Out of the “Office” this Week: Vacation to Gatlinburg, TN
My family and I are going on a vacation to beautiful Gatlinburg, TN this week. We have three graduations in the family to celebrate–Aimee graduating with her master of fine arts, Rob with his bachelor’s degree, and Emily with a high school diploma. I’m happy for all three!
Also, today is my sixth anniversary of being married to the best woman in the entire world, my wife–Jody Lynn Tucholski! God has supplied the perfect mate for me to love, honor, and cherish for the rest of my life. I’m very happy to share this crazy little life with her!
I don’t know if I’ll have Internet access while I’m down there. So, it may be a while before I respond to comments or e-mail. But I’ll get there, I promise.
Happy trails all, and congratulations to all members of the class of 2011, especially my amazing in-laws, Aimee, Rob, and Emily!
Posted on May 30, 2011, in Site News. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.
Héhéhé…I just read your post about the atheist and his wife, the guy who didn’t trust eyewitness testimony…haha, it’s funny alright. But I agree with a lot of the comments, those people are right: no one nowadays would trust someone who’d claim to have been abducted by aliens for instance (or to have seen God), even WITH abundant eyewitness testimony…it’s not just about WHO SAW SOMETHING, it’s also greatly about the LIKELIHOOD of that something…if the evidence isn’t strong enough to counter the unlikelihood of an event, the latter should be deemed improbable…I fear eyewitness testimony just isn’t enough to support the occurrence of something as unlikely as a human being rising from the dead…but again, héhé, the post was funny, I would comment under it but I can’t…
I disagree to a large extent with what you’re saying here.
In first century Palestine, we have more than just the 12 apostles saying “He is risen!” We have skeptics who derided Jesus during his ministry, like his own brothers James the Just and Jude. We have a prolific opponent of the Christian movement, Saul of Tarsus, join after what he says was a personal encounter with Christ. And, there is the incident where over 500 attendees saw Jesus at once. We are urged by Paul to ask them about it.
Follow that with the fact that this significant and large group of people stand to lose everything they own: social status, ability to buy stuff in the marketplace, and even their lives. All for proclaiming that they were eyewitnesses to the Resurrection. They have every reason to deny seeing this, yet they don’t.
Why? I’m betting they can’t. Other evidence was overwhelming.
Next, atheists frequently argue (correctly) that people just don’t surrender their worldviews without a fight. If you earnestly believe that fairies paint the butterflies in the meadows, you won’t give that up even when you are shown how genetics work and why the patterns are hereditary. Also, if you douse a butterfly with paint thinner, the “paint” doesn’t wash off. If someone shows you all of this, you still won’t believe colors of butterfly wings are an inherited pattern from DNA. You’re far more likely to invent reasons why the fairies make it look that way.
Which means that folks like James the Just and Paul aren’t just going to suddenly start believing a prospect, especially one that leads to their respective executions, unless some darn good evidence can be found that confirms the eyewitnesses. That’s human nature.
On top of this, Paul was a Pharisee. This sect believed that fanatical devotion to the Law was the only thing that could save you, and that if you stumbled in even a single point, then you were irrevocably guilty of violating the entire Law (see Jms 2:10). Paul was raised believing this. Paul practiced this with OCD regularity (Phil 3:4-6). Notice in v 6 Paul specifically states that he blameless under the law–which means he has upheld all of the law, and that takes a special devotion and great care. Yet, what does he go on to say? In vv 7-9, he says that he counts all of this as rubbish before the surpassing glory of knowing Christ. He called his cherished beliefs RUBBISH. Do you get how significant that is?
People don’t change their worldviews so radically without a reason. They just don’t. A fanatical devotee of the Law suddenly tells us that Christ is the end of the law (Rom 10:4). Something special happened for Paul to be able to write that.
So, if (as I have supposed) the other confirmatory evidence was overwhelming, why didn’t everyone believe? Two reasons. The first is the same reason that I’ve already discussed for why the testimonies of James and Paul were so powerful to begin with. People don’t surrender cherished beliefs, even when they have been refuted 1000 times over. It goes both ways.
Second is what I run into all of the time in my own apologetic efforts. I link to a lot of sites that offer more in-depth studies of what I’m saying. And, WordPress tracks each link that gets clicked on my site. How many sites that offer confirmatory evidence to back up my points do you think people are actually visiting before they fire off a comment on why I’m supposedly wrong? NONE. ZIP. I can’t imagine it was any different in the first century.
Paul: He is risen! Go forth into the city, and see his Empty Tomb, talk to the folks who walked with him after his Resurrection! Reflect on the Scriptures for yourself to understand that a Messiah who suffered, died, and rose again was necessary! It’s not just in Scripture–others have thought and written as recently as a few decades ago that this is the way Messiah would be found! Investigate for yourselves!
