Friday, October 7, 2011

Re: `your own reasons for believing why the Shroud is important to Christians'


Thanks for your message. As explained to you in my brief interim response, my long-standing policy is to respond to private messages I receive on a topic that is covered by one of my blogs,

[Right: John Iannone's "The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence" (1998), which I recommend as a first book to read on the Shroud.]

via that blog, in this case my The Shroud of Turin blog, minus the sender's personal identifying information. Your words are >bold to distinguish them from mine.

>Dear Rev. Jones,

Thanks, but it's just plain "Mr. Jones."

>I was reared Catholic, later became Mormon, later still Lutheran and finally got it right with fundamental, born-again, evangelical Pentecostal. How's that for labels!

I am glad you eventually became a born-again Christian, although the "born-again" is redundant because there is no other sort of Christian:

Jn 3:3,7. 3Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." ... 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.'

>I, too, am in my sixties. I know myself to be a baby Christian but I strive to grow.

I have been a Christian for 44 years and, by the grace of God, I am still growing. I am 65 next month, but I want to hit the tape of the race of the Christian life (Heb 12:1; 2Tim 4:7) still running!

>As a historian and archaeologist (BA, History ... University ....; MA, Historic Archaeology .... I have always been keenly interested in research and artifacts that verify the past. I became Pentecostal because I search for the earliest Christian knowledge, believing this to be the most accurate. Christians of numerous denominations have had 2,000 years to screw things up. For me, it is, "Back to the Basics," and "Back to the Start," as accurately as we can to the time of Christ and his immediate followers for what they held to be The Truth.

As a member of the Church of Christ denomination, whose origin was part of the "The Restoration Movement [which] originated with the convergence of several independent efforts to go back to apostolic Christianity" ("Churches of Christ: Early Restoration Movement history," Wikipedia, 6 October 2011), I agree with trying to go "`Back to the Start,' as accurately as we can to the time of Christ and his immediate followers." But the fact that "Christians of numerous denominations have" been going "2,000 years" shows they (or rather the Spirit of Christ in them) has been doing something right!

>I have a compelling interest in the Turin Shroud and have studied it extensively. To me, it is just a small leap of faith to conclude, after all the scientific evidence, that the Shroud is the actual burial shroud of Christ.

For me, knowing what I now know of the Turin Shroud, it would require a very great "leap of faith" not "to conclude, after all the scientific evidence, that the Shroud is the actual burial shroud of Christ"!

>The questions that seems inescapable to me is, "why has Christ left this garment for us? Why has it survived 2,000 years to be examined in the modern age of science?" Why, indeed.

By "us" I assume you mean innumerable Christians down through these past "2000 years"? Remember that for 1500 of those 2000 years (i.e. 3/4ths or 75%) of that time, there was no printing press and the depictions of Jesus based on the Shroud must have had an immeasurable influence on the growth of Christianity.

Although I do think that the Shroud is an important part of the Risen Jesus' "for God so loved the world" (Jn 3:16) witness to modern man in this Age of Science.

>This keenest interest in the Shroud troubles my faith-based Pentecostal friends.

Most Christians in my experience do not need much evidence to believe that Christianity is true. Others (like me) are "doubting Thomases" (Jn 20:24-28) who need more evidence than most. But I had already satisfied myself that Christianity was objectively true (i.e. true whether it is believed or not) about a quarter of a century before 2005 when I first discovered the evidence for the authenticity of the Shroud, by reading Stevenson & Habermas' "Verdict on the Shroud" (1981).

So for me the Shroud is `the cream on the cake.' It is an example of the verse I had inscribed on the inside of the ring that I gave to my wife of 39 years on our wedding day: "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think ..." (Eph 3:20 KJV).

>My wife is very troubled by this interest, claiming I spend more time researching the Shroud than reading the actual Word.

First, it is important that we do continue with regular "reading the actual Word," e.g. in a daily `quiet time'.

But then, we all (including no doubt your wife) spend more time doing other things "than reading the actual Word," e.g. sleeping, working, etc. And how many Christians have hobbies and interests that have little or nothing to do with Christianity and no one criticises them?

>For my wife and friends, faith is enough and scientific evidence matters not.

See above on most Christians don't seem to need a lot of evidence that Christianity is true. My wife and most of my Christian friends are like that. Most of them do not care about the Shroud, one way or the other. My wife believes the Shroud is the burial sheet of Jesus, but she cannot see what she should do about it. Personally I don't try to change them. Belief in the Shroud's authenticity is not an article of the Christian faith.

But on the other hand, that does not mean that Christians should criticise or even oppose those of us who are convinced, on the basis of the evidence, of the Shroud's authenticity. Since the evidence is overwhelming that Shroud is the burial sheet of Jesus (see for example my "Bogus: Shroud of Turin?" series), then Jesus must have left it for His original disciples and then has preserved it for us down through the ages. So while a Christian is apparently free to ignore the Shroud, if they actually oppose the Shroud, then they may be unwittingly "fight[ing] against God" (Acts 5:39).

>To them the Shroud is just another dubious relic now held by the suspect Catholic Church.

I myself was like that. As mentioned in my introductory post to this my The Shroud of Turin blog, if it wasn't for the fact that the book, "Verdict on the Shroud" (1981) was co-written by leading Protestant philosopher Gary Habermas' that I even considered the evidence that the Shroud of Turin is the burial sheet of Jesus. Before that, I assumed that the Shroud of Turin was just another fake Roman Catholic relic.

