You wrote: Now that is most interesting. So the disciples who …

Comment on Academic Freedom Strikes Again! by Sean Pitman.

You wrote:

Now that is most interesting. So the disciples who had first hand experience of the miracles that Jesus performed during his life had doubts as to his divinity. So much for empirical observations eh? Why should we who were not there then belief in the redacted stories of the Bible?

The disciples understood that lots of people, regular human people, performed miracles of supernatural power (through the power of God or through the power of Satan). Therefore, it would not automatically follow that Jesus was Himself God just because He performed miracles. The fact is, if He couldn’t keep Himself alive, by definition He couldn’t be God and was clearly a liar who had tricked them – which is a reasonable conclusion given what they knew at that particular point in time. Therefore, it wasn’t until they saw evidence of His resurrection from the grave that they again believed Him, in no uncertain terms this time, that He was in fact who He said He was…

As for us today, we also have the empty tomb and the historical accounts of the disciples putting their own lives on the line for what they personally witnessed in this regard. We have the historically fulfilled prophecies of the Bible regarding the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – as well as numerous other fulfilled prophecies that give great credibility to the truth of those claims of the Bible that cannot be directly empirically tested. We also have the science that shows strong evidence for the intelligent design of life and its magnificent diversity on this planet in the recent past as well as abundant evidence for a Noachian-style Flood within fairly recent history. For those who are open to such things, there is plenty of solid evidence for us to reasonable understand and believe the truth of the Bible and take hold of the Gospel message of hope that it offers us.

As I have pointed out many martyrs have died for their faith or convictions. Joan of Arc for example who never witnessed Christ’s resurrection, believed she was a messenger from God, recanted her faith under duress, but then chose it again and was burnt at the stake as a result. Is that proof she was a messenger of God or would you distinguish her case from the disciples who did not belief in Christ’s divinity based on the first hand witnessing of miracles?

The fact that the disciples doubted the claims of Jesus once He was killed only gives them additional credibility regarding their claims of His resurrection – a testimony which they then sealed with their own blood (all of them except for John who was the only one to survive and die of old age). This wasn’t just a single lone wild-eyed fanatic or religious nut here. These were a dozen very sane naturally timid and doubting regular guys (not counting the women and many dozens of others who saw Jesus after the resurrection). And, these regular every-day guys saw very extraordinary things that were worth all of them deliberately putting their own lives on the line to tell to others…

The fact the disciples did so is not proof of Jesus’s resurrection. Perhaps in guilt and remorse they collaborated the resurrection story to launch mythic Christianity? How many times was the story amended or embellished before being recorded in the many different gospels? And who were the actual scribes? The witnesses themselves or others? Who ‘really’ knows?

There is abundant empirical evidence that the story that the disciples told of the empty tomb is the true story – otherwise, it would have been squashed in their own day by their numerous enemies who would simply have to produce the body of Jesus to put a quick end to the new Christian religion that they were promoting. The evidence is abundant even in extra-biblical historical sources from the 1st century. In fact, there is far far more historical evidence to back up the claims of the disciples of Jesus than there is for pretty much any other historical figure of the day. For example, we believe in the historical accounts and actions of Caesar or Alexander the Great based on far less documentation and empirical evidence than we have for the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

The problem with the resurrection miracle is it is not science, not falsifiable thus it comes down to faith. That’s fine as long as one understands that.

Science is able to detect “miracles” when they happen. Science is all about following the weight of evidence wherever it leads – even if you end up at a “miracle”. In fact, science is all about taking leaps of faith based on the weight of currently available evidence. Science isn’t about “proof” since absolute proof is impossible for the scientist. If you’re waiting for absolute proof before you believe or act, you’ll be waiting forever as an eternal skeptic – not a scientist or otherwise rational in your thinking.

Let me ask you, if you personally saw someone whom you knew for a fact was dead come back to life, would that do it for you? – as it did for Thomas? Or, would you still say that such evidence doesn’t qualify as “science” and therefore the only basis for belief would still be blind faith? Is that what you would say in such a situation? I just don’t believe you. Of course, you’re clinging to the fact that you don’t have this first-hand evidence of the resurrection, but that doesn’t mean that blind faith is the only thing left. Where is the weight of evidence? This is the question you should be asking yourself since a demand for absolute proof simply isn’t what a reasonable person or true scientist needs.

