I don't have a strong opinion about Christ's resurrection, but I don't think that the latter is seriously unlikely because sometimes people are resuscitated after being clinically dead in the hospital.
Interesting; my own take is the very opposite. Christ's resurrection I have found myself able to believe; that Christ was resuscitated I regard as something utterly impossible to believe.
A resuscitation view of Christ's resurrection was defended by Heinrich Paulus and Friedrich Schleirmacher at the beginning of the 19th century, that Jesus survived the crucifixion, however, has been generally abandoned by almost all NT scholars since D. F. Strauss, himself no friend of conservative Christianity, offered this criticism:
“It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulchre, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening, and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of life, an impression that would lay at the bottom of their future ministry.” –D. F. Strauss David Strauss, The Life of Jesus (1879), vol 1, p. 412.
The professionalism of the Roman soldiers in carrying out execution also must be considered. The mention by John, an eyewitness of the crucifixion, of blood and water flowing from Jesus' body after he was pierced by the soldiers has often been noted to have a ring of truth about it. Medically the "water" could have been either serum from the pericardium mixed with blood from the heart, or hemorrhagic fluid in the pleural cavity. It is further known to have been standard practice of the Romans to lance persons who were crucified to ensure that they were in fact dead (Quintillian, Declamationes maiores 6.9). The Romans were anything but stupid or careless executioners. In the case of the crucifixion victim spared on behalf of Josephus in the documentary, we should keep in mind that all present attempted to save him. The suggestion in the documentary this event supports the survival of a crucifixion victim where no such attempt was made is ludicrous.
There is also a clear failure to truly consider the extent of Jesus' injuries (e.g. the Roman bone and rock-tipped flagrum which Jesus was whipped with often resulted in death in and of itself; cf. also Jesus' collapse from physical exhaustion while carrying the cross). Jesus was also buried in customary Jewish fashion, being bound and wrapped in linen with almost 75 pounds of spices. The involvement of Jesus' family and followers in the movement which from its inception was marked by a willingness to die for the claim that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead is also really quite inexplicable on the premise that he barely escaped death.
William L. Craig, who did a doctoral dissertation on the resurrection at the University of Munich under Wolfhardt Pannenberg (a liberal German theologian who came to believe and defend the literal resurrection of Christ, albeit he demurs on other points we Orthodox accept) also emphasizes how a resuscitation view is utterly incapable of accounting for the worship of Jesus in earliest Christianity:
"Even if Jesus had survived, His appearing to the disciples half-dead and desperately in need of medical attention would not have evoked their Worship of Him as Lord. The conviction of the earliest disciples was that Jesus rose gloriously and triumphantly from the grave, not as one who had managed to barely escape death…" This point is particularly interesting insofar as historical critical scholarship has overwhelmingly adopted the conclusion that the worship of Jesus began very early in primitive Christianity, with the earliest expressions appearing no later than within the first year or two after the crucifixion. This allows very little time for conceptual evolution and impresses upon us –however we assess it- the mysterious nature of the sudden appearance –more of an explosion- of worship of a man brutally executed as a Messianic pretender as the Lord of life.
For such and similar reasons though I find I can believe Christ is risen I could never believe a resuscitated Christ is at the bottom of Christian origins.
unfortunately I am stuck when it comes to Christ's unique Divinity as the Second Person of the Trinity and His Incarnation to the Virgin Mary. The main reason for my doubt is that because it is so unnatural, it makes it very unlikely to have happened. Birth to a human virgin is practically nonexistent in nature.
Though I personally believe in Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, and the birth of Christ to the Virgin Mary without reservation I do think you have a point: it is surely problematic to believe e.g. that the Virgin birth is *a natural event*. On the other hand neither scripture nor the Church have ever asked us to believe e.g. the Virgin Birth was a natural/normal event.
"'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God'" (Lk 1:34-35)
"'How will this be,' Mary asked the angel, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'No, no, it is a perfectly normal and natural process. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of Natural Processes.'"
You seem to presume that only events which unfold according to natural processes are worthy of belief(?). Again I can certainly join you in regarding a virgin birth of Jesus which occurred via normal unaided natural processes to be problematic to say the least. This hardly seems to be what the scripture or the Church have in view though, wouldn't you agree?
