Monday, April 01, 2013

Fools, Baseball, and an Empty Tomb

Today is April Fools' Day. It is also baseball's opening day. (No, I don't count the Astros debut in the American League last night. In fact, I don't count the Astros much at all... Just kidding!) And in an odd twist of the calendar (and the cycle of the moon) it is also the day after Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

So today is a day of new beginnings, tricks and treats.

I haven't done the research but I wonder if Easter has ever fallen on April 1st. It would be easy fodder for the skeptics who doubt the existence of God, no less the resurrection of his Son.

The empty tomb is one of the most controversial events in all religion. Besides rationalizing how a God can die, one also has to accept that a person rose from the dead. Obviously miracles defy scientific or even logical explanation, but this miracle is particularly challenging.

Yet it is fundamental.

Paul argues that if there is no life after death [as evidenced by Christ's resurrection] then our faith is "useless". For this reason skeptics and those who oppose Christianity have tried for centuries to explain away the empty tomb.

One of the best ways to attack this foundation of the Christian faith is to question the reliability of the Gospel accounts and the objectivity of the writers.

Before I head down the rabbit hole of apologetics you're probably wondering, I thought this post was going to be about baseball? Ok, let me relate this to one of baseball's more infamous legends.

Grover Cleveland Alexander was one of the best pitchers in his era, if not all time. But he was also an alcoholic, suffering from PTSD from his service in World War I. Legend has it that he came in relief to pitch in the 7th inning of the 1926 World Series. He struck out Tony Lazzeri of the fabled Yankees with the bases loaded and two outs; and he did so drunk.

Great story, but is it true? Check out this article from a couple of years ago (halfway down). Notice how the commonly accepted legend is attributed to a single witness, catcher Bob O'Farrell. Meanwhile, two other witnesses gave nearly identical accounts contrary to the myth. Now notice the dates- the accounts from player/manager Rogers Hornsby and third baseman Les Bell came 27 and 52 years after this event is said to have taken place respectively. The source of the legend, O'Farrell, gave his testimony in the 1966 book The Glory of Their Times: The Story of the Early Days of Baseball Told by the Men Who Played It by Lawrence Ritter. Yet whose is the more reliable account? (If you have the chance, read the entire linked article- there's a lot of anecdotal evidence that works in favor of both sides of the story)

Now relating this back to the empty tomb- the Gospel accounts were written 30-60 years after the life of Jesus. Although there are only these four (technically two- Mark was a contemporary of Peter and Luke interviewed witnesses) eye-witness written accounts, in the letters written to the early church as well as other apostolic writings there are also several witnesses described. At any point, someone could have come forward to say it was all a hoax- that Jesus "swooned" or that the event didn't happen at all.

But there isn't.

So what does that tell us? I'll leave it for you to come to your own conclusions, but I implore you not to be an April Fool.

(I also recommend this blog post from Think Christian relating baseball to faith, also in the context of Easter and also appropriate for April Fools')

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