Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When the Transcendent Fills the Ordinary



I will soon write my post on the resurrection appearances of Jesus, but first I wanted to post something more appropriate for the season. The above video has been watched almost 25 million times on YouTube. Water Russell Mead wrote the following in his blog post, "The Kingdom of God in a Food Court":
To hear this music in that place, and to see this spontaneity breaking forth in the midst of life at its dullest, most routine is to see what the Gospel really is.  Just as the Hallelujah Chorus erupts into the food court, changing everything, Jesus was born into the dreary history of a defeated people while his parents were fighting the seasonal crowds in Bethlehem like shoppers hunting for a table in the food court of an overcrowded mall.
When the miracle happens, the ordinary life of ordinary people is transformed.  This solid and often dull world of work and worry suddenly moves onto a new plane: infinitely richer.  We look up — not in duty or obligation or in moral resolve — but in sheer, surprising joy.
The juxtaposition of the ordinary and the transcendent is a recurring theme in the Gospel. We have this heavenly treasure in jars of clay, says the Apostle Paul--just like the blessed Virgin Mary, a humble girl who was chosen to bear the Messiah. When the King of kings came to live among us, He was born in a stable among the animals, and the glory of the Lord lit up the night for a group of shepherds as a multitude of the heavenly host proclaimed the good news that a Savior had been born for them (Luke 2:11).

He was born for them--and for us--ordinary people who experience the prosaic drudgery of human existence, like shepherds working the night shift. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: "God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them." Like in a food court.

15 comments:

Monty Dicksion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monty Dicksion said...

Hi - I've just discovered your blog (from the Ray Comfort blog) and I appreciate it (your blog, your comments). Monty

Anette Acker said...

Thank you, Monty! And I appreciate you stopping by.

Matt said...

Wow! Very nice blog you have, Anette.

*ponders taking more web development courses*

Anette Acker said...

Thanks, Matt, but you're giving me far too much credit if you think I designed it!

Matt said...

It's still a nice site!

Bullhorn Twotails said...

Really Anette, despite your unaccountable beliefs which seem so much at odds with your manifest intelligence, I didn't think you'd be taken in by your own words!

There was nothing 'spontaneous' about the 'sudden' eruption of the Hallelujah Chorus in the shopping mall, as you well know (the phenomenon of flash mobs & all that...). It was beautiful, no doubt, but I could have done without the lifting of hands which, to mind, destroyed the moment...

Not quite sure what point you were trying to make, but if it was to show that humanity can't rise above the rut of 'prosaic drudgery' to which it is condemned, without the helping hand of some imagined deity, then count me out.

I have 'transcendent' moments in my life on a daily basis; in fact I've engineered my life so that these happen all the time: no need for supernatural assistance to jolt me out of my stupor. A late Beethoven quartet, a brisk walk in the country, or the warmth of friends does me just fine, thank you. Or, as was the case, yesterday, 10 hours spent immersed in Keith Richards' wonderfully amusing and unapologetic autobiography. And yes, I could very well die of a brain hemorrhage, or worse, tomorrow....Such is life.

I do hope, for your sake, that you come to your senses, and leave your silly beliefs behind. They're hardly worth the effort as they amount to nothing at all.

Why can't you just take the Bible on its own merits, as a masterpiece of literature, and leave it at that? What's so compelling about your faith that you should cling to it as if your life depended on it? God knows, and I have it on good authority that He doesn't exist. In fact, I'd stake my life on it, without the slightest hesitation.

Happy New year!

clamflats said...

Hi Anette,
I thought you might like to take a look at this post on Common Sense Atheism

http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=13773#more-13773

It addresses Bayes Theory and the Resurrection. More interesting to me is the tone of the article and the way an error was honestly reported and apologized for.

Do you ever think we'll see a post like this on Atheist Central?

Anette Acker said...

Happy New Year, Bullhorn!

I was taken in by my own words in this post? And here I thought I was just writing down some nice feel-good Christmas thoughts that nobody would dispute. Who knew that this would be my undoing!

Anette Acker said...

clamflats,

That was nice how Luke Muehlhauser handled that. I have read his blog a few times and appreciate his level of honesty.

Anette Acker said...

Clamflats,

Did you read the full post in Common Sense Atheism? I thought Richard Carrier made a very interesting admission in his apology to the Lydia McGraw:

"Your conclusion is useful if it were based on correct facts. Part of my point in the interview was that it was not, hence my conclusion was actually based on that statement (that your declarations regarding the facts were incorrect), not the actual mathematical result you produced which, if it were correctly derived from the facts,would be a strong result that would warrant more serious attention to the prior probability of divine intervention in the universe in general." (Italics added.)

Carrier is one of very few scholars who don't believe that Jesus ever existed. Most secular scholars accept the historical facts that apologists focus on in arguing for the resurrection. They just don't believe in the resurrection itself. But Carrier, who labels himself an "Internet Infidel" on his blog, rejects those facts.

