The Nietzschean Sinner

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo MiniThe Sinner, in my re-modification of Nietzschean Parable of the Madman*, ran up to the place called Golgotha, and cried incessantly: “I seek Life! I seek Life!” As many of those who did not believe in the accuracy of a mocking but ironically true description placed above the head of a Nazarene hanged on the Roman cross, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’, laughed at the insanity of the Sinner’s words.

“Where is Life?” the Sinner cried; “I will tell you. We have killed Him – you and I. Death have finally and victoriously won. Hope is lost. It stung and killed Life at the cross. Men forever lost. Wretched men that we are! Who will rescue us from this perishable body of death?”

“O Sinner”, the Eschatological Hope replied,” Do not fall into despair. The death of Life at the cross was the death of Death. It was impossible for Life to be held by Death. The resurrection of Life was the confirmation that you O Sinner and the Church, who are found in Life, would also put on the imperishable body of life. Life has already but not yet rescued His Church. Death was swallowed up in victory by Life.”

“Rejoice and sing praise to Life, O Sinner,” said the Eschatological Hope, ” You and the true Church of God ought to rejoice with this new song: ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’”

“For the death of Life was the death of death.” the Eschatological Hope affirmed, “Rejoice O you who are in Life. Rejoice. Death has no dominion over you. It’s lordship ended at the death and resurrection of Christ, your true and everlasting Lord and God.”

*Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (1882, 1887) tran. Walter Kaufmann (1974) New York: Vintage, 1974 p. 181-82)

The Message of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11

Rapture of Saint PaulIs there hope for Christians who have passed away? Will they participate in the eschatological hope, the parousia of the second advent of King Jesus? How ought the living Christians live their lives as they awaited the returning of their Lord and God? These were roughly the questions Paul attempted to address in his first epistle to the Church in Thessalonica (4:13-5:11). In the previous articles I went through different interpretations and the current debate surrounding Paul’s message, as I attempt to explore Paul’s answers to these questions:

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Parable of the Sinner & The Eschatological Hope

Christian of John Bunyon

The Sinner, in my re-modification of Nietzschean Parable of the Madman¹, ran up to the place called Golgotha, and cried incessantly: “I seek Life! I seek Life!” As many of those who did not believe in the accuracy of a mocking but ironically true description, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews’, placed above the head of a Nazarene hanged on the Roman cross, laughed at the insanity of the Sinner’s words.

“Where is Life?” the Sinner cried; “I will tell you. We have killed Him – you and I. Death have finally and victoriously won. Hope is lost. It stung and killed Life at the cross. Men forever lost. Wretched men that we are! Who will rescue us from this perishable body of death?”

The theological study of last things presents an eschatological hope to the Sinner. The death of Life at the cross was the death of Death. It was impossible for Life to be held by Death. The resurrection of Life was the confirmation that the Sinner and the Church, who are found in Life, would also put on the imperishable body of life. Life has already but not yet rescue His Church. Death was swallowed up in victory by Life. The Sinner and the Church can now rejoice with a new song: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

This two parts article sketchily and theatrically compared the eschatological hope of N. T. Wright in Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, The Resurrection, and The Mission of the Church (2008) with Guy P. Duffield and Nathaniel M. Van Cleave in Foundations of Pentecostal Theology (1983) would provide the Sinner, a fictional Christian character in search of answers on the nature of the last things in 20th and 21st century, I created.

Next: Parable of the Sinner: Eschatological Rapture, Hell & Heaven

Rationality of The Resurrection of Jesus

Doubting Thomas

The truthfulness of Christianity solely hangs on the belief that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate, died and was buried and on the third day he rose again leaving an empty tomb. If this is not true, Christianity is false, period.

Most Christians believe that Jesus rose again leaving an empty tomb through the internal work of God’s Spirit. But is it possible for a Christian to be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks her for the sensibleness of her belief? Can a Christian, with love, gentleness and respect, present a persuasive historical case to show that it is rationally justified to believe that Jesus rose again from the dead?

This first part of my article seeks to demonstrate the rationality of the resurrection hypothesis using minimal facts methodology. Divorcing historical data from best explanation of that data, I chose two leading contemporary non-Christians New Testament scholars John Dominic Crossan and Bart D. Ehrman to assess what historian can know about Jesus of Nazareth.

