Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Level Of Detail In 1 Corinthians 15:6

Jesus' resurrection appearance to more than 500, mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:6, tends to get underestimated in our day. But there's a lot to commend it and warrant assigning the passage more significance than people often do.

One of the reasons why the passage should be held in higher regard is the level of detail it includes about significant issues. Paul is briefly summarizing several of Jesus' resurrection appearances, yet a series of important details about the appearance under consideration are included even in that brief summarizing context. Paul refers to the relative chronology of the appearance ("After that"), the number of people involved, saying "more than" instead of just leaving it at a rough estimate of 500, specifies their gender ("brethren"), recognizes the significance of their having seen Jesus "at one time" and the importance of mentioning that detail, and followed their lives since the time of the appearance enough to know that "most" are still alive and the value of their still being alive. (See here regarding the likelihood that some non-Christians were present during the appearance.) Paul not only experienced a resurrection appearance himself, but also had a lot of interest in and knowledge about the appearances to others. And the details he shows interest in in 1 Corinthians 15:6 reflect well on him, since they're such significant ones.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

The Difficulty Of Fulfilling The Predictions Relevant To Jesus' Death

I've written posts over the years about some of the problems with claiming that Jesus' life lined up with Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy by normal means, without anything supernatural involved. For example, the passage involves the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which was done by the Romans, not by Jesus and the early Christians. You can read my previous posts for more about such issues, like here. What I want to focus on in this post is expanding on a point that I think I've only addressed more briefly in the past.

Notice that if Jesus was merely human and wanted to get himself crucified by the Romans to fulfill both Daniel 9:26 and Psalm 22, for example, he would only have partial control of the situation. You can provoke people to kill you by natural means. There wouldn't have to be anything supernatural involved. But you wouldn't have control over how other people would respond to the provocation, and there would be multiple contexts simultaneously in which you'd lack relevant control. You might get a response of mockery or pity, for example, rather than the relevant type of anger. You might get anger, but not enough of it to lead to your execution. Or you might get killed the wrong way. Too soon. Too late. In too humiliating a manner. The gospels illustrate that point. They refer to multiple occasions in which people attempted to do something like throw Jesus over a cliff or stone him. You don't even have to go to a Christian source, like the gospels. Look at what Josephus tells us about how one of Jesus' own siblings was put to death. Jesus could have met the same kind of death as his brother, James, and at the wrong time.

Jesus' fulfilling Psalm 22, Isaiah 50, and Daniel 9, for example, required the Romans, not fellow Christians, to do a series of things the right way. We need to keep in mind that this isn't just a matter of whether Jesus could by natural means try to get people to kill him. The situation is much more complicated than that. If he was merely human, he only had partial control over his fulfillment of the relevant prophecies. The degree to which the fulfillment depended on non-Christian sources was large and evidentially highly significant.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Steve Hays ebooks 2

Another year (or longer), another set of Steve Hays ebooks! The first set is here: "Steve Hays ebooks 1". All thanks goes to Led by the Shepherd for his awesome work.

Where dreams come true

Many thanks to Alex Toland who has made PDFs of all of Steve Hays' fiction (originally posted on Where Dreams Come True). You can download everything here. Thanks again, Alex!

How Rome's Soldiers Served Christ

Though the soldiers of the Roman empire occupied Israel, put Jesus to death, and imprisoned and executed some of Christianity's foremost leaders and many of its followers, those soldiers were unwitting pawns of Christ. Their establishment of their empire brought about the fourth great kingdom predicted by Daniel. Their spitting on Christ, scourging him, crucifying him, and casting lots for his clothing fulfilled what Psalm 22 and Isaiah 50 anticipated. Their crucifixion of Jesus fulfilled Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy, and so did their destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. "Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!' He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them." (Psalm 2:1-4)

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Do Luke 8:55 and Acts 9:40 support praying to the dead?

