CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

At the SBL Conference last year, Ben Witherington gave a discussion arguing that the author of the Gospel of John was not John Zebedee (one of the Twelve), or even John the Elder, but was in fact, Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus. Witherington posits that Lazarus is the source of most of the Gospel of John, with John the Elder acting as the final compiler and editor, as suggested by John 21. Even those who were not convinced found the presentation memorable. Thankfully, Prof. Witherington has posted the presentation on his blog, here.

Witherington begins by discussing what he perceives to be the problems with the traditional ascription to John Zebedee. He concludes that the external evidence is rather late, that John Zebedee is not featured in the Gospel, and that the Judean provence and character of the Gospel of John suggests authorship by a Jerusalem-based rather than Galilean disciple.

The latter point is one made by Witherington in his book, John's Wisdom. It is a good argument, though others have responded that after Jesus' resurrection John Zebedee would have been based in Jerusalem for many years and Craig Keener even argues that "the Fourth Gospel fiercely favors Galilee over Judea could also suggest that the author was Galilean rather than Judean." The Gospel of John, Vol. 1, page 89. Still, I find it at least suggestive that the Synoptics seem to contain more Galilean material and focus much less on Jesus' ministry in and near Jerusalem.

Witherington's best evidence, in my opinion, is that Lazarus is uniquely identified as one whom Jesus loved. See the first such reference in John 11:1-3. Jesus' love for Lazarus is again highlighted in John 11:35-36: "Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, 'See how He loved him!'" According to Witherington, "one could argue that this is the only named person in the whole Gospel about whom this is specifically said directly." But what to make of John 11:5? There, the Gospel states, "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." This does not detract from the point that Lazarus is the first, arguably the most prominent, and the only male disciple about whom it is said specifically that Jesus loves. Still, it does list two other followers of Jesus as being loved by Jesus. I would like to see this passage discussed further.

Witherington further argues that it is only after Lazarus is described as one whom Jesus loved that there is any reference to the "Beloved Disciple." In Chapter 11, Lazarus is identified as one whom Jesus loved. In Chapter 12, there is a mention of a meal at the house of Lazarus. In Chapter 13, the Beloved Disciple is said to recline against Jesus at a meal. This last description is significant, because it "was the custom in this sort of dining that the host would recline with or next to the chief guest. The story as we have it told in Jn. 13 likely implies that the Beloved Disciple is the host then." This suggests that the Beloved Disciple owned a house in or near Jerusalem, just as Lazarus did. Moreover, according to Witherington, the step-by-step progression from Lazarus being loved by Jesus, to hosting him at a meal, to the Beloved Disciple reclining against Jesus during a meal he was hosting serves as a clear marker that Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple.

For Witherington's theory to be true, however, the meal described in Jn. 13 must have taken place in Bethany rather than Jerusalem (where it is traditionally held to have occurred). Since Jn. 13 is widely accepted as referring to the Last Supper, in the comments, I asked Witherington whether he still believed that Jn. 13 described the Last Supper as recounted in Matt. 26, Luke 24, and Mark 14. It seems to be the same meal, though John lacks the Eucharist. Both have Jesus speaking of his betrayal, have Judas leaving to betray Jesus, and have Jesus leaving for the Garden where the arrest occurred.

And if Jn. 13 describes a Last Supper in Bethany, does this complicate his theory? On one hand, if the Last Supper occurred in Bethany, at only two miles outside of Jerusalem it is still close enough for the events of that night to transpire in Jerusalem. On the other hand, do not the Gospels suggest that the Last Supper took place in Jerusalem? The Synoptics record that Jesus had his disciples go to "a certain man" who was "in the city" to ask about accommodations for the Last Supper. (Luke 22:10; Mark 14:3-13; Matt. 26:3-18). While it is possible that the "city" mentioned is Bethany rather than Jerusalem, is that the most natural reading? In his Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on The Gospel of Mark, Witherington envisions the meeting with "a certain man" as occurring in Jerusalem. Ibid., page 370.

Additionally, because according to Witherington Simon the Leper was Lazarus' father and they shared a home, if Jn. 13 is the location of the Last Supper then the combined narratives of Matthew, Mark, and John, appear to have Jesus sending his disciples out from Lazarus' home to find a "certain man" that ends up being Lazarus himself who then provides them a place for the Last Supper in Lazarus' home. (Mark 14:3-13; Matt. 26:3-18; John 12 and 13). Against this, I suppose, it could be argued that Jesus was no longer at Simon the Leper's (and therefore Lazarus') house when he asked his disciples to meet the man about finding a place for the Last Supper. Such locational details can be tricky, especially in the Synoptics. The commentaries I have consulted so far do not really address the issue, so I would be interested in any informed input about it. Still, even if the location is not odd, why is Lazarus/Beloved Disciple called "a certain man" rather than identified?

Setting these issues aside for the moment, Witherington wracks up a fascinating list of implications of his theory that "clears up some conundrums." For example, the omission of the Garden of Gethsemane prayer story from John would be explained by Lazarus' absence from that scene. For another example, it would explain how the Beloved Disciple witnessed Jesus' execution after the Twelve deserted him. There is a certain "aha" element to these details once one assumes that Lazarus is the Beloved Disciple.

What do I make of all of this?

It is a very thought-provoking argument and well-worth reading. The focus on Lazarus as a disciple that Jesus loved shortly before shifting to a discussion of the Beloved Disciple (or disciple whom Jesus loved) is a powerful point. It has been mentioned before, but Witherington's discussion of Jn. 13 and description of details "solved" by Lazarus' authorship add more complete and persuasive elements to the argument.

But as discussed above, I have some important questions remaining, especially about the Last Supper, its location and timing. Also, is the argument against John Zebedee really that persuasive? Craig Keener argues at length for traditional authorship by John Zebedee in his recent commentary on John. All in all, I look forward to seeing Witherington continue to interact in the comments of his blog and what other blogs have to say about the issue. Hopefully, as the wheels of scholastic inquiry grind on, we will see further academic discussion of Witherington's proposals.

Update: Professor Witherington makes it official and responds to questions about the Last Supper by stating that there is no Last Supper in John:


John 13 is a composite account just as John 14-17 is....

John does not recount the Lord's Supper at all, simply the earlier meal, but he does indeed add the end of the last supper meal story about Judas going out and betraying Jesus here which is necessary to the plot line continuing.

This is rather typical of the editing of the day, blending several accounts of similar content together.

I am going to have to do some thinking and reading about this argument.

While writing my recent post about Martin Luther King, I was considering doing a series on the Good Caused by Religion. Possible topics included Harriet Beecher Stowe or William Lloyd Garrison. But my most likely next blog in the series would have been about William Wilberforce, who may have done more than any other man to end slavery in the West. But it appears that Bristol Bay Productions may have saved me the trouble. They are releasing Amazing Grace on February 23, 2007, a film about Wilberforce and his abolotionist activities, which resulted first in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807, and culminated in the freeing of all slaves in the British Empire one month after Wilberforce's death in 1833.

The title is from the song, Amazing Grace, which was written by John Newton. Newton was a slave trader for much of his life, but eventually left the trade, became a minister and an abolitionist. Newton's sermons were a source of inspiration to Wilberforce and encouraged him in his abolitionist efforts. Indeed, Newton may have been responsible for convincing Wilberforce to stay in politics rather than enter the ministry.

The movie stars Ion Gruffudd (who I enjoyed very much in the Horatio Hornblower series) as William Wilberforce. You can see the rather lengthy trailer, here.

One of our favorite Internet gadflies, Steven Carr, made a comment to a post by Layman a few months ago that I thought deserved a moment of attention. He wrote:

Paul said that the 'last Adam' became a 'life-giving spirit', implying that we too shall become spirits when we are resurrected.

Paul seems to be quite silent about the idea that Jesus did not become a spirit when he was resurrected, doesn't he? How much more silent can you be about the idea of Jesus not becoming a spirit can you get than saying that Jesus became a spirit?

I read this several times and still don't think it makes much sense as written. But regardless of his intended meaning, I think that the reference (which is to 1 Corinthians 15:45 which reads "So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL" The last Adam became a life-giving spirit") is actually pretty easy to understand by picking up the Bible and reading all of 1 Corinthians 15 in context.

First, I think that it's important to note what Paul says about the "first man, Adam". Obviously, this references the man Adam from Genesis 2 through 4. Now, Paul says that this first Adam "became a living soul". Now, how many people do you suppose read that the first Adam became a living soul and decide that Adam was only a soul without a body? Probably, in round numbers, none. It's obvious that the reference to the first man becoming a living soul is not to the exclusion of the body. It is possible to have both a body and a soul (and so Christianity has taught since its inception). So, simply because it says that the "last Adam" (which is clearly a reference to Jesus Christ when considering Rom. 5:12-21 and 1 Cor. 15:21-45) became a "life-giving spirit" it doesn't follow that Jesus was only a life-giving spirit.

