Historical Evidence for the Resurrection

Michael Licona is one of the Evangelical world’s top experts on the historical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus.  There isn’t a single Christian whose faith and belief are not grounded on the events of Easter.  In this Stand To Reason interview Licona explains the “minimal fact” argument which relies on only those things that historical scholars universally agree upon.  I strongly encourage you to hear these arguments.  Your faith will be strengthened by them.

As a bonus, in the second hour, the guest host Brett Kunkle has recently returned from an Evangelical mission trip to Manti, Utah. Brett discusses his trip and his interaction with faithful LDS.  I recently posted a link to an article about a Mormon’s encounter with some Evangelical missionaries and I believe it’s more than likely that Brett trained the young women mentioned in the article.

Direct Link

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For what’ it’s worth.  I emailed Brett Kunkle and does not know the students mentioned in the article above.

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57 thoughts on “Historical Evidence for the Resurrection

  1. Alright, he’s got his three key facts:

    1. The death by crucifixion of Jesus
    2. The disciples’ experience of the risen Jesus
    3. Paul’s skeptical or hostile conversion and later witness

    And we have ours.

    1. The testimony of the three witnesses

    All three left Joseph, and accused him of being a fallen prophet in later years. But all three vigorously defended their original statement that they had seen an angel and handled the gold plates.

    You add to this, the additional witness of those who physically handled the plates, and Emma Smith’s account of Joseph’s translation.

    Every bit as credible as the eyewitness accounts of the risen Jesus. We even have three hostile witnesses. Just like Paul, right?

    2. The performance of miracles among the early saints (and today as well).

    People were raised from the dead, miraculously healed, the weather intervened on behalf of Joseph and his followers. Other men wrote of visions, visitations, and revelations.

    3. The internal power of the Book of Mormon account itself (regardless of lack of evidence).

    Do these convince you Tim?

    I imagine not.

    And Michael Licona’s “evidences” are not going to convince Kullervo either. They aren’t sufficient to convince me either, but I add further evidences and experiences to what he’s put forth that help convince me.

  2. Now, why are they not convincing?

    Because even if we accept that Jesus died and was resurrected AND that he performed all those miracles, as historical FACT, it still isn’t sufficient to establish Christianity’s claims. Maybe he was a demon. Maybe he was an extra-terrestrial. If that was true, would you worship him?

    I would hope you would not. These things, these “facts” can only ever reach the level of supporting a Christian’s faith claims. They do not establish anything. This was, by the way, the exact accusation the Pharisees leveled at Jesus after witnessing his miracles – “he hath a devil.”

    I find it deeply ironic that Evangelicals recycle the objections of the Pharisees to Jesus for use against Mormon claims of miracles and spiritual witness and visitation. Doesn’t this bother you even a little?

    As for archeology, let me be blunt. The mere archeological fact of ancient Israel, the mere historical fact that Jesus was alive in Palestine, do not prove Christianity’s theological claims any more than the historical fact that Joseph lived in upstate New York when he said he did proves that he was a prophet.

    You Evangelicals love to bring up all this historical fact as if that settled the matter. But you ask us all to make this logical leap from bare historical assertion, to an acquiescence in your faith claims – and it just doesn’t work.

    What if we found, in some Mayan records, an obscure reference to a long lost “City of Zarahemla.” Would that do it for you on the Book of Mormon?

    Really Tim, I hope you’re not that shallow. I would hope your commitment to your faith is stronger than that. Who is to say that Joseph didn’t have demonic help in translating the record? What if we found steel weapons? Or horse bones? Would that do it for you? I hope not. These mere facts do not establish. They are not the primary evidence of our faith – yours or mine.

    I haven’t even brought up Mormon claims of universal apostasy. Which the bare facts of the resurrection don’t help in the slightest. Likewise, proof of the Book of Mormon’s authenticity would not be enough to insulate against claims that Joseph was a “fallen prophet” who went off the deep end in Nauvoo. The objective truthfulness of the Book of Mormon does not prove that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s own authorized Church any more than the factuality of Jesus death and resurrection proves the legitimacy of your faith.

    It doesn’t work Tim. You need something more than this.

  3. I agree with Seth.

    But at the same time, I recognize that a huge part of the process of convincing happens on the part of the convinced. I personally believe that the Resurrection happened, and that it means something. In other words, I look at the evidence, and I make what I think is a reaosnable inference that the Ressurection actually happened and that it is important. Likewise, I look at most of the evidence for Mormonism and find it unconvincing.

    There’s a major subjective component in there, I’ll admit freely. I’m personally persuaded by the one and not by the other, and I maintain that I am free to be persuaded by whatever I find persuasive.

    For what it’s worth, I actually am also persuaded that Joseph Smith had legitimate mystical experiences. Enough people throughout history have made credible claims to mystical experiences, and I think JS’s are reasonably consistent.

