Should you be Agnostic? - Page 2

By Robin Schumacher

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Condition 1

Huxley's first condition is that a belief cannot be mere idle speculation or be incapable of verification. This first standard seems reasonable, as pure conjecture or hearsay should not be a basis for committing oneself to a belief. The second condition appears logical also and is sometimes termed the principle of falsification, which was used by philosophers such as Anthony Flew in his initial writings on religion.

How do the claims of the New Testament and Christianity hold up under Huxley's first criterion? When the legal/historical methods for determining truth are applied to the New Testament, it stands very firm under Huxley's standard.

The writers of the New Testament never state that their beliefs were based on hearsay or were events that could not be authenticated. Quite the opposite! Apostles such as Peter say, "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). The disciples recorded occurrences that happened in actual space/time, saw these events with their own eyes, and recorded Jesus' life, death, and resurrection so that others would know the truth of what happened.

In terms of falsification, the apostle Paul gave the enemies of Christianity a single truth claim that, if proven untrue, would crumble and destroy Christianity in an instant: "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain" (1 Corinthians 15:13–14).

What Paul is saying is that if the resurrection of Christ did not occur, then the Christian faith is literally "useless" (vain). That is how Christianity can be falsified: find the body of that Jewish carpenter, and the Christian faith is undone.

But earlier in that same chapter, Paul actually challenges his readers of that day to go check for themselves that the tomb of Jesus was truly empty: "He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also" (1 Corinthians 15:5–8).

Scholars agree that Paul is literally asking the Corinthians to verify his claims with many others (over 500) alive at that time which saw Christ and could act as witnesses to validate the fact that Jesus' resurrection actually occurred in their recent history.

But, given that we cannot do that today, how can modern day people know that Paul and the other apostles were telling the truth? The apostles answer that question through their grave markers. Many were martyred for their testimony. While people may be deceived and die for a lie, no one dies for what they know is a lie. All the apostles had to do to save their lives was recant their testimony and say they didn't see Jesus alive—but none did. Greater evidence for believability cannot be had.

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Image Credit: cristinacosta; "question"; Creative Commons

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Published 9-4-15