Of course Steven is correct that the text says that "last Adam" became a "life giving spirit", but he continues with a statement that I think is inconsistent what Paul is actually saying. Steven says that "we too shall become spirits when resurrected." In fact, the entire 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians is trying to give the readers a feel for what the resurrected body will be like, and it certainly doesn't appear that the body will be spiritual only.

In 1 Corinthians 15:35, Paul voices a question that informs the understanding of the entire passage:

But someone will say, "How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?"

These are good questions. Even at this early date of the church (Paul authored this letter around 56 AD which is 20-25 years after Jesus' resurrection) the church understood that Jesus was resurrected and that the faithful would also be resurrected with some type of body. Now, some want to know what type of body that will be. Paul, writing under the inspiration of God, answers the question in 1 Corinthians 15:39-45:

[39] All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. [40] There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. [41] There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. [42] So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; [43] it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; [44] it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. [45] So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL" The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

Breaking this down into portions Paul begins by pointing out that there are different types of flesh -- in fact, he differentiates the flesh of humans from the different fleshes of the animals. Now, none would say that "beasts", "fish" and "birds" lack bodies because their "flesh" is identified as differing from human flesh. So, the most obvious conclusion to be derived from verse 39 (in light of the fact that Paul is seeking to answer the question of what type of bodies we will have when resurrected) is that Paul is making the point that bodies can be of different types but still be classified as bodies. Consider a portion of Jamieson, Faucett and Brown's commentary on verses 39-41:

flesh--animal organism [DE WETTE]. He implies by the word that our resurrection bodies shall be in some sense really flesh, not mere phantoms of air [ESTIUS]. So some of the oldest creeds expressed it, "I believe in the resurrection of the flesh." Compare as to Jesus' own resurrection body, Luk 24:39 Jhn 20:27 ; to which ours shall be made like, and therefore shall be flesh, but not of animal organism ( Phl 3:21 ) and liable to corruption. But 1Cr 15:50 below implies, it is not "flesh and blood" in the animal sense we now understand them; for these "shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
     

not the same--not flesh of the same nature and excellency. As the kinds of flesh, however widely differing from one another, do not cease to be flesh, so the kinds of bodies, however differing from one another, are still bodies. All this is to illustrate the difference of the new celestial body from its terrestrial seed, while retaining a substantial identity.

From here, Paul moves on to distinguishing the "glory" of the heavenly body from the "glory" of the earthly body (v. 40), and proceeds to note that the celestial bodies (such as stars and planets) also have different glories (v. 41). Again, in light of the overall context of answering what type of body the resurrected will have, Paul is making the point that while there are differences between the various things (heavenly and terrestial bodies, different types of celestial bodies) they have certain points of commonality. The stars are different from each other in some ways (there are red giants and white dwarfs and neutron stars) but despite the fact that they have these differences they are all still stars! The same is true as between terrestial bodies and heavenly bodies (e.g., angels) in that they have different properties, but they are still bodies. He drives the point home in verses 42 through 44a when he says "So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; [43] it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; [44] it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." To restate again, the spiritual body has differing characteristics or properties from the human body that we recognize while living in this pre-resurrection existence. But just as there is differences between the brightness or majesty of the sun and the moon, so there will be differences between the post-resurrection body and the pre-resurrection body, but both will still be bodies.

Focus for a moment on 1 Corinthians 15:44b. Paul refers to the "natural body" and the "spiritual body". Now, in both instances, Paul uses the same word: soma {so'-mah}. According to Strong's (as recorded in The Blue-Letter Bible) the word soma means

1) the body both of men or animals
a) a dead body or corpse
b) the living body
1) of animals
2) the bodies of planets and of stars (heavenly bodies)
3) is used of a (large or small) number of men closely united into one society, or family as it were; a social, ethical, mystical body
a) so in the NT of the church
4) that which casts a shadow as distinguished from the shadow itself

Now, what is noticeably absent from this list is the idea of a spirit. In all of the definitions, there is some type of physical body. Nowhere is soma seen as referencing the spirit. In fact, the final of the four definitions ("that which casts a shadow as distinguished from the shadow itself") seems to argue against the word soma representing some type of insubstantial substance (in other words, no ectoplasm involved here). The word that means spirit is found in verse 45 (neuma), but thus far Paul's context seems to exclude the idea that the "soma" can be a mere "neuma". Body seems to mean physical body of some type.

Now, obviously, the body that follows the resurrection is significantly different than the body that existed prior to the resurrection -- Paul makes that point repeatedly -- but it is a body nonetheless. Further evidence of this intent can be gleaned from looking how Paul uses the word "soma" in other similar texts regarding the resurrection. To that end, I undertook to examine his use of the phrase elsewhere in his epistles. In reviewing the uses of the word soma in the Pauline Epistles, here is a rough categorization of how he uses the word based on context:

Corporeal human body - Ro. 1:24, 4:19, 6:6,12, 7:24, 8:10-13, 8:23, 12:1; 1 Co. 5:3, 6:13, 6:16-20, 7:4, 7:34, 9:27, 13:3; 2 Co. 4:10, 5:6-10, 10:10; Gal. 6:7; Eph. 5:23-28; Phil. 1:20, 3:21; Col. 2:11, 2:17, 2:23; 1 Thess. 5:23

Christ's body - Ro. 7:4; 1 Co. 10:16-17, 11:27-29, 12:27; Eph. 1:23, 2:16, 4:4, 4:12; Col. 1:22, 1:24

Corporate body of the church - Ro. 12:4-5; 1 Co. 6:15, 12:12-26; Eph. 4:16; 5:30; Col. 1:18, 3:15

Uncertain - 2 Co. 12:2-3 (I set this aside separately because I don't know what state Paul may have been referencing when he speaks of "out of the body" while "in the body" is clearly "corporeal human body"), Col. 2:19

Now, my categorization is intended to be a rough categorization and several of the uses of the phrase soma could fall into more than one of the categories, thus, I do not encourage anyone to take these categorizations as the final word on the way "soma" is used in each of the texts identified. However, there are two things that are certain: (1) except for the usage in 1 Corinthians 15, the above chart includes every use of the word "soma" by Paul (assuming Paul is not the author of Hebrews), and (2) nowhere does Paul use the word soma to mean "spirit".

How does Paul see the resurrected body? He sees it as the body of Jesus was seen and portrayed in the Gospels -- a physical body that was substantive, could eat and be touched. For example, in Romans 6:3-11.

[3] Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? [4] Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. [5] For if we have become united with {Him} in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be {in the likeness} of His resurrection, [6] knowing this, that our old self was crucified with {Him,} in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; [7] for he who has died is freed from sin. [8] Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, [9] knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. [10] For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. [11] Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

The body that we have will die, just as Jesus died, but we will be resurrected bodily, just as he was resurrected bodily.

So, what does it mean to say that Jesus became a "life-giving spirit"? Consider the following from “Life-Giving Spirit”: Probing the Center of Paul's Pneumatology by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (JETS 41/4 (December 1998) 573–589):

To amplify this point just a bit: The resurrection body of 1 Cor 15:44 is "spiritual" not in the sense of being adapted to the human [pneuAma] or because of its (immaterial) composition/substance, to mention persisting misconceptions, but because it embodies the fullest outworking, the ultimate outcome, of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer, along with the renewal to be experienced by the entire creation. 14 That eschatological body is the believer's hope of total, (psycho-) physical transformation, and in that sense our bodies too, enlivened and renovated by the Spirit. We conclude: As the adjective {pneumatikovn] in vv. 44 and 46 plainly refers to the activity of the Holy Spirit, so its correlative noun [pneuAma] in v. 45 refers to the person of the Holy Spirit.

In other words, upon the death and resurrection of Jesus, he became (using the agency of the Holy Spirit) the means by which eternal life is given to the believer. Jesus, the Holy and only Son of God, gives us life through the Holy Spirit as the result of His death and resurrection.

So, does 1 Cor. 15:44 somehow mean Jesus was just a spirit? It seems to me that the arguments that support that viewpoint are mere phantoms.

Sometimes disputes about the historical nature of the New Testament documents seems to be a fight between theologians of differing perspectives or between skeptical and apologetic laypersons. While it is true that some of the theologians are also fine historians, you will occasionally see use made of quotes or comments by classicists as kind of trump cards. I myself have relied on conslusions and analysis by leading classical historians Michael Grant, A.N. Sherwin-White and Robin L. Fox.

This interest in what learned historians from a related speciality might make of the New Testament documents caused a recent article to catch my eye. Published in the Tyndale Bulletin, it "looks at some of the ways in which ancient historians ... use Acts and other parts of the New Testament as historical sources, in the same way that they use other ancient sources such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Tacitus." "What Do Ancient Historians Make of the New Testament," by Alanna Nobbs, TB, 57.2 (2006). This blog makes use of Nobbs' article as well as my own research and reading of these classical historians.

