This is my response to the second issue raised by a "thinking friend"(TF) on August 13 (and repeated in different words in another e-mail message of August 20). My response to the first issue was in "Is There One Christian Story" posted on August 18.
In part, my TF wrote: "There seems to be a hint of judgment in noting the story-less tradition of Buddhism as compared to our 'decisive' faith story. Is an 'historical' religion better? If so, why?"
Regardless of what I think about the merits of "the Christian story"--and I continue to maintain that in spite of all the differences there is an overarching story which not only unites all Christians at some level but also definitely makes Christianity a historical religion--I in no way think that being historical in itself makes Christianity superior to non-historical religions.
On the other hand, those who are adherents of non-historical religions (or a mystical, non-historical version of "Christianity") are usually clear in their contention that religious faiths focussing on "eternal truths" are superior to any religion based upon historical events. The Buddhist scholars with whom I regularly had dialogue in Japan left little doubt about direct contact with Ultimate Reality bring better than any reliance upon historical events.
As I write in the seventh chapter of my forthcoming book "The Limits of Liberalism," "Gotthold Ephriam Lessing (1729-81) was one of the outstanding philosophers of the Enlightenment era. In an essay published in 1777, he wrote that 'accidental truths of history can never become the proof of necessary truths of reason,' and he went on to declare that such a situation is 'the ugly, broad ditch which I cannot get across, however often and however earnestly I have tried to make the leap.'”
In other words, Lessing denies that historical events can lead to universal or ultimate truths. And so do many who are not adherents of a historical faith such as Christianity.
So, regardless of my personal beliefs, Christianity has through the centuries been considered a historical religion by most people who have a thorough understanding of it. This says nothing, though, about the relative value of that position. It does mean, though, that many who have a non-historical religious faith are often dismissive of Christianity partly, or largely, because it is a religion based upon a historical story.