An Easter re-think on miracles

crucifixionFirst Appeared on ABC Online: 10/4/09:

Many years ago, my daughter asked me to tell her the truth about the Easter Bunny. It was a pivotal point in life for both of us, and the topic of conversation soon shifted to Santa Clause and the tooth fairy. What I hadn’t anticipated was a deeper discussion with a nine year old on the religious significance of the resurrection.

‘Why do adults spend so much time making us believe things that aren’t true? Maybe Jesus didn’t really get out of the tomb at all. It’s pretty funny after all isn’t it?’

According to my daughter, that question is on the lips of nearly every child who has ever attended a scripture lesson. It’s a question though, that is largely confined to adult theological discussion …as if children don’t ponder such ‘miracles’. I remember asking the same question of Mr Parker during scripture in 1966. I was soundly reprimanded for it.

These days of course, there would hopefully be no such reprimands.Teachers would take the time to listen, explain and understand, rather than attack. Our focus on creating children with a passion for enquiry and an independent mind would surely override the need to implant doctrine without discussion. Surely.

Yet the question remains pivotal in explaining the decline in Christian belief over the past 30 years in Australia.

Church leaders are largely adamant on the actuality of the resurrection. Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal George Pell is consistent with most of his fellow leaders when he states “If Christ isn’t truly risen then we’ve backed the wrong horse.” Only the Quakers have the vulnerability to view the resurrection as a matter of interpretation. It’s a vulnerability the rest could well learn from.

Perhaps there are many ‘lapsed’ believers who would gladly return to the fold if the acceptance of miracles wasn’t so pivotal to the ‘Christian’ label. The contradiction between our contemporary focus on logical world understanding, and the Christian insistence that not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but was a virgin birth, divided loaves and changed water to wine is surely too much for the rational human mind to seriously contemplate. From my daughter’s summary of what children really discuss after scripture, it could well be doing more to damage our children’s trust in the Christian faith than maintain it.

I realise fully that to Christian believers, faith in miracles immerses them in a different world. That by suspending the need for rational order they create an environment for deeper belief and spirituality. That unquestioning ‘faith’, is a fundamental hallmark of Christianity.

I also understand that by accepting the resurrection as fact, it makes it so much easier to accept without question the other miracles so pivotal to fundamental Christian faith. In 2009, as the number of practicing Christians in the western world declines, surely our relationship with God need no longer hinge on the ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ acceptance of miracles?

Unlike our often-tardy European ancestors, our educated society doesn’t need the threat of damnation or the lure of heaven as a form of social control. The idea that some supernatural entity was capable of ecstatic or damning miracles may have done the trick during the reformation. In struggling, oppressed and uneducated populations, fear of the unknowable is always a prime method of social control. This explains the Christian churches’ powerful drive into oppressed African and South American countries. In wealthier, educated societies however, the threat of supernatural intervention commands far less leverage.

In our society that is controlled more by its access to wealth than lack of it, we are more likely to be persuaded by feet on the ground logic than legendary miracles…by evolutionary proof rather than ‘intelligent design’. It’s also true that in ordinary secular life, any remotely dubious promise is likely to be scrutinised by a consumer watchdog or the ACCC. For the sake of miracles, the separation of church and state is indeed a necessity.

If the important life of Jesus is going to be questioned alongside Santa and the Easter Bunny, perhaps it’s time our religious leaders took a more flexible view of the Bible and those who read it differently. Perhaps it’s time they embraced the resurrection not as literal fact, but as a metaphor for the incredible resilience of humans and nations in the face of catastrophic events. Events we have seen all too much of lately.

The literal and the metaphoric could stand alone or together, yet both views could be honoured by religious leaders as valid expressions of ‘a’ relationship with God,…a relationship meaningful for all in modern society and one not contingent on, nor defined by our acceptance of miracles.

26 thoughts on “An Easter re-think on miracles”

  1. Christian’s have debated which bits of the Bible should be read literally and which should be seen as metaphoric and illustrative, since the beginning.

