Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?

by Christina Gleason on March 29, 2013

As Christians, we are asked to accept the impossible with blind faith, that Jesus Christ died on the cross, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead after three days. A big part of faith is, essentially, suspension of disbelief. We are told by the church that this was possible because with God, all thing are possible. But as Christian Humanists, some of us have subscribed more to the notion of the humanity of Jesus Christ, rather than the divinity, and we’re left without a reasonable explanation for how the Resurrection was possible. I have a theory, but let’s get into a few preliminary things.

Did the Resurrection Really Happen?

ResurrectionNon-Christians balk at the “zombie Jesus” story. It’s understandable. But over a decade ago, I was watching a documentary where historians (Christians and non-Christians alike) analyzed the historical accuracy of the Gospels. The one thing they could neither prove nor disprove, of course, was the Resurrection story. But one of the historians said something that resonated with me, something that I still remember now, although I have to paraphrase because it was a long time ago.

Something happened. After Jesus died, Christianity itself should never have taken on the status as anything more than a persecuted cult that did not outlive the Apostles and others who knew Jesus personally. After all, Peter denied Christ while he was still alive, because he did not want to die alongside him. With Jesus gone, the rest of them should have stayed wisely silent, as well. But the nonbeliever Saul, who had sworn to stamp out the cult of Jesus’ followers, had a complete conversion following his vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul became Paul, and he became the biggest champion of this new religion of Christianity, writing letters to the  Romans, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, etc. about the glory of Jesus Christ. Something extraordinary had to have happened to make him have this complete turnabout. Having Jesus appear to him after His death would certainly count as something extraordinary.

How Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

You can choose to believe that it happened just as the Bible said. That Jesus died on the cross, that He descended into hell, and that His body rose and left the tomb to make a few visits to important people and keep His message alive. This was possible because God made it so; it was an act of divine intervention for His vessel on Earth. That takes a lot of faith, unquestioned faith. I used to accept that, but my rational mind – given to me by God – has a hard time with this.

What if, instead, Jesus Christ did not actually die on the cross? This would also qualify as quite miraculous, I think. What if He had instead slipped into a deep coma because of the trauma He suffered on the cross, and appeared as dead? It wasn’t so long ago that bells were put inside of coffins just in case people weren’t actually dead when they were buried. Medical technology just didn’t exist to detect the barely perceptible signs of life in a body hanging on by just a thread. What if the miracle of the Resurrection was that, against all odds, Jesus survived the Crucifixion, that He actually recovered without any sort of medical treatment after three days in a tomb?

1 Corinthians15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

It seems that even some of Paul’s words suggesting a connection to “those who have fallen asleep” could be applicable in this theory. While writing this up, I found that this theory is called the Swoon Hypothesis, although it would appear that many proponents of this theory attribute His survival to conspiracy – which is not what I am suggesting here.

Isn’t This Blasphemous Thinking?

I know that some may accuse me of blasphemy, but remember that the Bible was written by men who did not have the same understanding of science and medicine that we have today. For all intents and purposes, Jesus Christ was dead to them. People who fell into comas in the first century did not generally come out of them. And therefore, it would be a miracle for Jesus to do just that. It’s just a different kind of miracle. As for what the scriptures say about how He descended into hell to battle with Satan while he was dead, who are we to say what happened to His spirit while His body lay as if dead? The Native Americans and other religions believe in spirit walking, so who is to say that this is not what He did?

Critical thinking, questioning what is written in an ancient document based on oral tradition is not blasphemy, in my opinion. If God did not want us to ask such questions, why would He give us the capacity to think of them?

Whatever actually happened, it was a miracle that Jesus had risen from His place in the tomb to walk amongst His friends and followers three days after He was supposed to have died. You can choose to believe whichever version of the miracle suits your mind, and I will believe mine. Feel free to share your thoughts about the Resurrection in the comments below, and we can continue the discussion.

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What Does the Bible Say About Abortion?

by Christina Gleason on February 25, 2013

Bible verses that concern the modern debate about abortion are far more varied than one side of the argument would like you to believe. But before we get to enumerating Bible verses about abortion, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. Abortion is a tragedy.  Whether you came here firm in your belief that abortion is murder or you were looking for arguments in support of letting women make their own decisions about their bodies, I think most of us can agree that, by and large, women who have abortions are tortured by their decision, even when they know in their hearts that it is the right one (for them) to make. Preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place will be the subject for another post at a later date, but know that my heart breaks for any woman who has to even consider abortion as an option. I will save my feelings for the unborn child until the end of this piece, but they have no real Biblical basis.

