Posted: Sep 08, 2013 10:16 pm
by willhud9
I thank Byron on his counter-argument post as it is well written and knowledgeable.

My rebuttal:

My opponent starts off his post with a very good quote by MacCulloch in which it states that the resurrection cannot be authenticated and this is true....from a sole empirical perspective. But as I have demonstrated earlier, miracles are not necessarily empirical, but not being empirical does not correlate with being irrational. Things can be subjective and not based around empirical observation, and can still be consider rational. It is completely rational to feel worthless if your significant other was found in an affair despite there being no empirical observation that a feeling of worthlessness is rational since it is a feeling and thus subjective to observation.

Historians do their job well, but in the post-enlightenment era we have become bogged down with ultra skepticism that we dismiss, without a thought, claims of the supernatural. Now that I do find irrational. There is a difference between being skeptical of miracles and flat out dismissing them as non-existent. On one hand, a historian who says the resurrection could possibly have happened, but is extremely unlikely if impossible, has more credit from a rational perspective than one who denies the resurrection solely because it is a miracle. It goes back to my post on miracles; they work on the fundamental levels of nature and seemingly breach the rules/laws of nature, but are instead flowing along the lines of quantum mechanics and uncertainty.

So the historicity of the resurrection, can it be proven to be historically true? Yes, through documentation of Paul, the gospels, etc. Can it be empirically proven? No, but again it does not need to be empirically proven to be rational.

So my opponent continues with a reply in regards to faith over evidence. And in many regards the Christian's answer is faith. But that is what I am trying to explain. Faith does not correlate with irrationality. The Christian believes in the resurrection, yes because of faith, but that faith is one built upon trustworthiness and confidence in the promise of God. It is not blind faith which accepts anything at face value. While the concept of miracles cannot be empirically proven, and so neither can the resurrection, it can be rationally defended.

My opponent than makes a mistake in assuming what apologetics is. The Bible and through the ages, apologetics was simply a defense to rationally defend your faith. It was not to convert anyone, but rather was to keep a person grounded in both rationality (Thomas Aquinas and other scholastics viewed rationality as a high virtue) and faith. Again through the history of the church, rationality and faith were regarded side by side, and never juxtaposed to each other.

The apologetics of the resurrection are not appeals to naturalism as my opponent describes, but rather are a reliance on historical documents, and historical understanding to make a conclusion built upon available evidence. It does not remove the concept of faith, and does not try to deal with the scientific explanations of how the resurrection happened, but it does make the case that the resurrection was widely believed to be literal fact and not just a spiritual resurrection, but a bodily one at that.

Christianity is anything but arguing over naturalistic foundations. Instead Christianity is relying on what it has to be able to defend one's faith as rational. And the resurrection and its defense is rational, as I demonstrated above in my argument post.

So with my opponent's introduction out of the way, I move on to his core argument.

My opponent starts off with a lot of assumptions that many modern day historians make in regards to the reality of the resurrection. He goes through a list of popular attributes of the character of Jesus, discusses the imminent eschatology that Jesus preached and insists that only by the theology of the resurrection does Christ's death make any sense to their worldview.

My response to that: what?

First of all, even if Jesus was simply an apocalyptic preacher from the first century, if he was killed, sure his teachings could probably survive in some Judaic rabbinical sect, but there is no reason to believe that a massive following would amass around the disciples of Jesus that would continue to grow exponentially over the years. Sure the disciples and later Paul definitely had conviction, but not only did the Roman world oppose them, but even the Jewish world opposed them. Making up a resurrection story makes no sense in the worldview of the early church and again there are several problems with this. EP Sanders writes that if the resurrection account was simply made up, you'd expect a more cohesive narrative. Now Sanders was not arguing for the resurrection, simply stating that those who argue a Jesus myth and the resurrection was completely made up, based around older folklore have an error in their logic.

Well I am applying Sanders logic right back at him. The resurrection account would indeed be varied, if multiple people had different resurrection experiences and recorded those accordingly. But if it was a made up event, the Christian church could easily have settled with one Easter story instead of 4, similar but unique stories. As I argued, the similarities are what give credence to their likelihood, but their uniqueness also gives credence to their authenticity.

