Sunday, April 16, 2006

Evidence for Easter

Millions of Christians celebrate Easter every year, a day commemorating an event that distinguishes Christianity’s founder from all other religious leaders—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not about colored eggs or cute bunnies. It’s about one who claims authority over all creation as the living Lord. Is there good reason to believe this?

In a pluralistic culture, diverse religious ideas are often viewed as merely products of subjective faith. A religion is “true” if it “works,” if it gives a sense of meaning to life and a connection to a community of faith. Matters of objective fact are dismissed in order to avoid controversy and strife. However, Easter makes no sense apart from the reality of a historical event. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Corinthians 15:14).

In a free society every religion is allowed to make its case publicly without fear of censure. All have the constitutional right to practice any religion or none. But this does not answer the question of what faith—if any—one ought to embrace. Easter offers an answer based on the compelling evidence that the story of Jesus coming to earth to redeem his people from their failures is vindicated by his space-time resurrection from the dead.

No blind leap of faith is required to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is more than a nice religious idea. The Gospel accounts that attest to the resurrection were written by people in a position to hunt down and check out the facts. They were either disciples of Jesus (Matthew and John) or individuals who carefully interviewed those closest to the event they described (Mark and Luke). These accounts were written shortly after the events they narrate; there was insufficient time for such mythological additions as a resurrection. The Apostle Paul, writing sometime in the 50s, spoke of Christ publicly appearing to many people, many of whom were still living at the time he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Had there been no resurrection, this kind of statement would have been suicidal, since hostile witness could have refuted Paul’s claim. We have no record of a refutation.

Moreover, all the New Testament books have been accurately preserved over time. Scholars have access to thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts from which to translate our modern versions of these books.

The earliest record of the Christian movement (the Book of Acts) reports that the church proclaimed a resurrected Christ as the source of its courage and drive. The first Christians weathered intense persecution for their resurrection-faith; yet they persevered—some even unto death. Had the notion of the resurrection been fabricated, it would have unraveled under the relentless social and political pressures it faced. As former Nixon aide Charles Colson has pointed out in his book Loving God, he and the other White House conspirators could not pull off the Watergate cover-up, despite their unmatched political clout. When the crunch came, the truth was quickly flushed out. The early Christians had no such power to obfuscate or intimidate; but they never recanted. Their resolve is best explained by their knowledge of the resurrection.

Those hostile to these determined followers of Jesus could have easily refuted the nascent movement by simply exhuming the dead body of Jesus and displaying it as the decisive evidence against any claim to his resurrection. Both the religious and the political authorities of the day had reasons to resent these Christians and to stop their evangelism. But there is no evidence that anything of the kind occurred. The tomb was empty.

Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is entirely different from the fascination many people have in supposedly supernatural events (of "The X Files" variety) that have no logical support. When Christians observe Easter they stand on the solid ground of history, looking upward with rational hope for a better life in the world to come.


Craig Fletcher said...


Our faith in the resurrection is grounded in history, and is certainly much more verifiable than much of ancient history that is accepted as truth with a mere fraction of the evidence that we have for the physical resurrection of Christ in space/time.

We live our lives in celebration of the hope that we have in the risen Christ, who physically proved to us that we can in fact cross over from death to life.

I copied this post into a pro-Darwinism blog (I did not take credit for authorship, I wouldn't dare) - I'm sure it will cause a stir and bring about some grumpiness, which is a good thing.

Julia Gwin said...

There appear to be several naturalists, evolutionists, atheists and / or agnostics who regularly blog here. Why? Is this an appropriate place to do so?

For the record, I like that you do so, even if I disagree with many of your arguments.

Why wouldn't Fletcher's choice of blogging a different opinion on a naturalist blog be "appropriate?"

Craig Fletcher said...


You cannot deny the fact that many who have vastly different worldviews are interested in discussing these differences. This is exactly why you seem to enjoy coming to Doug's blog to have discussions.

I find the same true in the evolution blogs or discussion boards. It has never been the case that I present arguments for theism and get no response.

So why do I do it? Because I like to provoke discussion! Simple as that. I find critique of worldviews stimulating, and it is my opinion that all people should be intellectually accountable for their worldviews. I work in a company full of scientists, and many of them are good friends of mine, who know I am a Christian, and we are capable of having polite, rational discussions about our views.

Are you saying that there exists not one scientist that is a "fool" or a "liar", and that Christians are? I may be reading something into that comment that you did not intend.

I find that the naturalist/materialist worldview does in fact require a significant amount of faith to adhere to, more faith than I personally am capable of realistically harboring.

Julia Gwin said...

Fletcher said, " I work in a company full of scientists, and many of them are good friends of mine, who know I am a Christian, and we are capable of having polite, rational discussions about our views."

