19 comments on “Join the Conversation: Easter Extravaganza

  1. “Is the ressurection of Jesus the most plausable explaination…?” Simply, no. No, it is not.

    Aaron, you said, (I’m paraphrasing, of course) “All of these old books must be true because the old dudes that wrote them said they are. Those old dudes are backed up by all of the “Historical scholars” (old guys as old as the first old guys)so, therefore, our “evidence” shows we’re right. Our god arose from the dead. *Dusts off hands* We win!

    1)We know what the authors wrote.
    Yes. We have these stories documented. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument that they were not heavily edited. They still make wild claims that a guy rose from the dead, let alone all the other miracles that haven’t happened since, not to mention we’re still waiting for a guy who said he’d be right back. 2000 years of “Any day now!”

    2) We know when they wrote them.
    Yes. 2000 years ago. The people who thought bacon was inedible have given us undeniable proof of an actual god. I don’t believe people who don’t eat pork… I’m sorry. In all seriousness, we’re supposed to devote our lives to an unreliable god because the authors say so…because he says so.

    3)We know who wrote them. Again, the early church said they are who they say they are so it must be true.

    4)Archaeology and history support the reliablity of gospel accounts. The same people around the same time wrote about the same things that happened, most of which are not related to the divinity of Jesus. Ok. I agree.

    5)Extrabiblical accounts confirm the accounts of Jesus death. Again, other people at the same time wrote about something that was big news in their day. Nothing miraculous about that. Jesus was influential to his followers and a pain-in-the-butt to his enemies. Got it! Many people were interested. A lot of different perspectives were wrote about David Koresh and Marshall Applewhite too.

    Just because the scholars of the day wrote about the same guy from a few different perspectives, documenting (or just mentioning in passing) Jesus and/or the events of the time, does not mean his tomb is empty because he was a god. It just doesn’t. If there had been some sign from any gods that they’re ever up there, in let’s say, the last two millenia, I’d be more inclined to say, “You know what, Aaron, ol’ buddy? There might be something to this religion stuff.” But, instead the only sign we have of Jesus is his cameo in someones toast.

    • @Justin

      Follow me on this… the absolute absurdity of the story–that a guy executed by history’s foremost experts on death actually came back to life–just may be a hint that it could have happened. These Jewish guys expected their Messiah to come in, whip the Romans, and restore the glory of David’s kingdom. They certainly didn’t expect him to die. But that’s what happened. Now they have the audacity to actually write and talk publicly about… a resurrection? Really? Yeah, really. Completely absurd… yet the fact remains that they did write and preach about it, and thousands believed it (which hints at a possible public buzz–the first sermon about Jesus was preached only 50 days after his resurrection). But if they knew that Jesus was still dead, if they knew where they could find him (in his tomb), then these guys go back to their day jobs. Yet, they didn’t. They died for it. Absolute proof that the resurrection happened? No. But enough that it’s plausible.

      Now it’s your turn. Offer me a more plausible explanation beyond “No, it’s not,” beyond dead guys don’t come back to life. Explain what happened to the body, the phenomenon of the explosive growth of the church, the transformation of his closest friends, and that they still preached resurrection even though it sounded absurd, even giving their lives for it.

      • And maybe I should have clarified who I meant by “scholars.” I mean contemporary guys who are alive today. Sorry for the confusion.

  2. Aaron,
    I cannot begin to climb into the minds of a few hundred Jews who lived 2000 years ago. You ask me to offer you something more plausable than “Dead men don’t rise from the dead”? I’m afraid I cannot. That is a fact that cannot be argued against. But I can promise you this. There are a hundred more plausable possibilities than a human body got up after it was killed.

    “The absolute absurdity of the story–that a guy executed by history’s foremost experts on death actually came back to life–just may be a hint that it could have happened” Is it not slightly more plausable to think that the absolute absurdity of the story may hint that it didn’t happen? I mean, I read a story about a guy who turned into a cockroach. That’s way more absurd, but doesn’t mean it’s true.

    To believe in this stuff, you have to take a lot of liberties that I am not willing to take. You must first believe that it’s possible for gods to exist. Then you have to believe that, if any do, the other ones must have some truth to them. But if you believe in only one, you must assume that he sent himself to earth to be born of a virgin (something that would have caused more friction for Mary and Joseph than just about anything else), then waited 30 years to convince himself to do what he came here to do. Then you must believe that he died and was reanimated after three days and the only proof he left was his own word about it? I can think of a few things more absurd, but not many. Do you know how much opium is grown, sold, and ingested in that part of the world? Let’s say one or two of the eye-witnesses were smoking up. I will believe they thought they saw him.

    • Justin,

      First, I’m totally digging the back-and-forth on this subject. This is the linchpin of Christianity. If it is not true, then I’m an idiot.

