Here's a post that has been brewing for quite a while and never really made it out.


Blake Giunta is up to his usual philosophizing over at BeliefMap with a short article on “Skeptics tend to underestimate the case”. The argument seems to fall into two parts. The first part quote two so-called atheists claiming that the case for the resurrection was surprisingly good or hard to refute, even if they do not find it personally compelling. The second part is a quote from William Lane Craig, strawmanning an argument he had with an atheist, and stating that his opponent “could not deny the facts of Jesus’s honorable burial, his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection.” Giunta ends with an invitation, “Why not explore the case for Jesus's resurrection yourself?”, perhaps getting closer to God in the process.

As someone who is skeptical of the resurrection myself, I am not particularly impressed when someone finds it “extremely difficult to deal with as a critic”. It really isn’t all that hard. So, the first part of the argument doesn’t hold much water - and I think it is probably a rare case that well-informed skeptics find it hard to dismiss the claims of the resurrection.

The argument

The strongest argument for resurrection definitely comes in the form that William Lane Craig proposes, sometimes referred to as the minimal facts approach. In this approach a core handful of claims are supposedly supported even by secular scholars, and that this core inevitably leads directly to supporting the resurrection. Different people have somewhat different lists of these minimal facts, but Craig summarizes them neatly as “Jesus’s honorable burial, his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection”. A complete take-down of this approach is found in Matthew Ferguson’s excellent article Knocking Out the Pillars of the “Minimal Facts” Apologetic.

As an immediate rejoinder to the minimal facts approach is the fact that Paul, the earliest Christian writer, doesn’t mention most of them - the honorable burial or the empty tomb. Paul also uses the same word for Jesus "appearing" to Peter and James as to "appearing" to himself, which calls into question whether these were actual visitations or just visions, clearly not requiring an empty tomb or any other details of the crucifixion. Further, Paul never talks about any post-resurrection stories, only visions. This, too, doesn’t lend any support to the minimal facts argument because a big part of the post-resurrection appearances are in the stories. If the stories aren’t true then the appearances are called into question too.

Another thing to consider is that if this line of logic were applied to, say, the Roswell Incident it would be quite easy to argue for alien visitation. Given the rarity of alien visitations, as well as supernatural resurrection, I will need more than a few claims about tombs and visions to convince me that something extraordinary occurred.