Peasant #1: Kook. People don’t rise from the dead.
Peasant #2,: I know. What an idiot. I ain’t checking that supposed Empty Tomb, and I’m definitely not going back over all those Scriptures I memorized as a child. He’s just wrong.
Peasant #3: Agreed. You guys hungry? Let’s grab a burger over at McCaesar’s.
So, the evidence was all there in the first century, but most refused to see it for the same reason most people today don’t see it, or click on links I provide as supplementary evidence in my blog. In the case of the Resurrection, I think the eyewitness testimony is pretty powerful–especially considering who said what. But, at the end of the day, my sporadic Tom Scanlon posts aren’t arguments at all. They’re satire. It amuses me how many attempts I’ve seen to justify not believing eyewitness testimony in this case only.
Sorry for answering late, I only re-visited right now.
I’m no historian, so I’m going to grant everything you just said, I wouldn’t be able to tell what’s accurate about the testimonies, what historians accept, etc…
So, let’s suppose that the eyewitness testimonies were abundant, that it was very difficult for such people to spontaneously abandon their faith, etc…there are two possibilities. One is that all those people are wrong (unlikely, VERY unlikely, I accept), the other that they are all right and Jesus rose from the dead (the last part makes it unlikely, and personally, I’d say VERY VERY VERY unlikely). The only question is: “Which of these two events is the MOST improbable?” (both are)…To me it would be the latter, I explain: while there have been documented cases of mass hysteria on many occasions (which are rare and pretty bizarre, not terribly usual, so an occurrence, I grant it, is unlikely…here are some: http://listverse.com/2009/03/16/top-10-bizarre-cases-of-mass-hysteria/ ), there has never been a verified case of a dead person coming to life. If we somehow calculated the corresponding probabilities based on past occurrences (which we must sometimes do when we don’t have any other way), then we have to conclude that all those people being wrong is more likely than Jesus having risen from the dead…such an event would contradict everything that’s known about life and death in our species, I’m sure a biologist would agree (hell, that’s why we’d call it a miracle), while the first would join a list of bizarre cases that HAVE occurred in the past…
That’s the whole point about naturalistic explanations, they are more likely because they happen according to what we have been able to observe in the past, not to things that have never happened before…that said, I do think that such support for the idea that Jesus rose from the dead would be intriguing, whether or not he actually did come back to life, something bizarre might have happened…as for the miracle of Fatima, thousands watching the Sun dance as predicted by 3 relatively ignorant children…
You’re really just confirming my sarcastic commentary. Naturalistic explanations of miracles are easier to accept, I agree, however every naturalistic explanation fails, to some degree, to explain exactly what happened at the site of the miracle. In this case, you fail to take into account that delusions and mass hysteria reflect or reenforce what a person already believes. Paul didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah–so strongly, mind you, that he was killing Christians to suppress the belief. Then, suddenly, he’s written the majority of the New Testament, testifying to salvation by grace apart from works of law. As a Pharisee, Paul thought that all humans had were works of law. Suddenly he doesn’t believe that?
What WOULD it take for you to believe the Resurrection happened, just out of curiosity?
And as for Fatima being a mass hallucination, that is interesting, but doesn’t cut the mustard, either. The mass hallucination theory “fails to explain reports of people miles away, who were not even thinking of the event at the time, or the sudden drying of people’s rain-soaked clothes” (source). Sorry.
I’d actually say that supernatural explanations are easier to accept, or at least that we feel more tempted to embrace them. Was reading an article lately written by a nonbeliever (on Richard Dawkins’ website, I think)…he was explaining how he felt pushed to jump to the conclusion that some ghost or something had nudged him on the shoulder after being awaken by such a sensation, with his room locked up and no one inside it. A nonbeliever on Mark’s (the atheist guy from a year ago that took the site down now, you would post many articles about him) was also implying that he believed in ghost-like things concerning some displaced object in his (at the time of the alleged occurrence) empty house. You often have to reason yourself out of such a trap, examine things in a rational way in order to escape the urge to jump to super-naturalistic conclusions. Nonbelief isn’t about intuition in any way, it WOULD follow most people’s intuition that a God exists, for one thing.
