Tag Archives: forgivness. Jesus

God, Guns and an Evil World

On June 6th, 2013 Chris Zawahri killed his father and brother in their own house. After setting that home and corpses inside ablaze the 23 year old walked the sun-drenched streets of Santa Monica, California with a .44-caliber handgun that had been in his family for years, and Santa Monica Shooting - Students - USA Today Imagesan AR-15 type rifle, clad in body armor and an intent that can only be described as evil.[1] He opened fire randomly at passing cars, wounding drivers, eventually taking one woman hostage while carjacking her.[2] Mr. Zawahri made his way to Santa Monica College where the shooting continued. Reports are starting to shed light on this very scary and dark event, one that took the life of at least five, two of the victims a father and daughter.  During a time when most college campuses are preparing to celebrate a graduating class, this years celebration will also be a memorial.[3]

On December 14th, 2012 a young man took his mother’s Bushmaster riffle and while she was sleeping pulled the trigger at point-blank range, killing her instantly. From there the young man drove to a nearby elementary school in the Sandy Hook community of Newtown,Sandy Hook Shooting - Angels - Episcopal Digital Network Connecticut armed with that Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, a Glock 20 SF handgun, a SIG Sauer handgun, and a loaded shotgun.[4] He entered the school around 9:35 AM by blasting his way with the high-powered rifle through the locked front doors. Once inside Sandy Hook elementary school 21-year-old Adam Lanza went from classroom to classroom, murdering any and all he saw. When this tragic day was over 27 people lay dead in that school including Mr. Lanza who took his own life, along with six faculty members and 20 children, most of which were kindergarteners.[5]

These events have intensified a debate that’s been raging for years.[6] The debate as reported by blog sites and major media outlets has mainly focused on gun control legislation and the availability of medical help for the mentally ill.[7] But are the answers we are really looking for wrapped up in these and the other topics that rule the media’s attention? Some have been writing in recognition of another topic all together, something much more pervasive. While still treated peripherally these events have reminded us that we are surrounded by evil. And as such other questions have been asked, questions that are usually for the theologically minded and relegated to the “Religion” section of the paper, if included at all. “Where was God?” and “How could God allow such a thing to happen?” are two of the more popular. When events such as the most recent ones in Santa Monica and Newtown take place we are often left wondering these and other questions. Often in the midst of tragedies people have difficulty understanding them in context of the existence of God, for many these questions serve as an objection to God’s existence. In fact this is one of the most popular objections to God, known as “The Problem of Evil.” Dr. Keith Yandell writes, “The existence of evil is the most influential consideration against the existence of God.”[8] Below I hope to explore the problem of evil by first discussing the existence of evil. The problem itself is actually made up of two sub-problems, the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of evil. For our purposes here we will only be discussing the intellectual problem of evil. At the conclusion of our discussion we will see that this problem is not a problem for the theist at all and it is quite the opposite actually.

Evil - 123rf

“The fact is that there is evil in the world…”[9] This is something that is clear to us all; it’s considered brute or basic knowledge. The events discussed above serve as evidence that evil exists. We often ignore evil, having become desensitized to it; that is until a man murders 26 innocent people, most of them children or he walks the streets of a wealthy suburb randomly shooting innocent human beings. Then we are jostled and shaken, as if being awakened from a sleep or trance to a cruel truth. Evil exists. Greg Stier, a contributor to the Christian Post writes, “What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School was at a level of malevolence beyond any earthly explanation or solution.”[10] About the Sandy Hook shooting Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy said, “Evil visited this community today.”[11]

Sam Harris, outspoken critic of religion and prolific atheistic author gives his own example of what evil is in a Huffington Post article,

Somewhere in the world a man has abducted a little girl. Soon he will rape, torture, and kill her. If an atrocity of this kind is not occurring at precisely this moment, it will happen in a few hours, or days at most. Such is the confidence we can draw from the statistical laws that govern the lives of six billion human beings.[12]

Atheist William Rowe, professor emeritus of philosophy at Purdue affirms the existence of evil, “Intense human and animal suffering, for example, occurs daily and in great plentitude in our world. Such suffering is a clear case of evil.”[13] In that same publication Paul Draper, who is quite well regarded in the area of the evidential argument of evil and also at Purdue equates evil with pain and defines it as “physical or mental suffering of any sort.”[14] The Psalmists writes “Evils have encompassed me without number.”[15] Jeremiah pleads, “Why is my pain unceasing, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?”[16] And Saint Paul tells us “the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now.”[17]

It is evidentially clear that evil exists but what exactly is “evil”? The dictionary definition of evil is “morally reprehensible, sinful, wicked.” We will use this definition as we explore the problem of evil. At this point it is important to note that the burden of proof here in the logical problem of evil rests on the skeptic being that this argument is supposed to be a positive argument for the non-existence of God. It is up to the skeptic to lay out an argument that concludes with “Therefore, God does not exist.”[18] With that let us examine the most often used argument against God.

The Intellectual Problem of Evil

Yandell plainly explains the intellectual problem as such, “That there is evil seems to many a feature of the world that God would not have allowed. Thus they argue that since evil does exist, God does not.”[19] The intellectual problem of evil itself has two lines of argumentation.The Problem of Evil The first is the logical argument from evil, which asserts that it is logically impossible for God and evil to exist. The second way the intellectual problem of evil is expressed is known as the evidential argument of evil and tries to show that it is highly improbable that God and evil exist. We will begin by exploring the first of these, the logical argument from evil.

The Logical Argument from Evil

The logical Argument is usually presented in the following format:

O1. An omnipotent God exists.

O2. An omniscient God exists.

O3. An omnibenevolent God exists.

E4. However, evil exists.

G. Therefore God does not exist.[20]

This problem as stated relies on the notion that it is logically impossible for an all-powerful, all knowing and all-loving God to exist while evil also exists. The skeptic reasons that either God is not O1, O2 and/or O3, given that evil exists, or evil would not exist. Since evil clearly exists (as we have seen), God, as according to traditional monotheism, does not exist.

But why think that O1, O2 and O3 are inconsistent with the existence of evil? This is where the skeptic must own the burden of proof; it is up to them to show that there is a contradiction between them. But there is no explicit contradiction here; that is, one statement is not the opposite of the others. In order for this argument to follow logically the skeptic must bring to the table at least two hidden assumptions,

O4. If God is O1, He can create any world He wants.

O5. If God were O3, He would prefer a world without evil.[21]

In light of these two hidden assumption the argument is that an all powerful and all-loving God could and would want to create a world without suffering. Therefore, it follows that because there is suffering in the world (E4) God does not exist (G). However, for this argument to follow logically the atheist must now show that O4 and/or O5 are necessarily true, a task they cannot accomplish.[22] In order for the skeptic to show O4 and/or O5 to be necessarily true there must not be any logical exceptions to them. In other words to show either or both of the premises false all one must do is provide a possible scenario that would show that God, while being all-powerful could not create any world he wants.

