Archive for the ‘Miracles’ category

Looking for a Sign; Seeking God

September 26, 2018


Jesus came healing the sick, giving sight to the blind and doing other miracles, but when the religious leaders asked for a sign, he refused.

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” (Mark 8:11-12)

What Jesus said to the Pharisees when they asked him for a sign seems curious in light of the fact that Jesus performed signs and wonders everywhere he went! The incongruity of these things struck me recently as I was reading through portions of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

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Sam Harris Podcast Interview of Bart Ehrman – Part 4 – Setting the Bar Exceedingly High

May 26, 2018


I have written three articles summarizing some observations I have from an interview of Bart Ehrman, the agnostic New Testament scholar, by Sam Harris, the atheist, about Christianity. In those articles, I cover Bart Ehrman’s story about losing his faith, the fundamentalism that continues to color the way Ehrman reads the Bible and the dangers of social influence as a substitute for a deep, personal relationship with God.

I covered in the first article the rather ironic claim that Harris makes about approaching a familiar subject from a new angle. When an atheist interviews an agnostic on the subject of Christianity, I don’t know what new angle he is talking about! They both come from the same angle of unbelief.

When Sam Harris asks Ehrman to describe what Ehrman, as “an informed believer” would have said was the strongest argument for Christianity, I had to chuckle. Ehrman replied that the proof of the resurrection would be the strongest argument, though, I agree. As Paul said, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, our preaching and faith is useless, and we are to be pitied.[1]

For the proof, Ehrman states only two facts: the empty tomb, and the followers of Jesus who claimed to see Jesus alive after the resurrection. (They are other “minimal facts” that even skeptics will concede.) Ehrman doesn’t expound on the two facts, other than to note that Paul alludes to a list of people in 1 Corinthians who claimed to see Jesus alive, risen from the dead, including 500 people at one time.

These two facts are certainly on the short list of key factors scholars evaluate in considering the historicity of the resurrection, but they are not the only facts to be considered. Even skeptical scholars, like Ehrman, admit a few more. (See Previewing the Minimal Facts Critique of the Resurrection.) But, Ehrman and Harris never really get to a discussion of the facts.

Before any real discussion of the evidence, Sam Harris jumps in to refute the resurrection by reference to David Hume. Hume of course is the 18th century philosopher who urged a standard of proof for miracles that, in Sam Harris’s own words, is “a bar that is exceedingly difficult to get over”. By reference to Hume, Harris says that the proof of a miracle has to be so strong that believing in anything other than a miracle would, itself, would require belief in the miraculous.

This is a type of a priori position that discounts and dismisses miraculous claims without really taking a hard look at the evidence. In essence, the position is that miracles can’t happen. They don’t happen. Therefore it didn’t happen. This “exceedingly” high bar that Sam Harris speaks about is arbitrary. Ehrman acknowledges, but glosses over, that point by saying that “believers have a different standard of proof”. This is entirely true, but it doesn’t really address the issue.

What is a proper or reasonable standard of proof?

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Sam Harris Podcast with Bart Ehrman – Part 2 – Wooden Fundamentalism

May 25, 2018


This is a continuation of observations in regard to a podcast interview of self-described agnostic, New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, by the atheist, Sam Harris.  In the first installment, I focused on Ehrman’s personal story about “losing his faith” as he transitioned from high school to Moody Bible Institute to Wheaton College to Princeton Theological Seminary. Along the way, he went from fundamentalist to agnostic. In many ways, though, he never left his fundamentalist view of the Bible.

Ehrman says that he began to shed his fundamentalist views as he learned the original languages and began to read scripture in those original languages. He describes how his rigid, nonintellectual reading of the scriptures began to crumble as he discovered issues with the Bible that didn’t allow such a strict interpretation of a text considered to be inerrant.

As the interview progresses, Erhman relates that he used to believe in a literal rapture, alluding to the Book of Revelations read in light of 1st Thessalonians (being caught up in the air).[1]  Erhman comments, “I not only believed in the rapture, I knew it was going to happen in the late 80’s” (followed by a hearty guffaw).  He goes on to describe that his loss of faith was a long process, but the “rapture was one of the first things to go”.

This was Ehrman’s fundamentalism, but “the rapture” is hardly a point of “doctrine” on which even fundamentalists agree, let alone the rest of the believing world. The verses in the Bible from which the idea of a rapture has been formulated are few, and they are wrought with difficulty in the interpretation, like the visions in Revelations and other apocalyptic writings. Many speculations have been suggested[2], but the whole idea is quite ancillary to the central tenets of the faith.

A person certainly doesn’t have to believe in the rapture or in any particular formulation of the rapture to believe in God or to have faith in Jesus Christ.

We often get the peripheral things inextricably intertwined with the essential things in our minds, and it’s hard to untangle them. This is the danger of placing too much importance on peripheral things, especially peripheral things with as little biblical support as the rapture: when the peripheral things begin to unravel, they are likely to begin to unwind the essential things if we have bundled them too tightly.

Rigid and wooden fundamentalism is brittle for that very reason. It’s an all or nothing way of looking at scripture that cements secondary things into the primary framework of our belief system. We have to hold on tightly to the whole thing to keep the faith. When we allow any part of it to come unraveled, it’s likely to unravel the whole thing. The issue isn’t with Scripture, however; the issue is with the approach.

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Thoughts on Jesus and Miracles

November 20, 2017

Depositphotos Image ID: 9803991 Copyright: Klanneke

Moderns have issues with miracles, but ancients did not. Many ancient histories reference miracles, and we do not discount them as histories for that fact. The miraculous element of the accounts of Jesus, however, are a basis on which many contemporary thinkers reject the claims of Jesus and claims about Jesus a priori.

Miracles are consistent with and flow from the nature and character of who Jesus claimed to be and who his followers claimed he was. If Jesus was God in the flesh, miracles are to be expected. The apostle John says that Jesus was the Word; he was with God in the beginning; He was God; and all things that were made were made through Jesus, the Word. (John 1:1-3) If the universe was made by and through Jesus, miracles are no big deal, and the resurrection is more than just possible.

This was thrust of the Gospels. The authority of Jesus resonated in his message and was attested by the miracles. Many moderns reject the message largely on the basis of the miracle claims because miracles are not allowed in a naturalistic worldview that dominates academia today. We can’t accurately judge what Jesus said, though, without being willing to suspend that disbelief, even if only to reach some understanding.

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The Sign of Jonah

August 22, 2015
The Sign of Jonah by George Redgrave

The Sign of Jonah by George Redgrave

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign[i]; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4)

Jesus spoke of the sign of Jonah twice. The ironic thing is that everywhere Jesus went, he performed signs and wonders. What were those people looking for?!!

The “problem” for the religious leaders was that Jesus challenged their religious dogmas, and He did it on purpose! (more…)

Be Willing to Know God

May 12, 2015

Questioning Bus. Woman


“If anyone is willing[i] to do His will, he will know[ii] of the teaching, whether it is of God….” (John 7:17)

Jesus said these words in response to people who questioned what he was saying because he was uneducated. (John 7:15) Jesus did not have the credentials or the experience people thought he should have. How ironic! (more…)


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