Category Archives: Theology

He is Risen Indeed!

As we approach Good Friday and Easter, we might wonder whether we can really believe in the historicity of the events we celebrate.  Let’s tackle then the strongest argument ever made against them.  One of the more influential arguments in the history of philosophy is David Hume’s argument against the rationality of belief in miracles.  It goes like this:

1.  A miracle is a violation of a natural law.

2.  Natural laws are based on “uniform human experience.”

3.  Therefore any report of a miracle has the entire experience of humanity against it.
4.  Therefore it is always more rational to believe that the person reporting a miracle is either deceived himself or is deceiving you than it is to believe he is telling the truth.

David Hume

Hume’s infamous argument does explain why we are rightly skeptical about most claims of the miraculous and demand pretty good evidence before we believe them. But it has two flaws.  First, we do not have to accept the definition that a miracle would violate natural law.  God might perform miracles by applying  force to nature that our understanding of natural law could not have predicted–but the object to which that force was applied could respond to it without breaking any laws at all.  If the definition of miracle need not be accepted, then the rest of the argument is moot.
Second, Hume commits the fallacy of circular reasoning.
How is the argument circular?  It is because he cheats on the phrase “uniform human experience.” How could we know that human experience of the irreversibility of death was uniform before looking to see if the alleged eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were truly exceptions to it?  We couldn’t. and Hume didn’t.  Having cheated on the word “uniform,” Hume cannot then justify his use of the word “always” when he says it is always more rational to believe that the one reporting a miracle is either deceived or deceiving than to believe he is telling the truth. If the attestation is strong enough, if the alternative explanations are sufficiently stretched and unable to account for the data, and if the miracle in question fits elegantly enough with what we know to be the plan and purposes of God, then there could be times, albeit rare, when it is indeed more rational to believe.

 

Hume thinks he is nailing shut the lid on the coffin when he says that we would only be justified in believing a miracle if the alternative was more miraculous than the miracle itself. He thinks he is driving the last nail into the coffin, but he has really just handed Christian believers the game. For the resurrection of Christ neatly meets precisely that criterion. When you compare the egregious ignorance of the physiology of crucifixion and tomb construction required to accept the “swoon theory,” or the gullible naivety required to believe in mass hallucinations, etc., with the demands made on our credulity by the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead, the finality of Hume’s defeat becomes inescapable.

For it is not some random dude about whom we make this claim. It is the Son of Man.  It is the one whose coming had been prepared by Providence and predicted by prophecy for two thousand years.  It is the one whose disciples kept asking themselves “What manner of man is this?”  This is one who spoke like no man ever spoke.  This is one who had already shown himself to be sovereign over life and death. If ever there was one about whom we could rationally believe such a thing, it was this man. It was Jesus of Nazareth.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.
Donald T. Williams, PhD, is R. A. Forrest Scholar at Toccoa Falls College in the hills of NE Georgia.  He is the author of ten books, most recently Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis (Baltimore: Lantern Hollow Press, 2016).

CLXXXI

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 

Habakkuk is supremely the prophet who wrestles with the mystery of how God works even through evil to accomplish His purposes of good for His people (cf. Rom. 8:18-30, esp. 8:28).  This means that we often cannot see the good in the short run.  Yet still we must trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty.  “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, thought the yield of the olive should fail and the field produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.”  We each have to find our own way to that place.

CSLComfortableLife

SONG

Paraphrase: Habakkuk 3:17-19

 

Though all my friends should fade like the stars from the sky

Before the dawn,

Like the leaves in June that greet the breeze with a sigh

But soon are gone

When the Autumn winds blow sharp and cold, and nigh

The hearth you’re drawn

And the winter snows, so deathly still, seem to lie

A lifetime long.

Though this and worse should be my lot of woe

Or grief or care,

Though all of joy should be forgot and go

I know not where,

Though all the streams of time should seem to flow

Toward despair,

Still this would be my strength and song, to know

That You are there—

Unchanged since You laid down your life just so

I could be spared;

Yes this would be my strength and song, just to know

That You are there.

