Union University
Union University Dept of Language

Evangelogia



The Shrouded Intellect

by JUSTIN D. BARNARD
Director of the Institute for Intellectual Discipleship

April 5, 2012 - Right on cue, the anti-Christian media have warmed up more stale leftovers in (yet another) foolishly misguided attempt to contribute to the feast of Easter. This time, the story venerates the “scholarly” work of Cambridge art historian Thomas de Wesselow, who spends 400+ pages(!) defending the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. “The message really is that the Shroud of Turin is authentic,” de Wesselow explains.  “This is the only rational way of understanding this image. It can be understood entirely naturalistically. There’s no reason to invoke a miracle to explain the image.” 

De Wesselow adds that once armed with a thoroughly naturalistic explanation for the shroud, one can easily account for the evolution of the resurrection legend itself. Specifically, Jesus’ followers merely believed he was risen from the dead because of the significance of the “image as the spiritual manifestation of their leader” left by his decaying body in the shroud. 

The effort to interpret all of reality through the naturalistic lens is de rigueur among academics. But to claim, as de Wesselow does, that the naturalistic way of understanding the shroud and its implications for the historicity of Christ’s resurrection is the “only rational way of understanding this image,” is utter nonsense. For when the naturalistic lens is employed as a mirror, turning upon reason itself, the very possibility for rational understanding vanishes. 

Of course, the anti-Christian media does not grasp this any more than does de Wesselow. Thus, it reports de Wesselow’s research in a sober, dispassionate tone that reinforces its authoritative position as supreme adjudicator of all matters pertaining to truth. The headline (which is all that any of us read) wittily frames the debate: “Holy Shroud! Was resurrection story inspired by the cloth?” And the convenient on-line poll allowing readers to express what they think reminds us that truth is merely a function of inter-subjective opinion. 

The complete lifelessness of such intellectual engagement, on the part of both scholars who conduct such inquiries and the media outlets that peddle them, is, from the life-giving standpoint of the Gospel, almost laughable, if it were not so tragic. The tragic reality is that the intellectual lifelessness of those who deny the reality of the resurrected Christ is real. It is a darkness of death, entombed in the cognitive clouds of sin. Only the light of Christ’s resurrection can penetrate such death. No inspiring story about an image on a cloth ever could. 

Thankfully, those whose minds have been pierced by the light of Christ’s resurrection know, by faith, the truth that the darkness of naturalism cannot extinguish: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!