Sunday, 4 April 2010

Response to the resurrection

Those who claim there was no resurrection of Jesus often do so from the perspective that such an event is impossible. An argument could be along the lines of
  1. The laws of nature cannot be circumvented except by the supernatural
  2. There is no such thing as the supernatural
  3. God is supernatural
  4. Thus miracles are impossible
  5. Resurrection of dead people is a miracle
  6. Thus the resurrection of Jesus did not happen
This argument is not airtight, one could quibble about the relationship of God to the supernatural, and one could be more precise about circumventing laws of nature, but it suffices for our purposes.

The premises in the argument are disputable. Presuppositions are fine. We all have them and use them to filter our experience and construct a worldview. However, once we encounter evidence that challenges our conclusions we do well to examine our presuppositions. If we have good evidence that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead, then this means that at least one of the premises is incorrect. This should lead us to change our mind. In this case one would then think either that the laws of nature can be circumvented or, if we have reason to think they cannot, that the supernatural does in fact exist.

The problem we face is that men will accept all sorts of alternative explanations, even completely unreasonable ones, just so that they can keep their presuppositions. Their denial of God means that no evidence for God is good enough because for some God cannot exist axiomatically. Any explanation, however preposterous, is always to be preferred over challenging one's belief about the existence of God. This is not following the evidence wherever it leads, it is restricting evidences to those that conform to the unchallengeable worldview.

A resurrection denier could raise the same objection about those who affirm a resurrection. There is truth to the fact that the theistic presuppositions can be challenged by contrary evidence as atheistic ones can. However it is not the resurrection where this challenge is strong as the explanation of the resurrection is consistent and, one could argue, parsimonious with the data.

Which raises a question, are those who deny the resurrection biased? The answer is yes. We all are biased. Deniers are are likely to be negatively biased to various degrees. This is because the resurrection is not a neutral fact, thus more prone to be affected by underlying bias. I can prefer the birth year of Aquinas to be 1224 AD over 1225 AD with little effect on my obligations. But affirming the resurrection impels me to address Jesus' question, "Who do you say I am?" And if I have already affirmed Jesus' resurrection I am likely to think he has given credence to his claims of who he is.

Therefore the request for historical and modern examples of non-Christians who affirm the resurrection is disingenuous. Sure, such people, if they exist, are powerful hostile witnesses; but the lack of examples is not surprising, and the request for such examples is similar to only accepting evidence for oxygen from ardent phlogistonists.

3 comments:

  1. What is interesting about the Old Testament is that it is, by a very, very wide margin, the most accurate historical record we have of the secular world in the ancient Middle East. If we give it that, then on the supernatural side what should raise suspicions about our own view of miracles is that the Bible repeatedly tells us of God performing miracles--and the public just basically ignoring them.

    Let's suppose for a moment that the biblical premise of a sinful mankind with hardened hearts is true. That would explain that sort of thing. However, today, if God allowed a self-sustaining flaming whirlwind to materialize for days, it would instantly bring most people to some sort of faith because they would know from their education that "that's not naturally possible--it has to be a miracle."

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  2. By public do you mean the people in the Bible God was addressing via miracles, or moderns who ignore the miracles even though the historical testimony of Scripture should challenge them otherwise? I take it you meant the latter.

    Whirlwind display: Do you think? Perhaps.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think the problem with such a display MT, is that prolonged observation would simply allow the scienticists to come up with a "hypothesis of flaming whirlwinds" that allows them to "explain" the phenomena without recourse to God.

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