Bible Verses That Support the Pro-Life Argument

Deuteronomy 5:17, Exodus 20:13 | You shall not murder.

Ecclesiastes 11:5 | As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.

Job 31:15 | Did not He who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

Psalms 139:13-16 | For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Jeremiah 1:5 | Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

The passage that can be found in both Deuteronomy and Exodus is one of the Ten Commandments. I think we can all agree that murder is wrong. [The sticking point, which we will get to, is whether or not abortion is murder.] The passages from Ecclesiastes and Job, as well as from Psalms, all touch on the miracle of pregnancy and birth, herein attributed to God. It shall be noted that God is also attributed with making plants, animals, and everything else that we know. The Bible verse from Jeremiah is the most often used (after the commandment against murder) to argue that abortion is wrong because God tells Jeremiah he knew him in the womb. I would like the point out the specific language of the verse, however, that it pertains only to Jeremiah himself, appointed as a prophet – and cannot be generalized to speak for every unborn child. Even the Psalms passage pertains only to the author of the passage, David. But let us look further now.

Bible Verses That Do Not Support the Pro-Life Argument

A bit of a warning, for many of these are rather  unpleasant.

Hosea 13:16 | Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword; their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.

Psalms 137:8-9 | O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

Exodus 21:22-25 | When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined according as the woman’s husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

Hosea 9:11-14 | Ephraim’s glory shall fly away like a bird—no birth, no pregnancy, no conception! Even if they bring up children, I will bereave them till none is left. Woe to them when I depart from them! Ephraim’s sons, as I have seen, are destined for a prey; Ephraim must lead forth his sons to slaughter. Give them, O Lord—what wilt thou give? Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

The passage from Hosea 13 and the one from Psalms both describe horrific events in which God decrees for His enemies that their pregnant women shall be ripped open and their babies shall be dashed against rocks. The same God who has commanded us not to murder has also ordered some of His people to commit murder in His name, even innocent women and children. That is a contradiction that cannot be ignored if we are to look to the Bible for any sort of ultimate truth. Furthermore, let’s look at the passage from Exodus. An unborn child is not given the same status as its mother. If a man attacks a pregnant woman and she miscarries, he only has to pay a fine to the woman’s husband. If the pregnant woman herself dies, though, the man shall be killed – a life for a life. The unborn child is not counted as a life. God’s law, as outlined in Exodus here, clearly states that an unborn child is not yet a person, not yet a life that could be taken. As Joyce Arthur wrote elsewhere, “ To put it another way, the man who causes a woman to miscarry is guilty not of murder, but a misdemeanor.” And the passage from Hosea 9 curses Ephraim; God will make women infertile, and if they do conceive, He promises to make them miscarry – divine abortion – and if they give birth, He will kill the children, if not by making the mother unable to breastfeed, then by some other means.

What Does The Bible Say About Abortion

The Christian Humanist Interpretation of What the Bible Says About Abortion

It is my belief that the Bible does not support the anti-abortion position. God Himself is said to have caused abortions in His enemies’ pregnant women, and also ordered to have the pregnant women and children among His enemies killed. This does not support the prevailing Christian argument that all life is absolutely sacred, that every fertilized egg should result in birth. I would not like to generalize the horrific implications that any “enemy of God,” however defined, deserves suffering and death. Instead, I would like to use these barbaric examples as a depiction of how we cannot cherry pick individual Bible verses to support our narrow version of the “truth” in any argument.

I, myself, am pro-choice. I do not need the Bible to justify my beliefs, as many people feel they do, but I do believe the Bible has my back on this one. I am a mother, and I am so grateful for my son every day. My husband and I had just started infertility testing when I found out I was pregnant, and not being able to conceive the child we so desperately wanted was heart-wrenching for us. Furthermore, I am exceptionally grateful to my husband’s birth mother. He doesn’t know who she is, but when she was faced with the difficult decision of an unwanted pregnancy, she chose to give birth to him and let him be raised by another family. She made the right choice for her at the time, and I hope she was able to make peace with her decision.