Is O4 (if God is omnipotent he can create any world He wants.) necessarily true? Not in a world in which God created people with free will! It would be logically impossible to create a free people and then force them to do or not to do anything against that free will. This would be the equivalent of having a married bachelor or a four-sided triangle. God, in his omnipotence cannot create illogical impossibilities. On this very subject William Lane Craig writes,

If people have free will, they may refuse to do what God desires. So there will be any number of possible worlds that God cannot create because the people in them wouldn’t cooperate with God’s desires. In fact, for all we know, it’s possible that in any world of free persons with as much good as this world there wouldn’t also be as much suffering. This conjecture need not be true or even probable, but so long as it’s even logically possible it shows that it is not necessarily true that God can create any world that He wants.[23]

In light of this it is clear that O4 is not necessarily true. What about O5, “If God were all-loving, He would prefer a world without suffering.” Is this necessarily true? This premise is easier to navigate for the simple reason that we can all imagine situations in which the allowance of suffering or evil can bring about a greater good. Garret DeWeese rightly points out that when answering this question we are not attempting to show what God’s actual reasons are for allowing evil, this would be equivalent to claiming to be omniscient. We are only showing that there are possible reasons for God to allow evil while remaining all loving and it would seem quite simple to imagine a world in which God could have reasons for allowing evil.[24]

If you are a parent then you have real-life experiences where allowing pain or suffering (evil) accomplishes a greater good, and done so out of love. I have two little girls and a third on the way; just yesterday we brought our youngest to the doctor where blood needed to be drawn, this caused pain to Phoebe but the results from the blood work will hopefully give the doctors clues as to what might help her. Out of our love we allowed our daughter to experience an evil in the hopes of a greater good being accomplished. Similarly God could have perfectly good reasons for allowing evil while loving us perfectly!

The free will defense can also be applied to O5. Given free will it may simply be impossible for an all-loving God to eliminate evil. As a point of fact the free will defense has been astonishingly successful throughout the history of philosophy. So much so that philosophers no longer believe the logical problem of evil exists. “No one can disprove God’s existence by the logical problem of evil.”[25] In conclusion, the skeptic simply cannot stand under the weight of the burden of proof assumed by his hidden assumptions. “It’s widely admitted by both atheist and Christian philosophers alike that the logical version of the problem suffering [evil] has failed.”[26]

The Evidential Argument from Evil

We have seen that the logical argument from evil for atheism fails but the evidential argument from evil is another challenge to theism within the larger context of the intellection problem of evil. The evidential argument from evil, unlike the logical argument, does not contend that there is a logical contradiction between the existence of God and evil. Instead the argument tries to prove that it is improbable that God would exist in light of the evil in the world. William Rowe expresses the evidential argument from evil as,

1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without therefore losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad.

2. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

3. There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.[27]

In his discussion of this argument Rowe uses an example of a fawn burned in a forest fire stated by natural causes (an example of natural evil). In this example the fawn not only dies but also suffers for five days without anyone ever knowing. Rowe concludes that this is an example of a sentient being suffering unnecessarily without any good that could offset that suffering. As a result it is more probable than not that God does not exist.[28]

Rowe's Problem of Evil - Wikipedia

Simply put Rowe says that [1] it would seem that there is no justifying reason for God to permit certain evils. [2] Therefore, it is “probably true” that there is no justifying reason for God to permit certain evils. He follows that if [2] is correct then it is probably true that the God of traditional monotheism does not exist. This reasoning seems true; if you or I search exhaustively for a reason to justify a certain evil and come up with nothing, it would be logical to conclude that there is more likely than not any justification for the evil done.

However Rowe does not go unchallenged. Dr. Gregory Ganssle of the Rivendell Institute approaches Rowe from the position that Rowe’s “grounds are insufficient for thinking that it is probably true that there is no justifying reason for God to allow the particular evil.”[29] This objection is based upon the notion that going from “seems” to “probably true” is a weak inference, and quite a jump in reasoning.

In order to see how Rowe’s argument breaks down we have to understand what kind of inference he is asking us to make. For example, “It seems as though there is no B-52 bomber in my dining room, therefore, probably there is no B-52 in my dining room,” is an example of a strong inference. It is reasonable for me to look up from my computer and see that there is no B-52 in my dining room, and then infer that there probably isn’t one. However not all inferences are equal. For example, “It seems as though there are no radio waves in my dining room, therefore, there probably are no radio waves in my dining room,” is a weak inference. Anyone can see the difference between these two examples; one is more reasonable than the other.

Ganssle uses the statement, “If there were a X, we would probably know it.” to test whether an inference is strong or weak.[30] The weaker the inference the less likely it is to be true. Going back to our examples, replace the “X” with “B-52 bomber” results in a statement that is true because we would see it. Replacing the “X” with “radio waves” we get a false statement because even if there were radio waves in this room we would not see them.

So, is God’s allowing some certain evil event akin to a B-52 or a radio wave? The statement we must test as true or not is, “If God had a justifying reason to allow a particular case of evil, we would probably know what it is.”[31] When phrased like this it is clear that we should know God’s justification for certain evil events, but there are other events that we would not and should not know God’s justification for. To claim otherwise would be to claim to be omniscient. Remember, we are not trying to ascertain the actual reasons for God to allow an evil event but instead we are trying to determine whether it is reasonable to think that there are justifiable reasons for God to allow that evil event.

Looking at most evils in the world it would be fair to conclude that there are justifiable reasons for God to allow them. In other words often times good can come from evil, even if we aren’t privy to that good in the midst of the evil. This can be said about most evils; good can and often does come from them. Greg Koukl, in his article A Good Reason for Evil says,

“It’s not good to promote evil itself, but one of the things about God is that He’s capable of taking a bad thing and making good come out of it. Mercy is one example of that. Without sin there would be no mercy. That’s true of a numbr of good things: bearing up under suffering, dealing with injustice, acts of heroism, forgiveness, long-suffering. These are all virtues that cannot be experienced in a world with no sin and evil.”[32]

But what about an event like the Santa Monica shooting? Or the shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, CT? As far as I can tell there is no good reason for God to have allowed those people to die in this manner. However, this does not mean that it is more likely than not that God does not have a justifiable reason. Actually I would conclude that if God exists there should be certain parts of reality that we would not understand due to them being beyond our grasp. If God exists I would expect a certain amount of mystery in any number of life’s experiences. In sum Ganssle writes,

The fact that there is mysterious evil is just what we would expect if there were a God… If this is about what we should expect, it cannot be counted as evidence against God’s existence. So even though it might seem, at first glance, that there are no good reasons to allow certain evils we see, this does not provide strong evidence that these evils are really unjustified. The evidential argument from evil, then, does not make it likely that God does not exist.[33]

Contrary to what the skeptic thinks it has become clear that instead of providing evidence against God’s existence, evidential argument from evil actually provides evidence for His existence. The fact that we cannot find justifiable reasons for God to allow all the evil in the world is exactly what we should expect if there were an omniscient, omnibenevolent, omnipotent and omnipresent deity.


Above we have explored only one of the arguments employed by atheists and other skeptics to prove that God does not exist. We have seen that their arguments fail for a number of reasons and for these reasons and others too it is “dubious that the existence of evil is in fact evidence against the existence of God.”[34]As a matter of fact we have seen that their arguments actually point to the existence of a Being that is consistent with traditional monotheism.

