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Author Topic: Evidentiary value of Resurrection testimonies  (Read 1933 times) Average Rating: 0
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Jonathan Gress
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« on: September 15, 2010, 06:34:38 PM »

Hi all

GiC and I are discussing the evidentiary value of the Resurrection testimonies in the Gospels. This is a continuation of an offshoot of a thread about theoretical physics:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,29803.msg472448.html#msg472448
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2010, 01:39:55 AM »

I guess this will work...generally prefer to to post in the faith issues forum, but oh well...

I'm sorry but I do not believe anyone ever willingly died for communism knowing it to be a false ideology. You would have to provide some irrefutable examples. And I think if the Apostles did lie about the resurrection, that would have been very wicked and they would have probably deserved whatever they got from the Jews. I don't think lying is good for any reason.

Lying as many great uses, you shouldn't dismiss it so readily. Whether this was one of those great uses, that's a matter for discussion.

Quote
You basically concede that the whole story is much easier to explain assuming the Resurrection did in fact occur, because now you have resorted to dismissing the accounts themselves. Of course, if you do that you can argue anything, making your assertions unfalsifiable.

This is merely getting to the issue of probability I was bringing up on the other thread. What's more probable? Someone rising from the dead or a group of people getting together and deciding to lie to advance their cause? I see people lying to advance their cause every time I turn on the news, don't see too many third day resurrections. So yes, from a theoretical perspective it may be 'possible' that Jesus actually did rise from the dead, it seem more likely that like thousands of men before and after them, the apostles made up a myth to help advance their cause.

If you want to claim something extraordinary (like the resurrection) you need extraordinary evidence. The only evidence you've offered for the resurrection comes from Christian sources with a vested interest in the myth. There are no objective documents by those not involved in Christianity that affirm that Jesus resurrected from the dead, the best you can find are a few Roman sources that sneer at the Christians for believing Jesus resurrected. If there wasn't enough evidence to convince them 50 years after the supposed event, there sure the heck isn't enough evidence for a rational person to believe in the resurrection in this day and age.
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« Reply #2 on: September 16, 2010, 01:55:49 AM »

I would recomment N. T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, which was compiled from lectures given at Yale and Harvard; it's very good. http://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Christian-Origins-Question-Vol/dp/0800626796
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« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2010, 01:59:42 AM »

I would recomment N. T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, which was compiled from lectures given at Yale and Harvard; it's very good. http://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Christian-Origins-Question-Vol/dp/0800626796

I've read quite a bit of theology, philosophy, history, original sources, etc. over the years, at one point I was even rather good at theology. Perhaps you can let me know what this book will reveal that the hundreds of others I've read seemed to miss?
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2010, 02:14:16 AM »

You can consult the reviews at the link provided. If you have read other works but missed this one, you've circumvented what is generally considered one of the strongest academic defenses in the last century.
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2010, 02:32:19 AM »

GiC, I don't think we can make much progress in this discussion when you consistently overlook the most important fact about the resurrection witnesses, namely that they were willing to die for their testimony. Sure, many lie to advance their cause, but when they are threatened with death, do you really think it's probable they will continue to maintain the lie in the face of this (since we're speaking of probabilities)? People die for ideologies they believe are true, but who dies for a fact he KNOWS is not true? Name me one other example you know of.

Remember that Christianity began because people accepted the testimony of witnesses of the Resurrection. There was not some prior existing religion of a risen Christ into which this story neatly fits.

Your only real supporting fact is that the Resurrection is indeed highly improbable, which not exactly a groundbreaking insight. And let's not mince words: the Resurrection is impossible according to all of our scientific knowledge. Yet these people claimed that it happened, and were willing to die for this. Your only next recourse will be to say that miracles can't happen by definition, and I suppose that argument is indeed irrefutable (argument from "you're just wrong nyah nyah nyah").

By the way, I'm a rational person and I believe it, so I guess that blows that argument out of the water (the argument from "those who disagree with me are by definition irrational morons").

Here is an interesting attempt to evaluate the probabilities of the various events being true given the Resurrection occurred, versus the probabilities given the Resurrection did not occur. You will appreciate the mathematics:

www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2010, 08:24:47 AM »

I guess this will work...generally prefer to to post in the faith issues forum, but oh well...

