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The Resurrection: Fact or Figment? A look at this debate between William Lane Craig and Gerd Ludemann

This pro-Christian book insists that it makes sense to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. The apostles especially Paul struggled to give it supreme importance. Paul told the Corinthians who didn't take it seriously that faith was nothing without it. A later incentive for making it so important was how Jesus was needed to out-resurrect the likes of evil Emperor Nero who died and seemed to return - albeit through suspected imposters. No matter how you look at it, it is not of supreme importance and cannot be. For example, what if the Muslims are right that Jesus is not risen but that does not matter for he will rise with everybody else at the day. Jesus could still be your saviour whether he rises one day after dying or billions of years. The stress put on it disguises something. What? It is really about trying to argue, "My object of worship unlike everybody else's has risen from the dead so he is special." It is about point-scoring.


The Bible says Jesus returning from the dead transformed and risen matters because:


It confirms his authority over death - Acts 2:24, 1 Corinthians 15


It proves he was from God and his claims were true - Romans 1:4


It completed Old Testament 'prophecies' about the Messiah rising from the dead - Psalm 16 and Acts 26:22-23.


It made possible our being justified or seen as good though we are not really in the eyes of God - Romans 4:25


It is a promise that our beloved dead will resurrect like Jesus - 1 Corinthians 15


It is in line with some other incredible statements from Jesus that if he asked his father, twelve legions of angels would be sent to rescue him from his unjust and impending execution - Matthew 26:52-54. If God would do that he would raise him to life too. Jesus in the text shows concern for fulfilling the scriptures as if that was his priority. Also, that Jesus would use this option instead of simply just escaping with God's help shows a warmongering aggressive streak.


Jesus predicted that he would rise to overcome death - Matthew 16:21 and Matthew 17:22,23 and Matthew 20:18,19/Mark 8:31 and Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33,34/Luke 9:22 and Luke 18:33/John 2:19-22. If he did not rise then the New Testament is a fraud for writing prophecies after the event and lying that event happened. And if he really made those predictions and is still dead then he was a fraud. He cannot be classed as a teacher with authority or a good wise man.


The book admits there is much in the New Testament against Jews but asserts that "anti-Judaism can lead to anti-Semitism, but it need not necessarily do so, and I will argue that it did not do so in the New Testament."

It goes, "Jesus himself was a Jew, and he appears never to have doubted or denied the covenant with the patriarchs, the chosenness of Israel, the appropriateness of temple worship or the divine authority of the Hebrew Bible. He saw himself as fulfilling, rather than abrogating, the law and the prophets (Mt 5:17). And contrary to what is often unconsciously assumed, the earliest Christians were also Jews, and the New Testament is a Jewish book. The earliest Christians wanted no break with Judaism; in fact, they believed that accepting Jesus as the Messiah was the correct Jewish thing to do."


That is true and those who turn Jesus into a liberal or a social worker and who would have allowed liberal abortion and same sex marriage need to be reminded of that. Funny they don't argue that he allowed liberal divorce! They are worse than fundamentalists for they are more confident in their own infallibility than they are in the Bible. At least a Bible thumper can read and it is better to regard a book as infallible than as every fad as infallible. But it is obvious that Christianity has shed too much Judaism and that is a sign of anti-Judaism. It is not justified so it is a cloak for anti-Semitism. The critical matter of circumcision which makes one a Jew and a participant in God's covenant is just treated as a non-issue. Christianity disrespects the criteria set by the Jewish religion and which is inherent to it about how one becomes a Jew.


It is reasonable to suppose that the miracles of Jesus were invented or exaggerated in the gospels as a tactic against the Jews. The New Testament aims to make the Jews look bad and mad for not believing in such an obvious Son of God and saviour as Jesus. One is unwittingly hurting the Jews and their innocent ancestors if the miracles are really just manipulative propaganda against them. Jesus said in John 5:46 that if the Jews really believed what Moses wrote they would believe in Jesus for he wrote about Jesus. This attacks any Jew who hears about Jesus and does not believe. The Jews here do not mean only the Jewish leaders. And when you turn to what Moses wrote all he said was that a prophet like him would come. It is as vague as anything.