With that we have also seen that no matter the merits of the argument or the debate that is had, evil is real. Many times, and often in theThoreau Quote wake of tremendous evils such as public shootings it becomes clear that many do not take seriously the fact that evil is all around us. Going further and from a survey of headlines by major media outlets and what our politicians have to say about such events many do not take seriously the fact that there is only one solution to evil, and more legislation on this or less legislation on that with more social programs is not it. The solution is found nowhere but in God. It is becoming clear that the further away from God we move the more frequent these evil’s will become. Henry David Thoreau is credited with saying “For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil one strikes at the root.” Throughout human history there has only been one person who has been successful at striking the root of evil and that is Jesus Christ. And that we will have to discuss at a later time.

[1] Robin Abcarian, Jessica Garrison, Martha Grove (June 10, 2013). “Santa Monica Shooter’s background steeped in trauma, violence”. LA Times (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-0611-santa-monica-shooting-20130611,0,1490078.story)

[2] John Bacon (June 10, 2013). “Santa Monica shootings claim fifth victim”. USA Today (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/06/09/santa-monica-shooting-john-zawahri/2405015/)

[3] (June 11, 2013). “Santa Monica College To Celebrate Graduation, Remember Shooting Victims In Dual Ceremony”. CBSLA (http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2013/06/11/santa-monica-college-to-celebrate-graduation-remember-shooting-victims-in-dual-ceremony/)

[4] Steve Almasy (December 19, 2012). “Newtown shooter’s guns: What we know”. (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/18/us/connecticut-lanza-guns/index.html accessed Dec. 19. 2012)

[5] Richard Esposito, Candace Smith, Christina NG (December 14, 2012). “20 Children Died in Newtown, Conn., School Massacre”. AP. ABC News. (http://abcnews.go.com/US/twenty-children-died-newtown-connecticut-school-shooting/story?id=17973836#.UOIAHEKhosk accessed on Dec. 17, 2012).

[6] James Barron (December 14, 2012). “Nation Reels After Gunman Massacres 20 Children at School in Connecticut.” The New York Times. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/15/nyregion/shooting-reported-at-connecticut-elementary-school.html?_r=0 accessed Dec. 17, 2012).

[7] CNN Editorial Staff (December 14, 2012). “After school shooting, how do we stop the violence?” CNN. (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/14/us/school-shooting-violence-irpt/index.html accessed Dec. 17, 2012)

[8] Keith E. Yandell. Philosophy of Religion: A contempary introduction (New York: Routledge, 2004), 124 -125.

[9] Keith E. Yandell. 125. [Just: Ibid., 125]

[10] Greg Stier (December 27, 2012). “Gun Control Is Not the Answer.” The Christian Post Online. (http://www.christianpost.com/news/gun-control-is-not-the-answer-87291/ accessed Dec. 19, 2012)

[11] Susan Candiotti, Chelsea Carter (December 15, 2012). “‘Why? Why?’: 26 dead in elementary school massacre.” CNN. (http://edition.cnn.com/2012/12/14/us/connecticut-school-shooting/index.html accessed Dec. 17, 2012).

[12] Sam Harris (October 6, 2005). “There is No God (And You Know It.” Huffington Post. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/there-is-no-god-and-you-k_b_8459.html? accessed on Dec. 13, 2012).

[13] William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” In Philosophy of Religion: A Reader Guide, ed. William Lane Craig (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 2002), 318.

[14] Ibid, Paul Draper, “Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists,” 329.

[15] Psalm 40:12, RSV.

[16] Jeremiah 15:8, RSV.

[17] Romans 8:22, RSV.

[18] William Lane Craig, On Guard: Defending your faith with reason and precision (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 153.

[19] Yandell, Philosophy of Religion, 125.

[20] Garrett DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil.” Biola University recorded lecture series.

[21] Craig, On Guard, 155.

[22] Necessarily true statements are statements that cannot be untrue in any situation. Logical truths are widely agreed to by necessarily true statements across religious and philosophical spectrums.

[23] Craig, On Guard, 156.

[24] DeWeese, “Solving the Problem of Evil” Biola Lecture series.

[25] DeWeese, “Answering the Problem of Evil.” Biola lecture series.

[26] Craig, On Guard, 157.

[27] William L. Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” In Philosophy of Religion: A Reader Guide, ed. William Lane Craig (Rutgers University Press: New Brunswick, NJ, 2002), 318.

[28] Ibid, 320-322.

[29] Gregory Ganssle, A Reasonable God: Engaging the New Face of Atheism (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2009), 157.

[30] Ibid, 158.

[31] Ibid, 158.

[33] Ibid, 159.

[34] Yandell, Philosophy of Religion, 161.


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The Resurrection is Historically Reliable


Next to God’s creation ex nihilo, His raising Jesus Christ from the grave is the greatest, most important event in human history. If the resurrection of Jesus can be shown to have occurred it should change the lives of every person who learns of it. On the other hand, if the resurrection is false then Christianity is also false. Saint Paul writes, “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”[1] Paul doesn’t stop there though, he goes on the explain that if it can be shown that Christ Jesus has not be resurrected then we are false witnesses of God and our “faith isPivotal futile,” being still in our sins, that we as Christians should be pitied above all men. On the pages that follow I will provide a historical case for the resurrection of Jesus that will appeal to an increasingly secular, postmodern audience. We will first look at the historical documents testifying to the resurrection to see if they can even be trusted. From there we will examine the historical bedrock pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus; which consists of four events that are universally considered historically trustworthy. We will then explore how history is done, by defining and understanding important criteria applied by historians when trying to explain a historical event. Finally, we will apply these criteria to the historical bedrock in an attempt to come to a conclusion as to the best explanation of events.

1. Trusting Historical Documents

We live in interesting times, a time in which technology has given us almost unlimited access to unlimited information, on an unlimited scale. We no longer have to turn to experts and purchase expensive books in the search for answers to our questions. We only have to “Google” a few terms and voila, we have thousands of resources to choose googlefrom; what would have been equivalent to hours of research has been accomplished in seconds. We also live in a post-modern world, where physicalism and naturalism rule the day. Where secularism is increasingly popular and the supernatural is routinely dismissed as superstition at best or worse, delusional. As a result the very existence of truth has come into question. When these philosophies are translated into a historiographical approach in order to study the past the results are devastating. Doing history one must rely on evidence of events in the past, and in the case of the events pertaining to Jesus, 2000 years in the past. So before we can look at the events from antiquity themselves, we first need to see if the documents we are relying on are an accurate representation of what really happened. As opposed to what the relativist amerced in postmodernity might say we can know with a fair amount of certainty what happened in the past, even the distant past.

For the most part we are going to be relying on the documents making up the New Testament [NT] to gain information about the events surrounding the resurrection ofPapyrus 66 (200AD) Jesus. However it is important to note that we are not assuming that the NT is the inspired Word of God, instead we will simply being treating them as every historian would, 27 individually written historical narratives.

