Dialogues II

S:

In response to your questions:

  1. What is relativism? It’s the philosophical position that all points of view are equally valid and that all truth is relative to the individual. So basically all moral positions, religious systems, political movements, etc., are truths that are relative to the individual. I guess then a relativist wouldn’t believe in an absolute truth.

Christians, on the other hand, believe that the ultimate expression of truth is found in Jesus, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life…” __(John 14:6). Of course, most philosophers and skeptics (in today’s sense of the term) will dismiss His claim, but He gives hope to Christians. Jesus, who walked on water, claimed to be divine, and rose from the dead, said that He was the truth and the originator of truth. If Jesus is wrong, then we should ignore Him. But, if He is right, then we should listen to Him.

The many eyewitnesses wrote what they saw. They watched Jesus perform miracles, heal the sick, calm a storm with a command, and even rise from the dead. Either you believe or dismiss these claims. If you dismiss them, that is your prerogative. But, if you accept them, then you are faced with decisions to make about Jesus. What will you believe about Him? What will you decide about Him? Is what He claimed about Himself true?

  1. What is a sin? It’s the breaking of God’s law. If God says “Do not lie” and you lie, then you have broken His law and sinned. When you sin, you offend God because it is His law that you have broken. The reason God says to not lie, not cheat, etc., is because these laws reflect the moral purity of His nature and are a reflection of the character of God. It is wrong to lie because God cannot lie. It is wrong to steal because God cannot steal, etc.  The moral law is not arbitrary – it is based on God’s holiness.

The law, then, is a perfect standard because it is God’s standard. When we fail to keep the law, we sin. When we sin, we offend God. This offense against God results in a judgment. Laws are laws because breaking them typically results in a penalty. Therefore, breaking God’s law brings judgment which is separation from God. “But your sins have made a separation between you and your God,” __(Isaiah 59:2) and “the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).

  1. How has everyone sinned? Have you ever told a lie? Have you ever taken something from someone without asking for it? Have you ever been jealous of someone? The New Testament says that if you hate someone then you are committing murder. Have you ever hated someone? I think it would be impossible for anyone to seriously argue that they have never sinned.

  2. Why do we need to be saved? So, to sin, to break God’s law, results in judgment. God is just – He is a good Judge. If God did not judge the sinner, then He is not upholding His holiness and he would be allowing sinners to go unpunished. Imagine you are in a courtroom, having been convicted of a major crime. Would a good judge let you go free without punishment? Of course he wouldn’t, that would not be just. But now imagine that a man comes into the room and generously offers to pay your fine or do your gaol-time.

In a sense, this is exactly what Jesus did for us. He came to take our place and die for our sins (1 Peter 2:24). This means that Jesus bore our sin in His body on the cross and paid for them and thus took the judgment upon himself. If anyone trusts in what Jesus did on the cross, he or she will be cleansed of their sins and will be saved from God’s future judgment. Jesus restores our relationship with God. In that way, our views on what we trust in to take us to God are very different.

  1. What has Jesus done for the world? I think I just answered this question lol.

  2. Is every Christian or fan of Jesus as nice as he was? If only that was so. I know that I constantly stuff up. I ignore or am rude to strangers when I’m in a bad mood. I get angry at Michael or family members for no reason. I become envious of others when they have something I want. I’m very selfish and I sometimes talk about people behind their back.

If every Christian was as good as Jesus was, then they would have no need of His salvation. They would fulfill God’s standard of moral purity and so would not be faced with judgement. But of course this is not the case – we can see this by looking at the world at the moment (just as you mentioned), all the wars, violence, dishonesty, hatred, jealousy, disrespect to fellow living things, etc. However, because Christians know what Jesus was like (through reading the Bible), they aim to be more like Jesus in their actions, thoughts and words.

Have you heard of C.S. Lewis? He was a great Christian philosopher who wrote many great books like the Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Surprised by Joy…okay, they’re ALL great! C.S. Lewis asked whether Jesus was really whom He is reported to have said He was. For example, was Jesus really the Son of God? Lewis believed so and also believed that he had a very good argument for convincing people to agree: if Jesus was not whom he claimed, then he must be a lunatic, a liar, or worse. He was certain that no one could seriously argue for or accept these alternatives. Lewis expressed this idea in Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

I think this quote kind of goes back to what I said about relativism and absolute truth.

