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Resurrection and Reversion: How a Deist Became a Theist, Part II

August 7, AD2017

grace

As stated in Part I, I will now show you how I saw the Resurrection as not just possible but probable, so probable that I cannot in good conscience deny it. This will not be in full detail. I will have reading suggestions at the end of this article that are devoted to the problem.

Preliminary Sketch

Even after my reversion, I still thought of God as a distant creator of the universe. I had been a practicing Catholic for four years before I came to the conclusion that God was personal. As stated in the previous article, my issues were the problem of evil and the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Someone who is reading this is probably wondering why, during my time as a deist, I was also studying Catholic theology, acting as a youth minister, and participating in the sacraments? The best answer I can give you is that I did not know any better. Frankly, I had not examined what I thought about God since the religious experience I’d had in high school. I looked at many religions after that experience. Hands down, Catholicism seemed to be the most reasonable, so I started following Catholicism.

Ard Louis, a physicist at Oxford, spoke at a Veritas Forum that I had watched on YouTube, said something to this effect:

Living in Africa I got interested in the bigger questions. I had thought a lot about them. It was really my African friends, particularly those whom I’d seen really dramatic changes in their lives when they became Christians. That had a very big impact on me. So I would say that was the dominant reason why I decided to become a Christian. …That does not mean as you grow older, that you do not have to remake those choices or think those things through, because you have new questions and new things to think about.

The reason I bring Louis’ point up is that, even though I had a religious experience and went with that decision after some preliminary research, I had to make more choices. As time continued, those initial questions that bothered me needed to be answered. This is why the title of these articles is, “From Reversion to Reversion.”

Follow the Argument Where it Leads

I attended a Catholic college with a great theology and philosophy department. I took classes on God’s existence, philosophy of religion, Christology, metaphysics, epistemology, and many others. One professor I had required us to read parts of a book entitled God and Philosophy by the most notorious academic atheist of the twentieth century, Antony Flew. This man was not like the New Atheists: he actually had reasonable arguments for the probability of God’s non-existence. Flew introduced me to a concept that I had never considered before. I thought I had considered it but found out quickly that I had not.

Flew quoted Plato’s Socrates from The Republic, “Follow the argument where it leads.” I was absolutely shocked to find that a staunch atheist could be open to the existence of a god. To this, he added a requirement: “It is of course a matter of integrity and sincerity of intellectual purpose to try to make out all cases as strongly as possible. For, if we truly desire to learn the truth, then we must consider opposing positions at their strongest” (God and Philosophy 20).

These statements influenced me to reevaluate my approach. I was reading and watching things that I knew I would easily be able to refute in order for me to be able to continue the way I was living. I highly respected (and still respect) Dr. Flew. That is when I decided it was time to answer the questions that always bothered me.

The Resurrection

At this point, I started putting deistic arguments against theistic arguments and those arguments against atheistic arguments. The main concept I wanted to clarify was a problem made famous by C.S Lewis: either Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, or exactly who he says he is. Jesus claimed divinity, his apostles agreed, and Christianity was based upon the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.

A few things needed to be answered: was Jesus divine, were his apostles correct, and did Jesus rise from the dead. It seems to me that if Jesus really rose from the dead, meaning that Jesus, “picked himself up by his bootstraps,” out of death and back into life, then that would show his divinity.

Assent from Reason

No one could not find the body of Christ or any type of remains. Some could say, “The Apostles could have stolen Jesus’ body!” For what gain would that have given the Apostles? They would have gained being put to death for their theft.

Would you not think that the Apostles of Christ would be the first suspects for robbing the grave of their leader? They were the ones who followed him for three years and were the last ones seen with him. Yet the Apostles did not find the body. Nor did the Romans nor the Pharisees!

Jesus’ tomb was being guarded by Roman soldiers. Twelve men who were fishermen and tax collectors would not have been able to take down these trained soldiers, move the rock, and carry Jesus’ body away.

Assent from Shroud of Turin

I will only briefly touch upon this. The shroud of Turin is a mysterious burial cloth that was first put on display in France around 1357. In 1988 the Shroud was tested using radiocarbon dating that originally dated it to be around the middle ages. Further studies showed that they tested a part of the fabric that was mended after fires within buildings that held the Shroud. That brought the finding into question.

Further studies have shown that the image is not painted upon the cloth. It is not sewn, but rather it was like a negative of a photo was taken. They think that it was a light that shown so bright that it left the image of the person who was within the shroud. There was no such technology back in this time period to mimic this.

I saw these studies and was just amazed how the image was put on the cloth. Both Pope Ven. Pius XII and Pope St. John Paul II approved of the image for private devotion. You need not believe in the shroud, but I find it very difficult not to with the facts in front of me.

Assent to Gospels as Reliable Historical Evidence

What makes it so that we can believe the Gospel writers? Were they not trying to make propaganda for their own ideas? In the subhead above entitled, “Assent by Reason,” I spoke of how it would be absurd to think they stole the body. I think it is also absurd to view the Gospels as mere propaganda.

The usual story is, “They were his followers! Of course, they would say he did it!” Alright, I can grant that they have a certain attachment to Jesus. But everyone has some sort of attachment.  Just because someone believes in something does not mean that they cannot give an account of what happened. It is impossible to be completely objective. We can view facts, but that does not mean we see them in some sort of lens. This is not bad! It does not mean that everything we experience we automatically make it fit our own ideas.

Every scientist, no matter how loud they scream otherwise, has to experience everything subjectively. We are not computers processing data. They were eyewitnesses. It was not just the twelve but everyone who Jesus appeared to after the resurrection. Hundreds of people are said to have seen Jesus after he was killed. Mass hallucinations are extremely rare. It is extremely improbable to think that hundreds of people hallucinated about Jesus.

Conclusion

If it is the case that no man on, his own power, has been raised from the dead, then how can this man rise from the dead? The only entity in the universe that is not contained by death is God. Therefore, god would have had to resurrect Jesus. This would mean that god had some form of care in order to mend a broken relationship that Jesus taught existed. Therefore, God would seem to be personal.

In Part III, I will be fishing for the great white whale: a solution to the problem of evil.

Suggested Reading List

On the resurrection: N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Surprised by Hope; Gary Habermas, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.

On the Shroud of Turin: Robert K. Wilcox, The Truth About the Shroud of Turin: Solving the Mystery; Ian Wilson, The Blood and the Shroud: New Evidence That the World’s Most Sacred Relic is Real.

On the Reliability of the Gospels: Gary Habermas, Evidence for the Historical Jesus: Is the Jesus of History the Christ of Faith? N.T Wright, The New Testament and the People of God.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Alexander Wolke is a husband, writer, and theologian. He currently works for a Catholic non-profit organization in Denver, Colorado.He loves to read, write, play rugby, watch his siblings grow up, and take part in strength sports. His favorite thing to do though is to be with his wife who shows him every day what it means to be a saint.

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