When historians study history they use certain criteria in order to establish an event as having happened. They look for eyewitness accounts, multiple independent accounts, consistent and corroborative accounts, and accounts that are recorded close to the time of the event.[2] We will see that the New Testament documents satisfy these criteria.

We are able to conclude that the New Testament is accurate and reliable because we can compare a multitude of manuscripts. This is a line of argument all but ignored by postmodernists and skeptics. Between the first and fifteenth centuries more than 24,000 partial and complete New Testament manuscripts were reproduced.[3]  Around 5,600 of these copies date to less than 100 years of the actual events. Compared to each other we see amazing accuracy and likeness. From a historians perspective this satisfies the criteria of multiple, independent, and consistent accounts.

Even more amazing is time that transpired between the original writings and the first copies. We have most of the New Testament manuscripts dated within 200 years of the events. We have some books dating to within 100 years of the events. We also have one fragment that comes within a generation of the events themselves. Also, awaiting publishing is a fragment of Mark’s Gospel believed to date to the first-century.[4] The closeness of these sources to the events is simply amazing, giving historian’s confidence that what is recorded is accurate and true to the actual events as they happened.

Also, compared to any other ancient text the New Testament stands in a class of its own due to the number of manuscripts, whole or partial that exists. “Not only are there thousands more manuscripts and portions of the New Testament than other ancient books, but the oldest New Testament manuscript portions are centuries earlier,” as compared to say the Iliad, etc. This results in the ability to reconstruct the original documents with a greater degree of accuracy than any other ancient book.[5] If one is to doubt the authenticity of the New Testament documents then one must also doubt all ancient writing. Dr. Clay Jones, author and professor at Biola University writes (http://www.clayjones.net/), “Since the New Testament manuscripts outstrip every other ancient manuscript in sheer number and proximity to the autographs, then the New Testament should be regarded as having been accurately transmitted.”[6]

Graphic from Visual Unit via http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2012/05/visualizing-the-reliability-of-the-new-testament-compared-to-other-ancient-texts/

Graphic from Visual Unit via http://thinkingmatters.org.nz/2012/05/visualizing-the-reliability-of-the-new-testament-compared-to-other-ancient-texts/

Dr. Jones introduces us to an important topic above. The process used in determining to what degree any ancient document corresponds to its original is called textual criticism.  Lower criticism deals the authenticity of the text. Textual critics try to recreate the original texts of the lost document by comparing copies of the writings, in this case the ancient New Testament documents. The results? We can be confident “that the Bible has not only been preserved in the largest number of manuscripts of any book from the ancient world, but that it also contains fewer errors in transmission.”[7] Of these errors only 10 percent affect the meaning of the passage, none relating to the death, burial or resurrection narratives.[8]

In light of these evidences and the work of textual critics, historians can be certain that what we’re reading today, “line for line, word for word, and even letter for letter”, is what was originally written.[9] As such we can be confident that it is an accurate record of events. Relating these things to our larger topic Mike Licona writes,

We have reports that Jesus has been raised from the dead from at least one eyewitness (Paul) and probably more (the Jerusalem apostles preserved in the kerygma). These reports are very early and provide multiple independent testimonies, as well as testimony from one who had been hostile to the Christian message previous to his conversion experience. The canonical Gospels probably contain some traditions that go back to the original apostles… To the extent one is convinced that Clement of Rome and Polycarp knew one or more of the apostles, their letters may yield valuable insights pertaining to the apostolic teachings.[10]

From here we are now going to see how this relates to the resurrection of Jesus by exploring the historical bedrock the event rests firmly on.

2. Historical Bedrock

There are four historical facts regarding the events surrounding Jesus’ death, all of Mike Liconawhich are almost universally agreed upon by historians across religious, political and philosophical lines. The death of Jesus of Nazareth by crucifixion, the empty tomb where Jesus was laid after the crucifixion, the postmortem appearances of Jesus to the disciples and their willingness to die for that belief, and the conversion of Paul on the road to Damascus. Below we will look at these four events as attested to in the historical documents and agreed upon by every serious scholar.

2.1. The death of Jesus by crucifixion

Jesus’ death by crucifixion is attested to by a good many sources and is considered one
of the best-known facts of all history. “No serious historian of any religious or nonreligious stripe doubts that Jesus of Nazareth really lived in the first century and was executed…”[11] Very good, independent sources are available for commentary on this. Dr. Licona writes, “From the late first century B.C. through the end of the first century A.D., Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Livy, Philo, and Josephus report of people being… crucified.”[12]

As far as evidence for Jesus death by crucifixion there are a number of lines of evidence in support of it. First and foremost there are multiple attestations by a number of ancient sources. Let’s first list the nonChristian sources. In Antiquites of the Jews 18.3 Josephus reports of Jesus’ crucifixion, “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man…Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross.”[13] Lucian, Tacitus and Mara bar Serpion all offer commentary on the crucifixion of Jesus. Lucian even testifies that Jesus was crucified in Palestine in his Peregr. In The Annals while discussing Nero’s treatment of Christians Tactitus explains that “Christus, from whom the name [Christians] had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius and the hands of one of our procurators, Pantius Pilatus.”[14]

As far as Christian sources reporting the event, well obviously they are many. All four Gospels report of Jesus being crucified and dying. Mark reports “And they crucified him [Jesus]. Dividing up his clothes, the cast lots to see what each would get. It was the third hour when they crucified him… With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.”[15] Saint Matthew writes in agreement with Mark, “When they had crucified him, the divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down they kept watch over him there… And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.”[16] And the apostle John records, “Finally Pilate handed him [Jesus] over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus… he went out to the place of the Skull. Here they crucified him… With that, Jesus bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”[17]

“Jesus death and/or crucifixion are also abundantly mentioned in noncanonicalMatthias_Grünewald_-_The_Crucifixion_-_WGA10710
literature.”[18] For example, in Acts 2:36 Luke writes “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified…” Paul mentions Jesus’ death in 1 Corinthians and in Galatians. Also, these passages are very early indeed, giving us a report of Jesus’ death by crucifixion at or around 55 A.D. This mean Paul was preaching the crucifixion just 21 years after Jesus’ death. According to the perspective of a historian this is extremely rare and valuable.

As far as Jesus dying on the cross, modern science has even commented. The Journal of the American Medical Association published an article saying that “interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.”[19] In fact the overwhelming majority of scholars agree that Jesus died on the Roman cross. Even Bart Ehrman in his first debate with Mike Licona said, “There are some things we can say for certain really happened… We can say for certain that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect Pontius Pilot.”

2.2. The empty Tomb

The second line of evidence to explore as part of our historical bedrock is the empty tomb as according to friendly and unfriendly sources.  The burial of Jesus “is one of the best-established facts about Jesus.”[20] For the sake of time and space we will concentrate not on the evidence for the burial of Jesus but for the empty tomb. However, it should not go unmentioned that there are very early and independent sources supporting all aspects of the burial. It is in fact a very well established fact of history.

