Saturday, December 31, 2005

My first arrows

Well here they are, my first real arrows. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it.

They are made of walnut and maple spliced together. Pretty neat, huh?

Friday, December 30, 2005

The transcendental argument for the existence of God

A few years ago, I saw a flier on a bulletin board at school advertizing a class on apologetics. I emailed the guy because I was curious about it. He sent me to his web page. After looking at it, it became obvious that he was a reformed Christian who was heavily influenced by presuppositional apologetics. He especially seemed to be a big fan of Cornelius van Til. I posted a message on his bulletin board because I was curious about the transcendental argument. After his response, I gave him a few reasons I was skeptical of it. Then he wrote me an email asking a little about my background and inquiring further into my thoughts. I don't have what I wrote on the bulletin board, but I thought I'd post what I wrote in the email. Maybe it will stir up some discussion.


I appreciate the response. I'm a busy person myself, so I understand the delay. I guess I'll first tell you a little about my own presuppositions. :-) I am a Christian. I'm reformed, but I only made the switch about two year ago, and I haven't worked out all the kinks yet. I do believe the Bible is inspired by God and that it's the sole infallible rule of faith for Christians. I'm really not that educated in theology, apologetics, and philosophy. I'm almost exclusively self-educated in those areas although I've taken a few philosophy classes in college. Most of my education comes from reading books, articles, and debates, and I've spent a little time debating on message boards myself. I'm not that familiar with Conelius van Til except from secondary literature, and I've read a few of his articles on the internet. I know more about his fans than the man himself.

I'm not at all opposed to the presupositional method in general. In fact, I've found it very useful in dealing with self-referentially absurd claims (such as "There are no absolutes") and arguments that are incoherent (such as the argument against God from the problem of evil). But I also see merit in the evidentialist approach, and if you want, I'll tell you why I think that approach is consistent with the Bible. I'm not at all opposed to transcendental arguments in general. The moral argument, being a version of the TAG, is sound in my opinion.

The reason I find the moral argument pursuasive and not the logic argument is because moral laws are not the same kind of laws as the laws of logic. Moral laws are prescriptive, and the laws of logic are descriptive. Supposing there were no necessary, transcendent, sovereign, and personal being who imposed obligation, there could be no universal objective prescriptive laws of any kind. We'd be left with nihilism or relativism, both being forms of prescriptive non-realism. But I see no reason why certain descriptive truths would not exist if there were no such God. If there were no God, and I had a blue cup, then the proposition, "My cup is blue," would still be a true description of the world. At a minimum, if there were no God, then the proposition, "There is no God," would be a true proposition, as I've said before. Truth is just correspondence with reality, and I see no reason to think God's existence is necessary for such a correspondence to be possible.

I suppose one could make the case that the laws of logic are prescriptive in the sense that we have a rational ought imposed on us by them. We ought to be logical because it's rationally correct to do so. There is certainly a difference between a rational ought and a moral ought, but they are both prescriptive in a sense. But I don't see that the laws of logic are themselves prescriptive because the rational ought itself is not one of the laws of logic. The imperative, "You ought to believe in logic," cannot itself be a law of logic. The laws of logic describe the way the world is, and the rational ought tells us that we ought to believe the description because it's true. The laws of logic do not impose this ought on us as far as I can see.

I guess one of the problems I see with the TAG is that the ontological status of universals and other abstract entities is never discussed. It's as if there's no controversy surrounding the issue. A good example of this is the difference between good and evil. Good can be said to have positive ontological status. It really exists as "part of the furniture of the universe" as some like to say. But evil, being a departure from good, doesn't really have positive ontological status. Evil is the absense of good, not the presence of something else. So when we say "good exists," we mean something different by "exist" than when we say "evil exists." Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason uses the analogy of a doughnut and a doughnut hole. A doughnut hole doesn't really exist in any ontological sense. It's just where the doughnut is not. Likewise, a shadow is where the light is not. Light and doughnuts clearly have ontology, but shadows and doughnut holes don't, and many people dispute whether universals such as the laws of logic really have ontological status. To deny the positive ontological status of the laws of logic is not to say that they don't exist in some sense or that they aren't true. The laws of logic are propositions that correspond to reality, so it may be argued that reality would remain exactly what it is even if the propositions which described reality were not apprehended by any minds, including God's. There would be no four-sided triangles in reality even if there were no personal being or beings to apprehend it. So the laws of logic describe reality, but they don't determine reality because they are not prescriptive.

Greg Bahnsen hammered Gorden Stein on the fact that Stein kept using and asserting logic while being unable to give a basis for logic other than God. What was never made clear to me was why logic required a basis to begin with. For anything to exist, whether contingent or necessary, something much exist necessarily. It seems inuitively obvious to me that logic exists necessarily, and if it doesn't, then that's what I need help seeing. Why is logic contingent and not necessary? Bahnsen argued that it was because the laws of logic are rules of thought and therefore require a mind to have a basis, and I think I've explained why I have a problem with that. What I would like to have asked Bahnsen is "How do you give a non-question begging basis for the principle of sufficient reason?" which is the principle he seemed to be working with. If he says, "God is the basis for the principle of sufficient reason," do you see how that would get him into trouble? One could make the following argument:

1. If there is no God, then the principle of sufficient reason is not true.
2. There is no God.
3. Therefore, the principle of sufficient reason is not true.

