Friday, October 16, 2009

lightsaber fight

I don't remember if I showed this to y'all or not. About a year ago, I downloaded a free rotoscoping software called lsmaker that allows you to put lightsabers in your videos. The program doesn't have a lot of flexibility, but it's free, and you can actually add lightsabers more quickly than in ordinary rotoscoping software.

I captured some sounds effects on the internet and used Audacity (which is also free) to edit them for the video. Then I used Windows Movie Maker to put it all together. It took me about 4.5 hours to do 30 seconds of video. After I did this, I had an all new respect for people who did Star Wars.

The is my niece and nephew, Julia and Jake, fighting in my sister's back yard.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Can historians prove that Jesus was raised from the dead?

Mike Licona and Bart Ehrman debated this issue, and it's posted on youtube in four parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Ehrman was careful in his first speech to say that the debate was not over whether the resurrection happened, but over whether we can use historical methods to demonstrate that it happened. His argument was basically that since God is necessary to make a resurrection happen, and God is not accessible by historical methods, then the resurrection cannot be demonstrated by history. He also gave a Humean argument against miracles based on probability.

I think Ehrman is very confused about how probability works. Bill Craig pointed that out to him in a debate once, but I don't think Ehrman understood what Craig was explaining, because he accused Craig of trying to make a mathematical proof of the resurrection. I don't think Licona did a good job of addressing Ehrman's confusion.

Ehrman also made a number of irrelevant points. He pointed to the many discrepancies between the gospels in order to demonstrate that they are unreliable in order to demonstrate that we have poor evidence for the resurrection. But as Licona demonstrated, using quotes from Ehrman himself, none of these discrepancies prevented Ehrman and the vast majority of scholars from concluding that Jesus was crucified and that the disciples had experiences they understood as being appearances of the risen Jesus. Since Licona was arguing from three premises that Ehrman already agreed with, Ehrman's discussion of Bible contradictions was completely irrelevant.

Licona based his whole argument on three facts:
1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. Jesus appeared to the apostles.
3. Jesus appeared to Paul.
He argued that the resurrection hypothesis was a better explanation of these facts than rival hypotheses because it better fulfilled four historical criteria--explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, and the least ad hoc.

Licona defined an ad hoc explanation as an explanation that requires positing entities for which there is no independent evidence. But then later, Licona posited God as a necessary condition for the resurrection without giving any independent evidence for God. I thought this was a severe blunder on Licona's part.

Ehrman claimed that Licona's first point--that Jesus died by crucifixion--was irrelevant to the case for the resurrection since if Jesus had died by stoning, the structure of the argument would've been the same. And since the second and third points are really the same point--that Jesus appeared to people after his death--that Licona really only had one point to argue from. I don't know if I'm confused or if Ehrman is confused. I mean sure, it doesn't matter how Jesus died, but obviously that Jesus died is extremely relevant to the resurrection. A person can't be raised from the dead if they haven't first died. The fact that Jesus die by crucifixion, of course, entails that Jesus died, so Licona does not just have one point. He's got two. I thought Licona should've pointed out the nonsense behind Ehrman's argument, but he just ignored it.

While demonstrating the inadequacy of the hallucination hypothesis (which Erhman preferred to call the visionary hypothesis), Licona said hallucinations don't happen in groups. This is another area where I think Licona smuggled in some information without substantiating it. His whole intention in the debate was to show that you could infer the resurrection from historical facts that are already accepted by almost all new testament scholars. One of them was that Jesus appeared to the disciples. But the fact that the vast majority of scholars agree that Jesus appeared to his disciples does not mean they all agree Jesus appeared to them in groups. Licona just smuggled that one in, and Ehrman didn't seem to catch it.

Ehrman's response was to give counter examples. He pointed to the many episodes of the virgin, Mary, appearing to many people in groups. Licona didn't respond to that, which was disappointing. I wish there had been a cross examination period.

Ehrman claimed that the disciples only saw visions of Jesus, not Jesus himself. He brought up the incident where Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John, and pointed out the fact that even though Moses and Elijah appeared to Peter, James, and John, it didn't cause them to believe they had been raised from the dead. That really surprised me because if Ehrman was claiming that the vision of Jesus after his death was the same kind of thing, then he's left without an explanation for why the appearance of Moses did not cause them to think Moses had risen from the dead but the vision of Jesus did cause them to believe that Jesus had been risen from the dead. It seems to me that we can reasonably infer that the appearance of Jesus was not the same as the appearance of Moses. And if the appearance of Moses was a mere vision, then the appearance of Jesus was not a mere vision.