With that said, there are a number of lines of reasoning that lead us to the knowledge that the tomb was empty, the first of which is the simple fact that we know with a fair amount of certainty the location for Jesus burial, as did the disciples. Jesus wasthe emply tomb executed in public and buried in Jerusalem. Were the tomb not empty not only would the disciples have never claimed he was raised, it would have been incredibly easy for the Sanhedrin to squash the rumors that ultimately lead to the flourishing of Christianity. All they would have had to do is exhume the body and display it, squashing any theory of a risen Jesus. But instead the Sanhedrin, admitting the tomb was empty, accused the disciples of stealing it, trying to explain the missing corps. But we can be sure that the accusations were as empty as the tomb.[21] In fact this is scene in the historical documents we have testify to this.

Following the narrative in Matthew we see that a Roman guard sealed the occupied tomb and stood watch. History tells us that the Romans were loyal to death, had anyone tried to remove the body from the tomb they would have faced an elite band of soldiers. But most convincingly in Matthew 28 we read that the guards, finding an empty tomb went to Jesus’ accusers to inquire about what should be done. The chief priests “gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, ‘You are to say, His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.”[22]

You see, all knew that the tomb was empty, so what were the possible explanations of this? As the Sanhedrin hypothesized, the disciples of Jesus could have stolen the body. But as we saw above this could not of happened. But for argument sake if the disciples had somehow distracted the Roman guards, rolled away the massive stone sealing the tomb and then taken the body, they themselves would have known that Jesus had not risen. They would have known it was a hoax. And they certainly would not have been willing to suffer and die for what they knew to be false as discussed above.

Please understand that scholars unfriendly to the Christian story agree that the tomb was empty. Allison, Bostock, Carnley, Ehrman, Fisher, Grant, and Vermes all grant that the tomb being empty is as close to a historical certainty as we can ever get.[23] In light of this we can be confident that Jesus was buried in a specific tomb and later that tomb was found to be empty.

2.3. Postmortem appearances of Jesus to the disciples and their willingness to be martyred

“Shortly after Jesus’ death, his disciples asserted he had returned to life and appeared to some of them in both individual and group settings.”[24] The earliest Christian evangelists cite hundreds of eyewitnesses; many of these witnesses also documented their experiences, which we can examine. Perhaps the most significant of these is found 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas [which is Peter], then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. [25]

Here Paul gives us a summary of events that have multiple attestations by the other evangelists. In verse 3 Paul reports on the death of Jesus, which is also reported in strikingly similar fashion in many of the other evangelists writings. Jesus’ burial in verse 4 can be found in all the canonical Gospels. And most important to our discussion, Paul’s report of Jesus’s posthumous appearance is found in a number of different sources. This last point deserves a little more attention.[26]

Paul gives us a list of witnesses to Jesus resurrection. As with many of the appearances listed in the New Testament records, this one in 1 Corinthians is multiply attested to which speaks to its reliability. The appearances in verse 5, to Peter may also be alluded Stom,_Matthias_-Supper at Emmausto in Mark 16:6 and even more is mentioned specifically in Luke 24:34. This is an example of a postmortem appearance of Jesus, attested to by three independent sources written fairly close to the events themselves. Another example is Paul’s mention of Jesus’ appearance to the twelve found in that same verse. Both Luke and John make mention of this appearance in their writings. Licona, agreeing with Dr. Craig and Dr. Wright believes that “the appearance to the more than five hundred is the appearance in Galilee mentioned in Matthew 28:16-18.”[27]

In order to offer a summary of the 1 Corinthians passage it is important to note that it is very early (A.D. 55), more likely than not based on eyewitness testimony, and very accurately attests to the events of Jesus’ death, burial and postmortem appearances/resurrection. What is found in this passage in light of the other New Testament documents is a historians dream! What we have in this passage is a certifiable, formal, and official proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

It is also important to understand that claiming the risen Christ was not without consequence. Many times we take for granted our freedom to claim Jesus as our savior. We must be reminded that eyewitnesses willingly and resolutely were subjected to torture and death in defense of their claim to have seen Jesus resurrected. Knowing this we can be sure of their sincerity and be confident that they were telling the truth and not perpetuating an elaborate hoax. Looking at the historical record found in Acts 4:1-17, Pliny’s Letters to Trojan and others, early believers could have ended their suffering my simply renouncing the faith and claim of seeing Jesus post-resurrection, however this was not the case.[28] Most endured suffering to the point of death while claiming the risen Jesus.

You might object that martyrdom, while testifying to someone’s wholehearted belief, does not validate that belief. And this is true, but the early Christian martyrs are an exception because they knew whether they were professing the truth or not.[29] They either saw a resurrected Jesus or they didn’t and this is extraordinary. If it were a lie why would so many people defend it? There was no social, political or financial benefit. In fact claiming this only lead to persecution, imprisonment, torture and/or death. What they were claiming to have seen was either true or not, and they were willing to die for that claim.[30] Considering the large number of witnesses present eventually someone would have confessed to the truth once they or their family members fell victim to the Roman cross, sword, spear or Emperor Nero’s fires.[31] But the fact is that even in the face of horrible suffering and persecution to this day we don’t have one record of an early Christian denouncing the faith in an attempt to end the suffering. Instead we have numerous accounts of Jesus appearing post-resurrection and hundreds of eyewitnesses willing to suffer and even die for that claim.

In order to gain a complete understanding of the effects of seeing Jesus resurrected we should look to the Apostles specifically. They all underwent undeniable change after the appearances of the post-resurrected Jesus. These were not the bravest of men, directly following Jesus’ capture and crucifixion they ran and hid in fear. But following Jesus’ resurrection they started boldly confessing Christ and the resurrection in the face of persecution. There is no explanation for this other than that they believed what they had witnessed to be true. Instead of any worldly gain these men gave up everything they had for this belief, eventually giving their lives! We are now going to turn our attention to a contemporary of Jesus who was not only a skeptic but persecutor of the early church. Through an experience he then converted and dedicated his life to preach the Gospel. We now briefly look at the conversion of Paul.

2.4. The conversions of Paul

The last part of the historical bedrock is the unlikely conversion of Paul. Paul’s conversion is of particular interest because of the nature of his testimony. Paul’s reports are very early, as mentioned above, but he was also an enemy of the church. This means we get early historical narratives not only from friendly sources “but also by at leastMichelangelo_Merisi_da_Caravaggio_-_The_Conversion_of_St._Paul_-_WGA04135 someone who was a vehement foe at the time of the experience.”[32] Paul personally admitted to being a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,” specifically toward Christians and the early church.[33] In fact he was partially responsible for and present at the stoning of Steven. Following an encounter with what he claimed to be the resurrected Christ Paul was immediately and drastically changed. He was a rabbi, a Pharisee, a respected Jewish leader. He hated the Christian heresy and was doing everything in his power to stamp it out. He was even responsible for the execution of Christian believers. Then suddenly he gave up everything… and became a Christian missionary: he entered a life of poverty, labor, and suffering. He was whipped, beaten, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked three times… and was martyred for his believe in the risen Christ at Rome.[34]

Paul was willing to give everything up, including his own life in order to preach the Gospel. One must understand that Paul was not a fisherman or lay person, Paul was a Pharisee, from wealth, highly educated. He truly had everything to lose. Paul’s conversion stands out because unlike common conversations of people from one religion to another Paul did not change due to second party sources. No, he had what he claimed to be an authentic experience with the risen Jesus Christ, who appeared directly to him. These things are universally accepted among scholars.