    And yet Christians have burnt other Christians, for crimes of heresy – for questioning the orthodox interpretation of the Bible (and usually because of politics as well)

    Saint Augustine, around 300 AD, was already saying that the Bible should be interpreted as metaphoric, and not as literal, if it contradicts our God-given reason.

    Joan of Arc was convicted of heresy for wearing men’s clothing (Deut 22:5-The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man) and later made a saint
    Galileo, a Christian, was threatened with the inquisition for saying that the earth was not the centre of the universe. Darwin was a Christian. Mary McKillop was excommunicated for “inciting disobedience”. More recently Bishop John Selby Spong has been accused of heresy for questioning interpretations of the Bible and the life of Jesus.

    As a Christian I think that it is important to remember that there is a very long tradition of questioning the orthodoxy and using our “God given intellect” to understand history, human politics and question the current interpretations of the Bible and what it means to be Christian. Logic, learning and faith are not mutually exclusive. Those with the most conviction, strongest faith or the loudest voice may not have the wisdom to know who is a “real” Christian, or who is closer to God.

    “Religious Education” is not an oxymoron – the first universities were monasteries and there is still soooo much more to learn.

  2. I am still not sure why ‘popularity’ is so important. As if it matters how many people ‘in the west’ go to church. You of all people should know that the true and the popular are often not intersecting sets at all.
    The question is not ‘why are attendances at church falling?’ but ‘Who moved the stone?’

  3. The Easter Miracles

    I’ve never had any concerns in encouraging my two boys to have fun in believing in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. I knew that by their middle-primary school years they would either realise, (or be told by their peers), that the absurdity of the beliefs made them absolutely untenable. Like me, they were disappointed to have made the discovery but the years of fun and excitement they had in holding on to those myths made it all worthwhile – and no psychological damage done.

    However, a belief in miracles and many Biblical stories is categorically different. This is the value of Phil’s article. Young children are capable but discouraged from questioning the basic tenets of their religion. The teaching of religion starts from early childhood and is stamped with the apparently credible imprimatur imposed by our churches, schools, families and social customs irrespective of the religious brand. Accordingly, it is very difficult for any child or adult to make the realisation that many of the Biblical teachings are patently false and dangerous. Dangerous, if for no other reason, that individuals, contrary to the principles of education, accept without question, patterns of behaviour, a moral code, and a perspective of the origins of and future of Life, Earth and our universe. This is akin to seeking guidance with faith in astrology, clairvoyance, quack medicines, Fen Shui, and any other set of rules that are not based on scientific knowledge. Religious education is about ‘faith and belief’, not ‘scientific knowledge’. ‘Intelligent Design’ is the former: ‘Theory of Evolution’ is the latter. Note: the word ‘theory’ here is a carry-over from its beginnings, as is the ‘theory of numbers’, ‘theory of continental drift’ – all of which have been and are continually scientifically scrutinised; not so religion.

    The term ‘religious education’ is oxymoronic. Education encourages the individual to discover that the processes of being inquisitive, sceptical, hypothesising, testing and learning is a rewarding end-in-itself. Education is not about being told answers or directed into correct patterns of behaviour and beliefs. Anything else, such as religious education, is either ‘training’ or ‘brainwashing’. For example, the comparative study of languages reveals how diverse and interconnected our human races have become. But, a point that I had to emphatically and unreservedly make to one of my school’s language classes after their scripture period was that differences in race and language were not a result of God’s ‘Tower Of Babel’. Babel is a good yarn and is easily accepted as fact by those who are not on the path of education.

    Phil’s right. Religion is not doing justice to children’s education. Put miracles back into the light-hearted good-yarn basket along side Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Otherwise ban religious education from school children until they are old enough to accept the fantasy of the metaphor without feeling the guilty contradiction of knowing that what they are being told is just a sham to keep the troops in order.

  4. Hi Phil,
    I completely agree with you that it is time religious leaders took a more flexible approach to those who read the bible differently. One thing I often hear is ‘you either believe the bible or you don’t’, but there are many different ways of reading the bible. And the way we read the bible has always been an evolving thing. At different stages, the bible was thought to promote the view that slavery was okay and that the sun revolved around the earth. We now read the bible different to that. And so we should be open to always looking at new ways to read and approach what the bible is actually saying.


