Article VIII: Abracadabra

Written by:
Jacob King

Brian Cox writes in his book Why Does E=MC²? (And Why Does It Matter?) that we can only know things with certainty through the scientific method: 

You can invent any object or idea you like, but… if a concept is not testable by experiment, then we have no way of telling whether it's right or wrong, and it simply doesn’t matter either way… although it might have some sort of chimerical value in making us feel better.

If Cox is correct, and only things testable by experiment can be proven true, then I’m not really sure what is real in my life besides things like relativity, evolution and our species' constant instinct to reproduce. I can definitely forget about ever knowing for sure if things like the world beyond the Wardrobe exists. Screw chimerical value and feeling better; I want the raw and unadulterated truth, no matter what was discovered. But is the scientific method the only way to prove something true?

Around the same time as Lewis and Tolkien, another prolific author graduated from Oxford University: Dr. (and future Catholic Archbishop) Michael Sheehan. Sheehan was known for his stunning intellect, graduating from Oxford in nearly half the time as his colleagues. Sheehan wrote many books throughout his life, including a famous book on the proofs for the existence of God (a book that sold over four hundred and fifty thousand copies in its heyday, obviously before YouTube... when it was still cool to read). Sheehan said this regarding the methods our conscious ape-brains have for discovering sure truth:

“The modern reader… must be warned against the assumption that, outside the sphere of exact calculation and experiment, complete certainty is unattainable. On reflection he will realize that in the most important affairs of life, truth is established by quite different methods.”

Sheehan points out there aren't many places where the discovery of truth matters more than in the courtroom.

When one's life literally hangs in the balance, truth has to be determinable beyond a reasonable doubt. But how? Evidence is presented not only via experiments but also through eye-witness testimony. In fact, in the courtroom, the testimony of a thoroughly vetted witness – especially multiple witnesses – who saw something first-hand can be some of the most powerful type of evidence in the courtroom. “Human testimony, properly checked,” Sheehan states, “is a most certain means of arriving at the truth…” But just like in the search for truth through the scientific method there can be foolery, so also in human testimony. Yet in their best and most verified forms both the scientific method and human testimony are proven paths.

Sheehan also reveals that, contrary to popular belief, Christianity teaches that legit faith isn’t blind. It requires evidence. And just like the courtroom, the evidence for God has to “exclude all reasonable doubt and give us the certainty we require.” What I quickly noticed about Christianity was that this need for beyond-a-reasonable-doubt proof was undoubtedly understood by Jesus’ first followers – this teaching must have been from them. Back before the scientific method was even a thing, these main followers spent the whole of their lives obsessed with using the only means they had at their disposal to convey their supposed evidence: eyewitness testimony. “He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true,” states one of the most famous followers, “and he knows that he tells the truth—that you also may believe.”

What was even more shocking was they even backed up their testimony by giving their lives to witness to this supposed evidence. Out of the twelve head followers of Jesus, 

two were crucified — one upside down — 

another flayed alive, 

one stoned to death, 

and another burned alive.

Any one of them could have simply confessed “the evidence” was a foolish lie, said “adios suckers!” and lived happily ever after. And this wasn’t a tough-guy act: These men were actually super honest about the fact that they ran like cowardly Forrest Gumps at the very thought they would be imprisoned, let alone put to death alongside Jesus just a few years before.

But they claimed to have witnessed something after his death that would change them — something that would give “their dear hearts courage” and shape the course of their lives from thereon out. Something apparently so significant that it could even make them choose these horrific deaths rather than live knowing they denied the truth of its happening.

So what was this mind-blowing “something” that had the power to turn these cowards into heroic human shish kabobs? 

The blood-trail starts here: On the night before he was to be crucified, Jesus shared his last meal with his closest disciples. Phillip, one of his disciples, was struggling with doubt about Jesus’ true identity, so Phillip asked him straight-up, “...show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” (I feel like Phillip and I would’ve been tight.) Jesus is reported to have consoled Phillip in his doubt by saying,

“Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me Phillip? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.

After investigating what exactly these “works'' Jesus was referring to were, I discovered that the original word for “works” used by Jesus actually means… “miracles.” It seemed that Jesus thought Phillip should know...

“It is only God who has the power to work a miracle.”

But these “works” supposedly performed by Jesus were definitely not this-side-of-the-wardrobe performances like implanting a holy image on a grilled cheese sold on Ebay, 

or a David Blaine, abracadabra-type, magic trick…

The “works” claimed to have been done by Jesus by these first followers were definitely the sort of stuff that only an omnipotent, Big-Guns-Upstairs could do — works that defy laws of nature and order. “[They] who fixed the course of nature can alter, suspend or supersede it at [Their] pleasure…” And if true, these “works” must have made for one hell of a show...

I also learned that these ”works” were the linchpin C.S. Lewis needed to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that God was real. Lewis writes in his book, Miracles:

“All the essentials of Hinduism would, I think, remain unimpaired if you subtracted the miraculous, and the same is almost true of Mohammedanism. But you cannot do that with Christianity… The accounts of the miracles in first-century Palestine are either lies, legends or history. And if all, or the most important, of them are lies or legends then the claim which Christianity has been making for the last two thousands years is simply false…”

So what were these otherworldly performances that shattered doubt and proved his identity as the Voice once and for all?

What I unearthed for myself was that, although Jesus is claimed to have performed many god-like “works” throughout his ministry, the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the centerpiece of these “first-century Palestine” accounts. It is the fact, or fiction, that everything hinges on for the claims of Christianity. And, I’m sure, it was the main topic of discussion on that all-night walk taken by Lewis and Tolkien. (The Resurrection was so important to both of them that it even made its way into the stories of their series’ main characters: Aslan and Gandalf the White.

The death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the pinnacle of proof for God’s existence, because God, and only God, if They exist, has the power “to raise men even from the dead” and live forevermore. Only the one who created life has that sort of control over it. 

If Jesus of Nazareth didn’t resurrect, that would mean that it wasn’t God upon that Sign, the cross; it was just some well-meaning — albeit crazy — person, who didn’t possess miraculous power and wasn’t really the Voice. It would also mean God hadn’t pursued us like the Armenian father, and there is no eternal family seeking to reunite with us. If the resurrection is fake news, we and Joe Rogan can also know for sure, here-and-now, that we are simply ape-descendants roaming around aimlessly “on the surface of a rocky world orbiting an unremarkable middle-aged star,” just awaiting our inevitable slip back into nothingness — with nothing to discover after our bodies become tree fertilizer. 

It all boils down to this: either the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is a historical fact with insane implications to our search for ‘Who we are’ and ‘Why were here’; or the story of the resurrection is at best a misguided legend and at worst... the biggest, fattest lie in human history. 

Either way, I was going to try and find out.

Next Article: Lies, Legends or History will be dropping soon. Stay tuned!

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