Now, as for the the document you sent me about the terrible incident with your friend – thank you so much for sharing it with me. It is so awful and I cried when I read about it. I pray that the pain you are experiencing will end, and that you will be able to find forgiveness. I have no idea what I would do in your situation, but I can tell that you are a brave young woman and I’m certain that you will be okay 🙂

I agree, these mails are fun 🙂 Of course I don’t take offence to your questions. I love when people ask me questions about Christianity – it helps me to share my faith with others because it is the most important thing in my life 🙂

J:

It was great reading your mail :). In fact it was intense! I would agree that all moral positions etc are to be heard out, but I can’t say truth is different for different individuals. I believe in a certain truth that people arrive at through processes of their own choice-something like- all rivers lead to the ocean anyway. And sometimes if some people don’t want to arrive at it, that’s cool too.

Some part of Hindu philosophy says that god is in everything. Like the story-

An atheist asks a saint/philosopher-‘Is god in this idol?’

’Yes’

He breaks the idol to splinters

’Is god still there now? Coz I just destroyed him.’

The saint guy says- ‘He is in every splinter of the pieces’

The atheist burns the pieces

’Now?’

’He is in the ashes.’

The atheist dissolves the ashes and chucks it in the river

’Now?’

’He is in the water’

I think its something along what I believe…you could totally ignore god and still he’s part of you, outside you watching, in everything around you.- like the whole world is god.

But hey, my phil changes according to my moods. Sometimes I feel so one with the world- like connected to everything around me- like I can understand the trees and the wind and the sky. I’m filled with a bliss and I see light (not literally lol) but I feel it. I’ve had a couple of moments like that in my life, not induced by any spiritual leader.

Maybe I worship nature? Yeah, I do, I see it with reverence. So my problem would be if someone asked me to pin down my philosophy to a constant definition. And I like it that way. I don’t want to define it. I like it to flow with me.

But you could ask me qs too. I’d be happy to answer 🙂

Since you like qs, I have a few more for you- more as a philosophy student than as a Christian-

How is it that religion works only on beliefs? Is rational thought necessarily the opposite of being a religious person?

So when God sets these rules, wouldn’t you consider it a way of social policing to keep an orderly society? So people don’t become chaotic? To put it trifle brutally, doesn’t it sound like dictatorship with all that punishment? And strict rules?

It’s like the debate topic we had once- about discipline- externally enforced vs self realised.

Also, doesn’t Jesus the way you put it, become an excuse for people to sin instead of taking responsibility for their own mistakes?

Another q, have u heard of Reiki? The miracles he performed are done by some people in the east too- anthropologically speaking, many myths similar miracles are written about the same. What is your take on these?

‘But now imagine that a man comes into the room and generously offers to pay your fine or do your gaol-time. In a sense, this is exactly what Jesus did for us.’

The thing I said about excuses-that’s what I was referring to. Maybe I’m being more brutal to humans saying- if there is punishment in the end and you deserve it, take it! Don’t ask Jesus to take it for you!

The quote from Lewis seems very Absolutist as you said -coming from a hardcore kind of believer. But no matter what he says, I think I’m only still a fan of Jesus and he had a lot to teach the world. That’s what I meant by messiahs coming and going, and the world not being any better (like the 2nd law of Thermodynamics-order to disorder, tendency to chaos , more randomness etc.) It’s actually pointless to work against this tendency unless you have infinite energy like the sun, which is, ecologically speaking, why life still exists in order.

Now people can provide that energy to the society and arrange it into order for the time that they are there- actually present. But once they’re gone, the energy is gone, and their absence sends people back into disorder- imagine if there was no sun.