Now that we have these well attested to facts regarding Jesus’ death, burial and postmortem appearances/resurrection what do we do with them? This is where method becomes important as we apply it to the facts and begin to see that God raising Jesus from the grave is the best explanation.

3. Method

There is a formal method historians use when assessing events in pursuit of an accurate picture and historical truth of an event. When weighing hypotheses to explain a given data set often times historians use what’s known as the argument from best explanation.[35] This method uses the following set of criteria to explain which hypothesis best fits the set of events.

Explanatory Scope – the greater the number of facts accounted for by a hypotheses, the greater the explanatory scope.

Explanatory Power – the hypothesis that explains the data with the least amount of effort, vagueness and ambiguity has greater explanatory power.

Plausibility – the more independent sources that corroborate the hypothesis gives it greater plausibility.

Less Ad Hoc – when a hypothesis enlists non-evidenced assumption, when it goes above and beyond what is already known the more ad hoc it becomes.[36]

“Rather than providing a magical formula for discovering the past, these criteria define how a fair-minded critical examination of the data may be conducted.”[37] What the historian does here is look at the knowable historical facts, as we’ve done above, and from these facts he tries to figure out what historical condition would most likely produce them. This process is similar to the way a physician diagnoses a patient; by looking at the symptoms and finding a diagnosis that most easily and best fits all the symptoms.[38] The more criteria the hypothesis satisfies the better it is.

We will apply the argument from the best explanation to the four historical facts discussed above in the context of two different hypotheses. First we will look at the most common naturalistic hypothesis offered today, the hallucination hypothesis. In this hypothesis Jesus dies brutally and quite suddenly as reported in the biblical texts. This causes confusion and grief among the followers of Jesus and as a result the experience hallucinations of a risen Jesus.[39]

This hypothesis perfectly explains Jesus death on a Roman cross seeing as though it is exactly what is reported in the historical texts. It would also explain the individual appearances of Jesus to one person at a time. For example it would explain his appearance to Peter because Peter would have probably been in a state of tremendous stress, guilt, grief and despair, creating a scenario where a hallucination would not be out of the ordinary.[40] However it would not explain Jesus appearance to the masses because medical knowledge tells us that hallucinations are individual experiences and are not shared among groups of people. And this also would not account for the appearance to Paul because Paul hated the Christians and was a persecutor of the early church. He most certainly was not grieving Jesus death or any of the surrounding events. Positing a hallucination does nothing to explain the empty tomb, unless the hallucinations were to be shared also by the Roman guard and Sanhedrin asking the guard to lie. So in accessing the hallucination hypothesis we would have to say that it is less ad hoc because it can explain the death of Jesus and possibly the individual appearances and there does not seem to be any non-evidence based assumptions. But this hypothesis lacks explanatory scope because it only accounts for one of the four historical facts; it lacks explanatory power because it would have to posit groups of a people sharing the same hallucinations at the same time which we know does not happen; it lacks plausibility because there is no literature or research in support of group hallucinations within the medical community and as such in an unknown phenomenon. So of the four criteria used by historians the hallucination hypothesis satisfies one.

Now let’s examine the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the resurrection hypothesis and is simply that Jesus died, God raised him from the dead and then Jesus appeared to others in group and individual settings. Well it’s easy to see that this hypothesis accounts for all of the events making up our historical bedrock. It accounts for Jesus death by crucifixion. The empty tomb is accounted for because Jesus was raised by God. This hypothesis perfectly accounts for why a number of people, friendly and unfriendly, would report to have an experience of Jesus appearing to them. “After all, if Jesus rose and appeared to them we would expect people to have these kinds of experiences wouldn’t we? And have the beliefs that Jesus rose and appeared to them.”[41] And similarly this hypothesis would explain the conversion of Paul. If Paul had indeed experienced Jesus as he describes in the historical record then one would expect such a radical change. Actually, it would be difficult to think of another hypothesis that could explain this. So, as we see the resurrection hypothesis has great explanatory scope because it accounts for all four of our historical facts; it has good explanatory power because there is no pushing or straining trying to make the facts fit; the weakest of the criteria would be plausibility because there isn’t much in the way of literature regarding resurrections but this is not a negative point because there is nothing saying that God cannot raise someone from the dead either; and there is most certainly nothing ad hoc. So, as compared to today’s most popular explanation of the historical bedrock, the hallucination hypothesis, the resurrection hypothesis far ought weighs it in all the criteria used by historians to ascertain what actually happened.


In conclusion we have seen that it is possible to trust historical documents and that the biblical texts are among the most trusted from antiquity. What’s more is that from these and other documents historians are able to come to an agreement on events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus that are agreed upon by virtually every scholar in the world studying the subject. We have seen the resurrection hypothesis crushes the most popular naturalistic explanation of the events in terms of its explanatory scope, power, and plausibility while being less ad hoc. Using this same exercise with every other naturalistic explanation we come to the same conclusion. God raising Jesus from the dead is historical fact.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15: 14 (NKJV).

[2] Mike Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVasity, 2010), 172, 275.

[3] N. Geisler and W. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible. (Chicago, Moody Press, 1986). 385

[4] Dan Wallace, “First-Century Fragment of Mark’s Gospel Found,” http://danielbwallace.com/2012/03/22/first-century-fragment-of-marks-gospel-found/ (accessed Dec. 13, 2012).

[5] Geisler, 405.

[6] Clay Jones, “The Bibliographical Test Updated,” unpublished as of writing this paper though expected in Philosophia Christi during 2013.

[7] Geisler, 489.

[8] Mike Licona, Summer Session Lecture Series, The Resurrection. Biola, La Mirado, 2012.

[9] Geisler, 489.

[10] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 275-276.

[11] C.A. Evans via Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 63 (ft. 125).

[12] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 303.

[13] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews translated by Shlomo Pines.

[14] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke: New International Commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1997), 168.

[15] Mark 15:24-37 (NIV).

[16] Matthew 27:35-50 (NIV).

[17] John 19:16-37 (NIV).

[18] Licona,  The Resurrection of Jesus, 305.

[19] Edwards, Gabel and Hosmer (1986), 1463 via Licona The Resurrection of Jesus, 313.

[20] William Lane Craig, On Guard. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2010), 222.

[21] Habermas, Gary, “The Historical Jesus”

[22] Matthew 28:12b-13

[23] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 462.

[24] Geisler, 318.

[25] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), 1 Co 15:3–8.

[26] Habermas, Gary, “The Historical Jesus” Defending the Faith Lecture Series, (Biola University, La Mirada, CA, 2010) and Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 318-339.

[27] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 322.

[28] Craig, Reasonable Faith, 339.

[29] Mike Licona and Bart Ehrman debate “Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Grave?” (2009), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2w6G5i6Y0A (accessed Dec. 6, 2012)

[30] Montgomery, History, Law and Christianity, pgs. 55-59

[31] Craig, Reasonable Faith: pgs. 338-340

[32] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus. 437.

