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  1. #1
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    Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    One on one debate:

    Pro: Bible Defender

    Con: Roderick Usher


    Here are the rules of our debate:

    2400 word limit

    5 rounds each

    3 day deadline (if either of us can't make it, just let the other know when you will respond)

    Each side will have to provide evidence for their position using established guidelines.

    Stay on topic- no bunny trails


    I would like to thank the moderators and Roderick Usher, and spectators, for taking the time for our debate. The topic is, I think, is quite vague. The topic is, “Is the resurrection of Jesus probable?” Well, what are we talking about here? Scientifically probable? Mathematically probable? Historically probable? Which methodology is most appropriate? Those, like my opponent, that say scientifically probable, I think are incorrect. First, science has very little to do, if anything with history. For example, no one can prove scientifically, that George Washington was president of the United States. Then there are those that say that science proves that dead men stay dead. No Christian I know of denies that. However I would add a caveat. I would say that dead men stay dead, naturalistically. However, the resurrection, if it happened, is a supernatural event. It would be interesting to know which scientific discovery, or scientific law states that the supernatural does not exist. Those that say that the resurrection contradicts the laws of science I think are also in error when using this sort of reasoning. The laws of science are descriptive and not prescriptive. They tell us how things usually work, not how they must work. Also, if there is a creator, who created the laws of nature in the first place, then he can if he chose to, supersede those laws.

    So, for those reasons I think using science as a determining methodology is inadequate. If it can’t even make a determination as to what happened just 200 yrs ago, what about ancient history? Science cannot tell us that Julius Caesar existed. Likewise with this topic, the scientific method is an inadequate method.

    What about things like Bayes’ Theorem? The main problem with that is, that it is highly subjective. Second, even if it could be proved mathematically improbable, does that count against something actually happening? No. Not only that but using such methods for the resurrection, and much of history, is really quite difficult. That is why no historian uses it.

    For example, statistician David Bartholomew states:
    the great difficulty applying the theory (Bayes’ Theorem) is that it is often not at all clear what value should be given to the prior probability.
    And
    If your prior is zero no amount of evidence can move you from that position. Equally, you can always choose your prior so small that all that available evidence will not outweigh it. The use of Bayes’ theorem is therefore essentially subjective.
    – Uncertain Belief: Is it Rational to Be a Christian? p. 160-065.

    In fact, according to historian C. B. McCullagh,
    ...virtually no historian has used it (Bayes’ theorem) and even if any wished to do so, he would probably find it difficult as it requires information which is often hard to obtain.
    – Justifying Historical Descriptions, p. 46-47.

    For example, what is the prior probability of the universe existing? Since this universe is the only one that we can observe, ant that there is already one that exists, there is no obvious way of assessing the prior probability of its existence. Pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus, first you would have to provide a prior probability of the Judean God’s existence, then you would have to prove the probability that he would want to raise Jesus. Now a Christian would give one set of values, however a Muslim another, and still an atheist another. Or for example, Richard Carrier gives a probability of near zero, while Richard Swinburne gives it almost a 100% probability.

    As then atheist Antony Flew states:
    Certainly given some beliefs about God, the occurrence of the resurrection does become enormously more likely.
    – Does God Exist? P. 39

    Another issue is that since we are dealing with a being that has free will, it is almost impossible to assign a prior probability. The same goes with mere human beings, people often do things that are completely unexpected since we do not always know the motives of individuals. So, mathematically, it is not feasible to use this as a adequate methodology.


    Even mathematical probability in general is insufficient. For example what is the probability of evolution (Macro) occurring so many eons ago? For example, Atheist astronomer Fred Hoyle and agnostic Chandra Wickramasinghe calculated that chances that the information content in enzymes occurring by purely naturalistic means is one chance in 10 to the 40,000th power. Now I know of no atheist that doubts that evolution took place just because it is so improbable. On the contrary, even though it is highly improbable mathematically, those who believe that macroevolution took place look to other evidence to support their belief. So, if an atheist can believe something, even though it is highly improbable, then why cannot the Christian believe in the resurrection even though, mathematically it is improbably just as evolution is?


    That leaves us I think with the only one alternative. That is historical probability. Here is why I think this is the only adequate method of dealing with the resurrection. First and foremost, the claim that Jesus rose from the dead is an historical claim. It is a claim made by certain historical people that a certain event, concerning a certain historical individual, happened in a certain place in a specific time in the past here on earth. So, how do historians go about deciding if a certain event probably happened or not? In historical methodology as well as criminal investigations, or even is science, it is called the argument to the best explanation.

    Also,

    A position is demonstrated, when the reasons for accepting it significantly outweigh the reasons for not accepting it... A finding of historicity is essentially a default position, meaning that we have no other reasonable way to account for the presence of a story in the text.
    -Robert Miller, "Historical Method and the Deeds of Jesus: The Test Case of the Temple Demonstration." Forum 8 (1992): 5-30

    For evidence, my case is cumulative. IF Jesus was crucified, IF his disciples honestly had what they considered to be experiences of the risen Jesus, IF it can be demonstrated that Paul had suddenly converted, IF James who was skeptical brother of Jesus suddenly converted, and IF the tomb was found empty, and IF the alternative theories are not able to provide an adequate answer for the aforementioned facts, that lends strong evidence for the Resurrection. It is my contention that each of these are indeed facts. In fact, they are admitted by most if not nearly all scholars both believing and skeptical to be historical events. It is also my contention that there are no alternative theories that can adequately account for the facts as well as the Resurrection. Therefore, the reasons FOR the accepting the Resurrection outweigh the reasons for rejecting it and thus meet the requirements for historicity, which is called argument to the best explanation.

    As historian C. Behan McCullagh says in his book Justifying Historical Descriptions:

    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.
    Also:
    "But if the evidence in support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true"
    - McCullah, "The Truth of History." p.23

    And as even postmodernists as Richard Carrier admits:
    ...I give two common methodologies used by historians. One is the argument to the best explanation and the argument from evidence.
    And:
    Other than post modernists, all historians would agree with those two methods.
    But what of the post modernists like Carrier? Are they the mainstream or are they out on the fringe? Again to quote Carrier himself: “
    Well, just look in the history community, at post-modernists. Most historians are fairly certain that the post-modernists are full of [expletive removed], and that’s pretty much the consensus in history now.
    And from Carriers own site:

    Axiom 2: The correct procedure in historical argument is to seek a consensus among all qualified experts who agree with the basic principle of rational-empirical history.
    Well, the consensus among experts, even as Carrier admits, is the methodology that I am using.


    Others include Principle of Embarrassment, Enemy Attestation, Multiple Attestation, etc. Also if the theory explains the facts more so than alternative theories, then according to historical methods, it probably happened. Therefore the Resurrection stands on good ground.

