Gospel Reductionism vs. Gospel Foundationism

Author’s Note: This post has been updated in light of this post from Gottesdienst. I know many people have found the argument I’ve made below useful and so this post will remain but in generalized form for this is not a unique issue.  I pray that continued discussion on these topics in light of Holy Scripture with a view towards the comfort of consciences, and I hope that I as a layman may add my small contribution to this very important discussion.  I will add that I cannot recommend highly enough the CTCR Report In Christ All Things Hold Together on the topic of science and faith.  Thanks for reading and may God bless!

In the great debates over the intersection of science and faith, some argue that all that matters is the Resurrection.  In their hypothetical argument they say that every other story in the Bible could be fiction, but so long as we believe in Christ’s Resurrection it does not matter.  This is because the Resurrection proves that Christ is God and thus validates faith.  This as pious as it sounds, for it puts faith above objective fact, is quintessential Gospel Reductionism.  In this argument the text may still be “true” but those parts that require actual historical events to occur are spiritualized in some fashion.  In this way we can dodge any actual testing of the Scriptural facts against any objective standard because the only fact that actually exists and is verifiable is Christ’s Resurrection.  The text remains true because you have redefined how the text is to be read.  This redefinition is in such a manner as to remove any chance of disproof aside from disproving the Resurrection itself.

However, lets take this argument to its logical conclusion.  If the only thing that matters is the Resurrection, which St. Paul clearly states is the lynchpin of the faith in 1 Corinthians 15, and the Resurrection happened then that proves that Christ is God as per Romans 1:4.  Since Christ is God we should listen to what He says.  First He claims that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).  Since Christ is the Truth, He cannot lie (Titus 1:2).  Christ also says that Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).  This means that Scripture is true and thus the Old Testament is a reliable book because it is Scripture.  We also know that all Scripture is God-breathed and therefore spoken by Christ (2 Timothy 3:16).  So it is Christ Himself that gives the Old Testament and yes even the book of Genesis.  It is most certainly the case that it matters to Christ that the events of the Old Testament actually happened because He speaks about them that way when He refers to them (e.g. Matthew 10, Matthew 19:1-12, Matthew 23, Luke 17:20-37, John 6, John 8).  Thus since Christ cannot be lying, these events must have occurred. If they did not then Christ cannot be God.  To claim they do not matter is false and makes a mockery of our Lord.

While the Resurrection is certainly foundational to the faith, it is not the only provable truth claim of Scripture.  It is, however, the most important one.  To give an example from my own life as an astrophysicist, the Big Bang Theory is very compelling to me as an astrophysicist. It makes logical sense and follows from the evidence that we see in astronomy.  When I sit in a lecture on astronomy occasionally I will suddenly pause and have a crisis of faith.  I say to myself, “This all makes so much sense, why do I believe in Christianity again?  We don’t need God after all.  What if it is all a lie?”  At this moment of crisis, I cannot turn to Genesis to validate my faith.  My problem lies exactly with the mismatch between the Genesis account and the scientific evidence presented.  In this crisis of faith, I flee for comfort and consolation to the objective fact of the Resurrection.  It is that undeniable fact, that Christ is not in the tomb but is risen as attested to by 500 people many of whom suffered persecution and death for their confession and had absolutely nothing worldly to gain for it, that snaps me back to reality.  When I realize that, I then remember that since Christ is raised from the dead He must be God.  Since Christ is God what He says must be true and thus the Scriptures must be true.  Thus what happens in Genesis must happen as described, for Genesis is a historical text.  There is no point in that text where it switches from mythology to history.  I have read many mythological texts from many different cultures and Genesis does not read like any of them.  Now I come to the quandary of the fact that Genesis must be true but the scientific facts as I have them and understand them contradict that.  However, at this point, I must accept Scripture and admit that ultimately I do not know how to match the two up, though I have my own ideas.  My mind is captive to the Word of Christ and I know the foolishness of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom of man (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). This is not Gospel Reductionism, but it is what I call Gospel Foundationism.  Rather than the Gospel being all that matters, the Gospel is the foundation of my faith and validates my trust in the Scriptures themselves.

Gospel Foundationism is far richer and intellectually honest than Gospel Reductionism.  Reductionism simply sweeps all problems under the rug by a sophistic philosophical move passing as high minded spirituality.  In the end, Reductionism bends the knee to Rationalism and other authorities bringing them to bear on the Scriptures rather than letting the text speak for itself in a plain and obvious way.  Foundationism though looks to what Christ says about Scripture, that it is all about Him (Luke 24:13-35, John 5:39).  It does not ignore any part of Scripture or say that its factuality does not matter (Matthew 5:17-20).  Instead, it embraces all Scripture as true and full of Christ’s riches.

I can understand why Gospel Reductionism is so appealing.  Let’s face it the world has a compelling argument to make with regards to science and it is preaching that argument to our children who are forsaking the faith.  Gospel Reductionism allows us to spiritualize the Scriptures and thus make them impervious to assault.  However, that is teaching our children to deceive themselves and not to deal with the hard questions and struggles of life.  This Gospel Reductionism really teaches that reason and science are the real solid truth, not Scripture.  In reality, it comes back to the classic question “Did God really say?”  We as Christians say He did say and we believe.  The Reductionists?  Well, it really does not matter.

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