Interestingly Tertullian's credo quia absurdum (Latin: "I believe because it is absurd") seems to have regarded the absurdity of our Creed as a witness to its truth. I do not think we know for sure what Tertullian meant, but I find something on the order of "if one was simply making up a believable story, who on earth would make up a story like this?!" God takes on human flesh and is born in a stable indeed! And is crucified by sinful mortals?! Whatever Tertullian actually meant, it seems to me he is a witness to the truth that whatever our Creed affirms it is not reducible to the order of mere run of the mill every day normal natural events.
while miracles occur, they are by definition rare and extraordinary.
Here I suspect I'm not quite following your outlook; if you allow that miracles *do* occur, as rare and extraordinary, it seems you would also allow at least in theory that the Virgin Birth is not impossible even if it is not a natural normal event if miracles *do* (or even can) occur. Am I misreading you?
The other reason for my doubt is that there are so many other planets that it seems unlikely that He would have chosen ours on which to be incarnate. I admit that the concept of God becoming man is not a mundane one, but it is not such an illogical one that its rationale is a major obstacle for me.
Such a notion might as easily lead one fellow to entertain the possibility of something along the lines of the Chronicles of Narnia as another to deny the incarnation. Clearly, though, if God *did* take upon Himself the garb of any sort of flesh it would by definition occur within the contingent finite particular world (or perhaps on a "Narnian" view, worlds), by necessity at some particular time in some particular place. Such formed part of the scandal of the Gospel for the Greeks in the ancient world.
I know of reasons in favor of Christ's incarnation [/u]in the Virgin Mary and His unique Divinity: I accept that God can do anything, and consequently He could perform the Virgin Birth and produce Christ as His Son before all ages.
Again apologies for misreading you as requiring some sort of naturalism; clearly this is not actually the case for you.
People have had visions of Christ or have felt an intense presence that they associated with Christ. Unfortunately, some people have, as a general matter, been fooled by hallucinations or claim miraculous experiences in other religions.
This is quite true. On the other hand -though some thoughtful secular academics might take a different view of it, it seems to me that hallucination is not an especially credible view of the origin of Christian belief.
Princeton scholar Bruce Metzger pointed out that, whatever we make of the resurrection, the fact that a significant number of people believed with utter sincerity that they had seen and spoken with the risen Jesus after his death is historically undeniable (cf. Metzger, The New Testament: It’s Background, Growth, and Content, 2003). They persisted in this affirmation in the face of great personal danger from the very beginning. The message of the earliest witnesses was not merely that they "believed something" (ala Kierkegaard) but that they had seen Him alive after His death (Acts 4:1-22). Even Jungian archetypical ingression cannot explain mass hallucination.
The Turin Shroud is a mysterious document that I hope could serve to reveal more about the mystery of Christ, especially if it was created in a miraculous way. However I am skeptical about it, because a contested Radiocarbon test dates it to the 14th century and I imagine it could be the image of someone brutalized from that time, like by an Inquisition.
The status of this test is currently precisely reversed on three counts:
(1) In 2005 the same scientist who performed the original C14 dating retracted his 1988 position that the shroud was a medieval forgery in a peer reviewed scientific journal -he discovered the fabric he tested was a patch later sewed onto the garment to repair it. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4210369.stm
(2) Subsequent research has actually dated the actual Shroud material (not the patch) to the first century. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/28/shroud-of-turin-real-jesus_n_2971850.html
See also my article http://katachriston.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/new-3-d-image-of-jesus/
for a comparison of recent 3D computer imaging from the Shroud in comparison with early iconography, coinage, and traditions despite my need to update the article according to the new discoveries connected with (2).
However intriguing I fall short of regarding such things as "proof" -I tend to think more in terms of "pointers" because of the biblical and patristic understanding of God's hidenness -not only sin can and does obscure our perception of God (and therefore communion with God, which is salvation -why repentance, confession, Eucharist, etc. are so important) but scripture even suggests God obscures Himself at times and seasons from those who know Him for good purposes. But (this is my only point) neither are many such pointers that easy to dispose. Popular apologetics, natural theology, natural law, though, are not my personal cup of tea and their failure where they are deemed dogmatic necessities can as easily be a pointer to atheism as to belief (this I think true historically as well as philosophically).