So Stein could've begun with the presupposition that God does not exist in order to argue that logic requires no basis since if God doesn't exist, the principle of sufficient reason is not true. I see no way for Bahnsen to dispute that argument without using circular reasoning.

To be honest with you, I don't see that the presuppositionalist approach is necessarily different from an evidentialist approach because the presuppositionalist is using universals as evidence for the existence of God. Things like morals, propositions, numbers, logic, etc, are all being used as evidence that God exists.

1. If there is no God, then there are no universals.
2. There are universals.
3. Therefore, there is a God.

Well, I meant to stop typing a long time ago, but it's becoming evident to me that I'm not going to find a stopping place. I'm just going to have to DECIDE to stop. Sorry about the length. I suppose I've been rambling. I am interested in the TAG, especially the necessity of God for the existence of logic. It seems to me that if there is something to it that I'm not seeing, this argument would have to be an air-tight irrefutable argument for the claim that God not only exists, but that God exists necessarily, and that's it incoherent nonsense to deny it. So if there's something I'm not seeing, I would very much like to be able to see it.

I'm not familiar with Herman Dooyeweerd. Thanks again for the email. I know I've said a lot, and hope you'll respond, but I'll understand if you take a while in getting back to me.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

More silly objections to miracles

Another Biblical miracle is in Joshua 10. Joshua prayed to God to cause the sun to stand still, and it did. People object to this event for a few different reasons. None of these reasons, though, are because it's a miracle. Nobody says, "Well God couldn't have done that!"

The first objection is that the Bible has its cosmology all wrong. The sun isn't moving at all. Rather, the earth is turning. Supposedly the old bloke who wrote Joshua was just ignorant of this fact. Think about that for a minute. If we talk about the supposed movement of the sun in the sky, does that mean we're wrong? If so, then we're all a bunch of ignorant blokes. Every one of us, at one time or another, talks about the sun rising or the sun going down. Yet we know perfectly well that the earth is turning, and the sun only appears to be rising or going down. Whether the author of Joshua understood this fact or not is completely irrelevent. Our knowledge of the fact doesn't change the way we talk. Even our scientists, trained in astronomy, geology, and meteorology speak of the sun, moon, and stars as moving across the sky. These people are not ignorant. We're all simply talking about events as they appear to us from our point of view. From our point of view, these objects do move across the sky.

The second objection is that if God stopped the earth from turning on its axis, everything on the surface of the earth would've been destroyed. Imagine if you're driving down the road in a car and you run into a brick wall. Without a seatbelt on, you'd go slamming into the windshield and possibly through it. Well it's much worse with the earth. The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,902 miles. The earth turns around once in 24 hours. So we can figure out how fast the surface of the earth moves at the equator.

24,902 miles/24 hours = 1038 miles per hour.

Imagine the destruction if everything on the surface of the earth is moving at that speed and suddenly stops!

Well the silliness of this objection is that on the one hand, the objector grants that God could stop the earth from rotating, but the objector seems to not grant that God could, at the same time, stop everything on the earth from moving. The objection hinges on the idea that if the earth stopped, everything on the surface would keep moving just as people in a car keep moving even when the car is stopped by a brick wall. If we've already granted that God could perform such a spectacular miracle as stopping the earth from rotating and then restarting it again, it seems like God would have no trouble taking care of the details. It is a miracle we're talking about after all.

There's a third reason people object to this miracle, but I can't remember what it is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Silly objections to miracles

There are actually some good arguments against miracles, but today, I just want to talk about some bad ones. These aren't objections to miracles in general; they are objections to specific miracles in the Bible.

The occurence of miracles in the Bible is a serious obstacle to faith for some people. Imagine, though, that there were no miracles in the Bible at all. Recall from a previous entry that I defined a miracles as an event in the natural world whose cause is not natural. Any direct act of God in the natural world, then, is a miracle. If God never acted in nature, though, there'd be no reason to be a Christian. I don't see how Christianity could exist if God never acted in nature. Isn't that ironic? If God doesn't act in nature, then we should forget about Christainity, but if God does act in nature, and the Bible records it, then we should forget about the Bible.

Anyway, back to the topic. Since Christmas just happened, I might as well use the virgin birth as an example. When a person objects to this event on the basis that virgins do not give birth, they're essentially objecting to the fact that it's a miracle, and miracles don't happen. So their objection is really to miracles in general, and the virgin birth is just an example of a miracle. But some people will accept that there could be miracles, and they object to the virgin birth for a different reason. But given their acceptance of miracles in general, this objection seems completely silly to me.

The objection is that Jesus was male. You see, to get a male, the father has to contribute a Y chromosome. Women don't have Y chromosomes. But if Mary was a virgin when she conceived, then there was no father to contribute a Y chromosome. With no Y chromosome, Jesus should have been female. The fact that he was male proves that Mary was not a virgin.

Do I even have to point out the silliness of this argument? If a person accepts that the virgin birth could have happened as long as Jesus turned out to be female, then the person has accepted that miracles can happen. If miracles can happen, then God can act in nature. If God can act in nature, then why couldn't he create a Y chromosome? If God created life to begin with, one measly little Y chromosome is going to be no problem for him. I suppose a person could say that God is powerful enough to produce a virginal conception, but not powerful enough to produce a Y chromosome at the same time. On what basis, though?

