Monday, March 21, 2011

#1 "The Proof Please?"

     In 2005, Oregon State Physics graduate Bobby Henderson got tired of attempts by Intelligent Design advocates to get Creation taught in schools.  So he started his own very popular religion - the religion of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM for short).  FSM, also known as pastafarianism, became a quick hit on the internet and FSM disciples across America began to gather to parody the Christian faith.  It's kind of funny.  They have slogans like "He boiled for your sins" or "WWTFSMD?"  or this interpretation of Michelangelo's "Creation of Man:" 

     Of course the premise for this comes from  the thought that Christianity is just like any other human-concocted idea . . . you have your Jesus from 2000 years ago and I have my FSM and both have the same amount of evidence.  Where's the proof?
     Now of course when we talk about 'proof' - we need to really put our finger on what it is we mean.  No credible historian would doubt the actual existence of a Jesus from Nazareth.  What is in doubt is whether what He said and did is faithfully preserved for us in a collection of highly biased sacred works we call the Gospels.  So what is it that we are 'proving?'
     Maybe it is the claim to have risen from the dead.  
     Isn't it interesting that the Romans or the religious Jews of Jesus' time who had the power to find His body and expose this whole thing as a sham never did?  Throw the body in a wheelbarrow, run it through Jerusalem and the whole thing is over.  Equally interesting that somewhere around the middle of the first century, story lines explode with the idea of people raising from the dead . . . physically.  According to Wright, this idea was nonexistent for centuries leading up to 50AD.  Suddenly it explodes in popular literature - as if a switch was turned on.  That and a hundred other "hmmm . . .  that's interesting" kind of thoughts we could spend time on.
     But it is actually this idea of 'proof' that is more interesting to deconstruct.  
     So what qualifies as evidence?  Is it enough to see it?  What if one person sees Jesus - is that enough?  Probably not.  For one person to see the proof would only produce a very enthusiastic convert.  Can you imagine?  Everyone else would be like, "so what'd He look like? Can I see too?"  Pretty soon you would have people questioning what it is that he really saw.  In time it would be dismissed.
     So maybe you have ten people witness the evidence of God - directly seeing Him.  Would that be enough?  Well, you would have to have at least five scientists.  The real miracle would be 5 scientists agreeing to the test!  But since scientific law doesn't allow for the supernatural, wouldn't the explanation of what they saw just be some naturalistic mumbo-jumbo?  "My cerebral cortex was highly excited by the positive emission of radiation from an external source" or something like that.  Don't think for a moment that 'proof' is what anyone wants.  It is a sucker's bet.  I mean, the religious Jews just wanted to talk with Jesus and get his story.  

     Yeah right, and half a day later He is hanging on a tree.

     The argument about 'proof' is a continuing illusion that collapses upon itself and I think that is why God is not in the business of obliging us.  I like that God doesn't give us what we want. I am glad that God is above it - that the 'proof' is subjective . . . an inside joke for the downtrodden and those that have no other place to turn.  For the junkie that has no pride to stumble over who has nothing else to lose.   For the kid that has no friends and just wants someone to talk to.  For the single mom that learned that she is getting laid off and that her ex is getting married in the same day.  These kinds of people aren't waiting for proof to discover that a relationship with God is real . . . they just need help . . . and they are ready to put their faith in something that seems ridiculous because they have nowhere else to turn.
     And once they step inside, they receive the proof that they never looked for and could never establish outside of themselves.  
     That is faith - the unproved proof.


  1. "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." - 1 Cor. 1:22-24

  2. I find it funny that you began the post by saying, " Of course the premise for this comes from the thought that Christianity is just like any other human-concocted idea . . . you have your Jesus from 2000 years ago and I have my FSM and both have the same amount of evidence." But you never actually explain why the two are different.

    Why couldn't the "kid with no friends" and the "single mom" both turn to FSM instead of Yaweh? Or Allah? Or Zues? Thor? Etc.?

    Also, you really overstate your case here. One nit-pick I have is that you write "No credible historian would doubt the actual existence of a Jesus from Nazareth," but this isn't true. There are mythicists, though not many.

    On the more extreme end you pose some "hmm... interesting" questions which have quite reasonable explanations. Why didn't the Romans and the Jews cart the body of Jesus around? Probably because they weren't too concerned with the early Christian cults. Or, perhaps, by the time the resurrection accounts became known to the leaders, it would have been too late to do such a thing.

    Also, physical resurrection stories weren't completely unheard of... though I understand Christian apologists always pull the "well, Jesus' resurrection was completely different" card. But still, I'm not sure how to link the idea that it's a novel and popular story with the conclusion that it actually happened. Extra-terrestrial alien stories exploded in this last century. So did time travel stories... should we think that maybe these sorts of things really happened simply because the stories are popular?

  3. Hey Anon,

    Thanks for interacting here - appreciate you taking the time to respond. I'll try to continue the conversation on my end my addressing your points. You have some good ones.

    The difference between the FSM and Jesus I thought was obvious. The FSM is a tongue-in-cheek concoction to rebut the idea that I have a God that is invisible while Jesus from Nazareth is a historical figure that has been referred to outside the Gospels.

    Anyone could turn to Zeus or Thor or Wotan - whatever you like. In fact, many do. However, the gods like Zeus were atemporal and posited as a deity outside the realm of human concern. Hesiod presented the pantheon as a group that had no concern for humans. It is Judaism that introduces transcendence among the ancient religions - a God who cares about the concerns of men. Blumenberg was right - the awareness of a God that cares is both a blessing and a curse.

    I still think that no good historian would say Jesus never existed, the evidence is too great.

    On the "hmmm . . . interesting part" - you still have the fascinating observation that no one starts writing about the resurrection in bodily form before the 1st century. Ghosts, apparitions even resuscitation, but no "3 days later" in the flesh. It is very interesting that it pops onto the scene shortly after the occurrence of the Christian phenomenon.

    Actually physical resurrection stories were unheard of - read NT Wright's "Surprised by Hope" and "The Resurrection of the SOn of God." He takes great pains to investigate this and report on it.

    Thanks again for the comments - lets keep talking! Tell me what you think . . .