CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The Talmud and End of Life Issues

While I am not Jewish, I strongly believe that the Jewish people have a lot of insight into understanding God and His ways. I don't believe that this role is limited to giving us a better understanding of the historic and cultural underpinnings of the Bible, but includes serious thinking by Jewish scholars of the logical consequences of the Biblical revelations -- especially where it concerns what God wants from us in acting ethically.

This is why I found the essay "The Value of a Life" by Yanki Tauber to be very interesting. In the essay, he takes what could be considered a rather uninteresting teaching from the Talmud on the surrender of citizens to others and draws from it a very strong criticism of the Teri Schiavo incident.

Yanki Tauber begins his essay by quoting the Talmudic teaching about when it is proper to surrender a citizens of a city to a third party who threatens to put the city under siege if he is not turned over.

Here's the scenario: A town is surrounded by an army, which demands that a certain individual be handed over to them. The townspeople are given a choice: "Hand over Mr. So-and-So to us and we'll kill him and spare the rest of you; if you don't, we'll kill you all." The Talmud's ruling is: if this person is indeed guilty of a capital offence, he should be handed over; if he's innocent, he may not be given over to die, even at the cost of the lives of all of them.

What's amazing about this law is that the issue at hand is not even a matter of one life versus 10,000 lives. Mr. So-and-So is going to die in any case! Rather, the issue at hand is whether one is permitted to take action that will result in the destruction of a human life in order to save the other 9,999 lives. But why should thousands of people die in vain? It seems utterly illogical.

The teaching seems at odds with our current society. Remember Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn where Mr. Spock dies saving the Enterprise from certain destruction? Mr. Spock's explanation, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one," seems more in line with our approach to issues of ethics. But the Talmud teaches that the entire city should die rather than surrender the life of the one if that one is innocent. What gives?

Mr. Tauber notes:

Without this law, it would only be a matter of time until a society deteriorates to a state in which human lives are taken with impunity.

Think of it: if one life can be sacrificed to save 10,000 lives, then one life can be sacrificed to save ten lives. And if it can be sacrificed to save ten, it can be sacrificed to save two. And if quantity is a factor, why shouldn't "quality" be a factor? Is not the life of a young person in the prime of life more "valuable" than that of a senile 95-year-old who anyway has only a few years left to live? What if a society places greater value on a male life than a female life -- would it then be justified to sacrifice the life of a woman to save a man's life?

Nor does it stop there: the moment a human life is assigned a relative "value" vis-Ã -vis other lives, its relative value will be measured against other quantifiable values as well: "the good of society," "the national interest" ("the economy"?). Taken to its extremes (and any logic can, and eventually will, be taken to its extremes) this is same logic by which millions of Jews, homosexuals and mentally or physically handicapped people were exterminated in Europe sixty years ago -- because these lives were regarded by the powers-that-be as inferior. There is, of course, no moral equivalence between these actions, but the logic behind them is the same.

The Talmud's law incorporates two crucial principles. Firstly, that every individual human life has absolute, not relative, value. One times absolute is just as absolute as 10,000 times absolute. Seventy years of absolute value is just as absolute as one year or one hour of absolute value.

The second, equally crucial principle is that there is a clear, absolute distinction between taking action to end a life and not taking that action, even if the "end result" is the same. To hand that person over to be killed is an act of murder. The argument "he's going to die anyway" has no bearing on the significance of the act, for this is an act of absolute moral significance.

I am sure you can see the application of the foregoing to the Teri Schaivo situation -- as well as many other similar end of life situations. I highly recommend Mr. Tauber's essay as a "must read."

(Cross-blogged on the Apologia Christi blog.)

What History Reveals about the Establishment Clause

Yesterday, the Supreme Court came down with two opinions concerning the display of the Ten Commandments in public places. The first case in Texas ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments at the State House was constitutional. The second case in Kentucky ruled that the display of the Ten Commandments in a courthouse was unconstitutional. While I have not yet read the two opinions, it appears from the discussion I have heard on the radio and seen on the news that the court distinguished the two cases based upon the intent of the bodies that placed the Ten Commandments in the two public locales. In Texas, it was argued that the display of the Ten Commandments was part of a larger secular display which gave it a secular purpose. In Kentucky, even though the display was also part of a larger secular display like the display in Texas, the original display in Kentucky had been only the Ten Commandments which meant that the purpose of the display was to promote the Ten Commandments and, consequently, religion.

This seems to me to be a hopelessly convoluted approach to the issue. If you had approached both exhibits without any knowledge of how they came to be displayed you would have seen the same thing: a display which included the ten commandments as one exhibit among many. Thus, you have two displays which are identical to the viewer, but one of which is unconstitutional because the "intent" was wrong.

Now the Supreme Court has been stuck on this idea of "intent" for a long time, dating back at least as far as the Lemon v. Kurtzman case where the court ruled that a state crosses the line (at least in public school settings) set by the Establishment Clause when the legistlative body (be it Congress, the State or local legislature) passes a law which either does not have "a secular legislative purpose" or the "principal or primary effect" of which either advances or inibits religion. Needless to say, the "legislative purpose" leg of the Lemon test has been routinely questioned. Consider the following from Professor Lawrence Tribe, quoted in Constitutional Law: Cases--Comments--Questions (8th Ed):

The secular purpose requirement, partly because of its sketchy parameters, could raise two particularly important conceptual problems in application. First, it might be used to strike down laws whose effects are utterly secular. A legistlature might, for example, vote to increase welfare benefits because individual legislators feel religiously compelled to do so. So too, when a legislature passes a neutral moment-of-silence statute, many legislators may hope that students will use the time for prayer. However improper these purposes may be, it is hard to see a meaningful establishment clause problem so long as the statute's effects are completely secular.

What Professor Tribe notes is exactly the state of affairs in the two cases in Texas and Kentucky. The people in Kentucky responsible for the display recongnizing the possibility that the display would be unconstitutional if it were merely the display of the Ten Commandments, added elements to the display that made it look, to all outward appearances, very similar to the display that was found Constitutional in Texas. Both included the Ten Commandments as part of a larger display and both, therefore, should have been Constitutional under the Supreme Court's reasoning in the Texas case. However, when the Supreme Court chose to look at motives, then suddenly the Kentucky display becomes unconstitutional.

In effect, the Supreme Court's decision makes it clear that the debate in any case under the Establishment Clause cannot be determined by looking at the display objectively. Rather, any time anything remotely religious is included in a display, the question is going to become one of "what is the intent of the government in including that religious symbol in the display?" If it is found to be religious instead of secular (the differentiation between which is rather ad hoc, e.g., is a law giving aid to poor people religious or secular?), the display must be removed (or at least the religious element must be removed). Do you know what this means? More lawsuits over displays to determine the "intent" of the legislature and uncertainty in the area because there is no way to know the intent until the court rules on the intent. And this, in turn, means a more conscious effort to exclude religious symbols in displays because of concerns about lawsuits.

The court's decisions, however, are convoluted because the court has misinterpreted the purpose (there's that word again) of the Establishment Clause since Everson v. Board of Education in 1947. The underlying problem with the Supreme Court's decisions is that the precedents that they are relying upon misunderstand the proper role of the Establishment Clause in the minds of the framers.

Historian Clayton Cramer, at his excellent blog, took issue in an essay entitled "Where the Supreme Court Went Offtrack" (June 27, 2005) with the Supreme Court's efforts in the recent decisions regarding the placement of the Ten Commandments in public forums. In doing so, he notes: "It is very clear that several of the states would not have ratified the First Amendment if it had been understood to require the states to be neutral "between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion. A number of states still had established churches, with state constitutions that explicitly provided for discrimination." Professor Cramer than provides evidence for this assertion by quoting directly from the Constitutions of the various states. Professor Cramer makes an excellent case for his position, and I encourage everyone to read what he writes.

I realize that this is somewhat wishful thinking, but wouldn't it be nice if the court would go back to the original understanding of the Establisment Clause and not promote excessive litigation by forcing us to seek for a "secular legislative purpose" for the display of a tree at Christmastime?

The verse that launched a thousand apologetic enterprises

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. -- from 1 Peter 3:15

I’d bet this verse has launched more study programs in defending the Christian faith than any other. "Be prepared" – it evokes pictures of diligent boyscouts, of tireless and extensive preparations. We remember the myriad of trick questions that hostile anti-Christians can throw at us. We may ask ourselves whether we are prepared to answer every trick question in the book. And when we think that way, we’re very wrong about the big picture – mostly because we miss the fact that Peter gave us the answer along with the instruction to be prepared to give that answer. Also because he asks us to prepare for a much simpler task than we have just imagined. We end up thinking the goal that Peter named was beyond the reach of the average Christian; we have missed what Peter said his point was.

A simpler task than we imagine

Look closely at what Peter said; what people are we supposed to be prepared to answer? Peter did not call all people to be ready to give an answer to every heckler who stays up nights twisting words and skewing facts to invent trick questions. Again look closely at what Peter said; what content are we supposed to be prepared to answer? He did not call us to be prepared to defend complicated theories. He told us to be prepared to answer the people who ask us, "Why do you have hope?"

By the time Peter tells us to be prepared to answer the people who ask us, "Why do you have hope?" he has already explained to his readers why we should have hope. He has also explained how we should get people to notice that hope so that they might ask us about it.