I used minimal facts methodical approach because it, as  Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona explained, “considers only those data that are so strongly attested historically that they are granted by nearly every scholar who studies the subject, even the rather skeptical ones.”(Habermas & Licona 2004, 44)

The historical data that these scholars, who hold different worldviews including atheists, agnostics, Jews and Christians (Licona 2010, 280), grant are:

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.

2. Jesus’ was buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.

3. Jesus’ tomb was found empty on the 3rd day.

4. Jesus’ followers believed to have seen the risen Jesus.

“That he[Jesus] was crucified” boldly asserted Crossan, “is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus […] agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact”(Crossan 1995, 163-4) Even though Crossan affirms  1 and 4 (135, 145, 154, 165, 190 & 1991,398 ), he  disputed data 2 and thus 3. He believes that the story is too good to be true (1991, 373). Mark must have invented Joseph of Arimathea story (1996, 188).

Crossan case against 2 and thus 3 are highly unlikely because he overlooked the hostility between early Christians toward a council that condemned their leader to death (Brown 1994). Unless it was true, it is least likely that Mark would invent a story where a fictional member of Sanhedrians acted nobly towards their master’s body.

In 1999 Ehrman argued that we can neither be certain about Joseph of Arimathea account nor that his followers proclaimed his resurrecting three days later, but “we can say with some confidence is that Jesus actually did die, he probably was buried, and that some of his disciples (all of them? some of them?) claimed to have seen him alive afterward.”(Ehrman 1999, 229)

Ehrman’s public position changed in 2003. Ehrman illuminated that historians can say with relative certainty that Jesus was indeed buried by Joseph of Arimathea. He added,

We also have solid traditions to indicate that women found this tomb empty three days later. This is attested in all of our gospel sources, early and late, and so it appears to be a historical datum. As so I think we can say that after Jesus’ death, with some (probably with some) certainty, that he was buried, possibly by this fellow, Joseph of Arimathea, and that three days later he appeared not to have been in his tomb. (Ehrman 2003)

Moving from historical data to the best explanation of that data Crossan and Ehrman robustly rejects resurrections hypothesis. Their rejection is not based on historical data, but on what best explain these data. It is not a historical based rejection but a philosophical one, the impossibility of miracles.

Letting B = Background knowledge, D = Specific Data (Jesus’ burial, empty tomb, postmortem appearance, conversion of skeptic James and an enemy Saul of Tarsus, the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection, et cetera) and R = Resurrection of Jesus, the probability of the resurrection hypothesis relative to the background knowledge and specific data can be calculated as follows:

Pr(R/ B&D) = [Pr (R/B) x Pr (D/B&R) / {[Pr (R/B) x PR (D/B&R] + [Pr (not-R/B) x Pr (D/B &not-R)]}

What is the possibility of a Jesus rose again miracle? Is the Pr(R/ B&D) greater than 0.5? Is resurrection of Jesus the best explanation of the data in a pool of competing rival hypotheses?  I attempted to answer these questions in my second article.

Bibliography:

Brown, Raymond E. (1994) The Death of the Messiah, 2nd Vol. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

Crossan, John Dominic (1991) The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. San Francisco: Harper Collins.

______________________ (1995) Jesus: A Revolutional Bigrapy. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

______________________ (1996) Who killed Jesus? San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.

Ehrman, Bart D. (1999)  Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. New York: Oxford University Press.

______________________ (2003) From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity, Lecture 4: “Oral and Written Traditions about Jesus” The Teaching Company.

Habermas, Gary R.  & Licona, Michael R.(2004)  The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus .Grand Rapids: Kregel.

Licona, Michael (2010) The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach .Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

The Late Ex-Atheist Flew On Resurrection Of Jesus

Antony Flew(1923-2010)

In Atheist Becomes Theist: Exclusive Interview with Former Atheist Antony Flew, the author described Flew as “a legendary British philosopher and atheist and has been an icon and champion for unbelievers for decades. His change of mind is significant news, not only about his personal journey, but also about the persuasive power of the arguments modern theists have been using to challenge atheistic naturalism.”

This is an excerpt  from  An Exclusive Interview with Former British Atheist Professor Antony Flew(2004). Gary Habermas, a philosopher and historian from Liberty University,  interviewing Flew on different issues.

HABERMAS: You and I have had three dialogues on the resurrection of Jesus. Are you any closer to thinking that the resurrection could have been a historical fact?

FLEW: No, I don’t think so. The evidence for the resurrection is better than for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity, I think, from the evidence offered for the occurrence of most other supposedly miraculous events. But you must remember that I approached it after considerable reading of reports of psychical research and its criticisms. This showed me how quickly evidence of remarkable and supposedly miraculous events can be discredited.