Because it was her decision. As humanists, we believe in the dignity of a person to make his or her own choices. As Christians, we believe that God will help us make the decisions that are the right ones. The right decision for me may not be the right decision for you, and it is not my place to presume what is right for anyone else. For the more religious among us, who are we to say that God’s plan for a woman must include motherhood? Perhaps He has other plans for her, and perhaps those plans dictate that she should terminate a pregnancy so she is open to other things. There are certainly times when choosing not to bring a child into this world is the most responsible decision a person can make.

And what of the unborn children? I told you I would get back to that, and I will do that now.

The March of Dimes states that as many as 40% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, many of these before a woman even knows she is pregnant. This is a statistic that holds true today, with all of the advances we’ve seen in modern health and medicine in the last century. Before that, I would guess that the figure could have easily been twice as high – I’ve seen estimates as high as 80% – and historical infant mortality rates have been estimated at 30-40%. If we believe in God, are we to believe that He would waste so many human souls? If every fertilized egg is sacred, it isn’t hard to see the inherent problem with the idea that half of all human conception in the history of the world has ended before a child’s first birthday.

Having seen the heartbreak my mother suffered at having four miscarriages, I don’t believe that God would have taken four beautiful souls away from her. My mother is a good woman. No, I believe that my youngest brother just took a little longer to be born than my mother would have liked. I don’t believe God would throw away souls with such disregard, and I do truly believe that any soul that does not get a chance to be born will get another chance – if not with the same mother, then with another. Do I have Scripture to back this up? No, but I have to believe that, if we are all created in God’s image, that He would not let us be discarded so easily.

The Bible does show us that human life has value, but the harsh reality is that it also shows us that Scripture allows for shades of value on that life, and of the potential life of an unborn child. Though I believe in a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body when she discovers she is pregnant, I do not believe that abortion should ever been a decision that is made lightly. I do not believe that abortion is murder, nor does the Bible make that argument, and I believe that any religious leader who tells his congregation that it is, is twisting his religion to suit his own personal biases. We should be focusing our energies on supporting women to make responsible choices, hopefully preventing in the first place any need to have to make a decision about an unwanted pregnancy. If you believe a woman to be deserving of prayer to help guide her decisions in this matter, then by all means, pray quietly for her. But do not presume to judge her, and do not make a public, hateful, and very unchristian-like spectacle of your own personal prejudices.

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Why We Don’t Believe There is a War on Christmas

by Christina Gleason on December 12, 2012

Christian Humanists don’t buy into this fabricated “War on Christmas.” Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ. Sure, it’s great to celebrate His birth. But the whole “Spirit of Christmas” has gotten to be about so much more than its religious purpose. We’ve developed a secular season of good will because of our Christian holiday, Christmas… and it’s perfectly okay to embrace that.

war on christmas

Putting the “Christ” Back in Christmas

I suppose the whole sticking point about Christmas began when greeting card manufacturers and everyone else started abbreviating Christmas as Xmas. And the whole “season of giving” thing got twisted by rampant consumerism, so that the gifts themselves have become more important than the reasons why we give them. Even “good Christians” fall into this trap. For me, I give gifts because I love to see the look on the other person’s face…especially my son. (As I write this, we’re getting ready for Christmas with a 7 year old. Such a precious time.) We should be giving gifts for the joy they bring… and we should be teaching our children to be gracious, and not to get sulky if they don’t get everything they want.

But back to the whole “putting Christ back in Christmas” thing. I got sidetracked. The phrase gets tossed around now because so many Christians are shocked and appalled that retailers and government officials have the audacity to wish people Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. They cite the political correctness of this maneuver as a dig at their own religion instead of embracing it for what it is…an attempt at inclusiveness that was sorely lacking in years past. “Happy Holidays” is a greeting that includes Christmas. If you’re Christian, it implies “Merry Christmas” wishes. If you’re Jewish, it implies “Happy Hanukkah.” Why is this a problem? Insisting that the entire world recognizes your holiday by specifically greeting you in a manner that excludes others is narcissistic. When did Christians become so selfish? Why isn’t enough to wish each other “Merry Christmas” and let corporate entities include people of all religious leanings in well wishes of the season?

And it’s also okay if there are people who celebrate Christmas in a secular manner without specifically focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ. On some level, they do understand the reason we celebrate. As long as you’re not harming others or imposing on the rights of others, I do not care how you worship, or if you worship at all. It’s a very personal thing, and we all have our reasons for our own religious beliefs and practices. Celebrating Christmas in even a wholly secular manner is still celebrating the birth of Christ.

