The Science of Resurrection

In the collection of essays on which I based my discussions of Bultmann, you will find, as the last essay, a summary of the original eight essays by Austin Farrer, entitled An English Appreciation. In the course of it, he offers this:

The established, or virtually established, positions of science and history give rise to necessary refusals, as when we refuse to believe that the world was created eight thousand years ago or that the sun stood physically still for Joshua… About necessary refusals nothing can be done or ought to be done. They must be accepted.

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Resurrection Denialism


On the evening of that day,  the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side… Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace be with you.”Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.”
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight… As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit… “See my hands and feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
This is what Christians believe. St Paul understood this. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile… If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied. At least, this is what Christians believed for two millennia, and what they still profess. The problem is that so many of them do not.

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The Schoolman Dawkins

What does Dawkins mean by the term evidence? That seems to depend on the circumstances in which it is applied. In a previous post, I wrote about the challenge to the likes of Dawkins, presented by the testimony of and about Padre Pio.  Subsequently, I discussed the use Dawkins made of Hume in dealing with that challenge.

It has occurred to me since, that Dawkins double standards on evidence align him in some senses with the Schoolmen from the declining years of Scholasticism; or at least with the caricature of them that is retailed by the camp-followers of “The Enlightenment.” In this view, the Scholastics were lost in a world of excessive subtle arguments based on an Aristotelian and Thomist philosophy, splitting finer and finer hairs in a debate hopelessly divorced from the real world. Into this massive but brittle word of ideas was introduced a new realism, throwing away the old edicts, and relying only on observation, evidence and reason. Continue reading “The Schoolman Dawkins”

Those who have eyes to see

Reading about Fatima, I noticed a theme that recurred in various descriptions of the miracle of the sun.

O Seculo (a pro-government, anti-clerical, Lisbon paper):

From the road, where the vehicles were parked and where hundreds of people who had not dared to brave the mud were congregated, one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place.

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Dawkins v. Fatima

In my previous post, I quoted from Dawkins’ Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder, as follows.

It is the 70,000 witnesses that impress. Could 70,000 people simultaneously be victims of the same hallucination? Could 70,000 people collude in the same lie? Or if there never were 70,000 witnesses, could the reporter of the event get away with inventing so many?

Let’s apply Hume’s criterion. On the other hand, we are asked to believe in a mass hallucination, a trick of the light, or a mass lie involving 70,000 people. This is admittedly improbable. But it is less improbable than the alternative: that the sun really did move. … If the sun moved in truth… an even greater miracle would have to have been perpetrated: an illusion of non-movement had to be staged for all the millions of witnesses not in Fatima. And… if the sun had really moved at the speed reported, the solar system would have broken up. We have no alternative but to follow Hume… and conclude… that the miracle of Fatima never happened. Moreover, it is not at all clear that the onus is on us to explain how those 70,000 witnesses were misled. [My bold emphasis.]

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From Pio to Bultmann and back

C. Bernard Ruffin, in his book Padre Pio: The True Story, wrote:

Padre Pio was almost an exact contemporary of Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976)… Bultmann wrote in Kerygma and Myth:It is impossible to use electric light … and at the same time to believe in the New Testament world of demons and spirits.” Yet Padre Pio, Bultmann’s contemporary, convinced many a learned man that angels appeared to translate letters he received in foreign languages, that he cast out devils, and that he was, on many occasions, knocked bodily to the floor by irate demons.

It was reading that which sent me to Bultmann in the first place. The contrast between the despairing and barren Christianity of Bultmann, and the richness that was Pio’s Christian spiritual life and his gift in the lives of those who came in contact with him—that contrast could not be greater. One cannot subscribe to both views of Christianity. Continue reading “From Pio to Bultmann and back”

How long is Lent?

How long is Lent? It’s something that has puzzled me, because the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday, inclusive, is six weeks and four days; 46 days. Lent, though, is supposed to be a forty day fast, is it not?

On Ash Wednesday, I heard that the period covered forty fast days and six Sundays, which made sense. The Catholic Encyclopaedia online, in its article on Lent, notes that at the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) Lent consisted of six weeks of six fast days, and only later was this period extended to Ash Wednesday to bring the number of fast days to forty. In earlier times, in Jerusalem, both Saturday and Sunday were exempt from fasting, and Lent was observed over eight weeks.

The same article, in discussing the nature of the fast, gives an insight into two Easter customs: Easter eggs and the pancakes of Shrove, or Pancake, Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. What food is, or was, prohibited in Lent? In particular, were lacticinia, essentially dairy foods and eggs, allowed? As the practices of Lent developed, lacticinia came to be prohibited. However, exceptions could be made when associated with charitable works. Such dispensations were known in Germany as Butterbriefe, and one of the spires of Rouen cathedral was once called the Butter Tower. Hence also, the feast of butter and eggs on Pancake Tuesday, and the celebratory gifts of eggs at the breaking of the fast.

Mary McKillop and Kath

Not having a TV spares me many horrors, and gives me more time to waste in other ways: and it means that occasional small gems pass by me unseen. Not too long ago, television was the most ephemeral of media, with programs broadcast once and relegated to a spool of tape in an internal archive, eventually to be erased, destroyed or discarded. The internet and massive digital storage systems have changed all that.

On Shrove Tuesday, Andrew Bolt mentioned, in amongst all of the Labor Party leadership frenzy, the Australian Story broadcast on the ABC the previous night. Called “Mary and Me,” it is the story of Kath Evans, whose recovery from advanced and metastasised lung cancer was the second miracle required by the Catholic Church for the canonisation of the then Blessed Mary McKillop. Continue reading “Mary McKillop and Kath”

Ash Wednesday

It’s 10:22pm on Ash Wednesday, and Lent hasn’t got off to a flying start. Shrove Tuesday was a black day indeed. Jen was very distressed—the cause is immaterial—and instead of giving the sympathy and support she might expect, I opened the cranky valve and vented, loudly and at length.

One nurses a grievance so that it can grow big and strong, and one day strike out on its own in the wide world. On that day one experiences a momentary surge of delight; the righteous release of pent-up bile in a welter of abandonment. Then the sanity comes flooding back in. Does this sound familiar? Continue reading “Ash Wednesday”