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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Supreme Court and the Ministerial Exemption


In January of 2012, the Supreme Court issued a significant religious liberty decision, ruling that churches and other religious groups must be free to choose and dismiss their leaders without government interference.  This was the first time that the Supreme Court had recognized the “ministerial exception” to employment discrimination laws although appellate courts (e.g., 6th circuit, 9th circuit, etc.) have recognized it for approximately 40 years. What it means is that Christian churches can't be forced to hire non-Christians as pastors, Catholic parishes don't have to hire female priests, Jews can dismiss rabbis if they (morally) step out of line, and so on.

The case before the Supreme Court, Hosanna-Tabor Church v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, was brought by Cheryl Perich, who had been a teacher at a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod school in Redford, Mich.  Ms. Perich said she was fired for suing the school for employment discrimination, something (i.e., suing) the Missouri-Synod forbids among church members. That is, she was fired for violating religious doctrine by pursuing litigation rather than trying to resolve her dispute within the church through Church-sanctioned reconciliation processes. The issue was whether Perich was considered a minister or not. Although she taught mostly secular subjects, she also taught religion classes and attended chapel with her class, and (this is probably the most important point), she was a “called” teacher (i.e., a commissioned minister) who had completed religious training and whom the school considered a minister.

As I've noted in previous posts ("The Question Before the Court," "Morality vs. Constitutionality," "Justice Roberts and Obamacare"), the Supreme Court's job is not to decide whether the school acted morally but whether it acted constitutionally, and in this case, the court ruled unanimously (9-0) that it had. The details and implications of this case serve as a touchstone for a very interesting discussion on the most recent Research on Religion podcast ("Matthew Franck on Hosanna-Tabor and Ministerial Exemptions"). Here's a brief description of the hour-long podcast:
The surprising outcome of the Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC Supreme Court case forms the basis for our discussion of religious liberty and how far the “ministerial exemption” to federal anti-discrimation laws can be carried. Prof. Matthew Franck (Witherspoon Institute) discusses the details of the case, how it wound its way through the court system, and what happened at the Supreme Court. Along the way, Tony learns a great deal of the U.S. legal system. We then put this case in the broader context of religious freedom and labor regulations.
As always, you can listen to the podcast at the Research on Religion website or download it from iTunes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

NFL Draft 2013

The NFL draft has come and (almost) gone, and if you gauged the quality of players by the media attention paid to each round, you'd come away with the sense that first round picks were the most important (the first round had a night all to itself), followed by the second and third, and then the rest. This, of course, makes sense since the draft's logic is that the best players, for the most part, are selected earlier.

However, research conducted by students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute ("Better Value in 2nd-Round Picks") found that there's more value in second-round draft picks than in first-rounders. Analyzing the performance of players selected from 2000 to 2012 found that players selected in the second round had 70 percent of the production of first-round picks at 40 percent of the salary. Their study used two metrics to measure a player's success. The first was Approximate Value, which assigns value to a player's performance during a season. The other was "Appearance Value," which combines games played, games started, and "recognition" (e.g., Pro Bowl selection or other honors). If I am interpreting their findings correctly, what this means is that if you select two players in the second round, you will get 40% more output for fewer dollars than from your first round pick. The moral of the story? Teams should trade their first round picks for multiple picks in the second and (probably) later rounds (Don't forget: Joe Montana was picked in the third round, and Tom Brady was picked in the 6th.)

Their findings are similar to those of others. For example, the economists Case Massey and Richard Thaler found that the "surplus" draft value peaked with picks in the late first round and early second round (they defined surplus value was defined as the expected performance value above which a team could expect by spending an equivalent amount on a veteran free agent). The folks at Freakonomics summarize the Massey and Thaler study quite nicely in the short video, "The Luck of the Draft," which was produced last year (when Andrew Luck was one of the big names). Essentially, what it comes down to is that flipping a coin is sometimes just as reliable as listening to the experts, which is why a team's more likely to choose a winner with multiple picks in the later rounds than a high to medium pick in the first round.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Should the GOP Move to the Political Center?

