A Strategic Approach...
Regardless of evidence, the Shroud can never be a substitute for faith. However, something as potentially significant as the Shroud puts it into the same league as the Ark of the Covenant or even Noah’s Ark, neither of which have been found yet. But the greatest artifact of all, the burial shroud of Jesus, may be hidden in plain sight, hidden by controversy and confusion rather than dirt and debris. The shroud cannot be considered "proof" but neither should it be ignored. As a potential relic of Christ, it is the only one that is in any way testable.
The Shroud is a visual medium that draws audiences into the historical, medical and scientific investigation. More important is a gripping comparison of scripture and Christ’s painful ordeal of crucifixion as revealed on the Shroud. The mystery of his resurrection is also explored. There is no attempt to “prove” the Shroud authentic, but the message of Christ is clearly presented as the evidence is examined.
A Visual Gospel?
The possibility of the Shroud being authentic is intriguing to consider. Could the cloth have been left behind as a Visual Gospel, written on linen? The photographic and 3-D qualities of the Shroud image have caused many to consider if God preserved a visual testimony for our video and computer age when images are everywhere and have become part of the way we communicate. As an image, the Shroud speaks every language. Does it reveal the heart of God who is “not willing that any should perish”? 2 Peter 3:9
At a time when biblical truth is being challenged by modern Gnostics such as Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code” or the resurgence of aggressive atheism such as Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”, the Shroud of Turin stands in complete support time honored biblical accuracy. Every detail from the scriptures is seen visually on the Shroud, nothing stands in contradiction. Forensic medical experts have testified that the man is dead with evidence of post mortem blood flow and rigor mortis. No swoon theory is possible. We also know the blood was transferred to the cloth first followed by the image. This is the same order of events as recorded in scripture. Could this inexplicable image have been formed “in the twinkling of an eye” when the body of Jesus was transformed as recorded in 1 Cor 15?
It is important to note historically that the body of Jesus was never found. The Romans and Jews responsible for his execution never contested the empty tomb. They simply claimed someone stole the body. But who? The Apostles? Not hardly sinec each one died a horrific death as martyrs. All they needed to escape was to recant their belief in the resurrection. John 20:1-8 records the burial shroud left in the tomb was the first piece of evidence leading Peter and John to believe that Jesus had risen as he had predicted.
Is There A Message?
The Message of the Shroud is the Message of the Resurrection...
The Apostle Paul said, “If the resurrection is not true, then our faith is in vain” 1 Cor 15:17. Belief in the resurrection is essential to salvation itself, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead you shall be saved” Romans 10:9. The entire Christian faith hinges on the FACT of the resurrection. The Shroud does not necessarily prove the resurrection with scientific certainty, yet the possibility allows us to explore the resurrection in depth and its critical significance to our faith.
Would God Use Evidence?
For us to even consider the Shroud’s authenticity, we have to ask if God would use evidence to reach the world with the message of the Gospel. Two key scriptures are important to consider.
The use of words like “evidence” and “proofs” is an indication that God does not promote blind faith. Faith is only as good as the object of our faith. The Christian faith is well supported by historical and archaeological evidence. With each scoop of the shovel, the truth of the bible becomes more certain. How many skeptics have turned to faith after reading, “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell or “The Case For Christ” by Lee Strobel? Both authors were skeptics themselves before they looked at the evidence. God indeed uses evidence.
It is a question science cannot answer. Everything about the Shroud indicates it could be authentic, and in the process of evaluating the evidence the inescapable message of Christ is presented in a manner that is visually compelling, intellectually challenging, emotionally powerful, and spiritually uplifting.
Would God Use An Image?
Some people refer to the Old Testament prohibition of graven images as a reason why God wouldn’t use the Shroud. However, this prohibition was against man crafting anything with his hands to represent what has never been seen. Moses never saw God but while he was on the mountain obtaining the Ten Commandments, Aaron was down below crafting a golden calf as if that somehow represented God. Out of concern for this commandment, all of the early historical references of the Shroud describe it as, “Not made by human hands”.
It is also important to remember that everything changed with the arrival of Jesus in the flesh who Paul described as, “The image of the invisible God.” Col 1:15. Moses never saw God but Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” John 14:9 The earliest painted images of Christ were created by first century disciples hiding in the catacombs of ancient Rome. They were eyewitnesses to His majesty and what they painted on subterranean walls looks remarkably similar to what is seen on the Shroud today. Is the Shroud somehow a miraculous photograph preserved for our modern skeptical age? As we explore this intriguing mystery we encounter the incredible message of God’s love for humanity.
The message of the Shroud is identical to the message of Scripture. There is no difference. But as a good chef would say, "presentation is everything." A knowledgeable christian can still learn a great deal about the passion as revealed on the Shroud. Much can be learned about historical Christianity as the trail is followed back through time. Agnostics can learn even more as the bible they don't believe in comes alive through the Shroud. If you represent a campus ministry, Christian school or a church, the Christian version of Shroud Encounter is one of the most powerful presentations of the Gospel one can ever see or hear. The fusion of science, history and faith appeals to both believer and non-believer alike but for different reasons. As the audience explores the mystery in CSI fashion, the message of Christ is clearly revealed. That message does not depend on absolute proof of authenticity. The preponderance of evidence indicates it COULD be authentic, and as we explore that possibility, the message of Christ comes alive on the big screen in dramatic fashion as the agony of crucifixion is revealed through forensic and chemical analysis of the bloodstains. But the hope of every believer lies with the resurrection. What caused the image? It is not the work of an artist as clearly proven numerous streams of scientific investigation. We can only speculate, and in so doing the promise of the resurrection is explored.
Few subjects are as intellectually stimulating and spiritually uplifting as the Shroud. Shroud Encounter is carefully designed to deliver both with accuracy and impact. It is an experience the audience will remember for years to come.
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