My opponent than claims that psycho-analysis is impossible from this time difference and I disagree. By archaeology we can learn a lot about a person's customs. The Gospels give excellent insight into the disciples thoughts surrounding the resurrection, fear and awe. Furthermore, arguing along the lines of a massive delusion from not only the disciples, but Paul, and the multitude Paul mentions in Corinthians 15, is insane. Of course Paul, could have been lying, but we have no evidence or reason to suspect he was. A massive delusion that size is highly improbable. Of course maybe Jesus didn't reveal himself to Paul at all? True, but again it relies on what ifs and the assumption that Paul made it up. EP Sanders even agrees that he had a resurrection experience, but remains uncertain about the event which caused the experience. Again, skepticism and agnosticism are not irrational, or even wrong, but making the conclusion based around the textual evidence, is not irrational, but rather is a step built around a set of premises which are found to be correct.

The next point is in regards to the beliefs of the Jews concerning general vs. specific resurrection. While, true, Jews were torn on whether or not it would be a resurrection for all of Israel or the redeemed, this by any means is not a major factor in Paul's preaching on the resurrection, in fact he reconciles the two viewpoints. Resurrection is both specific (i.e. you die to yourself and are reborn in Christ) and general (one day there will be a massive resurrection of those who are sleeping and those who are awake). It is true that Paul does not see the resurrection as a unique event, and likewise it shouldn't be treated as such from a Christian perspective. After all, when a person comes to Christ, they are being "born again" or "resurrecting."

My opponent than makes the flawed apocalyptic prophesy argument (which shall be one of the topics I address in my final post in regards to heaven, hell, salvation, etc.) in that Christ and Paul passed away and yet the new eschatology has not occurred yet. Well as NT Wright will argue, that is flawed. The new eschatology started with Christ's resurrection and the world is currently resurrecting until a day when Christ returns. This is not extrabiblical or formulated by the forged letters of Peter, or the Gospel of John. This is called inaugurated eschatology. I will not go into much detail here, but suffice to say, the eschatology that Christ preached began with his death, and resurrection and continues within the church into modern times.

As for the transformation of the resurrection and the events leading up to it being morphed into a theological framework, all of that information comes from Paul, who writes that sin is death, but life is a free gift given by God through Jesus. The redemption and blood spilling is present due to the Jewish theological background, but this by no means reduces the rationality of the resurrection event. It shows the context, from the spiritual aspect of it.

My opponent than continues onwards to his second part in which he states that the resurrection is irrational. He begins by stating that the early Christians forced facts to fit their views and that Jesus' death would not stop their goals. What goals? To follow Jesus? He was shown to be a fraud, not the Messiah by his death, why believe in a failure? Unless either they had a larger plan to create a new religious system (unlikely and without evidence), they were heavily deluded (again a delusion that wide spread is unlikely) or they witnessed a resurrection event. Not saying it necessarily happened, but I am going with the EP Sanders quote, they had a resurrection experience.

Furthermore, my opponent seeks to discredit the rationality of the resurrection by the spiritual appeals of the hope it gives them. He argues along the lines of, "Christians cannot be faced with the reality of the resurrection, so they stick with metaphorical or spiritual reasons." Not necessarily making them irrational, but Byron fails to explain that it is not irrational to follow textual information and make firm conclusions based upon the following of available evidence and there is sufficient evidence to support the resurrection. It is this type of apologetics which Byron accused of being naturalism, but it is still based around faith, but a trustworthy concept, not blind faith.

Finally, Byron makes an appeal to incredulity by stating that Christians, mainly orthodox Christians, get offended when their concept of a prayer-answering God in the form of a literal resurrection is questioned. This may be true, but this does not answer the challenge of Christianity being irrational. People can be irrational about a wide assortment of things. I know people who are irrational about fitness, to the point where they do more harm to their body than good. But just because people can be irrational does not mean the core beliefs, or ideology of the people is. Fitness is good for you and is indeed rational to be fit. Christianity can indeed be rationally defended, and so the resurrection falls under that protection.

In my conclusion of my rebuttal, I strongly disagree with my opponent. If Christianity is nothing but a human construct that by its very nature it is based on irrational premise as Christianity is built around the resurrection. Making the resurrection a metaphor takes away the point of Christianity and fundamentally takes away the lessons of Paul. Again as Paul said, if Christ did not rise from the grave than faith is for naught.

But my opponent states that the hope the resurrection gives is passive and this is far from the truth as it could be. The thousands of people daily who pray, live, and respond within the Christian faith is testament to the fact that the hope of the resurrection, a literal resurrection, is very much active and a key component to the survival of Christianity. It is a message of redemption, justification, and salvation.

I thank Byron for his post, and await his post of rebuttal.

My next post will be on the reliability of Scriptures. Thanks!