Monday, December 26, 2005

I have discovered photobucket!

I just discovered Photobucket. It's where you can upload pictures for free and post them on the internet by linking to them. You can't stick that with a beat. I've always wanted to have pictures in my blog. Let's see if I can figure out how to do it.

I hope you all had a holly jolly Christmas. I'm on vacation this week, and I'm making a really cool bow and I'm also making my first arrows. I love being able to sleep at night. I got about 11 hours of sleep last night. Wahoo!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Merry Christmas

I just wanted to say Merry Christmas to Dale, Steve, Jeff, Paul, Safiyyah, Kelly, Angie, and anybody else who might visit my blog from time to time. Thanks for coming, and I hope you have a good weekend.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Resurrection, part 19

I have a few last thoughts. Resurrection in Jewish thought always involved a body vacating its grave. If the first Christians had meant anything like being tranformed into spirits, they would not have used the word "resurrection." Resurrection is essential to Christianity. Without it, we have no hope. Jesus did not conquer death for us if he did not rise from the dead. If Jesus' resurrection were just a metaphor for Christ's continued presence in our memories and inspiration, there wouldn't be a clear indication in the scripture of a series of appearances that suddenly stopped. Since Jesus was raised bodily from the dead, we will be raised bodily from the dead. Our bodies will be like his body with all knew groovy things. I can't help but wonder if we'll be able to appear and disappear like Jesus did.

Now I want to make a summary of the arguments for Jesus' bodily resurrection. I did this to make it easy to remember.

1. Empty tomb argument:
a. If Jesus did not raise his actual body that he died in, then the empty tomb cannot be used as evidence for his resurrection.
b. Both the angels and the apostles used the empty tomb as evidence for Jesus' resurrection.
C. Therefore, Jesus raised his actual body that he died in.

2. Scars as proof argument:
a. If the body Jesus appeared in was not the same body that died, then the scars on the appearance body do not prove that it was Jesus himself who had risen.
b. Jesus showed his scars to prove that he had risen.
c. Therefore, Jesus was raised with the same body he died in.

3. The temple argument:
a. Jesus said, "if you destroy this temple, I will raise it up in three days."
b. By "this temple," Jesus meant his physical body.
c. Therefore, Jesus meant, "if you destroy my physical body, I will raise my physical body in three days."

4. Flesh and bones argument:
a. A spirit does not have flesh and bones.
b. Jesus' body has flesh and bones.
c. Therefore, Jesus' body was not a spirit.

5. Definition argument:
a. If the apostles had not meant that Jesus was raised physically from the dead, they would not have called it a resurrection.
b. The apostles did call it a resurrection.
c. Therefore, the apostles meant that Jesus was raised physically from the dead.

6. 1 Corinthians 15 argument, several points:
a. The body that rises is the same body that died.
b. The distinction between the body that died and the resurrection body is not a distinction in substance, but in properties.
c. The resurrection body puts on properties, like immortality; it doesn't lose properties, like physicality.
d. There is continuity between the seed that is planted and the plant that grows from it, and Paul uses the seed/plant analogy to talk about the resurrection body.

Silly me! I was having such fun with this topic that I even came up with an acronym to remember some of these arguments. If we want to argue for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, then we want to use the BEST arguments we have.

Empty tomb

The end.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Resurrection, part 18

The most often cited scripture against bodily resurrection I've heard is 1 Peter 3:18. It says that Jesus was "put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit." When a Jehovah's Witness reads this passage, he reads something a little different. He reads that Jesus was "put to death as flesh, but made alive as a spirit." To them, this seems like a pretty convincing argument against the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

But this passage has nothing to do with the substance of Jesus before or after his resurrection. It has to do with the power by which he is animated. Being "in the spirit" does not mean you become a spirit being. John was "in the spirit" when he received his revelation (Revelation 1:10, 4:2, 17:3, 21:10). We are to pray "in the spirit" (Ephesians 6:18). That doesn't mean we or John must become spirits.

This same contrast between being "in the spirit" and being "in the flesh" is used in Romans 8:9, so let's compare them.

1 Peter 2:18
put to death in the flesh (en sarki)
made alive in the spirit (en pneumatic)

Romans 8:9
you are not in the flesh (en sarki)
but in the spirit (en pneumatic)

The Greek is identical in both passages. En sarki means "in the flesh" and en pneumatic means "in the spirit." But in Romans 8:9, it's clear that being "in the spirit" doesn't mean we are spirit creatures, and being "in the flesh" doesn't mean we're made of flesh. Rather, it has to do with our orientation. Read Romans 8:1-11 to get the full sense of this passage. It parallels closely to 1 Peter 2:18.

to be continued... Part 19

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Resurrection, part 17

The fourth and final argument for the bodily resurrection of Jesus comes from the empty tomb. We just have to ask ourselves, Why was the tomb empty? Jehovah's Witnesses say it was empty because Jehovah disposed of the body. The Bible gives an entirely different answer.

In all three synoptic gospels, the angels at the tomb explain that the reason the tomb is empty is because Jesus is risen.

He is not here, for he is risen (Matthew 28:6).

He has risen; he is not here (Mark 16:6).

He is not here, but he has risen (Luke 24:6).
In John's gospel, it's a little different, but John makes the same point. Everybody checks out the tomb, and they are baffled by the fact that it's empty. John explains, "For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead" (John 20:9). So even in John's gospel, the reason the tomb is empty is because Jesus has risen from the dead.