In some cases, classical historians have taken up the pen to write about early Christian topics, such as the historical Jesus or the New Testament.

Michael Grant (1914-2004)

Grant was a highly respected classical historian, "who read classics at Trinity College, Cambridge and was professor of Humanity at Edinburgh University. He was awarded the OBE in 1946, the CBE in 1958, and was vice-chancellor (president) of the Queen's University of Belfast and University of Khartoum."

One of the many books written by Grant was Jesus, An Historian's Review of the Gospels. It is an interesting insight into how a respected classical historian treated the Gospels. While Grant finds reason to doubt details in some of the Gospel narratives, he accepts them as useful historical sources about the historical Jesus. Ibid., page 199-200. He had scorn for the Jesus Myth idea, writing, "if we apply to the New Testament, as we should, the same sort of criteria as we should apply to other ancient writings containing historical material, we can no more reject Jesus' existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned."

Moreover, some of Grant's conclusions were supportive of Christianity's most important claim. For example, Grant accepts the historicity of the discovery of Jesus' empty tomb: "If we apply the same criteria that we would apply to other ancient literary sources, the evidence is firm and plausible enough to necessitate the conclusion that the tomb was indeed found empty." Ibid., page 176. Finally, Grant found that much of contemporary Jesus studies was too skeptical of the gospel sources, saying that such scholarship “is too extreme a viewpoint and would not be applied in other fields.” Ibid., page 201.

Robin L. Fox (1946-____)

Fox, perhaps most famous for his book Pagans & Christians, is a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and University Reader in Ancient History. An avowed atheist, Fox wrote a book about the Bible called The Unauthorized Version. Although critical of what he perceives as fundamentalist views of the Bible, Fox reaches some quite conservative conclusions, such as that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness and that Luke-Acts was written by a companion of Paul. Indeed, about Luke-Acts, Fox writes:

I regard it as certain, therefore, that he knew Paul and followed parts of his journey. He stayed with him in Jerusalem; he spent time in Caesarea, where he lodged with an early member of the Seven, Philip, who had four prophetic daughters, all virgins (Acts 21:8-9). It must have been quite an evening. He had no written sources, but in Acts he himself was a primary source for a part of the story. He wrote the rest of Acts from what individuals told him and he himself had witnessed, as did Herodotus and Thucydides; in my view, he wrote finally in Rome, where he could still talk to other companions of Paul, people like Aristarchus (a source for Acts 19:23 ff.; cf Acts 27:2, 17:1-15) or perhaps Aquila and Priscilla (whence 18). From Philip he could already have heard about the Ethiopian eunuch (Philip met him), or Stephen and the Seven (Philip was probably one), or the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius in Caesarea (Philip’s residence); from the prophet Agabus, whom he met at 21:10, could come knowledge of Agabus’ earlier prophecy in 11.28.

Ibid., page 210.

It is also fair to say that Fox finds the basic narrative of the Gospels and Luke-Acts to be credible, though in his opinion it is interlaced with dogma and church propaganda.

A.N. Sherwin-White (1911-1993)

Sherwin-White was an imminent Roman historian at Oxford and member of the British Academy. One of his books, Roman Law and Roman Society in the New Testament, focuses on the earliest Christian documents’ relationship with the broader Roman context. Again and again he finds the New Testament documents to be worthy of a high level of trust. When it comes to Acts, for example, Sherwin-White states, "For Acts the confirmation of history is overwhelming" and that "any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted." Ibid., page 189.

As to the gospels, Sherwin-White determined that it is unlikely that the Gospels were predominantly legendary, though he does think they must be read as written with agendas and for polemical purposes:

The agnostic type of form-criticism would be much more credible if the compilation of the Gospels were much later in time.... Herodotus enables us to test the tempo of myth-making, [showing that] even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core.

Ibid., pages 189-190.

As with Grant, Sherwin-White found contemporary biblical studies to be unduly skeptical:

So, it is astonishing that while Greco-Roman historians have been growing in confidence, the twentieth-century study of the Gospel narratives, starting from no less promising material, has taken so gloomy a turn in the development of form-criticism... that the historical Christ is unknowable and the history of his mission cannot be written. This seems very curious.

Ibid., page 187.

Sherwin-White’s statements about most classicists having faith in the New Testament documents receives further support from the reviews of his own book and by the works of other classicists.

For example, John Crook reviewed Roman Society and Roman Laws for Classical Review and agreed that Acts is “an historical source talking about exactly the same world as Tacitus and Suetonius.” He thought that Sherwin-White’s work “support the authenticity in detail of Acts.” Classical Review 14 (1964): 198-200. Another reviewer, J. J. Nicholls, agreed with Sherwin-White that the Gospels and Acts “are to be treated as equally serious and valuable evidence” as other ancient historians, such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Tacitus. Journal of Religious History (1964): 92-95. According to Nobbs, other leading classicists--publishing in the Journal of Roman Studies and Classical Weekly--found Sherwin-White’s book a welcome and sober historical inquiry that was a corrective of the work of more skeptical theologians. Ibid., pages 286-97.

Nobbs’ helpful article goes on to discuss other examples of classical historians making use of the New Testament documents as sources to further classical research. First, A.H.M. Jones (1904-1970) was a prominent 20th century historian of classical antiquity and one-time chair of Ancient History at University College, London. In his Studies in Roman Government and Law, he uses Acts as a source when discussing a Roman citizen’s right of appeal to Caesar. Second, Fergus Millar, Camden Chair of Ancient History at the Univ. of Oxford (only recently retired), “likewise integrated (though again never uncritically) Acts and other Graeco-Roman evidence in a variety of contexts.” Ibid. page 288. The most notable such use was in The Emperor in Roman World (31 BC-AD 337). Third, Stephen Mitchell’s book examining the geography and history of Anatolia draws on Acts and Galatians as basic historical sources.

Based on these examples, it appears that classical historians may give greater weight to the New Testament documents than many New Testament scholars. Because the time period under study by most classicists is so much greater than that covered by the New Testament, few classicists focus on its documents. However, when they do – such as in the case of Sherwin-White and Fox – they can come to more conservative positions about authorship and historical value than even many moderate New Testament scholars.

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Kandensky

I think this is a very neglected topic, and the misunderstanding of which is respsonsible for a lot of problems faced by Christian apologists.

Richard Carrier (of Secular Web fame) has written a pretty good article on the supernatural. I say it's "pretty good" since he obviously put a lot into it, but it brings me back to one of my old soap boxes. Its not really about the supernatural. It's not Carrier's fault, I think the concept itself has been degraded. He takes science and law to task for imposing their own definitions upon the term "supernatural," terms which do not regard the metaphysical. Since "supernatural" is a metaphysical term we should have a metaphysical definition. He also argues that such definitions should take account of the way people use such terms. He presents a plethora of pop culture and science fiction icons, everything from Arthur C. Clark to Harry Potter, everything but Christian theology. He does not touch any theological claims or definitions.

He then loses us by defining the term in this way:

In short, I argue "naturalism" means, in the simplest terms, that every mental thing is entirely caused by fundamentally nonmental things, and is entirely dependent on nonmental things for its existence. Therefore, "supernaturalism" means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things.


As I summarized in the Carrier-Wanchick debate (and please pardon the dry, technical wording):

Unfortunately, this is not what people mean when they say "supernatural" nor does it have anything to do with metaphysics. It's not historically the way the term has been used. More important than metaphysics is theology, because this is primarily a theological term. While I agree that we should take the public use of a term into account, when we have a specialized term that is primarily the property of an academic discipline such as theology, we should consult the history of the term as well as the special to use to which it has been put.

The term suffers from a well known symptom; he thinks "Super" as the prefix would make supernature the opposite of nature. So starting from this juncture, the assumption that these diametrical opposites is symptomatic of what has happened in the degrading of the term in the first place. He then uses his own philosophical hobby horse to define "nature" and thus defining "supernature" (a term he doesn't use, but the proper term nonetheless) is just a matter of advancing the opposite concept as the definition. But "Super" doesn't mean opposition nor does it mean opposite, nor does it mean immaterial, way out, or imaginary. it means "above," "over" or "superior." What this means for defining the term I'll get to in a moment.

Carrier goes on to illustrate the way the term is used, in his eyes, by talking about faries and demons and the force in Star Wars without ever realizing that most of that is not defined as supernatural. I don't recall a line in the movie saying "use the force, Luke,... it's supernatural."

I have previously illustrated my own understanding of supernatural which excludes this kind of phenomena, i.e., the faries and so forth. That was published on this blog, so I'll repeat it here.