Should we assume that "scientist" and "Christian" are incompatible? Does this not make John Stockwell's point? I do not concede that point, for it assumes that truth exists somehow in some spheres where it is lesser or lacking in others.

It is no accident that many of our greatest scientists were also men whose lives were governed by their Christian faith.

Craig Fletcher said...

No, no, no... I have been misunderstood. What I should have said was "I work in a company full of scientists who hold to a scientistic worldview".

I believe that science and Christianity are freinds, not enemies.

Craig Fletcher said...

Apologetics is the attempt to defend ones' views rationally, logically, reasonable, and so on. There are apologists for nearly all views.

John, when I said "rooted in history", what I meant was, if you hold Christianity to the same standards as historians hold other ancient historical accounts to, you'll find that it comes out shining.

There are many arguments in favor of the gospel message being true in history, in space and time, in reality.

There are 1) hostile witnesses that confirm what the scriptures tell us (the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for example), 2) numerous extrabiblical accounts to biblical activities, people, places, etc., 3) the martyrdom of early Christians including the disciples, 4) the empty tomb, 5) the way the gospels were written (women as the first witnesses, subtle differences in the accounts, accounts of the behaviors of Jesus and the disciples that are sometimes embarrassing - not the ideas recorded in mythology or fabrications, etc.)

... the list goes on ....

It would require significant faith to sincerely study the historicity of the New Testament and walk away denying its historicity.

So if Jesus was divine, and was in fact resurrected... then we can start considering ideas like Intelligent Design because the door to the reality of supernaturalism has been opened, has it not.

With the ID movement, opponents say that it cannot be science because it is not testable. OK fine. So why not teach it in public schools under the headers of philosophy or cosmology? Teach it in a way where the arguments for and against are presented, and let the students study it and ponder it on their own.

ID is of particular interest when it comes to origins, because Darwinism cannot account for origins. For the Darwinist, the highly complex substrate material necessary to form these supposed "self replicating molecules" (pure conjecture by the way) was "just there".... either that, or the answer to origins is simply "I don't know".

ID takes a look at origins and we ask ourselves "what is the best possible explanation for the current state of affairs?" The ID proponents answer is, the universe gives us strong indications that it was designed by a Designer.

Tim said...


You write:

Another tactic is to try to make the claim of "scripture as history". It neither possible to prove or disprove the historicity of many of the events in scripture. To be sure, there are placenames, and the like, that have been verified by independent archaeological sources.

If by "prove" you mean something like "demonstrate as one would a mathematical theorem," then of course not. But this would be to demand from history (or from science, for that matter) the wrong sort of evidence. If by "prove" you mean "render credible by public, objective, neutral evidence, so that an informed and rational person ought to give assent," then sure, one can do that for the central tenets of Christianity by means of a historical defense of the authenticity and credibility of the New Testament documents.

As far as ID (which I notice you persist in calling "ID Creationism," which is a misnomer) is concerned, what's your take on M. Behe and D. Snoke, "Simulating the evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues," Protein Science 13 (2004): 2651-2664?

Do you think Lynch's reply is adequate?

Julia Gwin said...

John Stockwell says, "A person of faith has no need to justify or defend his or her faith. I would suggest that apologetics are really intended as a form of salesmanship."

No. Scripture mandates that we Christians must be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15). It is NOT salesmanship, but presupposes a yearning or questioning heart. Scripture also mandates that we do not "strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers." (2 Timothy 2:14).

No amount of salesmanship can create in you a living relationship with and understanding of God. God controls these things, and we are privileged sometimes to be used by Him.

In speaking of scriptural inerrancy, Mr. Stockwell says, "So, if that is the case, then anything that may appear to be strange or contradictory must appear so as a result of a faulty interpretation, and not an actuality. Given that mindset, the only thing that a person of faith can come up with is a list of agreements or a list of positives."

This misunderstands the doctrine of scriptural inerrancy. I recommend that you conduct your own observation and critically read scripture for yourself. If you want further help, here please let me know and I shall endeavor to make more specific recommendations. I agree with you that many of us known by the name of "Christian" have a shameful witness to our God, but this reflects our own inadequacy. God is not finished, though.

Quoting Mr. Stockwell: "Please remember that evolution is the origin of species, not the origin of life. The problem of the origin of life is often referred to as "abiogenesis".