    At the same time, I recognize that the conclusions drawn from the world history of mysticism are confusing and inconsistent. I have no explanation for this. At the same time, I don’t feel I have to provide an explanation for it. I’m willing to live with the uncertainty.

    Because of that, I feel a lot more comfortable basing my faith on my belief in the Resurrection than I do in belief that a bunch of people have claimed to personally experience the divine.

  4. OK, I’m listening here to Brett Kunkle’s own portion of the program where it’s just him talking about Mormons….

    His rebuttal of Moroni 10 has a problem. He claims that you have to assume the passage of Moroni 10 is true before you can ask whether it’s true.

    Huh?

    If the content of Moroni 10 is internally true, it’s internally true, regardless of whether you accept the Book of Mormon as the Word of God. You don’t need an appeal to faith for that – just a bit logical thought.

    …..

    Just something that ought to be pointed out, the heart may be deceitful, but I’m afraid it’s ultimately all we’ve got (see above). This attempt to logically establish God really is a bit of a theological Tower of Babel, and I think Evangelicals are really misguided in using this foundation for faith.

    ….. later in Brett’s speech….

    Woa, woa… hang on there. The reason murder is wrong is not “because God already said so in the Bible” Brett. Everyone internally gets this – whether they’ve read the Bible or not. Murder has nothing to do with an appeal to the Bible. It’s a universal human impulse. Nice try, you’ll have to do better than “because God said so.”

    …. Moving on ….

    If Satan is a “deceiver,” there is no reason that he hasn’t equally deceived Evangelicals. This appeal does nothing more than undermine the spiritual interface of ALL believers. Brett’s playing with fire here.

    Next….

    Paul’s statement in 2 Cor 11:13-14.

    Do you really want to read this as Paul limiting the Almighty God to the two covers of the Holy Bible?

    Besides, Mormons do not preach a Gospel contrary to what is in the Bible. We go beyond it, but we are not “contrary” to it. Next…

    I like how he uses Moroni as an example of “an angel” preaching the supposed contrary Gospel.

    …. next …..

    OK, now he’s just descending into stupid standard anti-Mormon nitpicking. None of which has much to do with Mormonism’s truth claims. He wants to make the case that “it all just adds up” to too much to take credibly.

    Time for Evangelicals to look in the mirror. What about Noah’s flood? What about evolution? What about the God-ordered genocides? What about the apparent theological uselessness of traditional Christianity’s God even bothering to create anything in the first place. What about the horrible cosmic unfairness of Calvin’s entire T.U.L.I.P?

    If it adds up for Mormons, it adds up for you too.

  5. Seth R. is right. You can get only so far based on the historical evidence alone. Even if the Book of Mormon is true and Joseph Smith was a true prophet, it is still logically possible that the true church is one of the polygamous sects that keep showing up in the news. (In fact, the Strangites and the Community of Christ may have as strong of a claim, based on the historical evidence, as does the LDS church to be the rightful successor to the church organized by Joseph Smith.)

    For the record, I believe in the physical resurrection of Christ, and I believe the historical record demonstrates at least its plausibility, perhaps even its probability (depending in part on what assumptions you make about supernaturalism). But that alone doesn’t make any branch Christianity true. And even if it did, what does that say about all the theological issues that people have such strong feelings about, all based on the same Bible?

    FWIW, I think there is as much evidence of the existence of the golden plates as there is of the resurrection (although I find there is less objective evidence of the correctness of the translation, which is another issue entirely). But even if I were 100 percent convinced that the golden plates were shown by an angel to Joseph Smith, and that the translation was a 100% correct translation of ancient documents, that’s still not enough there alone to base my faith on.

    Ultimately, my decision to follow Christ, and my subsequent decision to understand his teachings based in part on the teachings of the LDS church, isn’t based on objective facts alone. It can’t be. There just aren’t enough of them, and the objective evidence, at best, falls far short of the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that is used in U.S. criminal courts.

    So we make a leap, and I don’t mind saying that the leap is nonrational (not the same as irrational). Some LDS critics seem to be fond of calling that leap “mysticism” when it is made by Mormons. Maybe it is, I don’t know. But evangelicals make a similar leap. I assume they do so based in part on how trusting in Christ affects them at a deep level that they can sense spiritually. I wouldn’t for a second say that they are deceived, nor would I call their feelings “mystical.”

    I have heard many evangelicals express with heartfelt testimony how grateful they are for the work of Christ and how their lives are so much better in so many ways because of his atoning work. I’m just not convinced they’re saying that based on an objective analysis of the historical evidence alone.

  6. Mysticism (roughly defined) is the personal experience of the divine. “Personal revelation” is mysticism. “Divine inspiration” is mysticism. “The still small voice” is mysticism. It’s not a perjorative term. It’s just not a term that is typically used by a religious communtiy to label its own practices. It’s a term that scholars of religion use to refer to the entire category of personal experience of the divine.