Why we should have hope

Peter begins his letter, right after his first greetings, reminding us of one of the main points of his letter: the reason for our hope.

he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. - from 1 Peter 1:3

Because Christ is risen, there is hope. If we have said that much, we have done well. If we have answered a hundred questions but have not managed to work in that much, we have not done well. If we've convinced an atheist that the New Testament is 98% as originally written down, but they are still scared to die because they think it means their own annihilation; if they are still scared to approach God because they still imagine him to be a cosmic bully, then we have not done well. If Christ had not risen, what hope would we have? Would we be sure there will be a resurrection? Would we be sure that God is merciful? Would we be sure that God loves mankind and wants to save us? Peter, who wrote these words, had himself seen Jesus risen from the dead. He knew what he was talking about. Jesus’ resurrection changes everything.

Peter talks further about the hope that we have because of the resurrection:

an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you. – 1 Peter 1:4

You were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers. – 1 Peter 1:18

The one who trusts in him will never be put to shame. -- 1 Peter 2:6

set your hope fully on the grace being given you as Jesus Christ is revealed. -- 1 Peter 1:13

These are the hope we have: an inheritance that will not fade; a way of life that is not empty; escape from being justly put to shame; God's favor given in Christ. That is our hope.

I'm not criticizing the approach to apologetics that seeks to answer the legitimate questions from honest skeptics. I'm not even criticizing the niche in apologetics that seeks to answer the trick questions from hecklers and harrassers; I do those kinds of things myself as time permits. But it does bear mentioning that that's not directly what Peter was talking about, and we cannot afford to neglect the real heart of our hope: Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

As regards apologetics and the resurrection itself, there's still room for misunderstanding. There is a time and a place to answer questions about the resurrection, whether from honest questioners or from hecklers; but neither of these are what Peter is addressing. Peter is talking about describing how the resurrection is a legitimate cause for hope. Despite nearly two thousand years of assorted opposition, the resurrection is still supported by 100% of the available evidence, so we're genuinely justified in assuming its truth when we discuss why we have hope. We need not always start on the defensive as if we have to get people to acknowledge the truth of the facts before we can mention why the facts matter. Some atheists (for example, Michael Martin) have mentioned not seeing why the resurrection should matter as a reason for rejecting it. If we spend all our time discussing the mere fact that there is plenty of evidence, and none of our time discussing the good that God has done for mankind through the resurrection, then we have not given the reason for our hope as Peter instructs.

How we should get people to notice

Peter knew what it was like to witness to a hostile world. He knew what it was like to have enemies, to be attacked, to be outcast, to have even the leaders against him. He knew what it was to suffer, to be lied about. So he had some very practical advice on how to get people to notice, whether they were enemies, mockers, or just plain indifferent.

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. -- 1 Peter 2: 12

If we’re not living such good lives that even the pagans have to notice, we’re dropping the ball. We’re not dropping the ball when we don’t know the answer to the latest trick question. We’re dropping the ball when we’re leading impure lives, when we're not living proof of God’s compassion, when we’re not a very present help in time of trouble. I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty – Christ is our forgiveness. But having forgiveness can shade over to laziness and complacency. We are called to live such good lives among the pagans that they notice.

For one of the toughest situations, a wife trying to witness to an unbelieving husband, Peter has this advice which can help in other tough situations as well:

If any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by [your] behavior when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.” – from 1 Peter 3:1-2

Peter also said,

It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. -- 1 Peter 2:15.

Are we trying to silence "the ignorant talk of foolish men" by arguing with them? Since when has an argument ever silenced someone who is foolish? How many are actually encouraged by arguments, since that is what they were really looking for? And is it God’s will that we should silence the ignorant talk by more talk? It would be over-hasty to say never; there is a time and a place and a way to answer. But in general, we are to answer useless words with useful actions.

And, finally, when people do ask – even if they are still heckling – when words finally come into the picture, when we give the reason for the hope we have, how do we behave?

But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. -- from 1 Peter 3:15-16

If we haven't answered with gentleness and respect, if we have stooped to heckling or demeaning, it is probable that we haven't kept a clear conscience; God knows our hearts. At any rate, if we are not gentle and respectful, those who speak maliciously against us will feel (reasonably enough) that their slander is justified.

Peter also hints that we’re going to be slandered one way or another: if we do evil, we will be slandered for doing evil. If we do good, we will be slandered for doing good. The temptation to cave in to evil or fit in with the world in order to avoid slander is nothing but wishful thinking. Even if we go along with the world we will still be slandered – and it will be justified.

A reason for the hope

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. – 1 Peter 1:3

That is the reason for our hope.

Differing Potrayals of Paul's Miracle Working -- Evidence Against Lukan Authorship?

Continuing in our series of supposed arguments against Lukan authorship of Acts, our skeptic claims that Paul portrays Acts as a miracle worker while Paul’s letters do not:

Acts presents Paul as a miracle worker. The performance of miracles forms a major part of Paul's apostleship. He was supposed to have made a blind man see again (Acts 13:6-12), to have enabled a cripple to walk (Acts 14:8-10) and to have raised a young man from the dead (Acts 20:7-2). Even his handkerchief had miraculous powers (Acts 19:12)! His miraculous powers also enabled him to survive stoning unscathed, although those who stoned him thought he was dead (Acts 14:19-20) and to survive what would have been a lethal snakebite (Acts 28:3-6).

Our skeptic begins by overstating Acts’ portrayal of Paul as a miracle worker. It is true that the author of Acts narrates the performance of three miracles by Paul (Acts 13:6-12; 14:8-10; 20:7-12), as well as the people healed by contact with clothing that had been in contact with Paul (Acts 19:12). This latter, however, is more similar to the purported healing effects of relics or sacred shrines than portraying Paul himself as a miracle worker. The raising of the dead boy is portrayed as a miracle, but it is soft pedaled as Paul himself says that the boys’ spirit had not left him.

Regarding Paul supposedly surviving (it nowhere says that he was unscathed) being stoned by his “miraculous powers,” Acts 14:19-20 does not attribute Paul’s survival to his miracle working. Even if the reference to, “But when the disciples surrounded him, he got up and went into the city,” means to imply the laying on of hands and healing of Paul (which I doubt), the miracle working is not done by Paul. If the author of Acts wanted to portray Paul as the miracle worker here, he would have had perform a miracle. He does not. In fact, by stressing that Paul only appeared to be dead, the author of Acts appears to be ruling out a miracle altogether. Indeed, we know from Paul’s own letters that he survived many beatings, including a stoning. 1 Cor. 11:25.

Finally, as noted by Stanley Porter, there is decidedly less emphasis on miracles in the “we-passages” than in the rest of Acts, as well as the fact that the “we-passages” often pass over opportunities to advertise or emphasize Paul’s miracle working. (“The author of the ‘we’ source provides a credible portrait of Paul the apostle, without exaggeration or embellishment. Not only is Paul not depicted as a miracle worker, but clear opportunities to depict him as such are passed by.” Porter, Paul in Acts, page 62). So, compared to the miracle working of his first volume, Acts is actually quite tame.

Our skeptic again:

Yet we find very little of such claims of miracles in the authentic epistles. In his own statements about this Paul used vague terms like "signs of the Apostle" (II Corinthians 12:12), "demonstration of the Spirit and of power" (I Corinthians 2:4) and "the power of signs and wonders" (Romans 15:18-19). Paul's tone in these remarks was generally defensive, showing us that these were made in defense against some accusations of his opponents. In II Corinthians (chapters 10-12) for instance, he was defending against the critiques of his presence and public speaking skills (10:7-11), of his status as an apostle (11:7-15) and that he was granted no vision (12:1-10). Within this context then, the criticism which forced Paul into verse 12:12 must be that he had performed few and unimpressive miracles.

This argument is wrong on at least two counts. First, Paul’s opponents did not deny that he performed miracles. Second, Paul clearly claims to have performed miracles.

Our skeptic vaguely claims that Paul was being ‘defensive' about something when he discussed his miracles. The only example he gives, however, has Paul defending himself against charges concerning public speaking skills. Nothing is said about his miracle working. Indeed, if anything, the miracle working is conceded. And, in fact, there is no evidence in any of Paul’s letters that he was accused of an inability to perform miracles. Instead, Paul’s performance of miracles seems assumed by those he writes to and is expressly claimed by Paul himself.

First, let us look closer at 2 Corinthians. Therein, Paul states that he performed the “signs of a true apostle” among them.

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me -- to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.

2 Corinthians 12:7-12.

There is no doubt that Paul here is claiming that he performed miracles among the Corinthians. His claim to have performed miracles among the Corinthians could be easily dismissed or contradicted if there was no basis upon which he could base this claim. Further support against our skeptic's argument is gained from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians:

For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. . . .

1 Corinthians 2:2-4.

According to Graham H. Twelftree, “[i]n contrasting his weakness, fear and spoken word with the demonstration of the gospel, Paul is probably referring not only to the Corinthians’ encounter with God’s power to transform their lives in conversion, . . . but also to the miracles involved in his mission as the demonstration or proof of his gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9-10; 1 Thess. 1:9). For in Romans 15:19 the power of the Holy Spirit is paralleled with the power of signs and wonders, and when the Galatians received Paul’s message they experienced the gift of the Spirit and miracles.” Twelftree, “Signs, Wonders, Miracles,” in Paul and His Letters, page 876.