Let's consider some objections to my post earlier this week about whether Jesus and Peter offered support for praying to the deceased when they spoke to people they raised from the dead in the gospels and Acts. Probably the two best passages that could be cited in support of interpreting this material in a way that supports prayers to the deceased are Luke 8:55 and Acts 9:40. Luke 8 mentions the return of the girl's spirit to her body after mentioning Jesus' comment to her. Acts 9:40 says that Peter turned to the woman's body just before speaking to her, and we don't normally refer to a living person with a phrase like "the body". Rather, it's more common to use that language when referring to a corpse. Shouldn't we conclude, then, that Jesus and Peter were speaking to the dead in these passages, which offers support for praying to the deceased?

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Adding Unjustified Qualifiers To Historical Sources

The Other Paul has posted a good video addressing some bad arguments often used by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and other proponents of the veneration of images. They often use the same kind of argumentation on other issues as well (e.g., praying to saints). They'll claim that a source, such as a church father, who's cited against their position is only criticizing a belief or practice in a narrower context, not in a broader context that's applicable to their position. So, for example, a church father's comments against the veneration of images are only meant to condemn a pagan form of image veneration, not the Catholic form. The Other Paul makes some significant points that should be taken into account whenever any issue like this comes up, not just with the veneration of images.

Miracles That Are Closely Associated, But Come From Different Sources

We often find out that we have physical abilities we previously didn't know we had, like the ability to recover from an illness better than the average person or an ability to lift more weight than we thought we could. And our physical abilities often develop over time, such as the growth of muscles as a result of exercise. Similar things could occur with our souls. We have latent abilities we're unaware of, which are activated under certain circumstances. Or the more a spiritual ability is exercised, the stronger it gets. We often speak of discerning and developing our own or other people's spiritual gifts, for example. Similar concepts are found in paranormal research. People who have near-death experiences often report an increase in paranormal activity in their lives afterward. I've discussed examples of a similar nature that I've come across in my research on the Enfield Poltergeist. See the section on telepathy in the article here, for instance, and the discussion of scientific experiments with Janet Hodgson here.

One of the reasons I'm bringing this subject up is its relevance to how we interpret certain paranormal events. People often treat paranormal events as having come from one source when there's a significant chance that they came from different sources instead. Paranormal activity caused by source A could trigger some paranormal activity by source B, yet people will assume that all of the activity came from A.

Think of a Marian apparition, for example. As I've discussed many times, there are historical problems with the views of Mary that are held by the groups most associated with Marian apparitions. And the apparitions often behave in problematic ways, such as how visually unclear, noncommunicative, and noninteractive the Zeitoun apparition was. Sometimes apparitions, Marian and other types, behave in ways that are reminiscent of stone tape phenomena or seem more like what you'd expect from a projection of the human mind than what you'd expect from a source like Mary or a demon. But what do we make of something like a healing, precognition, or something else that's paranormal that accompanies the apparition?

One of the explanatory options we should consider is that the experience with the apparition activated other paranormal events that didn't come from the same source. An experience with an apparition could trigger an ability somebody has to heal, for example, to heal himself or heal other people.

Whether that's the best explanation in a given case has to be judged by the details involved. My point here is that it's one of the potential explanations we should keep in mind.

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Did Jesus offer support for praying to the deceased by speaking to people he raised from the dead?

He did often make comments like "arise" to those he raised from the dead, as I've discussed elsewhere. But as that post argues, it's likely that he was telling the people to move in some way in order to demonstrate that they had been brought back to life (e.g., telling Lazarus to come out, after which Lazarus walked out of his tomb). Since the focus in these passages seems to be on physical demonstrations that a resurrection has occurred, interpreting a phrase like "arise" or "come out" as a command to come back to life is at best a secondary interpretation. Jesus may have been simultaneously telling these people to rise from the dead and to move their bodies in the relevant ways. But a "may" scenario is a reference to a possibility, not a probability. I see no way to demonstrate that it's probable that Jesus was speaking to dead people in these passages.

