Easter: Did Jesus Arise? The Choice is Obvious.

One week after April Fool's day Christians will celebrate Easter to remember the resurrection of Jesus. My claim is that there is nothing to celebrate because Jesus never arose from the dead. Whether Jesus arose from the grave is a historical claim, and only as strong as historial claims can be. If God chose to reveal himself in the historical past then he chose a poor medium to do so. However, the Easter "event" is not just a historical claim. It is also a miraculous claim in history. As such it can be even more easily be doubted, especially when the Bible itself tells us that ancient people were very superstitious.

I have read several books, essays, and Blogs where Christians claim that the early church believed Jesus bodily arose from the dead. I disagree that the church had a uniform testimony about this. Along with Matthew J. Green I think their belief about Jesus came about through a series of visions.

But even if I were to grant that the early church believed Jesus bodily rose from the grave, so what? Big deal. Why should I believe what they did? Why? We reject many ideas that the ancients believed. There are many ancient philosophical, theological, historical and psychological ideas which we reject today. A whole book could be written about these mistaken beliefs. Why should I believe anything an ancient person believed? I certainly shouldn't believe it simply because it can be shown that an ancient person (or persons) believed it, especially if it has to do with something miraculous, since nearly all ancient people believed in the miracles done at the hands of their gods and goddessess.

Christians stress that because the resurrection happened it means God exists, the Bible is true, and there will come a day when we will all be judged and rewarded for what we do on earth. There are intellectual difficulties with each of these beliefs, of course.

But there are two specific problematic beliefs Christians are led to accept if Jesus arose from the dead. If Jesus arose then there is a Triune God. How did we get "three" Gods? Richard Swinburne argues that a first God could eternally “create” a second and even a third God who “proceeds” from the first God. He argues there was no reason to eternally create any other Gods, since love would be complete in three Gods and no more. He concludes that “if there is at least one God, then there are three and only three Gods,” since “there is something profoundly imperfect and therefore inadequately divine in a solitary God.” ["Could There Be More Than One God?" Faith and Philosophy, Vol. 5, No. 3, July '88):225-241].

The whole reason Swinburne stops at three Gods is because he's a Trinitarian Christian. He bases his philosophical analysis upon his understanding of ancient historical documents in the Bible. If the Bible had taught there were two or four divine persons in the Godhead, then Swinburne would've stopped his analysis at two or four Gods, not three. What needs to be asked of Swinburne is how one God can eternally create "uncreated" Gods in the first place. These are just meaningless words, in my opinion. One cannot use the word create to describe an uncreated being, otherwise these words have no meaning. Swinburne must also explain how any being (man or God) can create an equal. This too makes little sense. For if the two other Gods are created by the first God, then these two other Gods are lesser in quality than the first God, and not fully God.

There is a second additional problem. If Jesus arose then there was at least one person who was 100% man and 100% God with nothing left over, which involves several serious internal problems.

So which is more likely, given that history is a poor medium for God to reveal himself in miraculous deeds, and given the superstitious nature of the ancient people? Either Christians like Swinburne are correct about the origins of the Trinity, and that the logical problems with the incarnation can be reconciled, or historical claims of miraculous deeds in the ancient superstitious past did not happen as reported. Such things were either visionary in nature, which we see in several passages in the Bible (below), or these purported miracles were as uneventful as Benny Hinn's miracles are today. The choice seems obvious to me.

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A brief footnote about visions.

According to the Prophet Joel, Peter the Apostle, and the gospel writer Luke who records it, dreams, visions, and prophecies have a close connection with each other. "'In the last days,' God says, 'I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.'" (Acts 2:17). "Vision" according to the New Bible Dictionary: "The borderline between vision and dream or trance is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. Visions had close connections with the dream-state (Num. 12:6; Job 4:13)."

Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, didn’t actually see angels, he saw a vision (Luke 1:22). The women who went to the tomb of Jesus said they didn’t see angels, just a vision. (Luke 24:23). Ananias saw visions and followed them to speak to Saul/Paul (Acts 9:10, 17). At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius who received a vision (Acts 10:1-3). The Apostle Peter himself learned through a vision that “God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.” (Acts 11:5-6,18). Peter received his “vision,” while “in a trance.” Paul himself received a vision while in a trance (Acts 22:17), as did the Old Testament prophet Daniel (8:18, 10:9).

Ancient people would put themselves in a trance to gain divine knowledge. How often did Peter and Paul do that? The Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon tells us that “Trance” equals “ecstasy,” “throwing of the mind out of its normal state, alienation of mind, whether such as makes a lunatic or that of a man who by some sudden emotion is transported as it were out of himself, so that in this rapt condition, although he is awake, his mind is drawn off from all surrounding objects and wholly fixed on things divine that he sees nothing but the forms and images lying within, and thinks that he perceives with his bodily eyes and ears realities shown him by God.”

Paul’s missionary journeys are said to be directed by visions, which happened in the night (Acts 16:9-10), hence dreams. In Acts 18:9 it is said that Paul was once again in a trance. Paul even equates his Damascus Road conversion experience to a vision, “So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision.” (Acts 26:19).

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Why should anyone today believe what an ancient person was led to believe because of a dream-like trance-induced vision? How does anyone know that such visions were actually from God, especially when we have logical difficulties with Christianity that we can think through? I'll go with logic over history everytime, especially a miraculous history which can be attributed to visions. A foreknowing and omniscient God should've easily known that history is a poor medium to reveal himself in, especially if he did so in an ancient superstitious era. If he did so, he's not too bright, for there is every reason for us to disbelieve today. If God just doesn't care if we disbelieve, then he doesn't care for us at all, especially if there is a hell for people who cannot believe, like me.

27 comments:

Goldstein said...

Paul was quite blunt about it, wasn't he?

Either Christ is raised, and you have a future, or he wasn't, and you don't.

No liberal waffling.

And all this blog is about is about convincing yourselves that you have made the right choice.

But, so what?

All you are saying is that you recognize that you have not future.

The rest is window dressing.

End of Story.

Lee Randolph said...

Amen brother,
I can't believe it either, and I tried. I did believe but the more I thought about it and looked into it, the more it just faded away. We need something more than the Bible. We need some corroborating evidence. I posed the question to a commenter about how can someone that can't understand something be punished, and I got a reply about arrogance in people. I'd like to hear more from the commenters about how can it be that people like us, who cannot believe because it doesn't make sense be punished. I have heard that 'where you body goes so goes your mind' but If god knows your heart, you might be able to fool your preacher, but you won't fool a god.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Goldstein,

Goldstein said...
And all this blog is about is about convincing yourselves that you have made the right choice.

That’s a very bold claim Goldstein. How can you know what my purpose is without asking me?

But, so what?
All you are saying is that you recognize that you have not future.
The rest is window dressing.
End of Story.

Well since you ask I'll tell you. ;-)
My purpose is to talk to the Guy (like I used to be) that is doing and saying things that he doesn't really believe in. Playing a part in someone else's play. Imagine if you had to live your life among non-believers letting them say whatever they wanted to or be labeled as immoral, evil, arrogant etc. I always was and am still disgusted by looking at Jesus hanging on the Cross. I think it is a natural reaction. Am I crazy to say that? I am in the minority. I have examined my beliefs, and found them to be unsustainable without accepting a world view based on a double standard. That caused me a lot of stress, I think it does other people as well.

I am the same person I was as a Christian, its just that now my beliefs and values are consistent and I don't have to lie about it. I still want to help people because that is how I am 'wired'. I just can't help myself!

Ever since I was kid, I loved superman. I wanted to be like him. To make the world a better place. Now,
this is what I intend to do.

Randy Kirk said...

As to the subject of your post -

As you know doubt know, all historic events, even those that happened five minutes ago, are subject to all types of requirements of evidence. We are still debating the Kennedy assasination, and we have it on tape!

