Believing Scientists Respond: Why Are You a Christian?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #63

Bingo. The notion that there must be stark dichotomy was exactly what I was satirizing.

(Dominik Kowalski) #64

Let´s have a look…

Okay…, does this lead to the stolen body hypothesis? I´ll answer it, if needed. But let´s just say that it can´t account for any of the following events, like any naturalistic hypothesis, sceptics have offered in the past.

Yes this is the case. But, ignoring Revelations at the moment, this is pretty much only the Old Testament. Especially Paul, since he´s responsible for most of the material we´re using, makes his very important point over and over again, that we have to take his stories literally and not as metaphors. The comparison with the old epos isn´t fitting and the style is different. And, this is the point where I argue from regarding the other reported miracles, the disciples wouldn´t have had any reasons to follow Jesus, and believe his resurrection at the end, if they didn´t also sincerely believed that he worked the miracles. So just making this all figurative doesn´t explain any of the later occuring events.

Scholars like NT Wright or Gary Habermas never get tired of pointing out that “resurrection” wasn´t understand as spiritual, but as bodily in the contemporary. Actually, if he hasn´t changed his view, Pete Enns is the only one I know at the top of my head (doesn´t mean anyting), that defends the spiritual perspective.
To your point about the spirit/shadow/light:

Exactly, but this is the whole story about the Apostle Thomas, “Doubting Thomas” which contradicts any notion of there merely being a light. I have it here (John 20:24-29):

Jesus Appears to Thomas

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

No, don´t take this out of the context. Let´s look again at what I wrote exactly:

I didn´t say that no scholar believes in the appearances being an illusion, in fact this is the most popular sceptical position nowadays (the hallucination-hypothesis, even though it doesn´t work, I´ll explain later). No what I said is, that no scholar believes that the witnesses sited, apart from Paul obviously, to have seen merely a bright light. It´s absolute consensus, that the witnesses were talking about a bodily resurrection, and I don´t believe there is even a debate among scholars going on about this.

Agreed, and it makes my point about the hallucination-hypothesis much shorter, I just want to mention that these are pretty much impossible, since hallucination are subjective, the number is too big (all Apostles, 12 disciples at once, 500 witnesses at one time) and people would have had completely different pictures of the account.

Again, don´t open up a can, where there is no debate going on. It isn´t disputed that Paul has believed to have witnessed Jesus, neither is it the case with the appearances towards the disciples, apostles or the other minor witnesses. NT Wright has made a great case in the “Resurrection of the son of God”, that the developments in the early church wouldn´t have gone that if Jesus hadn´t been risen, or let´s say for the sake of the discussion believed to have been risen.

Paul makes it clear over and over again that the story has to be understood as literal. The case for the “theological invention” falls short of explanatory power if we e.g. look at Peter who denied Jesus, obviously lost faith in him as the Messiah. His character turned 180 degrees after the appearance of Jesus. This thesis can´t explain the character change from any follower. If we take it further we could also then see the appearance to Paul as theological invention, but what then would have led Paul to stop killing followers of Jesus and instead starting preaching at their side?
The other way to to look at it would be the Liar-hypothesis, the disciples lied and they just attributed this facts to Jesus after his death. Well liars make bad martyers, but since I can´t describe it nearly as articulative, I´ll just give you the lecture from Michael R. Licona on this:

No the likeliness of a religion to be true depends on the available evidence, and in the case of Christianity it´s pretty strong. And since Christianity has that evidence and claims at the same time to have the son of God with Jesus, I don´t need to look out for any other religion in terms of a possible conversion, since there is no way to grow bigger. That of course doesn´t mean that I can not investigate the truth claims of those other religions.

I can accept the Trinity, and see Jesus as the son of God, coming down to earth as a human, but who am I to tell someone that he/she is not a christian, if they´re thinking that God adopted Jesus. Since I already mentioned that I don´t think that humans could ever understand the nuature of God, this would of course include the God-Jesus-relationship. Any approaches, like the mentioned Trinity are, in my opinion, just mind crutches for the smallhuman to understand Gods nature, and are devoid of any authoritative truth claim. But I also have shown earlier that I don´t think that understanding the relationship is required to live by or spread the Gospel message in any form of Christianity.

No I´m not a relativist, not all religions are equal, some are better than others, and in my opinion the data supports Christianity the best. But that doesn´t mean that the moral Hinduist, living and dying in India wouldn´t get to God because he worshipped Krishna. Maybe it requires a decision after death, but I don´t know. @gbrooks9 could maybe add the Universalist perspective here.
I don´t know what happens to the ones who are worshipping false perspectives of God, but I´m faithful that they´ll be judged fairly, since I don´t think anyone including Christians have the right picture of God, but scripture makes it clear, that it isn´t knowledge that gets us Gods grace. John Lennox describes best, what I mean by this:

(Randy) #65

Interestingly, Randal Rauser has a discussion about some of @Gary_M’s questions here. I’m not necessarily agreeing with him, but thought it was an interesting twist.