Another way of evaluating which interpretation is more likely, aside from the factors I've mentioned above and what's discussed in the post I linked, is to look at how often Jesus, Peter (who did the same kind of thing in Acts 9:40-41), and other relevant figures speak to the dead elsewhere. Though scripture gives us many and explicit references to praying to God, there are no examples of praying to the dead. That larger context makes it likely, even highly likely, that these resurrection passages weren't meant to support praying to the dead.

And I want to reiterate a point I've made many times before. What does it suggest about the weakness of the case for praying to the dead when arguments like the one I'm responding to in this post have to be resorted to by advocates of such prayers?

Thursday, March 02, 2023

Does Matthew 27:47 support praying to the saints?

Remarkably, some Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox cite the passage to that end. Let's think about the passage from a few different angles.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Is Paul praying to the Thessalonians in 1 Thessalonians 5:25?

Obviously not, in any relevant sense. But I recently saw somebody raise 1 Thessalonians 5:25 in a discussion about praying to saints and angels. For whatever reason, it's common for Roman Catholics and those who are sympathetic to Catholicism to claim that Catholics don't pray to saints. Rather, they just ask the saints to pray for them. And I saw somebody bring up 1 Thessalonians 5:25 as an example. The passage not only doesn't support the Catholic practice of praying to saints and angels, but even illustrates one of the problems with the practice.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Did the resurrection witnesses have an opportunity to recant?

Skeptics occasionally suggest that the people who claimed to have seen Jesus after he rose from the dead may have been willing to renounce that claim, but were never given an opportunity to do so. Or it will be suggested that we should be agnostic on issues of recantation, since we don't have enough evidence to go by.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Bad design

I recently got into an impromptu debate with an atheist and evolutionist (i.e. a materialist or naturalist and neo-Darwinist). Well, calling it a debate might be too generous, since he didn't make arguments so much as assertions. One of the things he asserted was bad or suboptimal design demonstrates that intelligent design (ID) is bunk and that God doesn't exist. Or it demonstrates it's evil design from an evil designer.

My reply was along these lines:

  1. As far as ID goes, the claim isn't that ID necessarily demonstrates God designed the entity (e.g. a biological organism). Rather ID makes a more modest claim: the inference is to design without necessarily identifying the designer(s).
  2. Bad or suboptimal design could still be intelligent design. A Ford Pinto is just as intelligently designed as an Alfa Romeo despite the former cars being badly designed. A clunky and defective Gateway computer is just as intelligently designed as the world's best supercomputer despite the Gateway being a badly designed computer.
  3. If (arguendo) bad or suboptimal design is somehow evidence of evil design, and by implication an evil designer designed it, it'd still be design. An iron maiden chamber, bamboo torture, and crucifixion might imply an evil mind designed these instruments of torture. Nevertheless there's an intelligence or mind behind them. ID doesn't make any certain claims about the moral values of the designer(s).
  4. An argument from a design inference to the Christian God as the designer requires additional steps. These arguments exist. For example, Stephen Meyer's book The Return of the God Hypothesis argues for God as the designer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Death Of Michael Heiser

I still don't know a lot about him, and I haven't read any of his books yet, but I listened to his Peeranormal podcast for years. I'm grateful for the work he and his colleagues on that podcast did to address some issues that have been so neglected by so many Christians. He'll be missed.

When Religious Content Is Popular In Secular Contexts

I recently saw some people discussing the phenomenon of religious content being well received on a YouTube channel, television show, or some other context that's generally secular. And that raises the question of why religious content is so much less popular when it's placed in a more religious setting (e.g., a religious YouTube channel). I think the situation is multifaceted, and I'm not going to try to explain everything that's going on, but I want to mention a few of the factors that seem likely to be involved.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

The Witnesses' Willingness To Suffer For Belief In Jesus' Resurrection

The issue often comes up in discussions of the resurrection, and it should, as evidence pertaining to the witnesses' sincerity. I've written a lot about the subject in the past, such as a brief overview I wrote 17 years ago here and a lengthier treatment focused on the death of the apostles that I wrote 11 years ago here. What I want to do in this post is briefly reiterate or expand upon some of the relevant points.