    It is my contention that:

    1.Jesus was indeed crucified and buried. This is attested to not only in the Gospels, but also by Paul and extra-biblical sources. And is admitted to as fact by almost all from across the ideological spectrum of scholars.
    2. Jesus' disciples believed that He rose from the dead and appeared to them. This is attested to by the fact that they willingly suffered for that message. That is accorded to in Acts, as well as extra-biblical sources and is also accepted as historical fact by nearly all scholars.
    3. Paul, who was an enemy of the church suddenly changed. This is stated by Paul himself in a number of N.T. texts and have claimed to have seen the risen Christ. Usually people will convert on the word of someone else, that is a secondary source. But Paul's conversion is due to something that he himself experienced. That is a primary source. Again, almost all scholars accept this as fact.
    4. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly changed. This is attested to in the Bible, and extra-biblical source reports that he was a strict Jew. The Bible also testifies that after the Resurrection, James became a leader of the church.
    5. The tomb was found empty. This is accepted by the majority of scholars also (Gary Habermas did a study on the state of scholarship to date. He reports that 75% of scholars agree that the tomb was indeed found empty).

    These facts are well evidenced, and enjoy a wide consensus of critical scholars. So now the question is what happened that accounts for these facts? Which theory best explains the data?

    That means that BOTH sides have to come up with a theory that best explains the data. The one that does the better job is what probably happened.

    As historian C. Behan McCullagh says in his book Justifying Historical Descriptions:

    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.
    Also:
    But if the evidence in support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true
    - McCullah, "The Truth of History." p.23

    That means that the opposing side must also provide a theory that better explains the accepted data.

    As for naturalistic theories I will not comment on them as yet. I want to know what my opponent thinks happened. How does he account for those facts? I don't want to waste time and refute something that he himself might not believe in. However, whether my opponent wishes to discuss the particulars in the above mentioned facts or just go ahead as discuss what alternative he thinks is a better explanation, he too, according to historical methodology has to provide evidence.

    As historians admit:
    Third, evidence must always be affirmative. Negative evidence is a contradiction in terms--it is no evidence at all. The nonexistence of an object is established not by nonexistent evidence but by affirmative evidence of the fact that it did not, or could not exist.
    -Hackett, Historians' Fallacies, Harper: 1970 p.62

    That means that if someone wants to posit an alternative theory, or say that, for example that Jesus wasn't crucified, but instead murdered, or that they committed falsehoods, then the burden is also upon him to provide historical evidence for that hypothesis.

    Therefore, I do think, based upon the best methodology to test this historical claim, the greatest probability is that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead.
    Last edited by czahar; August 14th, 2011 at 03:54 AM.

  2. #2
    Roderick Usher
    Guest

    Re: Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    I would like to thank the moderators, the spectators, and my friend Bible Defender, for the debate. A few words before I begin … Admittedly, my understanding of Bayes’ Theorem is so limited that it renders any commentary on my end worthless, but, from what I do know, it does seem unreliable for evaluating the truth of a historical claim, since, as you reasoned: 1) for some things, there are no ways to assign prior probability (e.g. the universe’s existence), and 2) things do happen against the odds (the origin of life and evolution). (I’m curious as to why ‘prior probability’ should even be assigned a variable position, but perhaps this just reinforces the obviousness of my ignorance …) Anyway, I share BD's view that mathematical probability is inept in this manner, so we can discard it from the get-go.

    To begin … I think I agree with the aforementioned historical criterion, the two methodologies espoused by Carrier: the argument to the best explanation, and the argument from evidence. In this debate, I will argue that naturalism is an argument from evidence which trumps any alternative argument to the best explanation (rendering it irrelevant). I will reiterate BD's quote from McCullagh:

    But if the evidence in support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true.
    I will use a simple analogy to demonstrate my point.

    Suppose, in a hypothetical courtroom case, the plaintiff charges the defendant of first degree murder on the grounds of maliciously using magic powers to kill the victim. Perhaps the magical power could be telekinesis and the defendant allegedly pushed the victim off a cliff with the force of his mind? Actually, to be more restrictive (since debunking parapsychology would entail a long discussion), suppose that the magical power, i.e., the defendant’s ability to manipulate the laws of nature, has no causal relationship, to any force or component of his psyche, and, moreover, to any natural force whatsoever. For the purposes of this debate, we will assume that there are no natural laws governing the defendant’s alleged magical powers. (Please note here the distinct difference between unexplained phenomena, and phenomena that occurs beyond the means of explanation, that occurs supernaturally.) So, the victim was spontaneously removed from a grounded position and flung off a cliff … For this action to occur entails a violation or suspension of the laws of gravity. This would never make it to a courtroom case because a supernatural event, by definition, cannot be explained. There is no evidence to account for such an event. Conversely, and this is my point, the law of gravity is the evidence against such an accusation, satisfying the second, and arguably superior, criterion of historical methodology.

    From there, I posit the question, “What evidence is there of Jesus’ Resurrection?” So far, the evidence is on my side, and, like I said, it trumps any alternative explanation. The laws of physiology are on my side - the dead are dead, and stay dead. Does Bible Defender not consider this evidence? If he doesn't, he would be discounting forensic evidence, and I know this is not his intention (since he's a criminal investigator). Believing in the resurrection and forensic evidence is almost a double standard, is it not? I ask my opponent and the audience: if I told you that I could breathe without lungs, you wouldn’t believe me, right? And if a great many people attested to me having this exceptional ability, you still would not believe them, right? The laws of nature count as evidence. Anyone can cite grey areas in our knowledge of the workings of the universe, the “spookiness” of quantum physics, but this does nothing to support the claim of the resurrection. Similarly, the Double Slit Experiment does not prove that I can breathe without lungs - the laws of physiology still trump anything to the contrary. Additionally, any poetic interpretation of the resurrection is moot and has no value here. And further still, saying that science is descriptive vs. prescriptive equally gets my opponent nowhere.

    Also, as I said elsewhere:

    You claim that the resurrection is a miracle. But let’s examine this: why is it a miracle? It’s a miracle because it constitutes a suspension or violation of the laws of nature, that is, something otherwise impossible (given the dictates of nature) happened. On the contrary, if you were to say that the miracle of resurrection happened within nature, in accordance with its laws, you contradict yourself. A miracle is something SUPERnatural, something transcendent; it cannot happen within nature. So, which do you believe: that his resurrection happened outside of nature, or in nature? I hope you recognize the fallacious path of opting for the latter. And if it happened outside nature, there is no way to explain it.
    (I would prefer my opponent to avoid responding to this particular quote, and focus on the pertinent argument above. This was just supplemental material.)
    Last edited by Roderick Usher; August 9th, 2011 at 09:49 AM.

  3. #3
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    Re: Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    Again I thank my opponent and friend for the response. I am glad to see that we both agree upon the best methodology to test this claim is indeed the historical method.

    My opponent also has not addressed any of the five historical facts that I have presented. So, apparently we agree as to the facts of the case.

    1. Jesus was indeed crucified and buried.

    2. Jesus' disciples believed that He rose from the dead and appeared to them.

    3. Paul, who was an enemy of the church, suddenly converted.

    4. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly converted.

