Hi, friends! Last week we discussed why the minimal facts surrounding the death of Jesus are inadequate in concluding a resurrection, especially given the more probable natural explanations. Today, we'll cover the next two chapters of Natasha Crain's Keeping Your Kids on God's Side:
Chapter 23: "Why do Christians believe a supernatural resurrection best explains the facts?"
Answer: It's called childhood indoctrination.
Chapter 24: "How can Christians believe miracles are even possible?"
Answer: Again, we can thank childhood indoctrination with a specific bias towards acceptance of miracles within their own belief system.
I suppose we should delve a little deeper; but seriously, it pretty much boils down to indoctrination and a lack of critical thinking skills in regard to one's own religious preference. I should know. Both answers directly applied to me and quite possibly to any former Christian who now identifies as an atheist. Any rationality that I could utilize in evaluating other religions, I absolutely could not redirect towards my own. Why? Because the two people that I trusted the most during my developmental years, who directed my thoughts and my actions as a youngster, presented Christianity as the one true religion. I was taught from the very earliest age possible that a man who had been dead for three days rose to life again and then flew up into Heaven. For the trusting child, that deals a serious blow to any future critical thinking skills. As the Jesuit maxim goes, "Give me the child until he is seven, and I’ll give you the man.” Of course, Natasha acknowledges that both Christians and nonbelievers alike agree "that dead people don't come back to life...naturally." But if God exists...well, anything is possible, right? Unfortunately, that's a big if that remains unestablished.
So, Natasha explains that Christian apologist "Michael Licona, in The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, outlines four key criteria used by historians to weigh hypotheses: explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, and less ad hoc." Let's briefly explore these criteria as they pertain to the resurrection.
1) Explanatory Scope: Recalling our four minimal facts (the crucifixion of Jesus, the postmortem appearance of Jesus to the disciples, and Paul's and James' change of heart), a "supernatural resurrection accounts for all of the facts." Of course, it does! But why jump to the least probable hypothesis (miracle claims will always be the least probable explanation) when natural explanations (visions/hallucinations and legendary development) are more than sufficient?
2) Explanatory Power: This is basically a restating of the previous point, but with POWER! "A true resurrection not only explains all the facts, it explains them in a powerful way." I'm just not sure that using an ancient text as evidence for a miracle in which you'll base your entire life upon is such a good idea.
3) Plausibility: Yes, the resurrection is plausible if and only if you're already a Christian.
4) Less Ad Hoc: In other words, what hypothesis requires the least amount of presumptions? "The resurrection hypothesis requires only one additional assumption beyond the evidence from the four minimal historical facts: that God exists." No biggie, just one little unfalsifiable assumption.
Natasha concludes the chapter by stating that many people will reject the resurrection despite the historical evidence because of a "philosophical commitment to an atheistic worldview." Nope! How about a philosophical commitment to the truth based on the evidence that we have access to? Even if we could confirm every claim made regarding the resurrection, does that make the resurrection true? Do we have any physical evidence for the veracity of the resurrection? No.
Moving on to how Christians can even believe in the possibility of miracles, Natasha informs the reader that it's all about context. She explains, "Biblical miracles primarily occurred when God would have needed to authenticate His messengers and their message at key times in history." Thus, "there's good reason for believing that if God exists, and He wanted to reveal Himself to mankind, He would have used miracles in exactly the way we see." I'm pretty sure that statement could apply to any other religion that makes miracle claims, which is probably all of them.
If Allah exists, and he wanted to reveal himself to mankind, he would have used miracles in exactly the way we see.
If Vishnu exists, and he wanted to reveal himself...
The list could go on and on. Was I, as a Christian, willing to critically examine the miracle claims of other religions? Of course not. I didn't need to, since I had the one true religion.
Natasha closes out the chapter by reiterating why it's so important for Christian kids to understand the evidence for God and the reliability of the Bible. Oh, don't worry, Christian parents. If they trust you, they'll believe you, regardless of the evidence or lack thereof. If they don't, just throw a little hell in there for good measure.
I think this video (in particular, the first 2 minutes) offers a great segue between Christian miracles and biblical reliability, a topic we'll be discussing in Part 4 of Natasha's book, "Conversations About the Bible."