Yes, I Concede that the Resurrection is Possible

Image result for image of the resurrection

Gary:  I do not need to have “faith” that the laws of internal combustion exist.   I can believe it because the overwhelming majority of experts say they exist, and if I want to, I can conduct research to prove it. Can you do the same with your belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator?

I do not deny the existence of a god…only the existence of your god, Yahweh/Jesus. 🙂

Taylor, conservative Christian:  Is this a scientific position?  And yes, I can! BUT I would like to note now that the argument has shifted considerably.  We’re no longer debating about the existence of God in general, but about Christianity in particular. Does that mean that you’ve moved towards theism/deism?

Gary:  No, I’m still in the same spot as when we began our discussion:  I am agnostic as to the existence of a Creator.  Experts are divided on the subject of the origin of the universe, so I remain on the sidelines on this issue until better evidence becomes available.

Taylor:  As I say, I usually don’t argue Christian particularism unless the person already believes in God, but you have brought this up a couple of times now and I don’t want you to think I am dodging. Just know that this is HUGE topic and I am only going to hit some highlights here. Happy to provide resources for further reading, however. *Before I get started, I think it is worth pointing out that if you accept that it is possible that God exists (as you concede), you must also accept that, if God exists, then the resurrection is at least possible.

Gary:  Absolutely.  Anything is possible, but what is plausible/probable?  That is the real question.

Taylor:  Now then, the science of textual criticism is the same method that literary scholars would apply to any ancient text to determine its veracity. The New Testament stands remarkably well against this test.

Gary:   Yes, we should use the same standard in evaluating the New Testament as we do any other book from Antiquity.  We are in agreement on that issue.  However, please provide a source which states that the majority of experts believe that the NT stands up “remarkably well” against this standard in regards to the historical accuracy regarding all its claims of fact.

Taylor:  It was taken down very early after the events it described (unusual in a verbal culture).

Gary:   The majority of scholars believe that Paul’s (seven authentic) epistles were written in the mid 50’s.  Paul tells us a little, but not much, about the historical Jesus.  The overwhelming bulk of information regarding Jesus comes from the four Gospels.  The majority of scholars believe that the first Gospel was written in circa 65-75 CE.  That is approximately four decades after Jesus’ death.  That is plenty of time for an oral story to be embellished and changed dramatically.  Conservative Christians frequently claim that in first century Judaism oral stories were carefully guarded by eyewitnesses and their accuracy strictly maintained.  This is nothing more than an unproven generalization.  But even if true, violations of strict rules and customs do happen.

Taylor:  The historical and cultural context is absolutely correct. A forgery taken down much later will not correctly place historical/political figures, geographic landmarks, political climate, etc the way that the New Testament does. The congruence can be seen in the contemporaneous writings of Roman historians and the like.

Gary:   I do agree that the authors of the Gospels had a great deal of knowledge about first century Judaism.  For example, scholars agree that there is nothing in the burial accounts of Jesus that contradicts first century Jewish burial customs.  However, most NT scholars do not believe that any of the Gospel authors were eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses.  In particular, they doubt that the author of the first Gospel, Mark, was written by an eyewitness, primarily because the author seems to have a poor understanding of Jewish purification rituals and makes errors in describing basic geographical facts about Palestine.  I’m sure you disagree, but I am not interested in debating all the minutia.  I accept the majority expert opinion.

Taylor:  There are several credible eye-witness accounts that vary on minor details, but are consistent on core claims of the gospels. Which, as any good detective will tell you, is a sign of authenticity.

Gary:  Says who?  The majority of NT scholars??  Answer:  No.

Taylor:  This is because accounts that match on every detail are almost always the result of collusion. But if several people witness the same event, they will agree on the core facts, but differ on minor details.

Gary:  Or, three authors plagiarized the writings of an earlier author (Mark) and used his story as a boiler plate for their stories (the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John).  The later three authors embellishing Mark’s original story to create their own version of the “Jesus Story”, creating four similar yet different stories.  The overwhelming majority of NT scholars believe that Matthew and Luke were heavily dependent on Mark and scholars are evenly divided on the question of whether John was also dependent on Mark.  If John was dependent on Mark, then it is possible that Christians only have ONE source for the entire Passion Narrative.  The differences present in the Passion Narratives of the later three gospels from the original, Mark, simply being fictional embellishments.  And to top it off, maybe Mark’s original story was an embellishment of the skeleton Jesus Story found in the Early Creed!  Christians cannot prove that this is not the case, and if it is the case, the Christian religion is built on very, very shaky evidence!

Taylor:  The eyewitnesses refused to recant when doing so would have spared them torture and death via Roman crucifixion… And they would have KNOWN that what they were saying was false; it’s not like they could have been sincerely mistaken that Jesus had died and then risen from the grave.

Gary:  We have zero confirmed accounts of even one of the Twelve being offered clemency if he would recant seeing a resurrected body.  For all we know, the disciples were killed because they were members of a new “heretical” minority religion.  Tens of thousands of people belonging to minority religions have suffered the same fate for millennia!  In addition, all the martyr stories about the Twelve are from centuries later and are considered by most scholars to be “Catholic tradition” and nothing more.  We should no more believe in the historicity of the Martyr Stories than we should the historicity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Taylor:  More than 5000 people over a 3 to 4 month period claimed to have seen Christ after his death.

Gary:  Five thousand???  I think you mean 500.

Please provide ONE undisputed eyewitness account in which the alleged eyewitness describes seeing a resurrected body.  The fact is, the only eyewitness account we have is from Paul in Galatians,  and he doesn’t tell us anything about what he saw.

Taylor:  There are contemporaneous accounts from at least 3 historians and 11 authors (not including the New Testament authors) who confirm the basic timeline of events.