Given Twelftree’s reference to Romans, we turn there next.

Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason for boasting in things pertaining to God. For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.

Romans 15:17-19.

Paul clearly claims that miracles were performed “through me.” The language of “signs and wonders” is typical Jewish language for miracles. Joseph Fitzmyer, Romans, page 713 (referring to Dn. 6:28 (Theod.); 2 Thess. 2:9; Heb. 2:4 and Acts 2:22, 43; 4:30; 14:3; 15:12). Given our comparison of Acts and Paul’s letters, the use of the same language for miracles in Acts as used by Paul is all the more relevant. Further, he equates those miracles with “the power of God’s Spirit.” The similarity to Paul’s reference to the power of God’s spirit through him in 1 Corinthians 2:4 is all the more reason to read that verse as referring to Paul’s performance of miracles.

In 1 Thessalonians Paul again refers to his miracle working.

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5.

Paul is clear that he did not just preach, but convinced them of the Gospel “in power and in the Holy Spirit,” another reference to his miracle working. Again Paul is claiming before and audience that would know that he performed miracles in their midst.

So, Paul three times claims to churches he founded that he performed miracles amongst them. In fact, the miracles he performed played a role in convincing them to follow Christ and in the founding of their churches. This claim was made to people who would have known if they were baseless. Moreover, Paul claims to the Christians in Rome that he has performed miracles. The notion that Paul is vague about his miracle workings, much less denied doing any, is entirely false. Paul clearly and explicitly claimed to have performed miracles as part of his work in establishing churches.

Thus, arguments against Lukan’s authorship based on the supposed difference in portrayals of Paul’s miracle working are baseless. Even if some of Paul’s enemies denied he had performed any miracles – and there is no evidence of this – Paul’s letters clearly showed that he believed he had performed miracles and that some in the churches he founded agreed with him. Why would Luke, a companion and friend of Paul, side with Paul’s opponents against the word of Paul himself?

On natural factors in behavior, evil, reason, and faith

The CADRE has been having occasional internal discussions on the role of biology in our thoughts, behavior, emotions, and even spirituality. I think it’s safe to say I’m of the minority opinion, but it’s been an interesting conversation and I expect others might enjoy hearing the different sides of the conversation. I’m encouraging those in the CADRE who hold different views to also share those here on the blog in case anyone else would like to think through the different views with us.

I’ll start with my assumptions so you that you can see them for yourself. Then I’ll work my way through the usual questions that come up: emotions, perceptions, reason, irrationality, behavior, crime, punishment, responsibility, faith, and implications for Christian apologetics. The short version: admitting a strong view for biology does not lead to nearly so bleak an outcome as many people suppose. I hope any material here is helpful in its own right in considering things that are right (and wrong) with human reason and behavior, regardless of whether “biology only” is proved or disproved. In particular, I hope that people who engage in Christian apologetics will at least entertain some of the thoughts here about the problem of human irrationality as an obstacle to our apologetics efforts, ways to understand the problem of irrationality, and practical approaches to that problem.

My assumptions

My view – remember , the minority one – is that I don’t object to a fairly strong connection between biology and our emotions, perceptions, and reason. I am not here arguing that the “biology-only” views of reason and so forth are actually yet proven; only that this is the question on the table. I’m walking through the possibility, “What if it is so?” Theories of genetic predisposition to various behaviors (such as alcoholism) and electrical/chemical components of thoughts and emotions, on my view, don’t seem to call for automatic opposition from Christians, though before committing to a position we do need to wait for more research to come in so we can assess things more accurately. One of the early ventures into studying genetic/behavior links – atavism – is in retrospect a bit of a flop. But the point is to research carefully, not to write off the involvement of genes or other purely physical parts of us. We also do not want to assume more than is proven. Not every connection that someone proposes will stand the test of time and proof, or be as simple as seems at first glance.

Am I a Calvinist? No. A determinist? No, certainly not in the usual sense of thinking we’re prisoners of fate. On the other hand, I have a fairly high view of nature – the ability of “merely” physical things to be holy and wondrous. Anyone who has been overawed by the stars at night or seen a piece of land that awoke dreams of Eden may have some idea of what I’m talking about. Just because something is “physical” doesn’t make it “merely” anything, as if nature should be degraded by being itself. It would be a bit beyond the scope of this post to go into the nature of “meaning” and “holiness”. For present purposes it’s enough to mention that being “merely natural” on my view doesn’t preclude true meaning or true holiness. On a Christian view, God’s plan and God’s design permeate nature and are the basis on which nature exists; that’s no small start. I would not be bothered if the mind turned out to be this type of natural wonder.

Emotions: the example of love

When the debate moves from safe, distant topics like the stars to more immediate topics inside the human mind, some people become uncomfortable. Since people like to safeguard the topic of their rationality, I’ll start with an easier topic: emotions. Let’s say a man falls in love with a woman, or vice versa. On the one hand, there’s doubtless a role of hormones, a perception of “beauty” that often has an obvious connection to the object’s health and reproductive receptivity. When people connect with each other for no better reasons than these, the attraction is as short-lived as the reasons. Few people like to admit of a short, intense romance that they were merely riding a hormone-high that had little to do with their beloved’s character, but looking back, many people have to admit that it was so.

On the other hand, there are other factors in the beloved that may also attract us. We may be attracted by honesty, intelligence, kindness, a sense of humor, or a generous and forgiving approach to life. These attributes may have value in terms of raising children or raising the odds of a being an enduring life-long companion of good quality. These character traits may also be admired for their excellence, apart from their usefulness. If that’s the case about character traits, then we have established (without leaving the natural plane) that one person loves the other because the other person has real value. Is that such a horrible thing? The flood of warmth we feel considering the excellence of the other person is not to be despised for being only natural. If this view of attraction is true, wouldn’t it mean that certain people with strongly-developed good character traits would be widely valued by many people? That often proves to be the case.

Perception and an inch toward reason

Occasionally I’ve heard arguments that, if our thoughts are in any way brain-dependent, that they must be deterministic, and that rationality itself is in doubt. It probably doesn’t help matters that I openly say that people are not quite as rational as they usually suppose (more on that in a minute); here I’ll just say that I don’t believe that we’re completely irrational either. I’ll explain myself more fully as I go on. First, the assumption that brain-dependent equals deterministic is a bit over-simplified. For another thing, the question of whether brain-dependent is deterministic bypasses the more appropriate question: whether the thoughts are still valid and rational. Brain-dependent does not necessarily mean something randomly manufactured by unreliable means.

Let’s take a less controversial example, a simple perception such as the sense of sight, and consider that as a starting point. The sense of sight works as light passes into the eyes and is transformed until the perception is interpreted in our minds. Is that “deterministic”? In the sense that where we look determines what we see, maybe, but not in the conventional sense of “determinism”. I’d be far more concerned about times when where we look did not determine what we see – more concerned if there was not a clean correspondence between what our eyes look at and what our minds perceive. If we look at a keyboard, we want to perceive a keyboard with each character represented in our minds just as we see it. Call this “forced outcome” or “determinism” if you want, but I’d hardly want any “freedom” to look at a keyboard and see (for example) a rabbit instead of what is actually in front of me. To talk of misperceptions and bad eyesight at this point would just sidetrack us; the point is, the closer eyesight works to this purely natural model, the more likely we are to call it “accurate”.

First impressions on truth and reason

Reasoning is the process by which we try to build in our minds the best model to explain what we perceive around us. In order for these models in our mind to become increasingly accurate over time, the main thing required is for us to want them to become more accurate, in which case we will apply our reason and perception to that job. Truth is the extent to which the impression in our minds corresponds with reality. Just as we already saw that we may (on a natural view) legitimately value a loved one for their worth, we can also see (on a natural view) that we can legitimately value truth for its genuine worth as an accurate map of the world around us. So a purely natural approach to reason does not, from the start, require the results to be unreasonable.

First impressions on irrationality

There are problems with human rationality – but the problem is the extent to which things do not work “deterministically”, the extent to which people can “see” but not see, “hear” but not hear, and be blind to what is right in front of them. Peoples’ minds do not work with the reliability and accuracy that we should wish. Just as legitimate value in “love” does not prevent people from following hormonal lust, also in reason the legitimate value of “truth” does not prevent people from following power, self-flattery, advantageous position, or simple self-preservation. Truth, like love, may be the higher end, but it is not the only possible one. Not to say too much in advance and spoil the ending, but for apologetics, these problems with rationality can become a noticeable issue.

Determinism in behavior?

Biological determinism is not all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s start with an undisputed example of an inborn drive: the drive to eat and drink. Let’s start our example also with an animal that is not too bright: a mouse. Let’s say the mouse is thirsty, and there’s a bowl of water nearby. Call it “determinism” if you want, but the mouse is going to get a drink. To show the limits of determinism, change the picture slightly. Now imagine a cat next to the bowl of water. Not a lazy cat who is friendly towards mice like Garfield, but a hunting cat with teeth and claws at the ready. Is the thirsty mouse still going to get a drink? Not right now. What happened to biological determinism? Well, call it “determinism” again if you like but self-preservation is now keeping the mouse away from the water. The scales just tipped in the primitive cost-benefit analysis and the mouse may possibly die of thirst (if no other water can be found) in preference to being eaten. For all that someone might legitimately cry determinism, the mouse has yet to do anything irrational. The natural response is not so inflexible that it cannot respond appropriately to the situation at hand; neither have its responses been unreasonable.

