Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Blackstar

The Assumption of the Supernatural

16 posts in this topic

The Assumption of the Supernatual

many historical figures have had supernatural powers attributed to them in their lifetime, from great generals to, especially, religious leaders. the more superstitious the communities they influenced, the more fantastic these powers became. we do not, today, assume that any of these men had in actuality supernatural powers, with the obvious exceptions of the major religious leaders. but why do we still believe they had a connection to the Divine? is it on the basis of evidence that would, by modern standards, have to be extremely compelling? or is this belief assumed without presentation of such evidence?

for example the primary, pivotal event that leads Christians to assume Jesus Christ's divinity or connection to the supernatural* is his alleged resurrection. the propounding of Christ's divinity in the centuries after his crucifixion rested on this foundation; that only the Son of God could rise from the dead. focusing on the resurrection as a turning point in world history, lets examine what reasons we would have for holding this belief, when its unquestionable occurrence would contradict nearly everything we know about human life and mortality. bear in mind the importance of recognizing that not everyone even among early Christians subscribed to the belief, and most non-Christians didn't accept it at all. for instance, the highly influential (and humane, and of course later considered heretical) early Christian philosopher Origen thought the idea of actual bodily resurrection was "preached in churches for the simpleminded and for the ears of the common crowed who are led on to lead better lives by their belief".

in lieu, obviously, of any tangible physical evidence, and the overwhelming reliance on eyewitness accounts from his close followers being not of sufficient merit to warrant such a bold positive claim, i think the first thing we should ask ourselves: what else could account for this belief?

the best answer to this question i've seen takes the following form: During that period in Palestine there were a great many charismatic religious leaders seeking to pull their followers in this way or that from the established church, or even to create their own religion entirely. when these leaders or their immediate disciples died, their tombs had by the time of Christ become places for the members of that proto-religion (or cult) to gather to worship and attempt to keep the movement alive. naturally, removing the body and ensuring that the cult members knew it was gone would preclude any congregation there. proto-Christianity, as we know, had already asserted itself as a revolutionary sort of cult, with Jesus's crime that led to his crucifixion being effectively a breach of the peace. Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest charged with keeping order in Jerusalem, recognized this and took such precautions (given the continued presence of a Roman governor and his forces still within his city) to preempt any unrest centering on the resting place of the recently-deceased and popular leader. assuming this was the case, it was imperative that the body of Christ was not produced by the authorities, as it would give his disciples reason to return to Jerusalem from Galilee.

this view is an excellent replacement for the (accepted?) supernatural version not only because of its historical congruence and common sense motivations, but for its scriptural basis. in the original Gospel of Mark (16:1-8), the disciples upon returning to Christ's tomb are greeted by a white robed man who tells them Christ can be seen, risen, in Galilee (or, more pointedly: far away from Jerusalem). additionally, in the Gospel of Peter (written probably in the 2nd century A.D.), it is said that there were crowds gathered around the tomb on the Sabbath following the Crucifixion. more importantly, it is said that the night of the Sabbath the stone is rolled away and 2 men emerge supporting another, assumed for the purposes of this argument to be the body of Christ. as in Matthew's gospel, which the Gospel of Peter generally follows, the soldiers guarding the tomb are told to not repeat what they have seen.

but now my original question returns, however you take the Scriptural basis for the replacement story in italics: is such type a story, that fully (or as near-fully as can be extrapolated from long distant events) explains the events surrounding the burial and "sightings" of Christ in purely cultural, psychological, etc. terms not preferable to a story that has to resort to supernatural explanations?

*let us for now disregard the also alleged "miracles" performed by Christ or his followers on the simple basis that nearly every major religious or cult leader has had similar miracles attributed to them, from the oracles and priests at Delphi and shrines of Greece right up to the televangelist "faith healing" on your Sunday worship programs.

:note: this is the first of a series of topics i'm going to be putting forth in the coming days in an attempt to get the Issues forum interesting again. some of them, like this one, are re-takes on subjects visited before on the old Thrice boards, while some are wholly new. as newly minted Moderator for this forum i'm going to be maintaining more rigorous standards for discussion than previously permitted, so try to keep both civil and on-topic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Christians find the miraculous version preferable for many obvious reasons: They have a lot depending on these miracles, they've been taught them their whole lives and there's something comforting about believing the magnificent. But I think one of the stronger, less mentioned reasons is the connection they feel to the authors of the NT. When you read Paul, Peter, John, Matthew, etc. you get the impression that they are intelligent and compassionate. They don't seem like the type to be duped or to blatantly lie. They are obviously well read in the OT and sincerely love the church. None of them are wealthy and they even set up socialist-like communities within the church where everyone's needs are met.

The story of Paul in particular builds a sense of confidence in Christians. A man who went from persecuting Christians to essentially leading the Christian movement all because of an encounter with the resurrected Christ. If one accepts that there really was a Paul and he really did persecute Christians, one wonders why else he would leave his prestigious standing in the Jewish community for a lie.