There would be no water cycle, no energy, no food by photosynthesis, nothing (I had a dream about it once- that the sun was destroyed. We had 8 days till the end of the world with people burning everything to stay warm)

So true change in the world can only happen if every individual can be like God or Jesus-perfect, from within themselves, out of realisation rather than being told to do so. The light, energy, shouldn’t need to come from outside us. We should find it in ourselves

just as you say we’ve all sinned by being angry, rude etc. I say haven’t you also been nice? Haven’t you also helped someone? Haven’t you also been honest and good to your parents and loved ones and even some strangers just out of your own good nature. Look at that positivity and say- Hey, I’m not just a sinner, I am capable of doing good too-nurture that goodness and let that overpower you sins, from within You.

He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

And honestly, why would god design us to have a capacity of choice if he wanted us to believe everything without thinking it through? I believe god wants us to find our own ways, build our own boats, and make our own efforts to reach him. That’s why he gifted us with brains to think.

And I have another doubt about Christianity- was Jesus God or the son of God? Are there 2 entities one just one?

And what does ‘amen’ mean?

And what is the Holy Spirit? I guess I still am ignorant about the basics but I’m very curious 🙂

S:

What you said about your view on God is really interesting. So then, would you consider yourself to be a pantheist?

In that case, do you think God is a personal being? And wouldn’t pantheism mean that we are God? But if we are all God, then why do we act so badly (if God is supposed to be eternally good), and also, why do our “realities” contradict each other?

Like I said, Jesus said He is the only way to God (John 14:6). So, if Jesus is only one of many ways to God, then only one of us can be right. So it can’t be true that we can create our own truths. This would result in some inconsistencies in the relationship between reality and belief. For example, if you said that you can create your own reality, then if I believe red lights are really green, would you want to go driving with me?

Your question “Is rational thought necessarily the opposite of being a religious person?” was also really interesting. My answer is that, with Christianity, I don’t think so necessarily. When I look to the evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, I am rationally compelled to believe it. What do you think?

Also, I don’t think God setting rules sounds like a dictatorship, despite the punishment. Because God made not only us, but also the entire world, He has perfect and deserved authority over His creation. God is a perfect king and thus knows what is right in terms of morals. If anyone knows the difference between right and wrong, it would be the Creator of life itself, wouldn’t it?

I don’t think Jesus gives anyone an excuse to sin. Like I said, we must all face judgement from God and give an account for everything we have done on this earth. We must all take responsibility for what we have done. But Jesus, by dying on the cross over 2000 years ago, has already given His life as a substitute for ours. Personally, I would much rather trust in His sacrifice for me, then to give up my own life as punishment for my sins.

I have indeed heard of Reiki, but I think I’d like to do a bit more research before I can tell you what I think of it.

And I agree with what you said about me not just being a sinner, but also being capable of doing much good. But I guess the way I see it (using the example of the court case again), if God is a good Judge, I am not justified in getting away with committing a crime, even if I tell him that I am “sorry” for what I have done. I’m sure that many criminals have pleaded with the judge to be given another chance. But I think the point is that it wouldn’t be just if they were let go, even if they did something good to “make up” for it.

Also, God has created us with a capacity for choice because, quite simply, He loves us. If He didn’t love us, He would have created us as robots or something, which do not have the ability to disobey Him. Instead, He gave us the freedom to think through things and make a choice on our own about whether or not we want to accept Him as our Lord and Saviour.

Now, to answer a couple of your questions in one answer (and trust me, it’s not an easy concept to understand lol), Christian doctrine teaches that God exists as a unity of three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (called the “Trinity”). Each of the persons is distinct from the other, yet identical in essence. In other words, each is fully divine in nature, but each is not the totality of the other persons of the Trinity. In other words, the Father is not the same person as the Son who is not the same person as the Holy Spirit who is not the same person as the Father. Each is divine, yet there are not three gods, but one God.

It might seem like Christianity is belief in a polytheistic God, but the doctrine of the Trinity is actually a strict monotheism which is the teaching that there exists in all the universe a single being known as God who is self-existent and unchangeable (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8). So I guess to sum that up, the Trinity is: God is three persons; each person is divine; and, there is only one God.

Jesus is often called the Son of God, but He is also called God the Son.

Oh and the word ‘amen’ just means ‘it is true and certain’, so Christians (and others) use it at the end of the prayer to basically mean ‘I agree’.

What about the caste system. Dos it still exist in India? My husband told me about it once.

