Is Easter Still Credible?

6 Responses

  1. Derrick Kourie says:

    For an excellent historical critical analysis on the resurrection, I recommend a book by Dale Allison called “Resurrecting Jesus”. He makes an attempt at interpreting, in a meticulously unbiased scientific way, the historical data available to us about claims regarding: (1) the empty tomb; and (2) that the disciples saw “something” they construed to be Jesus. In both cases, he concludes that the evidence remains genuinely ambiguous—insufficient to scientifically / historically prove or disprove the empty tomb and the early Christian claims to had seen The Lord.

    Allison’s conclusions suggest to me that the “scientific” evidence for the resurrection is remarkably strong, or rather, that the scientific evidence against this astounding claim of resurrection is rather weak. The resurrection cannot simply be dismissed on scientific grounds. It remains scientifically enigmatic, and any casual claim from the skeptics that it cannot be true is not a scientific claim, but a claim of prejudice.

    This is particularly true if taken together with the very intriguing data about the Shroud of Turin. Prior to the 1989 carbon dating attempts of the shroud, the controversially liberal Anglican bishop and theologian of the 70’s, John T Robinson, was so impressed by the historical evidence of the shroud’s authenticity that he claimed that the burden of proof now rested with the skeptics. Then there was the carbon dating results which suggested that it was significantly younger than 2000 years. Since the proof in 2005 that the carbon dating process was flawed (because of a polluted sample), I believe that we are back at that situation Robinson described: the burden of proof lies with the skeptics.

    Thus—to revert to the title of this article—Easter is entirely credible—even in the light of the best scientific evidence to date. I point this out because the article says very little about Easter from a scientific perspective.

    In saying this, I am not advocating a “God of the Gaps” approach to the resurrection. If I interpret Fr Raymond’s meaning correctly (or rather Fr Kelly whom he cites) by accepting the resurrection as a matter of /faith/, it re-orients [my] human experience and knowing, leading me to make more sense and more meaning out of my own life.

  2. Joseph says:

    Jesus Christ said in Luke 18:7-8 “And will not God revenge his elect who cry to him day and night? And will he have patience in their regard? I say to you that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he comes, shall he find, think you, faith on earth? The very essence of our lives in the risen Christ Jesus and the promise He holds is the gift of faith. Faith by its very nature cannot be proven by either Science of Philosophy and even by Theology but rather is that fire that burns where no human hand can reach. In our history the study of Theology by itself has never opened the doors of Faith for the learned some of whom even became heretics and some tried to destroy the unity of the Body of Christ because they forgot the one essential ingredient which is Faith.

    We can talk about the Shroud of Turin, the empty tomb and other tangible pieces of evidence littered all over but without faith such evidence doesn’t help to give hope. Our hope in the risen Christ Jesus is a supernatural hope, that can only be fanned into huge flames of an all consuming fire by the One in who we believe. The obedience of faith has in our history led Christians to martyrdom, to follow their master mostly in the early centuries after the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of the Divine Master. To speak of problems in the world and use those to query the credibility of supernatural hope is to fail to grasp the fundamental aspects of who God is and who the prince of the world is – Theodicy.

    Troubles will come, hurricanes and tornadoes will surely have their day but a house built on the rock shall stand. The trials in the world are real and desperate because of the times we live in, but where evil abounds – grace hath abounded all the more. Let’s not doubt the validity and the point of our crosses because they have become heavy; they are meant to be heavy (no one prays that they wont feel hunger pangs when they fast, otherwise there is no point in fasting – you are meant to be hungry in a fast). No army commander feeds his soldiers on chocolates, fudge, doughnuts and roast chicken everyday in the months following battle, because they will get fat and lose in the battle; but like St Paul the soldier trains his body in the harshest conditions to guarantee survival in the day of the battle.

    Easter is credible to an Easter people yesterday, today and tomorrow and forever more. The death and resurrection of the everliving God for the love of His people will remain credible forever. Let us remember that God is not evil so He can not Will evil on a people, rather humanity has freewill which God upholds highly and so when humanity chooses a path then God honours that choice. In Romans we are told that He gave them over to the desires of their hearts and so evil entered because that they wished for with their freewill. Honestly walk for 5 minutes and count how many immodestly dressed people you are going to see, how many contracepting people you will meet, how many corruption cases, murder of the innocent, cheating and all forms of iniquity that we have become desensitized to – Is it God who causes those? NO, we invent those and we have to reap the natural consequences of sin and lack of faith. The resurrection is a shining jewel of HOPE that Almighty God cares and is there and He sent His one and only Son to die for us.