The book goes on, "Much as the apostle Paul criticized the Jews who rejected Jesus and (as he saw it) misinterpreted the Mosaic law, he remained till his death proud of his heritage, training and status as a Jew (2 Cor 11:22; Phil 3:4-6; see also Acts 25:8; 26:5; 28:17). The passage that is most often pointed out as evidence of Paul's anti-Semitism, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, is clearly anti-Judaic, but it shows no evidence of racial hatred of Jews: speaking of the suffering Judean Christians, Paul says, "You suffered the same things from your own compatriots as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out; they displease God and oppose everyone by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. Thus they have constantly been filling up the measure of their sins; but God's wrath has overtaken them at last".


He gloats over the misfortune the Jews have received and that is anti-Semitic. It would be considered anti-Semitic to say that the Holocaust was divine judgment on the Jews. Racism is nothing compared to making out that suffering is punishment. The Jews of Paul's day suffered more from persecution than anything else so the text is clearly laughing at how they were treated. The doctrine of Jesus about fair judgement implies that it is wrong to assume persecutors are just bad - maybe they are God's way of delivering justice!


We read that in:


Romans 9-11 and elsewhere, Paul believed that one day there would be a Jewish turning to Jesus. He regarded Israel's privileges (the covenants, the law, adoption as God's own people, the promises, etc.) and responsibilities (being a light to the Gentiles, etc.) in the plan of God to be irrevocable (see especially Rom 9:4-5; 11:28-29). 3. The Fourth Gospel uses the term the Jews in an equivocal way. At times it refers to the entire Jewish nation, especially when Jewish customs are being explained (see, e.g., Jn 2:13; 3:1; 5:1; 6:4). At other times it refers to Jesus' enemies-the religious authorities, those who plot against him (see, e.g., Jn 5:15-18; 7:1, 13; 9:22; 10:31-33; 18:12; 19:7, 12, 38; 20:19). Thus the Evangelist can be, and sometimes is, taken to be implying that the entire Jewish nation was somehow responsible for Jesus' death, which was not John's intent. Note also Jesus' affirmation in his conversation with the Samaritan woman that "we (Jews) worship what we know" and that "salvation is from the Jews").


Jesus saying salvation is from the Jews but does not say he means they save. He is saying they have the keys of salvation but throw them away. And if John in those anti-semitic times did not hate the Jews he would have been careful to be clear what he meant. He writes as if he condemns the whole Jewish nation - period.


A quote: Liidemann himself concedes that Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 is "not concerned to give a precise account of ... what his resurrection appearances were like.... The only important thing for Paul ... was that they had taken place." But once we recognize that Paul's concern in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 is with the fact of Christ's appearance, not with its mode, and realize Paul's strong motivation in his historical context...

This is very important. Christians generally do not like to admit that the Corinthian believers were falling away from belief in Jesus' resurrection. They like to pretend it was not so much the fact of the resurrection they disputed but what it means. If they were right Paul would discuss how people touched Jesus so he was not a ghost or semi-physical thing. Some even bizarrely argue that the problem was not Jesus' resurrection - it was that everybody else's resurrection that was unbelievable. That is total balderdash.


Here is another quote, "The New Testament consistently differentiates between a vision of Christ and a resurrection appearance of Christ. As Goulder notes, Paul was familiar with "visions and revelations of the Lord" (2 Cor 12:1) (p. 94). Yet Paul, like the rest of the New Testament, did not equate such visions of Christ with resurrection appearances. The appearances were to a limited circle of witnesses at the birth of the Christian movement and soon ceased, Paul's untimely experience being "last of all".


It does not tell us to make a difference between the two. This is splitting hairs. It is obvious that a vision can be an appearance and an appearance a vision. To argue that Paul's visions of Jesus long after the ascension were not the same as resurrection appearances undermines the witnesses. For the same reason, Catholics saying we have to believe in the resurrection appearances of Jesus but not in later appearances of Jesus say to St Margaret Mary are being ridiculous. A vision is just a vision. To make one more questionable than the other makes both questionable. It is admitting that people can have visions that however convincing they seem may be false. It is admitting that they should hold that if it is not a medical grade hallucination it is a hallucination experience of a different sphere.