Gary:  What basic time line?  That Jesus lived, was crucified, and that shortly after his death, some of his followers believed that he had appeared to them in some fashion?  That is hardly convincing corroborating evidence for the resurrection!  You may be able to list historians who mention the name “Chrestus” or even “Jesus” but please list someone providing corroborating statements about specific miracles, the empty tomb with angels and a stone that had been rolled away, or the detailed appearance stories.

Taylor:  The empty tomb is a historical fact as certain as ANY fact from that time period.

Gary:  Really?  I accept the claim that the majority of NT scholars believe in the empty tomb.  However, 25% of NT scholars do not believe in its historicity.  This 25% figure comes from conservative Christian apologist Gary Habermas.  But ask yourself this:  Is Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon disputed by 25% of scholars?  Is Alexander’s siege of Tyre disputed by 25% of historians? Is ANY OTHER historical claim, listed in our history books, disputed by a FOURTH of all scholars????  I don’t think so.  Your claim is an exaggeration, my friend.

Taylor:  Roman and Jewish authorities offered several explanations of why the tomb was empty. Why would such authorities say that “the disciples stole the body”, and so on, if they could have simply produced the corpse of Jesus of Nazareth and squashed Christianity before it began?

Gary:  Says who, the Gospels and the writings of Justin Marytr, a Christian living one hundred years after Jesus’ death?  Outside of Christian writings, we have zero corroborating evidence from the first century of any non-believing Jew or Roman making this claim.  And why should the Jewish authorities produce the body of someone that only “120” Galilean peasants believed to be back from the dead?  Maybe they didn’t care what these peasants believed.  And even if they had wanted to produce the body on Pentecost, how could they?  The tomb was empty, if 75% of scholars are correct!  But remember this:  there are plenty of natural explanations for empty tombs!  Why buy the crazy ravings about a “resurrection” from a small band of superstitious peasants?

Taylor:  This brings me to an argument that is sometimes called “the minimal facts approach”. The idea here is to argue only from the facts that are undisputed about the life and death of Christ. That is, the argument builds solely on the facts accepted universally by experts (so you should love this :)) both believing and non-believing. Those facts are as follows:

1) Jesus died by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. This is recorded in all 4 gospels as well as several non-christian sources. It is attested to by the Jewish historian, Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus to name a few.

Gary:  I accept this claim to be an historical fact.  There is sufficient evidence to believe it.

Taylor:  2.) Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers.

Gary:  The empty rock tomb is NOT a universally accepted “fact”.  It is disputed as mentioned above.

Taylor:  This can be taken as historically certain as the Jewish authorities accused the disciples of stealing the body!

Gary:  So say anonymous Christian authors, and, Justin Martyr living hundred years after Jesus’ death!

Taylor:  This presupposes, and therefore admits, that the tomb of Jesus was empty. If it wasn’t, they could have produced a corpse and ended the Christian religion before it even began… But they couldn’t.

Gary:  Or…Jesus was a nobody, and, after his death, no body cared that a handful of Galilean peasants believed that their apocalyptic leader had come back from the dead.  Nobody took this claim seriously.  They could care less if a handful of Galileans believed that their leader was “risen from the dead”.  Herod Antipas allegedly believed that John the Baptist was risen from the dead.  If true, claims of someone being risen from the dead was not unheard of.

Taylor:  It is also extremely unlikely that early Christians would have invented the fact that the WOMEN discovered the empty tomb. This was a society where the testimony of women was not even admissible in the court of law. Embarrassing testimony (of which this is not the most) permeates the gospels and is another mark of authenticity.

Gary:  Maybe women did find an empty tomb.  Maybe that part of the story is true??

Taylor:  3) Jesus’ disciples believed what they saw was the risen Jesus… Literally everyone agrees with this.

Gary:  Literally everyone agrees that the disciples had experiences which led them to believe that Jesus was risen.  To say that literally everyone believes that the disciples saw a literal resurrected body is absolutely false.  Not even all Christian scholars believe that the disciples saw an actual body.

Taylor:  4) The skeptic and persecutor of Christians, Paul, was converted to Christianity. The man wrote 60% of the New Testament. Everyone agrees with this.

Gary:  So what?  History has multiple accounts of devoutly religious people of one religion converting to another religion.

Taylor:  5) The skeptic James was converted to Christianity. 100% agreement.

Gary:  Ditto.

Taylor:  6) The Resurrection was the catalyst for the explosive growth of Christianity. Within one lifetime, it spread from Israel all the way to Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Gary:  Maybe the STORY of the resurrection was the cause of the growth of Christianity but you cannot prove that the growth was due to an actual resurrection.  Maybe the growth, especially among the lower classes, might have been to do with the claim that in this religion “all are equal” (social equality) and the habit of putting everything in common.   That sure would sound good to a poor person.

Taylor:  So what are we to make of these “minimal facts”? Suffice it to say that there have been several theories offered to explain all of these facts and any theory proposed must address all 6, but none have been successful – save for one; that Jesus was who he claimed to be.

Gary:  Or…one disciple had a vivid dream in which (he believed) Jesus appeared to him and commissioned him to preach his Gospel to the world.  This disciple was so convinced that his dream was real, that he convinced the other disciples it was real.  Soon other disciples were having vivid dreams or simply experiencing illusions (bright lights, etc.) and believing that Jesus had appeared to them too.  Emotional hysteria breaks out among these very religious, very superstitious, mostly uneducated peasants.  Soon groups of people are seeing bright lights and believing that Jesus has appeared to them, similar to Virgin Mary sightings today.

And the resurrection story is born…

Taylor:  Ok – there’s LOTS more that could be said here, but this deserves a post, nay a book, of its own! I’ll leave it here for now.

Gary:  Thanks for your input.  I did make it a post!

 

 

 

End of post.

51 thoughts on “Yes, I Concede that the Resurrection is Possible

  1. This is just an example of all the evidence in the world not convincing someone who refuses to be convinced.

    Having even two independent sources would be enough to establish any other event in history, but because the earliest sources are collected in the New Testament you don’t want to see how validated the event of the resurrection is. If we had just Mark and Paul on any other event, historians would by and large accept its validity. But, again – New Testament, therefore you won’t believe it.