I have several pages about the supernatural on Doxa.

Supernature

The problem in all these discussions about the supernatural is that we are dealing with a degraded concept. The notion of "Supernatural" is a misnomer to begin with, because modern people construe the idea as another place, an actual location that you can go to. It's the unseen invisible world that is filled with ghosts and magic and so forth. It's in the realm where God can heaven are, we supposed. But what they don't realize is that this is the watered down, dilapitated concept. It's not even understood well by Christians because it was destroyed in the reformation.

The term "supernatural" comes from the term "supernauturalator" or "Supernature." Dyonisus the Areogopite (around 500 AD) began talking of God as the supernaturalator, meaning that God's higher nature was the telos toward which our "lower" natures were drawn. St. Augustine has spoken of Divine nature as "Supernature" or the higher form of nature, but that is speaking of nature in you, like human nature and divine nature.

In the begining the issue was not a place, "the realm of the supernatural" but the issue was the nature inside a man -- human nature vs. divine nature. The supernatural was divine nature that drew the human up to to itself and vivified it with the power (dunimos) to live a holy life. This is the sort of thing Paul was talking about when he said "when I am weak I am strong" or "we have this treasure in earthen vessels". The weak human nature which can't resist sin is transformed by the power of the Godly nature, through the spirit and becomes strong enough to reisist sin, to be self sacrificing, to die for others, etc., etc.

This was the "supernatural" prior to the reformation. It was tied in with the sacraments and the mass. That's partly why the Protestants would rebel against it. St. Augustine (late 300s to early 400s AD) spoke of Christians not hating rocks and trees in answer to the assertion that Christians didn't like nature. But the extension of the natural world as "nature" didn't come until later. The idea of "the natural" was at first based upon the idea of human nature, of biological life, life form life, that's what the Latin natura is about.

Prior to the reformation Christian theologians did not see the supernatural as a separate reality, an invisible realm, or a place where God dwells that we can't see. After the reformation reality was bifurcated. Now there came to be two realms juxtaposed to each other. The realm of Supernature is related to that of Grace and is holy and sacred, but the early realm is "natural" and bad it's mired in sin and natural urges.

But all of that represents a degraded form of thinking after going through the mill of the Protestant Catholic split. The basic split is charactarized by rationalism vs fedeism. The Catholics are rationalists, because they believe God is motivated by divine purpose and wisdom, the Protestants were fideists, meaning that they held faith alone apart form reason because God is motived by will and sheer acceptance, the desire to prove soverignty above all else.

The rationalistic view offered a single harmony, a harmonous reality, governed by God's reasoned nature and orchestrated in a multifarious ways. This single reality contained a two-sided nature, or a mutli-facets, but it was one harmonious reality in which human nature was rejuvenated thorugh divine nature. But the Protestant view left Christian theology with two warring realities -- that which is removed from our empirical knowledge and that in which we live.

The true Christian view of the supernatural doesn't see the two realms as juxtaposed but as one reality in which the natural moves toward its ground and end in divine nature. It is this tendency to move toward the ground end that produces miracles. A miracle is merely nature bending toward the higher aspect of Supernature.

But with the Protestant division between divine sovereignty, acceptance and will motivating the universe we mistake univocity and equivocity for nature and supernature. We think nature and supernature are not alike, that they are at war, so difference marks the relationship of the two. But to make the Suepernatural more available they stress some aspect of nature and put it over against the rest of nature and pretend that makes it supernatural, this is univocity, it's the same. So will and acceptation, sovereignty, God has to prove that he is in charge, these are all aspects of univocity.

It's the natural extension of this bifurcation that sets up two realms and sees nature as "everything that exits" or "all of mateiral reality" that sets up the atheist idea that supernatural is unnecessary and doesn't exist.

The Medieval Christian doctrine of the supernatural has long been misconstrued as a dualistic denigration of nature, opposed to scientific thinking. The concept of supernature, however, is not a dualism in the sense of denigrading nature or of pitting against each other the "alien" relams of spirit and matter. The Christian ontology of the supernatural bound together the realm of nature and the realm of Grace, immanent and transcendent, in a unity of creative wisdom and purpose, which gave theological significance to the natural world. While the doctrine of supernature was at times understood in a dualistic fashion, ultimately, the unity it offered played a positive role in the development of scientific thinking, because it made nature meaningful to the Medieval mind. Its dissolution came, not because supernatural thinking opposed scientific thinking, but because culture came to value nature in a different manner, and the old valuation no longer served the purpose of scientific thinking. An understanding of the notion of supernature is essential to an understanding of the attitudes in Western culture toward nature, and to an understanding of the cultural transition to science as an epistemic authority.

The ontology of supernature assumes that the natural participates in the supernatural in an ordered relation of means and immediate ends, with reference to their ultimate ends. The supernatural is the ground and end of the natural; the realm of nature and the realm of Grace are bound up in a harmonious relation. The Ptolemaic system explained the physical lay-out of the universe, supernature explained its theological relation to God. The great chain of being separated the ranking of creatures in relation to creator. The supernatural ontology is, therefore, sperate from but related to cosmologies. This ontology stands behind most forms of pre-reformation theology, and it implies an exaltation of nature, rather than denigration. This talk of two realms seems to imply a dualism, yet, it is not a metaphysical dualism, not a dualism of opposition, but as Fairweather points out, "the essential structure of the Christian faith has a real two-sidedness about it, which may at first lead the unwary into dualism, and then to resolve ... an exclusive emphasis on one or the other severed elements of a complete Christianity...such a dissolution is inevitable once we lose our awareness of that ordered relation of the human and the divine, the immanent and the transcendent, which the Gospel assumes." Yet, it is this "two-sidedness" which leads unwary historians of into dualism.

In his famous 1967 article, "The Roots of Our Ecological Crisis," Lynn White argued that the Christian belief of the Imago Dei created "a dualism of man and nature;" "man shares in God's transcendence of nature." This notion replaced pagan animism, it removed the "sacred" from the natural world, and with it, inhibitions against exploiting nature. Moreover, by the 12th century, nature became a source of revelation through natural theology. In the Latin West, where action prevailed over contemplation, natural theology ceased to be the decoding of natural symbols of the divine and became instead an attempt to understand God through decerning the operation of creation. Western technology flourished, surpassing even that of Islamic culture (although they still led in theoretical pursuits). Thus, White argues, medieval theology did allow science to grow, but at the ultimate expense of the environment.

The insights of feminist scholarship, however, suggest an even more subtle argument for the denigration of nature. Feminist theologian, Rosemary Radford Ruther, argued that there is an identification between the female and nature, the male and transcendence. Women have been disvalued historically through the association between female sexuality and the "baseness" of nature. Londa Schiebinger, calls attention to the fact that the Judeo-Christian cosmology placed women in a subordinate position. Gender was more fundamental than biological sex, and it was a cosmological principle, "...Men and women were carefully placed in the great chain of being--their positions were defined relative to plants, animals, and God." The subordination of women was predicated upon their position in nature. "Male" and "Female represented dualistic cosmological principles penetrating all of nature, principles of which sexual organs were only one aspect. One might suspect that the place of women on the great chain of being is indicative of the true status of nature itself in Christian ontology; an overt denigration of women indicates a covert denigration of nature.

The effect of bad definition

Carrier sets up a false definition of "supernatural." Now he doesn't say "I am attacking the Christian view." But we all know that Sec Web posters will be using it for years to come and act as though they have destroyed Christianity. Christianity is a major source of understanding about the Supernatural, thus any view that doesn't take into account the Christian view point is missing a major aspect of the topic. Carrier's views are woefully inadequate in terms of Christian theology. Let's examine his summary and see what he thinks he's accomplished:

Many naturalists have a poor conception of how to define naturalism or the supernatural. They might know it when they see it, but when they try to capture in words what exactly it is they are talking about, they often come up with a badly worded travesty. I've done what little I can to remedy this by developing and testing a precise definition of naturalism and the supernatural, providing a sensible and usable natural-supernatural distinction, which also happens to align adequately well with how people use these words in practice (as I believe our terminology ought to do as much as possible). And now I have amplified my past work on this by surveying numerous hypothetical examples of how my proposed distinctions can be applied.

Unfortunately what he's really done is to assume that the prefix "super" means "anti" so natural means non mental reality then supernatural must mean mental reality. He then goes about the task of trying to switch this useless dichotomy in place of the languishing and degraded concept of supernatural that is the dregs of the fall out from the reformation.