One thing I keep coming back to is that if God is truth, the conquest of falsehood always glorifies Him. Thus, if what we think of as Christianity is disproven, it’s just one more step to understanding God. More, if God is just, then He is the one that really judges our hearts and minds–and if we are truly seeking the right answer, we don’t need to fear. “You doubt because you love truth;” (George Macdonald)
In that case, we can be completely comfortable with Truth (God) knowing our every thought. “Philosophy is really homesickness” is another quote of George Macdonald that seems appropriate.

(Dominik Kowalski) #66

That reminds me of another Habermas lecture, this time about the near-death-experience, arguing, that there also are experiences from those people which don´t really fit the christian perspective. Here is it:

I´m completely comfortable with that, saying that Christianity holds sole truth isn´t something that I would support. I would defend the christian perspective every time, since the data is so good, but that doesn´t mean that I should be denying any other perspective a priori.

(Randy) #67

I agree; but I guess what matters is that God will judge justly, according to what we know–so the onus isn’t really on us anyway. Just finishing up work so I look forward to watching some of your video. Thanks.

(Dominik Kowalski) #68

:grinning: 100% Lennox´ point in the video. You´ll enjoy it

(Gary M) #69

I believe that the truth is important. I believe that it is important for all people to use reliable methods to evaluate truth claims. Belief based on unreliable methods of truth evaluation lead to all kinds of problems.

(Gary M) #70

In my opinion, there are many possible explanations for an empty tomb. The real issue is this: Does one believe that a very rare, but natural explanation is more probable than a supernatural explanation for the empty tomb of Jesus? If one believes in the supernatural, then probability goes out the window. An omnipotent God defies probability. If one does not believe in the reality of the supernatural, then the probability of a supernatural explanation is so infintisimally remote than even the most unlikely, bizarre natural explanation is more probable. This is why it is unproductive for supernaturalists and non-supernaturalists to discuss probability.

(Gary M) #71

I believe that Jesus had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker. The question is, why? Was his reputation as a healer because he healed people of total blindness and raised people from the dead, or was his reputation as a healer because he healed people of their chronic back pain or headache? Was Jesus known as a miracle worker because he walked on water and fed five thousand people with a couple of fishes and a few loaves of bread or because he caused a child in the middle of an epileptic seizure to suddenly stop shaking (because the seizure was over)?

If we travel today to uneducated cultures in the Third World, we will often find individuals who have developed a reputation as a healer or miracle worker. The people of that culture typically have a great deal of admiration, respect, and even awe for such persons. Therefore it would not surprise me that a group of first century peasants would follow someone whom they believed to possess similar supernatural powers.

(Dominik Kowalski) #72

The issue starts there when the natural explanation is not able to explain the following events. Is if the tomb was empty because the body was stolen, then why did the disciples report eyewitnesses? “Well they were lying.” Okay, all of them? All 500 eyewitnesses made up? Why didn´t they renounce the position when faced with torture and death? What about the changes of character? And which reason did Paul have to change his position completely? Preaching for those, who he was hunting? “In his case it was an illusion.” Okay, but why? Hallucination of people normally occure of people which one misses. Why should Paul hallucinate from Jesus? He killed his followers. Why did there were the eyewitnesses from the people going with him, if it was just a subjective illusion?

The interesting explanation for why sceptics aren´t offering any naturalistic explanations anymore is, because they were self-defeating in regard to the avaiable dates and data. And I´m not talking about probability anywhere, since it only fits into history in certain places. I´m talking about, that every other hypothesis offered, other than the bodily resurrection of Jesus, has failed to give an explanation of the following events.

(Randy) #73

yes, it was a good one. thanks !

(Dominik Kowalski) #74

Of course this answers itself.

Craig Keener has dealed with this issue in his book in over 1200 pages, citing miracles through the entire human history in every culture, some so good investigated, that the supernaturalistic explanation is the more likely one, if it isn´t seen as impossible a priori e.g. miracolous healings of the blind with completely destroyed nerves of the visual system, neurological impossible I might add or healings of crippled limps after prayer. In Western Europe you could have seen a decline of institutionalized religion in the last few decade, while at the same time a rapid increase of believe in miracles. Of course we can´t repeat miracle claims in the laboratory, but therefor throwing this subjective experienced (maybe with witnesses) events out the window, seems like throwing out data on purpose, because they don´t fit the worldview.
I want to offer another perspective. The belief in the miracles and the supernatural occurences even today are not only bigger in the third world, but also in Asia, Southern Europe, Latin and South America. Maybe, because with the enlightenment a philosphical seed has been planted within our western worldview, which rules everything out, which isn´t testable through natural science. Maybe we just got blind toward the mysterious and therefor have to make a shift in our worldview. The statistic I mentioned above about the increasing belief in miracles shows, in my humble opinion, that a significant part of our society already understood this.

(Gary M) #75

I never suggested that the early Christians believed in a spiritual resurrection. Does one need to see a resurrected body to believe that Jesus was bodily resurrected? Can one see a light and believe that they have “seen” the resurrected Jesus? According to Paul, many Jews in Asia Minor believed in the resurrection of Jesus without seeing a resurrected body. So why couldn’t someone believe in the resurrection of Jesus by hearing the story of a missing body, then see a bright light which they come to believe was the resurrected Jesus?