    5. The tomb was found empty.

    Since none of these were contested I will assume they stand. The problem now becomes; what accounts for those facts?

    Again according to historical methodology:
    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
    And

    But if the evidence in support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true
    That means that there has to be opposing theories put forth that better explains the data. The theory that best takes into account the data, without ad hoc, is the one that probably happened. However, that was not done here. There was no competing theory that my opponent put forth that explains the five facts just mentioned. But, if my opponent wants to deny the resurrection hypothesis, using the same methods that he himself admits are the best methods to test this historical claim, then it is also upon him to bring forth what he believes happened that explains the data.

    As for my opponent’s rebuttal, it completely fails. I guess he didn’t read my opening statement very well. He reverts to the laws of nature argument.

    First, as stated before, the laws of nature are descriptive, not prescriptive. They tell us how things usually operate, not how they must operate.

    Second, this argument only has weight if one already knows that there is no supernatural. However, if God does exist, who created those very laws in the first place, then he is not bound by them and can supersede them.

    Indeed, from the high priest of atheism himself, he stated in a debate:

    A serious case could be made for a deistic God.
    – Richard Dawkins


    This would never make it to a courtroom case because a supernatural event, by definition, cannot be explained. There is no evidence to account for such an event. Conversely, and this is my point, the law of gravity is the evidence against such an accusation, satisfying the second, and arguably superior, criterion of historical methodology.
    This argument commits the logical fallacy of False Analogy. The only thing in common with the analogy and the resurrection claim is that they both are “miraculous” claims. However, the differences outweigh the similarities. For instance, where there eyewitnesses to the event in question? Is there a naturalistic explanation that explains the facts other than the “magic powers” claim? Jesus wasn’t pushed off the cliff, the victim didn’t come back to life etc…

    And

    The laws of physiology are on my side - the dead are dead, and stay dead. Do you not consider this evidence?
    However, if there were eyewitnesses, some of whom were even hostile to the defense’s case that testified that is exactly what they saw, then that would suffice as evidence.

    Third, all that science can show is that a person doesn’t rise from the dead naturalistically or by natural causes. But this does not apply to Jesus’ Resurrection, since Christians claim that the Resurrection is a supernatural event. It had a supernatural cause. So, unless my friend can show that the supernatural does not exist, he cannot be dogmatic.

    Fourth, it takes place in a religio-historical context. Meaning that Jesus’ claims to divinity, His deeds that appeared miraculous in nature, and His predictions that he would be raised from the dead.

    Fifth, this objection is only valid if there is a workable probable naturalistic theory that accounts for all the facts. Again none was put forth.

    Sixth, it fails completely to account for the known facts. This argument does in deed take into account Jesus’ death. However it doesn’t explain why the disciples came to believe that they really saw the risen Jesus. It doesn’t explain why Paul converted, nor James. It also fails to account for the empty tomb, how did it get that way?

    Basically, my opponent’s rebuttal doesn’t deny the facts, it is just a refusal of the conclusion. It lacks explanatory power.

    So in order to account for the facts, my opponent, as required by the historical method he admits are the best for determining the probability of what happened, has to provide a hypothesis of what he believes happened that better explains the accepted facts.

    Seventh, the argument that all men stay dead commits the fallacy of Hasty Generalization.

    The argument goes like this:
    A) Dead men stay dead. (All is implied)
    B) Jesus was a man that died.
    Therefore, Jesus stayed dead.

    The problem with this is that one is assuming that because most people do indeed stay dead, it automatically includes Jesus as well. Indeed, it implies that all men stay dead. But in order to make such a claim, one must know before hand that all men in history did indeed stay dead. However we are looking at what happened in this particular case. So, it is an a-priori assumption.

    It also assumes an anti-supernatural bias, the resurrection is a supernatural event, and the only way to exclude the supernatural is to either prove the supernatural doesn’t exist or to exclude it a-priori.

    Third, in order to say that dead men must stay dead requires us to look at examples that run contrary to the claim and see if there are any that are probable. However that is we are trying to do now!

    Fourth, my opponents states that the “laws of physiology” says that dead men MUST stay dead. I would like my friend to state which law states that.

    Fifth, all it would take to disprove this generalization is for just one counter-example. And yet this is exactly what we are trying to discover here, what probably happened.

    If I told you that I could breathe without lungs, you wouldn’t believe me, right? And if a great many people attested to me having this exceptional ability, you still would not believe them, right? The laws of nature count as evidence.
    If it were an empty claim. Probably not. However, if you made the claim, and then there were facts to back up the claim that would indeed count in your favor, the witnesses were reliable, etc. But that is not what we are talking about here. We are not talking about the usual workings of the universe, to which I think, we are in complete agreement. We are talking about what happened that Easter morning. Were the usual laws of nature suspended (ie a miracle) or did something else happen? The only way to judge which probably happened is, by my opponent’s admission is the historical method. That method states that the hypothesis that best explains the facts is what probably happened.

    And further still, saying that science is descriptive vs. prescriptive equally gets you nowhere.
    Huh? That is exactly how the laws of science operate!

    So, what do we have so far?
    1. None of the five facts I presented were refuted.
    2. My opponent, in order to refute (actually, not a refutation, only an a-priori denial) the resurrection, has to rely on logical fallacies (which are errors in reasoning) which are fraught with problems.
    3. My opponent provided no alternative hypothesis that does a better job in explaining the data than the resurrection (Argument to the Best Explanation).
    4. The resurrection hypothesis, far outshines the refutation (especially since no alternative was given) as it explains all the accepted facts. Therefore the resurrection, since it is the best argument that explains all the data so far, according to the accepted methodology, is what probably happened.

    The resurrection hypothesis takes into account the death and burial of Jesus. [There must be a death before a resurrection.]
    It explains why the disciples sincerely believed to have experienced the risen Jesus alive.
    It explains why Paul and James would suddenly convert.
    It explains why the tomb was found empty.

    It has explanitory power.

    The alternative theory.... where is it?

  4. #4
    Roderick Usher
    Guest

    Re: Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    First of all, I want to apologize for the delayed response. An unforeseeable circumstance arouse that divided my time. I had wrote most of this in the day, but it needed revision, and I wanted to give a respectable response that dignified my opponent’s efforts. The audience can rest assured that this will not happen again. I messaged my opponent and told him that I was working on response. If he wants me to forfeit, I will politely resign and this rebuttal can be deleted. I understand that it is my fault, so I will harbor no resentment towards those who opt for my defeat.

    From here, I will proceed politely with a response.

    First, a quote from Dawkins (since my opponent is fond of quoting him):

    Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things.
    IF (not saying we should) we are to be thoroughly and compulsively logical, then, when we cannot sufficiently explain (via empirical evidence) a phenomenon (e.g. the origin of the universe, how physical constants came to dominate nature, how lower level molecules became self-organizing, the hard problem of consciousness, etc.), we should suspend any judgment on the matter. To a thoroughgoing logician, speculation is erroneous. So, let’s acknowledge this first - if we are going to postulate a theory for something that is beyond our understanding at the moment, belief must inevitably factor in. For the purposes of this debate, I will assume the position of agnosticism, that is, that I cannot know, as inherent epistemic limitation (unknowable), or a limitation owing to my particular context in history of scientific development (unknown), whether or not a deity exists.