In defining the words "natural" and "supernatural" as I do, I differ from the legal and science community, as exemplified most recently in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case. There, Judge Jones was bound by legal principles to follow case precedent and the professional standards of established industries. Following the 1982 McLean decision he found the courts had defined "supernatural intervention" as intervention that "cannot be explained by natural causes, or be proven through empirical investigation, and is therefore neither testable nor falsifiable." Jones further cited the official statement of the National Academy of Sciences, which declares "claims of supernatural intervention...are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science." Thus we see the same trend in both the legal and scientific communities, to veer away from metaphysical distinctions and in favor of purely epistemological ones, but as my articles, and now examples, have shown, this does not track the real-world use of the word at all, which can tend to no good.
He is right on this point.

These concepts, testability and explainability in the face of naturalism are the degraded leftovers of the real issue. But what he doesn't see is that this dichotomy, which really stems from the Reformation/Renaissance notions of acceptation and autonomy, are actually setting up the dichotomy that he makes which is to place mental over against the non-mental. He's right that the definition must be a metaphysical one, but then the substitutes for metaphysics a cheap concept devoid of any real metaphysical import. The real concept, as pointed out in part 1, is that Supernature is the power of God to vivify and raise nature to a higher level. a broader and more theological definition would be "the ground and end of the natural." The idea that supernatural is opposed to natural or is somehow its opposition is the dregs of the concept and stems from the Renaissance notion of autonomy.

I think the legal and scientific communities are on a bad track with this (hence the barely coherent discussion of the supernatural in Wikipedia), especially since the same point can be made without abusing the word "supernatural." It is enough to say, for example, that creationism isn't science, not because it is supernatural, but simply because it is untestable (assuming you can prove it is). There is no need to conflate the two.

Unfortunately Carrier does nothing to improve the situation and he won't even listen. He doesn't even care that he has hold of the wrong idea.

Though I understand their reasons for wanting to keep metaphysics out of it (since both enterprises are more fundamentally epistemological), I disagree with their attempted solution of co-opting and changing the meaning of a popular word. That's the wrong way to go about it. Hence I believe a paradigm shift is needed in those communities regarding how the word "supernatural" is defined and applied. Both law and science must get back in line with ordinary English and real-world language, ideas, and concerns.

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*Kandensky was one of the great artists of the 20th century. He was a nominal Chrisian and a mystic who took spirituality seriously in his art. For some great Kandensky art go Here

In an earlier post, I blogged about Prof. Jack Kinneer, Adjunct Professor of New Testament Studies, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary, concerning a short article that he had written answering some of the commonly held myths of Christmas. I noted my disappointment that Prof. Kinneer had not given more details in support of his propositions.

Well, I spoke too soon. It turns out that the article I cited previously was only a summary of some of the arguments he made as to why certain stories about Christmas are actually a myth. (Let me clarify, he is not saying that the Christmas stories as found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke are myths. Rather, he is saying that there are certain myths that have grown up around those accounts that are myths. For example, one such myth is that the magi showed up in Bethlehem when Jesus was two or three years old. Another myth is that Jesus stayed in Egypt for a couple of years before returning to Israel.) He has actually written a much longer article (13 pages pdf) entitled When was Jesus born? And Other Commonly Asked Christmas Questions.

Prof. Kinneer, after spending time reviewing the texts, comes to the conclusion that there is a different way to read the texts together than what is the common teaching in the church. His efforts take into account many different lines of evidence without sacrificing the Biblical texts and comes to the conclusion that the timeline for the Nativity actually went something like this:

All the events in Matthew could easily fit into the minimum time frame in Luke (42 days).
Birth of Jesus (Day 1)
Magi arrive in Jerusalem (Day 3)
Jesus circumcised (Day 8)
Conferences with Herod, on to Bethlehem (Day 8)
Magi leave, flight at night (9)
Trip to Egypt (Days 10-20)
Stay in Egypt, angel appears (Days 21-30)
Return from Egypt (Days 31-41)
Visit to the temple (Day 42)


The article is interesting and gives some different takes on some of the common questions about Christmas. Here are the questions he answers:

When was Jesus born?
But I thought our dating system was based upon the birth of Jesus? Why is the birth of Jesus before A.D. 1?
How exact can we be in dating the birth of Jesus relative to the death of Herod?
What about the star? Was there really a star?
So then, was Jesus born at one of these events? Is that why he is often said to have been born as early as 7 B.C.?
But wasn’t Jesus about two or threewhen the magi arrive?
But wasn’t Jesus in Egypt for several years?
How long was the interval from the birth of Jesus to the death of Herod and the return from Egypt?
Do Matthew and Luke fit together chronologically?
What is the basis for saying the period between Jesus’ birth and his presentation at the temple was 40 days?
How would the magi have known the meaning of the star?
Is it really plausible that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem just days before she gave birth and arrived perhaps the very day of her being delivered?
What about the census? Was there really a census?
On your dating, Jesus was born in the winter months. How then could there be shepherds at night in the wilds with their flocks?

His conclusion? Prof. Kinneer says:

Jesus was born not too long before the death of Herod in late March of 4 B.C. Assuming the time from the birth of Jesus till his presentation at the temple may have been more that 41 days but not a great amount of time longer, then the birth of Jesus would have occurred in the winter months of 5-4 B.C. Late in December is about as far back as the date can be pushed without doing violence to the time indication in Luke. As it turns out, both the traditional dates for Christ’s birth, December 25 or January 6, fall within the time frame we have determined. We are not saying these dates are exact, but they are plausible. In our estimation, a date in late January or early February is a little more likely since such a date barely stretches the minimum of 41 days implied by Luke.

Agree or disagree, this is definitely worth a read.

During this Pro-life week, I taught a class that emphasized the pro-life position. I present the position in favor of the embryo being seen as a living human being in this way. First, I note that the factual question "What is it?" is the first that must be answered. Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason and Scott Klusendorf of Prolife Training give the same illustration as a way of presenting the importance of this question:

Suppose that you are standing at your sink washing dishes when your five year old son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter comes behind you and asks "Can I kill this?" What is the first question you should ask? Of course, the first and most important question is "what is it?" If it's a cockroach, kill it! In fact, if you find anymore cockroaches, kill them, too. If it's a puppy he found in the street, then I doubt anyone would be in favor of allowing the child to kill it. What if "it" is the little boy who lives down the street? No one (except the criminally insane) would say that it's okay to kill the little boy. You see, if you don't first know what "it" is, then you cannot make a rational decision as to whether killing it is okay. As Greg Koukl, paraphrasing Francis Beckwith, says: "If the zygote or embryo or fetus is not a human being, then no justification for either abortion [or Embryonic Stem Cell Research] is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human being, no justification for taking her life is adequate."

So, how do we know that the fetus (beginning with the embryo) is a human being. Well, we know that life begins at conception. The unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. The parents are human beings and the law of biogenesis says that everything recreates after its own kind. The law of identify says that whatever a thing is it remains such as long as it exists. Moreover, it's alive! If allowed to proceed to normal development, it will grow into a full human being. It's features may change but it is fully a human being. Since it is a human being, then certain rights follow from that.

During the talk, I was confronted by a scientist who took the position with me that the fetus/embryo is merely a potential life only. Sure, everything I said was true, but the fetus had to undergrow a great deal of growth which depended upon many factors (such as being left in the womb) before it could qualify as a human being. I decided to respond in two ways.

First, I told him that the term "potential" was difficult to understand. After all, a one year old is a potential five year old. A seven year old is a potential eight year old. I am a potential ninety year old (many years in the future). I am not now a ninety year old, and I will only reach the stage of being a ninety year old depending upon many factors such as being left in an environment in which I can survive in order to become a realized ninety year old. You see, the fetus is fitted to its environment. If you take it out of its intended environment for its stage of development, it will certainly die. But is that a reason to think of it as being non-human? Consider, we all live in an environment that we are suited for in our level of development. Because we can’t live outside that environment (space, deep in the ocean, in the Antarctic) does that make it okay to kill us?

But then I took a second tact. I asked him if he was certain he knew when a "fetus" went from being a non-human being (or a potential human being) to a fully realized human being. If not, then how can he know when it has crossed the line making it okay to kill or not to kill. Isn't the better approach if we don't know when the "fetus" passes from the "potential human being" category into the "realized human being" category to refrain from killing?

In other words, I presented to him the abortion quadrilemma discussed by Boston College philosopher Dr. Peter Kreeft. Here's how it works. You begin with the question such as the following: "So, if we don't know when life begins that makes it okay to kill something? Doesn't that argue for not killing something until we're sure?" Then you throw out an illustration to make the point cleearer. Picture a hunter who hears a rustling in the bush. The rustling could be an animal that he is licensed to hunt, and killing that animal would be perfectly legal and (setting aside the difficult moral issues that involve hunting of animals not for food) ethical. But what if the rustling in the bush is another hunter? It could be, but the hunter doesn't know. Should he shoot before he's sure it isn't a human being? Obviously not. The law puts an obligation on us to not kill negligently.

