- Religion and Philosophy
The Empty Tomb and Resurrection
When it comes to apologetics most theistic arguments are designed to show that it is reasonable to accept the existence of some sort of supernatural force or deity on the basis of logic. The vast majority of these arguments, if we first assume that they are valid, succeed only in establishing a deistic God or a general monotheistic one and do not address the issue of which religion, if any, is the correct one.
In this hub however I hope to look at what Christian apologists, particularly those like Doctor William Lane Craig and Lee Strobel, do after they believe they have established God to exist. How do they make the leap from just a God existing to it being the God of the Bible. One of the main arguments offered is typically one in favor of the Resurrection of Jesus.
The Fantastic Four Facts
In Craig's typical pro-Resurrection argument he lays out four facts about the death of Jesus that he claims MUST be adequately explained by any naturalistic hypothesis attempting to explain away the miracle. This claim is, of course, a shifting of the burden of proof as the lack of a mundane explanation is not an admission that a miracle is possible, likely, or evident.
These four facts he lays out are the burial of Jesus, the empty tomb, the multiple sightings of Jesus and the fact that the belief in a Resurrection existed so strongly even among disciples who witnessed Jesus' death.
Of course there are any number of naturalistic and completely ordinary explanations for these facts that have no inkling of the supernatural in them. Each of the four facts could be tackled individually and this divide and conquer tactic is usually where most debaters go when they are dealing with Craig. This is a mistake, however, as Craig is quick to explain his downright bizarre belief that any good explanation must account for ALL of the facts surrounding Jesus' death.
Craig argues that because the Resurrection explains all the facts it possesses what he calls explanatory scope and explanatory power and that competing hypotheses must possess these.
Do You Believe in Magic?
The stupidity of this line of reasoning is obvious because no naturalistic hypotheses can ever trump MAGIC in terms of explanatory scope and power. Take any natural phenomenon that we DO have an explanation for, rainbows, lightning, disease, etc. All of these phenomenon were once explained by magic, miracles, curses and demons, etc.
The supernatural is the end-all-be-all of explanatory scope and explanatory power but Craig seems to think this is a strong point of his argument when actually it's among the dumbest things he argues. However there is a good reason why Craig makes these pathetic attempts, because if he did not he would fall subject to Hume's arguments about miracles. Miracles are the least probable type of event to actually occur so even if we allow the idea that they do occur they would still be ruled out in almost any and all scenarios.
Since folks like Strobel and Craig have no actual evidence of the Resurrection as such evidence, if it did exist, would be lost to history they must rely on making it seem historically plausible. So they prop up this magical explanation as having the most explanatory scope and power.
In a debate with Biblical scholar Bart Ehrman Craig lays out the idea that in order to believe Jesus was raised from the dead by God the only extra step one needs is the existence of God. Craig is apparently an idiot as he is ignoring the many MANY steps it would take to get from the existence of a GOD in general to the existence of a God that gave a shit about Earth and human life, was capable of miracles, was aware of Jesus' existence, granted Jesus miraculous powers and brought him back to life.
Reductio Ad Aliens
The main reason this hub exists is to propose my own argument about what really happened at the Resurrection. However this argument is not meant to be taken seriously but is simply a Reductio Ad Absurdum pointing out how fucking stupid it is to care less about what's likely, plausible and evident than you do about explanatory scope and power.
So what really happened? The answer is that Jesus, dead by our standards, was brought back to life by advanced alien technology and later ascended into Heaven via an alien tractor beam. Remember that what Craig has argued is that a naturalistic hypothesis competing with his own must possess the explanatory scope and power to explain the four facts that he established about Jesus death. Not only does extraterrestrial intervention explain the Resurrection but it explains the rest of the Gospels as well.
Mary is impregnated by an alien who she mistakes for an angel, she gives birth to a human-alien hybrid with strange miraculous abilities. Hell even the MISSING YEARS of Jesus' life, the subject of a great deal of myth, legend and speculation among Christians and non-Christians alike, are explained by him being abducted by aliens. Jesus is returned to Earth to begin his ministry, he performs miracles believing his alien Father is actually God.
After his death the aliens simply use their advanced tech to bring him back to life, his post-Resurrection appearances are therefore real but not supernatural and his ascension into the sky makes sense as him being re-abducted promising to one day return.
The entire story of Jesus can be put under the umbrella of aliens because just like magic, God and miracles aliens are mysterious, misunderstood and have tech that can break all the rules of physics that we currently are having trouble understanding. The alien Jesus hypothesis has all this “explanatory scope” and “explanatory power” without TECHNICALLY being miraculous or supernatural.
The Lost Tomb
For me the most striking thing about how much apologists blab on and on about the empty tomb is how missing the tomb still is. Of course there are numerous tourist traps in Israel masquerading as the tomb of Jesus but archeologists have had a hard time finding any evidence that Jesus ever existed. It seems that despite being the location of the most pivotal miracle of Christianity the earliest Christians forgot where it was or didn't bother to pass on that information.
All we have to establish the existence of the empty tomb is the same story it originates from, the Gospel story, the Gospels themselves vary wildly in many many details sometimes to the point of directly contradicting each other. While most historians do not doubt that the Jesus story is based on some sort of real historical person its hard to get from, “someone named Jesus existed and was the basis for these stories” to “these stories really happened” especially when we're dealing with miracles and magic.
Obviously I don't believe the explanation for the Jesus story is really extraterrestrial rather I think it's a far more ordinary story. The tale of an apocalyptic prophet who went from town to town allegedly performing miracles, later the story becomes a vessel for mythmaking, aggrandizing a fairly ordinary man who managed to foul up his relationship with the occupying Romans and the religious establishment and got killed for his trouble.
During my exodus from Christianity it became apparent to me how empty faith in the supernatural really is and how little it matters whether Jesus was God or not. In fact as I began to doubt my faith those years ago it became obvious to me that Jesus meant more if he was just a man trying to show us a better way to live together than if he was a pompous God satisfying some bizarre blood-spilling ritual by sacrificing himself to himself. The real reason the tomb is empty is because we have no idea who the real Jesus was and thus in our ignorance how can we really call the idea of him being God reasonable? Is it impossible? No – but Craig and his fellow apologists insist it is the most reasonable explanation.
Who was Jesus? Mere man? Mere Myth? Messiah? We may never know and there simply isn't enough evidence to reach an absolutely certain conclusion. I do, however, think there is enough evidence to reach a tentative conclusion that Jesus is not who he has been made out to be in the centuries after his death. It seems clear to me after years of argument, research and spiritual searching that Jesus is not what Christians teach he is and doesn't do the things they claim he does.
It also seems clear to me that apologists and theologians like Craig are preaching to the choir rather than attempting to sway agnostics and atheists. They seek to reassure believers who are having doubts about the intellectual validity of their beliefs and the unconvincing nature of their arguments is evidence of that. Invoking half-assed mathematical formulas and notions of explanatory scope and power to smooth over the flawed and absurd assertion that a miraculous resurrection is the best explanation for a 2000 year old set of facts the only basis for which are pro-Christian sources canonical and otherwise.
Thanks for reading!