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Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

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Donald T. Williams, PhD

CLXXXII

 

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 

The sufferings of Christ on the Cross at that singular moment of space-time history were sufficient to pay for all our sins forever.  But they strangely do not end, not yet.  For He suffers continually along with His persecuted people, asking Saul why he was persecuting Him—and He feels acutely also the wounds they inflict upon themselves.  What the ultimate purpose of these additional sufferings is we do not know.  But they certainly serve to highlight the depths of Christ’s identification with His people.

 

COMMENTARY, HEB. 6:6

 

Behold it, battered beyond recognition:

It gazes, hardly human, through the thorns.

Weeping tears of shame, yet still it scorns

To call down angels and abort the mission.

Wonder, then, how long in this condition

It can endure to be so bruised and torn,

To bear fresh wounds on those already born

And still remain strung up on exhibition.

 

The world looks on and thinks it comprehends:

“Another Promise failed, a Name besmirched;

So must all false Messiahs make amends.”

You recognize, impaled upon its perch,

The Body of our Savior?  Oh, my friends—

This is the other Body of Christ:  the Church.

 

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

CLXXIV

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

 Salvation.  Not by our attainments; not by our merit; not by our performance.  By grace.  The unmerited favor of God, purchased by Christ on the Cross at a cost unimaginable.  Salvation.  By grace.  By grace.  By grace supremely.  By grace alone.

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THE BENEFICIARIES

 

But few of wealth or power,

Not very many wise

Will in the final hour

Rise up to claim the prize.

 

So what of those elected

To gaze upon the Face?

Not perfect, but perfected:

The trophies of his Grace.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

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CLXXI

Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

There are a lot of reasons why we believe in Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world.  What are some of them, and how do they work together to lead us to Him?

Portrait-Jesus3

APOLOGIA

Structured steps within the Dance,

Things which could not be by chance:

Architecture of belief?

Arch of bole and vein of leaf.

Crystal’s angles; raindrop’s curves;

Bone and sinew knit with nerves.

Flick of wrist, fly-toss, and then,

Break of bubble, flash of fin.

Beyond these sure and certain hints,

A clearer class of evidence:

Broken fever; opened eyes;

Dove descending from the skies.

Footstep firm on slope of wave;

Stone rolled back from Jesus’ grave.

Glory growing out of grief?

Architecture of belief;

Things which could not be by chance:

Structured steps within the Dance.

"Lord, teach us to pray."

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, due out Dec. 1, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Book-CSLTheology-Cover

CLXVIII

 Wordsworth wrote an endless poem in blank verse on” the growth of a poet’s mind.”  I shall attempt a more modest feat for a more distracted age: a blog, “Things which a Lifetime of Trying to Be a Poet has Taught Me.”

Two villanelles on the noetic effects of sin, i.e., its effects on the mind?  It is an important and neglected topic.  Last week we looked at it in the abstract; this week’s villanelle takes a more existential approach to the idea.

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THE NOETIC EFFECTS OF SIN, II

Though Satan threatens always to deceive

And oft the veil seems heavy on my face,

Lord help mine unbelief, for I believe!

I’ve seen through every subtle wile he weaves

And would with all my heart your truth embrace,

But Satan threatens always to deceive.

The tyranny of sight gives no reprieve,

More garish than the glimmers of your grace;

Lord, help mine unbelief, for I believe.

The evidence is there; I do perceive

It clearly and myself can make the case,

But Satan threatens always to deceive.

The certainty you help me to achieve

Can sometimes disappear without a trace;

Lord, help mine unbelief, for I believe.

It’s all so plain!  How deeply you must grieve

To see me still in doubting Thomas’ place.

Since Satan threatens always to deceive,

Lord, help mine unbelief, for I believe.

 

Remember: for more poetry like this, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/ and order Stars Through the Clouds! Also look for Inklings of Reality and Reflections from Plato’s Cave, Williams’ newest books from Lantern Hollow Press: Evangelical essays in pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.  And look for Williams’ very latest book, Deeper Magic: The Theology behind the Writings of C. S. Lewis, from Square Halo Books!

Donald T. Williams, PhD

Book-CSLTheology-Cover