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Does the Shroud of Turin Prove God?

This picture taken on February 20, 2012

I've written here at Strange Notions in the past about miracles and skepticism, and about the greatest miracle claim of all, Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Such miracles serve as arguments for God’s existence, but not philosophical arguments based on design, prime movers, etc. They are based on physical, historical evidence.

The arguments go like this: If atheistic materialism is true, then the natural world must be a closed system. Everything must be explained within that closed system. There is no room for angels or aliens, demons, devils, goblins, or gods. If atheistic materialism is right, there are not intelligent, reasonable, personal exterior forces superior to the natural world who might interfere or interact with the natural world.

However, if there is physical, historical evidence for a miracle, then there is a force outside of nature and greater than nature, and if the miracle in question is intelligible, reasonable, and fits with the rest of what we know about history, science, and the natural world, then the only conclusion is that the force that interrupted nature and altered the natural order is not only outside the natural order and superior to it, but is also an intelligent, reasonable and determined force.

Note that it only takes one miracle to prove this. If the system is closed there can be no miracles at all.

If, however, the system is not closed, then only one miracle is required to show this to be the case.

Where then might we find that one miracle, and is there historical, documentary records of this miracle? Are there multiple eyewitnesses whose stories fit together? Is there documentary evidence from other sources that corroborate the primary source? Is there archeological evidence,? Is there any scrap of evidence which can only be explained by the miracle that is testified to?

What miracle could possibly meet all of this criteria? The resurrection of Jesus Christ.

The more I study the evidence for this miracle, the more I am convinced of it. One piece of evidence stands out:

The Shroud of Turin.

The Shroud's official website, Shroud.com, gathers the evidence of students of the shroud from around the world.

Whenever I dialogue with atheist friends, I now usually skip all the philosophical arguments and simply point to the Shroud.

My challenge to atheists is, “I dare you to seriously study the Shroud with an open mind in an objective manner.”

Most of them will dismiss the Shroud with a wave of a hand and say, “Carbon 14 dating proved that the shroud is a medieval fake long ago.”

The problem with this argument is that Carbon 14 dating is not foolproof, and the Carbon 14 testing is far from the only evidence that we must weigh.

Here are a few others that the person who doubts the atheist, or Shroud skeptic, must answer:

  1.  The image of the man on the cloth. The image is not a stain. It is not painted on the shroud. It is not burned on in a conventional manner. Instead it is an image seared on to the cloth with some technology that has yet to be explained. Not only can scientists and historians not reproduce the image using medieval technologies, they can’t reproduce it with modern technology.
  2. The 3-D capabilities of the image. The image of the man on the shroud can be read by 3-D imaging technology. Paintings fail this test.
  3. The positive-negative image. The image is a photographic negative. That means when a traditional photograph is taken of the Shroud, what should be the negative appears as a positive image. If it is a medieval painting how did they do that and why?
  4. The anatomical accuracy. Not only is it an accurate image of a dead man but the image is distorted as it should be if it was laying over a real body and the body vanished from within it.
  5. The historical accuracy to crucifixion. The wounds are all consistent not only with Roman crucifixion, but the details of Jesus’ particular crucifixion like the crown of thorns, no broken bones, the scourging, and the wound in the side.
  6. Geographical accuracy. Pollen from the Shroud is not only from the Jerusalem area, but from Turkey and the other places the Shroud is supposed to have resided. Dust from the area on the Shroud by the knees and feet is from the area of Jerusalem.
  7. The accuracy to Jewish burial customs. The Shroud details are perfectly consistent with first-century Jewish burial customs. There are even microscopic traces of the flower that would have been used in the burial–flowers that grew locally and were known to be used for burial.
  8. The blood and the image. The blood was on the Shroud first and the image happened later. If the image was painted (and there is no evidence of paint anywhere) the two would be part of the same faked image.
  9. The type of cloth. The cloth is consistent with fabrics from first-century Israel, but not with medieval Europe. A forger would have had to not only forge the image in some as yet undiscovered way, but would have had to have detailed knowledge of linen weaves of the first century and then not only reproduce it, but age it convincingly.
  10. The age of the cloth. The 1987 Carbon 14 tests are now believed to have been taken from an area of the cloth that was not simply patched in the middle ages but patched with a difficult to detect interweaving. The Carbon 14 tests were therefore compromised. The latest technology and testing suggests a date for the Shroud between 200 BC and 200AD. Go here for news of Professor Fanti’s test in 2013.

The only piece of evidence from the Shroud which may not match up is the 1987 Carbon 14 testing (however, even that testing, per #10 above, is in dispute.) You have nine items which fit with the known facts and fit with each other, and just one piece of evidence which may not fit. Thus it is common sense to challenge that one piece of evidence and reject it or try again to see why it doesn’t fit. This is what Fanti’s research has done and proven that the 1987 tests were faulty.

If atheists really want evidence for the existence of God, then they should seek genuine evidence of a miracle, and they should do so objectively, carefully, and with an open mind.

There’s plenty of excellent scientific evidence for the Shroud out there. I encourage all skeptics to take a look.
(Image credit: Huffington Post)

Fr. Dwight Longenecker

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Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. He was brought up in an Evangelical home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and then in 1995, he and his family were received into the Catholic Church. For the next ten years he worked as a freelance writer, contributing to more than fifty magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, South Carolina. Fr. Dwight is the author of many books including The Quest for the Creed (Crossroads, 2012); More Christianity: Finding the Fullness of the Faith (Ignatius, 2010); and Catholicism Pure and Simple (Stauffer Books, 2012). Connect with his website DwightLongenecker.com, or his Patheos blog, Standing On My Heard.

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