      I think your third paragraph sums up your “side of the fence” well. There is no scientific explanation, and it does require a belief in the supernatural. If you choose to eliminate the supernatural from your worldview, then you have to come up with another explanation, or simply dismiss it in spite of the historical evidence. The N.T. Wright video is telling: one of his colleagues, an atheist, told him that his book The Resurrection of the Son of God essentially made the resurrection almost an open and shut slam dunk case. Yet this colleague’s worldview wouldn’t allow them to accept it, and so they (as N.T. Wright said) “chose to believe that something else happened.”

      The Kafka reference (and that is an awesome story, by the way) doesn’t really fit. He wasn’t writing it as a historical account of some person he knew or saw. That’s the difference between The Metamorphosis and the gospels. The gospel writers wrote as eyewitnesses. And even if, somehow, one or two eyewitnesses “smoked up”, it doesn’t account for the 500+ others.

      So just for kicks and giggles, what are some of the “hundred more plausible possibilities”?

  3. More plausable than a dead guy being not dead anymore? Ok. Easy.

    1) Someone moved his body. People are known to do devious things. Let’s say one of the soldiers moved it. Someone who was supposed to be guarding the body, but instead was given secret orders to wait until nightfall and move the body and throw it into a pit of bodies. There were two executions that day, maybe there were more that week.

    2) The body was not placed where we think it was. I just don’t buy the “eye-witness” accounts explaining where his body was laid. I’ve been to the desert. It’s the same everywhere and it’s easy to mistake where you’ve put something. The Afghans stack stones to mark where something is. They also do it for births, deaths, birthdays, finding lost hut keys, hating their neighbor, liking their neighbor, marking off their land, squashing a scorpion, they love to stack stones. So, if some kind of marking was left to remember where the tomb was, they may have not found it. I don’t know. But anything is more plausable than, “The body got itself up.” I am waiting for the zombie apocalypse, it can’t have already happened.

    There are reasons for my disdain for religion, maybe more of them for Christianity. I’m sure we’ll get to why we believe, might believe, or do believe in some other post. But its an important piece of the puzzle for understanding why we can or can’t believe any of the other stuff.

    • Let’s tackle Theory 1: Someone moved (or stole) the body. First we need a motive. Why would someone do this? At this stage in the game the Romans did not have a dog in this fight. They would have no reason to move a body from a private tomb. The Jews? First, they would have seen touching a dead body as something detestable, second, they could have reproduced the body when resurrection stories started popping up everywhere. The disciples or some other follower of Jesus? Strike Three. As Aaron already pointed out, no one dies for what they know is false.

      Now for Theory two: You are forgetting the fact that the Jews all but revered the dead. They took great pains in preparing the body for burial and making sure the body was properly laid to rest. In Jesus’ case, this took the form of being laid in a borrowed tomb of a wealthy supporter. This tomb would have been well known to the Jews and Romans alike. The location of the tomb would have also been further verified by the Roman Seal of Pilate and the group of 16-20 soldiers keeping watch over it. The fact that the gospel accounts list Mary as arriving at the tomb and then Peter and John running to the exact same tomb gives further credence to the popular knowledge of the tomb of Jesus. Finally, one must take into account the geography of ancient Jerusalem. Every scholar, both religious and secular, acknowledges the locations of several ‘cemeteries’ outside the Jewish walls. These would have ranged from burial plots for the poor to large tombs hewn out of rock for the rich. These cemeteries would have been divided into family groups so that Jews could be buried with their ancestors whenever possible. As a minister who serves a church with a large cemetery next door, I can tell you there is hardly a family in the church who does not know which families are buried where. The same could be said of the Jews. They would have known exactly where Jesus’ burial spot was located, This is the reason they came up with the ‘stolen body’ theory as opposed to the ‘wrong tomb/mistaken burial place’ theory.

      Now to go outside and confuse my neighbors by stacking rocks everywhere (it sounds like fun).

      • Way back in the day, as a Jr. Counselor in camp, I made the punks in my cabin pick rocks and move them at 2 AM because they wouldn’t shut up. I got in trouble… even though I had permission to do it.

    • Some interesting theories, but they just don’t hold water.

      The Jewish leaders asked for a guard – for the purpose of keeping Jesus in the ground. To give secret orders to dispose of the body when no one is looking would have meant trouble from the Jewish leaders (the 1st century Jews were given a lot of freedom from Rome, because they were so feisty). The guards, who were Roman, were given strict orders to keep the body where it was until at least Monday.