I'm sorry but I do not believe anyone ever willingly died for communism knowing it to be a false ideology. You would have to provide some irrefutable examples. And I think if the Apostles did lie about the resurrection, that would have been very wicked and they would have probably deserved whatever they got from the Jews. I don't think lying is good for any reason.

Lying as many great uses, you shouldn't dismiss it so readily. Whether this was one of those great uses, that's a matter for discussion.

Quote
You basically concede that the whole story is much easier to explain assuming the Resurrection did in fact occur, because now you have resorted to dismissing the accounts themselves. Of course, if you do that you can argue anything, making your assertions unfalsifiable.

This is merely getting to the issue of probability I was bringing up on the other thread. What's more probable? Someone rising from the dead or a group of people getting together and deciding to lie to advance their cause? I see people lying to advance their cause every time I turn on the news, don't see too many third day resurrections. So yes, from a theoretical perspective it may be 'possible' that Jesus actually did rise from the dead, it seem more likely that like thousands of men before and after them, the apostles made up a myth to help advance their cause.

If you want to claim something extraordinary (like the resurrection) you need extraordinary evidence. The only evidence you've offered for the resurrection comes from Christian sources with a vested interest in the myth. There are no objective documents by those not involved in Christianity that affirm that Jesus resurrected from the dead, the best you can find are a few Roman sources that sneer at the Christians for believing Jesus resurrected. If there wasn't enough evidence to convince them 50 years after the supposed event, there sure the heck isn't enough evidence for a rational person to believe in the resurrection in this day and age.
You ignore that, since Christianity was a capital offense, there was a vested interest in denying the Resurrection. Given how the Romans viewed authority-and correctly, as what happened after the Edict of Milan showed-Caesar et alia had a vested interest in denying the Resurrection.  And the Jewish establishment, who inadvertently give evidence for the Resurrection in their sources (conflated with Christians sources), correctly viewing the implications for the success of Christianity, had a vested interest in denying the Resurrection.
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« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2010, 02:47:51 PM »

I would recomment N. T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God, which was compiled from lectures given at Yale and Harvard; it's very good. http://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Christian-Origins-Question-Vol/dp/0800626796
Pretty good book, but definitely a LONG read. Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2010, 02:49:43 PM »

GiC, I don't think we can make much progress in this discussion when you consistently overlook the most important fact about the resurrection witnesses, namely that they were willing to die for their testimony.

And not just any deaths. In many cases they were horrific deaths. Think of St. Bartholemew who was flayed alive.  Lips Sealed
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« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2010, 05:30:18 PM »

I will contribute with my own witness about it. My conversion was firstly intellectual and only then it was related to faith. I will not bother people with the story itself, but I'll go straight to the thinking behind it.

Some background is necessary though. I was never an atheist. At some points I was agnostic, in adolescence I got involved with spiritism and later with compared religion with that blasé pseudo-intellectual self-satisfied vanity of being able to understand all religions deeper than their own believers, see the truth past their superstitions and have an independent, free-thinking personal relation with Divinity, whatever it could be in itself. I thought it was self-sentient, intelligent, free-willed, but nothing more than that.


When I decided to seriously study Christianity, I had already read many books about Christianity. But that is different from a serious study. I was, even in my best moments, contaminated by the many cultural prejudices against Christianity and the Church our era has. Any conspirationist theory about the resurrection was better and more probable than a dead person actually rising from the dead. In mere speculative terms, it was easier to believe that some sort of big lie was plotted, even if with good intentions, than that a man resurrected. Rationally, it makes sense. The story could have been inveted based on previous mythologies. It was sufficiently similar to then to justify that. Something historical might have happened, but overlayed by myth and superstition. Anything. But not the resurrection.

I then read C.S. Lewis. It was a shock. Not much because of the arguments in themselves, but because I was looking at what was, until then, a mythological inexistant creature to me: an intelligent educated Christian. Then came Thomas of Aquinas, Chesterton and others. But it was Lee Strobel and his "The Case for Christ" who showed me the right angle to look at this issue.

Skeptics usually ask for proofs or at least, outstanding evidence since it is an outstanding claim. Some atheists do convert, so it shows that there are enough good evidence around for the subject, but, of course, there are those who remain unconvinced. It may be the case that they are perversely obsessed with their little confortable world as some claim, but I suppose these are a minority. Some are probably like I was, they have not yet grasped what *kind* of *fact* is under scrutiny in this discussion: it is a historical fact.