  3. Derrick Kourie says:

    @ Joseph: You point out the following: “We can talk about the Shroud of Turin, the empty tomb and other tangible pieces of evidence littered all over but without faith such evidence doesnt help to give hope.”

    I am sure that you do not mean to imply that faith requires no supportive evidence; that the essence of faith is a leap of acceptance without roots in the real and the tangible. I presume that we agree that Richard Dawkins is completely wrong when he claims that Christians have “blind trust, in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence…”

    We agree, surely, that faith and reason stand in a dynamic relationship—the one feeds on the other. As the pope says in his very powerful encyclical, Spe Salvi: “reason and faith need one another in order to fulfil their true nature and their mission.”

    If you read carefully what I was trying to say above, you will see that my intent was to point towards the fact that it is actually people like Dawkins who have blind trust in their atheism, “even in the teeth of evidence”.

    Incidentally, in Spe Salvi the pope has a marvelous exegesis of Hebrews (v. 1) Faith is the hypostasis of things hoped for; the proof of things not seen in which he discusses the mistranslation of “hypostasis” to “substance”. In this part of the encyclical he connects the themes of faith and hope, touched on in your comment, Joseph. His subsequent discussion of “eternal life” in the encyclical is quite masterful. The encyclical is well worth a read for those who have not done so.

  4. Joseph says:

    @ Derrick Kourie

    I completely agree with you on the interconnectivity of Faith and Reason and one of the lectures given by Pope Benedict at the University of Munich contains a beautiful exhortation on these two. However, what I am driving at is that if these two are not held in balance especially if we bias ourselves towards Reason then we fail to understand faith. I am sure you also subscribe to the saying that “comprehension is not a pre-requisite for obedience” precisely because God says “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are My thoughts above your thoughts”. At some point in the dynamic union of Faith and Reason we are faced with Faith as the only foothold we have.

    Consider that the whole of Christendom believed the words of some illiterate fisherman who said;

    Apostles: “Jesus Christ is risen”

    Question: So where is He now?

    Apostles: He ascended into Heaven!

    Question: How do you know that?

    Apostles: We saw Him ascend into Heaven!

    If someone was to say to you today you might have a bit of problems taking them seriously, and for those who say they have seen apparitions of Mother Mary, we send them to psychiatric assessment and other mental evaluations and take some time before an approbation is given.

    What I am saying is that Chief in the Theological virtues is Faith, Hope and Charity and indeed it is only with Faith that we can start to believe and to ascend to knowledge of the one God. NOT that Reason doesn’t matter, but rather Reason always comes in at the Apologetics side where we now defend that which we have believed.

  5. Derrick Kourie says:

    @Joseph: I think we basically agree with one another.

    Although the Bible reports early conversions in a few brief sentences, as you suggest above, I am sure that the reality of each conversion was a far more complicated than the simple narratives provided there. The Lord calls each person to their own faith journey, some more dramatic than others, some more emotion-laden, others more cerebral. Thomas, for example, required very concrete evidence before he was able to make his magnificent act of faith: My Lord and my God.

    My concern is about a naive interpretation of the notion of faith that one sometimes encounters in fundamentalist Christian circles. Preachers take biblical reports of conversions quite literally and see it as confirmation of their calling if they can achieve the same. So under huge emotional pressure people (mostly youngsters) are psyched up to “Believe upon the name of the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved!” In these contexts, belief/faith is something that you’re supposed to conjure up in the height of emotion, and the Holy Spirit will descend on you and you will be baptised in the Spirit and be saved. And if you do not have that experience of being “baptised in the Spirit” then you have not sufficiently believed—something is wrong with you. (Even worse, if a healing does not happen, then it is because you do not believe!) Faith is regarded as an all-or-nothing phenomenon where you have to “let go” and believe, and then something (evidence) will happen and then you will “know that you are saved”. So faith starts with an (almost irrational) leap into the dark, and then there is supposed to be an experience of ecstasy as evidence that you have faith. Faith therefore morphs into knowledge. There is no place for sincere doubt. If you have doubts, then you are not saved.

    Many of us have encountered this type of scandalous behaviour in the name of Christianity. How many good people have rejected Christianity in toto because of their bad experiences in these situations? Mercifully, we do not have this kind of problem in our churches, where conversions are generally treated sensitively and people are given lots of time for instruction and reflection.

