Does the Resurrection best explain the Empty Tomb and the post-resurrection Appearances?

Evangelical Christian blogger:

I’m saying the resurrection does in fact do a better job explaining why Jesus’ tomb was empty and why His disciples, James, and Paul saw him alive. None of the naturalistic theories you’ve proposed throughout the course of this conversation have been able to do the job. I’ve refuted all of them. And I’ve addressed even more of them in part 2 of this blog post.

I’ve come to this conclusion as a result of abductive reasoning (or inference to the best explanation) as I’ve already pointed out. In the absence of any adequate opposing theory, I don’t see why we shouldn’t go with the resurrection. I’m not saying it “proves” the resurrection, like some sort of hardcore mathematical. I’m saying that in light of the 5 minimal facts, and the miserable failures of all the naturalistic theories I’ve ever heard (many of which you’ve brought up in the course of this discussion) then we are warranted in inferring that Christ rose from the dead. My case for the resurrection is abductive rather than deductive.

I’d like to again refer you to the One Minute Apologist video I posted earlier in the course of this conversation where J. Warner Wallace discribes how abductive reasoning is used in the case for the resurrection. –> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsnRLOExbe0

Gary:

But isn’t it a problem that most people on planet earth don’t find your alleged evidence—which you believe so strongly supports your belief that a first century man named Jesus was reanimated from the dead by an ancient middle-eastern god—convincing?

And not only that:

-most historians do not believe your evidence supports the likelihood of the physical resurrection of Jesus.
-the overwhelming majority of Jewish and Muslim scholars do not believe your evidence supports the likelihood of the physical resurrection of Jesus.
-and even 1/3 of all Christian clergy in the United States do not believe there is evidence to support the physical resurrection of Jesus.

So if all these experts on the subject doubt the strength of your evidence, how can you be so confident of your first century supernatural claim?

Evangelical Blogger:

The ones that do come to that conclusion immediately abandon their worldviews and become Christians, since they realize that Christianity would established as true if they come to accept the resurrection as a fact. We shouldn’t be surprised then, that only Christian historians accept the resurrection as the best explanation of the 5 minimal facts. In fact, it would be quite bizarre if a historian accepted the resurrection as a historical fact but still remained an atheist, or a Muslim, or whatever view he held previously.

Nevertheless, they do accept the 5 minimal facts, they’re just resistant to the resurrection as the explanation for them. I suspect they’re resistant for more than merely intellectual or historical reasons, but I’d really rather not go down that road.

Gary:

So you admit then that your evidence is only convincing to Christians, and therefore the resurrection cannot be viewed as an historical “fact” but only an opinion.  If it were an historical fact, the majority of all people, not just Christians, would view it as fact.

For instance:  The majority of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians believe that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, that Alexander the Great invaded Persia and India, and that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem.  These historical facts are not disputed by any large group of people.

So even though you personally feel very strongly about your minimal facts as evidence for a historical event, the majority of the world disagrees and therefore we observers must assume that your five minimal facts is not “strong” evidence after all.   “Strong” evidence would convince most everyone.

Your last statement reveals your underlying bias.  “If the majority of people and even the majority of historians do not accept my “strong” evidence it is because THEY are biased.”

This is delusional, cult-like paranoia, Evan.

Imagine if a Muslim were to say, “The reason that Christians and Jews do not accept Mohammad’s story of flying on a winged horse to heaven is because Christians and Jews are resisting accepting the real truth out of their sinful stubbornness against Allah.”  You would laugh and respond, “No.  I don’t believe this supernatural story because their is no good evidence to believe it actually happened.”

And that is what the rest of the world says to you, Evan, about your supernatural tale of a resurrection.

Evangelical Blogger:

 
No, I’m not saying the resurrection is a mere opinion (like chocolate ice cream tastes better than vanilla ice cream), I’m saying that it is a historical fact. It’s the only explanation I can think of for the 5 minimal facts that works. The historical evidence powerfully points in that direction. But only Christians accept it is true because everyone knows that if the resurrection occurred, Christianity is true. So therefore the people who accept it as true abandon their worldview and become Christians.

Let’s look at a different example. Only atheists consider the problem of suffering to be a successful argument against the existence of God. No theist whatsoever believes the problem of suffering is a successful argument against God’s existence? Why? Because the theists that do think it’s a successful argument realize that if the problem of suffering argument were successful, it would prove atheism. So they immediately abandon their theistic beliefs and adopt atheism.

Well, the same goes for the resurrection. It’d be quite bizarre, as I said in my last response, for someone to adopt a view that proves Christianity yet still refuses to become a Christian.

And again, you’re arguing that if the evidence for the resurrection were really good, almost everyone would accept it. I’ve already pointed out the naivety of this argument. I have no idea why you keep making me repeat myself throughout the course of this conversation. It takes several times of me saying something before it finally sticks.