The quadrilemma makes capital of the fact that there are only four options available concerning the humanity of the fetus. It is either a human being or not, and we either know what it is for certain or not. Combining these options, we come up with four categories:

Category 1. X is a human being and we know it for certain.
Category 2. X is a human being and we don't know it for certain.
Category 3. X is not a human being and we know it for certain.
Category 4. X is not a human being and we don't know it for certain.

If the fetus is a human being and we know it, it seems apparent that we shouldn't kill it since that would be a form of murder. If the fetus is a human being and we don't know it for certain, or if the fetus is not a human being but we don't know that for certain, then it is very much like the rustling in the bush. Wisdom tells us that it's wrong to kill the thing in the bush when we aren't certain what it is because it may be a human being. By the same token, we shouldn't kill the fetus in the womb if we aren't certain whether its a human being or not because it may be a human being and to kill a human being by accident due to mistake about his or her nature is also wrong (at minimum, negligent homicide in most states). It is only if the fetus is not a human being and we are certain that it's not a human being that it would be okay to kill it.

Of course, unless they are pro-choice zealots, they are going to have to admit that they don't know for certain that the fetus is not a human being. In fact, the argument that the fetus is necessarily a human being is much stronger than the argument that it isn't a human being. So, if they can't say with certainty when the fetus crosses the line between humanity and non-humanity, then the only wise and appropriate course is to not kill the fetus through abortion.

Anyone have other answers to the "potential human being" argument?

Cross-blogged at Apologia Christi

From Britain boosts intelligent-design debate:

British teenagers may soon be debating creationism and intelligent design in religion classes that give equal time to the Darwinists and atheists who reject these views of the world's origins.

Newly published school guidelines reflect the growing influence of a bitter battle over evolution being waged on the other side of the Atlantic, by conservative American Christians who want to put God back into the secular state school system.

The guidelines, issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, place the issue firmly in religious education class, rather than the science classes where American intelligent-design proponents want it to be handled.

By placing creationist views with those of their critics in religion classes, the curriculum authority could head off the divisive debates that have pitted religion against science in the United States.

"This is a clever way of defusing the issue," Clifford Longley, a religious affairs commentator, told Reuters.

This sort of article makes me want to rip my clothing, dress is sackcloth, pour ashes on my head aweepeap for society. While I welcome the idea that Britain is apparently recognizing that intelligent design is a growing force that needs to be addressed in schools, it is doing so exactly the wrong way. By putting the discussion in religion classes, it is saying that ID isn't a science. But that's what the debate's about, isn't it?

The article assumes that ID is merely religion with a white lab coat when it says, "Newly published school guidelines reflect the growing influence of a bitter battle over evolution being waged on the other side of the Atlantic, by conservative American Christians who want to put God back into the secular state school system." No, no, no! As one who thinks that ID is a scientific endeavor, I reject that characterization of ID or my personal goals. In all honesty, I don't want to see creationism taught in the public schools, but that's because there is a huge divide between creationism and ID. For those new to the debate, let me clarify the divide. Creationism starts with a religions text (the Bible) and searches for evidence to support that text. ID starts with the evidence and reasons that some things in nature are too complex to arise by purely naturalistic means and so, by process of elimination, says that they must be designed. It examines the world to try to determine what the characteristics are of things that arise naturally and things that are designed -- a process already implicitly employed in such areas as anthropology and archaeology. By analogizing between how we can identify the difference between man-made items and items created through known natural processes, ID tries to determine whether any of the items that we see in nature carry with them evidence of design.

ID does not make a claim about God in any way. It is not a religious belief. It does not say who or what may have been the designer behind the design that can be gleaned from a close study of nature. All it says when evidence for design is seen in an item or organism is "this bears evidence of design" and no more. The fact that people may deduce from this observation that the designer may be God or a god or gods is not part of ID but part of speculation that is outside of the discipline.

By putting ID into a religious class, the people in authority in Britain have chosen sides in this debate. They are saying that ID is creationism, but I continue to maintain that that is a highly inaccurate view of what ID is all about. Thus, this is not a "clever way of defusing the issue" unless you consider giving in to the Darwinist position a way of defusing the issue. Surrender is never the middle ground.

I have recently added two new resources to the CADRE site. The first is a link to a new group known as the C.S. Lewis Society which has been linked under the Prominent Christian Spokespersons portion of the CADRE Public Square Page. The group describes itself as such:

The Society is an educational and cultural organization of people interested in events, publications, and other developments that advance deeper understanding of the life, works, and ideas of C. S. Lewis and others who are addressing the enduring philosophical, cultural, historical, literary, theological, social, and economic issues of mankind.

It has an excellent page of linked articles about the man and many of his thoughts.

The second link recently added is a page that has been added to our Hitler Christian? page. It is a detailed response to Jim Walker's "Hitler's Christianity" website which is one of the sites on the Internet that attempts (contrary to all reason) to connect Hitler with Christianity.

I encourage everyone to take the time to visit these sites if these are topics of interest to you.

When you form a "Skeptic's Society" and publish a magazine called "Skeptic," you better be sure your skepticism has an equal opportunity viewing lens. Lead by Michael Shermer, the Skeptic's Society purports to engage "in scientific investigation and journalistic research to investigate claims made by scientists, historians, and controversial figures on a wide range of subjects." But apparently the investigation and research does not apply about claims that reinforce the Society's prejudices.

The Skeptic Society asserted, based on nothing more than a press release issued by a leftist anti-Bush activist group, that "Bush administration appointees will not allow rangers at Grand Canyon National Park to mention that the earth is more than a few thousand years old." The Skeptic Society admits that it did not call the liberal activist group to ask about its sources. It received no confirmation or supporting information. It did not even call the National Park Service or the Grand Canyon National Park to ask about their policy. It was only after they pushed the article through and received calls telling them how wrong they were that they actually looked into the factual basis of their assertion. See, some readers apparently got around to calling the Park Service and asking them about the age of the Grand Canyon. The answers? Millions of years old.

How can an organization supposedly devoted to serious investigation and verification of questionable claims engage in extraordinarily sloppy "journalism"? The answer can be found in Shermer's own correction. He blames the Society's "eagerness to find additional examples of the inappropriate intrusion of religion in American public life (as if we actually needed more)." Note that despite the "correction" Shermer cannot resist making the snide parenthetical. They know this to be so obviously true that such claims need not be verified or supported by the evidence. So in practice it appears that skepticism is the rule when the Society targets religion or other pet peeves of its membership, whereas fanciful claims made by an organization with a known axe to grind about easily verifiable government policy are taken at face value. Shermer could not be bothered to lift a phone, or ask the author or an intern to lift a phone, and make one call about the story despite its questionable source and content.

Although Shermer says "shame on me" for not checking the story, he shovels most of the blame at an "activist group" that was "in search of demons to exorcise and dragons to slay." I am no aficionado of Skeptic Magazine, but that description sure sounds like Shermer's own group. To regain their credibility, the Skeptic Society might want to look at its own biases more and point the finger less. And Shermer should have avoided the snide parenthetical which suggests he and his Society are prone to repeating this mistake and are not an unbiased or trustworthy reporter of such news.

We often hear of all the evil done in the name of the religion, but rarely about all the good done in the name of religion. That was one reason I wrote articles describing how the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman empire resulted in the discouragement and criminalization of infanticide and the encouragement and institutionalization of charity.

A more recent example is the American Civil Rights Movement. Many if not the majority of its leadership were pastors and reverends. Most notable of these is the Rev. Martin Luther King (who the atheistic "Rational Responders" recently proclaimed to have been mentally ill). The fact that these leaders were also clergy was not a coincidence. Their Christian faith infused and motivated not only their vision but also the courage to work for that vision. There is no atheistic moral justification for demanding equal treatment. There is no atheistic moral justification for anything, such as charity, equality, liberty, or against anything, such as rape, infanticide, or murder. It is of course possible to act good and be an atheist, but it is impossible for atheism to tell us what is good even that there is such a thing as good.

The Reverend Martin L. King was a Baptist minister. While working for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, Rev. King required that volunteers sign a Civil Rights Ten Commandments. Here are three of them:

* MEDITATE daily on the teachings of Jesus;
* WALK and TALK in the manner of love, for GOD is love;
* PRAY daily to be used by God in order that all men might be free.

Rev. King's work as a civil rights leader was a ministry infused with Christianity and faith in Jesus. Freedom was for all because all were God's children. In his I Have a Dream speech, King referred three times to "all God's children." (He often used that phrase in other speeches, including when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.) When he closed his I Have a Dream Speech, Rev. King said:

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,

Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Throughout his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Rev. King referred to Paul and Jesus and their teachings as examples that motivated him and justified his actions.

Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town.

...

Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion?

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Was not Jesus an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream." Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience." And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..."

So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Are we to be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime---the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment.