Destructive actions, crime, punishment, and reform

Some people hesitate to look at the role of biological factors in behavior because they worry about implications in other areas of life. For instance, would an alcoholic still seek treatment, and can treatment hold out any hope, for a biological problem? Would a violent criminal still be punished, or be sent for corrective therapy, or be given hope of reform, for a biological problem? Does the person still have responsibility for his actions in any meaningful sense of the word? Legitimate questions, and legitimate also if someone should bring up again that “biology only” is not a proven thing at this point. It would not be legitimate at this point for me to argue, “we must face this because it is true”; we simply don’t know that yet. But the question is on the table, “what if this should be true?” and that is what I’m seeking to explore. The answer is not nearly so bleak as many people suppose.

Let’s go back for a moment to the example of the thirsty mouse and the cat guarding the water bowl. The mouse has the drive, but doesn’t act. Why not? The cat is a deterrent, obviously. In the case of an alcoholic, the drive is an unhealthy drive to excess drink. A deterrent might be feeling ashamed (whether the deterrent is strong enough is another question). In the case of a criminal, being caught by police or convicted in the courts could possibly be deterrents (I’ll leave the problems of our justice system out of this for a moment; the point is that these things theoretically could be deterrents). Besides “deterrents” – scaring the person away from their goal – there are other types of remedies. One is finding a safer outlet for the drive that’s causing the problem. Another is finding a way to lessen the drive in the first place. These two are more along the lines of “reform” and there are a number of different ways to go about them.

In this general view, deterrents and reform both work together to turn a person from a destructive action. From a standpoint of crime, it is a legitimate goal for society to make punishment into a deterrent. Far from saying that people are not rational enough to be punished, it may actually be the risk of punishment which makes someone re-evaluate how rational it is to go ahead with their crime. In our other example, alcoholism, one of the more popular reform movements (AA) centers around support groups that offer incentive to reform and also (in a friendly context) genuine accountability for whether self-control has won the day. In the case of alcoholics, many have suggested a hereditary component – and yet despite that, a certain number of people win free and show that the hereditary component did not quite amount to a deterministic doom.

Responsibility

Responsibility is, in the law, a gradual thing. Infants are not considered responsible for their actions. As children grow, up to a certain age they are not legally responsible for their actions; their parents are. Does the law make sense in not regarding children as responsible to the government? Yes; while we can debate when a person has reached adulthood, there is no doubt that a two-year-old cannot be legally responsible for his own behavior. He doesn’t have the understanding. As many a parent can tell you, the way to teach a child responsibility is to remind the child of how they are expected to act and the reasons for self-control, and to hold the child responsible until the responsibility begins to sink in. As the child develops and the concepts become more familiar, over time parental control gives way to self-control.

Faith

Many Christian apologists seek to convince atheists of the existence of God by means of reason. “Faith and reason” is again a topic too large cover thoroughly in this space, but still I’ll mention a few things.

It is telling that one of the most common skeptical arguments presented for atheism is the argument from evil. Why is this so telling? Because the argument from evil is not actually an argument against the existence of God in the first place. The argument from evil does not seek to prove that God does not exist, just that a good God does not exist, or (to say it the other way around) that God is not good. The argument from evil cannot get to the place where atheism is actually rational. It is more of an argument that God is, after all, like the cat waiting to devour the mouse. The implication is that even if God is real, turning away is still rational as an act of self-preservation. That last bit is usually not said out loud. For one, Christians maintain the goodness of God, and will not sell that out for the sake of winning an argument about God’s existence. And again, atheists may be content to argue against the Christian concept of God, though that in itself is not quite enough to logically sustain full-blown atheism. There are religions that teach unblushingly that God created and wills evil, and it is telling that those who use the argument from evil do not seek out such a religion if they should actually think it is more in keeping with the truth. For the record, I believe that God is good all the time; I’ve commented on the problem of evil before on this blog and may again, but not in this post; I’m too wordy already. But for the argument from evil, most people who cease to believe in the goodness of God seem to eventually cease to believe in God at all, and usually sooner rather than later. They may for awhile rail against some “evil monster of a God”, but in the end they are like the mouse who goes looking for another way to get water, leaving behind even the thought of the monster they could not face.

I’ve mentioned a few times by now that “determinism” seems to me to be a needlessly paranoid and somewhat inaccurate way of looking at “things working according to their natures”. If nature is reasonably healthy, it amounts to “things working like they should”. The problem is when nature is not reasonably healthy. What you get is still not the classic “fate” of determinism, but is not too distant kin to the Christian teachings of original sin, an inborn predisposition to turn away from God and towards harm of self and others. What of our power of reason in cases like this? Reason is an excellent faculty but we’ve already noticed in passing that reason sets itself after the truth only if the person is seeking the truth. Otherwise, reason is a passenger making up rationalizations for wherever the driver happens to be going. Then “reason” tells you all the reasons why the thing you want is right. It plays the yes-man to the will. If the person is seeking self-flattery, or victory and power, or self-preservation, reason will set itself to work there too.

Some might wonder if it is really wise to speak quite that plainly about the problems that can taint even such a good thing as reason. I’m not attacking reason itself, but pointing out the human ability to harness reason to unreasonable ends. My first purpose in doing this is that I believe it to be accurate. The reason I choose to mention it here, on a Christian apologetics blog, is because of how often apologetic conversations go astray, making mistaken assumptions about whether the other person’s reason is pursuing truth, or whether the other person’s reason is pursuing self-preservation and fleeing from God as if he is a threat. Those aren’t the only possibilities of course, but they’re common enough and I’ll stick with those for today for the sake of whatever brevity I can still salvage. Both truth-seeking and self-preservation are rational in their own ways, though only one has truth as the ultimate goal. But if we have reason to believe that the person considers God as a threat – that the opposition to God is not born of intellectual objections to the truth but of self-preservation in view of approaching the Holy and Almighty, we will handle the conversation differently. If a person views God as a threat and has decided to go the other direction, that person's reason will work to build reasons why going the other direction must be right. In this case, our conversation should focus on the trustworthiness of God and goodness of God, not his mere existence. Because in this case, the person doesn't actually doubt God's existence – in this case, their belief in his existence is exactly what’s causing them to move away from him.

Christian Apologetics

Having left a dozen unfinished asides in this post, I’ll leave one more: when we have reason to believe that someone’s atheism is founded on self-preservation, a flight from a God considered to be a threat, the answer is the cross of Christ. That is where we see plainly: God would rather die than condemn us. We don’t see God plainly anywhere but in Christ. How do we know that God doesn’t make people sick just to be mean? Because we see God in Christ healing the sick. How do we know God actually cares about human lives and deaths? Because we see Jesus raising the dead. How do we know God is not just searching for an excuse to zap sinners? Because we see Jesus reaching out in forgiveness to people who had really messed up their own lives and other peoples’ lives. He didn’t make them miserable, he healed them and forgave them. He didn’t toy with them, he was humble and gentle with those who acknowledged that they needed help. He didn’t receive them on probationary status, he received them as brothers and sisters. When people found out Jesus could heal the sick, the crowds were big. And when people found out Jesus could feed the hungry, the crowds were big. But when people found out Jesus could forgive, with all the authority of God (“that’s my final answer: you’re forgiven”) I expect the crowds were bigger still. Far from being out to destroy us, Jesus laid down his life for us. Far from abandoning us to the horrors of life, Christ took them upon hiimself. Few people ever meet such a humiliating, painful, despised, horrifying death as Jesus did. He is not working to harm us. He is working to redeem us.

Sometimes people accuse this approach of being mere emotionalism, but it is not: it is a direct response to the question of whether God is a threat, whether the rational direction is away from him or towards him. This type of reason is geared not towards intellectual curiosity, but towards the profoundly rational wish for self-preservation and the wholly natural thought to flee whatever is seen as a threat. (In the language of some theologians, that’s “the natural man’s enmity towards God being overcome by the cross of Christ.”)

Time Travel, God, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

I am a science fiction fan. So much so that I am actually excited about the forthcoming War of the Worlds movie, despite the fact that it stars Tom Cruise. Speaking of H.G. Wells (the author of the book, War of the Worlds), his The Time Machine launched a whole sub-genre within Science Fiction.

It is interesting how time travel has such broad appeal. It is not just for science fiction geeks. The Back to the Future trilogy was so popular because of the premise, not the science (or does anyone have any idea how the Flux Capacitor really is supposed to work?). The Terminator series exploited time travel ruthlessly and inconsistently, without offering any concept of how it was supposed to work. Star Trek IV told us how (go really, really fast around the sun), but the focus of course was saving the earth from destruction by correcting humanity's errors in the past (hunting whales to extinction).

