Thursday, March 29, 2007
Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?
Tonight, Jeannette and I attended a debate between Dr. Robert Price and Rev. Dwight Knight called, "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?" The debate featured two opposing viewpoints, one that Jesus rose form the dead, and the other, that Jesus may have risen from the dead, but it's pretty unlikely. The bigger question is, does it matter? Reverend Knight contradicted himself on this topic during the debate when asked what it would take for you to believe that Jesus didn't rise from the dead. He responded that even if he had a time machine to view for himself whether the tomb was empty or not, it didn't matter, he would believe Jesus rose from the dead anyway, but that isn't what he bases his faith in Jesus on anyway. In his closing remarks, he quotes Acts regarding Jesus' divinity being dependent on the ascension. He would cease to be a Christian if Jesus didn't rise from the dead.
Dr. Robert Price, when asked what would it take for him to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, answered that he's agnostic on the issue. If he could go back in time, and if to him it seemed more probable that Jesus rose from the dead, then he would believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Dr. Price cites examples of other mythological figures and literary heroes who also rose from the dead, or who fit the hero model of classic literature, for example, who had virgin births, died on a hill, went missing, became king, had his followers turn on him, are killed by his followers, become a god. In discussion after the debate, Dr. Price made a good point. If you turn the Bible into history, you run into trouble with contradictions and different accounts. You can make excuses, like a philosophical argument that each person has their own account of what they see. That may be the case that four different people may describe a table four different ways, but they can all agree that there is a table there. The point is that, do the specifics matter? Did Mary and Mary go to the tomb, or was there just one Mary? Were their angels there? Were they inside or outside the tomb? Does it matter? The answer should be no. Christianity is not some evil religion, but like any religion it can be used for evil. The specifics of the Bible shouldn't be important, nor should the reliance of each word being infallible. You shouldn't have to have the Bible be historically accurate, or else all the good parts become invalidated. It's important to critically look at the Bible, think of why certain things are written the way they were, take a look at other writings around that time, understand the history, and then you'll have a better understanding of your own faith. Even if the Bible is all mythology and folklore, that doesn't mean that you can't be a Christian, or your going to hell if you don't believe that a woman's donkey talked to her, or a burning bush spoke. You can still follow rituals and traditions, recite incantations. That doesn't mean you are a fool, but you'll be better off focusing on your faith, and things you can't prove, then by trying to justify your faith through proving historical facts. There were great questions after the debate, like Luke's treatment of women in his gospel, the Sumerian origins of the pre-flood patriarchs, and why would Jesus be so upset about dying if he knew he was going to rise from the dead three days later. A girl in the classroom was upset because Dr. Price trivialized Jesus' suffering before death, that he not only physically suffered, but suffered spiritually. Spiritual suffering isn't mentioned in the Bible. She urged everyone to read the Bible, and find the truth. A number of us in the room said, "We have!" I think there is a feeling that, as atheists, we are ignorant of the Bible. There are a number of other myths about atheists, such as, atheists can not be moral or ethical, you can't know there is no God, because you can't prove he doesn't exist, atheists seek to remove religion from society, and atheists are smug and arrogant. Atheists can be, and often are, very moral people. Morality does not come from religion, but is a means for sustainable society which has developed over time. Atheists don't have to prove the non existence of God, just as atheists or theists don't have to prove the non existence of Zeus. Atheists don't try to push atheism on people, or seek to remove religion from society. However, atheists do try to remove theism from government and schools, so people have the freedom to make your own choice. Some atheists are smug and arrogant, just as there are smug and arrogant people who follow religions. People also believe that atheists have no purpose in life, so their lives are empty. I believe that life is meant to be lived. You shouldn't be good for fear that God will send you to hell otherwise. If you want to help someone, don't just pray for them, but do something. If your friend needs help overcoming an addiction, help them, go with them to treatment. If your kid is sick, don't just pray they'll get better, take them to a doctor. If you are angry with another group of people, don't blow yourself up for God so you can go to heaven with your 70 new virgins.
There were about 200 people at the debate, from both sides. The debate was put on by Christian Believers On Campus, and CASH, Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists. I thought both sides were well debated.