There are entire books written about the types of evidence that exist for this most important event in history (I think we can agree that it was that important, even if it never happened.) And while there are many, many compelling arguments, my favorite is that not one person within the Christian conspiracy ever came forward to say it was all made up.

Blair said...

For many reasons I am not an atheist.

One of the leading reasons I am not is because John Loftus is.

Anonymous said...

To John primarily, yet with application to most of the ex-believers:

As a believer who finds more than sufficient reason to believe the gospels, I find it amazing how much anger there is on this board.

John, I think you're a sincere guy, having read your history. It seems you felt betrayed when you called out for faith, and the Christian community was apparently nowhere to be seen-this coupled with what you described as "managing spinning plates" it would seem was the coup for your faith. This is interesting as I am inclined to believe God will never shut the door in a person's face when he honestly seeks Him, and is gracious in giving faith, which is more valuable than any quantity of material possession.

Why alot of you post such bitter, anger filled remarks toward God is interesting, as I think a true atheist has none of these. You guys feel betrayed and left in the cold-why is the true question.

Anyone who studies cosmology, the intricacy of the universe, etc, must at some point if he is honest admit a God exists-it may not be comfortable, but it is I think the only possible conclusion. Anyone who stidies the gospels and resurrection narratives and considers the events in total must believe that, while resurrection is a miraculous event, it is the only true explanation for the facts.

I dont know what you guys want from God-if He can create the universe which is tuned so perfectly, surely He can effect a miracle. But it seems for whatever reason an antisupernatural bias is present-and alot of resentment.

You guys are right to see the evil in the world and wish it away-but your arguments succeed only if you were yourselves God, as you are essentially judging God in your polemics.

Too much evil, no God-have you ever stopped to realize how infinitely gracious God is to not have annihilated the entire human race? Do you really find we as a species are"good" enough to determine God's guilt for not having wipes away all evil?

John, the fact you and I even breathe is a testament to God's patience and mercy.

Why dont you try asking again for the faith you need-the only times I felt I was ignored were when I rebelled and did whatever disobedience I knew a priori would cause a problem relating to God.

If youre sincere, ask.

MiSaNtHrOpE said...

That's the whole point: The Bible is fiction. Why should anything in it be taken as "fact"? On that same principle, Kafka's The Metamorphosis might have happened (people do not turn into bugs!). We might suspend disbelief for the sake of a story, but never, ever actually take that suspension into everyday life or especially into public policy!

So what if the Bible or the Kuran are "partially" correct? A lot of novels and storiess are also partially correct. But fact and fiction are often separated after reading the said story, such as Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions or Slaughterhouse-Five.
A work may say something that is true, but by no means does that imply that it is COMPLETELY true.

Some believe that religion is "better" than science because it does not change. But it is not better at all, for it has no room for addition or subtraction (look at the crisis in the Catholic Church over its stance on contraception and AIDS in Africa), has no method of validation, and often destroys lives and relationships (Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes, Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi, Jesus Camp)

Anonymous said...

The Bible is fiction? Thats a very sweping and completely unjustified statement, especially as it is often supported to some degree every time a guy sticks a shovel in the ground.

Christianity as a historically based religion can be evaluated with sound principles, I have yet to ever read a viable argument which explains the facts better than the resurrection of Jesus, Ive read them all.

Religion and science should mesh, truth is unity. I have yet to see one instance where science and religion are of necessity mutually contradictory.

And in my mind, if a man dies, is raised and seen by many others, and these others willingly die for their belief, Im going to likely not view what that man says as a simple story-and neither can anyone else.

Anonymous said...

By the way John, you seem a bit hung up on the idea of a trinity. If God has created and exists outside of the 10 known dimensions, maybe we can all agree He's capable of just a little more than we. Maybe it is possible for Him to possess one essence and three personalities. I think it almost incredible how you can sit and type, thinkijg with a brain we cant even truly understand, with a body which modern science couldnt create de novo a single cell from organic ingredients-to explain how God is on our level.