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!
No one actually believes that intelligent design is not rationally detectable behind various artifacts and phenomena that are clearly the result of deliberate design and intelligent intent. It is only in an effort to avoid acknowledging “God” that secular scientists who have taken on philosophical naturalism put forth superhuman effort to avoid admitting what is otherwise obvious.

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!
Now, I like you George, but I must say that restating the very same claim over and over again, without even addressing the counterarguments or questions presented to you regarding your claim, is not helpful to me, at all convincing, or even part of what I would call an interesting, much less, a productive conversation. I mean, you keep repeating, without substantive argument as far as I can tell, your simple claim that science (or any other form of rational thought for that matter) is not able to even detect a “miracle” if one happened to happen before your very eyes – like this claim of yours should simply be taken at face value as an incontestable self-evident fact.

“As I said science cannot detect miracles, by the very definition of same.” – george

Then, you go on to claim that miracles do not exist? But, how can you make this claim when, at the same time, you also claim that it is impossible to even recognize a miracle if one were to happen? Do you not recognize the self-defeating internal inconsistency of your position here?

Note that I’m not asking you to explain how a miracle happens, but only to be able to detect one if and/or when one does happen to occur. However, you simply ignore the comments of scientists who claim that science is, in fact, able to detect the miraculous when it happens (and has, in fact, done so – according to a fair number of very well-known scientists). You’ve also consistently ignored the questions I’ve asked you that seem to me to undermine this oft-repeated claim of yours. Why is that?

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see that you’re actually open to a genuine conversation here – which begs the question as to why you even bother to be here at all if you’re not a troll (although a fairly benign friendly sort of troll)?

Now, if I’m somehow misreading you and you are actually open to a real conversation on this topic, why not begin by substantively responding to at least one of the simple questions that I’ve repeatedly asked you in this forum?

    Would you recognized a highly symmetrical granite cube measuring, say, 10 x 10 x 10 cm, as miraculous from the perspective of non-intelligent natural mechanisms? – and therefore rationally/scientifically conclude that it is a clear artifact of intelligent design? – even if found on an alien planet like Mars? Why or why not?

Simple question…

Academic Freedom Strikes Again!

As I said science cannot detect miracles, by the very definition of same.

How is that? Science, while not able to determine the cause or mechanism of miracles, is indeed able, according to numerous very well-known scientists, to detect “miracles” if and/or when they may occur – according to your definition of the term. Please review my last post along these lines and explain to me how a highly symmetrical granite cube is not a miracle from the perspective of natural mindless mechanisms? – or the appearance, out of nothing, of a finely tuned universe that is miraculously predictable and understandable to us through the language of mathematics? – or the origin and diversity of life from a mindless natural perspective where there is no known mindless mechanism? Please do tell me, how are these things any less “miraculous” than any of the “miracles” described in the Bible?

In sum, a biased biblical account of a miraculous resurrection is not scientific and not proof on the balance of probabilities that it occured. The evidence that you have cited is unreliable and not corroborated by unbiased accounts.

As far as historical evidence, you seem to demand 100% reliably or proof. However, that’s not how science works – especially the historical sciences. Again, it’s all based on the weight of evidence – not absolute proof.

Also is it possible Jesus did not die on the cross but removed before he was medically dead? Did some of his followers remove his body from the cave to make it appear he was resurrected?

It is not possible given the description of Jesus’ death – where a spear was thrust through his side and into his heart, causing blood mixed with water to pour out (John 19:34). Also, His followers could not have stolen the body from the tomb because it was sealed with a Roman seal so that no one could get in or out without breaking the seal and it was guarded by a large number of Roman soldiers – specifically put in place in order to avoid having the body stolen by the disciples of Jesus (Matthew 27:62-66).

If a multitude of people saw him resurrected why are there only biblical accounts?

There are extra-biblical accounts of Jesus’ life and death – and even the empty tomb. Both Josephus and Lucian indicate that Jesus was regarded as wise. Pliny, the Talmud, and Lucian imply He was a powerful and revered teacher.Both Josephus and the Talmud indicate that He performed miraculous feats. Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, and Lucian all mention that He was crucified. Tacitus and Josephus say that this occurred under Pontius Pilate. And, the Talmud declares it happened on the eve of Passover. There are also possible references to the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection in both Tacitus and Josephus. Josephus records that Jesus’ followers believed He was the Christ, or Messiah – which wouldn’t be true if He was known to be dead. And, both Pliny and Lucian indicate that Christians worshiped Jesus as God.