Evolution cannot run into a little corner and say, "I am only going to explain this little part, and you must validate me on this part alone." Furthermore, even the part with which you are comfortable in your evolutionary theory (origin of species) does not reflect the massive weight of the so-called "fossil record." Despite tenuous claims that transitional forms indeed exist, the fossil record is replete with the sudden appearance of fully-formed vertebrates and shows a decided lack of transitional forms - something which I think even Darwin noted and admitted as a weakness of his theory (hence the ever-more-frantic search for transitional forms and the unscientific clinging to naturalism as a religion requiring *unreasonable* faith). You admit that abiogenesis (spontaneous generation) is a problem. Yes it is - but only for the naturalist. Hebrews 11:3 says "by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible."

Mr. Stockwell says: "It is not at all necessary to the validity of evolution theory for there to be an understanding of the origin of life. Indeed, these are very different problems. Of course, the rational point of departure is to look at the chemistry of organisms, and the non-organic chemistry thought to be available the time when life is believed to have originated, and look for chemical processes that will bridge the gap. The problem has barely been studied."

But the problem HAS been studied. What about the work of Stanley Miller producing amino acids after sending a spark through methane and other gases? I am sure Stanley Miller's work was aimed to correct the problem you reference above. Abiogenesis (or spontaneous generation) must make sense in order to make the whole evolutionary theory work. For the naturalist, matter must be eternal and must be imbued with attributes like wisdom, power, will and order. We Christians accept these as some of God's communicable attributes which we share, being created in His image.

Mr. Stockwell says, "Where are the scientific papers, the experiments, the obervations, in short, where is the *science* of ID? It is nowhere to be seen."

It is at this point that I believe I may be engaging in useless wranglings with you, but I hope not. Perhaps you do have unanswered questions in your heart and mind which are left unsatisified by the convictions you now embrace. I am no scientist. I am a housewife and mother of 5 young children. I can only share with you that experiments have not convinced me of the truths I hold deeply - but my own observations have confirmed my deeply-held beliefs. Objective observation in pursuit of truth is the soul of science, is it not? When I *observe* the world in all its wonder, order, majesty, balance and beauty, I do not see random chance and mutation. I see design. I can't even think of an experiement to prove it, but I don't need one, for it seems obvious to me. The fossil record seems to support more strongly the creation account than the evolutionary account.

Where are the experiements that prove that all species originated from a common origin? I don't think experiments divide us. I think we divide over what we SEE and then what we BELIEVE about what we see.

Craig Fletcher said...

Julia - What a great post. Very thoughtful! You are the most impressive non-scientist housewife mother of five that I have read. Five? Now THERE is a challenging occupation! I can't imagine.

Tim, good point on "what type of proof". Are we asking for legal proof or scientific proof? Legal proof, as we are examining historical arguments.

Regarding the ressurection and/or the reliablity of the New Testament, we might ask ourselves this: "When presented with all of the arguments and evidence for or against the ressurection, would Jesus be convicted in court for having been supernaturally raised from the dead in space and time"?

John, if Jesus really did live, minister, get cruficied, and then was actually supernaturally raised up after being quite dead for 3 days, this has profound implications for EVERYBODY, regardless of their personal convictions, feelings, or opinions. It's a big deal... think about it!

Tim said...

John writes:

The Miller-Urey class of experiment is important because these types experiments show how easy it is to produce orgainic chemicals from inorganics sources, in a host of environments that likely were present at the time of the formation of the earth, ...

As I understand it, this claim is now badly out of date since it is considered unlikely by geologists that the early earth had a reducing atmosphere. Perhaps the biologists are more optimistic. As John says, there is always an out.

Tim said...


Yes, thermal vents and other non-exposed areas are now the locus of choice for OOL speculations.

Since this is in your area of expertise and it's something I'm curious about, can you point me to a reference or two on the history of oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere? As I understand it -- and this isn't my area of expertise, so I may be off base here -- there's something of a tug-of-war: volcanic outgassing and photodissociation of water tend to put oxygen (inter alia) into the atmosphere, but the oxygen also tends to be absorbed geologically (BIFs, red beds). I'd be interested to know what the direct geological evidence is on when this balance shifted critically. You mention 2.5 billion years ago as a cutoff. Can you point me to some literature on this?

Tim said...


Thanks -- this is very useful and very interesting. The distinction between current outgassing and early outgassing is very interesting. I'll chase some of those down.

Julia Gwin said...

Mr. Stockwell says, "Most certainly there are people who are knowlegeable in scripture who are, nonetheless, nonbelievers. Of course, you will claim that "they didn't really understand it" or some such. There is always an out."

I agree that all attempts to justify an obviously weak or wrong belief are to be condemned as dishonest and wasteful, but you seem committed to the idea that few Christians are willing to play "hard ball." I believe you might be here at this blog because we thinking people of faith arouse your curiousity as something of an anomaly. Perhaps the Hound of Heaven is chasing you down?