So you read these NT books and you start to admire the writers and their teachings. You combine the (alleged) words of Jesus with the words of his followers and everything starts to make sense. The OT starts to make sense. Everything wraps up nicely and on top of it all, we're promised salvation.

Add it all up with the power of tradition, the desire to be correct, and the psychological benefits of believing in eternal bliss and you have some powerful reasons to reject the sensible idea that you proposed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only read the first sentence or two, but I wanted to thank you for giving me the image of Abe Lincoln with optic blasts, George Washington with Wolverine claws, and Winston Churchill as Colossus.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Assumption of the Supernatual

many historical figures have had supernatural powers attributed to them in their lifetime, from great generals to, especially, religious leaders. the more superstitious the communities they influenced, the more fantastic these powers became. we do not, today, assume that any of these men had in actuality supernatural powers, with the obvious exceptions of the major religious leaders. but why do we still believe they had a connection to the Divine? is it on the basis of evidence that would, by modern standards, have to be extremely compelling? or is this belief assumed without presentation of such evidence?

%7BDB4D8E6E-89B9-4294-9B4D-F99B9115EA04%7DImg100.jpg

You would benefit from reading that book.

for example the primary, pivotal event that leads Christians to assume Jesus Christ's divinity or connection to the supernatural* is his alleged resurrection. the propounding of Christ's divinity in the centuries after his crucifixion rested on this foundation; that only the Son of God could rise from the dead. focusing on the resurrection as a turning point in world history, lets examine what reasons we would have for holding this belief, when its unquestionable occurrence would contradict nearly everything we know about human life and mortality. bear in mind the importance of recognizing that not everyone even among early Christians subscribed to the belief, and most non-Christians didn't accept it at all. for instance, the highly influential (and humane, and of course later considered heretical) early Christian philosopher Origen thought the idea of actual bodily resurrection was "preached in churches for the simpleminded and for the ears of the common crowed who are led on to lead better lives by their belief".

Maybe it alleviates an insatiable question that is the meaning of "death". Egyptians and other cultures underwent practices mummification in order to preserve the body (perhaps under the belief that one day the soul would be able to come back and reanimate that body) perhaps for that very same reason.

I've also encountered the argument that something that is inherently contradictory becomes a powerful instrument of faith.

in lieu, obviously, of any tangible physical evidence, and the overwhelming reliance on eyewitness accounts from his close followers being not of sufficient merit to warrant such a bold positive claim, i think the first thing we should ask ourselves: what else could account for this belief?

the best answer to this question i've seen takes the following form: During that period in Palestine there were a great many charismatic religious leaders seeking to pull their followers in this way or that from the established church, or even to create their own religion entirely. when these leaders or their immediate disciples died, their tombs had by the time of Christ become places for the members of that proto-religion (or cult) to gather to worship and attempt to keep the movement alive. naturally, removing the body and ensuring that the cult members knew it was gone would preclude any congregation there. proto-Christianity, as we know, had already asserted itself as a revolutionary sort of cult, with Jesus's crime that led to his crucifixion being effectively a breach of the peace. Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest charged with keeping order in Jerusalem, recognized this and took such precautions (given the continued presence of a Roman governor and his forces still within his city) to preempt any unrest centering on the resting place of the recently-deceased and popular leader. assuming this was the case, it was imperative that the body of Christ was not produced by the authorities, as it would give his disciples reason to return to Jerusalem from Galilee.

this view is an excellent replacement for the (accepted?) supernatural version not only because of its historical congruence and common sense motivations, but for its scriptural basis. in the original Gospel of Mark (16:1-8), the disciples upon returning to Christ's tomb are greeted by a white robed man who tells them Christ can be seen, risen, in Galilee (or, more pointedly: far away from Jerusalem). additionally, in the Gospel of Peter (written probably in the 2nd century A.D.), it is said that there were crowds gathered around the tomb on the Sabbath following the Crucifixion. more importantly, it is said that the night of the Sabbath the stone is rolled away and 2 men emerge supporting another, assumed for the purposes of this argument to be the body of Christ. as in Matthew's gospel, which the Gospel of Peter generally follows, the soldiers guarding the tomb are told to not repeat what they have seen.

but now my original question returns, however you take the Scriptural basis for the replacement story in italics: is such type a story, that fully (or as near-fully as can be extrapolated from long distant events) explains the events surrounding the burial and "sightings" of Christ in purely cultural, psychological, etc. terms not preferable to a story that has to resort to supernatural explanations?

That would encourage an actual dynamic Christian culture focused on self-knowledge and introspection and not a dogmatic and moralistic Christianity based on manipulation through punishment.

