Oh boy. The chutzpa (that’s Yiddish for someone who has a lot of gall or someone who throws around a lot of “BS”) is going to get thick in the following quotes by Habermas and Licona. What they are going to say is this: Based on the fact that a couple of Christian scholars and theologians have examined the existing alternative, naturalistic explanations proposed by skeptics for the early Christian Resurrection Belief and found them deficient (sur- prise!!), Christians can write these explanations off as non-credible and ridiculous.
Why not just present these naturalistic arguments, giving both sides a chance to present their evidence, and let the Christian reader decide for him or herself? Why prejudice the reader at the beginning of the chapter? Afraid they might leave “the fold”?
“Neoorthodox scholar Karl Barth was perhaps the most influential theologian of the twentieth century. Barth pointed out how each opposing theory to Jesus’ resurrection suffers from many inconsistencies and concluded, “today we rightly turn up our nose at this.” Raymond Brown, a moderate New Testament scholar, respected by liberals and conservatives alike, echoed Barth, writing that twentieth-century critical scholars had rejected existing theories that oppose the Resurrection. He added that contemporary thinkers both ignore these theories and even treat them as unrespectable.” —Habermas and Licona, p. 81
Gary: Habermas and Licona give footnotes to Barth and Brown’s comments but since I do not have their books I cannot look up them up. Which naturalistic theories did they debunk? The Swoon Theory? If so, I would bet that most skeptics would agree with them. The Romans were experts at executing people. It is highly unlikely that Jesus swooned on the cross, was placed alive but unconscious in the sealed tomb for three days, and was then “busted out” by his disciples early Sunday morning, later to appear to all in the Upper Room. But if Barth and Brown are saying that it is impossible that some of the disciples had visionary experiences of some kind in which they mistakenly believed that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to them, I would like to see how they can prove this. They can’t. As a physician I know from medical research that mentally healthy people who are sleep deprived, ill, or suffering from severe grief can experience visual and auditory hallucinations; hallucinations that they will remember as being very real. Most skeptics believe that this is the most likely origin of the early Christian Resurrection Belief. All the Christian theologians and scholars in the world cannot prove that this did not occur.
“It is fair to raise questions regarding an opposing theory to Jesus’ resurrection. Aside from the faith factor, when it comes to reports of miracles, the historian must seek a natural explanation before considering a supernatural one. Christians do this continually in examining reports of miracles in other religions. Our own faith is not exempt from similar investigation. When no plausible natural explanation is available—as is the case with Jesus’ resurrection—and a historical context with obvious religious implications exists where a resurrection is at home—for example if Jesus performed miracles and claimed divinity—there then are no reasons why a supernatural cause cannot be considered.” —Habermas and Licona, p. 82h
Gary: No plausible natural explanations for the resurrection belief??? But there are MANY natural explanations for the early Christian resurrection belief. Christians simply refuse to accept them as plausible. For instance, I agree with Christian apologists that the overwhelming majority of first century Jews would never break the Sabbath to move a dead body. However, I believe that it is much more probable that a first century Jew would move a dead body on the Sabbath than that a dead body would move itself on the Sabbath or any other day (a resurrection)!!! But Christians just refuse to see this.
“It is worthwhile to note that, just as the Christian can be expected to provide facts to support her claim that Jesus rose from the dead, the critic must do likewise for his opposing explanations. It is not good enough merely to state, for example, that Jesus’ disciples hallucinated what they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus. The critic must provide good reason why the theory that the disciples hallucinated offers a better explanation for the facts than does Jesus’ actual bodily resurrection.” —Habermas and Licona, pp. 82-83
Gary: No. That is absolute baloney. The critic is under no such obligation. In western cultures, the burden of proof is always upon the person making the extra-ordinary claim to provide the evidence to support his claim, not on the critic who questions the claim and who suggests that there is more than likely another, much more probable, ordinary explanation to explain the circumstances that led to the extra-ordinary claim.
Even Christians must agree that a resurrection is a very, very extra-ordinary claim. According to Christianity, no resurrection had ever occurred prior to Jesus’ alleged resurrection and no resurrection has occurred since. Therefore, since, at most, a resurrection has only occurred once, it is a very, very extra-ordinary claim for anyone to make.
Let me give an analogy using another very extra-ordinary claim: Your neighbor claims that last night a group of fairies abducted him from his bed and flew him to the planet Neptune where he was introduced to the “true” god of the universe…the one-eyed Cyclops, Goth. After being indoctrinated by Goth for several hours, your neighbor states that he was brought back to his bed by the fairies early this morning and is now very eager to share the good news of salvation through Goth to everyone he meets…starting with you. He is very sincere. Now why don’t you believe him???
Answer: Because everything he has said defies the laws of nature and common sense! It is far more probable that he had a bad dream, that he was drunk, that he was doing drugs, that he momentarily hallucinated due to a high fever, or that he has gone stark raving MAD than that he really did take a trip with fairies to Neptune!
But when you tell your neighbor that you doubt that his overnight planetary trip took place; that you suspect that his belief is much more likely to be due to one of the above natural causes, he angrily replies: “Provide the evidence, you sinful skeptic! And if you cannot provide the evidence for any one of your naturalistic explanations, then all that is left is that I really did travel with fairies to the planet Neptune and back last night!”
And what would be the collective response of the neighborhood to this neighbor: You are NUTS!
And that is what non-Christians think of Christians who use the exact same logic for the bodily resurrection of Jesus claim. Just because we skeptics cannot provide absolute proof for how the Resurrection Belief began by naturalistic means is not proof that Jesus really was supernaturally resurrected from the dead. It’s ridiculous, silly logic! The onus is on Christians to provide good evidence for this very extra-ordinary claim, good evidence that makes the Christian supernatural claim much more probable than the many possible naturalistic explanations. To date, the evidence presented by Christians for their supernatural claim has been down right weak and pathetic.