Re: Seeing a life-giving spirit with a camcorder

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Oct 19 2005 - 09:19:30 EDT


Sorry, I don't do blogs, esp not blogs run by someone who is apparently
interested only in baiting people so as to appear to win arguments before a
home crowd. And we are talking about appearances here, aren't we? I have
better things to do with my time, and better places in which to place the
results of the labor involved.

This little post will be my last on this topic, so that I can get on with
some of those other things.

If you want to discuss literary constructs, why leave out scientific
works--such as Galileo's Dialogues, Darwin's Origin of Species, or Newton's
Principia? The General Scholium in the Principia, e.g., was very carefully
constructed by a non-Trinitarian Christian (that part ought to interest you
in and of itself), reflecting his specific theological beliefs in several
ways. Simply b/c its structure and content reflect Newton's own agenda,
does that mean that it makes no truth claims? If you wish to rule out a
priori the possibility that any "miracle" claims are ever true, well then
you wish to rule out a priori that any "miracle" claims are true. If that
is point in question, then an a priori position is not an established
conclusion. Like John Polkinghorne, who understands the history and
philosophy of science better than most other scientists and theologians, I
thnk David Hume is the elephant in the room here. And like Polkinghorne, I
think (as an historian of science) that Hume's unshakeable confidence in his
own ideas about the laws of nature "is one that was certainly falsified by
the history of science subsequent to the eighteenth century, and it could
never be pressed to dispose of an event like the resurrection of Jesus,
which claims to be a particular act of God in a unique circumstance." (The
Faith of a Physicist, p. 108). I imagine we differ on that.

Again on literary constructs, the *whole point* of Wright's "tour de force"
as you rightly describe it, is to show the utter implausibility of believing
that someone invented the stories of Jesus' resurrection. His argument is
precisely and exactly directed at those whom you refer to as "applying
techniques developed by Christians," in order to argue that the whole thing
was a collective hallucination. Wright's conclusion is reached by an
inference to the best explanation--something Hume would have appreciated if
the subject were not religious. THe problem with those "techniques
developed by Christians" is not the techniques, but the a priori assumptions
from Hume and others that accompanied their application. Wright,
Polkinghorne, and many others today are not held back artificially by the
assumption that no amount of evidence, however great, can ever establish
that something apparently miraculous actually happened at a particular place
and time.

But I do not expect you to agree on this, and neither does Wright. I
recommend to all on this list chapter 18 in his book, where he discusses the
grand historical problem of "Easter and History," a chapter in which I agree
with every single word--and I am a professional historian myself. Why do I
not expect you to agree, Steven? Because, as Wright rightly says, there is
no netural historiography on something of such religious significance as
this. Here is how he puts it:

"Many will challenge this conclusion, for many different reasons. I do not
claim that it constitutes a 'proof' of the resurrection in terms of some
neutral standpoint. It is, rather, a historical challenge to other
explanations, other worldviews. Precisely because at this point we are
faced with worldview-level issues, there is no neutral ground, no island in
the middle of the epistemological ocean, as yet uncolonized by any of the
warring continents. We cannot simply arrive at a topic and make grand
declarations, as in Francis Drake's celebrated annexation of California,
and suppose that all the local inhabitants will take them as binding.
Saying that 'Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead' is not
only a self-*involving* statement; it is a self-*committing* statement,
going beyond a reordering of one's private world into various levels of
commitment to work out the implications. We cannot simply leave a flag
stuck on a hill somewhere and sail back home to safety." (717)

On that much, at least, perhaps we agree, Steven?

Let me close my part of this discussion with a stanza from John Updike's
"Seven Stanzas at Easter," which Wright uses as an epigraph for this

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded credulity of
earlier ages;
let us walk through the door.

Received on Wed Oct 19 09:23:50 2005

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Oct 19 2005 - 09:23:51 EDT