    If we factor in belief, it seems that an atheist has faith in naturalism, whereas a deist has faith in supernaturalism. The hard question is: what belief is more rational? (I will not address this question in the current debate.) The deist believes in a transcendent entity that has (some form of) agency with regard to the creation of the universe, and the creation of the laws and mechanisms which govern the universe. The deist may also suppose that this entity is omnipotent, and could, if it had a will, suspend or violate the laws it created. His ‘evidence’ for this is in what he considers ‘unexplainable (not merely unexplained) phenomena.’ For the purposes of this discussion, I will assume that the deist’s faith is rational, that he or she has sufficient reason for believing such.

    But even if we hypothetically accept this claim, there are no grounds for ascribing characteristics or properties to the deity, outside of maybe, say, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, etc. To ascribe a will to a deity is utterly irrational. You see, the deist’s leap of faith is based on the a priori assumption that certain unexplained phenomena (the creation of the universe, for instance - not talking about miracles here) are actually unexplainable and unknowable (conversely, the atheist’s leap of faith is based on the assumption that unexplained phenomena are explainable), but if he admits this much, he cannot dare to explain the ultimately unknowable: God. If God is transcendent, he transcends explanation. One cannot reasonably look for Its will in this world. For one, it's simply not logical (this is the main point), and two, even if you were look for Its will in this world, there would be so many competing and contradictory claims that this methodology would immediately be rendered futile and inadequate.

    Now, the Christian theists, like my opponent, believe that God revealed ‘His’ will in this world, and this was through Jesus. A romantic reason for this is that - since God is unintelligible to humans, he embodied the human form for communicatory purposes (not saying my opponent believes this). This is seemingly plausible, if God is omnipotent, he can do this. For the purposes of this discussion, I will grant my opponent a non-religious conception of the existence of God and his omnipotence, and I will even grant the five historical facts he presented. However, I will not concede to the Resurrection or the miracles of Christ.

    The theory that best takes into account the data, without ad hoc, is the one that probably happened. However, that was not done here. There was no competing theory that my opponent put forth that explains the five facts just mentioned. But, if my opponent wants to deny the resurrection hypothesis, using the same methods that he himself admits are the best methods to test this historical claim, then it is also upon him to bring forth what he believes happened that explains the data.
    To respond to this:

    1) First of all, my friend can be assured I am not launching an ad hoc argument - I think my line of reasoning speaks for itself. If it doesn’t, I expect an indication of the fallacies I committed (I will address his accusation of False Analogy and Hasty Generalization).

    2) Certainly, there is competing theory: he died and was not resurrected. I do not need to account for the sudden conversions, simply because the conversions do not count as evidence - the conversions only supplement the claim. Likewise, I would not have to account for the “eyewitness testimony” of the hysteric Puritans who accused 140 people of witchcraft in the late 17th century (out of those accused, 19 were hanged, 1 crushed or pressed to death, and others died in prison). It is only necessary to prove that the belief in witchcraft is absurd. I do not need to talk about ergotism, the power of suggestion, etc. to account for the delusions of the Puritans. Before I’m wrongly charged with ‘false analogy,’ I will assure the audience that my intention is not to draw parallels and compare the Resurrection with the Salem Witch Trials, I am just illustrating a simple principle: if we discount the event in question, the “eyewitnesses” are moot. It is a principle, and nothing more.

    (I will, however, give into the temptation of making a parenthetical remark. It is interesting, if I’m not mistaken, that James and Paul’s sudden conversions were based on ‘spectral evidence,’ i.e., supposedly seeing an apparition of the Risen Christ. Regarding the Witch Trials, "Much, but not all, of the evidence used against the accused was spectral evidence, or the testimony of the afflicted who claimed to see the apparition or the shape of the person who was allegedly afflicting them" - wikipedia.com)

    So, just to reiterate … Since we know there is no such thing as witchcraft, we do not need to offer an explanation. This is why I brought up the courtroom example. Witchcraft would not make it into modern courtroom, regardless of the eyewitness testimony. In a German case regarding the exorcism of Anneliese Michel, two priests were charged with neglectful homicide. It should be clear without citing other examples that supernatural explanations do not suffice. Again, I’m not trying to make an analogy, I’m illustrating a point: testimony may be supplemental, but it cannot be used as evidence in-and-of-itself when the supernatural is involved. Simply understanding the laws of physiology, resurrection could never be brought up in a trial. The dead cannot be undead, this is a blatant contradiction. If a doctor took the stand and spelled out word-for-word the nature human body and its physiological mechanisms, nobody with a sober mind would dare say:

    … if there were eyewitnesses, some of whom were even hostile to the defense’s case that testified that is exactly what they saw, then that would suffice as evidence.
    All that science can show is that a person doesn’t rise from the dead naturalistically or by natural causes.
    This objection is only valid if there is a workable probable naturalistic theory that accounts for all the facts.
    It doesn’t explain why Paul converted, nor James.
    The doctor’s
    rebuttal doesn’t deny the facts, it is just a refusal of the conclusion.
    It also assumes an anti-supernatural bias, the resurrection is a supernatural event, and the only way to exclude the supernatural is to either prove the supernatural doesn’t exist or to exclude it a-priori.
    The “laws of physiology” says that dead men MUST stay dead. I would like my friend to state which law states that

    Ok, moving on … A few points, then my main, concluding point:

    1) Here is a little syllogism

    Gravity makes things fall
    Something fell
    Therefore, gravity made it fall

    Now for a thing to fall without gravity is absurd, yet I doubt my opponent would charge me of hasty generalization here. In any event, if we do not discount the supernatural, practically every empirical statement is a hasty generalization (the only propositions really invulnerable to this fallacy are mathematical, logical, and semantic propositions, e.g. all bachelors are unmarried, John is a bachelor, therefore John is unmarried). I accept the accusation, though I hope he concedes to this point.


    2) My account lacks explanatory power? Like I said, I do not need to offer a competing theory. It is superfluous for me to do so; it’s only necessary that I refute the resurrection. But to satisfy my opponent’s curiosity, I will provide a naturalistic account. Now, if he is reasonable, he will not comment on this, since it has nothing to do with my argument. This is merely a courtesy to his needs.

    Before they approached the tomb, there was a great earthquake, and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.

    The angel’s appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The Roman guards were paralyzed with fear, and became like dead men.

    Later, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and others came to the place where Jesus had been buried. It was early Sunday morning.

    The stone was rolled away and the Roman guards were gone. When they entered the tomb, the Lord's body was not there.
    Plausible explanation: there was an earthquake that killed the Roman guards, rolled the stone away ... Meanwhile, someone moved Jesus' body …

    As for James and Paul, they were deluded.