When you think about it, it must to a degree be a sight for God- his own creation, essentially animated stellar dust, using a body he didnt even give himself, trying to explain away his own maker.

Lee Randolph said...

For the record, this post was made with no anger at all, only firm conviction.

Hi Randy,
There are strong and weak forms of evidence. There are strong and weak forms of argument.
Testimony is regarded as weak evidence. Corroboration can make it stronger.
In the case of the scriptures, Paul was the earliest account of the resurrection. His details don’t match with the Gospels. Mark was second, his don’t match with the other three said even if Matt. And Luke copied mark heavily to make their own. This is not corroboration, this is plagiarism. John is out there on its own 60 to 100 years after the fact.
So Paul was first, years after the fact. Mark was second even further after the fact. He said a ‘youth’ told the women that Christ was risen, but they didn’t tell anyone. Matt. Addresses the possibility that the body had been stolen, but changes the facts in his story to make that implausible, and changing the youth to an angel having the guards fall prostrate. Mark says that Jesus could not do miracles in some town because of their unbelief. Many of the best psychics have had that experience, especially in the midst of skeptics.
Mark makes Jesus sound normal, and that his body was stolen.
Mark was the closest to the event. There is no corroboration for mark. Mark is unique. The most significant thing they agree on is that there was no body.

Your favorite argument that ‘no-one’ ever came forward to say it was made up, is weak on two points. 1. Would you believe anyone that said it was made up? You have a lot invested in this story. 2. It is an argument from ignorance. As people are fond of saying to me that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”. It doesn’t make your argument fallacious, only weak.

Hi Anonymous 11:05,
I am not answering for john, you said this applies to the rest of us so I am replying for me.

I don’t see a “whole lot of anger”. Maybe its just your perspective.

as I am inclined to believe God will never shut the door in a person's face when he honestly seeks Him, and is gracious in giving faith, which is more valuable than any quantity of material possession.
I believe that too. I believed in a God with all my heart only to realize that it was a myth after lots and lots of reading and lots and lots of puzzling. There is no Christian god to shut the door.

Why alot of you post such bitter, anger filled remarks toward God is interesting, as I think a true atheist has none of these. You guys feel betrayed and left in the cold-why is the true question.
Do you think we are not true atheists? That is an interesting diagnosis; I don’t remember meeting you before.

Anyone who studies cosmology, the intricacy of the universe, etc….explanation for the facts.
Just because you believe it doesn’t mean it is true. Other people have just as much right to look around and say its all natural. This is a classic textbook argument from ignorance.

I dont know what you guys want from God-….and alot of resentment.
I think you missed the point. I don’t believe in god, therefore it doesn’t make sense to want anything from him.

You guys are right to see the evil in the world …judging God in your polemics.
When a Christian explains the problem of evil with theology, aren’t they guilty of the same charge? They would have to be god to know what gods purpose is?

Too much evil, no God-have you ever stopped to realize how infinitely gracious God is to not have annihilated the entire human race?
Would you say that my dogs should be infinitely grateful that I don’t kill them when I get up in the morning?

Do you really find we as a species are"good" enough to determine God's guilt for not having wipes away all evil?
No, this would mean that I have to accept the presupposition that god exists.

John, the fact you and I even breathe is a testament to God's patience and mercy
When I get home, I’ll tell my dogs that the fact they are alive is a testament to my patience and mercy.

Why dont you try asking again for the faith you need-the only times I felt I was ignored were when I rebelled and did whatever disobedience I knew a priori would cause a problem relating to God.
If youre sincere, ask.

This presumes that we are not sincere; again, I don’t remember meeting you.
Are you familiar with the phrase “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me?” Same thing.

Hi anonymous 1136,
You are right, there is history in the Bible, but there are two schools of thought on that. The maximalist and minimalist. One is more lenient with the bible than the other. Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asherman have written a few books on the state of Biblical archeology and they say that by and large, the bible accounts of most things are contradicted. They are experts, they are published in peer reviewed journals and have the esteem of their peers.