What the psychical researcher looks for is evidence from witnesses, of the supposedly paranormal events, recorded as soon as possible after their occurrence. What we do not have is evidence from anyone who was in Jerusalem at the time, who witnessed one of the allegedly miraculous events, and recorded his or her testimony immediately after the occurrence of that allegedly miraculous event. In the 1950s and 1960s I heard several suggestions from hard-bitten young Australian and American philosophers of conceivable miracles the actual occurrence of which, it was contended, no one could have overlooked or denied. Why, they asked, if God wanted to be recognized and worshipped, did God not produce a miracle of this unignorable and undeniable kind?

HABERMAS: So you think that, for a miracle, the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is better than other miracle claims?

FLEW: Oh yes, I think so. It’s much better, for example, than that for most if not of the, so to speak, run of the mill Roman Catholic miracles. On this see, for instance, D. J. West.

You can download a full interview here in PDF

Does God Exist? Debate Summary of William Lane Craig vs. Klemens Kappel

Summary of Craig’s and Kappel‘s opening speeches and their first rebuttals.

There were more than 600 people(majority of them were theist of 15-30 years) present at the debate. Those who came late could not get in. Yesterday’s debate was at Indre Mission, Rømersgade 17, 1362 Copenhagen K from 19:00 – 22:00.

I would describe Kappel as a friendly atheist who is definitely not a new atheist. He did not offer any ad hominen or ridicules. He was honest and had a typical Danish humor.

Craig opened the debate by offering Leibnizian cosmological argument, Teleological argument, Kalam cosmological argument and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Kappel opened by defining God, atheism, and atheist. Atheism, Kappel said, is the view that God does not exit. An atheist is a person who believes that God does not exit. (Sorry I was not quick to write his definition of God: the debate will be available in YouTube for free soon)

Kappel admitted that it is not easy to come up with evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist. People don’t believe God exist because of the same reason they don’t believe Thor (Danish god) exist. The reason some believe in God is because they are born in environment that believes in God.(Comment: Genetic Fallacy)

Kappel’s reasons for not believing in God is that we ought to treat God Hypothesis as an alternative hypothesis to much of what we take for ourselves to know from science and common sense about the would.

We are entitled, said Kappel, to ignore such alternative hypotheses as the God Hypothesis and the purported evidence that support it. (Comment: He did not give reasons why)

Kappel said “you cannot prove that God exist or God doesn’t exit”. We can just treat “God Hypothesis” as “Thor Hypothesis” because the supporting evidence is weak. He offered a Magical Mythological star that doesn’t exist, The Magical explanatory star and ontological Necessary star that leave no physical trace, not subject to physical laws of nature and no evidence as illustrations.

We should not take them[the Hypotheses] seriously because the standard and methods of science determine what exists in the world and what doesn’t. We should give special priority to empirical observation.

Craig’s rebuttal: Kappel did not give justification for holding his position. Craig pointed out the genetic fallacy and show that giving the “star” attributes of God just doesn’t work. Craig added the Moral argument.

Kappel’s rebuttal: “What is the aim of this debated” wondered Kappel, since the Danish’s norm is that religious beliefs are private. “Why is it important to prove God?” He continued to wonder. “It is not important to their[Danish] lives”.

Kappel continued, “We know God does not exit”. We don’t have to prove that God doesn’t exist. He then admitted. “ I have not presented any argument that God does not exit”. Kappel said “ [Craig’s arguments] are fine arguments but all the premises are controversial. He said some think moral values are objective, but some think they are not. Even though things in the universe has explanation of their existence, it’s still in dispute whether the universe itself has an explanation (Comment: Taxicab fallacy)

It was interesting debate, though I hoped Kappel would have dealt with Craig’s argument. I will let you know when the debate is available on YouTube.

[Update: Its now available Copenhagen’s Debate ]

My best friend Pierce Peter has also reviewed the debate in his blog: FactorySense

Did Jesus Rise From The Dead? Craig Vs Carrier

On March 18th of 2009 William Lane Craig and Richard Carrier shared a stage to debate whether Jesus did rise from the dead at Northwest Missouri State University. Take your time to listen to both sides of the debate and ponder for yourself what is said for and against the claim that Jesus did rise from the dead.

Material for further study:

More from Bill Craig visit: Reasonablefaith.org
Most of Carrier’s case can be found in his lecture: “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story (6th ed., 2006)”