It's also true that the early Christians underwent severe persecution for their beliefs and their community outlasted the persecution and went on to grow, which leans strongly in favor of the religion being correct. Yet I could imagine that Christianity's ideas could have served a strong spiritual need in a way more powerful than death, even without those ideas being factually correct.
All this is true, however, as said previously, the message of the earliest witnesses was not merely that they "believed something" (ala Kierkegaard) but that they had seen something (Acts 4:1-22). The NT witnesses to multiple appearances of Jesus during a period of over forty days to many witnesses who soon would sustain their faith under severe pressure and persecution ; the "population explosion" of new followers of Jesus proceeded faster --by far-- than it did before the crucifixion. It is historically unprecedented that a large number of people in any culture began zealously following an individual immediately upon the occasion of their death. Don't get me wrong: I'm not trying to prove something here, it just seems to me that an approach to Christian origins which reduces the whole thing to creative construction of an idea to serve spiritual needs is inadequate.
Take the example of St. James. Jesus' own brother James, who did not believe in Jesus when he was alive (Jn 7:1-10; cf. also Mk. 6:4; Mt. 13:57, etc.), believed after the crucifixion (due to having seen Him risen according to 1 Cor 15:7, universally recognized as a pre-Pauline tradition received earlier by Paul, datable via Paul’s firsthand testimony in Galatians to within between six months to a few years at most of the crucifixion; it is historically well established that Jesus’ brother James became leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 21:18; cf. Gal 1:9; 2:11-21; Acts 15:13); his martyrdom over 30 years later as well as his leadership of the Christians in Jerusalem is well attested historically (cf. Josephus, Ant. xx, 197-203; Josephus was 25 years old and living in Jerusalem at the time, i.e. it was for him a local news story). I am not aware of any adequate explanation for James' conversion if the testimony recorded in 1 Cor 15:7 is rejected. It would be very difficult for us to presume all this is the result of his concluding convincing others that his brother was risen from the dead was a great way to advance their (and/or St. James' own) spiritual needs. Something else was going on.
It's also true that the Bible indicates that its writers consider Christ to be divine. I believe that Zech. 12 indicates that the Messiah would be divine, and Genesis makes an enticing prediction about the seed of a woman. I don't think that a seed, by itself, is necessarily male or female, since a seed could be fertilized. Yet by emphasizing that it is the seed of a woman, it implies that this is a special seed connected with a woman. Psalm 22 and Isaiah can also be used to argue for a divinely miraculous birth. The New Testament (eg. Luke) is explicit about Christ's birth from a virgin, and Saint Paul also talks about Jesus being born of a woman (Gal. 4:4). Plus, things like Christ's acceptance of worship, along with His Resurrection and numerous healings attest to His divinity. However, I am unfortunately skeptical about whether the events in the Gospels happened the way that they are recorded.
On the face of it I can sympathize with this position though it is not identical to my own. On the other hand the skeletal outline of the kerygma from which the Gospels grew thrived within a community among which members of the family of Jesus were prominent part. A complex discussion there too much for a short post -not entirely clear-cut in terms of development, and filled with controversy, but something to ponder from various sides.
I understand the outline of the theological argument for God's incarnation, death, and resurrection, and communion with His believers as a necessity for the world's salvation and deliverance from death, but I am not sure whether this was the only path necessary to achieve their salvation.
Arguments via e.g. philosophical theology which proceed along the lines of logical necessity are important to some trajectories of Christianity (esp. Roman Catholicism); for my part I deem them worth their approximate weight in a cup of spit, so we might assess the significance of the failure of the same in slightly different light. More important in my view than what can be argued as a necessity, or what can be "proven" by discursive rationality, philology and exegesis, historical criticism et al is what is true. What is truth is not for me an epistemological question for academics as a mystical one which is never perceived by discursive rationality alone but known or not in correlation to things like love.
