On the most peculiar Easter of our lifetimes, I thought it was time to re-dress my annual Easter post and drop some of the links that were too old. Part of my usual posting is hard to drop, because it's part of my personal conversion story, so those parts will still be here.
Coming from my background, it was a large change. I had studied biochemistry and microbiology in college from the fall after high school through my third year before life imposed some detours, eventually getting my degree and starting life as an engineer. I had been an avid amateur astronomer from age 12 so between biology and astronomy, I was deeply marinated in the standard model of Cosmology as well as conventional biological evolutionary theory. Frankly, like the vast majority of students, 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." Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ then 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 (Jesus' existence is better attested in ancient sources than that of Julius Caesar - but no one claims Julius was not a real person) 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.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. Last year, Sensing outdid himself with several days worth of posts on the historical Jesus, including a rather long piece on exactly why Pontius Pilate executed Jesus. This is followed by articles put together by working scientists, "Can A Scientist Believe in the Resurrection?" and "Is Belief in the Resurrection Unscientific?"
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 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, relativity or thousands of other such things. 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. It's interesting that the vocal objections to conventional evolution are coming from the Physics and Math departments - the outsiders.
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. Instead of the usual pork butt I've got a rack of spare ribs going into the smoker.