Blogger Joe Geisner once reported on a book he was reading called The Life of Jesus. The author, Heinrich Paulus, reviews the miracles of Jesus in a ‘scholarly study’ (Joe’s words not mine) and addresses non-miraculous means for each of them:
In this book Paulus tries to explain the miracles from a natural point of view. When it comes to the loaves of bread and fish Paulus points out that Jesus has the disciples organize the congregation into small groups and also has the disciples get him the fish and loaves, when the people see this they realized it was time to eat and opened up their own baskets of food. By doing this there was plenty of food with baskets of food left over.
For the walking on water Paulus writes that because of the storm and it being night it caused the disciples not to realize that they had not travel much off shore. Jesus really walked in ankle deep water and Peter didn’t realize that they were in such shallow water, he panicked and Jesus had to lift him up so that he could get his composure.
The raising of the dead is much more complicated but he comes from a medical point of view for the time. What is interesting is Paulus also makes an argument for the rising of Jesus from the dead as being a explainable natural occurrence. There actually is accounts from antiquity of people surviving the crucifixion though the Romans thought they were dead.
This quote explains well my main concern with Rejectionist philosophies. Think about all the miracles in the New Testament subscribed to Jesus and then think about ‘natural explanations’ for each of them. Then here is my question for you. Just how rational is Paulus’ point of view?
Think about the extreme comedy of errors we are talking about here. Jesus manages to find ankle deep parts of the water and even invites Peter in who then accidently jumps into the deep end. Jesus has to save him. This story quickly becomes a story about walking not in the shallows of a Sea, but across the Sea itself.
Then Jesus just happens to try to raise a ‘dead man’ that happens to naturally recovers because he was in a comma. What are the odds? Then he does it again multiple more times.
Then Jesus commands a boy to give out a few loaf of bread and everyone, seeing how kind the boy is being, breaks out their own hidden stores. This then happens again not long later. (And what was Jesus planning to do if it happened played out that way?)
And each time the story gets retold and blown out of proportion and recorded as a miracle even though it was a natural occurrence.
Pardon me, but this story just went well past rational or believable. Just how many lucky breaks can one guy get? It’s like winning the lottery every time you play and then trying to claim that isn’t a miracle in and of itself!
(And while we’re at it, maybe we can address the ethical problems of continually encouraging people to think these false thing about Him and seemingly never trying to correct them.)
If you are hell bent on not accepting Jesus as being Divine, it’s far more rational to just claim that none of the miracles happened at all and that the disciples ‘made them all up’ generations later. (Which is, of course, a rational possibility.) So why the need to try to take all these reported miracles and try to make up natural explanations for them post facto like this when it requires us to basically surrender our rationality at the door?
This is an interesting question, because it tells us something very important about Rejectionist Psychology, I think.
It’s not hard to see how one starts down the path to Rejectionism. Religion and Spirituality clearly have real human value. But miracles (and many other things about religion) seem to defy rationality. So the desire to try to merge these two sides of oneself together seems perfectly understandable to me.
But is there really any doubt that in Paulus’ quest to merge rationality and spirituality that he has all but abandoned rationality?
Worse yet, his beliefs ‘spiritual power’ seems questionable too. Can a non-miraculous Jesus truly fill our spiritual human needs? Or do they require a heavy dose of “Rejecting” other people’s beliefs to keep them feeling like there is real meaning in their life? (i.e. Such as the need to write whole books rejecting other people’s faith in the miracles of Jesus?) It seems to me that Paulus’ “Rejectionism” fills a spiritual gap in his life that his beliefs alone can’t fill.
So in the end, Paulus’ Rejectionist solution ends up with a ‘worst of both worlds’ sort of solution to the need to merge rationality and spirituality.