    I agree that historical evidence can not and should not get you to faith all by itself. But I think it’s silly to claim that “making the leap” is always done because of mystical experience. In Mormonism, mysticism is supposed to be the reason you make the leap. It’s pretty much a fundamental aspect of Mormon theology.

    But there’s a whole web of other interrelated non-mystical reasons people make the leap, and it’s entirely possible that a person isn;t fully cognizant of all of his or her own reasons. They may include:

    -cultural norms
    -personal preference
    -rational inferences
    -aesthetics
    -conscious choice from alternatives
    -the desire to have a belief system
    -persuasiveness

    If an Evangelical’s belief is based on a spiritual witness, or a personal communication from the divine, then their faith is based on mysticism. Otherwise, it ain’t.

  7. Again, because I don;t know how clear that was.

    A nonrational leap of faith is not necessarily mysticism. If it is made because of personal revelation/divine inspiration/the influence of the Holy Ghost/angelic visitation/etc. then it made because of mysticism. But it still isn’t mysticism.

  8. I don’t see anything really wrong with “mysticism.” And I do think that the mystical is how a lot of Mormons interface with God and their faith.

    Incidentally, I think this is why Evangelical attempts to de-convert Mormons are extremely risky. Too often, these attempts end up merely trivializing or ridiculing the intuitive attachment a Mormon has to their God, but present nothing better to get attached to. This can often leave the Mormon feeling emotionally lost and adrift. They’ve lost the object of their affection, and these unthinking Evangelical demolition experts have left them with nothing else to love.

    Mormons are emotionally attached to God. You undermine that, they’ll just go agnostic or atheist. You won’t win any souls for Christ. Interesting thing occurred to me recently. In almost every case of Mormons actually leaving the LDS Church for Evangelical congregations, it was primarily because of an EMOTIONAL need for connection that wasn’t being met in an LDS ward setting. Sure, they picked up all the standard counter-cult static and baggage later, but the core reason for conversion was emotional, and intuitive.

    For Mormons who have been taught by Evangelical hit-squads to distrust their feelings entirely, the result is a bit more sad. It’s not just a rejection of Joseph Smith that results, but a rejection of God. And they tend to turn on the Evangelicals in turn.

  9. Again, Seth is right. Mormons are taught to base their belief in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon on spiritual witness, but they are also taught to believe in God and Jesus Christ for the same reasons.

    If you convince a Mormon that Joseph Smith was a fraud and the Book of Mormon is a fake, he’s going to have a hard time holding on to belief in God and belief in Jesus. Even if you don’t purposely undermine mystical experience as basis for truth, he’ll figure that out on his own: if mystical experience was not reliable in one instance, it’s not reliable in others.

  10. Without getting into the specifics of each and everyone of Seth’s claims, I think this provides an excellent jumping off point to address the larger issues

    I have heard many evangelicals express with heartfelt testimony how grateful they are for the work of Christ and how their lives are so much better in so many ways because of his atoning work. I’m just not convinced they’re saying that based on an objective analysis of the historical evidence alone.

    I am not in the least saying that Evangelicals do not have mystical experiences (K, thanks for that clarification). In fact Evangelicals have many spiritual experiences that propel them towards belief and action.

    I am also not saying that no “leap of faith” is required to become a Christian. I am not saying that anyone and everyone can look at the facts and follow Jesus without an act of faith. Every form of trust entails acting on the uncertain belief of something else (whether we’re talking about getting married, crossing a bridge or become a Christian).

    What I am saying is that Christians do not need to believe their spiritual experiences to the contradiction of historical evidence. It’s not a choice of one over the other. It’s a “both, yes” answer. That doesn’t appear to be the case for Mormonism.

    Mormonism says spiritual things can only be known spiritually. I fail to see how the real physical location of Zarahemla is a “spiritual thing”. Lehi crossing the ocean is a historical event. The resurrection is a historical event, just as the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor is a historical event. It’s impossible for present day people to experience the past, but we can know if it’s likely that those events took place. The historic and archeological record should give us more confidence in our spiritual experiences.

    Where two seemingly equal spiritual experiences exist (i.e. Joseph Smith was/was not a true prophet) we need something outside of those experiences to compare them against.

    ——————————————————————–

    As to Seth’s reference to the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. You’re not really comparing apples to apples here. Licona used only those facts which scholars all agree upon. Whether or not the witnesses physically saw the plates is not something even Mormon scholars agree on (see Michael Quinn).

    ————————————————————————–

    If the city of Zarahemla was discovered, it certainly would boost my confidence in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. As I’ve stated before, I don’t believe there is much in the Book of Mormon that contradicts the Bible. I would be happy to accept it as authentic scripture if it had any sort of historic credibility. As it stands, it’s credibility weakens by the day.

    At best I can view it as a nice fictional account that supports the Bible. No different really than the Chronicles of Narnia.

