Sayonara, or Welcome home?
If you’re a believer like me, you probably know there are folks out there who think you’re nuts. They can’t understand how any reasonably intelligent human being can look at all the pain and suffering in the world and believe that an all-powerful, good God exists. They don’t have a good answer for how anything exists if he doesn’t, but they can’t reconcile an imperfect, unfair world with a perfect and just God. And frankly…I don’t blame them.
But because I can’t reconcile God’s revelation of himself in creation, his Word, and in hearts and minds that are capable of extending love and kindness to others, with the notion that there is no god, I am compelled to believe there must be a way to reconcile the presence of suffering. Though because we are dealing with an infinitely intelligent Being that is beyond our complete comprehension, a totally satisfactory understanding will elude us, I believe there is enough truth that we can ascertain from the evidence to quiet our disturbed souls.
Exhibit A: Plenty of people could not enjoy Christmas Day at home with their families because their presence was required at their place of employment. Hospitals, fire stations, media outlets, all have to be manned 24-7-365. At face value this seems unfair for them to have to suffer the loss of once-yearly merriment that their coworkers get to enjoy. Until you look at their paycheck. They are compensated, many generously, for the inconvenience they endured having to work an important holiday. In the same way, in order to reconcile suffering with a good God, we need to look at the big picture. And I do mean BIG. Because as enormous as the visible world is and as complex and immeasurable the unseen and immaterial realities of our universe, they are incomplete as a summation of all that is. Suffering cannot be understood apart from the reality that there is life after death, when all things will be made right. A good and loving God who welcomes the souls of murdered children to his side to enjoy the bliss of Heaven forever, with eternal rewards they would not otherwise have been blessed with, can be reconciled with the apparent injustice of an unrestrained mass murderer.
Now, you may choose to believe this life is it. Close the casket; six-feet under; Sayonara; end of story. But then you’ve got other problems to reconcile. Like the evidence for Jesus Christ’s resurrection, and his promises, as God, that believers will be with him in Paradise. Like the nagging sense that your thoughts and feelings, the love you have for your family, the way your mind can dream and imagine untethered by cold, earthbound facts, are realities unconstrained and uncontrolled by your physical body, and live on after the body is dead.
Eternity is a concept that unbelievers are largely unwilling to accept, unless it could be shown that the universe is eternal and, hence, does not require a cause. But if time came into existence along with space and matter, and cannot exist without them, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a dimension outside of time that is unbound by it.
The best understanding of pain and suffering begins with a good God and a real place called Heaven where there will be none. Ever.
More exhibits to come. This is enough for one day.
“you probably know there are folks out there who think you’re nuts.”
Can’t speak for anyone else, but on the whole I generally think believers are just wrong. Not nuts, just wrong.
Some, though, are surely nuts. 🙂
” Like the evidence for Jesus Christ’s resurrection”
What evidence? I see plenty of claims, but zero empirical evidence.
“are realities unconstrained and uncontrolled by your physical body, ”
I disagree that those things are unconstrained or uncontrolled by the physical body. Do you have evidence to back up that they aren’t, or just a claim?
Thanks for commenting. Sorry I haven’t responded yet – haven’t had enough time to devote. But I hope to tomorrow. Until then…
Hey, there. Sorry…I didn’t forget about you. Well…actually, I did forget, for awhile. Been so busy preparing responses to comments on my previous post, in addition to my regular responsibilities. And I still owe several of them a first or second response.
Now…thank you for at least giving credence to my sanity. 🙂 You think I’m wrong – I can accept that. And I appreciate the opportunity to further explain why I believe what I do. Perhaps…perhaps…you will be persuaded enough to at least consider that I may be right.
The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is such that most New Testament scholars will attest to the following (among others) statements as facts:
1. Jesus was a real, historical figure who died by Roman crucifixion
2. he was buried in a private tomb, the location of which was well-known
3. his tomb was found empty
4. his disciples had every reason NOT to believe he was going to rise from the dead
5. they were fearful and hopeless after he was killed and buried
6. they believe they saw Jesus alive after he was buried
7. their lives were subsequently transformed and they became bold in their proclamation of his resurrection
8. they proclaimed it in Jerusalem, where Jesus taught and was crucified
9. most of them willingly went to their deaths because of their faith
It’s important to note that these scholars are not all believers. So, just as you and I do, they interpret the evidence differently. But, because of the high degree of reliability of the Bible as a compilation of historical documents, the witness of contemporary, extra-biblical writings, and the corroboration of archeology, they can’t, with any integrity, deny that they constitute evidence for the life of Jesus, his death and burial, and the transformative result in his disciples who believed him to have been resurrected.
That Jesus really did rise from the dead is the most logical explanation that accounts for all the facts.
In response to your second question, perhaps I should have worded that differently. Certainly I understand that we use our physical bodies to formulate thoughts, dreams, and ideas…particularly our brains, but our hormones sometimes come into play also. But the thoughts themselves, and our emotions as well, like love, are immaterial and impossible to measure or even objectively evaluate. And they give the sense, which is what I was saying, that they are not constrained by the same limitations that our physical bodies have, including death.
We are so much more than our physical body. We have and are a personality…and I think it’s a rare individual who upon considering his own mortality, has no trouble believing that “he” – the thinking, feeling personality inhabiting the body, will die and decay along with it.
Okay. First of all, if you’re going to talk about ‘most scholars’, you should really post some citations to back up what you’re claiming.