      The second theory doesn’t add up either. Jesus wasn’t buried six feet under. He was placed in more of a mausoleum carved out of rock. Not only that, it was a borrowed tomb of a high-ranking Jewish official. Of all people, he knew where it was. It was his tomb. And any theories as to why Joseph of Arimathea was included in the resurrection accounts fail except the obvious reason – he provided the tomb. If we say that we can’t believe the eyewitnesses because they’re eyewitnesses, then all of history is in doubt from the moment it happens.

  4. Justin,
    I love your humor and tongue-in-cheek attitude towards all this. It reminds me somewhat of Bill Maher’s style. However, that means, like Maher, your arguments are like meringue, pretty to look at, fun to enjoy, but very little substance.
    I admit the resurrection defies logic. That’s what makes it a miracle. A miracle by it’s very nature defies the laws of nature as we know them. I also admit, if my worldview rejected that anything miraculous can happen, then I would find the resurrection tough to swallow (as well as the big bang, but that’s another topic for another day). But here’s the problem, historically speaking there is no other plausible theory. Too much literary and eye-witness evidence to support it and no theory that can hold water has been presented that can explain it away. If you have a theory other than ‘miracles don’t happen’ then please enlighten us small-minded folk who need to cling to our guns and religion to survive 😉

  5. “Justin,
    I love your humor and tongue-in-cheek attitude towards all this. It reminds me somewhat of Bill Maher’s style. However, that means, like Maher, your arguments are like meringue, pretty to look at, fun to enjoy, but very little substance.”

    If you’re going to choose someone to compare me to, chose someone better looking than Bill Maher. He’s alright, but I’ve never really thought of him as someone I wanted to imitate. Yeah, yeah, he’s funny, but he also makes some great points. The reason you chose to dismiss them is because, even if he makes sense, it goes against your miralces… like all good sense does. Likewise, I do not beglieve in miracles, or unicorns, or other fairytales I read in fiction becuse it goes against the things I hold stock in, like logic.

    Now, I know that certain acceptable religious practices change over time. The bible defends and commands followers to take slaves.

    “However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.” (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    But, when I was a practicing Jew for 8 years, I never heard that the Jews are or were ever afraid to touch bodies. The Jews respect their dead, but they aren’t afraid to touch them because corpses are dirty.

    Aaron, it’s not that I don’t believe eye witnesses. It’s that I don’t believe they saw miracles. If eye-witness accounts were so reliable (especially 30-70 years after they were witnesses) then we could write the book of Chris Angel and praise him. I mean… I’ve seen him perform miracles. Am I an unreliable eye witness?

    Look, guys, I understand that you want to believe in miracles. I understand that you want to believe in a god. Not only that, but you are certain, out of all the other gods, you have chosen the right one (ones) to follow. I used to want to believe in them too. But when something “defies logic”, it means it defies all of the things I can see, hear, and touch, and know to be true. When someone telle ms a guy had some followers, perfprmed a bunch of “miracles”, then was killed by the foremost experts on killings of their time, then was raised from the dead, I have some trouble being able to suspend reality that much. I can give an inch, but not a long one.

    Dave, I cannot help but feel from you, a little disbelief in my disbelief. It comes across as such common sense from you that I’m the worlds biggest moron for not buying it at face value. “Hey, dude, let’ me share the good word with you. Wait… you don’t believe in my miracle sky daddy? Welp. You’re going to hell then.” It’s not like I never believed, you know. Well, I guess I thought I believed. I certainly wanted to believe. But I got a chance to get out and see some of the world, see the other religions and what they have to offer. I got a chance to see that, because the people I got to know weren’t Christian, they were thought of as going to hell… and for what? because the geographical location of their birthplace didn’t allow them to be born a privelaged little snot like me. I’m from Creswell, NC, where we believe in the one true God and how fortunate am I! That makes God unfair.

    From your perspective, God knew I was going to be born and die a non-believer. Then I’d be sent to hell forever. That makes him a jerk. I know, give me the free will argument now. That kind of free will is like if I offered you an apple, then punched you in the face for not taking it. How can I serve anyone who’s like that?