    As you already stated, getting from the Book of Mormon’s truthfulness to Joseph Smith’s prophetic status is another matter and not a slam dunk by any means.

    As for archeology, let me be blunt. The mere archeological fact of ancient Israel, the mere historical fact that Jesus was alive in Palestine, do not prove Christianity’s theological claims any more than the historical fact that Joseph lived in upstate New York when he said he did proves that he was a prophet.

    Certainly not on both items. But if neither were credible on at least the existence of their location, there would be little reason to find them credible on anything else.

    We should evaluate truth claims by whatever manner we can use. We may not be able to “test” what the nature of God is. But we can test to see if an ancient civilization resembling the Book of Acts existed. If our scriptures can’t get the details right it seriously damages their trustworthiness on other issues.

  11. Again, Seth is right. Mormons are taught to base their belief in Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon on spiritual witness, but they are also taught to believe in God and Jesus Christ for the same reasons.

    If you convince a Mormon that Joseph Smith was a fraud and the Book of Mormon is a fake, he’s going to have a hard time holding on to belief in God and belief in Jesus. Even if you don’t purposely undermine mystical experience as basis for truth, he’ll figure that out on his own: if mystical experience was not reliable in one instance, it’s not reliable in others.

    And I think this is equally the danger of Mormon epistimology. It incorrectly teaches people how to know things.

    Evangelicals certainly need to be sensitive to this core issue while fighting heresy.

  12. And I think this is equally the danger of Mormon epistimology. It incorrectly teaches people how to know things.

    I think you’re right.

  13. Sigh…. The Book of Mormon does not contradict the historical record.

    How many times do we have to go over this?

    The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Especially when you are talking about the rain-forest climates of Central and South America – which any good New World archaeologist will tell you, tends to rapidly swallow and erase archaeological evidence of any kind.

    Besides, the archaeological evidence you are talking about is based on a straw man you (and some Mormons) have created based on some uninformed statements from Joseph Smith, and lowest-common-denominator Mormon pop culture.

    Try again.

    If it comes to that, you Evangelicals have infinitely bigger problems with Noah, than we do with New World horses.

    “And I think this is equally the danger of Mormon epistimology. It incorrectly teaches people how to know things.”

    It’s the exact same epistimology you guys are using! The only difference is that we admit it, while you guys are still trying to make pretensions at objectivity.

    I am far from convinced that there really is much objective difference between the way Evangelicals approach faith and the way Mormons approach faith.

    Faith is not objective. That’s the whole point!

    “Thou sayest, Lord I believe. Thou doest well. The devils also believe and tremble.”

    Faith is not about objective external fact. It’s about a personal life choice and commitment.

  14. Now, let’s have a look at “objectivity.”

    Mormonism does have a very strong objective element running through it.

    It’s called personal experience. You plant the seed of faith, you nourish it, you practice it in your life, and you witness the results.

    Objective. Fact.

    But it’s not readily apparent to an outsider who has not tried it himself.

  15. That really sounds like you’re saying that it’s objectively subjective and therefore objective.

  16. Sloppy language no doubt. I’m just making the point that there is a difference between evidence that is going to be logically compelling (not just emotionally compelling) for you, and what is going to be compelling for all your neighbors.

  17. Tim,

    “What I am saying is that Christians do not need to believe their spiritual experiences to the contradiction of historical evidence. It’s not a choice of one over the other. It’s a “both, yes” answer. That doesn’t appear to be the case for Mormonism.”

    I’m confused. As a Mormon, I cannot believe that the BoM is true history? or that Joseph actually had visions? etc.?

  18. Sloppy language no doubt. I’m just making the point that there is a difference between evidence that is going to be logically compelling (not just emotionally compelling) for you, and what is going to be compelling for all your neighbors.

    If you’re saying that an argument, or an inference from a set of facts, might reasonably be convincing to me while it might equally reasonably not be convincing to, say, my office mate, then I couldn’t agree more.

    It’s ludicrous to think that there’s some kind of objective standard by which inferences can be judged, since the individual observer brings so much background to the table.

  19. I’m confused. As a Mormon, I cannot believe that the BoM is true history? or that Joseph actually had visions? etc.?

    Now I’m confused too.

    To restate, I’ve been told by a great many Mormons, that it doesn’t matter if Zarahemla was uncovered. The only reason we should believe the Book of Mormon is true is a spiritual testimony. The same is true of the resurrection or any other historical event described in scripture.

    If this is not what you believe, I would love a clarification.

  20. If Zarahemla existed, but is never found, it still existed. In that sense, it does not matter to me whether Zarahemla is ever found, as long as I have some other reason(s) to believe that it existed. (The same could be true of numerous archaeological sites or artifacts: they have never been found, yet experts are still convinced that they existed.)