  5. Hi Phil, thanks for your thought provoking comments. It is good to have someone say things that strikes at the core of what you believe because it makes you go away and think about why you believe them. I have done this and found myself once again blown away by the power of the literal resurrection…and had a hugely meaningful Easter as a result, so thank you. On my blog I have written a response to your article, so feel free to check it out and comment
    And thanks again for your challenge

  6. Hey Phil and any one else who may read this comment,
    I’m not sure where exactly you stand in terms of religion. You may have one of a number of different faiths, you may be an atheist, you may not care or you may have ‘nominal’ faith. I am a Christian. I’m not perfect, but I have a personal relationship in God (aka Jesus is my friend, however naive that may sound!), I am (I believe) forgiven by him and I follow Christ. I suppose I have written this to argue that the above interpretation of the Bible, in my opinion is wrong, but I don’t have to, the Bible argues its own case (or if you believe the Bible is the word of God, then he argues his own case). If you have a Bible handy then you can look up 1 Corinthians, chapter 15 verses, 12 to 14.

    ‘But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’

    The author of one of the gosples renounces your claim, too, in John 20:30-31

    ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’

    I think you will find that the entire Bible does not agree with the claims in the above article (No offense Phil Dye, Jesus loves you anyway!)
    Pretty much what I’m trying to get at is that the resurrection is pivitol to the christian faith. Without it, Jesus didn’t conquer death so there goes my forgiveness of sins. You can’t have the Christian faith without the forgiveness of sins. As for miracles I think John takes care of that in the second verse I quoted, but really they can’t be proved unless you were there. For further reading you may find it interesting to look at ‘Jesus: a short life’ by John Dickson. I hope you don’t find me to blunt, I respect your beliefs anyway Phil! It would be interesting to hear from you.

  7. I agree with Tim C. below me in most regards, perhaps not on the starting a new “religion” part, the last thing anyone needs is more.

    I’m a Christian and it is my definite standpoint that yes the ressurection is an absurd concept, but that’s the entire point. If it were in any way explainable or understandable it wouldn’t be a miracle, if it could be done by science or rationalised by human mind why would we need God? no its Gods intention to do the impossible deliberately, not to confuse us but to remind us that God is God, and thus capable of anything. If he wasn’t capable of miracles, of affecting anything in the world HE created, he wouldn’t be much help to us would he? as any intervention by him is miracle, whether the slightest whisper or full ressurection.

    I respect that some people do not consider the notion of God reasonable, as I didn’t for most of my life until id witnessed him, but if that is the case then why water down the bible? I personally do not believe in the teachings of the Qu’ran, this does not mean that i take the Qu’ran and still accept it as good teaching though metaphorical, no rather i regard it as having no application to my life because if Mohummad was not right in every respect then who is to say which parts are? In the same way, if God were not real then nothing in the bible would have any meaning beyond narrative interest because everything the bible says is good is purely what God says is good, so if God is not real why abide by his law? If their is no God there is also no morale standard for humanity and we can do as we please as all are equal therefore no-one has more authority than anyone else to decide what is good and bad. Without God why bother with morale teaching?

    I know God is a reality and some people might freak out at that statement but knowing what i know, what have i to lose to the world when i stand by an eternal God? So im not worried about them.

    But ultimately why bother being lenient to “semi-christians” that in itself is a total paradox, a Christian by definition follows the literal Jesus only because of his literal ressurection. if he hadnt risen hed be no different than me or you. No Christians need to retain a definate faith and definate standpoint, the church’s greatest atrocities all have occured because of a lenient subjective faith, (ie the crusades, when Christians decided God was just joking when he said do not kill, or a more current issue gay-hating, when Christians decide Gods teaching of forgiveness and love to all only applies to men who like women) these things are foolishness and the fruit of people who think they can twist the word of God as they please and this has never done any good.