Finally, in Acts 2:24-32, Peter points to the empty tomb as evidence of Jesus' resurrection. Peter says that after Jesus was put to death, "God raised him up again." To explain, he quotes David who said, "Because you will not abandon my soul to hades, nor allow your holy one to undergo decay." Then Peter said, "I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day." Peter's point was that David wasn't talking about himself; he was talking about Jesus. He said that since David was a prophet and that God had promised the messiah, David "looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to hades, nor did his flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again."

Peter is arguing here that the words, "not abandoned to hades," and "flesh did not suffer decay," indicate resurrection. If so, then resurrection must be what prevents flesh from undergoing decay. The resurrection must be bodily if that is the case.

What was the point of Peter saying so confidently that David's tomb was with them to that day? The point was to show that David was still dead. And since David was still dead, the passage Peter quoted did not apply to David. Peter's argument only works if an occupied tomb indicates a dead person. A person cannot rise from the dead if their body is still in the grave. If Jesus' tomb were also occupied, then by Peter's reasoning, Jesus must be dead, too, and the passage can't be about Jesus anymore than it can be about David. So Peter is assuming everybody knows that Jesus' tomb was empty, and the explanation is that Jesus has risen from the dead.

You should see now how very different the Biblical view is from the Jeohvah's Witness view. In their view, the resurrection has nothing to do with the body in the tomb. The empty tomb has nothing whatsoever to do with the resurrection. They are two separate events. Jesus was raised a spirit creature, and Jehovah disposed of the body in the tomb. There's no cause and effect relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and the empty tomb on the Jehovah's Witness view. But on the Biblical view they have everything to do with each other. The tomb is empty because Jesus was raised from the dead. Jesus' resurrection caused the tomb to become empty. That means his body literally came back to life and vacated the tomb, leaving it empty.

Tomorrow, I'm going to address one more passage Jehovah's Witnesses use to deny the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Part 18

Monday, December 19, 2005

Resurrection, part 16

The third argument comes from John 20:24-27. In this passage, Jesus appeared to everybody but Thomas. Then when they told Thomas about it, Thomas didn't believe them. He said that "Unless I shall see in his hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." It's interesting to note the kind of proof that Thomas required. Thomas was requiring physical proof, which shows that he assumed resurrection was physical. Moreover, he wanted proof that the raised body was the same body that died. That was the purpose of verifying the nail holes. The nail holes would show that it was really the crucified Jesus who had risen. So Thomas understood the resurrection to be physical and to be a resurrection of the same body that died.

Eight days later, Jesus obliged. He used his scars to prove that he had risen from the dead. Now think about this. How is it that the scars prove that it was Jesus? Well, we know that Jesus died by crucifiction, right? That means the body that died must've had scars. Now Jesus is showing a risen body that has the exact same scars. For this argument to work, Thomas would have to apply the indiscernibility of identicals. If for whatever property the dead body has, the living body also has, and vice versa, then the body that lives is the same body that died. Since the living body has all the same scars as the body that died, then it's the same body. That proves Jesus has risen from the dead.

But if the Jehovah's Witnesses are right, this argument doesn't work at all. In their view, the body Jesus was showing them was not the body that died. It was a different body altogether that Jesus just manufactered for the sake of display. The dead body was disposed of somehow by Jehovah to prevent the disciples from being confused. Well, if the body Jesus was showing them was not the same body that died, then what do the scars prove? They don't prove anything! They're just copies of the scars on the original body.

Think about this for a minute. Suppose I wanted to prove to you that I actually had a famous painting that was supposedly destroyed in a fire fifty years ago. To prove it to you, I painted an exact replica of it. I showed you the replica and said, "See? This proves that I have the original painting." Would you not object, saying that it proves no such thing?

If the scars Jesus showed Thomas were not the scars he received at the crucifiction, then they don't prove anything. The fact that Jesus presented his scars as proof of his resurrection shows that the body he raised was the same body that died.

To be continued... Part 17

Friday, December 16, 2005

Resurrection, part 15

The second argument comes from Luke 24:36-43. In this passage, Jesus makes a surprise appearance after his death. When his disciples saw him, they "thought that they were seeing a spirit." In the Jehovah's Witness view, they would've been entirely correct. Jesus was a spirit. But in Luke, Jesus corrected them. He said, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; touch me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." It's interesting that Jesus would use the phrase "flesh and bones." Remember that "flesh and blood" is an idiom for mortality. Jesus avoided that idom and said, "flesh and bones" instead. Such was the Jewish view of bodily resurrection that many of them were careful to preserve the bones of their dead in ossuaries, because they thought the bones were the objects of the resurrection. By saying, "flesh and bones," Jesus was emphasizing his physicality. While the disciples were still staring at him flabergasted, Jesus asked for food and then began eating in front of them, giving more proof of his physicality.

Jehovah's Witnesses are not without a response to this argument. In their view, Jesus was raised as a spirit creature. However, each time he made an appearance to his disciples, he manufactered a physical body for the sake of display. That body was then done away with once the appearance was over. If the Jehovah's Witnesses are right, then you have to admit that Jesus was being very deceptive to his disciples. Why use a physical body to prove resurrection if the resurrection really had nothing to do with a physical body? Why correct the disciples who thought Jesus was a spirit if Jesus really was a spirit?