Christianity as a historically based religion can be evaluated with sound principles, I have yet to ever read a viable argument which explains the facts better than the resurrection of Jesus, Ive read them all.
Magic explains a lot of things, but no-one can show that there is any reason to believe in magic. The same with Jesus. Mark is it. The most significant thing they agree on is that there was no body. Theft explains that.

Religion and science should mesh, truth is unity. I have yet to see one instance where science and religion are of necessity mutually contradictory.
How about doing the math for the Flood? Tell me what you think.
Remember Galileo? He got imprisoned in his house for going against the Bible. The Church later admitted they were wrong.

And in my mind, if a man dies, is raised and seen by many others, and these others willingly die for their belief, Im going to likely not view what that man says as a simple story-and neither can anyone else.
Using that argument I could justify Islam. People can be wrong, in a big way. New information often changes the course of History, Think smoking. Now we know that smoking is hazardous to your health. People used to not believe that. Mostly because they based their conclusions on unrepresentative samples. They jumped to conclusions, believed what it was in their benefit to believe.

Hi anonymous 1143

By the way John, you seem a bit hung up on the idea of a trinity. …explain how God is on our level…. trying to explain away his own maker.
This is just pure Rhetoric. Appeal to emotion and arguments from ignorance, you don’t know any more about what you are talking about than we do. At least we have evidence on our side. All you have is Rhetoric.

Sandalstraps said...

Small beef:

If Jesus arose then there was at least one person who was 100% man and 100% God...

Does a bodily ressurrection from the dead necessarily lead to such a claim about the divinity of Christ? I'm not sure that it does, especially given how long it took for a such a theological statement to develop.

As you well know, within the early Jesus movement there was great diversity; diversity which began to be wiped out with the rise of the Imperial Church and the first ecumenical councils - councils designed to politically impose theological unity.

Given that:

1. Prior to the Council in Nicea in 325 CE (where the word homoousis - literally "of one substance" - was first applied to the relationship between the Father and the Son, thus formalizing the teaching that Jesus = God) there were many competing visions of what it meant to say that Jesus is the Christ;

2. Prior to the Council in Chalcedon in 451 CE the question of the relationship between the human and the divine in Christ was a very open question; and

3. Prior to either of these councils there was a common belief among Christians that Jesus rose from the dead (a belief, of course, that does not prove that Jesus in fact rose from the dead) that crossed over the divide within and across Christian communities over what it mean to say that Jesus is the Christ or how the divine and the human interact in the person of Jesus; so that we have examples in history of very early Christians who hold that Jesus rose from the dead without making any claim that such a resurrection means that he must be both 100% human and 100% divine,

It seems to me (finally the conclusion!) that it is not necessary to say that Jesus being raised from the dead leads of necessity (or even probability) that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. At the very least, any claim that rests on the jump from resurrection to a 200% solution (100% human + 100% divine), whether that claim is made by an atheist or a Christian, should make some attempt to connect the one (bodily resurrection) to the other (co humanity and divinity).

I understand that many Christians take the connection for granted, but that does not mean that you have to, as well.

On a more personal note, nice to see you back, John. I hope your break was relaxing.

Dennis said...

Am I the only person who finds it a little deceitful that John implies that vision means nothing other than seeing something in a dream like state?

Does anybody have access to a "New Bible Dictionary"? What is the full definition given for "vision"? Better yet, I would like to see John give us the full definition.

John W. Loftus said...

Sandalstraps, thanks, but I may not be back as much as I used to be.

And I do agree with you that the resurrection may not entail the trinity or the incarnation. Evangelicals think this, as you know.

John W. Loftus said...