(Gary M) #76

My best guess as to what happened is this:

One disciple, possibly Peter, experienced an hallucination of Jesus appearing to him. This occurred not because Peter was mentally ill, but because he was sleep deprived and severely grief stricken due to Jesus’ death. Mentally healthy people do occasionally have hallucinations. After his hallucination was over, Peter remembered the event as a real event, not as a break with reality (Psychiatrists say that at least 50% of people who experience an hallucination have no insight into the event, meaning they don’t realize it was not real).

Peter was so convinced that Jesus had really appeared to him, that it completely changed him. He was no longer afraid. He became a bold preacher of the message of Jesus. Peter’s intense belief in the reality of his experience convinced other disciples that Jesus had truly risen from the dead. Soon other disciples were having vivid dreams of Jesus; visions of Jesus; and more likely, illusions of Jesus. Soon entire groups of disciples were “seeing” Jesus in bright lights, shadows on the hillside, and other natural phenomena. The initial belief was that Jesus had simply come back from the dead. But because he never returned to live with them, there had to be another explanation. Someone came up with the idea that Jesus had not just been raised from the dead by God, but that God had resurrected him! But how could this be? Jews believed that the resurrection would occur when all the righteous dead would be resurrected, not just one person. Then someone came up with this idea: Jesus was the first fruits of the general resurrection! Jesus was resurrected first, and the rest of the righteous dead will be resurrected at any moment!!! “Let’s sell all we have, live in commune, and pray: The Kingdom is nigh!”

The resurrection belief was born.

(Dominik Kowalski) #77

The Gospels clearly show, that the disciples didn´t believe in the resurrection when witnessing the crucifixion. So when you want to have people to preach your message of defeating death, you better show them, especially if your closest followers are that sceptic. NT Wright´s argument is, that the early Christian church couldn´t have survived if there weren´t two absolute facts completing each other, the resurrection and the empty tomb. If there were only the empty tomb without witnesses of the resurrection, then the most probable answer would be, that the soldiers put the body somewhere else, if only the resurrection was witnessed, immediately someone would look inside the tomb and if it was filled with the dead body, then you´re probably not witnessing Jesus.

Yes, obviously Paul had such a case.

This is similar to our case today, we also never saw the risen Jesus himself. But why do we believe it? For the same reason like the Jews in Asia Minor: There were reliable witnesses.

We don´t need to go that route, since this is only the question “what if the data was different?”. The Apostles are clearly described to have seen a risen body and not only a light. Paul himself didn´t believe in the resurrection, why should he, he was hunting down followers of Jesus at that time before the Damascus-experience. We don´t know exactly how the vision was, but here it is described as a light, which Paul recognized as Jesus, from the voice that was talking to him. He is described to have been blind afterwards and his companion had to lead him to the city.

(Gary M) #78

I like your attitude, Randy. I agree. We should always allow the evidence to shape (and reshape, if necessary) our beliefs. We should not allow our dogmatic beliefs to interpret the evidence with the intent of making the evidence compatible with what we already believe.

(Gary M) #79

How about someone who is a kind, generous person but does not have any God belief?

(Gary M) #80

Do you have confirmed eyewitness testimony of anyone claiming to have seen the resurrected body of Jesus? It is my opinion, that the only eyewitness testimony which you can give is Paul’s statement in Galatians: “Have I not seen the Christ?”

Is it possible that all Paul saw was a bright light but believed it to be the bodily resurrected Jesus (Paul, as a pharisee, believed that if a dead person is resurrected, then he has to be bodily resurrected)? Is it possible that ALL alleged eyewitnesses saw bright lights and believed it to be the bodily resurrected Jesus (even though they never saw an actual resurrected body)? You will say that the odds of that is very, very low. My response will be: Even if the odds of such a very rare natural event is very, very low, it still has much, much better odds than a supernatural resurrection of a corpse. But of course, you, being a supernaturalist, will disagree.

(Gary M) #81

Have you read Keener’s book? It is two thick volumes. I have read it, both volumes. Keener lists hundreds of alleged miracles but admits he did not spend ONE DOLLAR researching the claims. All the claims are anecdotal. Someone told someone, who told a friend of Keeners, who told Keener.that it must be true! Sorry. Anecdotal claims don’t cut it in science, even if the anecdotal claims are in the thousands. There are thousands of anecdotal claims of cancer cures too, but let me ask you: Who would you see for your cancer treatment? A doctor who provides medical care based on research, the scientific method, and consensus expert opinion, or someone who will sell you a bunch of herbs simply because someone told him, that someone had told them, that someone had told them, that this collection of herbs has healed thousands of people all over the world of every type of cancer imaginable?

Some of the claims in the book are absolutely preposterous. One claim is that a woman without a uterus (status post hysterectomy) gave birth to a child after praying to Jesus. Impossible. That is a greater miracle than Mary’s virgin birth!

(Gary M) #82

And maybe it is because the overwhelming majority of the population in these countries is still uneducated and superstitious. Would their views change if they were given better access to a secular education and easy, free access to the internet?