It's not every day that you hear someone refer to former President George W. Bush as a centrist, but that's what conservative talk-show host, Laura Ingraham, does, and she doesn't mean it as a compliment. Ingraham is one of four political conservatives who participate in the latest Intelligence Squared US debate, "The GOP Must Seize the Center or Die." Joining here in arguing against the motion is Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and the first executive director of Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition. Arguing on behalf of the motion is New York Times columnist David Brooks and former the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, Mickey Edwards.

As with all Intelligence Squared debates, the audience votes both before and after the debate, and the team that changes the most minds wins, which means a team can win a debate without winning a majority of votes. For example, if prior to a debate, 65% of the audience supported the motion, 14% opposed it, and 21% were undecided and after the debate, 65% supported the motion, 28% opposed it, and 7% were undecided, then the team arguing against the motion would be the winners because their share of the votes increased 14% points, while the other team's share didn't increase at all. You can listen to the debate, as well as access transcripts of it, at the Intelligence Squared website ("The GOP Must Seize the Center or Die"). It can also be downloaded from iTunes.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Let's Not Forget About Texas

Last week's Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt captured the attention of most Americans. Coverage of the bombing and manhunt dominated most print, TV, radio, and Internet outlets for the entire week. What got lost in the coverage, however, was the tragedy that struck two days later in West, Texas, when a fertilizer plant explosion killed 14 people, injured over 200, leveled several houses, demolished a 50-unit apartment building, and damaged a nursing home and a handful of schools.

Of course, the reason why the bombing attracted so much attention is because acts of terror strike fear in the hearts of most people. Indeed, that "is the whole point of terrorism... [it] leverages the psychology of fear to create emotional damage that is disproportionate to its damage in lives and property" (The Better Angels of Our Nature, p. 345). As Steven Pinker and others have noted, each year, more Americans are killed in traffic accidents, homicides, drownings, fires, falls, bee stings, peanut allergies, and lightening strikes than by terrorist attacks. But the emotional damage is real, which is why it elicits a disproportionate share of media coverage and why last week many of us forgot about the people of West, Texas.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Longing for Eden

Steven Pinker's latest book, "The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," has attracted its share of criticism, but from what I can gather from my unsystematic review of the critiques, most of it has to do with his contention that hunter-gatherer societies were not only more violent than many believe them to have been, but that they were more violent than most (if not all) of today's societies. According to Pinker's calculations (which are summaries of studies by forensic archeologists), approximately 15%-20% of individuals living in hunter-gatherer societies died a violent death at the hands of another individual, whereas in today's world, the percentage is less than one. Put differently, we (e.g., all Americans) are far less likely to die a violent death than did someone two millennia ago.

One reason why this has attracted criticism is because data on hunter-gatherer societies are far and few between (and certainly not random), which makes it difficult to arrive at a definitive conclusion.  One can only evaluate the available evidence and draw as reasonable conclusion as possible. Another reason (and I suspect a more important reason) is that it challenges romantic images of the past held by many on the ideological left. Although secularists often mock conservative Christians for believing in a literal "Garden of Eden," secularists cling to their own versions of the Garden of Eden, due in large part to the philosophical musings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Karl Marx.  Indeed as the sociologist Daniel Chirot and psychologist Clark McCauley have noted, the parallels between Marxism and Christianity are striking:
Marxist eschatology actually mimicked Christian doctrine. In the beginning, there was a perfect world with no private property, no classes, no exploitation, and no alienation--the Garden of Eden. Then came sin, the discovery of private property, and the creation of exploiters. Humanity was cast from the Garden to suffer inequality and want. Humans then experimented with a series of modes of production, from the slave, to the feudal, to the capitalist mode, always seeking the solution and not finding it. Finally there came a true prophet with a message of salvation, Karl Marx, who preached the truth of Science. He promised redemption but was not heeded, except by his closest disciples who carried the truth forward. Eventually, however, the proletariat, the carriers of the true faith, will be converted by the religious elect, the leaders of the party, and join to create a more perfect world. A final, terrible revolution will wipe out capitalism, alienation, exploitation, and inequality. After that, history will end because there will be perfection on earth, and the true believers will have been saved ("Why Not Kill Them All," pp. 142-43, emphasis added).
I don't know if it's something we're born with or something we acquire (or maybe a little of both), but it seems that many of us long for a past where all was pure and right and just. Of course, how we define what is pure and right and just differs from person to person, but that doesn't alter the fact that many of us pine for a golden age. And whether we do so in religious or secular terms is beside the point. The fact is that we do, and it apparently makes us resistant to data that may indicate otherwise.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Should the Minimum Wage Be Abolished?

