Re: Seeing a life-giving spirit with a camcorder

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Tue Oct 18 2005 - 14:52:22 EDT

>>> <> 10/18/05 1:24 PM >>>writes:

Would a camcorder have seen Moses and Elijah when they appeared from the
dead at the Transfiguration?

Would a camcorder have seen what Paul saw?

Would a camcorder have seen Jesus as Stephen claimed to see Jesus?

Would a camcorder have seen Jesus ascend into Heaven? Would the camcorder
have to be pointed up to see that event?

Ted replies:
Nice questions, Steven, here are my answer(s).

Stephen--probably not, the text describes what he "saw" while "being full
of the Holy Ghost," and those stoning him apparently did not see what he saw
since they simply "stopped their ears."

Ascension--the camcorder, pointed up, would record the ascent "toward
heaven" and into a cloud, that's all. (I'm such a literalist, you must all
be thinking, but sometimes I am.)

Saul/Paul (the really interesting one, since Paul provides us the first
resurrection narrative that we have) -- the camcorder does not see Jesus, it
sees only a light; but it records the voice of Jesus since "the men which
journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man."

Transfiguration--probably yes, not sure about this one.

I'm curious to know your own answers, Steven. Now it's my turn to ask
questions. Let me put to you a middle case. What would a camcorder have
seen, if it were present at the wedding at Cana? Or at the feeding of the
thousands? Or at the healing of the lame man or the blind man? Anything at
all? Would the wedding guests have drunk wine that they could not see?
Would the thousands have eaten food they could not see?

I ask these middle cases b/c IMO they get to the heart of the matter: what
assumptions will we as readers of the text(s) impose upon the text(s)? To
what extent, and for what reasons, will our naturalism intercede on the
frank supernaturalism of the authors of those texts? I do not want to
suggest that all such texts must be read in exactly the same way(s), but I
can and do suggest that so much of the Bible makes no sense at all unless we
accept a significant measure of supernaturalism into our own worldview(s)
when we read it. Responding directly to the issue I raised about the bodily
resurrection, I would put it like this.

The resurrection is, to be sure, a "doctrine" that we "construct" from the
pieces we have--although it was also a doctrine constructed from many of the
same pieces by people living a lot closer to the times and places, indeed by
people who in many cases lived through the pieces themselves and came to the
conclusion that Christ had been "raised" bodily, as a foretaste of our own
fully bodily resurrection. This is easy IMO to defend from Paul's own very
non-Platonic interpretation of his own quite mystical experience, as well as
from Thomas' actions and Peter's clear reference to the "resurrection of
Jesus Christ from the dead," using a term and concept that had a clear
meaning to a second Temple Jew, as NT Wright shows so well in The
Resurrection of the Son of God (I recommend this particular book, esp its
lengthy but wonderful concluding section, to all on this list; Wright's
historical sensibilities are exactly where mine are on this issue). Their
meaning was of a bodily resurrection, which we ourselves will experience
when God recreates us in the new heaven and earth. Perhaps the truth is not
quite *exactly* as I have spelled it out here, but if it is not quite
similar to this than I would say with Paul that we are greatly to be pitied.

A comcorder, IMO, would have recorded an empty tomb (and I must emphasize,
the *right* tomb, the one in which Jesus had in fact been laid), with "a
young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment,"
surrounded by frightened women, or perhaps "two men ... in shining
garments", along with graveclothes "laid by themselves". Panning back away
from the sepulchre, it might also capture a man resembling Jesus in the
garden outside; or, if taken elsewhere, the same man in various other
locations for brief moments.

Let us now consider, Steven, an alternative answer to the
resurrection/camcorder question. Let us suppose that all of the
"appearances" were only that--appearances in a purely subjective,
metaphorical sense, collective hallucinations as it were. Did they have a
cause? If so, did that cause involve God in any direct way? For example,
did God implant the image of Jesus in the brains/minds of those who "saw"
him, in each and every case, such that they did indeed truly "see" Jesus in
that they had brainwaves that corresponded to such an image? In that case,
then God must have power to act in the physical world, among and in the
molecules of gray matter; and why then limit God to such power alone, and
not also the power to perform what has already been stated above? Of, if
God had no role in this, except to cause faith, then what does it mean to
cause faith? Does it involve altering mental states, in which case... well,
we went there already. Or, was it the case that God was not involved at
all, except as the imagined object of faith that is generated solely and
only by the human participants? In this case, then, wherein lies our hope
of eternity, which is after all the whole point of the doctrine of the
resurrection in the first place? Do we hope with any basis that our
minds/brains will be able to alter the direction of the universe that runs
down from order to disorder, somehow to reorder all things for ourselves in
the last days? Surely, we cannot mean that.

Well, I hope I've said enough to get us started on this. It's all I have
time for now.

Received on Tue Oct 18 14:55:05 2005

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