A Sign for Our Time

A Sign for Our Time: Photograph by Dan Porter of a photograph by Barrie Schwortz on a rural billboard along South Carolina Route 315 country road near the town of Bluffton. It has been there for well over two years. Does anyone driving by know what it is about? How many people don’t know that it is Jesus? (The sign below it is an unrelated advertisement that changes every now and then).

Are we in skeptical age? Several people on this blog have said so. I don’t know that that is true. To what other ages can we draw comparisons? And how do we define what we think we are skeptical about? Is it belief in God and how so? Has the definition and understanding of God, miracles, scriptural truth and literalism, doctrine and dogma changed with time? This chart is interesting. You may need to click on it to see it in a larger size.

Pew Research Center, Religious Landscape, Belief in God, 2014 in U.S.

Also, how have specific definitions changed? Today for instance, we know from a survey, just a few years ago, about a third of American Catholics when asked to respond to the statement, “Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead” said they did not strongly agree. The percentage of Mainline Protestants was statistically the same. The survey, Portraits of American Life Study (PALS) was conducted in 2006 by Michael O. Emerson of Rice
University and David H. Sikkink of the University of Notre Dame with funding from their respective schools and the Lilly Endowment Fund.

The others mostly interpreted the resurrection as spiritual. Has this changed with time? How do we know?

A Good Sign: I think the Shroud is wonderful for stimulating thought and discussion and raising new questions among believers and skeptics. This blog, Colin’s blog and Barrie’s website are examples. So, too, are conferences and experiments by skeptics and believers, alike. And so, too, are billboards on country roads.

A Bad Sign: Remember when Mark Antonacci proposed this while collecting signatures on a petition:

[During the Resurrection] particle radiation was emitted from the length and width of Jesus’ dead body while he was wrapped in the Shroud, and it was this “event” which caused the unique images on the cloth. …

… If unfakable and independent evidence was obtained to confirm this hypothesis however, it could actually be used to analyze the central premises of various religions throughout history and in our world today.

Objective and independent evidence does not exist to prove the central premises of any other religion, agnosticism or atheism. In contrast, the Shroud of Turin could provide thousands of unfakable items of scientific and medical evidence to prove the central premises of Christianity. This new, incomparable evidence could lessen or remove the underlying bases for many of the world’s ongoing wars and conflicts. The world has everything to gain and nothing to lose by the proposed molecular and atomic testing of the Shroud of Turin. … (Emphasis in bold font mine)

Dare to challenge the premise of militant fundamentalists of any world religion, including Christianity, with scientific proofs and see how that plays out. Not a good sign!

2 thoughts on “A Sign for Our Time”

  1. Dan, there are no “scientific” proofs. There are only “mathematical” and “first principle” proofs. Science rests on testable hypotheses that can be retested, sometimes with different results leading to new and/or improved hypotheses. The philosophy of science includes the stipulation to work to “disprove” rather than to “prove”. Again, science rests on hypotheses, many of the most sublime of which, particularly in physics, can never be said to be proven but can only be made stronger through a continuing accumulation of empirical evidence. That is why there is so much controversy in modern physics today, because so many new hypotheses are untestable and other hypotheses that evidence gathered so far seem to confirm conflict with other hypotheses that different data seems to confirm. Science is a process whereas “mathematical proofs” and “first principles” stand firm and compel intellectual assent.

  2. Yes, Antonacci is in error saying “prove”. He would better have stated that Shroud evidence “points toward the truth of many fundamental tenets of Christianity”, or are “a sign pointing to the truth of the Resurrection narrative of the Gospels”. At the end of the day belief in the Resurrection must be a choice or an informed rational judgement based on evidence. In this regard the Shroud and its evidence may indeed be a very powerful sign. You decide.

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