    3) MY MAIN POINT To wrap this up and bring my point home, I will make an important addition to my argument. So, since I granted my opponent the existence of a deity, I will ask of him: what reason do you have for believing that he intervened? You can ascribe no properties whatsoever to this entity, so to speculate on intention is absolutely illogical. Therefore, all you have is the testimony of an ancient people. Now, if my opponent wants, I could dig up all the miracle claims attested to throughout history. Various Gods, various religions, various miracle workers. Couldn’t God have intervened there also? What reason do you have for believing he intervened here?

    As I said elsewhere:

    Considering your beliefs, I have the potential, an exceptionally dangerous potential, to pull the biggest scam on mankind, to dup everyone and take them for everything they are worth (if I, or my future conspirators, pleased). Suppose some thousand people and I (all conspirators might I add) inhabited a remote island and fabricated a history - we will have our Jesus, our Paul, our James, miracles, the record of testimony in pages of documentation that are mutually consistent, we will leave no traces or access to the investigation of these miracles, etc., and a hundreds of years go by, we all die, but the documentation survives, and this is all you have investigative access to … Using your methodology, since forensics is inept at that point, you would have to accept these claims, or the claims of someone who believed in our miracles, since no alternative explanation could be offered to account for such happenings. When arguing for anything, we are arguing that our ideas are not simple subjective notions, that they have some universal/objective merit, and if this is true, if it is implicit that others should use your logic, then the future inhabitants of this world would be compelled to believe in our contrived history. But obviously, this would not work, because the belief in supernatural intervention is untenable here. Are you suggesting its not? And if so, by your logic, shouldn’t the future people believe in my lie? And if so, couldn’t I start fabricating a history right now?
    Last edited by Roderick Usher; August 15th, 2011 at 12:04 AM.

  5. #5
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    Re: Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    Again I thank my opponent for his response. The first third of my opponent’s response is little more than a definition of what a deist, an atheist and a theist is. However even his rebuttals are in error. For example my opponent states that to ascribe a will to a deity is nonsense. However, if Jesus was raised, and my opponent agrees that this would be a supernatural act, then it shows that God DID act out his will in this world!

    For the purposes of this debate, I will assume the position of agnosticism, that is, that I cannot know, as inherent epistemic limitation (unknowable), or a limitation owing to my particular context in history of scientific development (unknown), whether or not a deity exists.
    And yet he states:
    The deist may also suppose that this entity is omnipotent, and could, if it had a will, suspend or violate the laws it created. His ‘evidence’ for this is in what he considers ‘unexplainable (not merely unexplained) phenomena.’ For the purposes of this discussion, I will assume that the deist’s faith is rational, that he or she has sufficient reason for believing such.
    Theists are in the same boat.

    Why is that that we CANNOT know whether God exists or not? That requires an a-priori knowledge. Also, it is a self-refuting statement. To say that one cannot know is an absolute statement. It is self refuting in that there is something you can know, that you cannot know whether there is a God. It commits intellectual seppuku.

    I believe that we can, reasonably believe that God exists, even though we cannot know Him exhaustively.

    Again as Dawkins admits there are strong arguments for the existence of God and intelligent design.

    The refusal to believe in anything you can’t see yourself is absurd.
    – Richard Dawkins, 2008

    Though that is not the topic of discussion.

    Also, since my opponent adopts the position of agnosticism, then he allows for the possibility of the existence of the supernatural.

    And as my opponent admits:
    Now, the Christian theists, like my opponent, believe that God revealed ‘His’ will in this world, and this was through Jesus. A romantic reason for this is that - since God is unintelligible to humans, he embodied the human form for communicatory purposes (not saying my opponent believes this). This is seemingly plausible, if God is omnipotent, he can do this.
    My opponent agrees to the five facts as presented in this case.

    Certainly, there is competing theory: he died and was not resurrected. I do not need to account for the sudden conversions, simply because the conversions do not count as evidence - the conversions only supplement the claim.
    Um, it would behoove him to do so. As he agreed, the appropriate method of deciding whether the Resurrection is probable is the historical methodology I outlined earlier. In order to see whether the resurrection is more probable than not historically, there must be competing theories. The theory that best explains the data is the one that probably occurred. So, yes, if my opponent wishes to deny the probability of the resurrection on historical grounds, using the accepted guidelines that historians use, then there must be competing theories. However, if my opponent wishes to abstain and refuse to provide an alternative account, then the resurrection hypothesis is the only theory on the table. Since it takes into account all of the facts, then according to the historical methodology that we agreed upon, the resurrection is probable.

    To put it another way, if my opponent puts forth something that is inferior (that is, it doesn't take into account the accepted data and is not well evidenced), or simply refuses to put something forth, the resurrection wins out.

    The reason why we can discount the Salem witch trials is because the witnesses were proven to be unreliable and that there were other factors which lends itself to a natural explanation.

    As for a court of law, it is interesting that Simon Greenleaf, founder of Harvard Law school, who wrote the three volume treatise on evidence, which is still the standard in America and England, who was an atheist was challenged to disprove the evidence for the resurrection using the exact same rules of evidence. He took up the challenge. What he discovered changed his worldview and he became a Christian and published a book “Testimony of the Evangelists”. As have many other lawyers.

    It is interesting, if I’m not mistaken, that James and Paul’s sudden conversions were based on ‘spectral evidence,’ i.e., supposedly seeing an apparition of the Risen Christ.
    Yes, my opponent is mistaken. The resurrection was a physical event.

    As for the exorcism case, again, there was naturalistic evidence that also explained the facts.

    Simply understanding the laws of physiology, resurrection could never be brought up in a trial. The dead cannot be undead, this is a blatant contradiction.
    Again a logical fallacy of Hasty Generalization.

    Challenge to support a claim.I would like my opponent to state which “Law of Physiology” states that dead men MUST stay dead.

    Also to regress, since he took a stand of agnosticism on the supernatural, it is possible that God exists and that he could have intervened in the case of Jesus. I think my opponent just shot himself in the proverbial foot when he stated “the Laws of Physiology” and yet grants the possibility of an omnipotent God. If an omnipotent God exists, then he can indeed, since he is omnipotent, suspend, reverse, transcend the laws of nature that he formed in the first place!

    In any event, if we do not discount the supernatural, practically every empirical statement is a hasty generalization (the only propositions really invulnerable to this fallacy are mathematical, logical, and semantic propositions, e.g. all bachelors are unmarried, John is a bachelor, therefore John is unmarried). I accept the accusation, though I hope he concedes to this point.
    Why must we discount the supernatural a-priori, which is what you seem to be advocating?

    Second, it is a straw man. No Christian, including those that are scientists, states that everything is a hasty generalization! As I stated before, Christians are quite happy to admit that dead men usually stay dead naturalistically. Completely in accordance with the usual workings of the universe. However, the resurrection is a supernatural event.