Dennis, here's the complete entry:

VISION. The border-line between vision and dream or trance is difficult, if not impossible, to determine. This is reflected in the biblical vocabulary of ‘vision’.
Heb. ḥāzôn comes from a root used to describe the beholding of a vision by the seer while in an ecstatic state (Is. 1:1; Ezk. 12:27); while the word mar’â, from the ordinary root ‘to see’, means vision as a means of revelation (Nu. 12:6; 1 Sa. 3:15). The NT uses two words in this connection: horama (Acts 9:10, 12; 10:3, 17, 19) and optasia (Lk. 1:22; Acts 26:19; 2 Cor. 12:1). They signify ‘appearance’ or ‘vision’.
The emphasis here seems to be upon the ecstatic nature of the experience, and the revelatory character of the knowledge, which came to the biblical prophets and seers. The experience points to a special awareness of God shared by saintly men (e.g. Je. 1:11; Dn. 2:19; Acts 9:10; 16:9), and to God’s readiness to reveal himself to men (Ps. 89:19; Acts 10:3).
The circumstances in which the revelatory visions came to the seers of the Bible are varied. They came in men’s waking hours (Dn. 10:7; Acts 9:7); by day (Acts 10:3) or by night (Gn. 46:2). But the visions had close connections with the dream-state (Nu. 12:6; Jb.4:13).
In the OT the recipients of revelatory visions were the prophets, ‘writing’ (Is. 1:1; Ob. 1; Na. 1:1) and ‘non-writing’ (2 Sa. 7:17; 1 Ki. 22:17–19; 2 Ch. 9:29). But the outstanding examples were Ezekiel and Daniel.
In the NT Luke manifests the greatest interest in visions. He reports, e.g., the visions of Zechariah (Lk. 1:22), Ananias (Acts 9:10), Cornelius (10:3), Peter (10:10ff.) and Paul (18:9); although Paul treated visions with much reserve (2 Cor. 12:1ff.). The supreme set of visions in the NT is that in the book of the *Revelation.
Biblical visions concerned both immediate situations (Gn. 15:1f.; Acts 12:7) and the ‘far-off divine event’ of the kingdom of God, as the writings of Isaiah, Daniel and John testify. In this connection the passages in 1 Sa. 3:1; Pr. 29:18 are especially relevant.
Bibliography. J. M. Lower, ‘Vision’, ZPEB, 5, p. 889; R. Schnackenburg, ‘Vision of God’, EBT, 3, pp. 947–952; K. Dahn, NIDNTT 3, pp. 511–518.
Wood, D. R. W., Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary. Includes index. (electronic ed. of 3rd ed.) (Page 1227). Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Mark said...

Lee

Thanks for taking the time to answer,first off, I cant see the dog analogy as a viable one.

As far as theft of the body, this has numerous problems, least of all, why anyone would die for a man you knew wawsnt resurrected.

As far as visions, the halluciantion theory falls apart given the number of people who witnessed the risen Christ, the fact some didnt recognize him initially, as well as the fact that the expectation to see a resurrected Christ wasnt there.

I would place theft and vision on the same level of swoon- not possible.

Mark, fromerly anonymous

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Mark,
thanks for responding.
If you don't mind, would you tell me why the dog analogy is not a viable one?

Assuming that Jesus was a real person...
I wouldn't predict that anyone who knew the body was stolen died for him. And in any case, If we get to the point to where we are trying to figure out who knew and who didn't when, it will just be pure speculation. I can read what the author of mark wrote. And I can see how the other gospels are plagiarized and modified. That suggests an alternate hypothesis which creates a reasonable doubt about the resurrection. If the apostles died as they are reported to have died, they had their reasons for doing so. The apostles weren't the only ones around in those days, and I can think of a few reasons why someone might want to get the body out of that tomb, if there was one.

How do you know how many people saw christ? From the 'long version of mark'? or From matthew, luke and john? All of them show signs of being an edited version or a rewrite of the short version of mark.

Dennis said...

John,

The word we are dealing with is the greek word "optasia" which Strong's defines as "1) the act of exhibiting one's self to view 2) a sight, a vision, an appearance presented to one whether asleep or awake".