He also appeals to God's law as supersceding man's law:

There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all"

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

...

Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated.


He is clear that those religious in the South who resisted civil rights were not doing the will of God.

One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.


Perhaps Martin L. King summed up his desire at the end of his I See the Promised Land speech: "I just want to do God's will."

Rev. King is rightly remembered for the key role he played in bringing equality to African-Americans in the United States. He should also be remembered as an example of how Christianity caused great good by inspiring and justifying one of the greaterst civil rights leaders in history. But the relationship between Rev. King's Christian faith and his civil rights efforts are not unique. Rather, it is typical of other leaders from that time. In his book The Culture of Disbelief, liberal law professor Stephen Carter observed:

The leaders of the civil rights movement spoke openly of the commands of God as a crucial basis for their public activism. They made no effort to disguise their true intention: to impose their religious morality on others, on the dissenters who would rather segreate their hotels or lunch counters.

Thank God such men and women dared to fight for the principles dictated to them by their Christian faith.

In an e-mail exchange with a Christian, I was asked to give my opinion about a blog entry by an ex-apologist who goes by the name of Exapologist entitled William Lane Craig on the Origin of the Belief in Jesus' Resurrection. Exapologist claims to have found a flaw in William Lane Craig's argument counter to the idea that the resurrection appearances weren't hallucinations.

According to Exapologist, Craig's argument can be put into the following syllogism which, subject to a correction of the context of Dr. Craig's argument I make below, I will accept as accurate for purposes of this post:

1. If belief in Jesus' resurrection was due to something other than experiences as of Jesus risen from the dead, then the belief was derived from either Christian influences or Jewish influences.
2. If it was derived from Christian influences, then Christianity existed prior to itself.
3. Christianity didn't exist prior to itself.
4. Therefore, it wasn't derived from Christian influences. (From 2 and 3)
5. If it was derived from Jewish influences, then the idea of a single individual rising from the dead before the end of time was extant in Jewish belief prior to Christianity.
6. The idea of a single individual rising from the dead before the end of time was not extant in Jewish belief prior to Christianity.
7. Therefore, it wasn't derived from Jewish sources. (From 5 and 6)
8. Therefore, the belief wasn't derived from either Christian influences or Jewish influences (From 4 and 7)
9. Therefore, belief in Jesus resurrection was not due to something other than experiences as of Jesus risen from the dead (From 1 and 8)

Exapologist believes that the argument is flawed at paragraph 5. Exapologist writes:

For as a number of NT critics have pointed out, and as is fairly clear from the writings of the NT itself, the earliest Christians believed that Jesus' putative resurrection was (to use Paul's terminology) the "first fruits" of the general resurrection of the dead at the end of time. This is an agricultural metaphor. When farmers reaped and ate the first fruits of the harvest, they would then reap the full harvest the very next day -- the "general" harvest was "imminent", as it was "inaugurated" with the reaping of the first-fruits. Similarly, the earliest Christians believed that the final judgement and the general resurrection were imminent, given their belief that Jesus' resurrection was itself the inaugurating event of the general resurrection and the end of all things. Thus, contrary to what Craig says on this matter, there is a continuity between the beliefs of the early Christians and the beliefs of many Jews of his time: Jesus' resurrection was fundamentally construed in these eschatological terms.[1] And of course, as Craig acknowledges, the idea of a general resurrection at the end of time was a common Jewish belief at the time. Thus, premise (5) is false, and the argument is unsound.

Although I know that skeptics seem to hate it when I do this, let's put the argument in context. This argument is made after Craig has made strong arguments in support of the belief that Jesus actually died on the cross during the crucifixion, that he was laid in a tomb that was known, that the tomb was empty, and that the disciples claim to have seen Him "on the third day" and thereafter. The idea that Jesus' appearance was the result of hallucinations by the disciples is the attempt to explain what most Biblical scholars (even those who have no faith in the accuracy of the New Testament texts) acknowledge was an honest belief by the apostles that they had seen something and thought it was Jesus risen from the dead. Even in the atrocious "In Search of Jesus" with Peter Jennings that was on television a few years ago, all of the scholars interviewed acknowledged that the disciples had seen something that led them to believe that Jesus had risen. This is a point that is pretty much beyond dispute.

Now, the question for the skeptics is how to account for the post-crucifixion appearances of Jesus in light of the evidence of the death of Jesus, His burial in a known tomb, and the empty tomb itself. One theory that is presented -- a fairly weak theory, I might add -- is that the appearances were hallucinations. Consider the following from Dr. Ben Witherington, III's essay He Is Risen Indeed:

The suggestion that the disciples were victims of a hallucination, or their experience was the ultimate example of wish projections, or they merely saw visions has several problems. First, on all accounts the disciples doubted, deserted, and denied Jesus at the end, with the possible exception of some of his female followers and perhaps the Beloved Disciple (a Judean disciple). They were hardly in a psychological condition to produce a fantasy about a risen Jesus. Their hopes had been utterly shattered by his crucifixion less than three days before. Second, it will not do to suggest a mass hallucination, because all the traditions we have suggest that Jesus appeared at different times and places to different persons, last of all to Paul. I know of no basis for the notion of a contagious hallucination. Third, it is hardly believable that the earliest Christians would have made up the notion that Jesus appeared first to some women. We find no extended discussion in the Gospels of a personal appearance first to Peter or to James the brother of the Lord, but we do have stories about the appearance or appearances to the leading female disciples. Given the patriarchal world of the earliest Christians, it is not believable that a missionary-minded group would make up such a story. Nor is there any basis for the suggestion that these appearance stories were largely generated out of the Old Testament, which hardly mentions the notion of resurrection from the dead. In other words, the evidence as we have it strongly resists attempts to redefine "resurrection," if, that is, we wish to preserve any continuity with the historical Christian witness on this matter.

Another excellent source for understanding the weakness of the hallucination hypothesis is Dr. Gary R. Habermas' essay Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: HALLUCINATION; The Recent Revival of THEORIES. Dr. Habermas points out multiple problems with the hallucination hypothesis demonstrating that for the post-crucifixion appearances to be hallucinations they must overcome a number of very difficult objections. Moreover, the hallucination theory has a very minimal explanatory scope when viewing the entirety of the evidence. In other words, the hallucination hypothesis could possibly explain the appearances, but does nothing to explain other issues related to the resurrection, e.g., the empty tomb.

Exapologist tries to make the claim that Jesus' resurrection was expected by the apostles which would explain how they would be primed for a post-crucifixion experience. To support this idea, Exapologist points the early Christian view of Jesus as the firstfruits of the resurrection. But, of course, the understanding of Jesus as the firstfruits as expressed in the New Testament (found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28) is the result of Paul looking back in hindsight and seeing what Jesus had already done. But to be able to look back and see that Jesus had arisen first is quite a different proposition from looking forward prior to the actual resurrection and expecting Jesus to rise from the dead.

There certainly is agreement that the Jewish view was ultimately looking forward to a bodily resurrection. But as William Lane Craig points out in his on-line article Visions of Jesus: A Critical Assessment of Gerd Lüdemann's Hallucination Hypothesis, the Jewish belief was that a bodily resurrection would occur only after the coming of the Father at the end of the world. Here's what Craig says:

Jewish hope in the resurrection of the dead was invariably a corporate and eschatological hope. The resurrection of all the righteous dead would take place after God had brought the world as we know it to an end. Surveying the Jewish literature, Joachim Jeremias concluded,

Ancient Judaism did not know of an anticipated resurrection as an event of history. Nowhere does one find in the literature anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus. Certainly resurrections of the dead were known, but these always concerned resuscitations, the return to the earthly life. In no place in the later Judaic literature does it concern a resurrection to δ ο ξ α as an event of history.{41}

Even if the disciples' faith in Jesus had somehow managed to survive the crucifixion, they would at most have looked forward to their reunion with him at the final resurrection and would perhaps have preserved his tomb as a shrine, where Jesus's bones might rest until the eschatological resurrection. That was the Jewish hope.

But we know that that did not happen. Despite their having most every predisposition to the contrary, it is an indisputable fact that the earliest disciples suddenly and sincerely came to believe that God had raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead.

Look back at what Exapologist claims: the firstfruits analogy set forth in the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is a continuation of Jewish thought. Certainly, I'll agree that it is an extension of Jewish thought (as is all Christianity, ultimately), but it is not an extension that is not readily foreseeable. In fact, it is this absense of a connection between the teachings about the Messiah being resurrected separately prior to the actual bodily resurrection of Jesus (or, at least, the disciples' claims that Jesus had, in fact, been bodily resurrected) that is missing in exapologist's argument. Exapologist sets forth nothing that shows that any significant number of Jews were expecting the Messiah to rise bodily ahead of all of the other people. Instead, he simply acknowledges what Dr. Craig acknowledges in his writings -- that the Jewish teachings expected a bodily resurrection. But Dr. Craig's explanation goes beyond that statment. Dr. Craig's argument emphasis that the Jewish teachings prior to Jesus' resurrection about a bodily resurrection prior to the end of time was just the opposite of what Exapologist suggests in his argument. Craig points out that the Jewish teaching was that no one would arise bodily until the end.