When I say it is a historical fact, I am not stating the conclusion before the analysis. What I am saying is that we are discussing if this a historical fact or not, that is, *if* it is a fact that happened some two thousand years ago, it has to be evaluated in the same way any historical fact is. So, this limits what kind of extraordinary evidence has to be provided. Whatever it is, it will share the nature of *any* historical fact that happened in that same period (it is not scientific to expect the same kind of evidence from a fact in the last century and a fact 10 thousand years ago).

I will not summarize the book, since some few lines would just do it a disservice. I recommend it for everybody who needs or wants an intellectual rational approach to the issue: http://www.leestrobel.com/store.php .

But, moving on, once I started analysing the resurrection, and its competing theories, as history, and not artificially demanding more evidence than something that would have happened 2 thousand years ago could give, and with further help from the book "Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way"http://www.amazon.com/Hidden-Gospels-Search-Jesus-Lost/dp/0195156315/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1284671194&sr=1-2 by Philip Jenkins  it became clear to me that it was a reasonable and even probable explanation for all the facts surrounding it.

You see, to me, the main evidence for the truth of Christianity, when you are searching from the outside, is in *history*. Not on philosophy, or logic, or common sense. There is no set of logical sylogisms that can proove that on May 3rd, 1981 I had eggs for lunch. There might be only the kind of "proof" archeology or history provides. Some centuries from now, even my own existence will be doubtful if even remembered by someone. Nobody will be able to give ultimate proof that I existed. Historically, one could make a "strong case" and that is as far as one can go. Now, of course, there are degrees of certainty in this. One can reasonably be more sure that Julius Ceasar existed than that any of his generals and for various reasons: there are more documents about him, more references, etc, etc. The whole set of evidences that are used by historical science. One of the things "The Case for Christ" does is to show convincingly that the number and quality of references about Christ are larger and better than, for example, Alexander, the Great.

When you come to this point, then, and only then, you deal with the issue of faith, that is, of trust. If I can have more or less the same intellectual degree of certainty for the resurrection that I can have for other known historical facts, will I trust this and treat it as if it is true or not? *This* is the step of faith, after the "preparation" of intellectual effort.  There is an advantage about this possibly historical fact that no other has: *if* it is true, and *if* I trust it, according to the theory, my life will change in the very present I live. It may be a radical change as a miraculous healing or more subtle like a change of direction in the meaning of my life. Plus, this change will not come about randomly, but it is supposed to happen in a way that will show that there is a *person* guiding events toward a certain direction. There will be a "plot" so to say, and this "plot" will converge with the intentions, wishes and character of that Jesus. But if it is true the change will happen, and this a test that can be done.

I did the test, and many others have. In fact, all those who did it, consistently verified that the changes have happened. Now, it is not the same kind of knowledge we have that 1 + 1 =2. It is the same knowledge that a person exists. It relies on a series of subjective perceptions some of which you'll be the only one to know. It is a knowledge that is not easily socialized. Scientific knowledge is easily socialized. You can say it almost imposes iself. The airplane will fly whether you believe in aerodynamics or not. But, like any human relationship, you just enjoy the friendship of a person, if you feel and act like a friend towards this person. A friendship is no less true than a mathematical equation. But it is not an impositive truth.

Our relationship with God is more like a friendship than like a mathematical truth. It is love between two people. And here resides its excellency and its difficulty.
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« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2011, 12:44:36 AM »

Thoughts, GIC?  Smiley
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2011, 12:47:15 AM »

Thoughts, GIC?  Smiley
Please don't invite him to comment on Faith Issues. I'm actually trying to encourage our resident atheists to converse with us somewhere else.

Thank you.
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« Reply #12 on: January 12, 2011, 12:52:10 AM »

Thoughts, GIC?  Smiley
Please don't invite him to comment on Faith Issues. I'm actually trying to encourage our resident atheists to converse with us somewhere else.

Thank you.