    Here are some of the independent sources collected in the New Testament:

    Q, Mark (confirmed by Luke – see Luke 1:1-4), material unique to Matthew, material unique to Luke, material unique to John, Paul, the writer of Hebrews, the writer of Jude, the writer of James, writer of Peter’s first letter.
    All attest that Jesus rose – and all have the Jewish vision of resurrection, being a physical resurrectio, in view.

    That’s 10 independent sources.

    Then we have Tacitus, Josephus and Suetonius. Now these do bolster the claims of the NT because they affirm what the NT says.

    Plus Clement of Rome, the Shepherd of Hermaus and other early writings. All affirming the historicity of the event of the Resurrection.

    All you can say is “I don’t believe this!” – and that’s fine, that’s your right. But if you applied the same level of skepticism to any other event of ancient history, you should doubt Caesar’s murder, Augustus’s peace, and the birth of Genghis Khan.

    Since you don’t doubt these events, I would have to say that you’re special pleading away the solid evidence against your position.

    “For all we know, the disciples were killed because they were members of a new “heretical” minority religion.” – so you’re conceding that the disciples who would have KNOWN whether Jesus had risen or not (visited the tomb, seen him crucified etc etc), were convinced that He had been bodily resurrected (just going by what “resurrection” would mean to a first century Jew) – and were willing to die for this belief – since that was what their “heretical” minority religion was all about.

    Seems that that should convince you that something happened. All of the stolen body/swoon theories/hallucinations can’t explain what you seem to believe, but the Resurrection ticks all the boxes.

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  2. You don’t have “all the evidence in the world” and you don’t have any independent sources. You have a bunch of mostly anonymous third-hand religious propaganda written by members of the “Jesus isn’t dead” fan club, that may have been heavily edited over time, the originals lost, and later only certain copies of copies of copies were chosen for inclusion in the official “Jesus fan club” manual.

    What you are lacking is third-party credibility. Accounts of the life and actions of Jesus written at the time by someone who was there and saw it personally, or who would be in a position to know about them, and who had no interest in pushing the new religion on anybody. This is completely missing. There were lots of writers back then, and if any of them had witnessed and mentioned any of those events it would have been a trivial thing for an all-powerful god to make sure those manuscripts survived. But there’s nothing, which is more consistent with this being a fictionalized story about a demigod than a biography of a real person.

    If all we knew about the life of Elvis came from writings 40 years or more after the fact from members of the “Elvis isn’t dead” fan club, I’d be doubtful about him too.

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    1. Ubi… It seems like you’re just ignoring the evidence that has been cited for you. The credibility you claim to be looking for is exactly what has been offered. Early, independent eye-witness accounts. Multiple attestations from Roman, Jewish AND Christian sources.

      And what evidence do you have that the documents have been “heavily edited over time”? If you take literary criticism seriously, and you’re familiar with the study of NT manuscripts, I don’t think you can credibly make this claim. You’d be very lonely in doing so. There were thousands of manuscripts copied from the original documents that can be checked against each other for accuracy. It is not the case that the copy was copied and then that copy was copied. No. The original was copied many times over in order to preserve the message. In the case of the New Testament, the copies are numerous and consistent. I wonder with Liam if you would apply this same standard to other historical events and documents. Indeed, do you uncritically accept that Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey? There is far less evidence for their authorship and accuracy than there is for the NT.

      This paragraph is… breath-taking:

      “What you are lacking is third-party credibility. Accounts of the life and actions of Jesus written at the time by someone who was there and saw it personally, or who would be in a position to know about them, and who had no interest in pushing the new religion on anybody. This is completely missing. There were lots of writers back then, and if any of them had witnessed and mentioned any of those events it would have been a trivial thing for an all-powerful god to make sure those manuscripts survived. But there’s nothing, which is more consistent with this being a fictionalized story about a demigod than a biography of a real person.”

      … Almost nothing here is true, but since this has already been addressed ^, I will just leave it here. It does cause me to doubt very much that you’re seriously interested in finding the truth, whatever it is. You don’t have to be persuaded to seriously engage with the material – but if you’re not willing to engage with the material, then it’s hard to see how you could be serious about what is, or is not, true. Your position seems to be impervious to new information or evidence.

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      1. You’ve cited arguments, and you’ve cited religious propaganda materials, but not any actual evidence. I know there’s claims of a few independent sources, but when I’ve looked into those they are usually mentions of “christians” (whose existence I don’t doubt, mystery religions were a dime a dozen at the time) or later forgeries (as with Josephus). I used to be a believer, you know. It’s when I started seriously engaging with the material that I realized that it wasn’t the product of a divine hand, and stopped believing it.

        As for the Iliad, it’s one of my favorite examples. We have a tradition that it was written by “Homer” but no other real information about the circumstances of its writing. So I don’t put any confidence in “Homer” as the author. It mentions a lot of places that actually existed, and some events that may have happened as well. But none of that leads me to believe that Achilles was the son of a nymph, or impervious to injury except for his heel from being dipped in the river Styx. Even if there was a Trojan war, even if there were real Achilles, that part is clearly myth attached to it later. Just as your anonymous books may contain some true events, and perhaps there was an actual Judean doom-saying cult leader executed for rabble-rousing, but a lot of the story elements are clearly mythological and added later.

        I don’t believe your stuff for probably a lot of the same reasons that you don’t believe Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse. (Unless you actually believe that, in which case you ought to be a Muslim.)

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        1. “I used to be a believer, you know. It’s when I started seriously engaging with the material that I realized that it wasn’t the product of a divine hand, and stopped believing it.”

