibility of faith based upon such an historical record. The modern mind says, the ordinary man in the club says, “People were simple in those days, they knew nothing about what we know of the world and the universe. They could not even tell the difference for sure between illness and being possessed by the Devil. Anything that happened which they could not understand, they thought had been done by God directly.” In fact the evidence for Jesus has to be much more than that. It has to be faith from the evidence for the activity of God in human history.
The subconscious presumption of the mandarins of the Media establishment is that of an ancient Protestantism which they have long since abandoned: that faith comes from hearing or reading the “word” and the word is the Bible, more particularly the New Testament. So they say, “Let us consider how reliable is this word.” One must say that for the Non-Catholic Christian, faith must in any case become more agnostic with time, because in fact their belief is based only on the Bible, and any word written 2,000 years ago, and understood only as testimony is a dead word, and an uncertain word. We cannot ask it questions. The Non Catholic Christian does not admit any power on earth that can, or that does preach, teach, and define with an objective certainty. That was made pathetically clear in the recent  Synod of the Anglican Church, in which the Archbishop of Canterbury rejected demands to define objective belief, against the doubts of the bishop of Durham and others. It was not he said “our way to tie things down in rigid formulae … it is in any case impossible to attempt to define Mystery”. Yet, those ancient creeds did attempt to define Mystery. They did not pretend to exhaust it, but they meant just what they said in such terms as “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father” and so forth…
God as “Living Context”
First, let it be clear that for the Catholic, the motives of credibility that buttress ‘faith’ are not the taking of the words of Holy Writ as an historic record simply. We should not even say that our faith stands on Scripture and Tradition, as if these were two distinct sources. We believe from Scripture with Apostolic Tradition. The written Scripture is part of the living tradition of the Apostles’ preaching; it was conceived within that tradition .prior to being written down. It was written a
the teaching of that tradition, and it is interpreted only within that living tradition of solemn teaching. The ‘Good News’ spoken now is the ‘Good News’ spoken then. First comes proclamation with divine authority that is to say Magisterium, then the written word that embodies it. There is no need to require that every doctrine of the faith should be explicitly and clearly evolved within that primal Magisterium of the written word. It is however essential, both for the Old Testament and the New, that it should be written down, and by witnesses protected by God against error. Otherwise, in the Old Testament there could be no sure provable prophecy, in words and types, that could later point the credentials of the Christ. If the New Testament were not written, there could be no development of doctrine.
A divine teaching authority
The development of doctrine is also the vocation of the Holy Spirit within the Church, not the work of private opinion. There could be no clear vindication of the promise “but when He the Spirit of truth is come, He will teach you all things, and bring to your minds whatever I have said to you. I have many things to tell you, but you cannot bear them now … but He will receive of Mine, and manifest them unto you” (John 16:12-15) In the evidences for. Jesus, the claim to divine magisterium is essential because such is the only living vitality of Divinity upon earth. A divine teaching authority alone gives objective certainty, and objective certainty alone gives a certain moral law, and a certainty and an integrity in holiness to be lived.
There is for us no living communion of joy with an agnostic God. Therefore, when we speak to the young, or to the unevangelised adult, of apostolic tradition, of infallibility as a power constitutive of the Church, of the Magisterium of Christ, exercised by the college of the Bishops with the Pope etc; let us bear in mind that we are saying that this magisterium is not a final decision, like any other ‘final’ human decision, settled by king or majority vote. It is the Truth of the Living God, which encompasses the Church, because first it encompasses Man in human history. If the Church possesses the truth, it is because first the Truth which is the Living God, has encompassed and possessed the Church, and ever protects her, “And behold I am with you always, even to the end of the world”. So for us, scripture with tradition means that the word of the Bible is not a dead word, a merely recorded word. It is a word that lives unto God, and is declared in its final meaning, and in its fuller, developmental meaning, through the Church. The evidence for Jesus lives in a context. It lives in an historic context. That historic context is the Being of God himself, creator, fulfiller, redeemer, and fulfilling love.
Creation as “Context” for Jesus
The living authority of God therefore, actively working in the Church, is the power that proclaims the evidence for Jesus.
It is also the power which protects that proclamation from error, and preserves the beauty of its positive fulness. It is this action of God upon men which, since the Incarnation of God in Person (for so we claim Christ to be) is the meaning of the Church’s claim to infallibility in the solemn definition of matter of faith and morals. It is this same action of God, through men appointed by God, namely the college of Bishops with Peter, that constitutes the divine Magisterium through which the Holy Spirit, as part of His own vocation in the Church, develops, clarifies, and protects the divine word revealed in Jesus Christ.
