Sunday, February 29, 2004

Skeptics Anonymous

The Graduate Christian Fellowship at MIT, in which I participated during my graduate career, has a feature on its web page called Skeptics Anonymous. It's a web from that allows people to ask questions of our fellowship, which we try to answer and then post on our webpage or e-mail directly to the questioner. Unfortunately, it hasn't been in great repair since I left, so I can't guarantee you'll get a timely response if you use it.

The quality of the questions varies. Sometimes they are actually quite personal, and sometimes they are serious theological questions, often deeper than the questioner realized. Our first questioner was a Muslim who was more interested in converting us than reading the answers to his questions, which you could tell when he started repeating questions without commenting on the previous answers. Our most recent question (I'm still on the e-mail list) illustrates another major trend of the questions:
THE PREFERED DEATH FOR ACCUSED PERSONS HAS BEEN HANGING THRU HISTORY- IS EASIER AND SHOCKING, CRUCIFIXION IS TOO COMPLICATED AND EXPENSIVE, SO MOST PROBABLY IF JESUS EXISTED HE WAS HANGED THER IS A PLACE IN THE NEW TESTM. THAT SAYS SO PLESAE SOMEBODY ELABORATE.

This question's just silly. Of course Jesus was crucified. It was a common form of execution in the Roman empire. Were there easier ways? Sure, but the Romans used crucifixion precisely because it was so drawn out and painful. To directly answer his question, the gospels go into quite a bit of detail about the crucifixion, and there's no doubt that this is the sort of death Jesus endured. Mark 15:24 uses the Greek word for crucifixion for what was done to him. If this person had given an e-mail address, it would be possible to reply to him directly. Since he didn't, we'd have to put the answer on the web page, which is supposed to act as a resource for people with serious questions, while this one... Well, I'm not responsible for Skeptics Anonymous anymore, so I can just ignore it. Which doesn't necessarily mean that I will.

Update: Somehow this got posted multiple times. I'm not quite sure how that happened, but it's fixed now.

Update: I edited the post to make it read better. Nothing substantive.

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