          Interesting! I used to be an atheist. It’s when I started seriously engaging with the evidence that I realized there must be an immaterial reality by which I am endowed with free will and the faculty of reason (see the “Atheism vs Science” section here: https://neillology.com/2018/08/25/god-vs-science-dr-jim-tour-and-more-august-apologetics/).

          “a lot of the story elements are clearly mythological and added later.”

          I am am extremely concerned with the evidence and I just don’t see any for the assertion that the supernatural claims of the NT were mythological and “added later”. Myths take time to develop and there’s just no space for that to have happened with the Gospels all being taken down in the 1st century.

          “I don’t believe your stuff for probably a lot of the same reasons that you don’t believe Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse.”

          I haven’t studied and applied the same scrutiny to the Quran as I have the NT, but it seems to me that some of the accounts around its central events first appeared 100s of years after the purported events… This is actually a key distinction between the NT and the Quran.

          For example –

          (1) The gospels do not mention the destruction of the Jewish temple in AD 70. This event is critically important to the central figures of the NT (and 1st century Jews generally) and it is inconceivable that this disaster would have just been left out. Yet the authors, especially Luke, thoroughly establish their credibility by recording accurately many political, geographic and cultural details of lesser significance. The inference that can be drawn is that all 4 gospels were recorded BEFORE AD 70.

          (2) Acts does not mention the martyrdom of several central characters, but does mention the execution of James, Son of Zebedee. Conclusion – it must have been written before the martyrdom of the apostles.

          (3) James’ execution was recorded by Josephus in Antiquities of the Jews in the 1st century. It follows then that he wrote his epistle BEFORE his death, haha. Placing the book of James in the 1st century as well.

          I could go on. If the Quran has equivalent evidence of its early writing, I am not aware of it.

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          1. I always take “I used to be an atheist” with a grain of salt, because it’s the current fashion in “Testimonies” to make that claim. Can we unpack that a little? When you say “I used to be an atheist” what did you think about god? What did you think about the bible? And at that time, why did you think those things?

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            1. Ha! I think if I told you that 2+2=4, you’d want to unpack it a little.

              Why do you doubt these “testimonies” as a rule? No one is more evangelical than a convert, so I’m not surprised when I meet former atheists who are now practicing apologetics. A lot of folks do come to faith thru the study of apologetics – that’s part of why I care about it so much.

              Answers to your questions:

              (1) I thought He didn’t exist.

              (2) I thought it was unreliable, unverifiable, error-ridden, blah, blah.

              (3) Pop culture and pseudo intellectualism. I wanted to be taken seriously as an intellectual and I didn’t think that was compatible with religious beliefs generally. I was lazy and wanted people to think I was smart without actually doing any work.

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              1. “(3) Pop culture and pseudo intellectualism. I wanted to be taken seriously as an intellectual and I didn’t think that was compatible with religious beliefs generally. I was lazy and wanted people to think I was smart without actually doing any work.”

                And that is exactly why I take your claim with a grain of salt. Because I’ve talked with many atheists, possibly hundreds, and not one of them ever gives the reason for their disbelief as wanting people to think they were smart, or being intellectually lazy. The people that I have met that might admit to intellectual laziness were more likely to be “apatheists” who just didn’t give a flip about religion either way. But your answer is very characteristic of the pre-canned standard christian testimony “I used to be an atheist” statements. (The fashion used to be “I used to be a Satanist” but that’s fallen out of favor lately since the Satanic Panic was discredited.)

                The people who come out and say “I’m an atheist” have usually put a lot of thought into it. Believing what you’re told is easy, disbelieving it is what’s hard (see Kahneman and Tversky’s Thinking Fast and Slow for a lot more detail on this). For many of them it was because they took their religion very seriously, and wanted to learn and understand as much as they could about it, put in an incredible amount of work, and found that the more they learned the less they believed. (Bart Ehrman and Matt Dillahunty are good examples of this.) For some of them, it was an agonizing transition, as they desperately wanted and tried to believe, and cried out to god to give them something, anything that would let them hold on to their belief, only to be met with silence. And many of them have faced rejection from friends and family, job loss, or even loss of their marriage as a result of simple intellectual honesty. Their real-life experience is really nothing like “I wanted people to think I was smart” or the insulting “pop culture”.

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                1. Ubi! C’mon, man! I wouldn’t have given that answer either when I still believed it was true! I would have given you a canned critique of religious belief. It’s only in hindsight that I can (or an willing) to see that motivating clearly.

                  Surely you don’t want to claim that there are not intellectually lazy atheists? I encounter them almost every time I get into one of these debates.

                  I’ve read Bart Ehrman (he holds the new testament in higher esteem than you, btw) and listened to Matt Dillahunty. But I’ve also read Andrew Klavan’s memoir. For him converting to Christianity was to risk his profession, his relationship with his parents and even his marriage! Does it follow then that Christianity is true? NO!

                  Which brings me to my point: what’s your point?

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                  1. I’m sure there are intellectually lazy atheists out there, who haven’t given religion any real consideration or study. But they are more likely to be off checking Facebook and playing video games, I doubt that they have any real interest in engaging theists on the internet. But it makes it really easy, when an atheist has made a good point, for you to just dismiss them as “intellectually lazy,” instead of thinking about what they said.

                    My point in writing here isn’t that I’m writing for you, because I’m actually not. I don’t have any expectation of changing your mind about anything.

                    But you are here spouting off the standard christian apologetics and talking points, the things that are just accepted without question in a church, the kind of things believers tell themselves to feel smart and maintain their belief. I’m actually writing for the other people who may be reading this blog, the lurkers and the fence-sitters who might have begun to re-think some of their religion. For their sake, I think it’s important that they get to see the rebuttals, the counter-arguments, and especially the big questions that are never even asked in church. (Like: “If Jesus were going to transmit the most important message ever given to humans by means of a book, why didn’t he bother to write it down himself?”)

                    But this is an atheist’s blog, and here you are spouting off the same old stuff about religion that we’ve all heard a million times before. If it were effective, we’d never have left religion in the first place. So what’s your point in being here? (And why do you keep calling me “man”?)

