Jon Stovell’s Notebook


On Wright’s historical arguments regarding Jesus’ resurrection

Some posts in reply to the discussion topic, “Strongest skeptical responses to NT Wright?” which discussed Wright’s historical arguments about how the first Christians came to believe that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead.

Ooo, this is a fun topic! :)

I think part of the problem here is that Wright’s argument is more subtle and robust than the attempted summary you’ve given above, @Daniel L Heck. In The Resurrection of the Son of God, Wright argues using a version of the double criterion of similarity and dissimilarity. On the one hand, resurrection was indeed a prevalent concept in Second Temple Judaism and was therefore available to the first Christians as a tool to try to explain what they believed they had experienced regarding Jesus after his death. The dissimilar bit, on the other hand, was the idea that one person might be resurrected in advance ofmore

Summary of how hope for a heavenly afterlife supplanted hope for resurrection in popular Christian theology

The New Testament barely ever talks about “going to heaven when we die,” but it talks a lot about the hope for bodily resurrection to everlasting life in a renewed and glorified creation. Yet the popular understanding today is that “going to heaven” is the central promise of the Christian Gospel.

How did this happen? Well, it was a long and involved process of historical development, but here is a simplified summary:

  1. As Christianity spread beyond the Mediterranean to the Franks, Goths, Celts, etc., of Europe, theological attention to the resurrection hope faded in favour of hope for a heavenly afterlife. Unlike the Greeks, Jews, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, etc., who believed that all the dead descended to an underworld of some sort, these peoples tended to believe that at least some people (e.g. brave warriors) would be taken to the heavenly dwellings of the godsmore

The Significance of the Cross of Christ

When my daughter was almost three years old, I realized that it was time to start explaining the gospel to her. But how does one explain the gospel well to a child that young in a way that will actually make sense to them? It isn’t easy! But I recognized that if I, with all my years of studying theology, could not explain the gospel to a preschooler, then I didn’t really understand myself. So I set my mind to it and thought a long time about how I could express it in a way that made sense to her. In the end, I came up with this formulation, which I like to call “the gospel for the preschooler”:

Jesus died and came alive again, so that one day he can make everyone who dies come alive again. He is going to make the whole world good, and he wants us to help!

That’s what the gospel really is, once you get right down to it. Everything else is elaboration, implicationmore

Some thoughts on artificial intelligence in relation to theological anthropology

On Feb 3, 2017, Jonathan Merritt published “Is AI a Threat to Christianity?” in The Atlantic. Merritt suggests that “AI may be the greatest threat to Christian theology since Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.”

Merritt’s argument is built on several, not entirely consistent presuppositions, and it is only their confluence that makes AI an alleged potential problem. These presuppositions are:

  1. The idea that a soul is a “component” of a human being.
  2. The idea that the defining trait of human beings is our intelligence.
  3. The idea that a collection of algorithms could become the same sort of being that humans are if we just make the algorithms sophisticated enough.
  4. The idea that “salvation” means the preservation of the human soul beyond death.

Presuppostion (1) is one possible interpretation of what a soul is in Christianmore