    I don’t think that the “only” reason to believe the BoM is a spiritual testimony. I find the overall story to plausible; I am swayed by internal evidences; I am swayed by the testimonies of the witnesses; etc. But the most compelling reasons, for me, are mystical; they are not ones that I could demonstrate, like data in a scientific journal. I think that Paul would say the same thing of his testimony of Jesus Christ: the scriptures supported the notion Jesus as the Messiah, but I don’t think anything could take the place of that visit near Damascus.

  21. Tim, I said the bare historical fact doesn’t ultimately determine faith. I never said such facts were non-existent.

  22. Tim, I suspect your thinking about holy writ is a bit flawed at the core. For you the question “is the Bible true?” is to be answered by determining whether the stuff really happened.

    That sort of stuff is nice, but it misses the point of what scriptures are for. The point of the Bible is not a history lesson!

    It is an inspired narrative of the quest of flawed men searching for the one true God.

    The Bible is not even primarily an instruction manual for moral living.

    It is a template, a pattern for ordering your own life so that you can come in direct contact with the TRUE SOURCE of knowledge, wisdom, and light – God Himself. We seek to see God as Abraham did. Therefore we live as Abraham lived.

    The fact that the Bible contains doctrines on moral living is a mere bonus prize. What the book is really for is to help you order your own life to come into direct contact with the real source of doctrine. That source trumps the mere assembly instructions that constitute our current Bible.

    The value of the Book of Mormon is not that it introduces new useful moral teachings or new doctrinal insights (although it does have a few). The value of the Book of Mormon is how it adds to the existing narrative of humanity’s quest for direct, unfiltered, unmediated contact with God. Through scripture, you find a pattern that, when applied to your life, will bring you into the presence of the Lord – now. Today. Not just in the afterlife.

    Like Martha in the kitchen, Protestantism is so obsessed with getting doctrines right, with proving historical facts and minutia, that they are completely missing the grand sweep. They are missing the STORY. The value of the Bible is not in the doctrines – it is in the story.

    Live that story. Revision your own life as an extension of that story, and you will see God as well. Then He will tell you what you need to know Himself.

    There is no “doctrine.” There is only a story. A story that is meant to be lived. A story that you are missing out on.

    Time to quit digging around in the dirt for data on Joseph Smith’s sex life, and elevate your vision a bit. There’s something bigger going on here, and you’re not seeing the forest for the trees.

    It doesn’t matter if the book is historical. It only matters if it is true. If you establish the truth – front and center – the historicity follows.

  23. Tim said:

    What I am saying is that Christians do not need to believe their spiritual experiences to the contradiction of historical evidence.

    But many, many evangelicals do (I’m not saying you’re one of them, because I don’t know). There are many evangelicals whose belief in their interpretation of the Bible is so string that they believe in a six-day creation despite the overwhelming, even incontrovertible, evidence to the contrary.

    So if Mormons are to be criticized for having a faith that contradicts the objective evidence (and I’m not conceding that), so should an awful lot of evangelicals.

    Seth R. said:

    The value of the Book of Mormon is how it adds to the existing narrative of humanity’s quest for direct, unfiltered, unmediated contact with God. … The value of the Bible is not in the doctrines – it is in the story.

    And the same is true for the story of the restored church — even for those of us who have studied the Church’s history and realize that Joseph Smith, among many others, was far from a perfect human being. In the struggles of the Church and her people, we can see God.

    As Seth R. implied, the invitation to join the church isn’t primarily an invitation to adopt a particular view about history, epistemology or theology — it’s to become part of that story, a story of a Savior who gave His life and set the perfect example so that we could become one just as Jesus and his Father are one, so that we could become joint-heirs with the Savior himself. And what could be greater than that?

  24. Like Martha in the kitchen, Protestantism is so obsessed with getting doctrines right, with proving historical facts and minutia, that they are completely missing the grand sweep. They are missing the STORY. The value of the Bible is not in the doctrines – it is in the story.

    This makes me think you must not know very much about Protestantism.

  25. What counts as evidence anyway? Just imagine if a discovery as important for BofM archeology as the altars of NHM in Yemen was also found for the story of the Exodus as described in the bible? It would probably be all over the news! There appears to be more precise corroborating evidence for Nephi’s tiny parties’ journey through Arabia as described in the BofM than for a mass exodus (of probably over a million persons as presented in the biblical texts) of Israelites out of Egypt.

    See here for a cautious essay from 2001 on NHM, among other resources:

    http://farms.byu.edu/display.php?table=jbms&id=255&previous=L3B1YmxpY2F0aW9ucy9ib29rb2Ztb3Jtb252aWV3LnBocA==

  26. Whatever Kullervo. Unless you are willing to give me some details and elaborate, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond to that statement.

    I have, of course, heard Protestants who “get” what I’m talking about. Martin Luther King Jr. being the most famous example. He always saw the scriptures as being essentially a narrative to be re-enacted on a grand, and on a personal scale. This shows pretty clearly in his speeches.