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                    1. I suspect that like many Christians, Taylor’s belief in Lord Jesus is primarily based on his intense feelings about Jesus and his subjective personal experiences which he believes were miraculous in nature. That is why he rejects overwhelming majority expert opinion. Evidence isn’t really the basis of his faith. He simply talks the talk of evidence to avoid the criticism of believing in supernatural claims primarily by faith (hope in the reality of the unverifiable).

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          2. “I used to be an atheist. It’s when I started seriously engaging with the evidence that I realized there must be an immaterial reality by which I am endowed with free will and the faculty of reason”

            A couple of questions if I may:
            1. What lead you to be an atheist?
            2. How did you determine that there must be an immaterial reality?

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            1. (1) Curious – why do you ask? As I told my friend Ubi, “Pop culture and pseudo intellectualism. I wanted to be taken seriously as an intellectual and I didn’t think that was compatible with religious beliefs generally. I was lazy and wanted people to think I was smart without actually doing any work.” I would add to this list – rebellion. I have always had a skeptical disposition and when I didn’t get satisfying answers to my questions at youth group, I assumed no such answers were out there. But mind you, this wasn’t a label that I wore for family or old friends and the positive belief that God did not exist was short lived for me. I spent more time as an agnostic. This was all from about 19-22. I think I was a theist once again by 22 and sometime around 23 I became a Christian again (maybe for the first time, really). My theology has changed a lot since 23, but that was when I accepted that Christ was who he said he was (I think).

              (2) See “atheism vs science” in my blog post here – https://neillology.com/2018/08/25/god-vs-science-dr-jim-tour-and-more-august-apologetics/

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              1. You: Curious – why do you ask?

                Me: Because I want to know if you had good reasons for your position. I’ve yet to meet anybody who was an atheist, and converted for good intellectual reason (Bob Seidensticker explains more here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2012/10/i-used-to-be-an-atheist-just-like-you-2/) Anyone can be an atheist, just as anyone can be a theist. If you don’t have good justification for your position it becomes very easy for that position to change with the wind.

                You: Pop culture and pseudo intellectualism. I wanted to be taken seriously as an intellectual and I didn’t think that was compatible with religious beliefs generally.

                Me: If this was your primary reason, then I’m not surprised that you’re a theist again.

                You: I would add to this list – rebellion.

                Me: Again, I don’t think this is a good reason for the position of atheism.

                You: (2) See “atheism vs science” in my blog post here

                Me: I read this post. It looks like a rehashing Frank Turek’s arguments. I’m guessing you’ve been influenced by “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” and “Stealing From God”?

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                1. Ha, this is like Groundhog Day! Please see my response to Ubi.

                  I thought I had strong intellectual reasons at the time. It’s only after reflection and study that I can say what was really going on. In my study I found that the reasons I thought were strong were paper thin and naturally fell away. That exposed that my rejection of theism was, as it is the case for most people, not purely intellectual.

                  I like Dr. Turek and both of those books are in my library. But I think the first and most influential person I saw make a presuppositional case was Dr. John Lennox. Over the last several years I have consumed books by dozens of authors on the subject of God’s existence by both atheists and theists.

                  But, here’s where I get hung up on this line of questioning: there have been thoughtful atheists who converted to Christianity and thoughtful Christians who converted to atheism (apologies to Mr Seidensticker), but that strickly cannot tell us anything about the efficacy of their beliefs (lest we commit the genetic fallacy).

                  So I ask you, what’s your point?

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          3. Myths take time to develop and there’s just no space for that to have happened with the Gospels all being taken down in the 1st century.

            The Gospels claim that a rumor spread rapidly that John the Baptist was the risen Elijah. They also state that after John the Baptist was beheaded, the rumor circulated that Jesus was the risen John the Baptist.

            So it seems that rumors/legends could spread very quickly in first century Palestine…or you are forced to concede that these stories are fiction.

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            1. Hahaha, rumors are not the same as legendary development. And those rumors never became more because they could be disproven, and were. Christ’s resurrection could have similarly been disproven… If it hadn’t happened, that is.

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              1. What is the difference between a rumor and a legend? Doesn’t every legend start off as a rumor?

                Yes, after a while most people probably stopped believing that John was Elijah or that Jesus was John, but we have no proof that ALL Jews stopped believing this. And when it comes to the tale of Jesus’ resurrection, the overwhelming majority of Jews rejected this “rumor” as nonsense. That is why Christianity became a primarily Gentile religion by the second century.

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                1. How do you know that almost all Jews rejected the resurrection? It’s not that I disagree, but it seems to me that you can only accept facts from Antiquity as reliable if they support your position. It’s getting a little silly.

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                  1. Because the majority of experts say that few Jews believed. I accept majority expert opinion on all issues about which I am not an expert (that would be pretty much everything). That is why I accept the historicity of Jesus and even the historicity of the empty tomb. The majority of experts believe that Jesus existed and that his tomb was found empty.

                    Here is a question for you, Taylor: If there was evidence that convinced you that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses nor by the associates of eyewitnesses would that lower your confidence in the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

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      2. Taylor, brother, you’ve done an amazing job showing these unbelievers the amazing evidence there is for the Resurrection of Jesus. They will not believe it because they do not want to believe it. Just a piece of advice: don’t waste any more of your time with them; don’t cast any more of your pearls before swine. A fellow christian.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It is not the case that the copy was copied and then that copy was copied.

        You cannot prove this, Taylor. Yes, the thousands of copies of the Gospels that we have are very similar. However, it is impossible to know if these copies are copies of the original Gospel or copies of a copy of the original. And if they are copies of a copy, the author of the copy could have radically changed the original author’s work. We have no way to know.

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        1. Gary, if we are not willing to believe anything that is said by the scribes simply because they say it, then it is possible that the copies were made of a copy, but obstinance itself is not the same as a reason for disbelief.