    Because we live in a world where this kind of Christianity abounds, I think it is important to understand that faith is a dynamic process of interaction between experience, evidence, reason, emotion and consent of the will. One theologian puts it thus:

    “[Faith] commences with the conviction of the mind based on adequate evidence; it continues in the confidence of the heart or emotions based on conviction, and it is crowned in the consent of the will, by means of which the conviction and confidence are expressed in conduct.”

    I think Chesterton describes the matter particularly well in his classic book, “Orthodoxy”:
    “If I am asked, as a purely intellectual question, why I believe in Christianity, I can only answer, “For the same reason that an intelligent agnostic disbelieves in Christianity.” I believe in it quite rationally upon the evidence. But the evidence in my case, as in that of the intelligent agnostic, is not really in this or that alleged demonstration; it is in an enormous accumulation of small but unanimous facts. The secularist is not to be blamed because his objections to Christianity are miscellaneous and even scrappy; it is precisely such scrappy evidence that does convince the mind. I mean that a man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend. The very fact that the things are of different kinds increases the importance of the fact that they all point to one conclusion…”

  6. Joseph says:

    @ Derrick Kourie

    The Catechisms of the Catholic Church has this to say

    1. Baltimore Catechism

    Q #107: What is Faith?
    A: Faith is a Divine virtue by which we firmly believe the truths which God has revealed.

    2. Catechism of the Catholic Church (1997 Edition)
    #166: “Faith is a personal act – the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals himself. But faith is not an isolated act. No one can believe alone, just as no one can live alone. You have not given yourself faith as you have not given yourself life. The believer has received faith from others and should hand it on to others. Our love for Jesus and for our neighbor impels us to speak to others about our faith. Each believer is thus a link in the great chain of believers. I cannot believe without being carried by the faith of others, and by my faith I help support others in the faith.”

    3. Catechism of Trent: Part I (The Creed); The Necessity of Faith
    That faith thus understood is necessary to salvation no man can reasonably doubt, particularly since it is written: Without faith it is impossible to please God. For as the end proposed to man as his ultimate happiness is far above the reach of human understanding, it was therefore necessary that it should be made known to him by God. This knowledge, however, is nothing else than faith, by which we yield our unhesitating assent to whatever the authority of our Holy Mother the Church teaches us to have been revealed by God; for the faithful cannot doubt those things of which God, who is truth itself, is the author.

    *************************************
    What I am saying therefore …

    Analogy: In a courtship that eventually leads to marriage, the young man and young woman love “the person” and do not dwell so much on physical features and the relations that are to have after the wedding. They fall head over heals in love and learn each other, nature has it this way so that a friendship develops that will take them through the period of hardship that are bound to come later after marriage. When sexual relations cannot bind them anymore and when both are forced to stay together in this marriage and work it out; the friendship developed before ensures they can talk and joke and have mutually fulfilling chats, also they learn to compromise because the free love developed before keep them away from ‘doubt’.

    What I mean:
    In faith, we are wooed by the Love of God who always makes the first move. We fall head over heals with this Lord and these amazing moments we have with Him in prayer and His Word and His promises. However, the honeymoon stops and we have to mature to the next level “reality check” – 1 Cor 3:2 (I gave you milk to drink, not meat: for you were not able as yet). I believe it is here we now start to integrate reality into what it is we actually believe and so comes the maturation of faith through “Reason” – where now we encounter Our Lord Jesus Christ as the “Logos” which is “Word and Reason”, where we are now called forth to give reason for our Hope.

    I believe it is here we start to look for explanations to why this is that and why not the other way. We contemplate the Triune God in the words of St Gregory of Nanzianzus’ Perichoresis (Circuminsession); Archeological and historical possibility of a person called Jesus of Nazareth, authenticity of Marian apparitions from secular press or history etc etc. In my opinion, this is the progression of Faith, where now we become deeply rooted in Faith and Reason and we can defend our faith and hope not as a product of gullibility but as a result of the light of the Holy Spirit. We also start realising the intelligibility of the created world, the beauty of creation and thus contemplate on the beauty of the Mind that gave rise to such Beauty, Truth and Harmony; that the Holy Spirit is not felt by emotion but rather by the illumination of the intellect to the things of God.

    Conclusion:
    In my opinion, as the scriptures say “… none can say Jesus Christ is God unless they be first begotten by the Spirit of God in the Son”. Reason by itself always fall short and faith by itself ensures we remain immature believers but it is faith that first moves us to seek reason for that which we first believed.