And this no doubt is one of the attractions of the genre; being able to make decisions in the past with knowledge about how the future will be different. The ability to "correct" mistakes that we have made in the past, either as individuals or collectively (Terminator II and Frequency). Often times, however, these efforts are portrayed as counter productive. Attempts to change the past are portrayed as futile (the most recent adaptation of The Time Machine, The Final Countdown, and Terminator III) or cruelly counterproductive (Back to the Future II and The Butterfly Effect).

The common element to these works is the attempt to travel back in time in order to alter the present. But despite this commonality, the moral of the stories differ. Those that show how time travel can result in positive change emphasize the importance of our actions. Because the audience knows that they will not have the option of time travel, the moral of the story is to do it right the first time. Do not kill off all the cute and friendly whales. Be a better father to your son. Do not plug in the ultra-smart artificial intelligence to the nation's defense systems. There is an optimism that once we understand the situation better, we want to and can make better decisions.

Those works that show the futility of attempting to change the past may have a similar message, but are more pessimistic. The moral may be that the past cannot be changed so we should get it right the first time. However, some works in this genre seem to suggest the inevitability of fate; bordering on questioning the very existence of free will or assuming the hopelessness of the human condition. The ability or even the desire to make better decisions is denied. The bad nature of humanity results in unalterable doom. This seems to be the moral of Terminator III, where despite everything our heroes do to change the future and their destinies, they end up right where the timeline said they should be. Similarly, in the recent adaptation of The Time Machine, our hero tries again and again to save his loved one from a violent end. Each time he does, she finds some other violent way to meet her demise. See also the time traveling chimps in Escape from the Planet of the Apes (as well as Beneath the Planet of the Apes and Conquest of Planet of the Apes).

Not all works in this mode are so fatalistic. In The Final Countdown, a U.S. nuclear powered aircraft carrier with the latest and greatest is mysteriously transported back to the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor right in the path of the Japanese fleet. Should they intervene, wipe out the Japanese fleet, and spare the U.S. a humiliating defeat? The military sees it as their duty to do so (understandably), but other characters point out the danger of such intervention (also understandably). Would the world necessarily be a better place had the U.S. not suffered such a humiliating defeat to launch WW II? Certainly the soldiers and sailors of that day would have, but would the country have rallied against Japan and Germany so unitedly? How would the United States have been affected by suddenly being in the possession of such powerful weapons? Eventually, the issue is decided by nature or God and the carrier is just as mysteriously transferred back to the present. The film poses the questions, but does not let the answers play themselves out.

As for those works that portray any interference with the past as having necessarily bad effects, the moral may be to emphasize the unpredictability of our actions or it may be to underscore the fatalism of mankind. The unpredictability angle is akin to the "chaos theory" prominent in Jurassic Park. The point seems to that it is unduly prideful to believe that we know better than fate or God how to order the very fabric of nature. I have some sympathy to this point. For example, would killing or even simply discrediting Hitler before his rise to power be a good thing? Obviously it would stop some of the greatest evil known to man. But what evils would such intervention unintentionally cause? What if someone more competent took Hitler's place in establishing the Nazi party? Or, what if Germany slid into communism and joined the Soviet revolution in spreading their own version of death-dealing fascism abroad? How can we know? (Notably, the tv series Quantum Leap avoided this problem by implying that God himself was using the hero to "correct" bad events in the past). As for the fatalistic angle, this relates to the viewpoint discussed above, that humanity is so hopeless that even if we try to better our situation we are doomed to failure.

But there is yet another category of time travel stories. Those that involve traveling forward into time, rather than into the past. This does not necessarily involve the use of a time machine, but may have the hero "frozen" or placed in some sort of suspended animation. Often times the time travel is inadvertent. The classic example is Buck Rogers, who is transported forward in time into a very different place with very different customs and values. The book is excellent and explores these issues in greater depth than the tv show. Nevertheless, in the tv show we get to explore our own culture by placing a representative of it in a very different culture. The author gets to give his opinion about how present trends may result in future harm or good, such as portraying a future environmental catastrophe resulting from present day carelessness. The author may emphasize what is good about our present society that he or she fears may be declining (such as Buck Roger's self-sufficiency or mistrust of technology). This also seems to be the point of Blast from the Past, where the moral decline of our society is depicted through the eyes of someone raised in the ways of the 50s. An interesting book along these "fish out of water" lines is Farnham's Freehold by Robert Heinlein.

Finally, there are time travel stories that are not about attempts to change the past or traveling forward into the future. The focus is on learning about the past. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is an example of this. Bill and Ted travel to the past to learn about history for a high school project. While doing so, they do more than earn good grades, they learn important lessons relevant to their present lives. Despite the comedic nature of this example, I actually think this -- assuming time travel is not invented by a super villain or evil genius -- would be the most practical use for time travel.

This educational purpose of time travel was recently explored in Michael Crighton's book, Timeline. In Timeline, a corporation masters time travel and uses it to get accurate knowledge about the past that they use to aid in archeological digs in the present. The focus of their efforts is a castle in France about 700 years ago. They intend to use the information gained by time travel to accurately reconstruct the castle into something like an amusement park. Perhaps my memory fails, but this seemed somewhat contrived. Certainly there was something else more important in history that we would use a time machine to learn about? The theatric version noted that the time machine, for no obvious reason, would only transport people to that particular time and place, thus solving this issue.

But the question stuck with me, just what would we use a time machine to learn about in the past? Assuming no intervention, what would be at the top of the list? For me, the answer was always pretty clear -- the Resurrection of Jesus. Who cares about how accurately a castle is reconstructed? Let us get to the heart of history. Is Christianity based on truth or misinformation? Sure, I have other things I would like to know. Did the Jews rebels really commit suicide at Masada as Josephus tells us? What happened to all those planes and boats in the Bermuda Triangle? For some no doubt, they would want to know who really killed JFK (my vote is still for Lee Harvey Oswald acting alone because of his leftist sympathies). And there are events I would like to witness even though I personally have no doubt about them. The resurrection is one. But I would also like to attend some of those meetings of the Constitutional Convention. I would like to hear Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech live. I would like to see Martin Luther nail his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door. So, just what would be the priority of such an endeavor?

I think we can learn a lot about ourselves by asking that question. Just what would we want to go back into history and witness?

In any event, what prompted this free flow of ideas on my part was a book I learned about. It's called the The Didymus Contigency. Here is a description:

The story is premised on a single question, “If you could go back in time and witness any event, where would you go?”

The answer for the book’s main character, Dr. Tom Greenbaum, an embittered atheist and quantum physicist, is: the death and failed resurrection of Jesus Christ, a goal which he vigorously pursues throughout the story.

A hair-raising adventure ensues as Dr. David Goodman, Tom’s colleague and closest friend follows Tom into the past, attempting to avert the time-space catastrophe that would be caused by proving Jesus to be a fraud. But forces beyond their control toss them into a dangerous end game where they are tempted by evil characters, betrayed by friends, pursued by an assassin from the future and haunted by a demon that cannot be killed.

I honestly do not how the book resolves these issues, though I will find out soon. A few remarks from the author:

“It’s my hope that everyone can enjoy this novel,” says Robinson. “My intent is to tell a story surrounding the life of Jesus without sterilizing it. Most people react positively to the book, but some have a problem with the harsh language and violence, not to mention the fact that many Biblical characters, including Jesus, appear in several scenes not actually recorded in the Bible.”

“It certainly isn’t my intention to rewrite the Biblical record of Jesus,” says Robinson. “This is a work of fiction, after all, and should be read as such.”

At the end of the day, I am skeptical of the ability of humans to travel back in time for the simple reason that we have never detected any visitors from our future. Either there is not much of a future or they never figure it out. But what really matters about the sub-genre of time travel is what really matters about the genre of science fiction. What questions does it cause us to ask? In this case, what matters to you in history?


Update: It would appear that the same thought, even about Jesus, has occurred to notable Sci-Fi author Arthur C. Clarke:

Arthur C. Clarke discusses a much more interesting objection to time travel than the "kill yourself" or other grandfather-type paradoxes. He writes [Clarke, 1985]: "The most convincing argument against time travel is the remarkable scarcity of time travelers. However unpleasant our age may appear to the future, surely onewould expect scholars and students to visit us, if such a thing were possible at all. Though they might try to disguise themselves, accidents would be bound to happen—just as they would if we went back to Imperial Rome with cameras and tape-recorders concealed under our nylon togas. Time traveling could never be kept secret for very long." As a skeptic in "Time's Arrow" explains Clarke's problem to a would-be time-machine inventor: "If it [time travel] could be done, someone will eventually learn how. If that happens, history would be littered with tourists. They'd be everywhere. They'd be on the Santa Maria, they'd be at Appomattox with Polaroids, they'd be waiting outside the tomb, for God's sake, on Easter morning.

Paul J. Nahim, Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, page 43. (tip to Ryan Schultz).

Solar Sail Spacecraft

This has nothing to do with religion or apologetics, but it is very cool.

A Russian submarine has launched a prototype space craft that uses the rays of the sun to propel it through space. Several "sails" are deployed to literally catch the sun's rays as a form of propulsion. Not only does this eliminate the need for a bulky and heavy engine (and its fuel), but it provides continued accelaration of the craft over unlimited distances.

See the press release from the outfit behind the launch for specifics.

