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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).

CLXXXV

 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.”

“Brief and concise utterances fell from [Jesus], for he was no sophist, but his word was the power of God” (Justin Martyr).  Justin was right.  So let us try to emulate our Lord in our own words, especially our words about Him.

IN SHORT

The fullness of ages,

The smell of the hay;

The gifts of the Sages,

The dawning of day.

 

The river of Jordan,

The Voice from above;

The weight of the Burden,

The wing of the Dove.

 

The test of temptation,

The talk on the hill;

The waves’ inundation,

The lake water still.

 

The dough and the leaven,

The one missing sheep;

The treasure in Heaven,

The harvest to reap.

 

The tale for the mind,

The fishes, the bread;

The light of the blind,

The life of the dead.

 

The mountain of Zion,

The statement, “I Am!”

The heart of the Lion,

The blood of the Lamb.

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

CLXXVII

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 no true paradoxes in Christianity because the God of the Bible is a God who cannot lie.  Therefore, no real contradiction can be so about Him (or anything He made).  But the richness and the depths of Christian truth are shown by the number of seemingly incompatible realities it manages to pull together into a harmony greater than the sum of its parts.

 

CONJUNCTION

At the fulcrum of the Cross

A host of concepts meet:

The Profit hidden in the Loss,

The Victory in Defeat.

Christ's Entry into Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin c. 1842

The Acceptance, the Rejection;

The Worship and the Jeers;

The Freedom in Election,

The Ecstasy in Tears.

Crucifixion-Glass

The Mercy and the Justice;

The Human, the Divine;

Pilate;  Judas;  Jesus–

The broken Bread, the Wine.

LambVictor

 

The Maker of Orion,

The Victim of the Scam;

The Meekness of the Lion,

The glory of the Lamb.

aslan narnia snow winter

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

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.”

If you have never been betrayed—stabbed in the back, coldly and deliberately, by someone you thought was a friend, someone you were sure you could trust—you have missed a most instructive experience.  But don’t worry.  If you live long enough, it is coming.  The blessed benefit I got from this most painful of lessons was a deeper identification with Christ in His sufferings.  “Oh,” I gasped.  “Now I understand.  You did that for me!”

“Judas . . . with a kiss?”

 THE TRYST

Did their eyes meet before he turned away?

Although the Lord had prophesied the gist,

He seemed affected by that final twist.

So much a simple gesture could convey:

A friendship you would think could last the day

Evaporating like the morning mist.

And he was not the first to be so kissed;

The question echoes still, “Et tu, Brute?

So much a simple gesture can convey.

 

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

CXLIX

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.”

Once upon a time a group of fishermen left an entire boatload of fish to rot in the sun.  On another occasion a Tax Collector left his office full of government receipts unattended.  None of these people ever looked back.  What could have gotten them to act like that?

LambVictor

COMMENTARY, LUKE 5:27-28

Who would have thought old Levi would be able

To leave the money lying on the table?

He wasn’t, until Jesus changed his mind;

He was not able then to stay behind!

 

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 Sept. 1, 2016, from Square Halo Books!

Book-CSLTheology-Cover