In a certain sense, it would be silly to fully reveal the Gnosis of the Christ-figure if your intent is to utilize mythic technologies to direct and guide human civilization. (It would decentralize the power of the ritual technologies employed in Christian lore)

*let us for now disregard the also alleged "miracles" performed by Christ or his followers on the simple basis that nearly every major religious or cult leader has had similar miracles attributed to them, from the oracles and priests at Delphi and shrines of Greece right up to the televangelist "faith healing" on your Sunday worship programs.

:note: this is the first of a series of topics i'm going to be putting forth in the coming days in an attempt to get the Issues forum interesting again. some of them, like this one, are re-takes on subjects visited before on the old Thrice boards, while some are wholly new. as newly minted Moderator for this forum i'm going to be maintaining more rigorous standards for discussion than previously permitted, so try to keep both civil and on-topic.

My closing point here would be to try to relate to Christianity more on a basis of "Gnosis", that is, an apostolic succesion of teachings from generation unto generation, not unlike rabbis have done in Judaism, and to understand that somewhere along those lines of succesion, some went their particular direction with it, and some didn't, and it eventually became what it became.

Many protestant faiths share a lot of the same beliefs, but what's more interesting, the same culture. A Lutheran would have a harder time relating to a Mormon, than he would to a Catholic, and that is by the basis of their customs and interpretations of the Christ myth.

Mormons even believe that Jesus was able to visit the Americas, everyone has their own flavor of crazy.

I find it particularly interesting that people encourage a mythic reality, because it almost reassures them that it will develop "whole-hearted" individuals ready to live by the teachings of Christ, which in turn will make the world a better place. But in reality it simply reaffirms the fact that our culture is not ready for a self-actualized and self-realized environment in which we would be able to fully trust each others intentions and allow a level of creativity, instead, we rather regulate ouur ethics and morality, perhaps out of vested political interest, or for sentimentality to tradition.

These mythic technologies are no different than, say, New Orleans Voudon, but at least Voudon possesses some more advanced metaphysical elements to their lore (spirit possession) and practice (which is not reserved for Opus Dei adepts or other crazy Christian fraternities).

EDIT:

Also, a great deal of what IS Christianity, is Paganism. As a reminder, it is important to realize that the Catholics would often usurp central religious figures and replace them with Saints (often bearing the same mythic qualities as the patron deity) in order to better assimilate groups into the Catholic faith.

Here the true Gnosis of the Catholic Church is revealed through method, it is to simply integrate all into the order of things, which would have significant consequences, but ultimately which would all be under the same rule (which would have it's benefits).

A perfect example would be Our Lady of Guadalupe,

http://en.wikipedia....dy_of_Guadalupe

All of these myths would, in turn be masks to funnel into what is the trinity (the father, the son, the holy spirit) and transmit what is a truly Gnostic working, and that is to create a perfect order for harmony amongst humans, who share identity with the divine creation.

(That is, those who realize the holiness of life, to further develop a relationship with a higher power).

Edited by Savitri

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Whaddup B-star??? Here are some thoughts on your very interesting post.

only the Son of God could rise from the dead.

Why think that? Don't Christians believe we'll all rise from the dead? And that Lazarus did?

its unquestionable occurrence would contradict nearly everything we know about human life and mortality.

Like what? That dead people tend to stay dead? One person's failing to stay dead doesn't contradict that. People tend not to win lotteries. One person winning doesn't disprove that.

not everyone even among early Christians subscribed to the belief

That might be right (and perhaps trivially true, if we count baptized babies as Christians. Surely they didn't subscribe to this belief, or to very many others). But I'm wondering why you think this.

the highly influential (and humane, and of course later considered heretical) early Christian philosopher Origen thought the idea of actual bodily resurrection was "preached in churches for the simpleminded and for the ears of the common crowed who are led on to lead better lives by their belief"

That quotation doesn't imply that Origen denied the bodily resurrection. I mean, I believe that quotation but I also believe that the resurrection occurred. Do you have other quotations that imply that Origen denied the resurrection?

the overwhelming reliance on eyewitness accounts from his close followers being not of sufficient merit to warrant such a bold positive claim

Why think that's insufficient?

what else could account for this belief?

the best answer to this question i've seen takes the following form: During that period in Palestine there were a great many charismatic religious leaders seeking to pull their followers in this way or that from the established church, or even to create their own religion entirely. when these leaders or their immediate disciples died, their tombs had by the time of Christ become places for the members of that proto-religion (or cult) to gather to worship and attempt to keep the movement alive. naturally, removing the body and ensuring that the cult members knew it was gone would preclude any congregation there. proto-Christianity, as we know, had already asserted itself as a revolutionary sort of cult, with Jesus's crime that led to his crucifixion being effectively a breach of the peace. Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest charged with keeping order in Jerusalem, recognized this and took such precautions (given the continued presence of a Roman governor and his forces still within his city) to preempt any unrest centering on the resting place of the recently-deceased and popular leader. assuming this was the case, it was imperative that the body of Christ was not produced by the authorities, as it would give his disciples reason to return to Jerusalem from Galilee.