And here's another interesting question that I've never asked a Jehovah's Witness before. If Jesus was a spirit, and if he manufactered a body for the sake of display, then was Jesus both body and spirit at that time, or did he cease to be a spirit in order to become a physical body during those appearances? It would be interesting to know if Jehovah's Witnesses would ever admit to any form of substance dualism.

to be continued... Part 16

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Resurrection, part 14

And now I'm going to talk about the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Remember what I said before, that Jesus' resurrection sets the precedent for our resurrections (Philippians 3:20-21). I'm going to give a few argues that I think show pretty clearly that Jesus' dead body actually came back to life.

The first argument comes from John 2:19-22. In this passage, Jesus drove the merchants and money changers out of the temple, and the Jews wanted him to give a sign. He said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." Since they were standing right there in the temple, the natural assumption was that Jesus was referring to the temple they were standing in. They said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?" It turns out, though, that when Jesus said, "this temple," he wasn't referring to the temple in Jerusalem. He was referring to his body. John says, "But he was speaking of the temple of his body." John goes on to say, "When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he said this."

Jesus didn't say he would be raised a spirit. He didn't even say that he would raise some other body. He said he would raise, "this temple," indicating his present body. It is that very body that he raised.

to be continued... Part 15

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Resurrection, part 13

If the body that rises is the same body that died, that raises an interesting philosophical question. Suppose a cannibal eats somebody and then dies shortly afterwards. How can both of them be resurrected entirely with the same body they died in?

The problem is that when you eat something, the molecules from it become part of you. Everything decays when it dies, so if God is going to raise the same body, he has to gather all the parts. But what if two people shared the same parts? Who will get the parts at the resurrection?

I don’t think this problem is as formidable as it might seem. Even when we are alive, our body is in a constant state of change. Cells die and new cells are born. Molecules are constantly being changed out. Within every seven years, we’ve practically got a new body. The body you have as an adult obviously can’t be completely identical to the body you had when you were born.

On the other hand, there is some kind of continuity between the body you are born with and the body you have as an adult. They are related somehow. One comes from the other. To use Paul’s metaphor, one is the seed from which the plant emerges.

So I don’t think it’s necessary for the body that rises to be identical in all its parts to the body that dies. I think the relationship between the dead body and the risen body could be similar to the relationship between our infant body and our adult body. I think God will use material from our original dead body, but he may use other material as well. As long as the risen body somehow comes from the dead body, then there’s continuity between the two just as there’s continuity between my body now and my body seven years ago.

If it so happens that our resurrected bodies are completely new bodies distinct from our dead bodies, I don’t think that causes a problem for us. Our self, whether we call it a soul, a spirit, a mind, or an ego, survives the death of the body. If that same self reanimates a different body at the resurrection, then it is still we ourselves who are being raised. The soul provides continuity of personal identity between death and resurrection.

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a real problem, though. In their view, the resurrection body is completely distinct from the dead body. A dead body will stay in its grave even after a person is raised from the dead. But JW’s don’t believe we have a soul that survives the death of the body. There’s no continuity at all between the person who dies and the person who rises. In their view a person is nothing more than a living material object. That material object dies, never to rise again, while some new object comes into being. I don’t see how it’s possible on their view for the person who "rises" to be the same person who died. At best, they’d just be a perfect replica.

to be continued... Part 14

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Resurrection, part 12

That brings me to the next part, which I think is interesting. It turns out that the resurrection isn’t just something that affects the dead. It also affects the living. Paul said, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (v. 51-52). So both the living and the dead will undergo a transformation from perishable to imperishable; mortal to immortal. The fact that Paul is speaking of transformation strengthens the case that there is continuity between body that dies and the body that rises. Those of us who are alive at Jesus’ coming will be changed. We don’t shed this body and get a different body altogether. Rather, the same body is transformed. The same must be true of the dead.

The continuity is also made clear in what follows. Paul says:

For this perishable must put on imperishable,
And this mortal must put on immortality (v. 53).
Read that carefully. He doesn’t say this perishable must be done away with so that we can gain imperishable in its place. Rather, he says this perishable must put on imperishable. This mortal must put on immortality. It is this same body that we already have which gains immortality. The fact that immortality is something we put on implies that we are gaining the property of immortality; not that we are losing the property of physicality. Paul doesn’t say we take off physicality in order to put on immortality. We don’t take off anything at all. We only put on.

For more on bodily resurrection and 1 Corinthians 15, see Bill Craig’s article, The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus.

Next, I want to talk about an interesting philosophical problem raised by bodily resurrection.

Part 13

Monday, December 12, 2005

Resurrection, part 11

The next part that Jehovah’s Witnesses and others have taken to imply a non-physical resurrection is v. 50. Paul says that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” Jehovah’s Witnesses take “flesh and blood” to refer to physical bodies. This, then, becomes another proof text on which they base their distinction between the heavenly class and the earthly class. They know that some Christians inherit the kingdom of God. It follows that some Christians are resurrected without physical bodies. That’s the only way they can inherit the kingdom of God.

