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December 07, 2004



Regarding your "false dilemma" concerning the Resurrection, you misstate the trustworthiness of the evidence. The point is that those disciples who witnessed the empty tomb and (later) the risen Lord---namely Peter, James, and John, to name just three who went to a martyr's death afterward---would not have been motivated to do so had they been in on a fraudulent plot to remove Jesus' body from the tomb. If you _personally_ know that the Resurrection was a fraud, you don't rationally go to your death to try in vain to keep the secret after it has been exposed for all to ridicule. If Jesus' body had been snatched from the tomb by his disciples (who, if the Gospels are witness, did not even understand the necessity of why the tomb needed to be empty by the third day, and who were cowering inside their lodgings lest they go in public and be identified and associated with a crucified criminal), the Pharisees and Sadducees would have ridiculed the claim of the Resurrection, and said: "We know what you did with the body---Joseph of Arimathea (or someone else with no reason to hide what he saw) told us: it's buried right over there." Christianity would never have been able to attract any followers in the face of such ridicule had the disciples perpetrated a fraud.

Then there is the independent witness of Paul, who not only attested to his own experience of the risen Lord, but who again went to a martyr's death based on his conviction from what he personally had seen and heard on the road to Damascus. And as he attests in 1 Cor. 15, there were some 500 other eyewitnesses who saw the risen Lord following the Resurrection, most of whom were still alive and thus could be questioned at the time he wrote his Epistle.

This kind of eyewitness testimony, backed up by a conviction that endured even crucifixion and other torturous deaths, is by no means equivalent to your facile listing of "Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., who died for their beliefs -- to say nothing of the Catholics and Protestants who died during the religious wars of the Reformation era, the residents of Jonestown, the Branch Davidians, the members of the Heaven's Gate cult, etc." Which of any of those you cite went to a martyr's death protesting that they were eyewitnesses to the Resurrection, and hence willing to die based on what they themselves had seen and personally experienced? By equating conviction based on faith (or delusion, as in Jonestown) with conviction based on eyewitness experience of a sublime miracle, you debase the latter and grossly inflate the former.

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