Perhaps this explains the empty tomb. But it doesn't do much to explain the post-resurrection appearances that the early Christians claimed to have of the risen Jesus. And it doesn't explain why those early Christians were willing to die for this belief.

And even if there were a naturalistic explanation of the evidence, why think that undercuts belief in the resurrection? I could pretty easily explain all the evidence I have that I'm married on the hypothesis that I'm not married. And this explanation could even be pretty simply (say, I'm in a coma and dreaming all this). Does the fact that there is such a hypothesis undercut my belief that I'm married? I can't see how. But then why think it works in the case of the resurrection?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

only the Son of God could rise from the dead.

Why think that? Don't Christians believe we'll all rise from the dead? And that Lazarus did?

Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. Christians believe they will be raised from the dead by Jesus. So while you're technically right, his point still stands.

" 12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied."

Point is, if the resurrection didn't happen, then Christianity falls apart. And all that's left is some illogical, silly liberal version of it that I can't even fathom how anyone can sincerely believe in.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. Christians believe they will be raised from the dead by Jesus.

Why do you think Jesus will be doing the raising? Why not God the Father? I take it God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. And probably Lazarus too (didn't Jesus pray to the Father to raise Lazarus?).

In any event, I'm pretty sure you're agreeing with me that Blackstar was wrong to say that only the Son of God could rise from the dead.

So while you're technically right, his point still stands.

I thought his point was that only the Son of God could rise from the dead. That doesn't stand. What did you think his point was?

Point is, if the resurrection didn't happen, then Christianity falls apart.

That's certainly true. But surely that wasn't Blackstar's point, was it? At least that wasn't his point when he said only the Son of God could rise from the dead.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that he was incorrect in stating that only the Son of God could be resurrected. I also disagree with him that the resurrection is the sole, pivotal event that connects Jesus to God. The virgin birth and the miracles of Jesus also seem to be events connecting Jesus to God.

I was just saying that his larger point was on track and the argument isn't undermined by that mistake. In other words I guess it's just a nitpick.

But they're his words, not mine. So he can speak for himself.

Edited by fellside

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that he was incorrect in stating that only the Son of God could be resurrected. I also disagree with him that the resurrection is the sole, pivotal event that connects Jesus to God. The virgin birth and the miracles of Jesus also seem to be events connecting Jesus to God.

By virtue of not being abilities possessed by human beings correct? It seems contradictory to normal everyday reality therefore it must be a work of God...or maybe it didn't actually happen.

Edited by Savitri

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why think that? Don't Christians believe we'll all rise from the dead? And that Lazarus did?

perhaps i should have been more precise. yes, Christians do believe we'll all rise from the dead; only (and this would be an important distinction) to ascend to Heaven, rather than continue to live in the world. the case of Lazarus is hardly unique among "examples" in religious texts of people rising from the dead; among Buddhists in particular there are many who believe we all rise from the dead, many times. however i think we can agree that the Resurrection of Christ is undoubtedly a major sticking point in the assertion that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact who he claimed to be; the son of God; and thus a prime reason to follow his teachings. so as fellside has noted, my underlying point remains.

Like what? That dead people tend to stay dead? One person's failing to stay dead doesn't contradict that. People tend not to win lotteries. One person winning doesn't disprove that.

a poor analogy. people have before won the lottery; that is a verifiable fact. it can not be verified that anyone has ever returned from the truly dead (as, i think, we can assume Christ was). i think it's safe to say that just as my dropping an apple and it falling "up" would contradict everything we know about gravity, so too would a person's return from the dead contradict what we know about human mortality.

But I'm wondering why you think this.

i don't understand the question. i'm interested in the early period of Christianity (and Islam, incidentally) where beliefs were much more hurly-burly and orthodox hadn't yet set in; in, as it were, the early formation of a religion like the formation of a star. in this time period there were undoubtedly many differing threads of Christian belief, and not all of them included the belief in a bodily Resurrection (though obviously, the "winning memes" did). surely you know that.

That quotation doesn't imply that Origen denied the bodily resurrection. I mean, I believe that quotation but I also believe that the resurrection occurred. Do you have other quotations that imply that Origen denied the resurrection?

Origen believed that the process of resurrecting material bodies was unnecessary, as all forms of matter were simply "evolutions" from previous forms by an eternal soul that would eventually be re-united by God who created them. his objection to the Resurrection of Christ therefore stems from a larger rejection of Dualism of a more rigid kind. but again, my OP isn't about Origen's views on the Resurrection, however interesting they may be, but about the larger possible application of Occam's Razor to the question of the Resurrection itself.