  27. I’m saying you’re painting Protestantism with an unreasonably broad brush. Maybe what you’re saying applies to some Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, but that’s not the same thing as “Protestants.”

    Read Brian McLaren, for example. He’s a controversial figure, sure, but he sells a heck of a lot of books.

    Anyway, the understanding of scripture that you’re talking about, the sweep of story, the narrative of flawed humanity searching for and being in a relationship with God? I’ve never heard it talked about in a Mormon context. Certainly not explicitly. Perhaps it’s a permissible interpretation, but it doesn;t get articulated by the leadership or the lay members.

    In contrast, at the Church my wife and I attend in Maryland, which is a nondenominational Protestant church, they talk about what you’re talking about all the time. Explicitly.

  28. After thinking about it, I would argue that the best evidence for the “truth” of the Book of Mormon is not spiritual and the best evidence for the historicity of the Gospels is spiritual.

    I think its easier to explain away the Gospels than it is to explain away the Book of Mormon.

    (Not that its all that hard to explain away either)

  29. Jared, what do you mean “explain away?” Explain away what?

    Kullervo,

    I suppose I could come back with an argument and muddy the waters a bit, but I think it better that I just concede this point to you and leave it there. I’ve been hanging out with counter-cultist zealots for too long, it’s starting to warp my perception I guess.

  30. Like my angry liberal friend who reads Townhall all the time and thus has a really warped perception of conservatives.

    I agree with you that some Protestants behave exactly how you’ve explained things, but Protestantism is really large and really diverse. And nobody can claim to speak for Protestantism as a whole.

  31. Kullervo said:

    Anyway, the understanding of scripture that you’re talking about, the sweep of story, the narrative of flawed humanity searching for and being in a relationship with God? I’ve never heard it talked about in a Mormon context. Certainly not explicitly. Perhaps it’s a permissible interpretation, but it doesn;t get articulated by the leadership or the lay members.

    In contrast, at the Church my wife and I attend in Maryland, which is a nondenominational Protestant church, they talk about what you’re talking about all the time. Explicitly.

    I’ve heard that approach taken by LDS before, but only rarely (and then primarily in reference to the Old Testament). But (based on my experience) it seems to be a common approach in mainline Protestant churches. The idea seems to be that rather than getting bogged down in details (Was there really a worldwide flood? Did God really command genocide? What does it mean to be of one substance? Does it make sense to kill children for making fun of a guy’s baldness?), it makes more sense to look at the big picture and realize that the biblical writers were sharing things primarily from the perspective of their culture and limitations.

    I think that perspective meshes well with LDS doctrine, and thought Seth R. did so brilliantly. But you’re right, it’s a perspective that is seldom articulated in the Church.

  32. Tim, I suspect your thinking about holy writ is a bit flawed at the core. For you the question “is the Bible true?” is to be answered by determining whether the stuff really happened.

    That sort of stuff is nice, but it misses the point of what scriptures are for. The point of the Bible is not a history lesson!

    . . . .

    It doesn’t matter if the book is historical. It only matters if it is true. If you establish the truth – front and center – the historicity follows.

    I agree that we have a horse and cart controversy going on here.

    The Bible and every other book of scripture encourages us to wrap our lives and our worldview around them. Yes! We are supposed to get caught up in the story. But before we get swept away by their narratives, I think it’s a valid question to ask “Is it reliable and trustworthy?”

    Every scripture reports to have some bearing on the afterlife, so the consequences for trusting them are profound and extend beyond this life. I think it’s worth pausing to evaluate their truth claims, both before we begin the journey and as we go about journeying.

    The Bible and the Book of Mormon’s most important truth claims are certainly about our relationship with God. But that is not where their truth claims start or finish. They make many many other truth claims, including historical ones.

    Jesus, who I know we’re all big fans of said this:

    Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. Luke 16:10

    If our scriptures are not to be trusted with the little things (like giving an accurate picture of when they were written) why should we trust them on the big things?

    They are telling us to trust them, if we do and they are not trustworthy, we are fools. There is no virtue in enthusiastically following a fairytale, even if that fairytale gives us comfort, stability and delight. If it is not true, we are fools to be pitied above all others. Our faiths have cost their marytrs too much to not be capital T true on it’s truth claims, big and small.

    ————————————————————–

    As far as Evangelicals (specifically me) understanding the idea of “story”. I’ll direct you to the second episode of my wife’s podcast on understanding poverty from a Biblical perspective. If something this direct from my own household won’t convince you that I’m aware of the concept and believe it, I don’t know what will.

    Poverty Unlocked

  33. But many, many evangelicals do (I’m not saying you’re one of them, because I don’t know). There are many evangelicals whose belief in their interpretation of the Bible is so strong that they believe in a six-day creation despite the overwhelming, even incontrovertible, evidence to the contrary.

    So if Mormons are to be criticized for having a faith that contradicts the objective evidence (and I’m not conceding that), so should an awful lot of evangelicals.