It's been a few months since I've recommended an Intelligence Squared US debate, primarily because while the topics have been interesting, the debaters (at least in my opinion) haven't. Nevertheless, here's a good one: "Abolish the Minimum Wage." It pits well-meaning libertarians and social liberals against one another.  There's far more nuance to this debate than most people would like to admit. For example, although raising the minimum wage will benefit those who are and remain employed, it also raises the labor costs of companies, which could lead them to lay workers off, not hire as many workers as originally planned, or raise their prices (unless you believe that companies, out of the goodness of their hearts, will simply absorb the extra costs without doing anything -- of course, if that were the case, there wouldn't be any need for a minimum wage). Here's a description of the debate (from the Intelligence Squared website):
The first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage, a part of 1933’s sweeping National Industrial Recovery Act, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935. But in 1938, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a minimum hourly wage of 25 cents—$4.07 in today’s dollars. Three-quarters of a century later, we are still debating the merits of this cornerstone of the New Deal. Do we need government to ensure a decent paycheck, or would low-wage workers and the economy be better off without its intervention?
Like all Intelligence Squared debates, the audience votes both before and after the debate, and the team that changes the most minds wins, which means a team can win a debate without winning a majority of votes. For example, imagine if prior to the debate, 20% of the audience supported the motion being debated, 40% opposed it, and 40% were undecided. If after the debate, 45% of the audience support the motion, and 60% oppose it, then the team arguing on behalf of the motion will win because their share of the votes increased 25% points, while the other team's share increased only 20%.

In theory, this format should correct for the ideological biases of the crowd. However, I've noticed that prior to the debate a large percentage of the audience tends to say that they're undecided, and my sense is that a large percentage of these undecided voters are leaning a particular way, which makes it easier for the team that's arguing that side of the issue to win and why it's fairly easy to predict which side will win before the debate actually begins. That is, because the debates are held in NY, they tend to attract more people on the political left than the political right, and most of the time (not always), the politically "liberal" team wins. Nevertheless, regardless if you agree with the outcome, the debates themselves can be quite informative and fun to listen to. As always, you can listen to the debate at the Intelligence Squared website ("Abolish the Minimum Wage"), as well as access transcripts of the debate.  The debate can also be downloaded from iTunes.

Debating on behalf of the motion are Jason Dunn and Russell Roberts; arguing against are Jared Burnstein and Karen Kornbluh. Here are their biographies (from the Intelligence Squared US):

James A. Dorn is the vice president for academic affairs, editor of the Cato Journal, and director of Cato’s annual monetary conference. His research interests include trade and human rights, economic reform in China, and the future of money. From 1984 to 1990, he served on the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars. He has lectured in Estonia, Germany, Hong Kong, Russia, and Switzerland and has directed international conferences in London, Shanghai, Moscow, and Mexico City. Dorn has been a visiting scholar at the Central European University in Prague and at Fudan University in Shanghai and is currently professor of economics at Towson University in Maryland. He has edited 10 books and his articles have appeared in numerous publications. Dorn holds a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Virginia.

Russ Roberts is a research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. He is the host of EconTalk, a weekly hour-long award-winning podcast. His rap videos (created with filmmaker John Papola) on the ideas of Keynes and Hayek have been viewed over 6 million times on YouTube and subtitled in eleven languages. Roberts blogs (with Don Boudreaux) at Cafe Hayek. His latest web-based educational project is The Numbers Game where he discusses data and charts in annotated videos. Roberts is the author of three works of fiction that teach economic principles and lessons and numerous journal articles. Roberts was a professor of economics at George Mason University from 2003 to 2012. He has also taught at Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Rochester, Stanford University, and UCLA. His PhD is from the University of Chicago.

Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. From 2009 to 2011, Bernstein was the chief economist and economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team. Bernstein’s areas of expertise include federal and state economic and fiscal policies, income inequality and mobility, trends in employment and earnings, international comparisons, and the analysis of financial and housing markets. Prior to joining the Obama administration, Bernstein was a senior economist and the director of the Living Standards Program at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Between 1995 and 1996, he held the post of deputy chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor. He is the author of "Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?" and is an on-air commentator for the cable stations CNBC and MSNBC and hosts jaredbernsteinblog.com.

Karen Kornbluh recently stepped down as US Ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development where she negotiated international Internet policymaking principles, launched a new OECD gender initiative, and championed the OECD's transition from the "rich man's club" to a global policy network focused on working with developing countries and emerging economic powers. She previously served as policy director for then-Senator Barack Obama, as deputy chief of staff at the US Treasury Department, and in a number of roles at the Federal Communications Commission including assistant chief of the International Division and Director of Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs. She has been awarded a number of fellowships including a visiting fellowship at the Center for American Progress and a Markle technology fellowship. She founded the Work and Family Program at the New America Foundation for publications including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic Monthly, and the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wine, Wars (and Rumors of Wars), and Why (Unlike Indiana Jones) We Often Choose Unwisely

Cognitive psychologists and behavioral economists have found that behind every choice, there are a set of heuristics (i.e., rules of thumb, strategies) that guide our decisions. One, for example, is priming, which is where our subsequent actions are affected by prior cues. For example, test subjects were asked to read a series of words that were associated either with being elderly (e.g., “forgetful,” “Florida,” “wrinkle”), and when they were then asked to walk to a room down the hall, those who read the "elderly" words walked more slowly than those who had not.

Another is anchoring. It turns we make our judgments in comparison to alternatives. For example, a $25 bottle of wine seems expensive next to $5 bottles but relatively cheap next to $150 bottles. There's a story told about a pool-table store that one week began showing customers the cheapest tables first before then moving on to the more expensive ones and the next week began with the most expensive tables before working on to the cheaper ones. In the week that the store began by showing the expensive tables first, the average sale was almost twice as much!

Then there is the availability heuristic. This is the tendency to make judgements about the frequency of an event based on how easy it is to recall similar instances. In other words, how easily something can be called to mind is related to perceptions about how often this event occurs. As Steven Pinker notes people overestimate the probability of the types of accidents that typically garner headlines, such as plane crashes, shark attacks, and terrorist bombings but underestimate the likelihood of events that don't such as drownings, falls, and electrocutions (Pinker, "The Better Angels Of Our Nature," p. 193).
In a survey of historical memory, I asked a hundred Internet users to write down as many wars as they could remember in five minutes. The responses were heavily weighted toward the world wars fought by the United States, and wars closest to the present. Though the earlier centuries, as we shall see, had far more wars, people remembered more wars from recent centuries (Pinker, p. 194).
This helps explain why most people think that Roman Catholic priests are far more likely to sexually abuse minors than Protestant pastors, but as I've pointed out several times in this blog ("Celibacy and the Pastoral Abuse of Minors," "Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But," "USA Swimming Child-Abuse Scandal"), that simply isn't so. The percentage of Roman Catholic priests that abuse minors (4%) is no higher than the male population at large, but because reports about abuse by Catholic priests have tended to attract headlines, while those of male teachers, coaches, and Protestant pastors typically have not (this, thankfully, has begun to change), people overestimate the rate of abuse Catholic priests relative to others. This is not to excuse away Church officials who attempted to cover up the abuse and/or didn't defrock the guilty priests (or at least place them in settings where they could do no more harm), but it does help explain why the public's perception is so skewed.

Priming, anchoring, and the availability heuristic are not the only rules of thumb that we use to make decisions. Excellent discussions about these and other heuristics can be found in Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow," David Brooks's "The Social Animal," and Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein's "Nudge." The bottom line: We don't think through a lot of the choices we make as thoroughly as we should.

