Undivided Looking - Dr. Aron Wall

Authored by Tim Isbell, April 8, 2013

Can Religion be Based on Evidence?

This is the first post in this section of my site so it seems appropriate to me to introduce one thinker/author who I know well. 

But, for now, please meet... I have known Aron for over 20 years. He grew up in the church where I pastored (and still attend), went away to the university, got married, and now works as an academic. We spent countless hours together, face-to-face and on the phone during his university years. He is intellectually gifted and as authentically Christian as anyone I know. He is now busy on his post-doc in physics at the University of California Santa Barbara. In his spare time he writes a blog dealing with topics ranging across physics, philosophy, history, and theology. Among his blog posts and articles is some great material at the intersection of science, philosophy, and religion - particularly but not exclusively: Christian Faith.

His blog is called Undivided Looking, an intriguingly descriptive title. Here’s an excerpt of one one of Aron's posts: Can Religion be Based on Evidence

A little over 2,000 years ago, Julius Caesar was assassinated. The actual assassination was witnessed only by Roman Senators, but several historians describe the event. Counting only those who were alive at the time, I was able to find about five or six mentions of the event, although only a couple go into significant detail. And of course, the assassination affected the ongoing institutions of Roman governance. I regard this as extremely convincing evidence that the assassination really occurred. In fact, I would go further and say that anyone who disbelieves in Caesar's assassination is delusional. It could only be untrue if there were a highly implausible conspiracy to conceal the true facts from us. This is an example of a strong historical case, about as well supported as one has any right to expect an ancient historical event to be.
A few decades after that, the disciples of Jesus claimed to have seen him rise from the dead and appear to separate groups of up to 500 individuals, on at least ten occasions, giving "many convincing proofs" that he was alive, by offering visual, auditory, and tactile support for his state of life. Since they also claimed he was capable of appearing and disappearing instantaneously, it would be hard to explain this in naturalistic terms.
Some people say, that is circular reasoning because I am relying on the authority of the Bible itself to prove these claims! Not so...

It seems abundantly clear to me that if the claims in question concerned ordinary natural events, everyone would believe it, everyone except a few cranks of the sort that write books saying things like 9/11 was really planned by the American government, or that somebody else besides Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. The evidence is approximately as good as the assassination of Julius Caesar, though perhaps Caesar has a slight edge. Recall though, that Julius Caesar's assassination is about as good as ancient historical evidence can get. If you won't accept this level of historical evidence for a claim that challenges your worldview, you are crippling the ability to learn anything really important about the world from History. Even so, no one can stop you from putting your hands over your eyes and your fingers in your ears.

If you wonder about the intersection of science and Christian faith, then I know you will find some interesting material in Aron’s blog. It's well indexed, so you can easily find posts in the area of your specific focus. Or maybe you know someone who is currently thinking about these things; if so I hope you will pass along the link to Aron's blog. Once there, readers can interact with Aron through the Comment section, and/or 
subscribe to the RSS feed of his posts.

Here’s his bio: Aron Wall is a postdoctoral researcher studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics at UC Santa Barbara. Before that, he studied the Great Books program at St. John's College, Santa Fe, and received his Ph.D. in physics from U Maryland.

If you've been around my website much, you may have noticed another resource that Aron authored: Leading a Bible Study.

All the Best,

by Tim Isbell

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