    Absolutely, we should look for naturalistic explanations first. But, if there is nothing to be had, why can’t we attribute it to the supernatural and continue to look for the explanation? To say that it is “against the rules” begs the question, whose rules? The only way you could really discount the supernatural is if you either know all of the facts which can account for the phenomenon or if there is an alternate explanation that better explains the facts better than a supernatural one. And that is what we are trying to find out here.

    Thirdly, since you concede the existence of an omnipotent God, then you cannot automatically discount the supernatural!!!! Again, the position is self-refuting.

    My account lacks explanatory power? Like I said, I do not need to offer a competing theory. It is superfluous for me to do so; it’s only necessary that I refute the resurrection. But to satisfy my opponent’s curiosity, I will provide a naturalistic account. Now, if he is reasonable, he will not comment on this, since it has nothing to do with my argument.
    As stated before, yes he does. Since he agreed that the only way to see what probably happened is by historical methodology.

    To begin … I think I agree with the aforementioned historical criterion, the two methodologies espoused by Carrier: the argument to the best explanation, and the argument from evidence.
    Not only that but he says he is giving a naturalistic account and yet uses angels?

    Second, it is close to a straw man, since I never alluded that angels move the stone, or that there was even an earthquake etc.

    Plausible explanation: there was an earthquake that killed the Roman guards, rolled the stone away ... Meanwhile, someone moved Jesus' body …
    Challenge to support a claim.Ok, what historical evidence is there that is equal or superior to mine that the guards were not killed, and someone else moved the body?

    “As for James and Paul, they were deluded.”

    Challenge to support a claim.What historical evidence can you point to that they were deluded?

    And here is why it is ad hoc. First theory, there was an earthquake, someone or something rolled the stone away and Jesus’ body was moved by someone.

    However, it doesn’t explain Paul and James’ conversion, so he has to come up with an additional theory, they were deluded. Both theories have no historical evidence to substantiate them. What about the disciple’s sincere belief that they had experienced the risen Jesus? It wasn’t even addressed. That is ad hoc reasoning.

    First of all, my friend can be assured I am not launching an ad hoc argument - I think my line of reasoning speaks for itself. If it doesn’t, I expect an indication of the fallacies I committed (I will address his accusation of False Analogy and Hasty Generalization).
    And yet my opponent accepts that he has committed a hasty generalizations! Other logical fallacies are below.

    So, since I granted my opponent the existence of a deity, I will ask of him: what reason do you have for believing that he intervened? You can ascribe no properties whatsoever to this entity, so to speculate on intention is absolutely illogical. Therefore, all you have is the testimony of an ancient people. Now, if my opponent wants, I could dig up all the miracle claims attested to throughout history. Various Gods, various religions, various miracle workers. Couldn’t God have intervened there also? What reason do you have for believing he intervened here?
    Easy, we agree upon five facts of the case. So, what happened on that Easter morning? As my opponent himself agreed, the best methodology to discover what probably happened, and hence why I believe what I do, is the historical methodology, and one of those is the argument to the best explanation.

    Now since the only thing offered is far inferior to the resurrection theory, according to the agreed upon guidelines, the resurrection is what probably happened. That is why I believe God intervened.

    Second, my opponent, in his challenge commits the logical fallacy of Special Pleading. He himself ascribes attributes to God (omnipotence) and yet disallows me the same.

    Third, he commits a Straw Man. A Christian does not believe that God is unknowable or intelligible. For example, one can adduce some knowledge of God from nature [Romans 1:20]. Also Christians also believe that God has spoken to man directly, as in the case of Moses for example. And also through his prophets and lastly through Jesus Christ.

    So, to recap:

    1. My opponent moves from atheism to agnosticism and grants the possibility of God and the supernatural.

    2. In order to make his points, my opponent as committed logical fallacies, to which he admits, and continues to do so. If these are the kinds of things one has to do in order to deny the supernatural or the resurrection in particular, this should give one pause and re-evaluate one’s position.

    3. My opponent agrees to the following facts:

    a) Jesus died and was buried
    b) The disciples sincerely believed that they had experienced the risen Jesus
    c) Paul, an enemy of Christians, suddenly converted
    d) James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly converted
    e) The tomb was found empty.

    To discover what probably happened, whether a miracle or something naturalistic occurred, we agreed that the best way to test this is by the historical methods that secular historians use.

    The theory that best takes into account the data is what probably happened.

    As historian C. Behan McCullagh says in his book Justifying Historical Descriptions:

    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.
    4) The Resurrection hypothesis explains all of the facts agreed upon. However, my opponent’s explanation fails to account for the disciple’s belief as well as Paul and James (hence he must come up with additional claims to account for them).

    Also:
    But if the evidence in support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true.
    - McCullah, "The Truth of History." p.23

    5) The facts that I provide for the evidence of the resurrection are each well attested to by evidence and are accepted by the vast majority of critical scholars that have studied the subject.

    6) My opponent’s alternative are not evidenced anywhere. They are just unsubstantiated claims.

    There is zero evidence that someone stole or moved the body, and there is no historical evidence that Paul and James had delusions.

    And as stated before, the origin of the disciples’ sincere belief was not even addressed.

    7) So the hypothesis that Jesus was resurrected is far better supported by the facts and explains those facts far better than the alternative. Hence the resurrection is still on solid grounds.

  6. #6
    Roderick Usher
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    Re: Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    First off, I want to thank my opponent for the response.

    The challenges I pose at the bottom are major threats to my opponent’s arguments. They should be addressed, before I address his challenges; if his position is flawed, it is unnecessary to address the challenges.

    1. Excuse the redundancy, but a quick recap (this can be skipped):

    There are unexplained phenomena (the origin of the universe, how physical constants came to dominate nature, how lower level molecules became self-organizing, the hard problem of consciousness, the mind-body relationship, etc.)

    Leaps of faith (filling in the gaps):

    The atheist assumes that naturalism or physicalism will account for the unexplained phenomena.

    The deist (or theist) assumes that supernaturalism or divinity accounts for the unexplained phenomena.

    (Technically, these are both illogical. For the purposes of this debate, it’s inconsequential to address the ‘lesser of the evils’ issue.)