P.S. If you're like most people, you think that you're the exception, that heuristics don't guide your decisions. You are, of course, wrong because, well, you're like most people.

Friday, April 12, 2013

It's Official: A Girl Will Win American Idol

It's official. I female female will win American Idol this year. The first time a girl has won since Jordin Sparks won in 2007. In fact, for the first time in Idol history, the final five are all women ("'American Idol': Lazaro Arbos sent home, making 'Idol' history"). I'm unsure if its a testimony to how good the girls are this year or how bad the guys were (although I'm leaning to the latter). Moreover, Kree Harrison has emerged as a front runner, followed by Candice Glover and Angie Miller. Here are the latest prices (i.e., probabilities of winning) from PredictWise:

Name
Probability
Kree Harrison
42.6 %
Candice Glover
27.8 %
Angie Miller
14.8 %
Amber Holcomb
9.3 %
Janelle Arthur
3.9 %

P.S. As an aside, I confess that I haven't watched a lot of "Idol" this year. Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, and Keith Urban are fine, but Nicki Minaj is hard to watch. I've heard that the ratings are significantly down this year; if that's true, I'm willing to bet that Minaj won't be back.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Waiting on Godot (Doctors, Actually)

Do you ever wonder why hospitals and doctors insist that we cannot be late, but then often make us wait forever to call us? I took my Dad to the VA in Palo Alto today for an MRI, and when we booked the appointment, the scheduler was quite insistent (rude, actually) that we better not be late. In fact, we should be a 1/2 hour early. So, my Dad and I dutifully arrived a half hour early (well, actually 26 minutes early because it took us close to 10 minutes to find a parking spot) and then waited two hours (I'm not kidding) before he was called in for his MRI (and then another 50 for him to finish). It's as if they think that our lives revolve around theirs. That unlike them, we aren't busy with our days chock full of appointments and responsibilities. I suspect we wouldn't put up with such treatment if we had more leverage, but because we're so dependent on the services they offer, they can basically treat us any way they want.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Belief in the Resurrection? Sure, Why Not? (A Re-Post of Sorts)

The early twentieth-century sociologist William Thomas once wrote that "if men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences," by which he meant that if people believe that something is true, they will act as if it is true. One could also argue the reverse: If people are acting as if something is true, then there's a high probability they believe it to be true.

