The Resurrection: reasons it’s rational to believe.
I was listening to a discussion a while back between a Christian and an atheist, and the topic of the resurrection came up, the evidence for which the atheist pointed out was scant and insufficient for him to change his mind.
The atheist then gave a Russell-esque teapot analogy to explain how he thinks the evidence for the resurrection must be treated; he asks us to ponder on the consequences should he try to convince someone to believe in the death from which he had been subsequently resurrected. He says it will be –or should be– impossible for him to be taken seriously, notwithstanding any good number of eyewitnesses who will willingly attest to the claim. In other words, it’s the distinctly Humean inclination to dismiss remarkable claims unsupported by remarkable evidence; it’s David Hume’s argument against miracles all over again. It was a bit frustrating that the Christian interlocutor wasn’t, in my opinion, able to answer him on this to the audience’s satisfaction, because, not only was it tangential to the discussion but also because of the time constraints –which the host was keen to point out as the show was winding down.
The problem with the atheist’s analogy is that it’s a false one; it’s not parallel to Jesus’s resurrection. In fact, here below, I’ll take the liberty of modifying it to be more analogous to Jesus’s resurrection so we can see if, in this more accurate form, Christians can still be accused of credulity.
So, are we justified in believing person X’s claim of having been bodily resurrected, given the following background information? :
1.) God exists (separate arguments for this).
2.) X had previously made outlandish claims of being the son of God, the messiah, and so forth.
3.) X also previously made implications of his own resurrection event (John 2:19 “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”)
4.) X had been, without question, killed and was subsequently buried.
5.) The people around X –a lot of whom were previously sceptical of his claims to divinity– themselves claim to have seen his resurrected body and are now willing to die –a lot have in fact died– a very gruesome death for said claim.
5.1) Eyewitnesses number in the hundreds, and the appearances were to individuals and groups of people (which kinda renders the hallucination hypothesis a bit effete –no, completely effete.)
*All of these points about Jesus, aside from 1 — which we can give separate arguments for– are historically accepted facts, and, by themselves, don’t make any supernatural claims. In other words, in the context of the historicity of the man Jesus, they’re not controversial and are in fact accepted by most historians.
**Had the atheist been keen to lay out this precise analogy instead of the puerile one he opted for, he would have made more sense and would have at least been fair with respect to the resurrection.
Now, should X call person Y and say “hey man, I died and God raised me from the dead to validate all those previous claims I made“, given the above background information, will Y be justified in believing him?
The answer to me seems to be a resounding yes –given the background information, the most likely hypothesis is that God raised X from the dead.
The reason, I think, that some people will deny this is that they initially deny 1 (God exists) because of the presupposition that naturalism is true, or because they haven’t fully thought about and therefore haven’t realized the impotence of competing hypotheses (which I may go more into detail at another post).