    2. Ok, now moving on:

    Since I’m assuming the position of logical agnosticism, any leap of faith is fallacious. So naturalism and supernaturalism are equally flawed in this respect. But suppose we grant the supernatural assumption, that supernaturalism accounts for certain unexplained phenomena (e.g. the aforementioned). Now, granting this premise obviously does not entail using supernaturalism to account for all unexplained phenomena, therefore, we have to discriminate between cases where we should assume the supernatural and cases where we should not. For example, it MAY be logical to assign a supernatural cause to origin of the universe, but it’s certainly NOT logical to assign a supernatural cause to account for a missing shoe. It’s obvious that we must discriminate. So, does the claim of a resurrection warrant supernaturalism? I would say that it does not, and the position that it does is untenable. Why? Let’s review the resurrection claim: we have an empty tomb, which is circumstantial evidence, and people attesting to seeing the Risen Christ, hearsay evidence. Now, there are innumerable claims in history which are (practically) ‘ontologically equivalent.’ Do I really have to reduce myself to pulling up other miracle claims in history? An ancient miracle worker produces a ball from his sleeve, whirls it around in front of an audience, then suddenly makes the ball disappear. The crowd looks everywhere for the ball and cannot find it. The ball is proclaimed missing. Suddenly, the ball appears again, and the people claim that the miracle worker used supernatural forces to bring it back into existence. Why would a person of the 21st century believe this claim? The circumstantial and hearsay evidence here is simply not enough to convince someone of the supernatural. For the 21st century person, the ancient miracle worker is simply a magician. To caution my opponent, I am NOT drawing parallels, or making an analogy - I am illustrating a PRINCIPLE, namely, that it’s logically untenable to believe in the resurrection based on very limited circumstantial evidence (an empty tomb AFTER AN EARTHQUAKE), and hearsay evidence of an ancient people (seeing the Risen Christ). (It is simply more plausible to believe that the earthquake killed the Roman guards and rolled the stone away, and, either Jesus’ body was either relocated by natural forces, or a follower moved the body after the earthquake. The sightings could be from someone mimicking Jesus, or are simply the delusions of Paul and James. Again, I DO NOT have to account for any of this - all I have to do is show that limited circumstantial and hearsay evidence are not adequate grounds for believing in a miracle, whether it is the resurrection, or making a ball disappear.) “But if the evidence in support of an explanatory hypothesis is strong, and there is no alternative hypothesis supported nearly as well, it is reasonable to believe it is probably true.” The belief in the resurrection is absolutely arbitrary. There is no reason to believe that this case was supernatural vs. the many other cases which produce ontologically equivalent evidence. Since it’s not logical to believe in the resurrection, my hypothesis is probably true.

    LOGICAL FLAWS:

    1. If one uses supernaturalism to defend the resurrection, one could use it to defend any miracle from the multitude of alleged historical miracles.

    2. If there are multiple miracle claims which are ontologically equivalent, which use the same basis of evidence, the belief in one over the other is arbitrary, and does not follow as a logical consequence.

    3. I could contrive a history of the same nature. If my contrived history produces the same evidence of supernaturalism as Christianity, why believe in one over the other? Does this not indicate a flaw in one’s logic? To support the claim of supernaturalism, there must be evidence that distinguishes it from contrivance. My opponent may retort, “any bit of history could be contrived - George Washington could be contrived.” But this is not only a historical claim - it’s a METAPHYSICAL claim!

    MY CHALLENGE is for my opponent to defend himself against these contentions.

    Some commentary:

    However, if Jesus was raised, and my opponent agrees that this would be a supernatural act, then it shows that God DID act out his will in this world!
    Of course, IF he was raised. The IF is what we are debating … You cannot use the belief in the supernatural or the limited circumstantial and hearsay evidence that history affords to validate this IF, the presumption of Jesus’ resurrection. If you did, you would validate the other miracles of contending religions which offer the same SORT of evidence.

    Again as Dawkins admits there are strong arguments for the existence of God and intelligent design.
    As usual, Richard Dawkins is being quoted out of context. He DOES NOT in ANY WAY support intelligent design. At best, he concedes to a possible pantheistic conception of God. The God of Einstein or Spinoza. Dawkins is unequivocal on this issue.


    The reason why we can discount the Salem witch trials is because the witnesses were proven to be unreliable and that there were other factors which lends itself to a natural explanation.
    We cannot know if James and Paul were reliable. I assume they are unreliable on the grounds I have provided. Why does my opponent assume they were reliable? He says it would behoove me to account for James and Paul’s sightings and conversions. Why? When I demonstrated that it is not logical to believe in the resurrection in the first place. I already defeated his position, why does he insist that I account for trivialities?
    Last edited by Roderick Usher; August 19th, 2011 at 11:06 PM. Reason: typo

  7. #7
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    Re: Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    Thanks again to my opponent for his response.

    However, there are a number of things that I would like to point out.

    Since I’m assuming the position of logical agnosticism, any leap of faith is fallacious.
    Logical agnosticism? Where on earth did that come from? Even here my opponent commits intellectual suicide. He doesn't see that his position is self refuting. To posit the existence of God, which my opponent grants is to posit a position of faith, the very thing that his supposed position finds fallacious! Likewise with athesim.

    Not only that but he refutes himself in the next paragraph!

    For example, it MAY be logical to assign a supernatural cause to origin of the universe..

    Why? Let’s review the resurrection claim: we have an empty tomb, which is circumstantial evidence, and people attesting to seeing the Risen Christ, hearsay evidence.
    Um, the claims of Paul and disciples are not hearsay. They themselves make the claim having seeing and experiencing the risen Jesus.

    (It is simply more plausible to believe that the earthquake killed the Roman guards and rolled the stone away, and, either Jesus’ body was either relocated by natural forces, or a follower moved the body after the earthquake. The sightings could be from someone mimicking Jesus, or are simply the delusions of Paul and James. Again, I DO NOT have to account for any of this - all I have to do is show that limited circumstantial and hearsay evidence are not adequate grounds for believing in a miracle, whether it is the resurrection, or making a ball disappear.)
    Again, according to historical methodology, which my opponent agreed was the best way to discover if the resurrection is probable or not, it is not enough just throw a haphazzard hypothesis and wipe one's hands clean. In order for it to be plausible, it has to be backed up by evidence. Even this was part of our agreement in the rules of the debate! So, yes, he does have to account for the facts.

    Each side will have to provide evidence for their position using established guidelines.
    My opponent gives the excuse that the guards were killed. Challenge to support a claim. Where is the historical evidence that the guards were killed?

    Someone moved the body. Challenge to support a claim. Where is the historical evidence that someone moved the body? Oh yes, now it is his followers that moved the bodies. However, if they moved the body, then they could not have been sincere in their belief that they had experienced the risen Jesus. Which my opponent accepts.

    Paul and James were simply delusional. Challenge to support a claim. Where is the historical evidence that they were delusional?

    Again, as pointed out, it is nothing more than ad hoc reasoning.

    I think my opponent knows that there is no historical evidence for any of these claims, so instead of abiding to the rules that he himself stated is the best way to see if the resurrection is probable or not:

    To begin … I think I agree with the aforementioned historical criterion, the two methodologies espoused by Carrier: the argument to the best explanation, and the argument from evidence.
    I also think that my opponent knows that the science argument is dead. He repeatedly stated that the "Laws of Physiology" state that dead must stay dead. However as he said:

    So, since I granted my opponent the existence of a deity
    If there is an omnipotent diety, as my opponent granted, then the "Laws of Physiology" argument is mute.

    I also stated that we should indeed look for naturalistic explanations first. I guess my opponent didn't read that part. However, if there is none to be had, then there is nothing from stopping the investigator, historical or otherwise, from proposing a supernatural cause. After all, even my opponent admits to the existence of a omnipotent God.