Think about what you’re saying here; You’re saying that if the evidence for Christianity were really good, then everyone would become a Christian. But I could make the same argument about any and every worldview. If the evidence for atheism were good, everyone would become an atheist. If the evidence for Buddhism were true, everyone would become a Buddhist. If the evidence for Islam were good, everyone would become a Muslim.

If the evidence for communism were good everyone would be a communist. If the evidence for capitalism were good, everyone would be a capitalist. If the evidence for the pro-choice position were really good, everyone would be pro-choice. If the evidence for the pro-life position were good, everyone would be pro-life.

So you say “strong” evidence would convince most everyone? Well then, I guess literally no position anyone could possibly take a stand on has good evidence for them. I hope you can finally see the fallacy of this line of thinking.

And yes, a major reason why people reject the resurrection is because people are biased against it. I go into several of these in my blog post “Are All Reasons For Rejecting God Purely Intellectual”
> http://cerebralfaith.blogspot.com/2013/07/are-all-reasons-for-rejecting-god.html

In the linked to blog post above, I quote several current atheist philosophers and former non-Christians who are quite candid about their desire for Christianity to not be true. Thomas Nagel is one example of that. So if you don’t believe me, take it from the mouths of some of the horses. Check it out.

There’s no cult like mentality required to arrive at that conclusion. Even many secular psychologists have come to the conclusion that people don’t just hold beliefs, they cherish them. To adopt the resurrection would be to forfeit a cherished belief.

Well now, it seems this conversation has been going on for a while. If you have no other way to account for…

(1) Jesus’ death by crucifixion,
(2) His Empty Tomb,
(3) His Postmortem Appearances To His Disciples,
(4) His Postmortem Appearance To The Church Persecutor Paul, and
(5) His Postmortem Appearance To The Skeptic James,

….then perhaps this is a good place to end the conversation. Since at this point, all you’re doing is ridiculing the resurrection rather than offering ways to account for the above data.

Gary:

There is a very big difference between asserting that an alleged event in Antiquity is historical fact and asserting which economic model, communism or capitalism, you believe is superior. The first assertion is an assertion of established fact, the second is a matter of opinion.

 You made this statement:  “I’m saying that it (the Resurrection) is a historical fact. It’s the only explanation I can think of for the 5 minimal facts that works.”

Your words “I think” belie your true position:  opinion.  If it were fact you could appeal to the overwhelming majority of authorities of all nationalities, ethnicities, and religions who agree with you.

It is your OPINION that the Resurrection is a historical fact and it is your OPINION that the reason non-Christian skeptics refuse to believe it is because they just don’t want to.

Those aren’t facts, Evan.  Those are opinions.

Face the facts.


Dear Readers:  This is a current, ongoing conversation.  Check back for more comments from “evangelical Evan” and my responses.

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2 thoughts on “Does the Resurrection best explain the Empty Tomb and the post-resurrection Appearances?

  1. re: “…the resurrection does in fact do a better job explaining why Jesus’ tomb was empty and why His disciples, James, and Paul saw him alive.”

    you're quite confused about what a “fact” is.

    the “fact” is not that the tomb was empty. the “fact” is that documents exist that were written decades after then alleged events, by anonymous authors, written in greek (not aramaic) about the alleged resurrection. the 4 authors share a high percentage of common phrases, indicating they borrowed from each other and were therefore not independent witnesses (70-90% common if i recall). and the details of their accounts are different. (eg, what was the last words of jesus? was the stone was already rolled away when the first people arrived at the tomb, or not? etc.)

    to turn this around, “…mohamed flying to heaven on a winged horse does in fact do a better job explaining why the koran says he did than any other explanation.”

    no, the most likely explanation is that the authors made that part of the koran up.

    and the most likely explanation for the “empty tomb” is that it was never empty, but anonymous authors, decades after the events, writing far away from Jerusalem (where it was not easy to verify anyway, and given short lifespans, many/most actual eyewitnesses, if they ever existed at all, would be dead by then anyway), writing in greek rather than aramaic, added legendary stories to whatever oral traditions they'd heard. (and the oral traditions themselves likely had some legendary development as well.)

    in fact, we know that legendary development was going on, because the gospel of barnabas (and gospel of peter, among others) was considered canonical in the early decades/century, but later was considered non-canonical.

    so, we know legendary development goes on in the koran, with the book of mormon, and it went on with the non-canonical gospels.

    so it's not much of a stretch to be of the opinion that the best explanation for anonymous writings talking about a resurrection is legendary development.

    your only “facts” are that these anonymous documents exist. you treating the document alleging that the tomb was empty as a “fact” shows lack of critical thinking skills.

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  2. Good points, sgl. However, Christians will swear up and down that it is impossible for a legend to develop within 30-40 years. They completely discount the Virgin Mary sightings, Elvis sightings, etc. as being comparable.

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