But notice the parallelism Paul is using. “Flesh and blood” is in parallel with “perishable,” and “kingdom of God” is in parallel with “imperishable.” That’s what they imply. “Flesh and blood” does not literally mean “physical body.” It’s in idiomatic expression meaning perishable, mortal, frail, etc. The fact that it’s an idiom can be seen by how it’s used in other places. For example, when Peter confessed that Jesus was Christ, Jesus said, “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). Jesus didn’t mean to say a physical body didn’t reveal it to him. He meant that a mortal human being didn’t reveal it to him. When Paul was talking about his conversion and subsequent preaching, he said that he “did not immediately consult with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Again, “flesh and blood” just refers to mortal human beings, not simply physical bodies. Paul also said that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood…” (Ephesians 6:12). It seems clear to me that Paul uses “flesh and blood” as an idiom. When he says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, he just means that the perishable cannot inherit the imperishable.

to be continued... Part 12

Friday, December 09, 2005

Resurrection, part 10

If there was any part of 1 Corinthians 15 that would cause me to change my mind, it’s the next part. In v. 45 it says, “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” There you have it. Jesus became a spirit. That seems to settle it, doesn’t it? The problem is that it goes against everything else in the Bible. That makes me wonder if maybe there’s some other way to understand it. I think there is.

Let’s take this position to its logical conclusion. If the contrast is between material and immaterial, and if “spirit” refers to immaterial, then “soul” must refer to material. But that isn’t what “soul” refers to. Nowhere in the Bible does “soul” mean “material.” Soul either refers simply to any living person, or it refers to the immaterial aspect of our nature. When it refers to the immaterial aspect of our nature, then soul and spirit mean the same thing. But even God, who is spirit, is said to have a soul (see Leviticus 26:11).

I think Paul’s emphasis is more on the fact that Adam is “living” and Jesus is “life-giving.” It is because Jesus is a life-giving spirit that we will bear his image. He is the one who gives us life at the resurrection. The term, “spirit” need not refer to Jesus’ immateriality either. John uses the term “spirit” to refer to physical human beings (see 1 John 4:1-3), so “spirit” doesn’t strictly imply immateriality. But even if “spirit” does refer to Jesus’ immaterial nature, it doesn’t cause a problem. Jesus was spirit even before his death and resurrection, because he’s God. He has a dual nature. In fact, all humans have a dual nature. We are all spirits. Calling us spirits, then, does not mean we have no material nature. It certainly didn’t in John 4:1-3 when John referred to human beings as spirits.

to be continued... Part 11

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Resurrection, part 9

Paul goes on to say that just as stars differ in glory, “So also is the resurrection of the dead.” He elaborates by explaining exactly in what ways they differ:

It is sown perishable, it is raised imperishable;
It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory;
It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body (vv. 42-44).
Notice that in each case, “it” refers to the same thing. It is sown perishable, and the same it is raised imperishable. That means the body that rises is the same body that died, albeit transformed. That raises an interesting philosophical question, but I’ll get to that in another blog.

Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others see the contrast between “natural body” and “spiritual body” as a contrast between a physical body and a non-physical body. Often, Jehovah’s Witnesses will use the phrase “spirit body” to describe Jesus’ resurrection body. But “spirit body” is a contradiction in terms, and it’s nowhere found in the Bible. Instead, Paul uses the phrases “soma psychikon” and “soma pneumatikon.” Psyche is the Greek word for soul, and pneuma is the Greek word for spirit. Soma is body. So literally, Paul is saying “soulish body” and “spiritual body.” But to really find out what Paul means by these phrases, we have to look at other places he uses them.

Conveniently enough, Paul uses almost identical phrases elsewhere in the same letter. In 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, Paul makes a contrast between the “natural man” and the “spiritual man.” The phrases he uses are “anthropos psychikon” and “anthropos pneumatikos.” Clearly, Paul isn’t talking about one man made of flesh and another man made of spirit. He isn’t making a contrast between a physical man and a non-physical man. That’s not how Paul uses the terms psychikon and pneumatikon. They don’t refer to what things are made of at all. Rather, they seem to indicate what animates them, or how they are oriented, or something like that. A natural man is a man who cannot accept the things of God, whereas a spiritual man is a man who can. Likewise, a natural body is a body subject to corruption and decay, whereas a spiritual body is a body freed from such corruption and decay. The contrast has nothing to do with what they are made out of.

to be continued... Part 10

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Resurrection, part 8

Today, I’m going to tackle another controversial passage: 1 Corinthians 15:35-58. It’s controversial because some people think Paul is arguing for a non-physical resurrection, and some people think he’s arguing for a physical resurrection. I’ll bet you can’t guess which side I take!

Before I jump into this, I want to acknowledge that I can sympathize with those who take Paul to mean a non-physical resurrection. From reading this passage alone, I can see how a person could easily arrive at that conclusion. There are basically two reasons I disagree with it. First, because the rest of the New Testament, including other letters of Paul, seem very clearly to indicate that resurrection is physical. Second, because I think 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 can be understood as physical resurrection.

I’m not going to quote this whole passage, so I recommend reading the whole thing before you continue. That is, of course, if you’re interested in the topic. When I read this passage, two things jump out at me—continuity and transformation. That is, there is continuity between the body that dies and the body that rises; it’s the same body. Also, the body that rises is transformed into something more glorious than when it died. See if you see the same thing.