J:

Pantheist- http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pantheism/ I checked this site to understand what exactly you meant. It says-

”Pantheism is a metaphysical and religious position. Broadly defined it is the view that (1) “God is everything and everything is God … the world is either identical with God or in some way a self-expression of his nature” (Owen 1971: 74). Similarly, it is the view that (2) everything that exists constitutes a “unity” and this all-inclusive unity is in some sense divine (MacIntyre 1967: 34). A slightly more specific definition is given by Owen (1971: 65) who says (3) “‘Pantheism’ … signifies the belief that every existing entity is, only one Being; and that all other forms of reality are either modes (or appearances) of it or identical with it.”

I agree with this to an extent but disagree when it says that it is an alternative to theism where you have a personal god. Remember one of the earlier mails where I told you about the difference in mindset between the Plato and non Plato philosophies- the west tends to need one right answer that doesn’t contradict anything else. I think that contradictions can co-exist. I can have a personal god and believe in pantheism too.

Same goes for Jesus-there has to be more than one river flowing to the ocean.

I guess we all have a bit of god in us, whether you reason that as saying he created us or because we are his manifestation, I don’t think it matters. Then you ask why we behave so badly. Now this reminds me of one argument that Richard Bach puts forth. He says that if there is a god, and he is so good, he wouldn’t allow the world to have so much bad in it – so either god is evil or there is no god.

I think this view that god is good, doesn’t help us feel his immensity. In my opinion, god is everything.

Like in Hinduism, there are three main gods. (A trinity in a way)- Brahma (creator), Vishnu (protector) and Shiva (destroyer)

I used to think- why one earth would anyone want to worship someone who destroys? There can be nothing good about destruction. But I realise we need destruction as much as we need creation and protection. The cycle must go on.

Matter cycles in biogeochemical cycles -everything is circular- the world, time, even events like how we say ‘history repeats itself’ (though that is more metaphorical)

I have to say, Hinduism seems to have lots of ecological and scientific reasoning in their philosophy- in books like ‘Tao of Physics’ there is an uncanny resemblance between one of Shiva’s statue forms and the pattern of the universe. There is so much symbolism in Hinduism that if you take everything literally, you’re really missing the point. That’s why I like it. It’s a bit like literature, where so many interpretations are possible and all of them add to the depth of the meaning.

Another thing that’s a bit weird about Hinduism is that in the Vedic texts there are these references to atomic energy and stuff that modern sciences only knows for the past 200 years- like the Greeks and even Egyptians (you must know) they knew things about astronomy, physics and math  (especially geometry) that modern science didn’t know till recently.

I have my own little theory that maybe sometime in the future, someone invented a time machine and went back to teach people of the ancient civilisations all this stuff – coz how else could they know?

Your question about varying realities touches upon something I’ve studied briefly. You said if you see red as green would I like to come driving with you. But how do you know that what you see as green and what I see as green is the same? How do you know whether, when I step into your brain, I don’t see it as what I had previously understood as purple, instead?

There’s this term – ‘qualia’ which refers to the experience that is different for everyone and can’t be described. It has to be felt. there’s no other way of knowing it. You can tell a blind person all about the colour red but he or she will still never know what it is first hand.

So it can be argued that reality isn’t the same for everyone. And without being schizophrenics, we can have our own versions of reality. The only inconsistencies happen when it becomes pathological. I say I see a black mark on the wall and its pretty big in the shape of a cup. You look at the wall and say- no, it’s a plain wall. There is no mark there at all. But there’s quite a difference between pathological inconsistencies and differences in individual qualia.

And about the resurrection, I don’t know enough so I cant judge, but maybe because I’m scientific at heart, I cant quite imagine someone coming back to life or conception happening to a virgin unless its by injecting the sperm into the uterus as the woman is ovulating (something people have learnt to do only now-in modern science) but I’ve heard that one night Mary did feel a piercing pain- maybe that was the injection? A zygote simply cannot be formed unless there is a sperm involved. The only other possibility is that parthenogenesis happened. But that would be a biological miracle! And Jesus would’ve been female instead. So again that’s not possible.