With regard to the reality of the empty tomb, even the very antagonistic Toledot Yeshu, a compilation of early Jewish writings from the 11th century, acknowledges that the tomb was empty – though it is argued that the body was somehow removed from the tomb. Add to this the historical fact that Jesus’ tomb was never venerated as a shrine. This is striking because it was the 1st century custom to set up a shrine at the site of a holy man’s bones. Since there was no such shrine for Jesus, it suggests that his bones weren’t there. In this historical context, an interesting archaeological discovery lends early support to the biblical accounts of the Resurrection. The “Nazareth Inscription” is a marble tablet with Greek writing that has been dated to approximately AD 41. The inscription is likely an abbreviated form of an edict (called a rescript) from Emperor Claudius making taking body from a tomb a capital crime. (Link)

Also, the tomb was discovered to be empty by women – not men. Why is this important? Because the testimony of women in 1st century Jewish culture was considered worthless. If the empty tomb story were a legend, then it is most likely that the male disciples would have been made the first to discover the empty tomb. The fact that despised women, whose testimony was deemed worthless, were the chief witnesses to the fact of the empty tomb can only be plausibly explained if, like it or not, they actually were the discoverers of the empty tomb.

Beyond this, as previously mentioned, it is very very unlikely for a dozen fishermen to dream up this story and then be willing to die for what they knew was a lie. That’s just not a credible or otherwise reasonable conclusion. It simply is not plausible to suggest that each of these men would face continual persecution and horrifying deaths for something they knew to be a lie. After all, liars don’t make good martyrs.

Finally, due to the remarkable circumstances in first-century Jerusalem, Christianity would have never been able to get started if Jesus had not risen from the dead. Recall that the Resurrection of Jesus was central to the disciples’ preaching. Even if they had the courage to preach without having seen the risen Lord, what message would they have proclaimed? They certainly could not repeatedly claim to have been eyewitnesses of His Resurrection, as they did (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 13:31). Without this bold proclamation of the Resurrection, and if His body was rotting in the grave, people would not be converted and the memory of Jesus and His disciples would quickly fade. In fact, it may be safely said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, very few people living today, if any, would have ever heard of Him.

In summary, there are “minimal facts” that are accepted by nearly all New Testament scholars which include:

    1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
    2. Jesus’ disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them.
    3. The church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.
    4. The skeptic James, brother of Jesus, was suddenly changed.
    5. The tomb was empty.

These facts are nearly universally accepted by New Testament scholars, including liberal scholars.

I haven’t seen a resurrection or a perfect granite cube, Santa Claus, ghosts, demons, fairies, haunted houses, prophets or anything of a miraculous nature that I am aware of. So it is specious for you to ask me hypotheticals in this regard. It’s like me asking you if your head could swivel 360 degrees could you see the world better.

How would you know if you had? – given that you don’t seem to know how you would be able to rationally detect a “miracle” if you ever did see one? Even if you did see a definitively dead and decaying corps brought back to life before your very eyes, would that actually do it for you? – since you claim that such things are not detectable as miracles “by definition”?

The fact of the matter is that you have seen highly symmetrical granite cubes (and drift wood horses and the like) that are obvious artifacts of intelligent design – true “miracles” from the perspective of non-intelligent natural mechanisms. You also believe in the “big bang” where something came from nothing producing an extremely fine-tuned universe – which is “miraculous” from the perspective of natural law alone. You also believe that living things were produced from non-living things – which is also “miraculous” from the perspective of natural law alone since there is no known natural mechanism that can do this over a reasonable amount of time.

    “It sounds startling, but science can’t explain ordinary experiences, much less supernatural experiences. No one knows how thoughts arise, why intuition exists, where creativity comes form, or most important of all, how the porridgy gray matter of the brain, which is totally dark and silent, produces the sights and sounds of the three-dimensional world. The simplest and most profound miracle that everyone encounters every day is this miracle.”
    “There is the obvious fact that we need to know something about what normally occurs in the world to recognize when something marvelous happens. So, the better we understand the natural order, the easier it is to identify the truly miraculous. On the other hand, the existence of miracles, by definition, makes necessary a limit to the power of science to fully explain all of reality.”

Clearly then, even though science can’t explain things that are call “miracles” with the use of purely naturalistic mechanisms (because knowledge is limited), science can in fact detect the existence and reality of true miracles when they do happen in our world…

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