Modern Christianity’s Passing Acquaintance with Religious History

This whole “War on Christmas” thing is ridiculous for another reason. Let’s not forget that Easter is truly the holiest Christian holiday. There’s also the sticky issue of Jesus not really being born on December 25. Jesus was most likely born in either June or the autumn months. We celebrate Christmas on December 25 because early Christian religious leaders got it in their minds that they would win over the souls of the masses by replacing Pagan holidays with Christian holidays. Christmas was chosen to replace the ancient Roman holiday known as Saturnalia, which involved feasting, the giving of gifts, and masters changing roles to serve their slaves. December 25 was also used by the Cult of Mithras to celebrate the birth of their infant god of light, a striking similarity that we cannot really ignore.

Seeing how we Christians steamrolled right over other religions by imposing our holiday over the top of theirs, it’s highly hypocritical of us to get all hot and bothered about other people daring to acknowledge other religions’ holidays. No one has told any of us that we can’t celebrate Christmas in the manner of our choosing. No one is storming our churches and putting people to death for practicing our religion. No one is making us wear symbols of the cross conspicuously on our clothing so we can be easily identified and rounded up like cattle for the slaughter.

The “War on Christmas” is a self-righteous collective temper tantrum many Christians are throwing because society is finally accepting and recognizing other religious groups and their celebrations. If we would all behave in a truly Christ-like manner, we would realize that it is not the words “Merry Christmas” that are important. It is the loving spirit behind our seasonal greetings that matters the most. So if you would like to wish me a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy Kwanzaa, a Merry Yule, or even a Happy Festivus, I shall reply in kind and thank you for being cordial to me. I urge everyone else to do the same.

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What is Christian Humanism?

by Christina Gleason on December 12, 2012

SmileChristian Humanism does not have a singular definition or one set of accepted beliefs and practices. There are different types of people who call themselves Christian Humanists, and I can only speak for myself. The most important part of being a Christian Humanist, however, is the belief in the humanity of Jesus Christ. There is room for debate about Christ’s divinity when you are a Christian Humanist. Some may believe He is the divine Son of God, while others may be satisfied with the concept of Jesus Christ as a historical figure – an ordinary man with extraordinary ideas. Myself, I fall somewhere in between. I believe that Jesus Christ had a cosmic (divine?) understanding of the universe, but the rational part of my brain is unsure about whether or not He had actual divine powers that cannot be explained by science.

But let’s take a look at the two basic beliefs that make up Christian Humanism…

Christian

To be Christian, you must believe in Jesus Christ. As previously stated, however, one does not have to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God to believe that He existed. For our purposes, being Christian means we accept the teachings of Christ. Those teachings included the basic tenets of love, tolerance, caring for the poor and the fringes of society… What you will notice is missing is any sort of hate, judgment, or intolerance that many others who call themselves Christians seem to believe makes them virtuous. While we acknowledge that sin exists, we also remember that Jesus taught us about forgiveness. It is not our place to judge those who sin, because we are also sinners. Every sin is supposedly equal, in the eyes of God, and the Bible enumerates thousands upon thousands of sins. Our brand of Christianity involves striving to be more Christ-like.

Humanism

Humanism is defined by valuing ourselves as humans, both individually and collectively. It is a philosophy of dignity, rationality, and individual thought. When put in the context of religion, humanism derives itself from the idea that we were created in the image of God, and therefore, we are divine in our own right. We have value and import as human beings, and as such, we have a responsibility to all of humanity to care for one another – love of our fellow man.

Together, you can see how Christian Humanism comes together quite naturally. Jesus Himself was a humanist. He strove for His followers to preserve human dignity, to understand that we are all fallible, but we can always try to do better for ourselves and for others. He was a man, just like the rest of us. He lived like we did, only better. When the crowd wanted to stone an adulteress to death, for that was how they did things back then, Jesus reminded everyone that they were all sinners, too. He spared her life and encouraged her to do better, without shouting hateful things or telling her she was going to burn in Hell. When He healed the sick and dying, He didn’t stop to ask how much money they had first. He taught us in parables about the Good Samaritan, the unforgiving servant, and the prodigal son. These are stories of human decency, forgiveness, and redemption.

Hate and bigotry are not humanist or Christian values. You will find none of that here.

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