If this is the context, not dead but living, within which the scriptures are contained and are an ever living word, how far back in time shall we go? Where shall we begin to show the context that is part of the evidence for Jesus? Will it be with the New Testament, at say from Pentecost day onwards? No: this is far too little. We have to put into the context of the divine manifestation of the truth of the claims of Jesus, that Old Testament which was in all its types, words, and liturgy prophetic of Jesus. Very well then; shall we agree to start the mind which is the Living Word of God conceives all things with Abraham, and the history of the line that leads to Christ? That will take us from 2,000 BC, a very respectable span of growing evidence. We know of many schemes and books that start from there. But, if we are going to be really coherent, and of help to men and women of this science soaked and sophisticated age, let us go back still further. Let us go back to the Book of Genesis, and beyond Genesis. For the book of Genesis portrays not only the creation of our world, but God as the living, purposeful context within which that world was framed. Genesis however does not deal very explicitly with creation itself, with the universe itself.
The Big Bang
The Evidence for Jesus, we suggest goes back to the primal explosion of creative energy within which the universe, our world, and all it later contains was held and is held. Let us go back to zero-point, to what the popular media journalists call the ‘Big Bang’. The scientists today are, especially the physicists, telling us with emphasis and awe, that this universe, at the zero-point of beginning, when its radiation energies were held in laws and relationships we cannot even conceive, was no random mass of radiant power. Within the first second of its explosion into those relationships we name space and time, there were formed the basic relationships of physics and the laws we already know. Moreover, the details of that universe, in terms of
physics and chemistry, were already aligned to the possibility, the most unlikely possibility, of the emergence one day, within that universe, of the phenomenon of intelligent life, which is to say the Phenomenon of Man. They confess to us that this universe of ours is poised to that “unlikely” event, within unimaginably fine tolerances of organisation, in the first seconds of the creation.
They speak already of a “Unity-Law” which spans all creation, and all its ages, and within which that primal explosion of ordered, creative energy was framed. Such an equation cannot be random: it must be centred in intelligent Personality, because its final end to be produced is contained, before it happens, within the original poising of matter-energy. The name of an intelligent Personality, that transcends the developing, evolving universe, is GOD. The modern scientist is beginning to give us an argument from mathematics and physics to the existence of God. Some of us would claim to have seen it a long time ago, in
teenage in fact, and the manner of seeing it is explained in Catholicism: A New Synthesis, because this vision of creation sweeps much beyond physics, and beyond animal life, to Man himself. From Man himself it rises to God himself, and to Jesus Christ, as the Son of Man. It is an enormous vision. It can be convincingly presented, and well defended. It is
part of that context for Jesus within which His “Evidences” stand. That is where to begin.
A Unity-Law in Creation
The scientist has discovered a “Unity Law” because he knows that all the laws of matter and energy, including those we cannot at present fully reconcile, must have been contained within the primal poising of the Primal Explosion. From this intuition he hopes to deduce a unified theory of matter both as particle and wave. He hopes to explain the apparent contradictions between “classical” and “quantum” energies and forms. He hopes for a lot, although he hardly dares to hope to know the initial relationships of energy within which the universe was framed and poised at “zero point” in space and time. Such is the power of man’s intellect however, even when his senses are of little help, that he does aspire to hope to deduce a final answer even to this last query.
This sudden apprehension of a Unity-Law, and a Law of Unity, within which all things are framed, applies not only to the Primal Explosion of the universe in ordered energies; the order and the energy persists, in mutual interplay of galaxy upon galaxy, planet upon star, sun upon planet, environment upon life forms, and in the controlling interplay of one living form upon another, as predator and prey, and in many a wonderful and complex way at all times of the development of the universe, and in all changing aspects of its ordered, evolutionary ascent of being. The Unity-Law is always the same. The universe changes; new, and more complex forms of being appear and, in our planet at least, finally life itself. The harmonic interplay, the law of mutual control and direction unto self fulfilment and unto a stable natural order — that remains always. Yet, until we get to man, and come to the non-material energy, to the spiritual soul, free thinking and freely willing, all of this harmonic order, and life law found within diversity is contained within the poising of the initial equation of creation, by the laws of necessity, not of free-will. We say by the law of necessity; first the necessity of sheer mathematics and physics, and then by the necessity of determinism of being, even in the life forms, until we get to man, who is the unique one. the activity of God in human history the primal explosion of creative energy.
The Word made Flesh
Of course, it is all part of the “evidence for Jesus”. We cannot treat of it now in any detail. The serious reader might write to the “Faith” office for the book Catholicism earlier mentioned if he or she really wants to know. We can, however, indicate that the evidence was initialled by St. John, who must have got it from Jesus Christ himself. John writes: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God: the Same was in the beginning, with God: all things were made through Him, and without Him was made nothing that was made” (John 1:1-2). The term John uses is Logos, in the beginning as the Mind, Personal and self-conscious: God’s knowledge of Himself, the Mind that poises all things in their beginnings and in their final ends, altogether in one creative act. The “Word” who also says through St. John, “I am Alpha and I am Omega, I am the Beginning and I am the End” (Apoc. 22: 13). Since the mind which is the Living Word of God conceives all things, of course this law of harmony and ordered fulfilment is a perfect unity-law, from its inception until the last day’ and for eternity. But, you may say, how is this evidence for Jesus? Because this Word is Jesus, through Him all things are thrown across space and time in being, and in the end, we show the evidence for the coming of this Living Mind among human kind as God incarnate, the Word made Flesh.