Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Argument From The Shroud - Introduction

I still remember the moment when I finally admitted to myself that I was now a Christian. Standing in the shower around midnight I was pouring over all the facts I had remembered that weekend. The mysterious image, the corona discharge theory, the empty tomb, etc. As I stood there I finally had the courage to come to two conclusions that in years past I thought I may never utter:

“So, you really believe that the Resurrection is the only way to explain all this?”
“Yes, I do.”
“So, then you're a Christian now.”
“I guess I am.”

I finished my shower and for the first time of my life I made the sign of the cross (right to left, mind you).

The purpose of this blog series is to make a case for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ via the Shroud of Turin. Ideally, if I get into academia, I'd like to turn this into a full blown book. However, for the sake of the blog here I'm going to be much more reserved.

A note: this argument needs one assumption to get off the ground: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ could be a possible explanation for what happened Eastern morning in the year 33 C.E. Since I have always considered the christian worldview to possibly be true a priori, I ask that those who wish to know why I converted also hold to this possibility as well. On a side note, I can say with past experience as both an atheist and a misotheist that God is not, emphatically not, the tyrant that so many make Him out to be1, so this, in my view, should not prevent one from conversion if (and I doubt this if) they end up being convinced by my argument.

The ease of my conversion came from my alacrity to know and study all things Eastern Orthodox as it seemed to be an anomaly from everything I had previously known about Christianity (which, admittedly, was little). By no means did my approbation for Orthodoxy (it single-handedly stopped my hatred for God and Christianity) make me convert – a lie, no matter how beautiful, is still a lie.

The moments leading up to conversion are arduous and erratic; one certainly does not want to be capricious in such an exigent decision (as you may be able to tell, I'm currently studying for the GRE). However, once one takes the first step off the cliff and finds that the air beneath them has firmness, and that the conclusion is not as inured as one might think (quite the opposite, actually) life becomes a lot easier (and harder). But for me, I had to know that I would not plummit once I stepped off, or at least have good reason why to not think so. I knew that there would be no way that I could have all my questions answered ahead of time. Christians, believe it or not, do struggle with the problem of evil, or how God acts in the Old Testament. Yes, Job can be quite a tough read. The laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are harsh, and furthermore we know that despite this it was the same God who said “whosoever shall smite thee on they right cheek, turn to him the other also"2 and “thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them."3 We are also painfully aware of the fragmented state of Christendom – St. Paul himself, though, said this would happen.4

It is in the face of these doubts and worries that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."5 It is faith – trust in the God of Abraham, a communal relation with the Holy Trinity – that sustains us. But this is not the faith that people usually fulminate against. That is more akin to epistemological belief – not trust. To St. Paul this kind of faith was a given: “for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal God head."6

It is thus here that the famous Shroud of Turin comes in. I personally believe (with reason, of course) that the Shroud is the burial shroud of Jesus Christ and that when it is put into the context of Easter morning 33 C.E. it heavily supports the hypothesis that Jesus Christ did indeed rise from the dead. Thus, in this argument, I will hope to show this process of thought.

The series of posts will be as such:

Part 1 will be a description of the Shroud, noting many of the particular characteristics of the image as well as the cloth. It is in this part that I will argue that the man on the Shroud, regardless of fact or forgery, depicts Jesus Christ. It is also throughout this first part that I'll address forgery theories and why all of them fail.

Part 2 will be a historical reconstruction of the Shroud's history, noting its probable time line from present to the empty tomb. It is also here that I'll address the carbon dating issue that has plagued the Shroud.

Part 3 will be an examination of many popular theories for explaining the empty tomb and see how they match up with the data we have on the Shroud, and then make the claim that the Resurrection best accounts for all this data. I'm assuming most skeptics come in with a binary view of Christianity – it is either true or it is not. There is no 'middle-ground' where Jesus was Resurrected by some other means. Either way, I'll still cover this line of though (albeit briefly).

I'm not under any delusions; I'm sure most people will walk away away either unconvinced or have too much apathy towards the subject to care. Still, as long as I show that one can indeed rationally believe in the Resurrection and thus Christianity, then it's something. And who knows, maybe I'll even convince a mind or two.

Or maybe not.

By the way, two good books on the Shroud of Turin are Robert K. Wilcox's "The Truth About The Shroud of Turin: Solving The Mystery" and Ian Wilson's "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved" (although I personally disagree with the latter's assessment of the re-weave theory)

1 I, for my self, blame this largely on Reformed theology, especially Calvinism, as well as just bad explanations by those preaching from the pulpit
2 Matthew 5:39
3 Deuteronomy 7:2
4 1 Corinthians 11:9
5 Hebrews 11:1
6 Romans 1:20 -- found at bible.cc

NOTE: All versions used either the KJV or the NKJV and were found on either http://bible.cc/ or http://www.biblegateway.com/

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