[33] 1 Timothy 1:13 (NIV).

[34] Craig, Reasonable Faith: p. 380.

[35] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 108-114.

[36] Ibid, 109-110.

[37] Ibid, 112.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus 479-795.

[40] Ibid 479

[41] Mike Licona in Licona v. Ehrman debate 2: Can the Historian Prove Jesus Rose from the Dead? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_AZoK3EiiBs.

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January 4, 2013 · 3:05 pm

All Religions Lead To The Same Place: A quick response

So often today we hear the comment that all religions are ultimately the same. This is an expression of pluralism. Just the other day a coworker mentioned to me that they’ve been looking into religion and asked for a book recommendation. A conversation had begun and it wasn’t long until she did it too, “Well, I look at religions as paths up the mountain of truth. They all lead to God, just in different ways.” I put my pen down, quickly prayed in my mind and prepared for a deeper discussion.

“Penelope, what do you mean by saying all religions lead to God, just in different ways?” She answered with an example. She said that it’s like climbing a mountain. There are going to be many trails up and in the end they all lead to the top. She went on to describe a “Buddhist/Hindu” trail, a “Jewish” trail, an “Islamic” trail, and of course a “Christian” trail. They all start on what the hiker think is the correct path; some of the paths even intersect at times she said. But in the end each one ends at the very same overlook site at the top of the peak.

I responded this time not with a question but with a pointed answer. I first agreed that sometimes the world religions seem to have some similarities and “cross paths,” but what about the differences? Examining the world’s major religions, we see they all differ drastically when it comes to the nature of God, sin, heaven, hell, the nature of man, and salvation. So to put it simply, all religions are dissimilar in a great many more ways than they are similar.

For example let’s compare the religions mentioned. Islam, Christianity and Judaism believe that there is a singular, personal God who is holy, omnipotent, just, omniscient, and who is creator of all. These three all believe that we are sinful human beings in need of salvation by way of God’s forgiveness. They each believe in an eternal afterlife in a heaven or a hell. Buddhists deny each and every one of these things. They believe “god” as not really a god at all but an ultimate reality. This ultimate reality is impersonal and that everything is uncreated. They deny the self, meaning there is really no sin and as such no need for salvation. Buddhists also believe that life’s goal is annihilation not an eternal life in heaven. And Hindus believe in millions of Gods. You see not all these paths lead to even remotely the same place.

I went on to explain that sometimes we do see similarities between these world religions, especially between the main three, Islam, Judaism and Christianity as we saw above. One reason for this is that they all stem from the same religious root. But even these religions differ greatly and in ways that are irreconcilable. The most drastic and important difference is in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In order to understand this we need to look to the claims of the New Testament (NT) about who Jesus is. Jesus first and foremost claimed to be God, and the NT authors claim that Jesus was crucified, died and rose again. In fact it’s on this claim alone that the Christian faith stands or falls. Saint Paul writes, “if Christ has not been raised, our faith is in vain” and that Christians are to be “pitied above all man.” Judaism and Islam both deny Jesus is God or even claimed divinity and that he died and was raised. In denying the main beliefs of Christianity, making them all irreconcilable and clearly on paths that lead to a different places.

I finished my response by telling Penelope that Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” And in doing so he made invalid the claim that all religions lead to the same place. The pluralist position fails due to the law of non-contradiction. Jesus cannot be God and not God. He couldn’t have been raised and not raised. So since all religions teach different, contradictory things they cannot all be true. They can all be wrong, but they most certainly cannot all be true.


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Pacifism and C.S. Lewis: Oh, and what I think too.


It is the purpose of this post to explore critically two arguments Lewis uses to conclude in his essay “Why I’m Not A Pacifist” that pacifism ultimately fails. This essay was originally presented to a group of pacifists in 1940, addressing the specific issue of whether it is moral to serve in wars under the command of a civil society.[1] Lewis presented four main arguments to support his conclusion that it is in fact morally just to participate in war. Of these four we will explore the two which are most contentious. The first we will title “Personal” or “Basic Intuition” and the second “Authority” which is further split into two subcategories, “Human Authority” and “Divine Authority.” Once discussed it’s my belief that we will have no other option but to side with Lewis. However, this is not to say that everything Lewis holds is agreeable. Along the way we will be interacting with some ideas that are disagreeable, when they arise it will be noted. We would also be remiss if you did not start by mentioning something Lewis writes very early on, war is always a very unpleasant thing. “First as to the facts. The main relevant fact admitted by all parties is that war is very disagreeable.” I also feel that it should be plainly stated that no joy is found in war, to this I believe Lewis would agree. With that now, let us explore the arguments brought by Lewis in Why I’m Not a Pacifist.

Arguing from Basic Intuition

In this argument Lewis points to the basic intuition that love is good and hatred bad; that helping is good and harming is bad. He explains that this intuition leads the pacifist to believe that by doing good we can or must help all. For example, it is not enough to help one homeless person, for if you help one you must help all that you see. He then goes on to refute the pacifist claim by pointing out that by doing good, we choose to whom the good is being done while also to whom the good is not being done. Implicit in the argument is what Lewis describes as the law of beneficence which “involves not doing some good to some men at some time.”[2] This then turns into a slippery slope where helping one while not another slowly turns into helping one while having to ignore the plight of another and then to helping one at the expense of another, the final slip in the slope is helping one while causing harm to another.[3]

Shifting the focus from the individual to society as a whole, Lewis addresses the pacifist underlying assertion that war is always the greatest evil. He goes on to say that the absorption of one society by another and the oppression of religion is in fact worse than the war to prevent it.[4] However it’s here that Lewis makes an assertion which I disagree with wholly. Trying to justify the loss of life during war, Lewis contends that one can be comforted to know that the dead gave their lives while fighting for what according to them was the right or just side. I don’t find this comforting or even true; especially in a world where people are coerced to fight by threats of torture or death and children are kidnapped and forced to fight after being pumped full of drugs and beaten. I would like to ask Lewis if he truly believed all of Hitler’s SS men wanted to be there. Here, while it doesn’t alter the arguments conclusion, I think Lewis falters. In fact I would say that forcing someone to fight is actually a greater evil than war or oppression.

Lewis addresses an attempt by the pacifist to prove their position once they are forced to give some ground; this time through the use of a more political and calculating mode of intuition. When forced to acknowledge that war may not be the worst evil they may rebut, “But every war leads to another war.”[5] And with this the pacifist implies an infinite regress of wars, leading to the conclusion that we must focus our attempts to do away with war. To accomplish this they might suggest that society should propagate the pacifist philosophy far and wide; eventually permeating all societies and cultures globally. To this Lewis responds,

This seems to me wild work. Only liberal societies tolerate Pacifists. In the liberal society, the number of Pacifists will either be large enough to cripple the state as a belligerent, or not. If not, you have done nothing. If it is large enough, then you have handed over the state which does tolerate Pacifists to its totalitarian neighbour who does not.[6]

I find this argument basic, correct, and convincing. C.S. Lewis sums it up nicely with the statement, “Pacifism of this kind is taking the straight road to a world in which there will be now Pacifists.”[7] It’s important to understand that while we are not able to eliminate suffering and war, it does not follow that we should ignore the plight of those affected by these things or cease working to a better end. As an alternative to the pacifist position it might be more effective to focus efforts instead of on large, incurable tasks like eradicating suffering, to objectives that are limited. Lewis lists abolition of slavery, prison reform or curing a disease as good examples.