    • Justin,

      The reason I reject Maher’s arguments is not simply because I don’t agree with him. He oversimplifies complex issues (which is something that many Christians do as well) and he paints all religions with such a broad brush of generalizations that you can’t engage him on the finer points. To classify a miracle in the same category as a fairy tale, while humorous and even compelling on the prima-facie level, it fails to engage the historicity of the texts involved. Hans Christian-Anderson never claimed to be writing about real historical events when he penned his fairy-tales. But the Biblical authors do, and in doing so they deserve a fair amount of scrutiny as we weigh the truth of their claims. I think Aaron has more than demonstrated that the Biblical record stands up very well beneath the weight of such scrutiny. The historical facts are (a) Jesus of Nazareth existed, (b) He had many followers, (c) He was crucified during the term of Pontius Pilate, and (d) soon after His death, there were many rumors and sightings of a ‘resurrected’ Jesus. 2,000 years later we wrestle with the various questions surrounding these facts. In my opinion no other theory is as credible as the theory that He physically resurrected. It is the only theory that satisfies all of the facts without leaving gaping holes. The only problem with this, as you have pointed out, is that it defies the natural order of things. Dead men don’t rise. But if one did, that would change people’s perceptions about this man named Jesus. It would validate all of His teachings and claims. It would prove that miracles can occur. In short, it would change our view of the world and how it operates.
      I never meant to come across as condescending, and I don’t ‘disbelieve in your disbelief.’ Nor do I think of you as a moron. One of the things I appreciate about this site is that we can recognize each other as having something intelligent to bring to the table while still acknowledging that we disagree. I will acknowledge that the resurrection does make perfect sense to me. Yet I can appreciate how others find it, and other miracles, tough to swallow.
      As for your claims that the Christian God is an ‘unfair jerk’ for condemning those born in non-Christian countries, I am sure that this may be a topic that will be discussed in this forum in the future. For now, I will say that this is another complex issue where we can’t paint God with such a broad brush, and therefore dismiss Him because a belief system has been described with sweeping generalities. It’s much more complicated than that, and this is why (a) so many Christians get it wrong (they are too lazy to do the work of finding out what the Bible actually teaches on this subject) and (b) so many non-Christians reject God without a second look into the doctrine of election (i.e who gets saved and who doesn’t).

  6. I respectfully disagree. If you choose to make a simple issue a complex one, you will never find the truth. Sometimes the issues can and should be boiled down to the bone, and it’s not hard to see, in this one, that the simple answer is the most acurate one. You gave a fine simple explaination of the story of Jesus. At the end, you said there were rumors of him being resurrected and that’s enough for you to determine that it’s the most reasonable sounding theory? Really? It has never happened before, nor since then, and it’s the most reasonable? I find that impossible to grasp.

    There’s not another way to say that your god is unfair when the bible clearly says what he intends to do with non-believers. It can indeed be stripped right down to, “God made me knowing I was going to deny Him. He has set a punishment for me and told me to worship him or suffer the punishment. Therefore, my free will has gone.” It doesn’t need to be complicated beyond that because it’s just that simple.

    • So what is the simplest explanation for the resurrection and what is your reasoning? We’ve explored this a little, but let’s dig some more.

  7. Aaron and Dave,
    Here are some simpler explainations, although it does little good to mention them again.

    I content that his body may have been taken, put in a different place, hidden from enemies and have the story of his resurrection spread to further his celebrity, or something else that’s a naturally occuring thing when a man dies. There are a number of possibilities.

    You seem to say that the most outrageous possibility is the most likely because it’s the most outrageous. That seems unlikely, does it not?

    Aaron, I’d love to write the “Free-Will argument from an atheists prespective. I’m a little fired up right now. 🙂

    • That doesn’t explain the motives of the movers (which seems, from your comment, to be friends and/or family… random strangers is ridiculous). It also doesn’t explain the transformation of those followers or family. His followers would have… gone home. They were convinced Jesus was the Messiah, and in (incorrect) 1st century Jewish thought, the Messiah was going to kick you-know-what, not be killed. But they didn’t go home. They preached he was alive. And his family – namely his half-brothers – thought he was nuts. And yet, right after the resurrection, we see at least two of his half-brothers as leaders in the church. And how do these people get past a unit of professionally trained killers? It would be like Dave and I taking on you and your army buddies. It’s no contest. And his followers, his disciples, who moved that body would have crumbled under threat of death because they would know that the resurrection was a lie. It just doesn’t add up. But anyway…

      I say the most outrageous possibility just might be the most likely because it’s what they wrote and what they preached. Again, they weren’t writing myth or fiction. They were writing historical biography because they had been with him. In that – and any – culture, to write a bio of a guy and say, “Oh yeah, he rose from death” is crazy… unless they have a reason to do so. It’s not my main reason that the resurrection is compelling. It’s just a small one (kind of like a cherry on top).

      Fire away on the free-will argument. You’ve got a taker… and it isn’t me.

  8. There’s a lot of thought spent what his followers, enemies, or anyone else was thinking. Why is the focus on motive, and not whether the body was actually human or not? It’s only likely that the answer is the most complicated one if you want it to be.

    When a butterfly goes into a caccoon, no one says, “It goes in as a caterpillar and magically transforms into a tiny alien, then into a butterfly because the Lord Gleemax says so.” We had the good sense to learn about Metamorphosis. We don’t say the most unrealistic answer must be the one because it’s the most unrealistic.

  9. Pingback: Why I Believe What I Believe « The New Inklings

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