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Settled Shroud?

Just in time for Christmas, new research by Italian government scientists revives the lagging faith of those who believe that the mysterious Shroud of Turin is a miraculous image of Christ rather than a medieval forgery:

Italian government scientists have claimed to have discovered evidence that a supernatural event formed the image on the Turin Shroud, believed by many to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ.

After years of work trying to replicate the colouring on the shroud, a similar image has been created by the scientists.

However, they only managed the effect by scorching equivalent linen material with high-intensity ultra violet lasers, undermining the arguments of other research, they say, which claims the Turin Shroud is a medieval hoax.

Such technology, say researchers from the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (Enea), was far beyond the capability of medieval forgers, whom most experts have credited with making the famous relic.

Here at Via Meadia we aren’t holding our breath for this one to be resolved.  The investigation of the origins of the Shroud of Turin has been going on for much longer than the study of the earth’s climate, and the consensus on how the shroud was made continues to shift over time.  (Reminder to climate dogmatists: this is how science works, and it doesn’t always give us the neat and unambiguous answers we want.)

The search for scientific “proof” of miraculous Biblical events strikes us as a diversion rather than as a serious pursuit.  No investigation into the Shroud will bring the world’s atheists to their knees.  No report by any group of Italian scientists would have converted Christopher Hitchens.

There are four “proofs” of God’s existence that speak to most Christian believers.  First and foremost, there is the evidence of his presence and work in our lives and the lives around us: the miracles, meaning and love that surround, sustain and astonish us through all the travails and disappointments of life.  Second, there is the continued existence of the Christian faith dating back to the time when the early Christians knew from their own experience who Jesus was and what happened after his crucifixion.  Third, there is the continued existence against all odds of the Jews, a people God promised in the Bible to preserve as a testimony to his existence and faithfulness through all the generations of the world.  And finally there is the magnificent universe in which we live, that grand immensity with wonders and mysteries that we are only now beginning to grasp.

Joseph Addison described how the universe demonstrated the existence of God from a believer’s point of view in this 1712 meditation on and paraphrase of the first part of Psalm 19:

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens, a shining frame
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’unwearied sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s powers display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty Hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly to the listening earth
Repeats the story of her birth;
While all the stars that round her burn
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What though no real voice nor sound
Amid the radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice,
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

Compared to all this, the Shroud of Turin, be it pious forgery or be it holy relic, is very small beer.

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  • Luke Lea

    Lovely, the poem especially. For myself, personally, I believe because it is beautiful. The mere possibility of God’s existence is enough to sustain me in my moments of darkness, to give me courage to go on in the face of insuperable odds. On the evidence I am not the only one. Merry Christmas to all!

  • Jbird

    Not being Catholic nor Orthodox, I simply assume all relics are medieval forgeries. I don’t remember where I read it, but it’s been said one could re-construct Noah’s Arc out of all the splinters of the true cross that were floating around Europe in the Middle Ages.

    My wife, who became a Christian as a teenager, says that her favorite “proof” is the number of apostles, who certainly would have known if the resurrection was a hoax or not, who went to terrible deaths refusing to recant receiving no real gain here on earth for their efforts.

  • ms

    Thanks for the lovely Christmasy message.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I’m surprised that they can tell the difference between the effects on linen of ultra violet photons from the Sun, and ultra violet photons from a laser, in fact I don’t think it’s possible, as ultra violet photons are the same from both sources.
    So the question is; was the shroud created with the bleaching effect of the Sun, or from the shinning glory of Jesus?

  • Xpat

    Barry Schwortz runs a fantastic Shroud of Turin website:

  • Corlyss

    Regardless of how one feels about religion or relics, the science behind the efforts to prove or disprove the shroud’s authenticity are fascinating. I’ve read every book I could get my hands on about them, seen most of the tv documentaries too.

  • Evan

    I rather like this, I’ve always thought it would be in keeping with the Divine sense of humor (and you can’t tell me a being who created the duck-billed platypus doesn’t have a sense of humor) to leave behind proof that only a high-tech civilization could understand and appreciate.

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