Andrew Finden · @findo

2nd Jun 2010 from Twitlonger

@askegg - I'm going to spell this out step by step for you, one last time, because you don't seem to get it yet.

Firstly, we have the known data - the dozen non-supernatural things that are well attested and accepted by the overwhelming majority of scholars (even the critical ones who deny the resurrection) as actually having happened. It would take too much time now to argue the historicity of each point, though I could, I think it's a reasonable for our purposes as lay-people, to trust the consensus of historians. Those 12 things are:

(1) Jesus died due to crucifixion
(2) was buried afterwards
(3) Jesus' death caused the disciples to experience despair and lose hope, believing that their master was dead.
(4) the tomb in which Jesus was buried was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
(5) the disciples had real experiences which they thought were literal appearances of the risen Jesus. Due to these experiences,
(6) the disciples were transformed from timid and troubled doubters afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold preachers of his death and resurrection who were more than willing to die for their faith in him.
(7) This message was the center of preaching in the earliest church and
(8) was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, the same city where Jesus had recently died and had been buried.
(9) As a direct result of this preaching, the church was born,
(10) featuring Sunday as the special day of worship. (11) James, a brother of Jesus who had been a skeptic, was converted when he believed that he saw the resurrected Jesus.
(12) A few years later, Paul was also converted to the Christian faith by an experience which he, likewise, thought was an appearance of the risen Jesus.
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Those are the 'minimal facts'. As you can see none of those are themselves supernatural.

Now we turn to the normal historical method of Argument to Best Explanation which has been summed up as:

"if the scope and strength of an explanation are very great, so that it explains a large number and variety of facts, many more than any competing explanation, then it is likely to be true."

So - we have the 'facts' and we have the normal method of finding out which explanation is the most likely to be true. Any explanation must account for all 12 of those facts better, and with less ad hoc reliance than any other competing explanation.
Explanations that can only explain some of those facts (such as the swoon theory to explain the empty tomb) are thus insufficient. By these standards, your first claim that it is all just made up is utterly insufficient, and your second claim that Jesus was an alien is also insufficient.

The earliest claim is that Jesus was raised by God from the dead - not a natural resurrection, but a supernatural one (not simply a resuscitation:

Now, history does not need to assume any kind of methodological naturalism as science does. Unless one can demonstrate empirically that the universe is causally closed (i.e. that God, as an external causal agent cold not supernaturally raise Jesus from the dead) then we cannot rule it out as impossible. Nor do we need to demonstrate that it is definitely possible - we simply allow that it might be possible. That is the only empirical position we can take. We might very well say it is statistically improbably, even highly so, but unprecedented and improbable things can and do happen, and when dealing with unique events, as history inevitably is, we simply cannot rule out improbable scenarios a priori, nor can we rule it out just because it conflicts with out world-view or philosophical assumptions. We must turn, as per usual, to the Argument to Best Explanation. Which explanation (including statistically improbable, but not known to be impossible ones) best accounts for the known data.

So the question then remains - is there a competing explanation that has more power, scope and less reliance on ad hoc than the explanation first given: that Jesus was raised from the dead? I'm yet to see it.

I realise that one's own philosophical naturalist assumptions might be cause for them to reject this explanation, but that is a personal belief, not something that is necessitated by the methodology.

As the leading C1st historian N.T. Wright says:

"Of course, when I wrote a big book on this, my philosopher tutor from Oxford who was an atheist read it and he said, great book. You really make the argument. I simply choose to believe that there must be some other explanation even though I don't know what it was. "

The argument is logical and rational and uses normal methodology on the known data, though the conclusion challenges naturalist assumptions, and you may choose not to believe the conclusions.

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