Obviously, "optasia" used in Luke 24:23 is not referring to a dream like state because it was a vision that two women experienced at the same time. Furthermore, Luke 24 tells us that Peter didn't believe the women's testimony and had to see the tomb himself which was empty when Peter arrived. Besides, the vision the women had was of the angels, not the empty tomb which is the topic of this discussion.

Mark said...

Lee

The human is superior to the canine only in possession of a soul, knowledge of right and wrong, with what we are told is perosnalities in Gods image. Your average dog possesses speed, quickness, pound for pound strength well in excess of our own. We humans pale in comparison to the physical prowess of the animal kingdom on many fronts-yes, the prefrontal cortex is more developed so judgment may be superior-but we kill for pleasure, can enjoy evil-we have spirits.Your dog utilizes operant conditioning. Dont feedhim for a week and he'll gladly love me and my full dog bowl and run from you.

Comparing a dog to man is nowhere near a viable enough analogy to that of God and man. Yet God has seen fit inmany ways to communicate with us, in wrod and person 200 years ago-when was the last time you botherd explaining your higher thoughts to a cockroach, or a child-and if God existed outside the universe and created it with such perfection he is the man cockroach analogy pales on the order of trillions.

The very fact you dont beat and kill your dog makes you simply a humane owner-although you do discipline the pet if it misbehaves, right? And you are a mere fallible human.

If God is perfect and infinitely powerful and just, how much more amazing is His mercy? If your dog perpetually failed to listen, behaved as if its owner wasnt alive, and ran off and did its own thing, youd tire of it and declare it unworthy and give it away. That isnt what Gd chose to do, and has every right to.

Its an argument of proportion. Thsoe of you who bemoan hell, ask yourself-if your pet not only didnt love you but also desired to be apart from you, what would you do? Keep it on aleash next to you all day or let it run off and do its own thing? Eventually youd let it run awayto whatever place it wanted to be-not with you.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Mark,
I'm preparing an article to respond to this.
please check back. it will be called something like 'double standard for morality'.

One Wave said...

I'm confused here....logic would stick to facts but often there is so much philosophy mixed in I'm not sure which of these to respond to.

Logically, we would examine documents and accounts from many different sources during and following the resurrection. We would draw conclusions based on what makes sense not based on beleifs about a triune god or what a vision is loosely defined to be.

Those are important things to discuss but the title promised to give some good reasons not to believe in the resurrection.

Are you really trying to disprove or negate that Jesus was alive at all? If that's the case nothing else matters. If there is no Jesus there is no Christianity, no resurrection, no Church (Christian).

With all due respect I am wondering why you are investing time in this pursuit of debunking when it seems you would say there is nothing to debunk. What sources would you point me to in order to support your claim that Jesus was not a person? What would you do with Josephus? What historians do you give credibility to?

John W. Loftus said...

one wave, what I refer to here is how we know anything that happened in history, known as historiography of theories of history.

"Unlike science, where we can at least try to say that experiment is better than guesswork by reference to something like reality, with history we have nothing to appeal to but other accounts."

See the following links for more: see especially here, but also here, here, and here.

One Wave said...

Thank you, I read those sites and agree with everything stated.

Here is what I pulled out:

"The historian can try to tread a fine line, attempting to avoid describing events from the past in loaded terms, but the very act of composing an account reveals choices made."

So my questions are...what historians do you count as credible? Who can qualify as a reliable source?

I may sound simple but I do understand and have read quite a bit on these issues. I have found that at all levels the debates continue in circles because no one can give absolutes. I will look into the books mentioned by Exaplolgist to see if there is anything different.

My intent is to understand why it's important to show that Jesus did not exist and on what grounds, with whose credibility that can be supported. If the answer cannot be conclusive then what is the point of putting energy into trying to convince others? I am sincerely curious.

I hope this is clear, I have some little people interupting me as I think and type.

John W. Loftus said...

The last link I provided went back to DC, sorry.

I deal with what history can show us in my book.

I do think Jesus was a man who lived in Palestine the first 30 years or so, A.D.