When I spoke about mass hysteria, I wasn’t really thinking about Paul, whom I think would fit into a hallucination instead, having allegedly seen Jesus appear to him in a glowing light, not having directly been converted by the resurrection itself, I think having been more isolated from everyone else. I was mostly talking about the resurrection in my previous post, not about all believers. I don’t think it wouldn’t be hard for someone of the time to make such drastic changes after hallucinating, they were more superstitious, I think, than we are today…
You shouldn’t underestimate the power of suggestion…it’s very possible that it could influence those people into believing EVEN something that went against their previous faith, their intuitions, etc…take the first case of mass hysteria in the link I provided above: who in the world thinks sea water is sweet? Yet all those people were convinced it was for some time, it doesn’t support their previously held beliefs…that said, I’m no psychology expert, so maybe the article and I shouldn’t be using the expression “mass hysteria”…I remember a teenager (a family member) I know who was convinced, after his teeth bled a little more than usual, that he had advanced periodontal disease, that his teeth were going to fall off in a matter of days, panicking after reading things online. He would show us all how his teeth were loose (without touching them, of course, afraid they would fall prematurely), how they had already been displaced (yes, he would go in front of the mirror and insist that his teeth looked different than usual). The dentist explained that it was all in his head, that his teeth were as solid as ever, that he had mild gingivitis. But I guess I shouldn’t be providing personal anecdotes. This kind of thing can be contagious (check the “penis panic” case in the article)…
I agree about Fatima, and I’m not satisfied with the scientific explanations that I hear for it either. But I’m not going to conclude that Mary REALLY appeared to the children because I have no better explanation! That explanation TOO would be unsatisfying, it brings in so much more unexplained baggage…the other ones ARE still better, however weird and unlikely…The Ancients and scientists of previous centuries weren’t satisfied with the scientific explanations for why the sky was dark at night instead of being ablaze with light (with all the stars that were up there)…that didn’t stop them from finding a satisfying one in the 20th century. Not having a satisfying explanation shouldn’t force one to embrace something that otherwise goes against all evidence (that Mary actually visited the three children, that the Catholics are right about everything else concerning her, like the virgin birth, ect–I brought up Fatima because I thought you didn’t accept it, not being a Catholic. It is my favorite miracle, fascinates me…but it is well known that the Sun itself didn’t move that day, as nothing unusual was picked up in observatories all around the world….many factors may have come together to explain Fatima, mass hysteria just being one, the wet clothes being dried by something else)…
That said, there are miracles in other faiths too, as the Hindu milk miracle in the article above. There is also the guru Sri Baba’s current miracles (though I guess they aren’t terribly impressive). There are also countless Eucharist miracles (I’m sure you don’t accept that Jesus literally becomes the bread on Sunday). Hell, I’m from Haiti and we have people allegedly buried and being seen years after, remember a case last year where the guy’s death had allegedly been documented (though I guess people used to make mistakes about death since a long time, used to even put bells on graves for the possibly-buried-but-still-alive to use if they woke up…I think making a mistake is more likely than actual zombifications)…
The weaker your house, the less strongly it stands, the more reinforcement it needs. You need VERY strong evidence to support something like a resurrection. Personally, I think much anything short from SEEING IT (and of course, having doctors verify it really occurred and all, I’m not doctor myself, can be easily fooled), or if some forensic evidence could be collected in some way (something of that sort) that would show that someone rose from the dead, would be too weak for something like that. Of course, if one could somehow SHOW that no other explanation for the testimonies and such is possible would help also…supernatural explanations often FIT better, I agree, explain all the aspects of a miracle, but they are more unlikely by their nature (supernatural: doesn’t conform to the laws of nature as we know them => unlikely, since we judge likelihood through those laws to begin with)…in this case, things are a little different from trying to explain a miracle (=A marvellous event manifesting a supernatural act of a divine agent -Wordweb)…the resurrection doesn’t fit into usual historical events like the assassination of a monarch, the invasion by an army of a nation, etc; things that do not violate natural laws and of the type that occur to this day…to establish a resurrection, we can’t use customary historical evidence…
I wrote a lot, I guess…I’ll just add something about science…I’m certainly not alone: in science, when an observation is seen to inescapably go counter to established scientific theories, the latter are modified…OBSERVED…but sometimes scientists will go out of their way to hold on to well supported scientific theories…for instance, they invented dark matter and dark energy at least partially to explain discrepancies between their observations, not wanting to throw out theories that worked everywhere except when concerned with the acceleration of the expansion of the universe (if I have all that right, I think it’s at least roughly correct)…they didn’t throw out the otherwise well established scientific laws…and the two “darks” are called so because they are so weakly understood, I think…if not, I’m sure it’s because of something around those lines (so these explanations are unsatisfying too, just like the naturalistic explanations for the resurrection and Fatima, etc…saying that the known laws are wrong would explain the discrepancies, but would be less likely given all previous observations…it’s the same situation)…and the observation of the acceleration of the expansion of the universe is more solidly established (as I guess it is more than most historical facts, since they have less evidence at their disposal), I think, than the fact that there were so many to support the idea of Jesus’ resurrection…
I’m also sure I would apply that same reasoning to other aspects of life…personally, my laid, uninformed opinion would be that mass hysteria (not individual hallucinations or a conspiracy, etc) explains the change in those people, if the change occurred, which I grant, again, unable to show otherwise…
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