Oh, sorry, I was just reading the thread for the first time (I saw someone else viewing it in the "Who's Online" section), and was disappointed to see that GIC hadn't responded to some of the thoughts expressed after his last post. So... ignore the last couple posts of mine, GIC  Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: January 12, 2011, 11:30:21 AM »

Is this thread somewhere else then?  I'm having a hard time seeing what "cause" the Apostles crafted this story for and would like to see what GiC had in mind.
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« Reply #14 on: January 12, 2011, 02:41:43 PM »

If there wasn't enough evidence to convince them 50 years after the supposed event, there sure the heck isn't enough evidence for a rational person to believe in the resurrection in this day and age.

Kierkegaard does a good job of exposing this type of reasoning (namely, thinking that the sensibleness of faith is conditioned by one's location in history/time) as nonsense in Philosophical Fragments, particularly the "Interlude".
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« Reply #15 on: January 12, 2011, 02:47:58 PM »

GiC, I don't think we can make much progress in this discussion when you consistently overlook the most important fact about the resurrection witnesses, namely that they were willing to die for their testimony.

And not just any deaths. In many cases they were horrific deaths. Think of St. Bartholemew who was flayed alive.  Lips Sealed

And they didn't even face death in a resigned, nihilistic, or fatalistic way. 'Stoic' doesn't even capture it. These men and women who were fed to lions behaved like lions. They not only did not fear death; they mocked death. They acted like victors while facing what the world sees as the ultimate defeat. Now why did they do that?
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« Reply #16 on: January 12, 2011, 05:10:26 PM »

If GIC can't/shouldn't post here, I hardly think it's fair to poke at him Wink  Perhaps the thread could be moved to the free-for-all though?
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« Reply #17 on: January 12, 2011, 05:41:34 PM »

I was reminded of this wonderful quote, from David Bentley Hart:

"[Christianity] was an event immeasurably more impressive in its cultural creativity and more ennobling in its moral power than any other movement of spirit, will, imagination, aspiration, or accomplishment in the history of the West.  And I am convinced that, given how radically at variance Christianity was with the culture it slowly and relentlessly displaced, its eventual victory was an event of such improbability as to strain the very limits of our understanding of historical causality."
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« Reply #18 on: January 13, 2011, 12:01:08 AM »

Thanks for the move, PetertheAleut
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« Reply #19 on: January 13, 2011, 12:04:26 AM »

Thoughts, GIC?  Smiley
Please don't invite him to comment on Faith Issues. I'm actually trying to encourage our resident atheists to converse with us somewhere else.

Thank you.

This request is now made moot by my decision to move this thread to Religious Topics.
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« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2011, 06:57:42 PM »

I believe that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by deaht and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life.

But evidentiary value? I am not so sure about that. New Testament scholar Robert M. Price has written "The case against the case for Christ", in response to Strobel's "The case for Christ". And Price is quite good in showing the flaws in Strobel's approach...

Here's the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Case-Against-Christ-Testament-Reverend/dp/1578840058
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« Reply #21 on: May 17, 2011, 07:12:06 PM »

^Just ordered it from Amazon  angel
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« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2011, 09:41:02 PM »

I'd be more interested in seeing someone's attempt at refuting N.T. Wright's brilliant The Resurrection of the Son of God rather than Strobel's pop work.
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« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2011, 10:23:30 PM »

I'd be more interested in seeing someone's attempt at refuting N.T. Wright's brilliant The Resurrection of the Son of God rather than Strobel's pop work.

Not everyone is at the same level.  Strobel is a bit "light" for some of us, but for others, may touch where they are at. 
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« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2011, 10:41:12 PM »

Very true. I meant, mainly, that it's not really saying much if an author refutes Strobel as if he's the pinnacle of scholarship. That's the sense I got from reading the Amazon reviews.
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« Reply #25 on: May 18, 2011, 12:36:58 PM »

I'd be more interested in seeing someone's attempt at refuting N.T. Wright's brilliant The Resurrection of the Son of God rather than Strobel's pop work.
From what I have read, NT Writghts book is great, but I have never had time read the whole thing.
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« Reply #26 on: May 23, 2011, 04:49:42 PM »

I believe that Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by deaht and upon those in the tombs, bestowing life.

But evidentiary value? I am not so sure about that. New Testament scholar Robert M. Price has written "The case against the case for Christ", in response to Strobel's "The case for Christ". And Price is quite good in showing the flaws in Strobel's approach...