In the previous section of this same chapter, Paul was taking issue with those who deny resurrection. Having established that there is a resurrection, he says, “But someone will say, ‘How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?’” (v.35). Then he launches into a few analogies to explain basically that the body that rises is quite different than the body that dies. From these analogies, it appears that Paul does not think the resurrected body is completely distinct from the dead body. Rather, he believes it’s the same body, but transformed into something far more glorious.

His first analogy is that of a seed that is sown, representing the body that dies, and then the plant that springs forth, representing the resurrection body. Though I am probably pressing the analogy beyond Paul’s intention, it’s hard to miss the fact that you don’t plant a seed in one spot and expect the plant to spring up somewhere else while the seed is left alone. There is continuity between the seed and the plant. The plant comes from the seed. While that view is consistent with Paul’s analogy, I don’t believe that was the purpose of the analogy. I think the purpose of the analogy is to emphasize the qualitative difference between the body that dies and the body that rises. The body that rises is more glorious, just as a plant is more glorious than the seed it came from.

In the next analogy, Paul explains that not all flesh is the same. Humans have one kind, beasts have another, birds another, and fish another. He’s basically just pointing out that bodies are different. Notice, though, that in all these analogies, the bodies Paul uses are all physical. He’s just pointing out that they differ in kind.

In the final analogy, Paul compares the difference in splendor between celestial bodies like the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars. Again, the emphasis is that different bodies differ in glory. This last analogy is much abused by Mormons. They take this passage completely out of context. In their view, Paul isn’t talking about resurrection bodies at all. He’s talking about different heavenly kingdoms—the celestial kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, and the telestial kingdom. But that’s neither here nor there. Let’s move on.

to be continued... Part 9

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Resurrection, part 7

And now I want to talk about bodily (or physical) resurrection. I’m going to talk about both the general resurrection, and specifically the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection is the model for our resurrection.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory, by the exertion of the power that he has even to subject all things to himself (Philippians 3:20-21).

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when he appears, we shall be like him, because we shall see him just as he is (1 John 3:2).

And just as we have born the image of the earthly [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the heavenly [Jesus] (1 Corinthians 15:49).
If Jesus’ resurrection is physical, then so is ours. If ours is physical, then so is Jesus’.

I have already mentioned Romans 8:11. It says, “But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who indwells you.” The object of the resurrection in this verse is “your mortal bodies.” That means it is the bodies we now have that will somehow be transformed into immortal bodies at the resurrection. This verse shows both the physicality of the resurrection and continuity between the body that dies and the body that rises. It’s the same body albeit transformed.

In talking about the resurrection, Jesus had this to say: “Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; those who did good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment” (John 5:28-29). Just as the Old Testament showed, this passage shows that the object of the resurrection is the bodies lying in their graves. Jesus says they will come forth from tombs. I’m starting to feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but remember that when I did this outline, I was thinking about Jehovah’s Witnesses. They deny that the resurrection has anything at all to do with the body that dies.

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about 1 Corinthians 15:35-58.

Part 8

Monday, December 05, 2005

Resurrection, part 6

For a lot of Christians, the ultimate hope is to die and go to heaven. That’s it. I think that’s a mistake. While I agree that we experience a disembodied existence immediately after death, that state is temporary, and our ultimate hope is a physical resurrection from the dead. I think that’s what the Bible conveys.

In Romans 8 Paul said, “But if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who indwells you” (Roman 8:11). Starting in verse 18, Paul begins to explain that not only ourselves, but the whole cosmos has been subjected to futility “in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption.” Not only does the whole cosmos groan, but “even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” Then Paul said, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” So that’s it. The resurrection—the redemption of our body—is the ultimate hope that we are waiting for. Then, we’ll be freed from the effects of aging, sickness, and death.

The resurrection of Jesus is absolutely essential to Christianity. It is contained in the very definition of the gospel. Paul said, “I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you,” and then he recites it:

that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
That’s the gospel. And Paul hangs everything on the resurrection of Jesus. He says,

Now if Christ is preached, that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we witnessed against God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-18).
The reason Jesus’ resurrection is so essential, is because if he has not risen, then he can’t be the Christ, and if there’s no Christ then there’s no Christianity. I’ll elaborate on that point when I do my series on “Christ/Messiah.”

to be continued... Part 7

Friday, December 02, 2005

Resurrection, part 5

Before, I mentioned that the common belief in resurrection among Jews included the belief that the resurrection was general and eschatological. That is, it was one resurrection of all the dead that would happen on the last day. Now I want to look at two passages in the New Testament that reflect this understanding.

The first reference comes from John 11. In this passage, Lazarus died and Jesus went to raise him back up. When Jesus got there, Lazarus had already been dead for four days. His sister, Martha, went out to meet Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.” Now listen carefully to Martha’s response, because it shows her expectation of Lazarus rising again. She said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (John 11:23-24). Her reference to “the resurrection,” shows that she expected a general resurrection in which everybody would be raised together. She expected Lazarus to take part in it. And she expected this general resurrection to happen “on the last day.”