Update: Unfortunately, the space craft did not reach orbit. So there was no test of the solar sail concept. But perhaps we did learn something about using surplus cold-war era Russian weapons as launch vehicles.

Everything Needs a Cause, Right?

The state of understanding most Christian apologists use for the cosmological argument is very bad. Most of us are still back in the enlightenment, or even earlier. In fact if one reads the Boyle Lectures (that's 1690s) one sees all the issues of a modern apologetics message board, with very little real advance by the Christian apologists.

The problem revolves around the notion of causality. Causality requires linear direction and time. A causes B, it follows that a precedes B in a sequential effect. No Time means no sequential order, thus no cause. Time begins sequentially simultaneously with the Big Bang. So there is no way to speak of "before" the big bang because there can't be a "before time." Since time is the beginning of sequences there can be no scenic before the beginning of sequences; without sequences there is no begging and no "before." So the problem is that it is meaningless to say things like "everything that begins requires a cause." This is meaningless because we can't really speak of "the beginning" of the universe since the begging of the universe is also the beginning of time, and causality requires time. Thus there is no cause before the beginning of causes. Thus the whole idea of a final cause beginning the sequence that eventually leads to sequences is a lame idea. Yet most Christian Apologists use the Kalam argument (made so poplar by William Lane Craig) which begins "everything that begins requires a cause." The statement itself is self contradictory.

Of course the atheists muck things up even worse with their notions of Quantum theory (AKA "QM"). It seems that everything that begins doesn't require a cause. QM particles pop into exist seemingly out of nothing with no prior casual agent that can be decreed and thus, it seems something could come from nothing. Now it gets tricky at this point, because this not really what's happening, but the best that can come out of this observation is a big muddle.

It seems that we really don't find QM particles "popping" out of "nothing." They emerge from something called "vacuum flux." This is just a fancy name for more QM particles, that doesn't' matter, because it really is not actual nothingness. The problem is that physicists speak of VC as "nothing." So while one finds physicist speaking of QM being something from nothing, they know quite well its not. Now the tricky part is, the Christian apologist suspects, but we cannot prove, that there is a cause in there somewhere. But the skeptic can always elude the obvious implication of a cause since we don't have a direct observational proof of the need for a final cause. Our assumptions about final causes are pinned upon logic and not upon empirical observation (and this is of necessity, since we can't observe final cause since we can't observe "before" the begging of sequential ordering in time).

It seems that the skeptic has a built-in fail-safe to create a stalemate without he CA (cosmological argument) because our thinking as Christian apologists is often rooted in the thinking of the Robert Boil and the 1690s. We still think in terms of cause and effect, things begging, things needing causes and beginnings and logic proving this rather than empirical observation; although a large part of this argument is merely psychological, since in all fairness the skeptic can't prove anything either and we know darn well there has to be a cause back there somewhere.

I have developed an approach which I feel resolves this dilemma and lends a positive presumptive appeal to the CA. I feel that my approach changes the burden of proof in the debate because lends the apologist presumption, by meeting the prima facie burden of proof. This approach works in two phases:

(1) Sets up a "comfort zone" for the argument, or in other words, establishes criteria through which the bar is lowered for the standard of proof and the lower standard can be met; lower standard meaning "rational warrant for belief" rather than "proof."

We are not out to prove the existence of God. We are out to prove only that it is rational to construe the universe as the creation of God.

(2) Now it might be rational to doubt that too. Two contradictory approach can both be rational if neither of them is guaranteed by absolute proof. But in such a case one must go with presumption. The presumption lies with the system that meets prima facie(PF) burden, which is met when one demonstrates that the information is sufficient to establish a rational warrant for a belief.

The outcome of a prima facie argument is that the burden of proof is reversed. Now it becomes the other side's burden to show that the PF case has not been made. What is it in my version of the CA that swings this point over from burden of proof to PF case? It's the way I deal with the notion need for causality.

The standard Christian apologetics approach is usually to say "everything we observe needs a cause, so the universe must need a cause." This leaves the skeptics cold and they just keep harping on their QM stuff. My approach is to move away from the need causes. I no longer call my argument "first cause." I use the term "cosmological" but not "first cause" or "final cause." I don't speak of causes and I never claim "everything that begins to exist recks a cause." Most skeptics will be expecting this, usually they are thrown into a state of total confusion when they learn that I don't bother with this.

My approach is to use the scholastic model of necessity and contingency rather than cause and effect. Now one might think this is so old fashioned and pre modern that it would be untenable. But no, it's the basis of model logic. One can easily argue, what with the return to the impotence of the model aspects from Hartshorne and Platinga, and with Godell's OA being based firmly upon necessity/contingency, that category is alive and well. Now skeptics will remain incredulous of course, but the category can be defended easily with Spinoza's chart of modalities. The categories are there in logic and cannot be denied.

Moreover, move on from that point to speak of "prior conditions," rather than causes. The idea of prior conditions is tricky, since we all there is a cause lurking somewhere behind it. But the skeptic is lambasting us for speaking of causes, and with this approach we need not speak of them. That way the obvious need for one is enthemimatic; that is the skeptic will pick it out himself, but he can't really say anything about it we aren't claiming it as part of the argument. If the skeptic brings it up, well it's a straw man argument, even though it's really there in the background.

Prior conditions is a tricky category and I have the following analogy. In QM theory we face the concept of the VC and the particle emerge from it. We know from observation that this slows way down the closer one gets to the singularity, and we know that we have no observations whatsoever from timeless state (how could we)? Three conditions obtain in which Amp's emerge: (1) the emerge amid physical law. Even though they seem to contradict our previous understanding of law, they are not opposed to it and QM theory is the business of showing how we can assume their harmonious existence with physical law; (2) They emerge in time; since we have no counter observation we must assume so; (3) They emerge from VF. Skeptics have howled and said "that must means more particles." But so what? that's still something. It means they aren't coming form real nothingness. As long as something exits prior to the "first" existent, that existent is not first and what prior to it must be accounted for. IF we don't wish to end up in an infinite causal regress, then we have to assume that there is some prior conditions which is the basic condition of all existence.

Analogy:

It's like fish. Fish are not caused by water. You can't say "water = fish." But, fish are always found in or near bodies of water. You dot' find fish living in the sand in the desert. There are fish which are native to the North American desert, but they live in water deep in caverns and have actually lost eyes because they live in total darkness. But again, the one prior condition we have for fish is water. Now someone will say "but there is causal relationship there." Yes, but my argument doesn't require that there be no causal relation, but I don't have to push the causal relation to win the argument; all I have to do is demonstrate that there must be some eternal prior condition that is necessary for all contingent conditions to be; and of course we construe this "eternally prior condition" as God.

Another important aspect of this argument is to get away form time. We must get over the simplistic idea that BB is the moment of creation and "before" that (which there is no "before") is God in eternity. That treats time like a place that one could go, where God is. Time may be running eternally, it has a "reassert" with the Big Bang but it doesn't' have to be a "place" one could go to visit. Thus it may not be that we can think of the timeless void as a realm beyond the natural realm.

My Argument: Cosmological Necessity:

Terminology

Let PAS = Putative state of affairs

Necessity: = That which does not depend upon anything else for its existence, that which cannot fail to exist or cease to exist. Please note: this is not logical necessity alone but ontological or metaphysical necessity.

Arbitrary Necessity: The attempt to equate a contingency with a necessity in terms of ontological function; or the imputation of ultimate origin to a purely arbitrary convention. (Note: AN's are to be regarded as impossibilities by virtue of their absurd contradictory nature.)

Contingency: = That which must depend for its existence upon the prior of existence of some higher thing, that which can fail or cease to exist.(Note:these two aspects, fail/cese--either one or both--and dependence, are linked since in most cases the reason for failing or ceasing is due to dependence upon prior state, condition, cause or source).

Existent = A Thing which exists

UEO = Ultimate Eternal Origin: The "final cause" or what stands in place of a final cause, the ultimate origin of all things which is the upshot of the argument; this is neutral term which may or may not imply God.

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Argument:
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1) True absolute nothingness as a Putative State of affairs is impossible.

a) The concept is self contradictory since a PAS is something and not nothingness.

b) Absolute nothingness must proceed time, thus no time = no causality, no sequential events, no movement, no chap. Thus, nothing could ever come to be.

c) You cannot get something from nothing

2) The Universe is contingent upon prior conditions:

a) Infurred logically from the observation that the universe is nothing more than a collection of contingent things.

b) Consensus in science indicates that the existence of the universe as a whole is contingent upon prior conditions: Matter, energy, all physical phenomena stem from 'gravitational field' the prior condition of which is he big bang, the prior condition of which is the singularity, the prior condition of which is...we do not know.

c) All naturalistic phenomena are empirically derived, thus they are contingent by their very nature.

As Karl Popper said, empirical facts are facts which might not have been. Everything that belongs to space time is a contingent truth because it could have been otherwise, it is dependent upon the existence of something else for its' existence going all the way back to the Big Bang, which is itself contingent upon something.(Antony Flew, Philosophical Dictionary New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979, 242.)

3) By defossion the "ultimate" origin cannot be contingent, since by definition it would require the explanation of still prior conditions.

4) Therefore, the universe must be produced by some prior cause which always existed, is self sufficient, and not dependent upon anything higher.