What my opinion amounts to is that the Bible made a lot of claims, and we don’t know if they happened or not. Some we can assume because they are unremarkable. Others, that are extraordinary, it would be wrong to assume.
What it amounts to is there were people who believed Jesus was a god, and suffered and died from that belief.
There are people who believed that Muhammad was god’s prophet, and suffered and died from that belief.
Assuming that ‘someone dying for their belief’ is a valid reason to believe something, which do I believe? Or is it not valid?
“But, because of the high degree of reliability of the Bible as a compilation of historical documents,”
How is it highly reliable?
“the witness of contemporary, extra-biblical writings”
Please cite these. You and I may be using different definitions for the word ‘contemporary’.
“That Jesus really did rise from the dead is the most logical explanation that accounts for all the facts.”
I fundamentally disagree. Anecdotes, whether written or spoken, are not sufficient evidence by themselves to show that a supernatural event took place. If it were, we’d believe that Julius Caesar was a decedent of Venus and that people are regularly abducted by aliens and attacked by Bigfoot.
“that they are not constrained by the same limitations that our physical bodies have, including death. ”
This is a claim. I see no evidence backing it up.
“and I think it’s a rare individual who upon considering his own mortality, has no trouble believing that “he””
Hi. I guess that makes me a rare individual. I have a large group of friends who feel the same way that I’d like to introduce you to.
The claim that most biblical scholars accept the above statements as true is made by Dr. Gary Habermas, who is Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Theology at Liberty University, and is a recognized expert on the resurrection of Christ. Habermas reviewed over 1400 scholarly works regarding it written between 1975 and 2003 and his claim is a simple reporting of his findings. The detailed information can be found in his book The Rise Jesus and Future Hope. This video link addresses your challenge: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=_r62LpPhLdQ.
There is a huge difference between Muslims purposely dying in service to “Allah” and the apostles of Jesus willingly being martyred for their faith, and it is this: a person may die for what he believes to be true, but no one will die for what he knows to be false. It is inconceivable that any, much less all, the apostles would have stood their ground to the death and refused to recant their claim that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, if they had not personally witnessed him alive after knowing that he had died, and knowing that he had told them he would rise.
The Bible is a highly reliable compilation of historical documents because it passes a number of specific tests historians use in assessing any ancient document. These are the bibliographic test, the test from internal evidence, and the test from external evidence. I intend to expound on this in a separate post soon.
By “contemporary” extra-biblical writings I am referring to those from the first and second centuries AD. Jewish historian Josephus is one of the more important of these works as he was an actual eyewitness of the beginnings of Christianity in the first century. He reported the following: “At this time there was a wise man called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive. Accordingly, he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have reported wonders. And the tribe of the Christians, so named after him, has not disappeared to this day.”
Jesus is also mentioned in ancient Rabbinical writings, albeit usually in a hostile way. Still, they give evidence of much of what is recorded in the New Testament. There are also first and early second century Roman sources such as Cornelius Tacitus, Seutonius, and Pliny the Younger who record various beliefs and activities of the early Christians, as well as their persecutions.
I don’t believe it’s at all fair or accurate to label the historical evidence for the resurrection that I cited as “anecdotes” comparable to stories of alien abductions and Bigfoot sightings.
If you are interested in a fuller treatment of the historicity of the Bible, please check back for an upcoming post. Or better yet, research it yourself.
“By “contemporary” extra-biblical writings I am referring to those from the first and second centuries AD. ”
So, by ‘contemporary’, you mean people who weren’t alive until after Jesus was supposed to have died, and never met him. Correct?
“comparable to stories of alien abductions and Bigfoot sightings.”
You’re right. It actually isn’t fair.
First person, eye-witness testimony of alien abductions is actually better evidence than that in the Bible. Because we know without question that they are eye-witnesses and we are able to talk to the people and investigate the events.
“Or better yet, research it yourself.”
I have. And it’s very simple: written reports are not sufficient, by themselves, to serve as good evidence for extraordinary claims.
” So, by ‘contemporary’, you mean people who weren’t alive until after Jesus was supposed to have died, and never met him. Correct?”
Correct. But they serve to corroborate records of those who actually were eyewitnesses. And if you’re going to suspend belief of everything that you have not personally witnessed, nor had opportunity to interview any eyewitnesses of, nor personally investigated, then you might as well disregard as unreliable 90% of all the history you’ve ever learned.
The resurrection of Jesus certainly is an extraordinary claim. But not unreasonable, if there is a God. And we have plenty of other physical, current, and testable evidence of that, in addition to the witness of reliable, written documents.
“But they serve to corroborate records of those who actually were eyewitnesses. ”
Except they don’t. They all seem to say that Christians existed, and Christians believe certain things.
And you don’t have eyewitness records. You have anonymous scriptures for which the earliest copies we have are from years after Jesus was supposed to have died.
“And if you’re going to suspend belief of everything that you have not personally witnessed, ”
Not at all.
I’m going to suspend belief of supernatural claims when the only evidence is anecdotes and written reports.
If in several thousand years I was on an archaeological dig and found an old Spider-man comic book, should I then assume Spider-man really existed? New York, where the hero resides, actually existed. Does the non-supernatural portion of the writing (the existence of a city) mean that the supernatural portion (the superhero) is correct? Or should we look at both claims separately?
” But not unreasonable”
Unreasonable based on everything we know and have learned about human biology, and everything we have evidence of.
“And we have plenty of other physical, current, and testable evidence of that,”
No, we don’t. But perhaps I’ve missed something. So, by all means, present this physical, current and testable evidence.