Saturday, March 31, 2018

Happy Easter!

I thought it was time to re-dress my annual Easter post and drop some of the links that are five years old.  Part of that is hard to drop, because it's part of my personal conversion story, but parts of that will still be here.  Even though I read Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ and I thought it was well researched and well written, it was released three years after I went forward.

Coming from my background, it was a large change.  I had studied biochemistry and microbiology in college through my third year before some life detours, eventually getting my degree and starting to ply my trade as an engineer.  I had been an amateur astronomer, so between them I was deeply marinated in the standard model of Cosmology as well as conventional biological evolutionary theory.  Frankly, I wasn't giving it much thought any longer, but my wife had re-affirmed her faith (she had first accepted Christ as child) and I was having all of my mental models disrupted.  She had started a subscription to Bibical Archaeology Review and the constant refrain from archaeologists, not religiously motivated, along the lines of "we thought this was old Jewish folklore, but here it is" got me thinking "if that's true, maybe there's more that's true."  Strobel's book, 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. Strobel says:
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.
For a great examination of this, see the 2016 post "Five Confounding Facts About Jesus' Resurrection" at Sense of Events. Donald Sensing put together an excellent piece; simply put, it's preposterous to reconcile the events of that time without saying Jesus rose from the dead that Sunday.

The other religions of the world are about ritual and ultimately about self, about proving yourself worthy; Christianity is about grace.  You're not worthy on your best day; you're 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 you don't deserve by a God who wants a close personal relationship with us.  I like the way the Message translation talks about being saved by Grace (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; how we create and maintain a civil society.  Creation is clearly not the emphasis of the book, the other 99.999% is. 

Saying a fluctuation in the quantum vacuum exploded creating everything sounds remarkably like "Let there be light", especially if someone were trying to explain the standard model of cosmology to people who were mathematically at the level of today's preschoolers.  You got a better way to explain modern physics to kindergartners? 

Enjoy your day.  Enjoy your families. As always, I'm up early with a pork butt in the smoker.  Pulled pork tonight.


  1. Beautifully put!

    We're having the entire family over, and my stepson is bringing over his smoker to do carne asada.

    Enjoy the day. He is indeed risen.

  2. Have a very happy Easter. We are reminded that hope is once again in the world.

  3. Agreed 100%. As DRJIM wrote, "beautifully put".

    The pulled pork sounds delicious.

    Happy Easter!

  4. I quite liked this post. Happy Easter, Graybeard

  5. amazon review: "Strobel goes well beyond the classic "liar, lunatic, Lord" trilemma made famous by C.S. Lewis."

    If Hitler had a spaceship and the opportunity to conquer credulous Martians by lying to them with great propaganda, he'd do it. Why is it impossible for extraterrestrial aliens to be evil like this, and mess with humans by remote controlling Christ as a puppet? Why is it assumed there are no other lifeforms in the entire universe of a trillion galaxies besides humans and God? Why is the first incremental Occam's razor step of speculated extraterrestrial aliens, the step that the alien is the creator of the human-observable universe?

    Progression of faith looks to me like mental-software encysting of a foreign body which can't be eliminated. The indigestible lump is 'humans don't have answers to those questions'.

    1. Why is it impossible for extraterrestrial aliens to be evil like this, and mess with humans by remote controlling Christ as a puppet? Why is it assumed there are no other lifeforms in the entire universe of a trillion galaxies besides humans and God? Why is the first incremental Occam's razor step of speculated extraterrestrial aliens, the step that the alien is the creator of the human-observable universe?

      Where did I say anything at all like any of those?

      You are, as always, free to believe anything you wish. I'm not trying to convert you or change you in any way at all. Or anyone else, for that matter.

    2. The answer to this riddle lies very simply in the profession of faith and the basic tenants of Christianity.

      If an evil creed of Martians were to do this (or any manipulative being), would the basic rules be, "Love each other as yourself"? Look closely at the teaching of Christ: care for each other; care for the poor and weak; observe the Ten Commandments, none of which are a horrible burden, but rather, a blueprint for civilized life.

      Notwithstanding flawed men who have corrupted these teachings over the millennia (and there have certainly been plenty), if you boil it down to gravy, the basic teachings belie any nefarious source.

    3. Thanks, Jason. Much more coherent than my response ;-)

    4. When the only rejoinder to the likelihood of a resurrection is "But hypothetical space aliens playing a joke at humanity's expense..." you've pretty much left any pretense of logic and rational thought behind in the rear view mirror, at a speed measured in Mach numbers.

      But the next time you've been caught catting around by your girlfriend/spouse/etc., do, by all means, try to play the Hypothetical Aliens Card, and let the class know the outcome of that clever rhetorical gambit.

    5. And why is it every time someone takes issue with an idea, they feel the need to educate us as to how backward we are, yet don't have the fortitude to put their name to it?
      I am a person of science as well, but you can only explain things back so far.
      To say that there was nothing, which then exploded and went everywhere instantly (Big Bang theory) with our existence happening merely by chance. Well that takes just as big of a leap of faith. There is just too much that can't be explained.

      Whitehall, NY

    6. Faith is a fallacy, a thinking error. I don't fill in unexplored areas of the map with fantastic monsters. The idea of a first cause with no prior cause is ridiculous, and also the idea of an infinite regression of causes is ridiculous; we already know both of these can't be correct. I don't know how the first cause works.

  6. In the end it is left to our free will to believe and follow or to not believe. It seems that tyrants have never accepted that idea.