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 You are in / Foolish Faith / Read Book Online / Chapter 7 / Resurrection Reasoning - Part 5
"The alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus, if true, was very consequential concerning mankind's most fearful and important questions."
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Chapter 7:
The Unrivaled Resurrection
What do some of the world's greatest lawyers say about the event that changed history from BC to AD?

Resurrection Reasoning - Part 5

In summary, the general consensus of modern scholarship accepts the following ten details as established historical facts:

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion 2,000 years ago.
  2. Jesus was then placed in a tomb.
  3. A few days later, the tomb was found empty.
  4. Soon after, the Apostles began testifying that Jesus had risen from the dead.
  5. The Apostles really believed they had seen Jesus alive again.
  6. Even opponents and skeptics of Christianity at the time claimed to have seen Jesus alive again, and their lives were transformed as a consequence.
  7. Almost all of the Apostles eventually died for their testimony that they had seen the resurrected Jesus.
  8. In the face of brutal persecution, the movement of Christianity grew beyond all reasonable expectation.
  9. The belief that Jesus was physically raised from the dead was central and foundational to Christianity from the very beginning.
  10. The corpse of Jesus has never been produced.
Every attempt at an alternative explanation to the physical resurrection of Jesus thus far has failed to provide a plausible account for all of the preceding facts, and therefore has been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship.[37]

Yet unquestionably, something must have happened two thousand years ago that was so dramatic it changed the course of history from B.C. to A.D.

But as long as liberal and non-liberal scholars alike reject all the preceding theories, how do they explain the facts of the empty tomb, the Resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith? Remarkably, modern scholarship recognizes no plausible naturalistic explanatory theory — liberal scholars are self-confessedly left without an explanation, maintaining there is not enough evidence to reach a firm conclusion.[38]

The official journal of the Society of Humanist Philosophers, Philo, an atheistic periodical that “gathers some of the best minds in the world to provide rigorous critiques of religious ideas and doctrines,” acknowledges, “We skeptics have definitely not been keeping up our end of the debate in the philosophy of religion. Theistic philosophers have recently written a great deal about the historical arguments for the resurrection of Jesus. These arguments are backed by an impressive degree of historical and biblical scholarship and cannot be lightly dismissed.”[39]

Indeed, these three great facts — the empty tomb, the Resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith — all lead conservative scholars to one conclusion: The bodily resurrection of Jesus.

One basic principle of logic says that simple explanations, rather than complex ones that require many assumptions and complicated reasoning, are most often correct. Extraordinarily then, the resurrection of Jesus would be the simplest explanation for all the facts involved — it requires the least number of assumptions and minimal complex reasoning. Any alternative theory must plausibly account for all the facts of the case, and as yet, scholars recognize none as satisfactory.

Yet there are philosophical objections to such a spectacular conclusion. Many people believe that any alternative theory, however implausible, is more probable than the idea that God actually raised Jesus from the dead.

One popular approach to exploring events is that which is presented by David Hume. It says that it is acceptable to believe an experience that conforms to normal, ordinary human experiences. Anything that is unique so far as normal human experience is concerned — such as a miracle — should be rejected. For example, which is more probable: that the witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection appearances were mistaken, or that God raised Jesus from the dead? According to Hume’s point of view the answer is obvious, because miracles simply cannot happen.

But professor Clark Pinnock points out, “The experience against miracles is [consistent] only if we know that all the reports about miracles are false, and this we do not know. No one has an infallible knowledge of ‘natural laws’, so that he can exclude from the outset the very possibility of unique events. Science can tell us what has happened, but it cannot tell us what may or may not happen. It observes events; it does not create them. The historian does not dictate what history can contain; he is open to whatever the witnesses report. An appeal to Hume bespeaks ignorance of history.”[40]

Today the notion that miracles can occur does not contradict science or any known facts of experience — it is now widely known that there is actually no scientific reason to reject the possibility of a miracle. Today, physicists virtually unanimously agree that time, space, and matter originated together at some finite point in the past. In other words, the universe had a beginning.[41] Thus, most modern scientists agree that it is at least possible that a God (who exists outside of the universe) could have created the universe. As famous cosmologist Stephen Hawking remarks, “So long as the universe had a beginning, we could suppose it had a creator.”[42] In fact, Hawking suggests, “It would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act of a God who intended to create beings like us.”[43]

If the possibility of God exists, then so does the possibility of miracles. Thus, the possibility of a miracle cannot, and should not, be ruled out. And thus logically, the possibility that God raised Jesus from the dead also should not be ruled out.

Living in the 21st century, however, many individuals believe that, in order for something to be credible, there must be scientific proof: “If Jesus has risen from the dead, then prove it scientifically!”

Unfortunately, there is a problem with proving anything scientifically about a person or event in history: it is impossible. One must realize that there is a difference between scientific proof and legal-historical proof. The following excerpt illustrates the distinction:

   Scientific proof is based on showing that something is a fact by repeating the event in the presence of the person questioning the fact. There is a controlled environment where observations can be made, data drawn, and hypotheses empirically verified. . . . Testing the truth of a hypothesis by the use of controlled experiments is one of the key techniques of the modern scientific method. For example, somebody says, “Ivory soap doesn’t float.” So I take the person to the kitchen, put eight inches of water in the sink at 82.7°, and drop in the soap. Plunk. Observations are made, data are drawn, and a hypothesis is empirically verified: Ivory soap floats.

   Now if the scientific method was the only method of proving something, you couldn’t prove that you went to your first hour class this morning or that you had lunch today. There’s no way you can repeat those events in a controlled situation.

   To prove an event that has taken place in the past, one must look at legal-historical proof, which is based on showing beyond a reasonable doubt that something is fact. In other words, a verdict is reached on the basis of the weight of the evidence. That is, there’s no reasonable basis for doubting the decision. This kind of proof depends upon three types of testimony: oral testimony, written testimony, and exhibits (such as a gun, bullet, notebook). Using the legal method of determining what happened, you could pretty well prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were in class this morning: your friends saw you, you have your notes, the professor remembers you.

   The scientific method can be used only to prove repeatable things; it isn’t adequate for proving or disproving many questions about a person or event in history. The scientific method isn’t appropriate for answering questions such as, “Did George Washington live?” “Was Martin Luther King a civil rights leader?” “Who was Jesus of Nazareth?” “Was Robert Kennedy attorney general of the USA?” “Was Jesus Christ raised from the dead?” These are out of the realm of scientific proof, and we need to put them in the realm of legal proof. In other words, the scientific method, which is based on observation, the gathering of data, hypothesizing, deduction, and experimental verification to find and explain empirical regularities in nature, doesn’t have the final answers to such questions as, “Can you prove the Resurrection?” or “Can you prove that Jesus is the Son of God?” When men and women rely upon the legal-historical method, they need to check out the reliability of the testimonies.[44]

And that is exactly what Tom Anderson did. As former president of the California Trial Lawyers Association and voted by the National Law Journal as one of the top ten trial lawyers in America today, Tom accepted a challenge to “examine history or archaeology or any other discipline” in order to discredit the resurrection of Jesus. In his words: “My four month study was motivated to find a loophole, any loophole, in the truths of Christ. Finding none frightened me.”[45]


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