Here's the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Case-Against-Christ-Testament-Reverend/dp/1578840058

Just received this book in the mail. Didn't notice till now that it was published by the American Atheist Press  Cheesy  And with chapter titles like "Was Jesus in Line at Burger King (of Kings)" I'm a bit uncertain what to expect. Ahh well, it can't be worse than some of the other books I've read recently.
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« Reply #27 on: May 25, 2011, 03:35:58 PM »

^Just finished the book. I have several nitpicks with him, but overall he gave me a ton to think about. I'll reread it in a couple weeks, taking note of which arguments I think are actual difficulties. Interestingly, I was talking with my priest today and I asked him if he was familiar with Lee Strobel, hoping that he was so that I could discuss this book by Price with him, and as soon as I mentioned Strobel's name, Father said that just yesterday he had put him on his reading list. Ha, maybe it's a sign!  angel Ok, see yuns guys in a couple weeks.
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« Reply #28 on: May 25, 2011, 03:58:29 PM »

Very true. I meant, mainly, that it's not really saying much if an author refutes Strobel as if he's the pinnacle of scholarship. That's the sense I got from reading the Amazon reviews.

I'm curious, which Amazon reviews on which book?? Have you read Strobel??

Having done some undergrad work at a secular University in both church history and theology, I'm pretty sure what constitutes scholarship can be argued. Having read Strobel, I am more than willing to admit he is not the pinnacle of scholarship by any means. But he doesn't claim to be. He wrote books aimed at a popular audience and I think does a very good job of it.

Overall, I'd have to emphasise that I'm very leery of approaching such topics in an "academic" frame of mind.
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« Reply #29 on: May 25, 2011, 05:42:20 PM »

I'm sorry John, I should've been more clear: I meant the book reviews for The Case Against Christ (linked above). The 5-star reviews I read seemed to pit the author against Strobel (as, no doubt, the book's title suggests) and their gloating seemed out of place precisely because Strobel is not where one should necessarily go if they're really wanting to grapple with the historicity of the resurrection. He's great for popular level readership, but the comments seemed to think that the resurrection had been debunked simply because this guy could out-wit Strobel.
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« Reply #30 on: May 27, 2011, 11:21:34 AM »

I guess this will work...generally prefer to to post in the faith issues forum, but oh well...

I'm sorry but I do not believe anyone ever willingly died for communism knowing it to be a false ideology. You would have to provide some irrefutable examples. And I think if the Apostles did lie about the resurrection, that would have been very wicked and they would have probably deserved whatever they got from the Jews. I don't think lying is good for any reason.

Lying as many great uses, you shouldn't dismiss it so readily. Whether this was one of those great uses, that's a matter for discussion.

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You basically concede that the whole story is much easier to explain assuming the Resurrection did in fact occur, because now you have resorted to dismissing the accounts themselves. Of course, if you do that you can argue anything, making your assertions unfalsifiable.

This is merely getting to the issue of probability I was bringing up on the other thread. What's more probable? Someone rising from the dead or a group of people getting together and deciding to lie to advance their cause? I see people lying to advance their cause every time I turn on the news, don't see too many third day resurrections. So yes, from a theoretical perspective it may be 'possible' that Jesus actually did rise from the dead, it seem more likely that like thousands of men before and after them, the apostles made up a myth to help advance their cause.

If you want to claim something extraordinary (like the resurrection) you need extraordinary evidence. The only evidence you've offered for the resurrection comes from Christian sources with a vested interest in the myth. There are no objective documents by those not involved in Christianity that affirm that Jesus resurrected from the dead, the best you can find are a few Roman sources that sneer at the Christians for believing Jesus resurrected. If there wasn't enough evidence to convince them 50 years after the supposed event, there sure the heck isn't enough evidence for a rational person to believe in the resurrection in this day and age.
You ignore that, since Christianity was a capital offense, there was a vested interest in denying the Resurrection. Given how the Romans viewed authority-and correctly, as what happened after the Edict of Milan showed-Caesar et alia had a vested interest in denying the Resurrection.  And the Jewish establishment, who inadvertently give evidence for the Resurrection in their sources (conflated with Christians sources), correctly viewing the implications for the success of Christianity, had a vested interest in denying the Resurrection.

Probably one of the best arguments for the Resurrection
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“There is your brother, naked, crying, and you stand there confused over the choice of an attractive floor covering.”

– St. Ambrose of Milan
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