Since the resurrection was supposed to be general and eschatological, Jesus’ resurrection must have been completely unexpected. This is one reason I think Jesus’ resurrection actually happened. On the face of it, it was contrary to everything Jews understood about the resurrection. They never expected any individual to be resurrected apart from the general resurrection of all the dead, and they never expected anybody to be resurrected prior to the last day. Jesus seemed to violate both categories. If they were to make up the story that Jesus was raised from the dead, they would have to have given up both their belief that resurrection was general and that it was eschatological. But instead, we see them holding on to their previously held beliefs and struggling to reconcile Jesus’ resurrection with them. The real event forced them to change their categories. A good example of this is Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 15:20-26:

But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at his coming, then comes the end, when he delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death.
Paul did not completely give up his belief in a general resurrection. Instead, he managed to figure out how Jesus’ resurrection fit into it all. He divided the general resurrection into two stages. Jesus is the first fruits of the general resurrection. In other words, we’re still talking about a general resurrection of all the dead, but Jesus was the first one up. His resurrection marked the beginning of the general resurrection. The rest of the general resurrection, though delayed in time, would culminate in the final abolition of death. In the meantime, Jesus reigns. The Christ has been enthroned, and the resurrection has begun. So Paul also continues to carry the Jewish belief that the resurrection would be ushered in by the Messiah as 1 Enoch indicates or that it would at least be accompanied by the Messiah which Ezekiel indicates.

Since Christ has been enthroned and the resurrection has begun, we are already in the last days. That’s why we get the sense throughout the New Testament that they thought they were already in the last days. Peter defended the Christian’s behavior on Pentecost by quoting Joel who said, “And it shall be in the last days, God says, ‘That I will pour forth of my spirit upon all mankind; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” (Acts 2:17). In Hebrews, the author said that while God had spoken through prophets in many ways in times past, yet, “in these last days he has spoken to us in his Son” (Hebrews 1:2). Paul said, “The night is almost over, and the day is at hand” (Romans 13:12). Peter said, “The end of all things is at hand” (1 Peter 3:7). John went so far as to say, “Children, it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead indicated that they were in the last days because it marked the beginning of the general eschatological resurrection.

Part 6

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Resurrection, part 4

Today, I'm going to quote some passages from non-canonical Jewish literature. These passages mainly show how the Jewish understanding of resurrection was physical. If any Catholics are reading this, you'll have to excuse me for referring to 2 Maccabees as non-canonical. :-)

The first passage is about the suicide of a feller named Razin during the Maccabean crisis.

Still alive and aflame with anger, he rose, and though his blood gushed forth and his wounds were severe he ran through the crowd; and standing upon a steep rock, with his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails, took them in both hands and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of Life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death (2 Maccabees 14:45-46).
Notice that Razin called upon the "Lord of Life" to give his entrails back to him. This shows Razin's expectation of a physical resurrection. He was dying and expected to come back to life and recieve his entrails back.

Earlier in Maccabees, we find a similar passage:

And when he was at his last breath, he said, "You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the king of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws." After him, the third was the victim of their sport. When it was demanded, he quickly put out his tongue and courageously stretched forth is hand, and said nobly, "I got these from heaven, and because of his laws I disdain them, and from him I hope to get them back again" (2 Maccabees 7:9-11).
Again, we have somebody giving up body parts with the expectation that he would get them back from God. His understanding of resurrection is clearly physical.

This next reference was written in response to the Jewish revolt in the first century, so it brings us closer to the time of Jesus.

For the earth shall then assuredly restore the dead. It shall make no change in their form. But as it has recieved, so shall it restore them. And as I delievered them unto it, so also shall it raise them (2 Baruch 50:2).
The "make no change in their form," is an interesting thing to say in light of 1 Corinthians 15 where Paul argues that the resurrection involves a transformation. But anyway, the emphasis in this passage seems to be continuity between the dead and the raised. I suspect that's what it means by saying there will be no change in their form. The important thing to notice in this passage is that the resurrection refers to the earth giving up the dead. This is contrary to the Jehovah's Witness view that resurrection has nothing to do with the bodies that have returned to the earth.

This next verse is pretty much the same:

And the earth shall give up those who are asleep in it, and the dust those who dwell silently in it, and the chambers shall give up the souls which have been committed to them (4 Ezra [2 Esdras] 7:32).
Clearly, the author thinks resurrection involves bodies exiting their graves.

There's one more passage I want to quote, and it's from 1 Enoch, which was very influential in the first century, even among Christians apparently. In 1 Enoch, God said:

And in those days shall the earth also give back that which has been entrusted to it, and Sheol also shall give back that which it has received and hell shall give back that which it owes. For in those days, the Elect One... For the day has drawn nigh that they should be saved... And the Elect One shall in those days sit on my throne (1 Enoch 51:1).
I left in the reference to the "Elect One" to show the agreement with the canonical references. The Elect One appears to be the same person as David mentioned in Ezekiel, since he sits on God's throne. The Elect One is the messiah.

That's it for Jewish background on the resurrection. The purpose of going into this background is to show that "resurrection" referred to something very specific in Jewish literature, and the literature on the subject is fairly consistent. As I said before, the Jews believed in (1) a general resurrection of all the dead, (2) on the last day, (3) ushered in by the Messiah, (4) for the purpose of eschatological restoration (or judgment in the case of Daniel), (5) that involved their bodies existing their graves. Physicality was part of the definition of resurrection, so the idea of somebody being resurrected while their body remained in their grave would've been nonsense to a Jew during the time of Jesus. It would've had about as much meaning as a married bachelor or a four-sided triangle.

Tomorrow, I want to show how some of these Jewish ideas of resurrection are reflected in the New Testament.

to be continued... Part 5