Why think that's insufficient?

because eyewitness accounts of cultists (especially long-dead ones from a superstitious time) regarding the nature of their cult leader are hardly conclusive. unless you'd believe that Jim Jones cured people of cancer or Joseph Smith healed a woman's lame arm.

But it doesn't do much to explain the post-resurrection appearances that the early Christians claimed to have of the risen Jesus.

many of whom didn't recognize him "at first"?

the only 2 accounts that are clear across the Gospels are the empty tomb and the Great Commission; the tomb perhaps i've already explained but the latter i believe also can be, though it takes a dose of cynicism. the Disciples had a vested interest in maintaining Jesus' divinity; both emotional and in terms of their livelihoods, but they needed both an unequivocal urge from Christ (the concept of whom is now more powerful than ever in martyrdom) to spread their cause, and a signal of their authority after him to do so; so they "invented" one. away from prying eyes, they declared that Christ had given them a mission which would become their life's work, and undoubtedly was what Jesus of Nazareth "would have wanted them to do." the act doesn't have to be nefarious; after all these men believed that in Christ's words lay the salvation of humanity, and therefore any justification for their spread could only help; as a bonus it also happened to enhance their reputations and cement them as leaders of a newly energized, newly powerful movement.

And even if there were a naturalistic explanation of the evidence, why think that undercuts belief in the resurrection?

i simply think that if we have a significantly compelling account of an event that doesn't need to resort to supernatural means of explanation, Occam's Razor should take care of the rest. now, the definition of "significantly compelling" is going to vary, and i hardly think that the explanations i offer will sway any believers off their perch, i'm merely trying to get people to think about these events in a different way; to put them in a historical, sociological perspective. and i think that can be instructive for both believers and non-believers alike.

:edit: incidentally, apologies for the delayed response time, work is consuming much of my spare time.

Edited by Blackstar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Blackstar said:

however i think we can agree that the Resurrection of Christ is undoubtedly a major sticking point in the assertion that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact who he claimed to be; the son of God; and thus a prime reason to follow his teachings. so as fellside has noted, my underlying point remains.

What is your underlying point, exactly? Would you mind putting it in the form of an argument, with a set of premises that are intended to support a clear conclusion?

Is it something like this?

(1) There are alternative explanations of Jesus' alleged resurrection that have all the theoretical virtues of and yet are far simpler than the standard Christian explanation. And these explanations do not require that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

(2) Ockham's razor is TERRIFIC.

(3) Therefore, we should not believe that Jesus rose from the dead.

Is that roughly your argument? If not, what is your argument?

Blackstar said:

so too would a person's return from the dead contradict what we know about human mortality.

You still haven't told me what the contradiction would be. What proposition(s) do we know that would be contradicted by someone's rising from the dead? Do you think we know that people don't rise from the dead? How do we know this? Inductive generalization based on a relatively small sample, right? If so, then I say all we really know is that people tend not to rise from the dead. They usually do not. But of course that doesn't contradict the proposition that Jesus rose from the dead.

The lottery example was meant to show how true propositions about tendencies (People tend to lose the lottery) don't contradict other propositions about freakish outliers (I won the lottery). If you don't like that example for some reason, switch to getting slapped by a duck. I've never met anyone who has been slapped by a duck; probably nobody ever has. I know that people tend not to be slapped by ducks. But if I got sufficiently strong evidence that someone had in fact been slapped by a duck (say, eyewitness testimony or something!), then I certainly would not reply (as you seem to when it comes to Diamond J and the Resurrection) "Pssshhh, that contradicts everything I know about people and ducks." Rather, I would say (and so should you say about JC and the Resurrection): "Well, that seems extremely unlikely. But it is possible given what I know about people and ducks. Since I have so much eyewitness testimony in favor of it, I'll go ahead and provisionally accept it."

If you think there is something that makes bodily resurrection absolutely impossible, please share it with the group.

Blackstar said:

the overwhelming reliance on eyewitness accounts from his close followers being not of sufficient merit to warrant such a bold positive claim

Anreizen replied:

Why think that's insufficient?

Blackstar replied:

because eyewitness accounts of cultists (especially long-dead ones from a superstitious time) regarding the nature of their cult leader are hardly conclusive. unless you'd believe that Jim Jones cured people of cancer or Joseph Smith healed a woman's lame arm.

Well, now you've changed/weakened your position. First, you claimed that eyewitness testimony is insufficient to warrant belief in a "bold positive claim." Now you claim merely that eyewitness testimony is inconclusive. I accept that it's inconclusive (it's *very* rare to find conclusive evidence of anything!). Nevertheless, I think that eyewitness testimony of sufficient quantity and quality could warrant belief in a "bold positive claim" like Jesus rose from the dead. And, of course, you could predict that when it comes to Joseph Smith and Jim Jones I don't think the eyewitness testimony is of sufficient quantity or quality. To say that eyewitness testimony CAN warrant belief in "bold positive claims" is not to say that it ALWAYS does. You seem to be saying that it NEVER does, which strikes me as really implausible.