          At the very least, you would, by your own words, have to admit that they are all copied from the same source, be it an original or a copy. Agree? How else would they be so similar? If there was a sequence of copy being made from copy over and over, we should expect much greater variation in the texts.

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          1. Absolutely. I believe that the thousands of copies which we possess today of the Gospels are very, very good and very, very similar. Yes, there are some variations, but the overwhelming majority are insignificant.

            But here is the thing, Taylor: If we cannot be certain that these stories were written by eyewitnesses or even the associates of eyewitnesses, even if we have thousands and thousands of accurate copies of their books, how much faith should we put into these books regarding their historical accuracy if they were written by people who did not witness the events described?

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              1. I am indifferent as to the authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey. If I were one day to find out that someone else wrote the book, it would not bother me in the slightest. However, if the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses, that would be devastating for the reliability of the historical claims made in those books, at least for most conservative Christians like yourself.

                Taylor: I’m sure you a very intelligent guy, but you are not an expert. The overwhelming majority of experts do NOT believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses nor the associates of eyewitnesses. The only experts who believe that they were are overwhelmingly evangelicals and fundamentalist Protestants. So I ask you again, if the majority of experts is right, the Gospels were written by non-eyewitness Gentiles in far away lands, would that change your confidence in the historicity of the Resurrection Story?

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                1. Gary, that’s just not so! What are you basing this claim on?

                  The gospels themselves are anonymous, but from context we can infer their identity (I.e. The book of John identifies its author as “the disciple that Jesus loved”), and the accuracy with which they record ancillary facts, details and historical references that can be verified, we can conclude that they were eyewitnesses. Further, 1st century church fathers likely knew more about the books’ authorship than we do today.

                  If it could be shown that the resurrection did not happen, I would no longer be a Christian.

                  What would convince you that you are wrong?

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                  1. Are you claiming that the majority of NT scholars do believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses/associates of eyewitnesses? If so, please give a source.

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                    1. I’m objecting to your claim that “the overwhelming majority” do not believe the authors were either eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses! For which I would love to see some data (other the the anecdotal quote).

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                    2. What do you mean by anecdotal quote? It is a quote directly from Bauckham’s book, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”p. 240.

                      Go on Amazon and you can probably read it for yourself.

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                    3. I mean data that would support the claim that “the overwhelming majority of scholars don’t believe the NT was written by eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses”. Quotes of individuals alone are anecdotal.

                      But all of this really misses the point. I think the gospels were authored by their namesakes for the reasons I’ve given, but the real concern here is whether or not we can trust what the gospels say about Christ. Therefore, who wrote it down is less important than its verifiability. This is the direction that modern biblical scholarship has gone.

                      A while back I actually read something that WLC wrote about this. Took me a minute to find it. Here’s the thrust of it:

                      “The assumption behind the question seems to be that the authorship of the New Testament documents is somehow crucial to regarding them as credible historical sources for the life of Jesus. Such an assumption is quite out of touch with contemporary historical criticism of the New Testament. I doubt that any historical Jesus scholar thinks that successfully identifying the authors of the various documents collected into the New Testament is crucial to their serving as credible historical sources for events or sayings from Jesus.”

                      Here is the link so that you can read his whole response – https://www.reasonablefaith.org/question-answer/P350/gospel-authorshipwho-cares

                      Hope this is helpful. I’m off to bed. It’s been fun. Best to you.

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                    4. So, you are telling me that it doesn’t matter what the majority of experts say because you, a non-expert, believe that you know more than them?

                      If we don’t know who wrote the Gospels and we can’t be sure that they were eyewitnesses, how do we know the events described in those books are historically accurate?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    5. William Lane Craig is a fundamentalist. He is on the fringe of scholarship. In the preface to his book, “The Son Rises” he has said:

                      “…In point of fact, we can know that Jesus rose from the dead wholly apart from a consideration of the historical evidence. The simplest Christian, who has neither the opportunity nor the wherewithal to conduct an historical investigation of Jesus’ resurrection, can know with assurance that Jesus is risen because God’s Spirit bears unmistakable witness to him that it is so.”

                      Any scholar who says that someone can know an alleged event in Antiquity occurred without possessing any historical evidence for that event is not a scholar but a zealot.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    6. Lol, Gary, if Christianity is true, it would follow that Dr. Craig is absolutely correct. I don’t understand what’s controversial about that. He’s not on the fringe academically or religiously.

                      Honestly, from our conversation, I don’t think you are intellectually curious at all. That was clear pretty early on. I think you’ve probably had a very poor experience with religion, but now it’s your ideological commitment, not your reason, that drives you to make some of the sillier objections you’ve raised. I’ve tried to show you something different than what you seem to perceive religious belief to be about. I think I’ve been a good sport. Alas, this is where we part ways. Be well.

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                    7. No intellectual curiosity? Really? Would someone who already has his mind made up and is not open to new evidence read all of the following books, by scholars and apologists across the spectrum? (How many books on this subject have you read from authors who don’t hold your views???):