5) Naturalistic assumptions of determinism, and the arbitrary nature of naturalistic cosmology creates an arbitrary necessity; if the UEO has to produce existents automatically and/or deterministically due to naturalistic forces, the contingencies function as necessities

6) Therefore, since arbitrary necessities are impossible by nature of their absurdity, thus we should attribute creation to an act of the will; the eternal existent must be possessed of some ability to create at will; and thus must possess will.

Corollary:

7) An eternal existent which creates all things and chooses to do so is compatible with the definition of "God" found in any major world religion, and therefore, can be regarded as God. Thus God must exist QED!

In this argument I set up the contingency of the universe as the predication of an ultimate prior condition. Anything naturalistic is automatically contingent (this can be backed up by Carol Popper and many others). Thus the ontological necessity which predicates these contingencies is a priori some from of prior condition which must be understood as eternal and boundless, otherwise the idea of a contingent universe filled with individual contingencies makes no sense.

From there the argument that this eternal prior condition is equivalent to or can be construed as an object of religious devotion is easy. Of course atheists will fight tooth and nail to keep from accepting the notion that the universe is contingent. They will charge that this is the fallacy of composition. Don't let them! The fallacy of composition only works when the parts are different. In other words, if a brick wall is made up of all bricks then it is not a fallacy of composition to say "this is a wall of bricks." Thus, one case say "this is a universe of contingencies, thus, it is a contingent universe." Moreover, Dr. Kooks (Univ. Texas--our fine main branch in our Glorious UT system) uses memeology (a funky kind of math stuff) to argue that wholly contingent parts make for a wholly contingent situation. In other words, a universe made up of all contingent parts is a contingent universe. Establishing this point will be the hardest part of the debate, but the skeptic will be scratching his head and asking "what's mermology?"

From there one directs them to Dr. Koons' Website.

I think this approach offers some unique features that get us way from the 1690s and put Christian apologetics in the 21st century.

Argument (2) Empty Tomb: Pre Marmkan Redaction.



The Gospel accounts of the resurrection were tramsmited faithfully from the very begining. How do we know this? The same way we know that any aspect of ancient world history is a probalbity: the documents are trustworthy. Now skepitics are probably spitting milk out their noses reading this, but its true.There are three areas of reiability, and two major misconceptions that have to be avoided. Let me start with the misconceptions:


(1) The idea that "reliable" means "realisitic."


I'm sure many skeptics reading this are saying, How can they be reliable when they speak of miracles?. But reliable doesnt' necessarily mean "realistic." This doesn't mean they aren't hard to believe, or that they don't require an assumption about metaphysics; reliable doesnt' mean true. What it does mean I'll get to in a minute.

big misconception number two:

(2) Faithful transmission of history would have to mean that we can prove that eye witnesses wrote the documents. Or worse, that the name sakes wrote the documents (John wrote John, Matthew wrote Matthew). None of that has to be the case.


faithful transmission means the content has been passed down from source to antoher for generations without significant alteration. Trustworthy doesn't mean "we can prove its ture," it means we can trust, within a reasonable estimation, that what we have recorded today is what we would find being transmitted in the earilest times. Here is how we know:


I. The evidence of the Manuscripts (Ms) and the stories themselves.

II. Early date of the Resurrection narrative.

III. Reliability of the Community.


I. The evidence of the Manuscripts (Ms) themselves.



I wont belabor the point about the documents, since that has been talked to death on message boards for years. See my pages on Bible: canonical Gospels for a lot of good info on this point. But, the often quoted statistic is that the NT MS are generally 98% reliable. What that means is, that to within 98% all the thousands of MS that we possess (24,000 of all types including fragments) say the same things. we don't find passages with wildly different events. There is no one secret passage somwhere that offers some totally different account of what happened. Such a Ms just doesnt' exist and there is no evidence that such a thing ever did exist. The closest we come to that is Secret Mark the fragment found by Martin Smith at Mar Saba; but even Secret Mark assumes the world of the Gospels, it assumes a particuar event recorded in Mark, it doesnt' change the basic facts of the story at all.

Now skeptics have been known to argue, "but they are just copying the same story." That's the point! If those events didn't happen, or at least if they were not been taught from the begining as "the truth," we should find other versions. NO program of erradication could take out all copies in the ancient world. Some fragment of a Gospel would have survived somewhere. If there was a version of the story in which Jesus didn't rise from the dead, or in which he rose on the 8th day, or whatever, we would have a copy of it. The fact that the manuscripts give a cooherent and unified testimony going all the way back as early as it can go (and not contradicted by 35 lost gospels we do possess) indcates that this is a good representation of what happened (see F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents,Are they Reliable?


Unified Narratival Framework


The Gospel of Luke is greatly substantiated by artifacts and history, what about the other Gospels, espeically the first Gospel Mark? In the totallity of the Synoptic tradition we have a unified framework which is kept intact. We do not see the growth and elabortaion of myth. As Stephen Neil points out, quoting Edwin Clement Hoskyns (1884-1937) in The Riddle of the New Testament (p.104) Neil begins by saying,

"We hold with some confidence that Mark is the earliest of the Gospels and that both Matthew and Luke use him in the Composition of their Gospels, if there is any tendency to heighten the drama...we shall certaly find it in those points at which Matthew and Luke differ from Mark. Do we in fact find that this is the process which has taken place? After a careful survey of the evidence Hoskyns answers in the negative. Matthew and Luke have far more material than Mark...but essentially the presentation of Jesus is the same, and if there is any tendency it is not toward heightening the majesty and mystery of Christ it is rather in the opposite direction--Jesus is a little tamed, a little softened and brought a little nearer to ordienary categories of human existance" (p. 216). He then quotes Hoskyns himself: "In this process of editing they nowhere heighten Marks tremendous picture of Jesus. No deifying of a prophet, or of a mere preacher of righteousness can be detected. They do not introduce Hellonistic supersition or submerge in the light of later Christian faith the lineaments of Mark's picutre of Jesus.They attempt to simplify Mark, he is more difficult to understand than they are...."




Rather than seeing a myth spreading and growing and moving toward a deified Christ what we actually see is a stable framework of assumed and testified fact and a relatively stable explaination of what the facts mean. This is in sharp contrast to the skeptic's idea that the simple facts grew out of propotion with re-telling until they culmenated in the fantasical notion that Jesus rose from the dead!


II. Early Date of Resurrection Narrative.



A.Myth Takes Centuries to Develop


The importance of early claims is this. Myth takes time to develop. Legends might spring up over night, but they take time to assume a consistent form. William Lane Craig quotes prof. Sherwin-Whtite ("Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Rsurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95)



"For in order for these stories to be in the main legendary, a very considerable length of time must be available for the evolution and development of the traditions until the historical elements have been supplanted by unhistorical. This factor is typically neglected in New Testament scholarship, as A. N. Sherwin-White points out in Roman Law and Roman Society tn the New Testament. Professor Sherwin-White is not a theologian; he is an eminent historian of Roman and Greek times, roughly contemporaneous with the NT. According to Professor Sherwin-White, the sources for Roman history are usually biased and removed at least one or two generations or even centuries from the events they record. Yet, he says, historians reconstruct with confidence what really happened. He chastises NT critics for not realizing what invaluable sources they have in the gospels. The writings of Herodotus furnish a test case for the rate of legendary accumulation, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. When Professor Sherwin-White turns to the gospels, he states for these to be legends, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be 'unbelievable'; more generations are needed. All NT scholars agree that the gospels were written down and circulated within the first generation, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses."






B.Ressurection Claims Made Early



(1) Markon Account Very Early


The early date of the transmissions are borne out by the Texts themselves. They are clean and free of myth. The Markon version is especially pure. Consider the use of the phrase "on the third day" which we find in Paul's statement above about the 500 witnesses. Throughout the NT that phrase is used of the Resurrection. Even in Gospels latter than Mark's it is used. But not in Mark. In Mark we are receiving something from the purest strata of the early days. William Lane Craig, (The History of the empty Tomb ofJesus" New Testament Studies 21 (1985):39-67)


Gerd Theissen in The Gospels in Context, (pp. 166-167):

In my opinion, in Mark we can discern behind the text as we now have it a connected narrative that presupposes a certain chronology. According to Mark, Jesus died on the day of Passover, but the tradition supposes it was the preparation day before Passover: in 14:1-2 the Sanhedrin decided to kill Jesus before the feast in order to prevent unrest among the people on the day of the feast. This fits with the circumstance that in 15:21 Simon of Cyrene is coming in from the fields, which can be understood to mean he was coming from his work. It would be hard to imagine any author's using a formulation so subject to misunderstanding in an account that describes events on the day of Passover, since no work was done on that day. Moreover, in 15:42 Jesus' burial is said to be on the "preparation day," but a relative clause is added to make it the preparation day for the Sabbath. Originally, it was probably the preparation day for the Passover (cf. Jn 19:42). The motive for removing Jesus from the cross and burying him before sundown would probably have been to have this work done before the beginning of the feast day, which would not make sense if it were already the day of Passover. Finally, the "trial" before the Sanhedrin presupposes that this was not a feast day, since no judicial proceedings could be held on that day. It would have been a breach of the legal code that the narrator could scarcely have ignored, because the point of the narrative is to represent the proceeding against Jesus as an unfair trial with contradictory witnesses and a verdict decided in advance by the high priests.