    Write back if you disagree, Godbless yall

  8. I enjoyed your article, Phil. Mainly because it lacked polemic and simply raised the ever-present issue of how do we present Christian beliefs in contemporary society. Best of all your article was thankfully free of the strident tones of the fundamentalist atheists like Mr Dawkins who are making louder noises these days.
    On the question of miracles and the resurrection of Jesus (and therefore the resurrection of believers) there is now a wealth of material (including the writings of Rudolf Bultmann which were referred to in an earlier comment) which enable a thinking Christian to avoid any dichotomy between faith and reason.
    What is essential in any search for a deeper understanding of miracles and resurrection is the humility which characterizes the true academic and which acknowledges that what we currently know in both science and theology certainly does not exhaust what is to be known.
    Only with the openness of the true searcher can we make any headway in coming to a deeper and richer and more relevant exposition of the faith that has been handed down to us.
    My own understanding has been broadened immensely by people like A N Whitehead, our own Charles Birch and theologians like John Cobb. They lead to a God who works from within his creation, rather than from somewhere outside of creation – panentheism. Hence miracles are an instance of an aspect of creation which we are currently unable to explain in contemporary scientific terms. But my faith in science and in rational theology convinces me that eventually science will give us an insight into what is happening in those events which we currently call miracles. We all know that the ancients regarded as miraculous many things for which we now have scientific explanations.
    Likewise developments in Biblical criticsm have given insights into our understanding of events recorded in Scripture.
    I certainly hope that more articles like yours continue to stir up the sort of discussion which will move this process forward, thereby avoiding the useless polemics which seem to be the only language of fundamentalists of all flavours.

  9. Phil,

    The only thing disappearing faster than Christians in the West are the 1960s philosphical rationalists who wanted to eliminate anything that wasn’t empirically verifiable from the intellectual landscape (i.e. metaphysics).

    BTW, before you pontificate about the history and dispensability of “resurrection” (notably you never defined what you meant by resurrection and miracle in your ABC article, you need to state what is it that you don’t actually believe in), go ye and read N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (COQG 3; London: SPCK, 2003) and Richard Swinburne, Miracles (can’t remember bibliographical info) which will either help you gain a more informed point of view and (I assume) help you to keep your disgust fresh! Then again if you want believing and sceptical points of view to juxtapose then read Michael Bird and James Crossley, How Did Christianity Begin? A Believer and Unbeliever Examine the Evidence (London: SPCK, 2008) which is written by two biblical scholars in the UK.

  10. Well, I don’t want to interrupt the usual clash of reason and religion too much.

    But I think that you should be very proud of such an intelligent and curious daughter!

  11. The discussion and responses have enlightened me as to how Christians of faith, think, argue and interpret the opinions of those with a differing view.

    I am also unsure wether Phil intentionally baited the hook by using the term ‘evolutionary PROOF’ when ‘evolutionary theory’ would have been more apt. While this may appear to be pedantic it is a flaw that cost the high ground in the argument.

    The beauty of scientific scrutiny of evidence is that the result is only to support or reject the hypothesis. A supported hypothesis having become a scientific theory is really the ‘best current thinking’ and science invites in fact welcomes counter hypothesis’,

    That is why it is so attractive to the natural human logic.

    Don’t go giving away anymore easy free kicks Phil…


  12. While blind faith and dogma have also never appealed to me, reason and logic inspire a calm confidence which transcends mere human conjecture and underpins genuine faith with solid foundations and verifiable outcomes. Indeed, even Jesus stated that “faith without works is dead”, and it follows logically that practical demonstration of the principles of faith must be a requisite means to verify the correctness of those principles.
    A woman named Mary Baker Eddy grappled with these very same ideas in the late 19th century and her conclusions led her to write in her seminal work Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “proof, by present demonstration, that the so-called miracles of Jesus did not specially belong to a dispensation now ended, but that they illustrated an ever-operative divine Principle.”
    She named this divine Principle “Christian Science” – as the provable laws which Christ Jesus both demonstrated and taught to those around him, and which remain as applicable today as in Biblical times. She dedicated her life to healing, teaching and showing others how to apply these principles to heal anything inconsistent with a universal, loving, harmonious God and man created in God’s perfect spiritual image and likeness. Today, thousands of people dedicate themselves to applying these laws to healing physical, mental, financial, interpersonal, or any other discord, and they see verifiable results, as I have in my own life. Testimonies of healing are documented in a variety of ways, including at
    Have I personally seen an immaculate conception or someone awakened from the dead? Not yet. But I have seen ample proof of physical changes as a direct result of the application of God’s divine laws, and if I see something that works, then I have no reason to doubt that those trend-lines will lead to the documented outcomes. After all, Paul stated (in his letter to the Corinthians which addresses their resurrection doubts) that “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death”, and it seems logical to accept that each lesser demonstration of triumph over matter, sin, sensuality, sickness, and material-mindedness (or any belief of our separation from God and His Love) is requisite before we fully understand that “the kingdom of God is within you”.
    So, I find that I don’t need to blindly believe in the miracles or resurrection of Jesus – I can experience these things myself in innumerable and growing ways. That’s proof I can see and believe in.

