Sunday, October 24, 2021

I can't answer every question or objection

The other day, I saw a comment somebody left on a YouTube channel saying that he went from being a Christian to an atheist because of the failure of Christians to answer all his questions. I suspect a lot of Christians saw that and thought, "We need to do a better job of educating ourselves so we can answer people's questions so this doesn't happen." I think it's great and all that being able to answer everybody's questions is the goal, but realistically, I don't think it's a goal that can ever be met or that we should even expect that it should ever be met.

After all, no matter what worldview you subscribe to, there are going to be questions you can't answer about that worldview. If anybody claims to have all the answers, we ought to be suspicious because it seems more likely that they're making stuff up than that they actually have all the answers.

I don't know specifically what questions this person had that didn't get answered, but I think when it comes to adopting a worldview, there are two things we ought to consider without having to answer every single question or every possible objection somebody might raise to that worldview. One thing is that given all the information we have, which worldview is the best fit? Which worldview has the least problems and explains the most information?

The second thing you should look at is the core essentials of that worldview. There are some aspects to a worldview that are more important than others, and you want to focus on the most important stuff. The fact that adopting a worldview raises all kinds of questions isn't a big problem for that worldview unless those questions raise serious doubt about the essential elements of that worldview.

I think that as an honest defender of any point of view, you ought to be comfortable saying you don't know when you don't know. What I like to do when somebody asks me a difficult question is first let the other person know that I'm not sure, but then to offer whatever thoughts I have on the subject. If you try to offer your speculations before letting the other person know that they are speculations, it's just going to come across as dishonest.

One more point I want to make is that not all questions amount to objections. Whenever you find out something new, it almost always raises new questions. But the mere existence of an unanswered question doesn't amount to an objection. Not knowing how something happens or why it happens is not enough to argue that it doesn't happen. Our lack of knowledge doesn't, by itself, imply that there's nothing to be known. Our ignorance doesn't imply that there's no answer to be found. Questions can amount to objections, but you need a little more than ignorance to make those objections go through.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Two arguments against the empty tomb

Most responses to the empty tomb are designed to undermine arguments for the empty tomb. If sound, they don't show that there was no empty tomb. They just show (if successful) that the arguments for the empty tomb are inadequate.

But there are two arguments that attempt to show, positively, that there was no empty tomb.

The argument from Paul's silence

The earliest source we have about the death and resurrection of Jesus comes from the tradition Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. It reads:

that he 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, and
that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Paul mentions the death and burial of Jesus, but there's nothing about the empty tomb. And since this is our earliest source, it supposedly follows that the empty tomb was a later addition to the story. Paul failed to mention the empty tomb because he knew of no such thing.

This is the weaker of the two arguments. Consider a similar formulae:

I was exhausted from the day's hike
I went to bed
I got up the next morning
I rejoined my friends
Notice that although I got up the next morning, there's no mention of an empty bed. Would anybody conclude from a formulae like this that me getting out of bed did not imply that my bed was left empty? To say that my bed was empty would've been an awkward and unnecessary redundancy. It would sound weird if we included it.

Likewise, saying that Jesus' grave was empty would've been redundant. If Jesus was buried, then raised, of course his grave would be empty. As I argued in my series on Resurrection, a resurrection just is when a dead corpse comes back to life and rises from its grave. If the New Testament authors meant anything different than that, they would not have called it a resurrection.

But one mustn't press the point too far. While Paul's words clearly imply that there was an empty grave, they do not necessarily imply an empty tomb since although Paul said Jesus was buried, he did not say Jesus was buried in a tomb. William Lane Craig goes too far in some of his writings to claim that Paul implies an empty tomb.

But I'm not trying to defend the empty tomb from Paul's tradition. Rather, I'm just answering an argument against the empty tomb from Paul's silence on the matter. Paul's silence on the empty tomb tells us nothing at all about whether Paul knew about an empty tomb. That's my point.

The argument from standard procedure

Crucifixion was used by the Romans to maintain the Pax Romana (aka, the Peace of Rome). It was meant to discourage revolutionary type movements among other things. They did this by making them public spectacles of extreme torture. It was meant to be humiliating and horrific in order to discourage people from rebellions.

In keeping with this practice, most people did not receive honorable burials afterward. Instead, their bodies were either left on the crosses to rot, or else they were disposed of in mass graves or wherever people got rid of their garbage.

The argument from standard practice is that Jesus would not have been buried in a tomb in the first place since he was a crucifixion victim, and that's not how the bodies of crucifixion victims were typically treated.

This argument would carry some weight if we had no actual information about what happened to Jesus' body. In that case, we could surmise that Jesus was probably discarded in the usual way merely because it's the usual way. But you can't undermine specific evidence for an event merely on the basis of what usually happens. Specific evidence always trumps these kinds of probablistic arguments.

The argument might go through if one could establish that as a rule, crucifixion victims cannot be buried in tombs and must be gotten rid of some other way. If it could be estblished that dishonorable disposal was what always happened, then we could say there's a probability that our specific evidence in the case of Jesus is mistaken.

But it turns out we have evidence, not just in Jesus' case, but in the case of other crucifixion victims that some people did get decent burials. This was especially the case in Judea where the Jews were typically allowed to practice their religion (which required burying people hanged from a tree on the same day - Deuteronomy 21:22-23) even under Roman rule. Josephus, for example, writes that, "the Jews used to take so much care of the burial of men, that they took down those that were condemned and crucified, and buried them before the going down of the sun" (Jewish Wars, Book 4, Chapter 5, Section 2). So, standard practice outside of Judea did not apply to crucified victims in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified.

We also have archaeological evidence of a crucified victim in Judea who was buried in a tomb. The usual course was to bury somebody in a tomb until their bodies were decayed to the bones. Then the bones were taken out and put into ossuaries. A crucifixion victim named Jehohanan was found in one of these ossuaries with a nail through his heal and other evidence that he had been crucified.

There's more on this subject in one of InspiringPhilosophy's YouTube videos.

He won't last long in the Everglades

The more I hear about the search for Brian Laundrie, the more it sounds like "The Everglades" song by The Kingston Trio. There are just some minor differences, and I'm cutting out a few lines.

He was born and raised around Jacksonville
A nice young man, not the kind to kill
But a jealous fight and a flashing blade,
Sent him on a run through the Everglades.

The posse went in and they came back out
They said he'll die, and there ain't no doubt.
It's an eye for an eye, so the debt is paid.
He won't last long in the Everglades

Where a man can hide and never be found
And have no fear of the baying hounds,
But he better keep moving and don't stand still
If the skeeters don't get him then the gators will

The years went by, and his girl was wed.
His family gave him up for dead.
But now and then the natives would say,
They seen him running through the everglades.

Well, he never heard the news on the radio.
He ws deep in the 'glades, so he'll never know.
His running and hiding didn't make much sense,
For the jury had ruled it was self-defense.

By the way, has anybody ever noticed that the tune of "The Everglades" is the same tune as that old Louis the Lighteningbug commercial?

When your parents and you go to sail for the day
Make sure the power lines are far away.
When your daddy and you make the house look fine
Don't bring ladders or antennas near power lines.