By the way, have you ever wondered why god is always referred to as male? As He? I think this is very patriarchal. God may not have been of either sex necessarily (coz only those that need to sexually propagate need a sex)or could’ve equally been a woman. But I think we’re so self involved that we want to make sure god conforms to our social constructions. I think its more like- man created god in his own image- not the other way around. We as humans, really long to be special, unique and on top of everything else- we need to anthropomorphise everything- explain everything in terms of what we already know so we’ll never be uncomfortable with the unknown. And make sure that through it all, we come across as the most evolved of all- intelligent etc.

But we are the only creature stupid enough to destroy what we live on- cut trees, pollute waters, hunt for sport instead of survival. To me, these are sins and we will pay for it! We already are- corals bleaching, glaciers melting. Don’t you think humans are dumb if they can’t even see how directly they’re destroying themselves?

_‘If anyone knows the difference between right and wrong, it would be the Creator of life itself, wouldn’t it?’

_

You talk in absolutist terms again-how do you know what is right and wrong? Is there such a thing? And how does knowing it make one capable of being the creator?

_‘Personally, I would much rather trust in His sacrifice for me, then to give up my own life as punishment for my sins.’

_ But if sacrifice is sacrifice, how is your sacrifice any less than Jesus’s? I don’t understand- because I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer for my mistakes.

I did a course on Reiki. You could check it out the link I’ll send you.

_‘But I guess the way I see it (using the example of the court case again), if God is a good Judge, I am not justified in getting away with committing a crime, even if I tell him that I am “sorry” for what I have done. I’m sure that many criminals have pleaded with the judge to be given another chance. But I think the point is that it wouldn’t be just if they were let go, even if they did something good to “make up” for it.’

_ What I have to ask about this is not related to god- more about your sense of justice, or how far you agree with the type of justice systems around the world. If you believe in the compassion that Jesus taught, and for there to be less violence in the world, do you think punishing violence with violence is justified? I don’t yet have a reasoned out opinion of this because of that experience with that so called friend which you read. But I wonder if the world should be run by compassion or fear- it has to be either one because where one of then reigns, the other cannot exist in its full force of being. But you tell me what you would choose. What you think.

Yes, the caste system still exists but it’s a long story. I don’t like what they’ve made it out to be- the whole inferior-superior thingy. I wish they would respect everyone’s work for how well they did it instead of grade one form of work over another. It’s not like anyone sticks to the profession part of it now anyway. It’s more a social thing rather than work related. There is still discrimination but it works both ways now. Not only do the ‘upper caste people’ look down on ‘lower caste people’, but the government gives practically no opportunity of the ‘upper castes people’ in order to give the ‘lower caste people’ a chance to rise in the society-with reservations- they call it positive discrimination! an oxymoron if any!

S:

I think I sort of agree with what you said about us having ‘a bit of god in us’. At least, the Bible teaches that we were made in God’s image.

The argument you mentioned by Richard Bach is interesting. I suppose I’ve heard it quite a lot since I became a Christian (I even asked it myself before I became a Christian). If God is all-powerful and all loving, then why does He permit evil and suffering in the world? To be perfectly honest, I am not certain why God allows suffering to prevail in the world. It may be impossible to settle the issue, because so many answers give rise to further questions. But here I will try to offer some solutions:

1) It is possible that God has reasons for allowing evil to exist that we simply cannot understand. In this the Christian can have confidence in God knowing that His ways are above our ways.

2) God may be letting evil run its course in order to prove that evil is evil and that suffering, the product of evil, is further proof that anything contrary to God’s will is bad, harmful, and leads to death. God gave Adam dominion over the world (Gen. 1:28). When he rebelled against God, he set in motion an entire series of events and changed the very nature of man and creation. People became sinful (Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:3) and thus the world was affected by sin.

But I think that God used the evil of the world to bring His Son to the cross so that we might have the opportunity of eternal life. In this, God has not stepped away from fallen creation, but has stepped into it by becoming Jesus. God works within the fallen world to affect change and He uses fallen people to accomplish His will. In this, He is proving His sovereignty over evil, suffering, and rebellious people, proving that sin and evil are utterly futile, and that He is worthy of honor and glory.