                      “The Resurrection of the Son of God” by NT Wright
                      “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham
                      “The Death of the Messiah, Volumes I and II” by Raymond Brown
                      “Making the Case for Christianity” by Maas, Francisco, et al.
                      ” The Resurrection Fact” by Bombaro, Francisco, et al.
                      “Miracles, Volumes I and II”, by Craig Keener
                      “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
                      “Why are There Differences in the Gospels” by Michael Licona
                      “The Son Rises” by William Lane Craig
                      “The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus” by Raymond Brown
                      “The Resurrection of Jesus” by Gerd Luedemann
                      “Resurrection Reconsidered” by Gregory Riley
                      “John and Thomas—Gospels in Conflict?” by Christopher Skinner
                      “The Argument for the Holy Sepulchre” (journal article) by scholar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor
                      “Israel in Egypt” by James Hoffmeier
                      “The Bible Unearthed” by Finkelstein and Silberman
                      “The Resurrection of Jesus in the Light of Jewish Burial Practices” by Craig Evans, (newsletter article) The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University, May 4, 2016
                      “Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered?” by Jodi Magness, SBL Forum
                      “Genre, Sub-genre and Questions of Audience: A Proposed Typology for Greco-Roman biography” (article) by Justin M. Smith, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
                      “Cold-Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace
                      “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel
                      “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman
                      “Jesus, Interrupted” by Bart Ehrman
                      “How Jesus Became God” by Bart Ehrman
                      “Jesus Before the Gospels” by Bart Ehrman
                      “Did Jesus Exist?” by Bart Ehrman
                      “Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus” by Asher Norman (endorsed by Talmudic scholars for its accuracy in presenting a Jewish perspective of Jesus and the Christian New Testament)
                      “The Book of Miracles” by Kenneth L. Woodward
                      “Why I Believed, Reflections of a Former Missionary” by Kenneth W. Daniels
                      “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry Coyne
                      “Masters of the Planet-the Search for our Human Origins” by Ian Tattersall
                      “A Manual for Creating Atheists” by philosopher Peter Boghossian
                      “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” by Josh and Sean McDowell (currently reading)
                      “The Blind Watchmaker” by Richard Dawkins (currently reading)
                      “The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry” by Michael Alter (currently reading)

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                    8. How much of your belief in the resurrection of Jesus is based on evidence and how much on faith (the testimony of the Holy Spirit), Taylor? Are you hesitant to answer this question?

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                    9. Taylor,

                      How much of your belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus is based on historical evidence and how much is based on what William Lane Craig describes as “the testimony of the Holy Spirit”?

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                    10. Catholic blog, About Catholics:

                      Quote: They [the Gospels] were anonymously written. In fact most scholars today do not believe that the evangelists were eyewitnesses for the simple reason that their chronology of events and theological interpretations are different. The titles of the gospels were added in the second century and very well could designate the authority behind the finished gospel or the one who wrote one of the main sources of the gospel. The [Roman Catholic] Church takes no official stance on their authorship. It is important to understand that the Church by its authority and the guidance of the Holy Spirit canonized these four gospels over many others that were circulated and read in the early centuries.

                      Source: http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/what-are-the-gospels/

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                    11. Raymond Brown (deceased), Roman Catholic scholar, who believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus: No gospel identifies its author. The common designations placed before the Gospels, e.g., “The Gospel according to Matthew” stem from the late 2d cent. and represent an educated estimate of the authorship by church scholars of that period who were putting together traditions and guesses pertinent to attribution. To this a caution must be added: The ancient concept of authorship was often less rigorous than our own, at times amounting to identifying only the authority behind a work (however distant) rather than the writer. …Among the four, John manifests the most detailed knowledge of Palestine.

                      Jesus did not write an account of his passion; nor did anyone who had been present write an eyewitness account. Available to us are four different accounts written some thirty to seventy years later in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, all of which were dependent on tradition that had come down from an intervening generation or generations. That intervening preGospel tradition was not preserved even if at times we may be able to detect the broad lines of its content. When we seek to reconstruct it or, even more adventurously, the actual situation of Jesus himself, we are speculating. -Death of the Messiah, p. 4-5

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                    12. Mark Pierson, Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy, Concordia University, Irvine (Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod), co-author of “Making the Case for Christianity”: “The current consensus in the academy [of NT scholars]…suggests that only those who shut their eyes and ears to the facts can maintain traditional beliefs about Jesus.

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                    13. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: The questions of authorship, sources, and the time of composition of this gospel [Matthew] have received many answers, none of which can claim more than a greater or lesser degree of probability. The one now favored by the majority of scholars is the following.

                      The ancient tradition that the author was the disciple and apostle of Jesus named Matthew (see Mt 10:3) is untenable because the gospel is based, in large part, on the Gospel according to Mark (almost all the verses of that gospel have been utilized in this), and it is hardly likely that a companion of Jesus would have followed so extensively an account that came from one who admittedly never had such an association rather than rely on his own memories. The attribution of the gospel to the disciple Matthew may have been due to his having been responsible for some of the traditions found in it, but that is far from certain.

                      Source: http://www.usccb.org/bible/scripture.cfm?bk=Matthew&ch=

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                    14. Oxford Annotated Bible

                      Neither the evangelists nor their first readers engaged in historical analysis. Their aim was to confirm Christian faith (Lk. 1.4; Jn. 20.31). Scholars generally agree that the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. They thus do not present eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings.

                      Source: https://books.google.com/books?id=TnpVDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA1778&lpg=PA1778&dq=Neither+the+evangelists+nor+their+first+readers+engaged+in+historical+analysis.+Their+aim+was+to+confirm+Christian+faith+(Lk.+1.4;+Jn.+20.31).+Scholars+generally+agree+that+the+Gospels+were+written+forty+to+sixty+years+after+the+death+of+Jesus.+They+thus+do+not+present+eyewitness+or+contemporary+accounts+of+Jesus%E2%80%99+life+and+teachings.&source=bl&ots=_34BkcY6xc&sig=Sp14_jaTT0Fd3S08I05DhUhn6pU&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwielLz_9qDfAhXpITQIHSbmD9YQ6AEwAnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=Neither%20the%20evangelists%20nor%20their%20first%20readers%20engaged%20in%20historical%20analysis.%20Their%20aim%20was%20to%20confirm%20Christian%20faith%20(Lk.%201.4%3B%20Jn.%2020.31).%20Scholars%20generally%20agree%20that%20the%20Gospels%20were%20written%20forty%20to%20sixty%20years%20after%20the%20death%20of%20Jesus.%20They%20thus%20do%20not%20present%20eyewitness%20or%20contemporary%20accounts%20of%20Jesus%E2%80%99%20life%20and%20teachings.&f=false

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                    15. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the Gospels says biblical historian Gary Greenberg in his latest book, Who Wrote the Gospels? New Testament Scholars Challenge Church Traditions. At least, not the Matthew, Mark, Luke or John of Church tradition, he adds. Controversial as this view is, he notes that it is widely accepted among New Testament scholars. Yet few members of the lay public know about this modern scholarly consensus, let alone why scholars hold these views.