    I agree, they need to be corrected.

    There are many Evangelicals who take on the same fidiestic epistimology as Mormonism as well.

  34. Actually, I think a fairy tale can actually be more real than a factual news story. To be clear, I am not for a moment conceding that Mormonism is a “fairy tale.”

    Tim, let me respond to the issue here by quoting you from the other parallel thread:

    “I’m happy to answer that question as well. The discovery of the tomb of Christ would be one thing that would cause me to renounce my faith.”

    I think this is wrong-headed. I don’t think that is a sufficient reason to renounce your faith. Are you saying that you’d give up all your friends, all the benefits, all the happiness and growth you’ve experienced on this journey, over an archaeological dig?

    Seriously?

    Religion is something much more than its own factual basis. It does not rise or fall on its facts alone.

    Now, if you combined the “tomb” with, say… a really compelling case for Islam and wanted to go that route, fine I say. But to ditch the whole thing over a hole in the ground just seems wrong.

  35. I’m taking the Bible’s word for it.

    The very oldest and most reliable letter we have from Paul says that if Jesus did not rise from the grave then we shouldn’t believe any of it.

    I agree the Bible does something very uncomfortable by staking it’s message on something that could be verified.

    I don’t think ditching it for “a hole (with some bones in it)” is really all that much different on the face of things than ditching it because “some guy says he found a old book that he won’t let us see because an angel might kill him.”

  36. Paul can go jump in a lake for all I care.

    It’s my life, not his. And if you’ve already acknowledge the corpse of Jesus, why on earth are you still taking a strict literalist read on Paul?

  37. I don’t understand what it is about Paul and the Evangelicals. My personal opinion from what I’ve seen and experienced, the Evangelicals seem to worship Paul more than Jesus. There are so many authors in the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments. Why is what Paul says so much more important than everyone else?

  38. The whole grace above works thing mostly comes from Paul, which makes Evangelicals pretty keen on him. If you just read Jesus actual statements without reading Paul, you wouldn’t reach that conclusion. Jesus was pretty big on works necessary for salvation.

    It’s kind of funny, Paul actually resembles Joseph Smith in many ways. Both were radicals in their time. Both had tempers and were very confrontational. Both had their founding visions, from which they claimed direct authority to do what they were doing (with differing accounts even!). And both had major problems with established authority. Both martyrs…

    Oh, and both were religious pluralists to some extent.

    You might well say that if Joseph Smith is the authoritative “founder” of Mormonism, Paul is the authoritative founder of Evangelical faith.

  39. “Paul is the authoritative founder of Evangelical faith.”
    Well, I thought Evangelicals always claim that Jesus is the center of their faith. It always seemed strange to me that they would put so much stock in Paul, when I felt like Jesus was the important one. Evangelicals are always saying that Jesus is all sufficient, that his sacrifice on the cross is/was enough. I agree. Then why put so much emphasis on Paul? Paul’s writings seem to take Christianity in a much different direction. If Jesus’ works and teachings are enough, then they are enough.

    “Paul can go jump in a lake for all I care….It’s my life, not his.”

    That’s basically the same conclusion I came to in my life.

  40. Much of the Evangelical world believes that half of the Protestant world isn’t truly Christian. If you don’t have that born again experience, and you don’t believe the Bible is infallible and inerrant, forget it. You can’t interpret the Bible in any way other than what they do. I made the big leap away from the Evangelical world when I married my husband, but in the years since, I’ve come to believe that the Evangelicals really don’t have any right to say who is a Christian, who is following Jesus, and who is not. As far as I’m concerned, they don’t know. It’s my personal opinion that they are wrong to judge the LDS, and all the rest of us whose churches are part of the Restoration movement.

  41. If I’m understanding him right, my guess is that Seth R.’s position on the significance of a non-Resurrection is a minority one.

    If there were no Resurrection, Mormonism (as most other types of Christianity, for that matter) wouldn’t make much sense. I can hardly fathom what that would do to the logic of its worldview.

  42. And I’ll disagree too with much of what has been said here about Paul.

    I don’t see evangelicals as putting too much emphasis on Paul, nor to I see him as a “founder” of evangelicalism. The reverence that evangelicals hold for Paul is nothing compared to how Mormons treat Joseph Smith.

    I also think that those who use Paul to downplay the role of works are misinterpreting Paul. Whenever he talks about faith, he isn’t talking about an intellectual faith only; works is always a component of the kind of faith he’s talking about. There is nothing in the letters of Paul to suggest that he believed in a wimpy, do-nothing faith.

  43. I think Mormons accuse Evangelicals of over-emphasizing Paul because Mormons are uncomfortable with Paul’s doctrine.

  44. I think it is important not to lose sight of the main thrust of this thread and important to notice that it has not yet been addressed. I can only assume that Tim is offering this post as a way to say, one reliable and sound foundation to know things is to look at history. In other words, the proposition is that history is a reliable and sound foundation to accept religious belief.