  13. Hi Phil,

    I am a Christian theological student and i loved reading your piece. Not that i totally agree with what you say, but that you raise issues that need to be discussed. I am aware of unquestioned faith in the “Christian religion” but true faith questions. It seeks answers, it challenges what is revealed in the Bible and seeks proofs, it seeks rationality. True Christian faith not religious faith is rational.

    I would like to know if you have a view on whether we should put historical documents into a mythological category?
    The Bible holds as a historical document. It is a key to much unknown information about history in the Middle East.

    If we deny the resurrection and say Jesus is a mythological character are we placing the Bible as a mythological text? And then how do we approach the strong issues that Jesus raises? Jesus forces us to question the validity of him being the King of Heaven, the son of God, and many more things.The miracles and the testimonies support this validity. They dont supply a moral teaching unless you believe that Jesus is the above things. So where do you put the Bible if you say Jesus is a mythological character?

  14. No doubt many will enjoy you writing on this subject. I found it to be disappointing, I found it to be yet another opinion and limited in research and fact. Have you researched the resurrection of Jesus at all or have you taken a popular view as expressed by other of the same opinion.
    Christians need never be afraid to use reason or to question, in fact, I encourage it. From your article, your experience concerning God is very limited and a poor example. The question of the resurrection has been answered many times by scholars and historians. What are the options, did Jesus’ follows move the body, and it certainly was not the Romans or the Jews. If it was his followers, how? Archbishop Pell is right when he says that if the resurrection is not true then we Christians are “on the wrong horse”. My opinion and view is that we are not, this is not unreasoned, but it is faith.
    If you think that Christians demand unquestioned faith, then I suspect you are talking to the wrong ones. I do agree that some present an unquestioned belief as a requirement; I do not see the need. Our message is simple, Jesus is God who came and lived among us as a man. He lived and he did perform many miracles (the water into wine was only the start of it). His purpose was to save us from our own failings (sin). To do this he had to pay the consequences of or failings, he had to die. But to total undo those failings he had to defeat the whole concept. That is why the resurrection is so central in Christian faith. Without it there is no defeat of our sin.
    You have sent the Christians a challenge to think and to reason, on that you are on the mark as many do not. But you should also make sure of you own unquestioned beliefs are researched and questioned.
    To finish my comments, I must apologies to those who may read this; I used the “s” word. I know many are offended by this as it implies that I think they may be seriously lacking in some critical aspect of their personal life. As we all know our communities are free of such failings and we do not need counselors anti drugs just to get us through the day (sorry about that just a little stab at our social denials).
    The last point is that miracles have happened right through out Christian history (that is the history of Christians, not one written by Christians) and they still do today. If you want to look.

  15. That stirs the pot up just a little bit. I’m sure it will make those in the opposition in thought gnash their teeth with disbelief, whilsts supporters of the opinion will offer a slap on the back and say jolly well done, that ought to confuse them.

    Plenty of what if’s and I reckons, yet I can’t see any substance in what’s written. I wouldn’t call it an argument by any stretch. Perhaps a plea or pose. Is it a cry for spiritual resolve, or is it a silly face poked at christianity in order to relish an ensuing brawl from the sideline?