Here's what Joe Holman wrote about that "gem" of a chapter:

"Commenting on Historical Evidence and Christianity, the chapter bearing this title emphasizes what naturalists have long since known and faulted theistic conceptions for--legends and records of so-called miraculous events cannot survive the stretch of time with credibility..."

"History itself is fraught with many difficult problems when one comes to understand the events of the past. According to D.W. Beddington, `Any historical account is, in strict logic, open to doubt. It is not just remarkable events long ago like biblical miracles that are not logically certain. But if non-supernatural events in the past are open to doubt, then how much more so is it the case with supernatural claims of events in the past, like biblical miracles?'" (p. 163)

And...

"The modern historian lives in the modern world, a world where miracles and supernatural events simply don't take place. At least, that is his experience...There should be no reason to suppose that ancient historical people experienced anything different than what we experience today. They were perhaps just superstitious, that's all, and they lived in a world where there was nothing known about nature's fixed laws--just their belief in a God who expresses his will in all events. So when confronted with a miraculous story the modern historian assumes a natural explanation, or that the story became exaggerated in the telling, or that the cure was a psychological one, or it may simply be a legend to enhance the reputation of the miracle worker." (p. 165-166)

The thrust of the chapter forces the believer to acknowledge that the Jesus they preach and defend originates from a limited knowledge of the past, an intrinsically fallible knowledge, one which can be misinterpreted, misrepresented, exaggerated, or just plain wrong. This realization brings shockwaves of uncertainty to an inquiring mind."

Matthew J. Green wrote: "I loved his (John's) chapter on 'Historical Evidence and Christianity'- that was superb! These were some of the best chapters of the entire book!"

One Wave said...

I appreciate your style. I just read your post on taking a break and realize that the intent behind my questions was answered there. I agree with your wife. If you're sure about what you believe you should be able to rest in that. That's the reason I gave up on the pursuit of science...I am convinced God exists. I still read Hawking"s lectures, I still pay attention to what is going on..I still explore ideas and theories etc...but I'm on with LIFE, I hope you are able to do the same...even if there's part of me that hopes you meet God outside of the box.

I will look into your book, with the others and see what you have to say there.

Anonymous said...

Jesus said that even when he brought the truth people hated him, and that the world would always hate us Christians. This blog and some of the people on it are proof of it.

Prup (aka Jim Benton) said...

Some times I wish the believers here -- and even some of my fellow atheists -- would actually read the Bible and think about what it says, not what they have been told to expect.

The one thing that is obvious from all the resurrection accounts is that no one expected this to happen. The Jews would not have stationed a guard to keep the disciples from stealing the body and claiming the resurrection because they would never have expected such a claim from someone who was -- in their eyes, at least -- a somewhat eccentric and radical rabbi, unless they knew the disciples were expecting this to happen, or were going to argue it had happened.

But neither the disciples nor the women who went to the tomb expected it. The women went either to 'look at the grave' (Matthew) or to 'anoint the body with aromatic oils' (Mark) or to bring 'the spices they had prepared' (Luke) or just to go (John). They did not expect the body to be gone, they did not expect the resurrection.

In fact, John says they went to Peter saying that the body had been stolen, not that he was
resurrected.

Luke says they went to the Apostles and told them that the body was gone, "But the story appeared to them (the apostles) to be nonsense and they wouldn't believe (the women)."

Mark says the women were 'besides themselves in terror' of what the angel (?) had said that they didn't say anything to anybody.

And not only did this seem a shock, but they, at least those who were at the crucifixion, heard him say to the thief that defended him "THIS DAY you shall be with me in Paradise."-- assuming Luke is accurate in this story, both Matthew and Mark state that BOTH thieves mocked him, and John says nothing about the thieves except that they were there.

So, if the resurrection actually occurred -- which, of course, I don't believe, it was not something that the disciples expected or had taken from Jesus' teaching.

Anonymous said...

Jesus said the temple would be destroyed and then raised again in 3 days. Everyone who heard it thought it impossible, but that is what happaned: the crucifiction and the ressurection.