3) God may be letting evil occur so that on the day of judgment, the condemned will have no right to say that their sentence is unjust. God is not stopping people from exercising their free will. Think about this: If someone said that God should stop evil and suffering, then should God then stop all evil and suffering? If God only stopped some of it, then we would still be asking the same question of why it exists. So, if we want God to stop evil and suffering, then He must stop all of it. We have no problem with this when it means stopping a catastrophe, or a murder, or a rape. But what about when someone thinks of something evil? Evil is evil whether it is acted out or not. If it is wrong, and if God is to stop all evil, then He must stop that person from thinking his own thoughts. To do that, God must remove his freedom of thought. Therefore, one of the reasons that God permits evil and suffering may be because of our gift of free will.

4) It is quite possible that God uses the suffering to do good. In other words, He produces patience through tribulation (Rom. 5:3). Or He may desire to save someone through it. For example, the account of Joseph who was sold into slavery by His brothers. What they did was wrong and Joseph suffered greatly for it. But, later, God raised up Joseph in Egypt to make provisions for the people of that land during the coming drought of seven years. But not only was Egypt saved, but also so was his family and brothers who originally sold him into slavery. Joseph finally says to them, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:15-21). Of course, the greatest example of God using evil for good is the death of Christ. Evil people brought him to the cross, but God used that cross as the means to save the world.

Suffering is the result of human sin. The world is not the way that God created it and because of that, all are vulnerable to the affects of sin in the world. Why does one person suffer and another does not? Why do catastrophes happen to some and no others? It is because sin is in the world.

But there will come a day when the Lord will return and cleanse this world of all sin and all suffering: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:4).

Wow, that’s cool what you said about the references to atomic energy and stuff in the Vedic texts. Your theory to explain it is cool too lol.

Now, to get to the resurrection: Just because something is improbable, does not mean that it is impossible. If you accept that God exists, that He was involved in human history, that Jesus performed many miracles, walked on water, and raised others from the dead, it is not improbable to conclude that he has risen from the dead. If you believe that there is a God and that God is involved in the world, then it is easy to acknowledge that miracles can occur. If God created the universe, why can’t God also intervene in our world and perform miracles?

Although you may not yet fully trust the reliability of the Bible’s testimony to the resurrection, I think it is important to realise that the New Testament provides extraordinary evidence for the resurrection of Christ. There is absolutely no comparable ancient document that even approaches the accuracy of the New Testament documents.

The NT documents are 99.5% textually pure. This means that there is less than 12 of 1% of all the 26,000 copies we have of the various documents included in the NT. Add to this the incredible redundancy of copies, and their almost 100 percent agreement, and we can easily conclude that the transmission of the documents to us has been extremely reliable. If anyone were to dismiss the New Testament documents by saying that they are corrupted, then he must also throw out all other ancient documents including those of the writings of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, etc., because none of them come close to approaching either the number of manuscripts in existence, their reliability, or the accuracy of the copies that exists in the NT documents.

Since the documents are reliable then we must look at them to determine whether or not the content supports the resurrection of Jesus…and there are many passages which teach Jesus’ resurrection. At one point, Jesus appeared to over 500 people at once, many of whom were still alive when Paul wrote his account in 1 Corinthians. Here are a few others passages about the resurrection:

  • Luke 24:56: “…and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? “He is not here, but He has risen…”
  • John 2:19-21: “Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews therefore said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
  • Luke 24:39: “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
  • John 20:25-28: “The other disciples therefore were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Now, obviously if you’re going to believe these accounts of the resurrection, you need to believe that Jesus was actually dead to begin with. Many people believe that Jesus didn’t really die on the cross but that He was crucified and came very close to death (called the swoon theory). But here is a brief outline about why this theory can’t work (basically because Jesus’ ordeal was far too serious to permit Him to survive):

1) Six trials – three before Jewish officials and three before Roman officials. In these trials, Jesus was beaten on the face (Matthew 26:67).