The "Thomas Theorem" comes to mind this Easter season. If the Gospel accounts are even remotely reliable, it is safe to conclude that not only did the early Christians behave as if the Resurrection happened, they actually believed it happened. Of course, what actually happened is a matter of debate among scholars. As New Testament scholar (and thoroughgoing skeptic) Bart Ehrman puts it ("Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium," pp. 227-228):
Even if a miracle did happen, there is no way we can demonstrate it, by the very nature of the case...  Historians try to determine what happened in the past. Since they can't prove the past, they can only establish what probably happened. But by their very nature, miracles are highly improbable occurrences. That is to say, the chances of a miracle happening are infinitesimally remote, as opposed to other weird things that happen in our world that are not in anode themselves so highly improbable that we'd call them 'impossible.' The, even if Jesus was raised from the dead--as many Christian historians personally believe he was, just as most other historians think he wasn't--there is no way we can demonstrate it using historical methods.
Nevertheless, historians can't (or at least shouldn't) dismiss the resurrection too quickly. As Catherine Murphy, who is NOT a theological conservative, notes ("The Historical Jesus for Dummies," p. 240) there is "no feature of the Jesus story that satisfies so many of the criteria of historicity" (see "The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Part V: Criteria"). As she notes:
  • It's traced to many eyewitnesses. Paul, for example, claims more than 515 eyewitnesses (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
  • It's embarrassing (consider the divergent stories and women as witnesses, for example).
  • It's an early tradition on which all the other traditions in the gospels are predicated (no one would have bothered to write gospels if the resurrection hadn't occurred).
  • It's reported in multiple, independent sources (Paul, Mark, John and possibly Q 11:29-30, 32).
  • It's discontinuous with Jewish beliefs about resurrection because, as far as we know, no one had ever claimed that someone had actually risen, that this proved the person's unique status, and that this resurrection had something to offer everyone (namely, that if they believed in it, they too would rise). Early Christians had to pour tremendous energy into understanding it themselves.
  • It's coherent not so much with the historical details of Jesus's life, but with the rise of early Christianity.
This is why a number of mainline scholars (i.e., those who don't read the Bible literally) have concluded that something must have happened. What happened exactly, most aren't willing to say, but they do believe that something did (see e.g., Catherine Murphy, "The Historical Jesus for Dummies," p. 240, James Alison, "Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination," pp. 28-30, and David Buttrick, "Preaching Jesus Christ," pp. 57-58). Then, of course, there are folks such as Dr. Francis Collins, who was head of the Human Genome Project when it sequenced the human genome, and the Anglican priest and theoretical physicist John Polkinghorne, who is a member of the Royal Society of London (probably the oldest and most prestigious scientific study in the world), who believe in the Resurrection. I think one would be hard pressed to call either of them intellectual midgets. However, as Polkinghorne puts it:
An inquiry into the evidence can carry us only so far. It can demonstrate (as I believe it does) that the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus is not without substantial motivation, so that it is far from being an ungrounded speculation. However, at best such an inquiry can point only to a balance of probability... Ultimately one's attitude to the resurrection will depend on the degree to which it does or does not cohere with one's general understanding of the way the world is. If the Christian understanding is true, that in Jesus the divine and human so mingled that a new regime was present in the world, then the unique occurrence of the resurrection is conceivable... If a humanist understanding is true, that Jesus was a remarkable and inspiring man but no more, then it is to be expected that death had the degree of finality for him that it will have for us" ("The Way the World Is: The Christian Perspective of a Scientist," p.79).
In short, belief in the resurrection follows from a priori assumptions about the nature of the world, which can neither be substantiated nor refuted through scientific inquiry. However, in discussions with mainline Protestant ministers, I get the sense that many, if not most, are embarrassed by the resurrection, seeing belief in it as being somehow scientifically irresponsible. Consequently, many are inclined to understand (and preach about) it metaphorically rather than literally, as an experience that the early Christians shared when they broke bread together, rather than as an historical event that profoundly altered their hearts, minds, and subsequent behavior. 

More importantly, I also get the sense that many of these mainline Protestant ministers assume that the majority of their congregations' members hold similar beliefs. This would be a colossal mistake, however; most Christians, including mainline Protestants, believe in Jesus' bodily resurrection. To wit:
  • In the 2008-2009 wave of the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, 94 percent of evangelicals, 91 percent of Catholics, and 78 percent of mainline Protestants said Jesus was raised bodily from the dead after his crucifixion.
  • 75% of the more than 25,000 respondents to congregational surveys offered by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research from 2004 to 2010, most of whom were mainline Protestants, said that they believed that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was an actual event.
  • According to the Portraits of American Life study more than 2/3 of Christian respondents, including 84% of black and evangelical respondents and 67% of mainline Protestants and Catholics, strongly agreed with the statement, “Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead” (15.4% of mainline Protestants and 13.4% of Catholics "somewhat" agreed with the statement).
Of course, just because a majority of Christians believe that something is true, doesn't mean that it is true (any more than a majority vote by the Jesus Seminar on a saying of Jesus is the final word on whether it is authentic or not). Nevertheless, I daresay that most Christians, including most mainline Protestants, need more to hang their hat on than a notion that the hearts of the first Christians were strangely warmed when they broke bread together.

Does this mean that it is intellectually irresponsible not to believe in the resurrection? Of course not. As Ehrman points out, most non-Christian historians don't believe in it because, despite protestations of Josh McDowell, there is no incontrovertible evidence that demands a verdict. Nevertheless, as Murphy and Polkinghorne suggest, there is enough evidence, at least for Christians, on which they can hang their hat.

Note: Although this post contains some new material, it's essentially a combination of my two previous "Easter" posts: "Resurrection? Really? Yes, Really" (April 22, 2011) and "Belief in a Bodily Resurrection?" (April 9, 2012)