Blackstar said:

what else could account for this belief?

the best answer to this question i've seen takes the following form: During that period in Palestine there were a great many charismatic religious leaders seeking to pull their followers in this way or that from the established church, or even to create their own religion entirely. when these leaders or their immediate disciples died, their tombs had by the time of Christ become places for the members of that proto-religion (or cult) to gather to worship and attempt to keep the movement alive. naturally, removing the body and ensuring that the cult members knew it was gone would preclude any congregation there. proto-Christianity, as we know, had already asserted itself as a revolutionary sort of cult, with Jesus's crime that led to his crucifixion being effectively a breach of the peace. Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest charged with keeping order in Jerusalem, recognized this and took such precautions (given the continued presence of a Roman governor and his forces still within his city) to preempt any unrest centering on the resting place of the recently-deceased and popular leader. assuming this was the case, it was imperative that the body of Christ was not produced by the authorities, as it would give his disciples reason to return to Jerusalem from Galilee.

Anreizen replied:

Perhaps this explains the empty tomb. But it doesn't do much to explain the post-resurrection appearances that the early Christians claimed to have of the risen Jesus.

Blackstar replied:

many of whom didn't recognize him "at first"?

Yes. Your proposed explanation doesn't explain the post-resurrection appearances at all, even if we add that the disciples didn't recognize Jesus at first. There's simply nothing in your proposed explanation that predicts post-resurrection appearances of any kind. Of course, you could add some elements to your theory and thereby expand its explanatory power, but these additional elements will detract from its simplicity.

As of now, we have your theory, which lacks explanatory power. And we have the Christian theory, which explains all the evidence but requires supernatural agency. Ockham's razor doesn't even kick in until we have two theories that explain the data equally well. We don't have that yet, since your theory doesn't explain the data.

Anreizen said:

And even if there were a naturalistic explanation of the evidence, why think that undercuts belief in the resurrection?

Blackstar said:

i simply think that if we have a significantly compelling account of an event that doesn't need to resort to supernatural means of explanation, Occam's Razor should take care of the rest. now, the definition of "significantly compelling" is going to vary...

Yes, I agree that a lot hangs on whether the explanation you've provided is "significantly compelling." It may be simpler than the Christian explanation, since it doesn't require God's existence, but it has less explanatory power. By itself, it can't explain the post-resurrection appearances, the spread of the early church, the voluntary matyrdom of alleged eyewitnesses, etc. Again, you can tweak your explanation so that it accounts for this stuff, but then it loses its virtue of simplicity.

Also, why think your explanation is simpler? You have Caiphais and his cronies hatching a conspiracy to remove the body from the tomb. I guess they'd have to be in cahoots with the Romans as well, since the tomb was put under Roman guard (right?). So your theory has quite a few theoretical entities behaving in relatively complicated ways. How about the Christian explanation? According to Christians, God raised Jesus from the dead for straightforward reasons (to confirm Jesus' teachings and missions, etc.) As far as theoretical entities go, that's much simpler than your theory. So your theory lacks explanatory scope as well as simplicity vis-a-vis the Christian theory. That's bad news for your explanation.

But I think we both know what's really going on here. You say that your theory doesn't have to "resort to supernatural means of explanation." So what's motivating you here aren't the classical theoretical virtues (explanatory power, simplicity, etc.) but rather an anti-supernatural bias. You're not using Ockham's razor (other things equal, prefer the simpler theory), you're using Dawkins' razor: other things being equal, prefer the naturalistic theory.

Of course, this sort of question-begging principle isn't going to move the theist one inch. And rightly so.

Blackstar said:

incidentally, apologies for the delayed response time, work is consuming much of my spare time.

What are you working at these days, if you don't mind my asking?

