A new blog of interest is the Triablogue, a group of Christians that post interesting apologetic discussions and often responses to the Debunking Christianity and Out of Christianity blogs. I have entered a discussion with them about the inerrancy of scripture, after first calling one of their bloggers arrogant for what I perceived to be the tone of his previous responses. I regret starting off a discussion with them with a personal comment, but I look forward to what our future conversations might reveal.
Friday, May 19, 2006
We succeeded in taking that picture [from deep space], and, if you look at it, you see a dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives. The aggregate of all our joys and sufferings, thousands of confident religions, ideologies and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilizations, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every hopeful child, every mother and father, every inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every superstar, every supreme leader, every saint and sinner in the history of our species, lived there on a mote of dust, suspended in a sunbeam.
The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.
Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us. It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
-- Carl Sagan, commenting on the above image taken by the Voyager 1 Spacecraft. From nineplanets.org.
In a way it makes someone who thinks that our spiritual understanding of the universe is complete seem that much less devout. His argument is not with God in this book. His argument is with those people who think that we know everything that we need to know about God. Rather than being dismissive or contemptuous of anybody, he takes the science he knew, everthing that he gathered in his life, and offers it as a way of explaining how he came to believe what he believed.
I am very excited about this book - Bones, Rocks and Stars: The Science of When Things Happened. It will be available June 8th, but you can read one advance review here. The book is all about how scientists attach dates to when things happened at various points in ancient history. Odd as it may seem, I have been hoping for just such a book for a while!
Here’s why: too often in the Creation/Evolution debate, young-earth creationists (YECs) tend to strongly believe that ancient dates are made up solely because billions of years are necessary to make evolution feasible. History teaches just the opposite: geologists had described an ancient earth long before Darwin. I hope that a book like this one can be used to separate in YEC minds the reasons that the YEC position is scientifically untenable from the reasons that evolution is reasonable.
Amazon has this to say about the book:
Understanding how we pinpoint the past is crucial to putting the present in perspective and planning for the future. Now, for the first time, journalist and geologist Chris Turney explains to the non-specialist exactly how archaeologists, paleontologists, and geologists "tell the time". Each chapter explores one famous event or object from the past, walking readers step by step through the detective work used to determine when things happened. From the Ice Age to the pyramids, from human evolution to the Shroud of Turin, Turney reveals how written records, carbon, pollen, constellations, DNA sequencing, and more all play a part in solving the mystery of the true age of objects and events. As we struggle to manage current environmental threats and conservation troubles, we ignore or misunderstand these techniques and their results at our peril.
Monday, May 8, 2006
Aaron Rossetti over at the Out of Christianity blog has written an excellent piece entitled Death & Resurrection. In it, he lets the Bible speak for itself by comparing the four gospels’ accounts of the resurrection and examining their contradictory details. Check out the link, open up Bible Gateway’s side-by-side rendering of the accounts, and give it a shot in answering his questions.
As a layman, Aaron’s questions are the most cogent part of his piece. However, that’s kind of the point. It takes a layman to ask these questions; it takes a theologian to answer them! Should it really require a Th.D. to understand an inerrant book describing a straightforward account of people walking to and from a tomb?
UPDATE: Harmonization attempts:
UPDATE: For a more in-depth look at the same subject, check out Dan Barker's article "Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?" -- it's worth a few minutes' thought. From the article:
What time did the women visit the tomb?
Who were the women?
- Matthew: "as it began to dawn" (28:1)
- Mark "very early in the morning . . . at the rising of the sun" (16:2, KJV); "when the sun had risen" (NRSV); "just after sunrise" (NIV)
- Luke: "very early in the morning" (24:1, KJV) "at early dawn" (NRSV)
- John: "when it was yet dark" (20:1)
What was their purpose?
- Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (28:1)
- Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome (16:1)
- Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women (24:10)
- John: Mary Magdalene (20:1)
Was the tomb open when they arrived?
- Matthew: to see the tomb (28:1)
- Mark: had already seen the tomb (15:47), brought spices (16:1)
- Luke: had already seen the tomb (23:55), brought spices (24:1)
- John: the body had already been spiced before they arrived (19:39,40)
Who was at the tomb when they arrived?
- Matthew: No (28:2)
- Mark: Yes (16:4)
- Luke: Yes (24:2)
- John: Yes (20:1)
Where were these messengers situated?
- Matthew: One angel (28:2-7)
- Mark: One young man (16:5)
- Luke: Two men (24:4)
- John: Two angels (20:12)
What did the messenger(s) say?
- Matthew: Angel sitting on the stone (28:2)
- Mark: Young man sitting inside, on the right (16:5)
- Luke: Two men standing inside (24:4)
- John: Two angels sitting on each end of the bed (20:12)
Did the women tell what happened?
- Matthew: "Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead: and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you." (28:5-7)
- Mark: "Be not afrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you." (16:6-7)
- Luke: "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." (24:5-7)
- John: "Woman, why weepest thou?" (20:13)
When Mary returned from the tomb, did she know Jesus had been resurrected?
- Matthew: Yes (28:8)
- Mark: No. "Neither said they any thing to any man." (16:8)
- Luke: Yes. "And they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest." (24:9, 22-24)
- John: Yes (20:18)
When did Mary first see Jesus?
- Matthew: Yes (28:7-8)
- Mark: Yes (16:10,11)
- Luke: Yes (24:6-9,23)
- John: No (20:2)
Could Jesus be touched after the resurrection?
- Matthew: Before she returned to the disciples (28:9)
- Mark: Before she returned to the disciples (16:9,10)
- John: After she returned to the disciples (20:2,14)
After the women, to whom did Jesus first appear?
- Matthew: Yes (28:9)
- John: No (20:17), Yes (20:27)
Where did Jesus first appear to the disciples?
- Matthew: Eleven disciples (28:16)
- Mark: Two disciples in the country, later to eleven (16:12,14)
- Luke: Two disciples in Emmaus, later to eleven (24:13,36)
- John: Ten disciples (Judas and Thomas were absent) (20:19, 24)
- Paul: First to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. (Twelve? Judas was dead). (I Corinthians 15:5)
Did the disciples believe the two men?
- Matthew: On a mountain in Galilee (60-100 miles away) (28:16-17)
- Mark: To two in the country, to eleven "as they sat at meat" (16:12,14)
- Luke: In Emmaus (about seven miles away) at evening, to the rest in a room in Jerusalem later that night. (24:31, 36)
- John: In a room, at evening (20:19)
What happened at that first appearance?
- Mark: No (16:13)
- Luke: Yes (24:34--it is the group speaking here, not the two)