Read the following quote:


Now visions of the exalted Christ such as Stephen's (Acts 7:55-56), Paul's (Acts 22:17-21) or John's (Rev 1:10-18) were not regarded as hallucinatory; but neither did they count as resurrection appearances of Christ. Why not? Because appearances of Jesus, in contrast to veridical visions of Jesus, involved an extramental reality that anyone present could experience. Even Paul's experience on the Damascus road, which was semi-visionary in nature, could count as a real appearance because the light and the voice were experienced by Paul's traveling companions (though they were not experienced by them as a revelation of Christ). As I say, this seems to be the consistent answer throughout the New Testament to the question of what the difference was between a vision and an appearance of Jesus. And this answer is thoroughly Jewish in character: the rabbis similarly distinguished [such experiences]


Nothing in the New Testament says that Stephen's experience was not a resurrection appearance. And we have no testimony at all about the light only Paul's. For all you know, if Jesus really did predict at his trial that he would be seen sitting at God's right hand it may have suggested to some people to see just that after his death. It would be enough to trigger a new religion. Something started the idea of Jesus rising.


The book throws up an objection where the author says he is:


My answer is that according to Luke (already in the New Testament) Paul has not seen the Lord as the Twelve have (cf. Acts 1:21).


But the fact is that it still does not say his vision was inferior or different. It only says he was not there when the Twelve had theirs.


Here is another good quote:


"How is it that some among you are saying, There is no resurrection of the dead? ... If the dead are not raised at all, why are people even being baptized for them? ... But someone will say, 'How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body are they coming?' Ignoramus!" (1 Cor 15:12, 29, 35-36). A fear that the Corinthians who were denying a future resurrection might take the further step of denying Christ's past resurrection may have led Paul to reinforce their belief in the latter by adding to the tradition his statement that the majority of the five hundred who saw Christ risen were witnesses still living, and also adding Christ's appearance to Paul himself. But since Paul indicates that the Corinthians believe in Christ's resurrection, it is better to regard these additions as simply reinforcing Paul's argument for a future resurrection.


My answer to that is that he says that asking what kind of body the risen dead will have makes you an ignoramus. 


Here is a good and valid point about liberal theologians:


We are told that if the traditional concept of God is no longer tenable, then miracles are no longer credible, but the reason that a traditional concept of God is no longer tenable is that miracles are incredible. Naive liberal theologians do not seem to appreciate the fact that the eroding acid of scientific naturalism cannot be halted when it comes to the moral beliefs that they hold dear. On scientific naturalism, moral values are just the ingrained byproduct of sociobiological evolution and so without objective significance. As Michael Ruse explains: Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, thing, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says "Love thy neighbor as thyself," they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction ... and any deeper meaning is illusory. Moreover, I ask, what meaning to life remains...


I personally do not like liberal religionists for they are liars and dishonest and ignore any evidence about how inconsistent they are. The only liberal theologians are those who are true to the faith but who want changeable rules softened. Christian liberals pose as Christians while opposing whatever teachings they have it in for. It may be the Christian ban on abortion or the infallibility of Jesus. These are not liberal theologians at all but spin doctors who refuse to admit that they think or know the faith is a false religion. They are only trying to rationalise and justify being in a religion that is plainly wrong and they get paid for it and get honorary doctorates that puff up their egos. Liberals decide what they want to believe and bend the Bible to fit it. This is not interpretation but them trying to be their own Bible! And they dare to call fundamentalists arrogant?


I am glad he writes:

The Noble Lie option therefore leads at best to a society in which an elitist group of illuminati (liberal theologians?) deceive the masses for their own good by perpetuating the Noble Lie.

I like this quote:


Gregory Cavin, "Miracles, Probability, and the Resurrection of Jesus" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Irvine, 1993). Cavin argues that it is more probable that Jesus' corpse was stolen by his unknown, identical twin brother than that he rose from the dead. In the naturalistic sense of "rose from the dead," he's right.

The Christians do admit that some natural explanation is possible. But if it is possible then that means you don't need the supernatural explanations. Sometimes a theory is not very good and you can go with it anyway. The reason

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