Resurrection Irrelevance

I often hear Christian arguments about how believing that Jesus died and rose from the dead is a rational thing to think. Or that there are some good reasons for thinking that it happened — and therefore, Jesus was who he said he was.

The argument usually goes something like, "the disciples willingly died for their belief in Jesus' physical resurrection, and they would be the ones to know if it were faked — and if they knew it was faked, why would the willingly die for a lie?"

The problems with this kind of reason are almost too numerous to count, but let's go through a few.

  1. What the "disciples" said and did (and even exactly who they were) in and around the time of Jesus' death is inconclusively verifiable.
  2. Assuming we can know what they said and did (which is the only possible thing that historical records could actually provide evidence for along these lines) - what they believed is completely unverifiable.
  3. Assuming that we do know what they said and what they did and what they believed (and that they 100% believed that Jesus died and resurrected) - whether Jesus actually died, came back from the dead a few days later is completely unverifiable. (Note that even somehow knowing that the disciples believed 100%, that does nothing to show THAT it is the case that it happened.)
  4. Assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, and believed (that Jesus died and physically resurrected), and that we could somehow KNOW that Jesus actually did die and resurrect - you're not even close to out of trouble.

So, assuming that we know what the disciples said, did, believed, and that we somehow also know that Jesus did in fact die and come back to life several days later - we are now, apparently, dealing with an "entirely foreign and alien event/being." This means we're at a dilemma.

The horn of the dilemma at this point becomes the following:

Either Jesus was supernatural and his death/resurrection were something that has never happened before, or since, and that Jesus must have some kind of power/ability that is not accessible to "ordinary humans"
- or not.

If you think not, then you're not likely a traditional Christian.

If so, then, by invoking the supernatural, all claims become much more difficult to pin down.

By what standard do we judge, trust, compare him to? How can we make even the most outrageous probabilistic claims about him?

For example, no one could persuasively argue, "Well, clearly, Jesus is a good person/being, that is to be trusted because during his life he didn't sin and he preached a good moral code." Because you can't continue with, "Because in all my dealings with creatures that have this kind of power, and inhabit a human body for this stretch of time have been truthful to me."

With nothing to compare these experiences and events with, one has NO BASIS for choosing:

Jesus is God-incarnate, died and rose on the 3rd day

over

Jesus was the manifestation of the mischievous God that created the universe to see how many people he could fool with a neat trick.

or, over

Jesus was a human body that was possessed by a spirit who is mostly bad, but over this spirit's life-span of 10,000 years, acting good in a human body for 33 years is an easy trick, plus, convincing people that your host body died and resurrected is child's play.

Let's take a step back in the argument. Everyone's in agreement that the best that we could have in this case is first hand testimony of the disciples that say that Jesus came back from the dead — even under the threat of their own death.

If you're fine with believing that spirits could possess people, then, you have to discount the disciples testimony as being anything special at all. The disciples could have been possessed by spirits that had their host bodies say these things. So if you think that the supernatural exists, then you ought to be even more skeptical of the testimony of a miracle than people who don't believe in the supernatural.

In other words, I don't think we have a good idea of anything that happened during Jesus' time on earth - especially not things we don't have any reference to.

So, we don't have a good idea of who the disciples were, or what they said, or did, and that even if we did have a good idea, that doesn't help us at all determine what happened with Jesus. Having the sworn testimony of a group of people who believe that a miracle occurred does not make the miracle's occurrence any more likely.

And the problem goes beyond that, even if I let you have it all the way through, sure, the miracle that supposedly happened, happened. And we're certain of that. What is the reasonable course of action once a person KNOWS that Jesus rose from the dead? Most people, even atheists I'd wager would say, "to believe in Jesus" - but that doesn't follow at all. There is no reasonable course of action because we're dealing with a completely incomparable situation.

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