Sunday, March 31, 2013

He Is Risen

Mostly a repost from 2011 with some fresh thoughts:
 (Source here)
Last Saturday, author Lee Strobel wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal called "How Easter Killed My Faith in Atheism".  It's short, only about "a page", so it's worth your while to RTWT - if you're the kind of person with any questions about faith, or can't understand "how can an intelligent person believe in God?", a common idea.  Ever noticed how when the average comedian does a parody of a dumb person, it's always someone with a southern accent?  If they're going to make fun of Christians, it's always a dumb southerner who pronounces "Jesus" with three or more syllables?  I'll leave the topic of perceived intelligence of southerners vs. northerners for another day (well... except for this).

In a way, his story starts the same way mine does:
It was the worst news I could get as an atheist: my agnostic wife had decided to become a Christian. Two words shot through my mind. The first was an expletive; the second was “divorce.”
This was me in the mid 1980s.  In Lee's case he goes on to say,
I thought she was going to turn into a self-righteous holy roller. But over the following months, I was intrigued by the positive changes in her character and values. Finally, I decided to take my journalism and legal training (I was legal editor of the Chicago Tribune) and systematically investigate whether there was any credibility to Christianity.
My wife didn't show any of those "positive changes in her character and values" that I could see - she really didn't need any - (no disrespect to Mrs. Strobel intended).  And although I didn't have "journalism and legal training", I had studied biochemistry and microbiology in college through my third year before eventually getting my degree and starting to ply my trade as an engineer.  Strobel's own book, "The Case for Christ"* played a role in filling in the gaps in my historical knowledge.

Easter is the most important day in Christianity and far more important than Christmas because of the resurrection.  Everyone has a birthday, but only one man in history has been resurrected.  So since virtually everyone, including honest atheists, agrees Jesus was a real man in history and died on the cross, the question becomes whether or not it can be verified that Christ was seen after the resurrection by someone other than the closest circle of disciples. An experienced legal/crime writer, Strobel knew the essence of the question is the resurrection, and independent witnesses are the key.  The gospels talk of Jesus appearing several times, but what about other historians?  Sobel writes:
Did anyone see Jesus alive again? I have identified at least eight ancient sources, both inside and outside the New Testament, that in my view confirm the apostles’ conviction that they encountered the resurrected Christ. Repeatedly, these sources stood strong when I tried to discredit them.
Could these encounters have been hallucinations? No way, experts told me. Hallucinations occur in individual brains, like dreams, yet, according to the Bible, Jesus appeared to groups of people on three different occasions – including 500 at once!
In the end, after I had thoroughly investigated the matter, I reached an unexpected conclusion: it would actually take more faith to maintain my atheism than to become a follower of Jesus.
The other religions of the world are about ritual and ultimately about self, about you proving yourself worthy; Christianity is about grace.  (Borepatch writes today about the sin of pride - completely about self.  My church home group/small group leader uses the saying "SELF - Satan's Eternal Location Found").  Forget self; you're not good enough on your best day; you are saved by Grace.  No other religion teaches Grace.  Islam teaches that Allah is unknowable.  Christianity teaches that not only is God knowable, he wants us to know him.  Islam doesn't teach salvation, it teaches servitude to a fickle, arbitrary, distant Allah.  Christianity teaches forgiveness by Grace; that you're given a gift by a God who so wants a close personal relationship with us, he gives us a gift we could never possibly deserve.  I like the way the Message translation does this verse (Ephesians 2: 8)
It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. 
Evolution vs. creation? I believe people pay way too much attention to this.  There's no mention of evolution in the bible, but there's no mention of the laws of thermodynamics, Avogadro's number, or relativity.  The bible isn't a science book.  Look at it this way: the creation story, how we got here, takes up a page.  The next thousand pages (or more, depending on font size, paper size, and so on) are concerned with how we treat each other while we're here.  Creation is clearly not the emphasis of the book, it just starts out that way.  And saying a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum foam exploded sounds remarkably like nothing springing into something.  If you were trying to explain the standard model of cosmology to people who hadn't developed Algebra, let alone the Calculus yet,  "Let there be light" sounds like as good a picture as I can think of.  Lets see you explain partial differential equations to kindergartners. 

Enjoy your day.  Enjoy your families.  I have a pork shoulder and a duckling in the smoker as I type.  Enjoy things while we can.


  1. I'm afraid that today is a bad day to be uncharitable, but Mr. Strobel's story of how his wife didn't sprout horns strikes me as an admission against interest (as the lawyers like to say). It's such glaring proof as to his lack of understanding that we have to assume that it is true and heartfelt.

    I'm afraid that I also must confess scepticism to his "proof". It's said that doubt is the ants in the pants of faith - it keeps it moving and alive. Perhaps I'm just moved by the mystery of Grace, and that's enough for me.

    Great post - and happy Easter - Graybeard.

    1. Anybody who isn't moved by the mystery of Grace probably hasn't really thought about it.