Also, the Shroud has only since 1983 been the property of the Roman Catholic church when it was bequeathed by the ex-king of Italy Umberto II of Savoy to the Pope. Before 1983 it had been privately owned by the House of Savoy, who in turn received from the previous private owner, Margaret de Charny in 1453, and it had never been previously owned by the Roman Catholic church. Besides, as Jewish Barrie Schwortz pointed out in a radio interview, there was no Protestant church back in the 1350s when the Shroud first appeared in Lirey, France owned by the de Charny family.

>They cannot tolerate my fascination with the Shroud. My pastor even refused me permission to show one or ore of the better Shroud videos at church classes.

To be fair to your Pastor it could be divisive if a Shroud video was shown at Protestant evangelical church. I have never been asked by my Pastor to give a talk on the Shroud, even though he knows I write a blog on it, and I have not yet asked him if I could do so.

But I am now preparing a PowerPoint presentation "Shroud of Turin: Burial sheet of Jesus!" to be shown at church or any other groups. When I have finished preparing that presentation I will formally ask permission of my Pastor to show it first at my church. But if he refuses I will write to other churches, including Roman Catholic, offering to show my presentation there.

>I cannot believe the Shroud matters not. But I cannot formulate myself concise arguments to present to my brothers and sisters why, as conservative, fundamentalist believers, we should be comforted by the knowledge that the Shroud is the actual burial cloth.

Personally I wouldn't bother trying to convince your fellow "conservative, fundamentalist believers." Since they already are Christians, "the knowledge that the Shroud is the actual burial cloth" of Jesus adds little to them. Just as the average Christian does not bother reading Christian theology, or Church history, or Bible and Science, etc. But whether their attitude is right or not I leave it between Jesus and them.

>They don't understand and thus far I cannot explain why the Shroud is important even if faith is paramount in our beliefs. One reason I cannot explain probably is my own faith and knowledge are still in the "baby" phase.

Remember that you have degrees in History and Archaeology, so you are not the average Christian. You like me, are "hit" by evidence, that most people (including most Christians) are not. I cannot explain why that is so, but it is something that I have learned to live with my 40+ years a Christian.

>I would be most grateful if you could help focus me on your own reasons for believing why the Shroud is important to Christians and point me to resources that would help me develop my arguments.

First, I don't think it is up to me (or anyone) to state what is "important to Christians" over and above what the Bible says. But having said that, next to the Bible, I believe the Shroud (or rather the image of Jesus' on it) is the most important thing in the world, since it is tangible proof that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son," to die a horrible death on a cross so "that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). After all, Jesus did not have to leave His shroud behind, nor did he have to preserve it these ~2,000 years. I can only assume that He did it, because He loves us and is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance" (2Pet 3:9).

As for Shroud resources, in my brief reply to you, I pointed out that, there is plenty of information on the Shroud on this my blog The Shroud of Turin and on other Shroud sites that are on my blog's blogroll on its right hand side. And also that I have just commenced a series, "Shroud of Turin: Burial sheet of Jesus!" which will cover in outline most of what I know about the Shroud.

Beyond that, if you are serious about learning more about the Shroud, you should read books on it. If you haven't already done so, my suggestion is you first read John Iannone's "The Mystery of the Shroud of Turin: New Scientific Evidence" (1998). Then I suggest you read, Ian Wilson's, "The Shroud: The 2000-Year-Old Mystery Solved" (2010).

Also, one major advantage you have over me is that you live in America, not in isolated Western Australia as I do. There are probably Shroud groups you could join and Shroud conventions and exhibitions you can attend far more easily than I can.

>I know you must be busy, but any guidance will be deeply appreciated.

I hope this has helped. My guidance is that you study the Shroud for yourself, i.e. to bring you closer to knowing Jesus ("that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death" - Php 3:10), while not neglecting your other Christian duties, like daily Bible reading and prayer, and not try to force the Shroud on to your fellow-Christians, but rather ask the Lord to lead you to the field of ministry (if any) He has for you with the Shroud.

>Thank you.

Thanks again for your message. I hope this has helped answer it.

PS: As an afterthought, here is why I think the Shroud is important,not just for Christians, but for everyone, because it bears the image of the Face of the One who is going to judge us all, on the Last Day (Jn

[Above (enlarge)[2]: Sepia print of a negative photograph of the Shroud face taken by Giuseppe Enrie in 1931 [see 1931b]5:26-27; Act 10:41-42; 17:31; Rom 2:16; 2Cor 5:10; 2Tim 4:1):

"In this context, although there are many individuals who are quite happy to accept that the shroud was faked in the fourteenth century, and regard it as of supreme unimportance in their everyday lives, there are others, including myself, for whom the question `Was this what you really looked like?' simply refuses to go away. Not only is the shroud as difficult to attribute to a fourteenth-century artist as the Sistine Chapel ceiling is attributable to Van Gogh, there is not even any comfort in not being able to dismiss it in such a way. For if that face, however subjectively, seems as though it has transcended two thousand years, it is as if neither time, nor the grave, have any meaning. It bespeaks the very same questions as those that wracked the pilgrims to the Veronica: `Were those the lips that spoke the Sermon on the Mount and the Parable of the Rich Fool?'; `Is this the Face that is to be my judge on the Last Day?'" (Wilson, I., 1991, "Holy Faces, Secret Places: The Quest for Jesus' True Likeness," Doubleday: London, p.189).
Posted 7 October 2011. Updated 4 November 2023.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Mr. Jones, for your marvelous blog on why it is OK for Christians to have a compelling interest in the Shroud. You did a great service with this posting that it is not just a matter of faith on how we come to know and accept Christ. Well Done!