(2)Gospel Phraseology implies early telling

"The use of 'the first day of the week' instead of 'on the third day' points to the primitiveness of the tradition. The tradition of the discovery of the empty tomb must be very old and very primitive because it lacks altogether the third day motif prominent in the kerygma, which is itself extremely old, as evident by its appearance in I Cor 15. 4. If the empty tomb narrative were a late and legendary account, then it could hardly have avoided being cast in the prominent, ancient, and accepted third day motif.{81} This can only mean that the empty tomb tradition ante-dates the third day motif itself. Again, the proximity of the tradition to the events themselves makes it idle to regard the empty tomb as a legend. It makes it highly probable that on the first day of the week the tomb was indeed found empty." (Caraig)



(3) Pauline Tesimony Earlier than written Gospels


Paul's statment about the 500 and the credal confession were written prior to any of the Gospels. This places the teaching about 20 years after the fact. That pushes the pre-Markon material in Mark back even fruther, to near the date of the events (because it took time to form into a credal statement).



"Undoubtedly the major impetus for the reassessment of the appearance tradition was the demonstration by Joachim Jeremias that in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5 Paul is quoting an old Christian formula which he received and in turn passed on to his converts According to Galatians 1:18 Paul was in Jerusalem three years after his conversion on a fact-finding mission, during which he conferred with Peter and James over a two week period, and he probably received the formula at this time, if not before. Since Paul was converted in AD 33, this means that the list of witnesses goes back to within the first five years after Jesus' death. Thus, it is idle to dismiss these appearances as legendary. We can try to explain them away as hallucinations if we wish, but we cannot deny they occurred. Paul's information makes it certain that on separate occasions various individuals and groups saw Jesus alive from the dead. According to Norman Perrin, the late NT critic of the University of Chicago: "The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based." This conclusion is virtually indisputable."




[William Lane Craig,

Leadership University (Webstie) original "Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95]


We can also include in along with this Pauline testimony Hebrews and 1 Peter. Accounts of points that corrospond to Gospels circulating by AD 70 (see Luke Timothy Johnson quotation under point I).


C. Pre Markan Redaction Pushes Date of original Writting to mid Century>

However the material upon which the Gospels are based dates back to an earlier period, and in a form which is essentially the same as that which is found in the Synopitics. This actually pushes the date of the Gospel story, including the death, burial and resurrection (including the empty tomb) to A.D. 50.

"Studies of the passion narrative have showen that the Gospel accounts are dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixtion, death and burial of Jesus. But this accounted ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." Hemut Koster Ancient Chrsitian Gospels p. 231



(1) Diatessaron

The Diatessaron ..of Titian is the oldest known attempted harmony of the Gospels. It probably dates to about 172 AD and contains almost the entire text of the four canonicals plus other material, probably from other Gospels and perhaps oral traditions. It is attested to in many works and is probably the first presentation of the Gospel in syriac.

In an article published in the Back of Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels, William L. Petersen states:



"Sometimes we stumble across readings which are arguably earlier than the present canonical text. One is Matthew 8:4 (and Parallels) where the canonical text runs "go show yourself to the priests and offer the gift which Moses commanded as a testimony to them" No fewer than 6 Diatessaronic witnesses...give the following (with minor variants) "Go show yourself to the priests and fulfill the law." With eastern and western support and no other known sources from which these Diatessaranic witnesses might have acquired the reading we must conclude that it is the reading of Tatian...The Diatessaronic reading is certainly more congielian to Judaic Christianity than than to the group which latter came to dominate the church and which edited its texts, Gentile Christians. We must hold open the possible the possibility that the present canonical reading might be a revision of an earlier, stricter , more explicit and more Judeo-Christian text, here preserved only in the Diatessaron. [From "Titian's Diatessaron" by William L. Petersen, in Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, p. 424]



While textual critics find it more significant that the early implications are for Jewish Christianity, I find it significant that the pre-Markan material in the Diatesseran includes a miracle story. Those miracles just never really fall out of the story. They are in there from the beginning. But for our purposes the most important point to make is that here we have traces of pre-Markan material. That is, Mark as we know Mark was not the earliest Christian Gospel written, it is merely the earliest of which we have a full copy. The date assigned to the composition of Mark is not the date assigned to the sources used to redact that composition. This pushes the written record of the Jesus story before A.D. 60 and makes it at least contemporaneous with Paul's writings. In other words it is clear that written Gospels with Jesus in an historical setting, and with Mary and Joseph the Cross and the empty tomb existed and circulated before the version of Mark that we know, and at the same time or before Paul was writing his first epistle (150'sAD).



(2) Papyrus Egerton 2

The Unknown Gospel (Egerton 2) preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

Koster says:

"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....[Koester , 3.2 p.215]


Koseter shows that the Gospels are based upon pre-markan material which dates from A.D. 50 and ends witht he empty tomb, the resurrection appearnces of Jesus he believes were added from other sources. In this theory is partially in agreement with Crossen who also believes that the pre-Markan material can be traced to A.D. 50 and includes the empty tomb. Koester also uses the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Peter and several other works to demonstrate the same point.[please see Jesus Puzzell 2 for more on this point] This puts the actual writting of the Gospel tradition just 20 years after the original events. There still many eye-witnesses living, the communities which had witnessed the events of Jesus' ministry would have still basically been intact. The events would be somewhat fresh, and plenty of oportunity for witnesses to correct mistakes.

Thus the basic historical validity for the Gospels can be upheld, since they are based upon material which actually goes back to within a mere 20 years of the original events. This means that many of he eye witnesses would have been in the community and able to correct any mistakes or fabrications which were put into the text.



Almost all NT scholars put the writting of the Synoptic Gospels within the plausable life span of eye witnesses, Mark around 65, Matt. around 70 and Luke 80. In Ancient Christian Gospels, (1991) Helmutt Koster identifies a proto-Gospel which underlies the synoptics and John, and which has traces in the Gospel of Peter. (Koster is a major textual critic and is certainly placed in the Liberal camp).


(c) Peter not copy of Matt.


"The Gospel of Peter is dependent upon the traditions of interpriting old testament materials, for the description of Jesus' suffering and death; it shares such traditions wtih the canonical Gospels, but is not dependent upon the canonical writtings....[Dominic Crosson] argues that this activity [interpretation of scritpure as nuleous of passion narrative]...resulted in the composition of a litterary document at a very early date, i.e. in the middle of the first century." (Koster, 218).

"The Gospel of Peter as a whole is not dependent upon any of the canonical Gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospels of Mark and John. All three writtings, independently of each other use an older passion narrative which is based upon a exigetical tradition that was still alive when these Gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access...However, framgements of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised from the Tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different litterary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew." (Koster, 240).

(b) Passion account developed early


"The account of the passasion of Jesus must have developed quite early becasue it is one and the same account used by Mark (and subsequently by Matthew and Luke) and John, and as will be argued below, by the Gospel of Peter. However, except for the story of the discovery of the empty tomb the different stories of the appearence of Jesus after his ressurection in the various gospels cannot derive from one single source....each of the authors of the extant Gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epephany stoires form their own particular tradition, not form a common source." (Ibid. 220).

(c) empty tomb part of original story


"Stories of the passion narrative were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering cruscifiction, death and burrial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb....for the story of Jesus' burial and the discovery of the empty tomb the Gospel of Peter used the source that also that underlys Mark and John, which ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." (ibid.231).

William Laine Craig tells us:

" The presence of the empty tomb pericope in the pre-Markan passion story supports its historicity. The empty tomb story was part of, perhaps the close of, the pre-Markan passion story. According to Pesch,{79} geographical references, personal names, and the use of Galilee as a horizon all point to Jerusalem as the fount of the pre-Markan passion story. As to its age, Paul's Last Supper tradition (I Cor 11. 23-25) presupposes the pre-Markan passion account; therefore, the latter must have originated in the first years of existence of the Jerusalem Urgemeinde. Confirmation of this is found in the fact that the pre-Markan passion story speaks of the 'high priest' without using his name (14. 53, 54, 60, 61, 63). This implies (nearly necessitates, according to Pesch) that Caiaphas was still the high priest when the pre-Markan passion story was being told, since then there would be no need to mention his name. Since Caiaphas was high priest from A.D. 18-37, the terminus ante quem for the origin of the tradition is A.D. 37. Now if this is the case, then any attempt to construe the empty tomb account as an unhistorical legend is doomed to failure." (The History of the empty Tomb ofJesus" New Testament Studies 21 (1985):39-67)


"Like the burial story, the account of the discovery of the empty tomb is remarkably restrained. Bultmann states, '. . . Mark's presentation is extremely reserved, in so far as the resurrection and the appearance of the risen Lord are not recounted.' {55} Nauck observes that many theological motifs that might be expected are lacking in the story: (1) the proof from prophecy, (2) the in-breaking of the new eon, (3) the ascension of Jesus' Spirit or his descent into hell, (4) the nature of the risen body, and (5) the use of Christological titles.{56} Although kerygmatic speech appears in the mouth of the angel, the fact of the discovery of the empty tomb is not kerygmatically colored. All these factors point to a very old tradition concerning the discovery of the empty tomb."

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