Arguing from Authority – Human Authority

Lewis appeals to human authority by surveying history’s rulers, wars and their heroes. From this survey he concludes that “the world echoes with the praise of righteous wars.”[8] As proof of this names of world leaders who did not shy away from war are listed. He includes in that list his school, parents and even great literary works. He says that to be a pacifist, one must ignore and “part company with” all of this. In effect Lewis asks his hearers to either cast aside these select champions of time or their pacifism. His rationale, since we look at the rulers and men of war with honor and respect, it is therefore proper to also view the battles they waged as just and even  necessary. He also interprets this historical support of war as wars justification.

It is here where I part ways with C.S. Lewis most drastically. I think if we look between the lines of Lewis’ list we see a different picture. Where’s Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan or Napoleon in the list? What about some of Lewis’ contemporaries such as Hitler or Stalin? Why did they not make the cut? While I agree that battle can produce heroics, and with Lewis’ general beliefs regarding there being a just war, I think it fails just to look at the men who fought or waged the wars and say “here is your proof that battle is necessary and good.” And I think it fails as well according to Scripture. A pacifist friend in discussion of this very issue rightly points out that all men are under the effects of Satan.[9] And as such wars are waged both for good and evil. What’s more, Scripture tells us that not one of us is righteous so why would we conclude, as Lewis does, that our wars mostly would be? I don’t think we should or can. War is never to be praised and Lewis misses this. After all King David was refused permission to build the Temple of the Lord due to his many battles (1 Chronicles 22:7-9).

Arguing from Authority – Divine Authority

We now look to what Lewis has to say in regards to Divine Authority. Beginning his apologetic Lewis says that the Christian Scriptures are largely silent on this issue but that the pacifist basis their philosophy on a small selection of Jesus’ sayings and teachings. Most central is Matthew 5:39. He then bolsters his argument with the Thirty-Nine Articles, teachings of Aquinas, and the words of Augustine all showing their support of the Christian’s participation in war.

I was left under impressed with Lewis’ mentioning of  Augustine, Aquinas and the Thirty-Nine Articles for the same reason I cannot agree with Lewis’ argument from human authority. While I agree with his ultimate conclusion, and these things do support that conclusion, I can see why a Christian pacifist would not find these convincing enough to abandon their philosophy. I would rather have had Lewis spend more time discussing Scripture; after all this is where the debate should lie for us. Either the Scriptures justify the saints’ participation in battle, or they don’t. And this is where I find the most support for the view that Lewis and I share.

Matthew 5:39 is the biblical passage most often given in support of the pacifist ideology. C.S. Lewis deals with it well.[10] He says that the scripture should be applied in the context of individual relationships, not to the conduct of soldiers or governments engaged in war. Lewis says, “I think the text means exactly what it says, but with an understood reservation in favour of those obviously exceptional cases.”[11] What Jesus was clearly saying here is that we are not to cause harm to others except in that instance where we are preventing the harm of ourselves, families or neighbors. Surely Jesus did not mean that we would not be justified to protect innocent life from violence with the use of force, even if that force is in the context of war. [12]


While not everything Lewis asserts regarding the issue of pacifism and military service is agreeable I think it is clear that as saints, we are justified to use violence in certain instances. In Learning in WarTime Lewis writes what I think serves as a wonderful conclusion to this discussion.

The rescue of drowning men is, then, a duty worth dying for, but not worth living for. It seems to me that all political duties (among which I include military duties) are of this kind. A man may have to die for our country, but no man must, in any exclusive sense, live for his country. He who surrenders himself without reservation to the temporal claims of a nation, or a party, or a class is rendering to Caesar that which, of all things, most emphatically belongs to God: himself.[13]

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory: And Other Addresses “Why I’m Not A Pacifist.” (New York: Harper Collins, 2009)  [Kindle Fire version] p. 64, Location 612

[2] Ibid

[3] By way of example: saving a drowning man while leaving another slipping to saving the life of a man while taking the life of another.

[4] Lewis, “Why I’m Not A Pacifist” p. 77, Location 734

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid p. 78, Location 734

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid p. 81, Location 772

[9] Moore, T.C. “Why C.S. Lewis Was Wrong About Pacfism,” Academia.edu.  http://gcts.academia.edu/TCMoore/Papers/387653/Why_C._S._Lewis_Was_Wrong_About_Pacifism (accessed May 7, 2012) p. 10

[10] Resist not evil: but whoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

[11] Lewis, “Why I’m Not a Pacifist” p. 82, Location 784

[12] Ibid p. 85, Location 815

[13] Lewis, “Learning In War-Time.” p. 52: Location 1866

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Thank you!

Thank you Lord for all the gifts you have given to me today.  Thank you for all I have seen, heard and received.  Thank you for the water that woke me up, the soap that smells so good, the toothpaste that refreshes.  Thank you for the clothes that protect us, for their color and their style.  Thank you for the newspaper so faithfully there every weekend, for the comics and for my morning smile.  And yes Boo, thank you for the coupons.  Thank you for useful meetings, for justice done and for the big games won.  Thank you for the Red Sox.  Thank you for the municipal garbage truck and the men who run it, for their morning shouts and all the early morning noises.  Thank you for my work, the tools and my efforts.  Thank you for the tool in my hand, the steel biting into it.  And for the satisfied look of the foreman, for the load of finished pieces. Thank you for Rheanna, my wife, who is forever there and for Todd who shares The Word with me, for Ricky of whom with in I see so much of me. Thank you for Bonnie and Sisanda, my African friends for inspiring and shrinking the world.  Thank you for the welcoming streets that led me here, for the shop windows, for the cars and the passers by. For all the life that flowed swiftly between the windowed walls of the houses.  Thank you for food that sustains me for the diet 7-Up that refreshes me.  Thank you for the car that neatly took me to where I wanted to be, for the fuel that made it go, for the wind that caressed my face, for the trees that nodded to be on the way.  Thank you for the street closure and for the traffic it caused, for the thoughts of my dogs, and for their grinning faces when they play.  Thank you for their unconditional love.  Thank you for smiles and nods of the head.  Thank you for my mother who welcomes me at home and for her tactful affection, for her silent presence.  Thank you for the roof that shelters me and the lamps that light me, for the i-pod that plays, for the news, for music, and for singing.   Thank you for the tranquil night, thank you for stars Lord, and thank you too for silence.  Thank you for the time you’ve given me Lord, for life, for grace and for just being there.  Thank you now for listening to me and taking me seriously, for gathering my gifts in Your hands to offering them to Your Father.  Thank you Lord. Thank you.
(Thank you to Ravi Zacharias for inspiring this)




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