A Holy Saturday kind-of Easter (on doubting the Resurrection)


Rothko-blue-and-gray

The culmination of Lent is Holy Weekend, prefaced by Maundy Thursday and consisting of Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. I realized that each year that I have been really intentional about my Lenten engagement, one of those four “Holy Days” seems to overshadow the the others and carry over into this Easter season (yes, it’s a season).

There are some years where the foreshadowing and ever-repeating Presence of Jesus in Communion makes Maundy Thursday the highlight (or lowlight?) of Lent. Some years, the utter darkness, weight, and drama of Good Friday overtake me and linger in my mind well into Easter season. And still others, no matter how I try to reflect and meditate on sinfulness and fallenness, I still can’t escape the lighted joy and horizon-cresting dawn of Easter, whose anticipation overshadows (or over-brightens?) my Lenten experience, making all the doom and gloom seem foreign to me.

For me, this year is a Holy Saturday kind-of Easter.
Continue reading

Advertisements

Resurrection: Matthean Apologetics | Matthew 27.62-66


The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.
Matthew 27.62-66

Apologetics by the gospel writer at work, haha. We know in subsequent debates that this was a major argument by the Jews, so this is a very important record that Matthew is putting down. He has to prove as best as he can that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead, and that his body was secure.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

“Simplistic Atheism: a final response” by Daniel Bastian [GUEST POST]


de Goya-fight with cudgels"

(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

Well, it seems that we were not in fact done with this little series. After my final post, Daniel chose to take me up on my offer to have the final word (as I normally try to do in exchanges like this). He has chosen to respond, point-by-point, to my list of what things would lead me to embrace Atheism. If you feel like any of the points still demand a reply from me, or if you have any questions about what Daniel says, feel free to to comment here, on Facebook, or get in touch with me privately. For my part, though, I consider this particular set of exchanges finished. Once again, I thank Daniel for this exchange. I hope you enjoyed it as well.

Paul,

When I initially decided to compile a list of criteria that would convince me my conclusion on the question of theism was wrong, I had sincere hope that a Christian, Muslim or other person of faith would tally up a corresponding register. I am glad to see you rose to the challenge and enrolled in this dialogue. It has been a wonderfully enlightening experience for me, and I do hope that sentiment is mutual.

I read your piece the day it was posted and while at first I found much of it persuasive, the more I reflected the more I realized it was probably the list I would have drafted two years ago, before I renounced my faith. Much of your criteria seems to rest firmly on the aesthetic appeal of the Christian narrative. And this would seem to slot right in line with your epistemological moorings-a concern for the communal connection, compelling force and overall mesmerism of a worldview over against its underlying facticity.

Yet it seems this only holds true up to a certain threshold, given a few of the items on your list. You seem to be OK with affirming the faith given its impact on your life, the power of influence you’ve seen it have on history, and the way it has shaped others with which you’ve crossed paths. But if you were to discover beyond reasonable doubt that this narrative was based on so much myth, that this loosely corroborated Yeshua the gospels are based on was a mere mortal (item #1), you would relinquish the faith forthwith.

Thus it seems to me that our epistemic divergence is one of degree, not of type. With that in mind, I’ll attach some brief notes beside the items in your list. Continue reading

Simplistic Atheism {4}: What could make me an Atheist?


paul-schrott-painting-11-11

(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

In this series of exchanges with my friend Daniel, I’ve tried to argue that his Facebook post on why he is an Atheist expressed an overall view of the world that is too small and too simplistic. I think this is because of his empiricist method and materialist conclusion about reality–that all there is is what we can see, touch, feel, etc.

Some concluding remarks

My whole point has not simply been that Daniel’s facts or even his method is wrong. But rather, it finds its proper place, meaning, fullness, and possibility within the Christian view of reality. I have argued in each of my posts that Christianity does not “refute” reason, science, history, skepticism, textual messiness, historical difficulty, or even doubt. Instead, the Gospel encompasses it all, and each of those things find a greater fulfillment in their use, cohesion in the whole of the world, and reality within that place.

Continue reading

New Testament & History: Christians can be confident [a retort]


bible-schrott-coffee-paul

(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

Update: Daniel has posted a reply below.

When I have these kinds of exchanges on the blog, I really try to let the other person have the last word. After all, I have home field advantage here. I was absolutely ready to move on to my last part of this ongoing exchange with my friend Daniel Bastian in response to his Facebook post about his Atheism.

Last week, I wrote a post trying to give a cursory response to some of his claims about the Bible and miracles. Daniel wrote a response, posted a couple of days ago. I offered a brief response to his critique of my view of miracles. I was really eager to get back to writing about other things.

But it seems I can’t. Not yet.

I’m starting seminary back up this Fall, not simply because I’m interested in all the “knowledge” about the Bible, but because I feel I actually have a (pastoral?) concern for the spiritual well-being of people. I care a lot about what people might see on this blog, and I care that they are able to receive these things in ways that will be ultimately helpful to them.

And I fear that his post, at least for Christians not well-read in these issues, will cloud the waters more than clear them. Don’t get me wrong. Christians should wrestle with what Daniel has written in earlier posts, especially when it comes to the more abstract philosophical concerns of God’s existence and work in this world. These are things that don’t have easy or even clear responses by Christians. I’m not worried about Christians having restless nights or days as they wrestle with legitimate difficulties in the seeming difference between what they believe about God and the way the world seems to be.

But, when it comes to the Bible and the Resurrection, I don’t think we are on as shaky ground as Daniel makes it seem. Let’s discuss.

Continue reading

Simplistic Christianity leads to Simplistic Atheism: it’s our fault


Atheist-monster-poster(Note: These exchanges are now complete. There is a Table of Contents to the discussion now available.)

“I walk outside my house, I look around, and it doesn’t seem apparent to me that there is a God. I just don’t feel it. It doesn’t seem to be the natural conclusion of reality when I live life and look around. I see the world, and the existence of God doesn’t feel like a natural conclusion one could draw.”

I stare down into my coffee, catching the corner of my pastor’s glasses in the dark reflection.

“Well”, he says, “I know it doesn’t fix how you feel, but in the grand scope of human history, and even the global humanity living today, that opinion you just expressed is in the extreme, extreme minority. Most people living in the past and now have found looked at the world and have not been able to come to any conclusion other than their being a God.”

Crap. He was right. What I thought was such an objective engagement with the world around me, was (of course) still the product of the cultural forces from which I drink deeply. History and developmental psychology have shown us that religiousness is the default mode of the human heart.

We are by nature religious. It takes other, external forces to push back against that and move us away from it. And this fact is no apologetic for religion. It’s neither a point “for” or “against” religion. We are also by nature selfish and willing to do whatever it takes to be the fittest and survive. We try not to give into this natural drive and through education and conditioning try to move away from it.

Continue reading

Going Medieval on my Atheist Self (on art & assurance)


Even back in my hyper-Calvinist days–assured that I was chosen, secure, and Elected unto salvation–I recognized the reality that if I were not a Christian, I’d certainly be an Atheist. If there was some way that I could be convinced that Christianity was a fraud (and here are some ways), I would not face any temptation to be a Buddhist or New Age mystic or anything of the like. No, No. I would be a hardened, militant Atheist.

How do I know this? Well, Christianity has the idea that within each believer is the “Old Self” and the “New Self”. This Old Self is, essentially, who we are apart from God.

That Old Self, though we fight it our entire Christian lives, won’t actually be fully snuffed out until the end of all things. And so, in a sense, if we’re sensitive to it, we can sometimes “feel” that “without-God” version of ourselves rolling around in there somewhere in our hearts.
Continue reading