    I am interested in whether the author would actually own up to posessing any faith of their own in Christ as the son of God, or even none at all? I am sure however any admission to either side would in any magnitude would void the opinion offered.

    One or two points I found ameteurish and borrowed from thoroughly overused and lazy arguments. Dangerously erring on the side of unsupoportable and down right condescending of the readers intelligence.

    Firstly, “Our educated society”! It amazes me how often I see pride reveal a blatant ego. Projecting our own perception of greatness upon our society is something that probably happens when we are least secure in our thoughts or desperate for reassusrance. It is always disappointing to see this kind of term used in an idealogical arena, because it reveals a lack of credibility in an argument that a tyrant trying to drive a mob might use. Broad sweeping and inaccurate generalisations which alienate the freedom of individual thought and expression are hardly those I would expect from a respectable thinker. Assuming that society is so completely homogenous in its assertions and methods, when discussing a topic very much a crucial part of differentiation within society is very uninspiring.

    Secondly if I said “I have seen my mother make the same mistake!”…This, much like the oft toted “A young child, or my daughter asked me etc etc.” What credibility did this bring to the opinion? I think none! It does nothing for mine. Why on earth propose to discuss something seriously and then clumsilly attempt to disguise analogies precariously with assumed historical fact, then expecting the reader to respect an opinion which denounces the clear use of analogy as opposed to historical record? At least if I recall correctly scripture is usually quite uniform in delivering a situation either through a complete analogy or historical account. One of the things about scripture is even I can tell that Mark is saying Matt did this and John did that as opposed to, there was this bad guy whose brother had a bad day and the meaning of the story is his sister should try harder. Scripture sticks by its guns in each case as to which is which. If only short opinions and essays in this modern age of such social sophistication could manage to deliver the same.

    In future Christianity related posts I would be looking forward to more substance and patience and far less tinsel whacked around the Christmas tree in a rush to get it up in time for a provocative Easter.

  16. This just whittles down to the common idea that Jesus was a nice guy, but most of the mythological stuff is quite obviously incorrect or embellished.

    I do find it disturbing that people seem to take pride in their irrationality, though. And the hypocracy evident when some christians take said pride in their faith that jesus was born of a virgin and ressurrected, etc, but then have no trouble in discarding some of the fantasies of the old testament, such as Noah’s arc and what not. Even more hypocritical when most take the adam and eve story to be metaphorical, while somehow holding the view that Jesus’s death atoned us from the original sin. Really, it’s just an embarrasing mess of pick and choose.

    When the untampered minds of children can point out the fallacies of a way of thinking, then you know you’re on the wrong track…

  17. Phil, it was interesting that in an article on Easter you had to slip in the “evolutionary proof rather than intelligent design” statement. It just goes to show how important where you think you came from is in affecting your subsequent belief system. If atheists and others could just shed for a moment their own religious faith in the dogma of evolution they may see just how irrational it actually is. But when you are tied to the circular reasoning of evolutionary science you have no option but to deny God. That is, modern evolutionary science only allows natural explanations in its consideration of our origins so surprise, surprise that the super-natural is proven away. That sort of logic is irrational.
    Frankly, in my 2 biological science degrees the religious dogma and bias of naturalistic scientists drove me even more to seeing the truth and proofs of “intelligent design”. The ability of a loving creator to conquer death and rise from the dead, in order to defeat the curse of death is therefore a completely reasonable concept to accept.
    Phil, you have shown me once again that our understanding of where we came from is fundamental to our subsequent belief systems. Perhaps if you considered what you don’t know about evolution you might realise that you have a religious faith in it.

    Craig Hawkins

  18. Indeed, Phil. So, we’re going to dismiss anything with which we are not comfortable, in order to make the universe a rational place? Tell me, would you make the same demands of Muslims, that they deny the Journey of the Prophet to Al Aqsa, or of Buddhists, that they suspend belief in the Enlightenment of Siddartha Gautama; simply because you are not comfortable with something you cannot rationally encapsulate? No? I thought not. It’s only Christians who raise your ire. I wonder why?

