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The Resurrection: A Case of Collective Hallucination?

SCIENTISM CONFRONTS THE EMPTY TOMB

By Carl Sundell | April 2020
Carl Sundell is Professor Emeritus of English and Humanities at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He currently resides in Lubbock, Texas.

Arnold Lunn is famous for two things: introducing slalom skiing to the racing world and serving as one of the great Catholic apologists of the 20th century. The son of a Methodist minister of English descent, Lunn (1888-1974) was educated early in life by so many agnostics that he could hardly avoid joining their ranks. But by the age of 45, the clouds of agnosticism began to dissipate. “I can imagine no better training for the Church,” he once said, “than to spend, as I did, a year arguing the case against Catholicism with a Catholic, and a second year in defending the Catholic position against an agnostic.” In 1945 Lunn published The Third Day, his masterful defense of the doctrine of the Resurrection, without which all other Christian doctrines would have crumbled to dust in their own empty tombs. It was the proven Resurrection of Jesus that fueled the rise of Christianity, and it is the doctrine that has been most savagely attacked by the dedicated enemies of Christianity.

Do miracles happen? Many secularist Bible critics in the 19th century answered this question with a resounding no. Lunn attributes this doubt and denial to the aesthetic demands of science. The laws of nature are beautiful, scientists concluded, because they are regular and predictable; any event that cannot be explained by these laws is not real and is, therefore, ugly. Ergo, by the reasoning of scientific aesthetes, miracles are not real. Case closed. This dogmatic verdict contrasts with the view that science does not know everything, that science does not even know for a certainty that God does not exist; therefore, when scientists deny miracles, they express the irrational conviction that miracles cannot happen because there is no God to enact them.

Which of the two views is the more liberal one: the view of Christianity, which is that a certain remarkable event might be miraculous if it can’t be explained by natural causes, or the view of scientism, that a seemingly miraculous event can only be explained by natural causes? The dogmatism of the anti-miracle camp is further demonstrated by the oft-stated rule that whatever science cannot presently explain according to natural laws, sooner or later it will be able to explain, and, therefore, recourse to the notion of the miraculous is unnecessary. By taking the latter view, the purveyors of scientism must admit defeat, as nothing in science per se can demonstrate with surety that miracles cannot happen.

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The 19th-century movement called higher criticism was a concerted effort by certain scholars to debunk the authenticity of the Gospels. Some of these critics believed that the Gospels were written so long after the death of Jesus that their authors, whoever they were, did not know Jesus personally and, therefore, could reasonably be assumed to have inserted the miracles into the texts based on imaginative hearsay. Such conjecture might be credible if one is of the mistaken impression that the Gospels did not appear until the fourth century. However, this is to confuse the date of the writing of the Gospels with the time at which they were collected, authenticated, and approved as the New Testament. Lunn concludes that because all four Gospels refer to miracles performed by Jesus, these accounts could not be the interpolations of later forgers, as a great ruckus would have followed the discovery that the original Gospels had been tampered with in such a way. Accordingly, Lunn reasons, there is not a shred of evidence that the four Gospels are not authentic in their reporting of Jesus’ miracles, either by the evangelists who knew Him (Matthew and John) or by those who received their knowledge of His miracles from those who knew Him (Mark and Luke).

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