    Now my opponent, seeing that his arguments are either committing intellectual suicide, or are inferior to the resurrection hypothesis, now has to shift gears again and threaten to bring forth the dreaded "other miracles are just as good as the resurrection claim" argument.

    Is that a valid argument? No, and here is why. Not all claims to miracles are of equal value. Each should be evaluated. Not only that but one could even grant that the miracle claims from other religions are of the same value as those of Jesus, save one, the resurrection. On top of that, this argument does not refute those of Jesus! However, the resurrection is what seperates Jesus from others. Only Jesus, who made claims to deity, who claimed that the resurrection was the proof positive of who he claimed to be, is said to have been actually raised from the dead.

    1. If one uses supernaturalism to defend the resurrection, one could use it to defend any miracle from the multitude of alleged historical miracles.
    Absolutely false. All one would have to do is investigate each using the same guidlines. If there is an alternative that is better supported by evidence, and takes into account the facts better than a supernatural one, then one is indeed justified in not believing that the supernatural happened.


    2. If there are multiple miracle claims which are ontologically equivalent, which use the same basis of evidence, the belief in one over the other is arbitrary, and does not follow as a logical consequence.
    Again false. For example, the miracles accorded to Bhuddha doesn't appear in the texts until 600 years after he lived! Likewise, there is no known resurrection in any ancient religion that predate the New Testament times, they appear afterwards and are of weak historical value.

    3. I could contrive a history of the same nature.
    It is not enough just to contrive a story. Indeed, my opponent tried to do just that and I have challenged him to show the evidence for his contrived (that is what ad hoc reasoning is, a contrived story that try to fit the facts that is not implied by the evidence) story. He has none. It also fails to explain the facts of the case, that is why my opponent has to pile one theory on top of another.

    You cannot use the belief in the supernatural or the limited circumstantial and hearsay evidence that history affords to validate this IF, the presumption of Jesus’ resurrection. If you did, you would validate the other miracles of contending religions which offer the same SORT of evidence.
    Why not? Here is why this claim falls flat.
    1) My opponent admits to the existence of the supernatural.
    2) he admits that belief in the supernatural is reasonable.
    3) It certainly does not validate miracle claims of other religions, since each claim should be investigated independently to see if they do indeed have the same wieght and quality.
    4) Even if true, it does not deny the resurrection of Jesus.
    5) My opponent commits the logical fallacy of Special Pleading. He affords himself the existence of the supernatural for the origin of the universe (which is a far greater miracle!) and yet denies others the same right.
    6)This also commites the logical fallacy of Hasty Generalization.

    As for Dawkins, I merely brought him up to show that one cannot be biased against the supernatural a-priori as even he admits that there are strong arguments for God's existence. I never said that he was anything but a militant atheist.

    We cannot know if James and Paul were reliable. I assume they are unreliable on the grounds I have provided.
    Why can't we? On what historical grounds does my opponent disqualify Paul and James? All my opponent stated is that they were delusional. However, as I keep asking where is the e v i d e n c e for that claim? That's right, none to be had.

    Why does my opponent assume they were reliable?
    Really?
    1) it is a claim by an eyewitness (hence not hearsay).

    This is admitted to even by atheistic historian/philosopher Michael Martin. (see "The Case Against Christianity")

    2) The claim is early, near to the time of the alleged events.
    3) It is enemy attestation. Paul was an enemy of the Christians, therefore no motive to lie.
    4) Paul's testimony is verified by others, so his claims are also multiply attested to.
    5) There is no historical evidence to the contrary that would exclude him as trustowrthy.

    He says it would behoove me to account for James and Paul’s sightings and conversions. Why?
    Again, I guess my opponent wishes to either eschew the agreed upon methodology or just didn't read my last post. So I it reiterate it again.

    As he agreed, the appropriate method of deciding whether the Resurrection is probable is the historical methodology I outlined earlier. In order to see whether the resurrection is more probable than not historically, there must be competing theories. The theory that best explains the data is the one that probably occurred. So, yes, if my opponent wishes to deny the probability of the resurrection on historical grounds, using the accepted guidelines that historians use, then there must be competing theories. However, if my opponent wishes to abstain and refuse to provide an alternative account, then the resurrection hypothesis is the only theory on the table. Since it takes into account all of the facts, then according to the historical methodology that we agreed upon, the resurrection is probable.
    So, to recap:

    a) My opponent grants the existence of God. Therefore his appeal that "there is a supernatlural cause is untennable" is mute. As is the arguments that the so called "Laws of Physiology" state that dead men must stay dead.

    b) My opponent commites a host of logical fallacies (errors in reasoning) to which he admits.

    d) My opponent agrees that the best way to see if the resurrection is reasonable is by the methodology I had outlined (even though he never abides by them).

    e) My opponent agrees to the five facts that I have outlined above.

    f) What my opponent did put forth are not evidenced historically (the earthquake that killed the guards, someone moved the body, and that Paul and James were delusional). His rather weak hypothesis is rather ad hoc, since a single theory fails to account for the accepted facts, he has to contrive additional theories in order to account for the data.

    g) The resurrection hypothesis takes into account all of the accepted facts without the need for ad hoc reasoning, far better than what my opponent has put forth. Therefore, according to the agreed upon methodology, the resurrection is indeed the more probable explanation.
    Last edited by Bible Defender; August 21st, 2011 at 03:53 AM. Reason: type-o

  8. #8
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    Re: Is the Resurrection of Jesus Probable?

    I would like to thank my opponent for his efforts. I also would like to thank the moderators and the audience for taking the time to read this debate. However, I am closing this debate for the following reasons.

    One of the stipulations for the debate was a three day deadline. This is the second time that it has been violated.

    Also I do not think there is much more than can be added to this debate than my opponent has already put forth. My opponent seemed to be going all over the place. First, the laws of physiology (though I don't know of any laws of physiology) argument didn't work. Then it was the futile alternative explanation that was completely refuted. Now my opponent wants to try to bring up comparative religions argument? Even that is shown not to work. I don't think my opponent prepared well for this debate.

    1) My opponent conceeded the existence of an omnipotent God. However, since that is the case, then the argument that the laws of nature require that the dead must stay dead is refuted and dead. My opponent fails to realize that the laws of nature only describe what usually happens, not what must happen.

    2) My opponent, who agreed that the historical method is the best method to see if the resurrection is probable or not, simply refused to really engage using those same methods that he agreed to.

    3) My opponent has made numerous logical fallacies to which he admitted to.

    4) My opponent completely ignored my challenges.

    5) When my opponent did offer a weak alternative explanation, it was completely refuted by the facts.

    6) My opponent has not supplied any evidence for those assertions and had to rely upon ad hoc reasoning.

    7) My opponent agrees to the facts presented.

    8) According to the methodology that secular historians use, that my opponent agreed to, the resurrection explains all of the facts without ad hoc reasoning. Since that is the case, then the resurrection is what probably happened.

    Seeing that is the case, I do not see the need for further discussion, since these eight reasons are quite clear, and according to the rules, the deadline is again passed, I will end the debate here.

 

 

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