Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I See Dead People

This is the time of year when many speak of the Resurrection. Some speak of the wonder of such a great miracle and others just wonder why so many are gullible enough to believe in such a zombie-like fairytale.

Of all the miracles in the New Testament, people rising from the dead must be the most fantastic. Even with today’s medical marvels, someone getting up as good as new after being dead for days would certainly make some headlines. Aside from the Resurrection of Christ himself, Jesus raised the son of the widow in the town of Nain (Luke 7:11-15), the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:41-42, 49-55) and Lazarus (John 11:1-44). St. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead in the town of Joppa (Acts 9:36-41) and Eutychus was raised from the dead by Paul (Acts 20:9-12).

Real...or staged?
Think how much money a phony faith healer could make if he or she could hoax a resurrection? How famous would an illusionist or street magician become if he or she could do the same? Why have they not done so? I think it would be just too difficult to pull off. People know what death is in every age and take it very seriously. It reminds me of those who have claimed that the Apollo moon landings never happened; it was all a government hoax. I find the moon landing hoax conspiracy theory unreasonable because too many key individuals would need to be in on the hoax for it to be true. They would all need to keep their stories straight about a very serious matter for a very long time. The same would be true for a series of resurrection hoaxes, especially a series of hoaxes with specific names, places and details given. Christians had plenty of enemies back then who might act as today's political “fact checkers”; people who would be more than happy to seize upon the mistake of giving specifics to prove it was all a sham, but this never happened.

Perhaps the authors of the New Testament were not hoaxers and were not insane, but were just writing down the legends and myths that were exaggerated by the early Christians. I don’t see how a myth writer would end up with such specific names, places and details, but beyond that I think the myth theory runs into a serious problem with “time”.

Some may still dispute the first-century date for the Gospels, but no one disputes that Paul's letters were written within the lifetime of eyewitnesses to Christ.i If so, there is not even one generation with which to build-up such a fantastic myth as the Resurrection, which was obviously indispensable to the early Christian faith as we read in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then empty [too] is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” Additionally, over five hundred eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. If we hold the premise that 1 Corinthians was written about 20 years after an alleged Resurrection and that the Resurrection never really happened, we can invent a modern day example to give us some perspective about the timing and scope of such an extravagant myth.
The risen MLK?
What if followers of Martin Luther King Jr. began spreading stories about him rising from the dead and ascending into heaven shortly after his assassination in 1968? Imagine all sorts of other miracles and fantastic stories were also circulated about him during his life on earth. Suppose photography and other recording devices had not been invented yet (no selfies with the risen MLK either). Would thousands of people just accept these stories even if Dr. King’s body went missing somehow? In addition to this, imagine if believing in this resurrection meant being ostracized from your community and risking ferocious persecution for both you and your family. Would people just go along with this fable without more compelling evidence or some other impetus?

Now imagine that letters were published around 1988 (20 years after the assassination) articulating how there were hundreds of eyewitness to the resurrected King, many of whom would have been still alive in 1988, and how his resurrection is now an essential part of a new and radically different religion. Is it reasonable to think that thousands of people would really give their lives to these myths? If yes, would not a rapid spread of this new religion trigger Christians and atheist alike to descend upon those poor delusional people and all the so-called “eyewitnesses” to discredit their claims or perhaps find that the eyewitnesses do not even exist?
If you hold that the Resurrection of Christ is only a myth, then this type of scenario is where your logic leads. If you hold that the Resurrection was real, then you follow a natural path of reason. More on the reasonableness of the Resurrection in a week or so.

i. Arnold Lunn, The Third Day, (El Cajon: Catholic Answers Press, 2014), pp. 120, 145. 

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