2) Scourging – done with a flagrum, a short whip with several leather strips which were either embedded with pieces of metal and glass or small metal balls were tied to the ends of the leather strips. The victim was either tied to a post or tied bent over an object with his back exposed. The person inflicting the blows had been trained on how to properly administer the beating so as to assure the most painful and damaging punishment. The whipping consisted of 39 lashes, each administered and pulled across the back so as to rip the back open. Often the back muscles were so badly shredded that the skeletal structure was exposed. People very often died from this punishment alone.

3) Crown of thorns – placed on the head of Jesus (Matthew 27:29). The crown was woven and then pressed down around the head , ripping the skin, causing bleeding.

4) Crucifixion – The arms are pulled apart and nails driven through the wrist into a cross beam which is raised in place (this dislocates the shoulders). The nails sever the median nerve resulting in a burning pain as well as paralysis in the hand. To breathe Jesus had to press up on the nails in His feet, scraping His raw back on the wood. The body gradually drains of blood causing the heart to beat faster and faster, and dehydration occurs. The breathing becomes more labored and intense. The blood loss results in extreme thirst as the body craves water to restore the lost blood. Jesus said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). The heart beats so hard trying to compensate for the loss of oxygen (due to the lack of blood) in the body, that it eventually ruptures. At this point, the chest cavity fills with fluid. The soldier pierced Jesus’ side and out came blood and water, signifying that the heart had stopped beating and the blood was settling in the chest cavity. Jesus was dead.

5) Burial – Jesus’ body was wrapped in linen (Matthew 27:59). This wrapping was done tightly around the whole body from head to toe. We see from the resurrection of Lazarus, that he had to be unbound (John 12:44) since help was needed to get out of the linens.

6) Three days without medical attention in the cold tomb – the tomb was cold and Jesus laid in it for three days without medical attention.

7) Moving the stone – A “large stone” had been placed over the entrance to the tomb (Matthew 27:60). Unless Jesus had some help, which isn’t mentioned at all, He would have had to move the large stone. The stone had to be large enough to cover an entrance big enough for people to walk into. Even if they ducked to get in, the stone was large enough that it would take more than one person to move it in place.

8) Presence of the guards – The Romans guards on the tomb were given the job to guard the tomb. Since there had been rumors that the body of Jesus might be stolen, they were ready to meet the challenge. In Roman society, if the prisoner of the guard escaped, the guard would then take the prisoner’s place in punishment. The guards had a strong motivation to not let anyone take the body of Jesus.

It’s easy to see that the swoon theory falls apart quickly when you consider the agony that Jesus had endured.

Also, it is very unlikely that the disciples faked the resurrection of Christ. Here are some reasons why:

1) They would need an elaborate plan involving many unpredictable elements: guards, other witnesses, etc.

2) There is a large problem in developing a motive to deceive that would be greater than the consequences of that deception. The disciples would be risking their security, safety, families, and their lives (in fact, all but one of them were persecuted and killed, not only for what they believed, but for what they had witnessed).

3) The guards at the tomb would have to be bribed, but the only bribing we see is from the Jewish leaders (Matthew 28:11-15) who had a very strong motivation to finish what they had started with Jesus.

4) Various witnesses not involved with the disciples would have to be obtained in order to validate the story. But this means that a strong incentive would have to be offered to the additional witnesses since their story would likely get them in deep trouble with the Jewish leadership.

5) The apostle Paul. What would motivate him to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus when if it didn’t really happen? He had initially been a heavy persecutor of the church, but he was converted by what he claimed to be the appearance of the risen Jesus. Paul ended up suffering for the gospel in prison and eventually died for his conviction.

I think what I’ve said about the possibility of miracles, esp. the resurrection, covers your question about Mary’s virgin conception.

I haven’t yet answered all your questions but I’m exhausted so I might get some sleep now.

J:

I can’t believe they were so brutal and violent to him. I know it was bad but didn’t even dream it would be that bad! Just one q though- is there a record of who wrote the Bible?

The details are very convincing. But is it meant literally?

I only remain slightly doubtful because as people say, history is written by the victors. Everyone thinks Hitler was horrible – so horrible because of the way he’s portrayed in American and British books. If the Germans had won that war, we’d be fed different stories right?

I’m saying what you choose to believe may not even be your choice (this was part of the lecture on critical psychology today)


See also