So, in my opinion, Exapologist has a large hole in his analysis -- the failure to show that any Jewish teachers expected the Messiah to rise bodily before the end of the world. Without that teaching being shown, there is nothing to show that the disciples would have expected the bodily resurrection of Jesus by himself as the firstfruits prior to the resurrection itself. Without that connection, Craig's argument stands and premise #5 has not been shown to be false.

A foolish consistencey is the hobgoblin of little minds.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Atheism Sucks (a blog which I wish would change its name since I think it can distract from the content) has published an interesting piece on an e-mail exchange with Brian Sapient of the Rational Responders which seemed of interest to people on this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. According to the piece:

According to the atheist group Rational Response Squad, yes! Leader Brian Sapient says that Christians ought to be committed to mental hospitals and even suggested that his own mother be put in one. I asked him through e-mail correspodence if he would agree that Martin Luther King, Jr. suffered from mental disorder. Brian Sapient answered "Yes"!

* * *

Aside from that, RRS member, Chris Benard, admitted,

Remember, the paranoid schizophrenic thinks it's perfectly "logical" and "rational" to speak to themselves and have MPD. Christianity does a lot more harm than paranoid schizophrenia (see history and laws).
Well, you ought to hand it to the guys, they stick to their guns. Even though it's insane.

Yes, they are being consistent, aren't they?

Personally, I don't care what Brian Sapient or any of his cohorts at Rational Responders say. They have proven on more than one occasion to favor rhetoric over dialogue. However, I think that this post is representative of a position that seems to be becoming standard fare for the atheist-clones of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Bill Mahrer and the like, i.e., to make the absurd claim that Christians are not only wrong but mentally ill.

As I have pointed out in the past, there is no basis for such absurdity. It is pure rhetoric that is being foisted on the public apparently under the theory that if you throw enough crap at the wall, some of it will stick. It is very much the same principle on which commercials operate -- the more frequency that a person hears a commerical the more likely that person will come to accept the commercial's claims. Repetition is what makes commercials work. Yet they seem to be willing to not only make this claim but stick with it despite its patent absurdity. Basically, they are saying that every person who has ever been a Christian is mentally ill. Now, that may have some appeal when you are referencing people in generalities, but when you start identifying the people who they are saying are mentally ill, the foolishness of the view becomes more and more apparent.

The e-mail in the original post identifies Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as being mentally ill. The claim that Dr. King, Jr. was mentally ill (heading into MLK Day) is quite astounding. But, of course, they shouldn't stop there if they are going to be consistent. Everyone who was a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim or a Hindu or any of the hundreds of pagan religions that believe in a god were all mentally ill, according to this view. So, in addition to Dr. King, on the cultural reformer front the list of mentally ill people would include Mahatama Gandhi, William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglas, Mother Teresa, Jesse Jackson, and hundreds of other cultural reformers who have helped to improve society through the ages. (And let's be clear here -- it is a mistake to confuse disagreement with someone's position with mental illness. I don't agree with Jesse Jackson, but I don't think he's mentally ill because I disagree with him. Yet, that's what the followers of this New Atheism want you to believe.)

You don't think it's bad to name these particular people as mentally ill? Well, let's consider some of the names of scientists who need to be included on the list of mentally ill people in history (adapted from 100 Scientists Who Changed the World):

Isaac Newton; the Newtonian Revolution; Anglican
Albert Einstein; Theory of Relativity; Jewish
Neils Bohr; the Atom; Jewish Lutheran
Charles Darwin; Evolution Anglican (nominal); Unitarian
Louis Pasteur; the Germ Theory of Disease; Catholic
Galileo Galilei; the New Science; Catholic
Antoine Laurent Lavoisier; the Revolution in Chemistry; Catholic
Johannes Kepler; Motion of the Planets; Lutheran
Nicolaus Copernicus; the Heliocentric Universe; Catholic
Michael Faraday; the Classical Field Theory; Sandemanian
James Clerk Maxwell; the Electromagnetic Field; Presbyterian/Anglican/Baptist
Franz Boas; Modern Anthropology; Jewish
Werner Heisenberg; Quantum Theory; Lutheran
Linus Pauling; Twentieth-Century Chemistry; Lutheran
Erwin Schrodinger; Wave Mechanics; Catholic
Andreas Vesalius; the New Anatomy; Catholic
Tycho Brahe; the New Astronomy; Lutheran
Max Planck; the Quanta; Protestant
William Herschel; the Discovery of the Heavens; Jewish

I could go on naming famous people in other categories like philosophers, teachers, leaders, military men, explorers, businessmen, charitable workers, etc., but what's the point? It's apparent that many of the most famous, influential, thoughtful, compassionate, artistic and intelligent people in history have been religious -- and quite often Christian. So, that brings me to an observation that I think people who hold this point of view overlook: If Sam Harris, Bill Mahrer and Richard Dawkins are examples of what it means to be free from mental illness while Martin Luther King, Jr., Isaac Newton, St. Thomas Aquinas and Mother Teresa are examples of people who are mentally ill, I side with the mentally ill -- they seem like much more pleasant, helpful, intelligent and compassionate people.

Reformed Apologist makes a very interesting point in one of his recent posts. He makes the claim that a sound proof for God's existence is actually very simple. Here is his proof.

Since the premises in the following argument are true and the form of the argument is valid, the conclusion is reliable and true.

P1. If God has revealed himself, then God exists
P2. God has revealed himself
C. Therefore, God exists

So Christian, please never say again that one cannot prove the existence of God.

The issue is not about proof. Proving God's existence is simple, as was just shown. The issue is over the justification of premises and what people will accept as authoritative. For instance, if one believes that his senses can justify premises, then one might choose to prove that there are crackers in the pantry in the following manner:

P1. If I see crackers in the pantry, then there are crackers in the pantry
P2. I see crackers in the pantry
C. Therefore, there are crackers in the pantry

The deductive argument for there being crackers in the pantry was implicit in Dr. Bahnsen's debate with Gorden Stein. The point I'd like to make is that only a skeptic would deny such a proof can be sound because only a skeptic would deny that one's senses can be reliable. Just the same, if a skeptic did not accept the truth of the premises, the proof would not become invalidated or proven false. In the like manner, only an unbeliever - who is suppressing in unrighteousness the obvious truth of God's revelation - would deny that God has revealed himself and, therefore, God exists. Just as it is true that the skeptic's disfunctional worldview cannot invalidate what is actually true - it is no less true that the fallen worldview invalidates the absolute authority of Scripture. Truth is not a matter of consensus after all. To think so is to confuse proof with persuasion, a fundamental error in apologetics.

I believe that the point being raised by Reformed Apologist, Ronald W. Di Giacomo, is very interesting. After all, it is certainly true that the Christian claim is that God has revealed Himself to mankind. God cannot reveal Himself if He doesn't exist. Hence, it logically follows that this is a sound proof for the existence of God provided that we can establish a sound case that God has revealed Himself.

Of course, that is the real issue, isn't it? After all, if everyone were certain that God had revealed Himself then the case of the apologist would be as easy as pointing to the crackers in the pantry. In such a case, the "cracker-apologist" would invite the "cracker-skeptic" to not only see the crackers but to pick them up and hold them thus increasing the certainty that the crackers were actually present in the pantry. Only a extreme skeptic would deny her own senses when the crackers are pointed out to them and would have to admit that witnessing the crackers in the pantry constitute proof that the crackers actually exist.

Jesus, as an historic person, cannot be seen and examined in the same way. God, as a incorporeal being, cannot be seen and examined in the same way. Thus, we need to establish that God has revealed Himself in a different way. We do so by pointing out that we have other types of evidence for God's existence. Among the evidence is the appearance of Jesus who was born, lived, taught, performed miracles, claimed to be God, was crucified, died and rose again on the third day. The record of these events can be found in the books of the New Testament.

Interestingly, Thomas, one of the disciples, had the opportunity to examine Jesus in the same way that the "cracker-skeptic" had the opportunity to examine the crackers in the analogy. Jesus appeared before the Thomas (the skeptic about the resurrection) providing visual evidence for His resurrection. Additionally, Jesus offered to allow Thomas the tactile evidence of feeling His wounds. Thomas, when confronted with the evidence, cried out "My Lord and my God."

I think that most skeptics, if confronted with the same type of evidence, would do the same. I pray that they come to the conclusion that God exists and that Jesus is His only Son before they see Him face to face.
(HT: Jeff Downs)

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