"All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." -Matt 11:27
"All true Orthodox theology is mystical; just as mysticism divorced from theology becomes subjective and heretical, so theology, when it is not mystical, degenerates into an arid scholasticism, 'academic' in the bad sense of the word. Doctrine cannot be understood unless it is prayed: a theologian, said Evagrius, is one who knows how to pray, and he who prays in spirit and in truth is by the very act a theologian. And doctrine, if it is to be prayed must also be lived; theology without action, as St. Maximus put it, is the theology of demons. The Creed belongs only to those who live it. Faith and love, theology and life, are inseparable. In the Byzantine Liturgy, the Creed is introduced by the words, 'Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Trinity one in essence and undivided.' This exactly expresses the Orthodox attitude to Tradition. If we do not love one another, we cannot love God; and if we do not love God, we cannot make a true confession of faith and cannot enter into the inner spirit of Tradition, for there is no other way of knowing God than to love Him" (Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church
, p. 207).
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Our Church asks us to believe in the Nicene Creed and Christ asks us to have faith in Him. When He healed people in the gospels, He did not specifically ask them to believe in His divinity, but rather they put their trust in Him. However, the New Testament does indicate in numerous ways that it considers Christ to be Divine, as for example, people worshiped Him. Perhaps accepting Christ's divinity is then also an important part of being saved?
The answer one gives, I think, depends upon what one conceives fullness of salvation to be. It was because of their view of what salvation was that the early fathers considered the issues of Trinity and Incarnation of such pivotal importance that the first six great Ecumentical Councils revolved around them specifically. According to the early fathers salvation is union with God (theosis), in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, whereby humans are "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Pet 1:4).
As Vladimir Lossky explains it the great dogmatic battles were considered first of all to be safeguarding this central aspect of Christian spirituality. If Christ is not truly God per Arius our partaking of the divine nature in Christ is impossible. Ala Nestorius there was a middle wall of partition whereby in the person of Christ Himself God remains separate from man. Contra the Apollinarians and Monophysites, since the fullness of human nature was assumed by the Word, it is our whole humanity that is to partake of the divine nature. If salvation comes to us through the Holy Trinity, the incarnation, life, crucifixion, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Logos who revealed the Father, and only by the work of the Holy Spirit upon the human heart, salvation is itself Trinitarian. The issue was important according to the fathers because what aspect of Trinitarian theology is deemed impossible ipso facto would make humanity's union with God ontologically impossible as well, and the seeking of that union in its true fullness problematic. As Lossky affirms, "The main preoccupation, the issue at stake, in the questions that successively arise respecting the Holy Spirit, grace and the Church herself -this last great dogmatic question of our time- is always the possibility, manner, or the means of our union with God. All the history of Christian dogma unfolds itself about this mystical centre, guarded by different weapons against its many and diverse assailants in the course of successive ages" (Lossky, Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church).
I would prefer to have faith, and even better to have a strong one. But I worry that I don't have the time or energy to study about this in the way that I convincingly studied the Old Testament prophecies of His resurrection. I am left in a situation of weakness that is unpleasant for me. It's not how I want things to end up, but nor do I want to force or effectively hypnotize myself into believing something incorrect.
Indeed indeed! Auto-hypnotism is no substitute for faith. I do not think faith is a matter of superior study though (though it can be consonant or correlative to such things) but it is the gift of God, BUT -and this is important too- no more a gift in its season than God's hidenness by design in his loving care and for his purposes. "God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart." -2 Chron 32:32 Alone, though, we are never alone, but in God's mercies.
People recommend that I pray and continue to go to church, and read Orthodox literature, which I can do on occasion. I am fortunate that our Church tolerates our doubts in our search for faith, but it is still hard for me.
Thank you also for listening. I am glad that I can share this with you.
I think this is good advice; I'm sure I'm not alone here in believing charism is found in things like material items that can be touched, as scripture also has, and not just in books and internet forums (if indeed it lurks in the latter realm in meaningful quantity). Also, I should say that I can relate to your current trials on a personal level in that, though over different issues than many you have expressed, I have passed through some difficult periods of my own in times past. I hope you continue also to pray often to continue a lifestyle of repentance and love, to search -though at times this might seem futile it will likely ever continue, and especially search to find the heart of God in whatever manner remains in your capacity; this, I believe, is Orthodox even if not perhaps the fullness of Orthodoxy; do not feel alone; none of our journeys are yet complete -may you find many to stand by your side on the way.
I'm not on the forum much of late, but happened upon your post; forgive me if I'm rambling too long or off point. Best Regards, D