                      Source: http://ggreenberg.tripod.com/bookpages/gospelspage.html

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                  2. Here is a quote from one of evangelical Christianity’s favorite New Testament scholars. Note that even though he himself believes in the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, he admits that his view represents a very small percentage of today’s New Testament scholars:

                    Conservative Christian NT scholar, Richard Bauckham: “The argument of this book [Jesus and the Eyewitnesses]–that the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus–runs counter to almost all recent scholarship. As we have indicated from time to time, the prevalent view is that a long period of oral transmission in the churches intervened between whatever the eyewitnesses said and the Jesus traditions as they reached the Evangelists [the authors of the Gospels]. No doubt the eyewitnesses started the process of oral tradition, but it passed through many retellings, reformulations, and expansions before the Evangelists themselves did their own editorial work on it.” p. 240

                    (bolding, Gary’s)

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    2. In all of the Old Testament, only two prophets (allegedly) raised people from the dead, Elijah and Elisha. The total number of people (allegedly) raised from the dead in the OT was: three.

      Jesus, allegedly, raised three people from the dead himself, including the daughter of a Roman centurion and Lazarus, whose raising from the dead (allegedly) caused a great commotion throughout all of Judea. In fact, the Gospel of John says it was this miracle that pushed the Sanhedrin over the edge, causing them to seek Jesus’ death. In addition, Jesus (allegedly) performed more miracles than all the OT prophets combined!

      Yet…not one Roman or Jewish contemporary wrote about these events nor about the greatest Jewish prophet and miracle worker who ever lived!!!

      It is obvious: Yes, Jesus existed. Yes, he was crucified by the Romans. But he was not the big deal the Gospel authors make him out to be. Afterall, they were not writing history texts. They were writing works of evangelization!

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    3. In all of the Old Testament, only two prophets (allegedly) raised people from the dead, Elijah and Elisha. The total number of people (allegedly) raised from the dead in the OT was: three.

      Jesus, allegedly, raised three people from the dead himself, including the daughter of a Roman centurion and Lazarus, whose raising from the dead (allegedly) caused a great commotion throughout all of Judea. In fact, the Gospel of John says it was this miracle that pushed the Sanhedrin over the edge, causing them to seek Jesus’ death. In addition, Jesus (allegedly) performed more miracles than all the OT prophets combined!

      Yet…not one Roman or Jewish contemporary wrote about these events nor about the greatest Jewish prophet and miracle worker who ever lived!!!

      It is obvious: Yes, Jesus existed. Yes, he was crucified by the Romans. But he was not the big deal the Gospel authors make him out to be. Afterall, they were not writing history texts. They were writing works of evangelization!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Gary: Or…one disciple had a vivid dream in which (he believed) Jesus appeared to him and commissioned him to preach his Gospel to the world. This disciple was so convinced that his dream was real, that he convinced the other disciples it was real. Soon other disciples were having vivid dreams or simply experiencing illusions (bright lights, etc.) and believing that Jesus had appeared to them too. Emotional hysteria breaks out among these very religious, very superstitious, mostly uneducated peasants. Soon groups of people are seeing bright lights and believing that Jesus has appeared to them, similar to Virgin Mary sightings today.”

    I admire your faith, Gary 😛

    I appreciate you making this a post – I think I will make my own positive case on this in the coming weeks and I will try to encompass your objections therein. I do want to quickly point out that, while 25% of historians do not affirm the empty tomb, that does NOT mean that 25% dispute it! Just that they don’t know or haven’t accepted it. 75% affirming is very high for an event of this importance.

    Thanks again for the conversation – look forward to more.

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  4. I also concede that the resurrection is possible, but as soon as I start allowing for supernatural explanations I’m left with a serious problem: I have no way to determine the likelihood of any particular supernatural explanation, or how likely any supernatural explanation is compared to another.

    Suppose I even concede that Jesus came back from the dead. What can we conclude from this? As far as I can tell, only that there are things we don’t understand, which isn’t anything new.

    Christians obviously accept the idea that Jesus came back from the dead because Jesus died for our sins, and God raised him afterwards, but this is certainly not the only possible explanation. If we start to allow supernatural explanations then I’m going to offer sorcerers as my explanation. A group of sorcerers cast a very powerful spell that brought Jesus back from the dead temporarily. Alternately I could appeal to trickster pixies, aliens, or even Jesus being a fantastical creature like a vampire. How do we determine which supernatural explanation is correct, and which ones are incorrect? What methodology that allows us to investigate the supernatural?

    When we don’t start with “this idea is probably wrong, how can we show it’s correct” we allow ourselves to be duped by nonsense. This is why people believe that crystals, and very dilute substances, have healing power. We need to start any investigation with skepticism.

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    1. Hi Lehman: I’ve found that when faced with this question, Christians usually respond with: Fulfilled prophecies prove that the Christian claim of Jesus’ resurrection is true.

      The problem here is: No one but Christians believe that there are any fulfilled prophecies in the Hebrew Bible about Jesus. The overwhelming majority of Jewish Bible scholars don’t believe that there are any “Jesus prophecies” in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). It is also interesting to note that not one public university history text book on the planet lists the following “fact”: The prophecies in the Christian Bible have the highest rate of fulfillment of any other religion, prophet, sooth sayer, or tarot card reader.

      Nope. Only Christians seem to believe that their holy book contains an amazing number of fulfilled prophesies about Jesus.

      Liked by 2 people

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