Monday, April 17, 2017

A faithless retired Episcopal priest's demythologized Easter 'homily'

Harry T. Cook, "On Easter, an alternative approach to resurrection" (Detroit Free Press, April 15, 2017):
The Easter story is not the work of journalists. No good can come from torturing it into news, good or otherwise. It is a story with meaning. What is its meaning? It cannot be that a convicted revolutionary who was executed on a Friday walked out of his grave on Sunday to the profound amazement of his followers. Is it possible that the meaning of the story is that while you can kill a human being, you cannot kill what he or she has been or done?
Pitiful. Pitiful that good people ever come to believe such complete nonsense. Pitiful in the way St. Paul says that we would be of all people most to be pitied if Jesus hadn't been raised from the dead as claimed (providing an intricate logical syllogism to that effect in 1 Corinthians 15).

Even on empirical grounds, how pitiful is it to believe that miracles "can't happen" because, well, just because "miracles don't happen." Even if all the stars in the heavens arranged themselves so as to spell "Jesus saves," such individuals would probably respond: "Why, goodness me! What a remarkable coincidence! It almost looks as if someone has played some sort of optical trick on us."

There are accounts of other resurrected deities? Like Dionysus? Yeah, so what? Where have they left a paper trail of witnesses and martyrs like Jesus has? The Apostles must have been deceived about Jesus' resurrection? You think? One can be deceived about lots of things, but some things are just too big to be deceived about. A resurrected man is one of these. I doubt one could be anymore deceived about a man being resurrected from the dead than be deceived into thinking that exactly 37 pink pigs with wings are hovering in the air like hummingbirds just outside one's window.

But it could have been in the Apostles' self-interest to believe the Jesus rose from the dead. True. But it could also be in your own self-interest to believe that exactly 37 pink pigs with wings are hovering in the air like hummingbirds just outside your window if I offered you $1 million to believe that. Trouble is, our honest beliefs aren't quite under our control the way our ordinary choices are. I can't really bring myself to believe something just because someone offers to pay me money to believe it.

If course, I could say I believed it, even if I didn't. So maybe the Apostles conspired to lie about Jesus' resurrection? You think? When each of them (except for John) went to his martyrdom knowing that all he'd have to do is refuse to go along with the lie anymore, to just break and tell the truth and admit that Jesus didn't rise from the dead? Furthermore, each of these conspirators would have known that each of his fellow conspirators was lying through his teeth in the face of terrible persecution, torture, and the threat of death, and all that would have to happen if for one of them to break and tell the truth, and the whole resurrection story would go down in flames as a failure not worth being martyred for.

So we have a story people just can't be mistaken about of someone rising from the dead, and a story that the Apostles' couldn't possibly have conspired to lie about, given the fact that each of them (except John), knowing that it is human nature to break under torture, nevertheless willingly gave his life as a martyr for the authenticity of the story with not one of them throwing in the towel and denying its authenticity. Not to mention centuries of martyrs and witnesses to lives changed, relationships redeemed, bodies and souls healed in expectation of life eternal.

Pray for Harry T. Cook. Poor man. Pitiful.

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