So I thought it was interesting that he seemed to admit that if the facts were correct then the McGrews would have a "strong result that would warrant more serious attention to the prior probability of divine intervention in the universe in general."

clamflats said...

Anette,
So I thought it was interesting that he seemed to admit that if the facts...

He is saying that the McGrews have constructed a valid argument. Being the diligent skeptic he says, “Show me a, b, and c and I will concede X.” That is not an admission of fault, it is a statement of condition. Many atheist writers have “admitted” the same. It may be that I have not read enough Christian apologists, but I can't recall any of them saying what conditions would convince them to change their beliefs. How about you? Say a document was to surface revealing that the testimony of the women witnesses to the empty grave was constructed by early church elders. All the other evidence stays the same. Would that give you pause?

Anette Acker said...

Clamflats,

He is saying that the McGrews have constructed a valid argument. Being the diligent skeptic he says, “Show me a, b, and c and I will concede X.”

If the purpose of skepticism is to avoid reaching conclusion X at all costs, then Richard Carrier is a very diligent skeptic. As I said before, he just flat-out denies the historicity of Jesus, which is a position that is virtually unheard of among scholars today. (But not at all unheard of on the Internet.)

It is not difficult to show a, b, and c, if they are the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the transformation of the disciples of Jesus that made them willing to die for their faith.

The only one that is in dispute among scholars is the empty tomb, and 75% of them believe that the tomb was found empty. Just about all scholars (including the non-theists) believe that the disciples had experiences in which they saw Jesus as the risen Christ. (They generally argue that it was a hallucination.)

But getting back to the empty tomb, there's a book called The Empty Tomb, which is a compilation of essays by atheists trying to refute the arguments for the resurrection. The book is pretty radical in the atheist direction, with one contributor who actually believes that Jesus had an evil twin who pulled all of this off. (I say this, recognizing that there are Christian apologists out there who are radical as well, in that they are not careful about the truth, and I avoid them.)

Carrier has contributed several chapters, and Jefferey Jay Lowder has contributed one. Lowder is pretty reasonable, like Luke Muehlhauser. In his chapter, Lowder concedes that Joseph of Arimathea probably buried Jesus in his tomb, but he argues that he had Him removed Saturday night (I've already addressed this argument in an earlier post).

So Lowder essentially concedes the empty tomb, but offers a naturalistic explanation. Lydia McGrew includes Lowder's hypothesis in her calculations.

Given all of that, Richard Carrier made a pretty striking admission when he said that if the facts were correct then the McGrews would have a "strong result that would warrant more serious attention to the prior probability of divine intervention in the universe in general."

clamflats said...

Given all of that, Richard Carrier made a pretty striking admission when he said that if the facts were correct..."

I still don't see what is striking about that statement. You are saying that Carrier is motivated to avoid reaching X "at all costs." That's an ad hominem error although you may be right.

AtCommon Sense Atheism, Luke has a new post on the Resurrection.

Anette Acker said...

You are saying that Carrier is motivated to avoid reaching X "at all costs." That's an ad hominem error although you may be right.

It's not an ad hominem attack. I was responding to your point that Carrier is a "diligent skeptic." My definition of a "diligent skeptic" is someone who honestly engages the evidence to arrive at the truth. It seems to me that rather than engaging the evidence, Carrier denies it by just saying that Jesus never existed.

There is extrabiblical evidence that Jesus existed, and, as Jeffery Jay Lowder pointed out, the New Testament itself is compelling evidence that He existed. Are we supposed to believe that everybody in the NT talked about a mythological figure as if He was real? And that this mythological figure had a brother (James) who was leading the early church at the time, and who also happened to be mentioned by Josephus? It seems to me you have to badly want to believe that Jesus didn't exist to reach that conclusion.

I do not mean that I think Carrier is a bad person or that I wouldn't like him if I knew him; I'm just saying that he is nowhere near the top of my list of honest skeptics. (But this is admittedly not a very prestigious list, so I'm sure he doesn't care much that he failed to make the cut. :)

Michael Ruse and Antony Flew, however, are. Both of them treat(ed) the opposition respectfully, and honestly engage(d) the evidence instead of running away from it. (I hold myself and other Christians to the same standard.) They're as far as I can tell completely intellectually honest even though neither of them could believe. Flew didn't deny any of the historical facts supporting the resurrection in his debate with Gary Habermas, but he said that he couldn't believe the supernatural. That is, it was more of an intuitive inability to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead rather than disagreement with the facts or arguments.

AtCommon Sense Atheism, Luke has a new post on the Resurrection.

I just read it. Is it the quote by Richard Carrier? He seems to contradict what he said to Lydia here. To her, he conceded that if her facts were correct, then he would take divine intervention more seriously. But here he takes Hume's approach to miracles, which has been deemed fallacious using Bayes' Theorem. Luke must not have noticed the contradiction when he posted that.

I still don't see what is striking about that statement.

What is striking about it is that most scholars, including many skeptics, concede the facts. Their best defense is the Humean argument against miracles. But that hole has now also been filled in by Bayes' Theorem.