Ehrman also asked how Paul recognized Jesus since Paul didn't know Jesus during his mortal lifetime. He seemed to think that somehow worked as an argument against Paul's appearance, but he didn't explain how. Licona didn't answer the question, and unfortunately, there was no cross examination period. I suppose Jesus introduced himself to Paul, and that's how Paul knew who it was. Granted, it's possible some supernatural being other than Jesus just felt like appearing to Paul and pretending to be Jesus so Paul would convert to Christianity, but it seems far more likely to me that it was Jesus himself.

I thought it was a good debate. Some points each brought up were not adequately addressed by the other side, but given the time constraints of debates, that's to be expected. I would say the debate was a tie, because I can't decide who won.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Jehovah's Witnesses misrepresent the Trinity

A couple of weeks ago, some Jehovah's Witnesses came by and gave me the September 1, 2009 edition of the Watchtower magazine. On page 28, there's a short one page article called "In What Way are Jesus and his Father One?" I think this article illustrates very clearly why it is that Jehovah's Witness have such a difficult time understanding the Trinity and why they constantly misrepresent it.

At the beginning of the article, it says, "Some quote this text to prove that Jesus and his Father are two parts of a triune God." Then at the end of the article it says, "Thus, when Jesus said, 'I and the Father are one,' he was speaking, not of a mysterious Trinity, but of a wonderful unity--the closest bond possible between two persons." Everything that comes between the beginning and the end, then, was meant to demonstrate that the Trinitarian interpretation of John 10:30 is incorrect.

What is striking for this trinitarian is how the article attempts to prove its point. It says that Jesus' statements in verses 27 to 29 "would have made little sense to his listeners if he and his Father were one and the same person." After paraphrasing the verses, the articles says, "No one would conclude that this son and his father were the same person." Citing Matthew 24:36, the article asks rhetorically, "If Jesus and his Father were really one person, why did Jesus pray to God and humbly admit to not knowing things that only his Father knew?"

So basically this article attacks modalism as if it were the Trinity. The authors of this article are very confused, and they are confusing the many Jehovah's Witnesses who read it. According to modalism, the Father and the Son are the same person. But that is not the Trinity. In the Trinity, the Father and the Son are distinct persons. So a trinitarian would totally agree with this article when it says,
This strong bond of unity, however, does not make God and his Son, Jesus, indistinguishable from each other. They are two individuals. Each one has his own distinct personality. Jesus has his own feelings, thoughts, experiences, and free will. Nevertheless, he chose to submit his will to that of his Father.
The Jehovah's Witnesses who left this article said they would come back this Saturday for a chat. I was thinking about asking them if I could video tape the conversation. Wouldn't that be neat?

Monday, October 05, 2009

N.T. Wright's upcoming book on Paul

N.T. Wright has been working on a series called Christian Origins and the Question of God. The first three books have already been published: The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God, and The Resurrection of the Son of God. The next book in the series is supposed to be about Paul.

I've noticed that before he brings out another book in the series, he always publishes extensively on the subject first. I'm guessing the reason is to sort of submit his idea for peer review so that he can refine his views for his book. Well, he has taken a lot of heat for his views on Paul in recent years--especially over his understanding of justification--from people like John Piper and Daniel Wallace and others. So far, Wright has stuck to his guns, but his book on Paul still seems to be taking a long time. With all the criticism Wright has received, I figure one of two things are going to happen. Either he will change his views or else his book on Paul is bound to be one of his best.

I worry sometimes that he'll get old and die before he finishes. The first book was published in 1992, and he's still got two books to go. I've really enjoyed this series, and it would be a bummer if he died before he finished it.

I haven't even been reading his books on Paul. There's too much to read, and I figure I'll get the final version of his views in his upcoming book, and it will have his best arguments. So there's not much point in me spending a lot of time reading what he's writing now. There is one exception, though. I did read his book called What Saint Paul Really Said, but the only reason I read that one is because I thought it was a response to A.N. Wilson's view that Paul was the founder of Christianity. In reality, Wright's book only had one chapter on that.

Does anybody have any idea of when Wright's big book on Paul will finally come out?