Edited by anreizen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why think that? Don't Christians believe we'll all rise from the dead? And that Lazarus did?
perhaps i should have been more precise. yes, Christians do believe we'll all rise from the dead; only (and this would be an important distinction) to ascend to Heaven, rather than continue to live in the world. the case of Lazarus is hardly unique among "examples" in religious texts of people rising from the dead; among Buddhists in particular there are many who believe we all rise from the dead, many times. however i think we can agree that the Resurrection of Christ is undoubtedly a major sticking point in the assertion that Jesus of Nazareth was in fact who he claimed to be; the son of God; and thus a prime reason to follow his teachings. so as fellside has noted, my underlying point remains.
Like what? That dead people tend to stay dead? One person's failing to stay dead doesn't contradict that. People tend not to win lotteries. One person winning doesn't disprove that.
a poor analogy. people have before won the lottery; that is a verifiable fact. it can not be verified that anyone has ever returned from the truly dead (as, i think, we can assume Christ was). i think it's safe to say that just as my dropping an apple and it falling "up" would contradict everything we know about gravity, so too would a person's return from the dead contradict what we know about human mortality.
But I'm wondering why you think this.
i don't understand the question. i'm interested in the early period of Christianity (and Islam, incidentally) where beliefs were much more hurly-burly and orthodox hadn't yet set in; in, as it were, the early formation of a religion like the formation of a star. in this time period there were undoubtedly many differing threads of Christian belief, and not all of them included the belief in a bodily Resurrection (though obviously, the "winning memes" did). surely you know that.
That quotation doesn't imply that Origen denied the bodily resurrection. I mean, I believe that quotation but I also believe that the resurrection occurred. Do you have other quotations that imply that Origen denied the resurrection?
Origen believed that the process of resurrecting material bodies was unnecessary, as all forms of matter were simply "evolutions" from previous forms by an eternal soul that would eventually be re-united by God who created them. his objection to the Resurrection of Christ therefore stems from a larger rejection of Dualism of a more rigid kind. but again, my OP isn't about Origen's views on the Resurrection, however interesting they may be, but about the larger possible application of Occam's Razor to the question of the Resurrection itself.
Why think that's insufficient?
because eyewitness accounts of cultists (especially long-dead ones from a superstitious time) regarding the nature of their cult leader are hardly conclusive. unless you'd believe that Jim Jones cured people of cancer or Joseph Smith healed a woman's lame arm.
But it doesn't do much to explain the post-resurrection appearances that the early Christians claimed to have of the risen Jesus.
many of whom didn't recognize him "at first"? the only 2 accounts that are clear across the Gospels are the empty tomb and the Great Commission; the tomb perhaps i've already explained but the latter i believe also can be, though it takes a dose of cynicism. the Disciples had a vested interest in maintaining Jesus' divinity; both emotional and in terms of their livelihoods, but they needed both an unequivocal urge from Christ (the concept of whom is now more powerful than ever in martyrdom) to spread their cause, and a signal of their authority after him to do so; so they "invented" one. away from prying eyes, they declared that Christ had given them a mission which would become their life's work, and undoubtedly was what Jesus of Nazareth "would have wanted them to do." the act doesn't have to be nefarious; after all these men believed that in Christ's words lay the salvation of humanity, and therefore any justification for their spread could only help; as a bonus it also happened to enhance their reputations and cement them as leaders of a newly energized, newly powerful movement.
And even if there were a naturalistic explanation of the evidence, why think that undercuts belief in the resurrection?
i simply think that if we have a significantly compelling account of an event that doesn't need to resort to supernatural means of explanation, Occam's Razor should take care of the rest. now, the definition of "significantly compelling" is going to vary, and i hardly think that the explanations i offer will sway any believers off their perch, i'm merely trying to get people to think about these events in a different way; to put them in a historical, sociological perspective. and i think that can be instructive for both believers and non-believers alike. :edit: incidentally, apologies for the delayed response time, work is consuming much of my spare time.

god damn you just blew my mind. not saying the outlook is right or wrong, but i never thought of it like that. it does take a bit of thinkin to wrap your mind around it, thats pretty heavy

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You still haven't told me what the contradiction would be. What proposition(s) do we know that would be contradicted by someone's rising from the dead? Do you think we know that people don't rise from the dead? How do we know this? Inductive generalization based on a relatively small sample, right? If so, then I say all we really know is that people tend not to rise from the dead. They usually do not. But of course that doesn't contradict the proposition that Jesus rose from the dead.

You're not using Ockham's razor (other things equal, prefer the simpler theory), you're using Dawkins' razor: other things being equal, prefer the naturalistic theory.

this seems to be the crux of your opposition (and that's hardly surprising). rising from the dead is, simply, physically impossible given what we understand about the natural world; as impossible as, say, spontaneous unassisted flight. is it broadly logically possible? sure. but when ascertaining truths about the physical world we have to use physical evidence; and as there is zero tenable evidence for supernatural causes of anything, the explanatory power of reasoning that relies on it is worthless. we can see the physical world; touch it, smell, test it, experiment with it. it, for our intents and purposes, exists. and after all, Occam's razor's demand that we use the simpler of the available theories would seem to rule out supernatural theories by definition, as in order for a supernatural theory to be tenable at all we would have to invent an entire parallel world of supernatural causes and effects that isn't verifiable by any means we currently possess. that's alot of work, which would tend to make supernatural explanations far more complicated than those based in physical reality which, i'll stress again, we already know exists.

