Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter reflections on intelligent design, science and how we deceive ourselves.

On Easter Sunday I find myself reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the event that started the Christian faith. The Christian message of God being born as a man, dying for our sins, and coming back to life before ascending to Heaven to rule until the final judgment is, and offering a free pardon and adoption into God's family with eternal joy for true believers is, if true, evidently the most important thing that has ever happened or will ever happen in the history of the Universe. If Jesus is who he said he was, it would be insane not to follow him. And as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, it all hinges on whether or not Jesus was in fact raised from the dead with a new glorified body. 

Deciding whether all this is true or proving beyond doubt that it is not would seem an absolute imperative. So it is surprising that people often merely shrug off or ignore the resurrection, or perhaps even more strangely, say that it may have happened but not doing anything about it.

So is it true? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? And if not, then what? If the resurrection did not happen, we require an alternative explanation for the origin of the Christian church.

Several things are quite literally not in doubt. For a start, the Christian church exists. Like other movements, e.g. Islam, Marxism, Nazism, it had to have had a reason to start existing.
Christianity began in Jerusalem around 50 AD and then spread worldwide, and despite persecution, misrepresentation, corruption and internal conflicts due to error, greed and treachery, has survived. The men who started the church and spread it worldwide despite persecution insisted that they had seen the risen Christ. The very earliest Christian documents and the testimony of secular/pagan historians puts the testimony of the church founders to the risen Jesus beyond doubt. So we require an explanation for this belief.

The world has offered several alternative explanations for the disciples’ story that they had seen the risen Christ.

1)      Jesus didn’t die, he passed out and came round later in the tomb. He escaped and went into hiding, managing to persuade the disciples that he had risen again.

2)      They had stolen and hidden his body and were deliberately lying.

3)      They had hallucinated.

4)      The whole story was invented by the Romans (e.g. Emperor Constantine) as a means of rule.

I have heard several further alternative explanations that are just too daft to be worth discussing, but the above 4 are the ones I find come up most often. Do they bear rational examination?

Before going any further, I note that I just introduced the term ‘rational’. This term is often claimed by materialists as their own. Not so. Being rational means using reason. To investigate a matter rationally means to assemble and evaluate the relevant evidence, consider alternative possibilities, applying logic, trying to rule mistakes out and establish the truth of a matter. The assertion that being rational means ruling out supernatural explanations is ‘the philosophical assumption of materialism’. I will return to this logical error later, but meanwhile let’s apply a process of reason to the resurrection of Jesus.

1)      Did Jesus swoon and come round later? No. The Romans were good at killing people. Jesus was speared through the heart and blood and water gushed out-this was probably pulmonary oedema fluid from extreme heart failure. There is no prospect of him having survived crucifixion. Even if he had, he would probably have succumbed in the cold tomb later. Even if he had survived, he would have been a broken man and could not possibly have persuaded the disciples that he had risen with a new glorified body. Mega fail. I can hardly believe that people still come out with this tripe.

2)      Did the disciples steal the body and then lie about it? This is the story the Jews put out. Seems unlikely, especially given the demoralised state of the disciples and the Roman guard on the tomb. But even if it were so, we are then left with a group of men who were, in the name of truth, willing to stand up and lie-and die rather than admit they were lying. People will die for a lie they believe in, like Muslim suicide bombers, but who will die for what they know is a lie? The apostles all died under persecution, none of them got rich. This story is unbelievable.

3)      Did the disciples hallucinate that Jesus was risen? This is essentially what the heretic bishop John Shelby Spong proposes in his book ‘Resurrection: Myth or Reality?’ It’s a very weird book and never comes near to proving its case. Spong goes further than the weasel words of bishop Jenkins of Durham who gave the notorious quote about ‘a conjuring trick with bones’, Spong asserts that Jesus would have been buried in a common grave and his bones turned to dust. I don’t want to say much more about Spong here beyond saying that he has made a set of statements of personal belief which are generally agreed to contradict every element of historic and biblical Christian faith. Hallucinations do occur, but there is no record of an enduring mass movement having begun or been sustained by hallucinations. This really makes no sense. The likeliest explanation of Spong asserting that the Christian religion was started by hallucinating disciples is that he insists on a naturalistic explanation and made one up to suit his preferences. He is one of the false teachers that the New Testament warns us about, e.g. in 2 Peter 2: 1-3.

4)      ‘It was all made up’. Well they would say that wouldn’t they. Because if it wasn’t ‘all made up’ then it would have to be true, in which case the only rational response we can make is to fall at Jesus’ feet and worship and obey him.

OK, so where does this tie in with evolution and intelligent design hypothesis? Simple. The exact same line of reasoning is taken in dismissing the Resurrection as in dismissing evidence against molecules to man evolution,.-the evidence points to a conclusion we don’t like, so we’ll fix the rules  of debate so that any evidence pointing to the conclusion we don’t like will be stifled, ignored, misrepresented and forbidden. Supernatural explanations are ruled out even if they fit the facts best. We will apply the assumption of materialism and call it science.

The philosophical assumption of materialism rules out miracles and is also typically used to rule out rational discussion of the intelligent design (ID) hypothesis. ID proponents look at the known facts of biology and rationally evaluate the evidence for Darwinian gradualism (natural selection acting on naturally occurring variations) and ALSO discuss the observable characteristics of things that we know have been designed.
The ID proponent essentially uses a process of reason to attempt to falsify Darwinism, and succeeds. He also studies the observable process of design, and finds that living things and their systems (e.g. photosynthesis, protein synthesis, Krebs cycle, the immune system etc) demonstrate features that point strongly to design. The ID proponent therefore adduces to the most reasonable explanation, which is design. However (and this is one of the key lessons of the notorious Dover mis-trial, which also violated the US constitution by pronouncing on a matter of religious belief) this is ruled out by the Darwinist since it amounts to saying ‘God did it’ which is philosophically ruled out. Design implies a designer, who may be God, and the secularist revolutionaries who have seized control of most of our government, media and education systems are radically opposed to the idea of God, at least the idea of a demanding, Sovereign Creator Lawgiver God. Their agenda is not God's agenda, he stands in the way of their earthly humanist Utopias. This is why there is no intelligent discourse about ID in the media and discussion of it is actually outlawed in our schools and colleges.

Its the same for the facts about the Christian faith, including the fulfilled prophecies that validate Jesus, the absolutely foundational importance of biblical Christianity to our liberty and prosperity, the growing power of the State to control thought, and the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. They don't want you to know about these things. However, the truth is still what it is and will be what it will be. 
There is still time to make diligent enquiry into Jesus. I would if I were you. There is too much at stake to just drift along with the spirit of the age, a spirit that has been created and applied by people who do not necessarily have your best interests in mind. 

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