    And here’s a thing. If Jesus did not rise from the dead; then the faith of millions is worthless. Countless martyrs over the centuries have died in vain. But that means nothing to Phil Dye, who wants to put the Easter Bunny and Jesus Christ in the same box; for the sake of philosophical convenience.

    My faith does not suspend the need for rational order. I am simply not so arrogant as to assume that I need to know everything, and that the universe must fit my assumptions in order to be valid.

  19. Thank you for a succinct and well written article. It’s nice to read an article that shows an appreciation for that which it is critiquing (unlike most of the standard anti-church rants one finds these days).

    Readers should be aware that this critique has been around for a long time, and first came from voices within the church. Most notably, the seminal 1941 essay New Testament and Mythology: The Problem of Demythologizing the New Testament Message by Rudolf Bultmann (Online translation: proposed an existential interpretation of mythological elements in the bible. This essay, has probably been on of the most hotly debated among the theological academy over the past century. Perhaps one day the fruits of this debate will filter down into the church.

  20. Well put, Phil….!

    Conventionally fumbled, Tim…!

    While I expected the logic of George Pell’s approach to Humanism, and the laterally popular viewpoint of Mark Coleridge’s Darwinian metaphor, it was Phil’s monograph today that had most impact.

    For me.

    But in the Socratic sense perhaps I doesn’t count.

    Tim, surely Pierre Teillhard would have applauded Phil’s brief quest toward the Omega, inspiring deeper, further, questioning?

    I mean, if something is worth having, holding, such as Christianity, then surely it must be an entity worthy of the wit, the humour, of question?

    And answer, of course.

    But then, as Teillhard would also agree, surely for every answer there must be a progression of questions?

    Mind you, on reading Phil’s monograph, there’d no doubt have been some bleating from the righteous fundamentalists, proving again that “intelligence” and “education” are neither a guarantee of constructive thought nor of wisdom. The remainder of the well funded fundamentalist fundament – indulge my coarse alliterative pun – would probably not have read your essay, let alone shown comprehension.

    Still, you’ve just about made my day.

    Thank you for taking time to pen your thoughts.

    Now, if only Peter Singer would chip in with something….. 🙂

    Cheers – and if ‘god’ is as apt spelled backward, then Border Collies rule..!

    – Theo. Bennett
    (on a Good and pleasant Friday in Canberra)

  21. If Jesus was not resurrected, then the core message of Christianity is indeed a sham, or a con. If Jesus is the son of god, literally, then the apparent laws of nature obey his command and not vice versa and thus miracles are simply evidence of this relationship. If he is not the son of god then the miracle stories are myth, but so is the core message. While non-christains may prefer a message without a resurrection, christians know (believe to be true on the basis of faith in God) that they are separated from God without this move on God’s part, and so rejoice in it. If you know (believe to be true on the basis of faith in rationality) that your relationship with ‘god’ depends on you and your actions here and now and is not subject to judgement then you have no need for Jesus or the bible. So why argue to ‘change’ the Jesus story when you could just tell your daughter that its not true, that she doesn’t need it? What is your broader agenda – to try and change the minds of believers?. Why would that lead to a more preferable world, from your point of view? More rational? I am genuinely interesed in this answer.

    Cheers, John

  22. AkenAten, the pharoah murdered by his wife Nephatiti, invented the concept of one god when he abolished the Egyptian priesthood. Moses and his escapee jews took the concept to palestine and after 600 yrs of war with the jews who had stayed in palestine and who worshipped cows, the one god became fixed. Christians and later moslems picked up the concept. Perhaps you could explain to your daughter that there is no such thing as a god.

  23. Phil,
    If you haven’t already noticed there is nothing “rational” about the message Christians proclaim.
    It was never meant to be as you say rational, nor ever can be.
    For salvation comes by Grace, through faith in Christ.
    It is a work of God to make men believe in this gospel. As the scriptures say “foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God unto salvation”
    If you want to change this glorious gospel of the love of God in Christ, if you want to water it down, remove the sticky bits, the bits which you find a bit hard to swallow then by all means go start a new religion. God does not want you to change this one.

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