Also, why think your explanation is simpler? You have Caiphais and his cronies hatching a conspiracy to remove the body from the tomb. I guess they'd have to be in cahoots with the Romans as well, since the tomb was put under Roman guard (right?). So your theory has quite a few theoretical entities behaving in relatively complicated ways. How about the Christian explanation? According to Christians, God raised Jesus from the dead for straightforward reasons (to confirm Jesus' teachings and missions, etc.) As far as theoretical entities go, that's much simpler than your theory. So your theory lacks explanatory scope as well as simplicity vis-a-vis the Christian theory. That's bad news for your explanation.

and this gets to the crux of my point: even if i invent some reasonably plausible "just-so stories" that sort-of explain the scenario of Christ's resurrection, so long as they're based in the physical world and bound by it's notions of possibility as we understand them they are by definition more simple than theories which have to resort to phenomena that, at best, we aren't entirely sure exist. so while Caiaphas and the Romans collaborating (or Caiaphas greasing a few Roman palms for acquiescence) to remove Christ's body might seem farfetched, it is still far more compelling than a physically impossible event. but you understand this concept already; if i had claimed that Caiaphas had magicked a troop of Mayans out of the Mexican Yucatan to come remove the body, and they had cast Level VI Invisibility spells on themselves so as to elude the Roman guards, you would have said (rightly!) that's ridiculous and not quibbled over just what determined physical impossibility. yet when one substitutes the hand of God into the notion to do something physically impossible, it's suddenly more tenable and just as likely as my original scenario because it has better "explanatory power"? nonsense.

:: also, i'm working at a vineyard and a fancy restaurant for the present, hence my lack of time in the fall; lots of time for the next month or so in the offseason. Southern California treating you well, i hope, o' ye bastards with perpetually perfect weather?

Edited by Blackstar

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't imagine how the term 'simpler' can be applied to a scenario where a supposed human being dies and is subsequently brought back to life. It's a purely supernatural act, so far as our knowledge of such things go, as opposed to the much simpler, more straightforward explanation surrounding the removal of Jesus' body for the purpose of destroying a potential gathering place for Christians. It is easier to buy that scenario, regardless of whether or not rising from death is a tendency or a truth based on certain perspectives. On this day, resurrection is a physical impossibility. Tomorrow may be different, but if the walking dead exist somewhere on God's green Earth while I type this, they walk without my knowledge. One-thousand years ago, aircrafts were probably thought to be an impossibility, but with the advent of technology, we have flight. If your argument sees resurrections taking place based on future technologies and methods we have yet to tap into, I'll agree that we can never say never. However, Jesus rising from the dead was not a technological act or an act of medical science. It was supernatural. He stopped breathing and then breathed again. His heart stopped pumping blood and began to pump again. After three days (right?). That is a miracle that has nothing to do with science and such acts have yet to be proven.

Once the boundaries of science are breached and such things purported in the bible and other religious texts can be proven to exist, I'll buy into the Resurrection. If God is proven to exist the way we are expected to believe (in the sense that there is an omniscient being with powers and knowledge beyond the physical world as we know it) then Jesus being brought back to life to rise to Heaven makes complete sense based on teachings and faith and Christianity. However, the Bible isn't exactly the best source even when it comes to accounts of non-supernatural events, so why should we buy it when it is said that blind men can see and dead men can walk? Phooey.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Blackstar said:

rising from the dead is, simply, physically impossible given what we understand about the natural world

What exactly is it that we understand about the natural world that makes rising from the dead impossible?

Do we know some proposition that is inconsistent with the proposition that God rose Jesus from the dead? What is that proposition, exactly?

Blackstar said:

there is zero tenable evidence for supernatural causes of anything, the explanatory power of reasoning that relies on it is worthless.

I guess "tenable" is doing a lot of work for you there. There's certainly lots of testimony that there are supernatural causes. And testimony counts as evidence (consider our legal system, for example). So how do you know that, of all these cases of testimony (throughout history!), not one is "tenable"? I'd like to see the argument for that! But I'm guessing none is forthcoming.

Blackstar said:

Occam's razor's demand that we use the simpler of the available theories would seem to rule out supernatural theories by definition,

By the definition of what? "Supernatural"? So you think that any supernatural explanation is more complex than any naturalistic explanation? That's just not true. Consider an enormously cluttered and complicated naturalistic explanation, involving infinitely many fundamental physical particles, properties, and forces. Now consider a simple, elegant explanation that happens to appeal to one angel. Can you really say with a straight face that the naturalistic explanation must be simpler, just because it's purely naturalistic? If so, pretty please supply your definition of "simpler" that issues this incredible verdict. I'm guessing it's a pretty tendentious definition.

Blackstar said:

also, i'm working at a vineyard and a fancy restaurant for the present, hence my lack of time in the fall; lots of time for the next month or so in the offseason. Southern California treating you well, i hope, o' ye bastards with perpetually perfect weather?

Good for you; that sounds like a nice job. As for me, I haven't lived in Southern California since 2005. I was in Austin for six years and now I'm teaching philosophy at a small Catholic college in Wisconsin. It's nice, but I'm still looking for a tenure-track job :-/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0