Well, there is an "out" but it is not what you might expect. Yes, a person of great intellect can read scripture and not understand it. There is a big difference between knowledge and wisdom. Proverbs makes this difference clear. A fool can be filled with knowledge, but he who uses knowledge aright is wise and no fool. The requirement for understanding scripture has nothing whatsoever to do with intellect. See 1 Corinthians 2 in general. Verse 14 of chapter 2 states "But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, becauses they are spiritually discerned." One must have spiritual understanding of spiritual words, for the words of the Bible are spiritual as well as intellectual. This understanding cannot be acquired through effort, but is God's gift. Once this gift is received, it should be diligently exercised to remain strong.

Mr. Stockwell says, "Furthermore, I think that you both would agree that it is possible that there is such a thing as a "bad apologetic". It is that class of bad apologetic that I point to as 'salesmanship'."

Agreed. This is why I previously stated that I think you and I (and naturalists and Christians in general) do not divide over the evidence. We divide over what we SEE and what we BELIEVE about what we see. You said that my assertion of a "decided lack of transitional forms" is an example of a "bad apologetic." Perhaps you do not believe it possible that anyone could doubt what seems plain to you and which causes you to put your faith in evolutionary theory - at least as far as biology is concerned. I was instructed (by you or another, I cannot remember) to go to a certain site to investigate the transitional forms issue. I was under the impression that the naturalists are in a mad dash to find the "missing links" and my impression was only strengthened by my visiting the naturalist sites. I found this one naturalist website most instructive in forming my opinion:

It appears to me that evolutionary theory is in want of strong transitional fossil evidence as well as other evidences which interfere with its cohesive and forceful arguments. If evolutionary theory were true, the fossil record should be REPLETE with transitional forms. Simultaneously, the sudden appearance of fully-formed vertebrates seems to be the rule. When I read about the so-called transitional forms on naturalist websites, my "baloney dector" begins to sound. I see propaganda and not objective science. I see an agenda being pushed that is not supported by the greater weight of evidence.

I must say also that I share with you a little disdain (I think I read you correctly, but I am not completely sure) about bad apologetics. But my disdain is toward the motives advanced to prop up evolutionary theory. The "missing link" between apes and humans, fabricated almost out of whole cloth from the single tooth of a pig comes immediately to mind.

But I also admit there are those who claim to be Christians whose lesser faith leads them to believe that God needs "help" of a less honest kind. God makes very plain that He needs nothing from us, and certainly not our help. Acts 17:25 states "Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things." That statement was made to the Athenians who prided themselves on scientific knowledge and philosophy, by the way. They were greatly advanced in so much (being, as all men, created in God's likeness), but had no light from Truth Himself. Truth is not, you see, a proposition. Truth is a person. That really cooks the noodle of anyone who is not Christian, but it is this truth which we Christians believe.

Mr. Stockwell says, "Indeed, any scientist can tell you of the awe and wonder of the universe (better, because we see more of it). But "awe" and "wonder" are not obserations, but rather are emotional experiences. Look beyond that awe and wonder, and we see regularity, which is what science is about describing.

Part of that regularity is the regularity that we see in biology. Though comparative morphology, and today, through comparative genetics we see the common relatedness of organisms. It is a nested-heiarchical structure that is consistent with common ancestry."

I quote you above merely to make my point that we both observe the evidence and come to different conclusions. You see relatedness of organisms in a biological sense. I see relatedness of a Designer.

One last quote from Mr. Stockwell: "Geologic evidence tells us that the earth's atmosphere was virtually oxygen-free prior to 2.5 billion years ago, providing a greater possibility for reducing environments to exist. This may be a moot point, because astronomical observations suggest that there may have been millions of tons of organic chemicals raining down on the early earth."

I do NOT mean to offend you, and I may be completely ignorant here, but are you talking about alien life planting the original life on earth? Organic chemicals come from life, right? I have heard some creationists say that naturalists sometimes postulate that aliens planted the first seeds of life on earth by leaving their trash or something like that, but I have never researched whether that was true. If it is true, then it seems ridiculous to me, and does not get rid of the problem of where life begins - for who created these alleged aliens?

By the way, the Bible is not meant to be a scientific treatise. Its purpose is to reveal the Truth about who you are and who God is and the unfolding plan and purpose of God and how that affects you. I think you will find, however, that this remarkable book contains no unscientific statements, and all statements touching upon science are quite remarkably accurate. Even when men believed the earth was supported by Atlas or columns on the backs of elephants, God informed us He hangs the earth upon nothing (Job 26:7). When men believed the earth was flat, God infomed us it was round (Isaiah40:22). There are many other examples about water cycles and blood flow and such, but there you have the general idea.