    Tim, am I correct to understand that this is your position?

  45. Eric, almost anytime you hear an Evangelical scripturally asserting their own distinctives (and criticizing ours) they almost always over-use Romans and ignore stuff like James, and even the four Gospels.

    And I never based my statement that Paul is the “founder” of Evangelicalism on what Evangelicals themselves think. Of course they’d deny such an assertion. They rather claim Jesus as their founder – because they happen to believe they are correct. Easier to make that claim when you divert attention away from Paul the man.

  46. I also wonder sometimes… What evidence do we have that Paul actually got it right?

    For Latter-Day Saints, we have the fact that his letters have been universally acknowledged as scripture by the prophets and General Authorities.

    I believe that Mormon discomfort with Paul is actually a relatively contemporary thing, a reaction to the rise of Evangelicalism and it’s theological attacks on Mormonism in the past few decades.

  47. “One reliable and sound way to know things is to look at history. In other words, the proposition is that history is a reliable and sound foundation to accept religious belief.”

    My opinion, I don’t believe we can ever have a complete knowledge of history. Archaeologists are constantly revising their ideas about what the ancient world was like when new discoveries are found.

    Also, history is written by the winners. I believe that there is so much that the average person doesn’t know about the history of their religion–and this goes for both Restorationists and Evangelicals. I’ve been reading about how John Calvin had Michael Severtus arrested, tried, and tortured to death by burning at the stake. They shoved a wreath with sulphur in it on his (Severtus) head, and used green wood to slowly burn him to death. It took him 30 minutes to die, and Severtus cried for mercy, and the Calvinists just laughed at him. Severtus cried to Jesus at the end, and Calvin’s followers just mocked him. I’ve been reading a group of anti-Calvinist Evangelicals really rail against Calvinists. They say that this fact of the murder of Severtus is practically unknown in the Evangelical world because Calvinism is a huge part of Evangelical belief. This fact about Calvin is embarrasing to modern Calvinists, and they don’t want it known. (Keep in mind, these are anti-Calvinist Evangelicals saying this, this is not LDS attacking Evangelicals.) The anti-Calvinist viewpoint is that either Calvin was so full of hatred and malice that he was totally uncapable of rightly dividing the word of truth OR he was downright unsaved. His teachings are ALL suspect, according to them. Calvin bragged of his role in the death of Severtus until he died, he was unrepentant to the end. If this be true, I don’t know how anyone can take John Calvin seriously. I know I don’t anymore.
    Contrast with this Joseph Smith, who was quoted as saying he did not believe in bringing a man up on charges because of his beliefs. (Severtus was executed because he didn’t believe in infant baptism, and because he disagreed with Calvin’s views on the Trinity.)

  48. I am the resurrection and the life
    He who believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and he who liveth and believeth in me shall never die

    I still believe in Jesus, I believe in his resurrection and in the forgiveness of sins–I still believe this, in spite of Evangelicals. It says “He who believeth” It doesn’t say, it’s ok to believe, only if somebody finds a tomb with bones in it then it’s ok to stop believing.

  49. I think it is quite hypocritical of Mormons here to be claiming that we evangelicals overemphasize Paul. When the missionaries visited my house last week they claimed at least two distinctively Mormon doctrines on Paul’s teaching – the apostasy found in 2 Thess. and baptism of the dead in 1 Cor. And baptism of the dead can only be found in Paul’s teaching – nowhere else in the Bible.

    Paul is one voice for evangelicals. He was an eyewitness of the risen Lord. Nothing he ever said contradicts the Gospels and Old Testament Scriptures. This cannot be said for the teachings of Joseph Smith.

  50. Any good Evangelical will tell you Paul’s scripture doesn’t demand the Mormon read. We supplemented it with additional revelation.

    Secondly, pointing out some stuff from Paul that Mormons use too does not prove your point that we are being hypocritical in pointing out an over-emphasis on Romans, and other distinctly Pauline teachings at the expense of other New Testament material.

    Finally, sorry to everyone for dragging this off on a threadjack. I think Aquinas last question was more to the point of the original thread than Evangelical or Mormon preferences in reading the Bible.

  51. That was a thread-jack and a half. I’ve decided to bench my sarcastic responses. If you’d like to write something up about Evangelicals’ overemphasis of Paul I’d be happy to post it.

    In other words, the proposition is that history is a reliable and sound foundation to accept religious belief.

    Tim, am I correct to understand that this is your position?

    A perhaps nuanced correction would be to say that reliable evidence to accept Christianity can be found in history. I don’t think it starts and stops there.

    I think that’s something Christianity teaches about itself. I don’t think that’s something other religions even bother offering up (except perhaps Islam). Hindus for example call their religious stories “myth”. The historicity of the stories is unimportant.

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