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What if Jesus Defies Expectations Again

June 30, 2014

clip_image001Stephen in his blog, Psalm Trees: Apologia of an Island Catholic, sees it all perhaps because the cloth, like Christ, defies expectations

On the other hand, Christ himself had a habit of defying people’s expectations.  The Jews expected a King who would ride in on a great charger and vanquish their enemies.  Instead, they got an itinerant rabbi who rode a donkey, challenged their understanding of the Law and then suffered an agonizing death upon a cross at Golgotha.  Hardly fit the job description of a Messiah now, did it?  But if we look as closely at the Shroud as we do the person of Jesus in the Gospels, we find confirmation of the miracle of Resurrection.  We find empirical evidence validating Christ’s Gospel claims as to his identity and his purpose in this world.  In other words, from the Shroud emerges a physical representation of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hope of the world and guarantor of eternal life to all that place their faith in Him.  Quite remarkable to find all that in a dirty piece of linen!

But, well: 

Of course, it goes without saying that if the Shroud does turn out to be a clever fraud or some sort of natural formation, it would not impact the truth claims of Christianity at all.  Its authenticity is either evidence overwhelmingly in favor of Resurrection or it is evidence of nothing at all.  The only thing it cannot be is evidence against the Resurrection.

The Naturalists:

It is possible however, that the Shroud could provide a powerful, empirical challenge to the naturalist worldview. If it can be demonstrated scientifically to be the actual burial shroud of a crucified man dating back to the 1st century A.D, whose image on the Shroud bears the marks of wounds received in cohesion with the Gospel accounts and for which no plausible naturalistic explanation can be given to account for either the formation of the image or all the circumstantial physical evidence, then the conclusion that the Shroud is indeed evidence of a Resurrection event, is something that merits serious consideration by those willing to challenge their own philosophical bias against the foundational claim of Christianity.

Reluctant Christians:

I should note that it is not only naturalists and persons of other major religions who reject the Shroud’s authenticity, but some Christians do also.  I suggest that at least some of these Christians are motivated by an understandable reluctance to place too much faith in a physical object that could still turn out to be fraudulent. . . .

The Jesus Seminar and their ilk:

. . . Members of the Jesus Seminar, for instance and other liberal, progressive Christians that reject a bodily Resurrection would be inclined to ignore evidence in favor of the Shroud or actively seek counter hypotheses to account for the scientific evidence.

What we can expect:

. . .  If the evidence for its legitimacy is sound, then its presence would accomplish several tasks.  First, it would establish that the Biblical God exists and that by raising Jesus from the dead He vindicated the exclusive and authoritative claims that Christ made about Himself to be the Son of God, able to forgive sin and offer salvation to the world.  Second, it would thus immediately falsify naturalism and all other worldviews besides the Christian worldview.  Thirdly, however, it would also falsify the claims from those within Christianity that regard the Resurrection as merely a metaphor and not a physical, bodily event that occurred within the space-time continuum.

But what if Jesus and his burial cloth defies expectations again?

  1. June 30, 2014 at 5:43 am

    The analysis presented is quite thoughtful and I find myself concurring in much of it. However, there is one point where I part company and that is it seems to distinguish science from religion. Teilhard de Chardin foretold a convergence of science and religion. Science has often explained what religious thought inexplicable. The Resurrection is in a sense the last barrier that seems to separate science and religion.

    However, science is knocking on the door of the ultimate mystery. – consciousness.

    There will be scientists who will believe they can solve that mystery and viola, no God. On the other hand, I believe that ultimately the more we learn about consciousness and the quantum and beyond the quantum, the cosmic, the closer we will get to the primordial consciousness entity from which our existence sprang, , that is God,

  2. June 30, 2014 at 5:51 am

    Viola? correction I think. There is a French word that expresses enthused satisfaction when a problem is solved or an answer discovered. I am not sure I got it right.

    • daveb of wellington nz
      June 30, 2014 at 6:50 am

      John, it looks like “Voila”, only there’s an acute sign over the ‘a’ which I haven’t yet learnt how to do in wordpress on an English keyboard. etymology “See, there!” Max et al would have no trouble.

      I don’t know that I can share your conclusion. For I strongly suspect that God has decided that he will not compel belief. Why? Because the consequences of man’s denial would then be too terrible to contemplate. He prefers I think to be a forgiving God!

      • June 30, 2014 at 8:48 am

        Dave,

        I have long ago given up deciding what God is up to. Most often when we apply human logic, it falls short.

        I do have a feeling that there is something at work with the Shroud. Its survival given the chaos of the eras it passed through is a “miracle.” If the Moslems didn’t get it there are a whole bunch of reformers (Calvin for example) and revolutionists who would have enjoyed assigning it not to the dust bin of history but to a bonfire.

        The is nothing “miraculous” in Pia’s pictures or in the STURP examinations. Do I detect divine providence in the shroud’s survival until we had the science that would enable us to analyze in depth? You betcha.

        The final act may very well be science finding and/or admitting that the image could only have been created by a process related to an extraordinary transformation of the body. Intellectually, that’s where I am.

  3. anoxie
    June 30, 2014 at 6:56 am

    “voilà” with a grave accent.

  4. June 30, 2014 at 8:38 am

    I think the lever of erudition and education as well as intelligence of the subscribers to this blog is demonstrated by the quickness with which my inquiry was answered and both match..

  5. Louis
    June 30, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    “The only thing it cannot be is evidence against the Resurrection”
    Not everyone will agree with that and the author has not read enough. The relic has been used to “prove” that Jesus survived the crucifixion and the went to India, where he lies buried in a tomb in Kashmir. A pdf book with this rubbish is available on a Shroud website. This is just one attempt, the other one, by a German author, is well known. All I can say is that hardly anyone in India believes the story of the Kashmir tomb, which received more attention with what the Kersten/Gruber duo wrote. I am making a challenge: why not excavate the tomb? The Sufi mystic Yuz Asaf is buried there

    “Naturalistic Explanation”
    It is not that easy to dismiss naturalistic explanations, that is why RD has received awards. However, there is a lot more in the box, and he knows that, the reason why he refused to sign a letter criticising British Prime Minister David Cameron for calling England a Christian country.

    “Resurrection as merely a metaphor”.
    That is what many Christian theologians think, as well as some Shroudies, although they pretend that it is not so.

  6. Louis
    July 4, 2014 at 5:58 pm

    Stephen also made a mistake when he wrote, “Hardly fit the job description of the messiah now, did it?”
    The belief in a messiah began in 200 BC and had different meanings, an anointed one, a king, two messiahs mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and so forth. The development was much more complicated than many people think, it is the topic of a book that should be read by Catholic, Protestant and Jewish scholars and interested readers, written by Father Joseph A. Fitzmyer, SJ, cited in the interview:
    https://www.academia.edu/4700001/What_do_we_know_about_the_Bible_An_interview_with_Joseph_A._Fitzmyer_SJ
    The people were so confused that even Bar Kokhba was proclaimed messiah after Jesus’ time. The concept was even adopted in Islam, where the title was “mahdi”.
    The liberal Protestant scholar Harnack was the one who really understood why Jesus “defies expectations.”

  7. August 22, 2014 at 9:16 am

    I feel that there is something at work with the Shroud. Its survival given the chaos of the eras it passed through is a “miracle.”

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