Learn how to defend the resurrection of Jesus

It’s Easter time (ok, a little past Easter at this point), and people are still talking about the event that defines Christianity. So what better time to brush up on the evidence for the resurrection?

Here are a few resources to help:

Audio resources:

  • Mike Licona vs Bart Eherman #1 on the topic “Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead?” MP3, Video
  • Mike Licona vs. Richard Carrier on the topic “On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ” MP3, Video
  • Mike Licona vs. Dan Barker on the topic “Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?” MP3, Video
  • Mike Licona vs. Ali Ataie on the topic “What Was the 1st Century Fate of Jesus?” MP3, Video
  • Mike Licona vs. Shabir Ally on the topic “Christianity and Islam – Did Jesus Rise?” MP3, Video
  • William Lane Craig vs. Bart Ehrman on the topic of the resurrection MP3, Video
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26 responses to “Learn how to defend the resurrection of Jesus

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  2. Wes, wouldn't people who don't already know this evidence cold not qualify as "true believers" and thusly, not be saved according to your views?

    • Well that really depends on a few factors…

      1.) Do they believe the resurrection of Jesus is objectively true? That is, do they think Jesus actually existed, claimed to be the promised messiah, died at the hands of the Romans, and subsequently resurrected? Not that they must be experts in these areas, but surely you would agree that one must posses at least a modicum of understanding in order to place your faith in it (even if what you understand turns out to be false).

      2.) Are they seeking and expecting to find answers per Matthew 7:7 and James 1:6-8? Or are they merely claiming to be Christians because it either works for them or makes them feel good for the moment?

      We can always tell the strength of a plant by how deep it's roots go and one thing I've come to conclude about people who claim to have been Christians at one point who have subsequently "de-converted" is that for the vast majority, the roots didn't run very deep to begin with.

      And 3.) (just because I have an affinity for triplets) Why does it really matter to someone who has subsequently de-converted? I mean, either God is real and exists or he doesn't. Either you were deceived then (and therefore I am by extension) or you are deceived now. You can't be a "true believer" in two mutually exclusive things for the simple fact that two mutually exclusive things can't be true at the same time anyway.

      Finally, it is not doubt, uncertainty, or lack of understanding that distinguishes a "true believer" from someone who isn't. It's how tenaciously they pursue the truth.

  3. What Bible verse(s) support your tenancity of truth-seeking as the gateway to heaven?

    And if tenacity of truth-seeking is what is important, how can a moral and just god punish people to eternal hell for genuinely seeking truth tencaiously but coming to the wrong conclusion?

    • In reverse order:
      "how can a moral and just god punish people to eternal hell for genuinely seeking truth tencaiously but coming to the wrong conclusion?"

      It's not merely "coming to the wrong conclusions". As Paul states in Romans 1, it is a suppression of knowledge. Here is a great resource (http://bit.ly/cmpk9O) for a more full exposition on the psychology of atheism in particular and unbelief in general.

      Now for the other (and larger) question regarding truth seeking as a means of salvation.

      First I would point towards the wisdom books of Scripture, including Ecclesiastes even though on the surface it might appear to be anti-intellectual with Soloman's constant "chasing after the wind". Primarily I would point to wisdom who, in Proverbs, is personified as a woman who, at the end of Proverbs, is seen building a splendid house. (For extra potency of theologically, contrast this picture of the house that wisdom builds and the houses the two men build in Jesus parable in Matthew 7:24-27

      From there I would move to the prophets who dispensed wisdom in the form of special revelation from God. You see, if we come to believe that a being greater than ourselves created the world around us then what could be more important than hearing what that God has to say?

      Finally I would point out that wisdom is eventually shown to be personified in the person of Jesus Christ as in John 14:6

      You see, wisdom does indeed save us because wisdom came and died for us on a cross. Yes, it was seen as foolishness to men (1 Corinthians 3:19, 1 Corinthians 2:14, 1 Corinthians 1:25, 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 1:21), mostly because we are accustomed to conquering as being confined to "power over" displays of authority whereas Jesus demonstrated a "power under" type of authority which alone has the power to transform not only people's behavior (James 2: 14-26).

      On the opposite end of the spectrum, foolishness is shown to not only cause great harm (Proverbs is rife with this sentiment) but it is not merely the lack of information. As I mentioned above in Romans 1 we are told that foolishness according to the Biblical principle is active rejection of what God has seen fit to reveal to us (and Romans shows us that even natural revelation is enough to depict a strong view of a deistic God).

  4. But do you deny, Wes, that it is possible that someone can earnestly seek the truth, not suppress knowledge, and still come to a sincere disbelief in the Christian God? Given how I think you will answer this, I will ask, how's life in Scotland with the rest of your true brethern?

    But if you will grant that it is possible, do you believe God is just and moral for damning these people to hell for eternity?

    • You are bound and determined to see me answer a question that is essentially on par with the question of "are you still beating your wife?" or "can God create a rock so big he can't move it?"

      In other words, your question is predicated upon premises that I don't accept at the outset, namely A.) that one can believe whatever they want and B.) in whatever way they want and still claim to be a Christian.

      Believe it or not, context matters and even though you seem to believe that faith is mere wish-fulfillment or an expression of preference or opinion (like which flavor of ice cream one prefers) the facts are that Christianity is unique in that it is based on a historical event which is testable and falsifiable so that a "true believer" is distinguished not by the intensity of their feelings or emotional fervor but by their acceptance as true the facts that Paul laid out in 1 Corinthians 15.

      The very fact that such beliefs are objective and based on a historical event precludes the "no true Scotsman" fallacy you eluded to in your post above.

      Now, to answer your question regarding whether it is possible for a person to "earnestly seek the truth, not suppress knowledge, and still come to a sincere disbelief in the Christian God". I think you are begging the question of how we would go about testing such a hypothesis since no two people are equal nor do they have the same psychological, intellectual, experiential, etc. makeup. In short, in order for your question to be valid we would need to presuppose that humans are borne with a neutral disposition towards God and/or the evidence set forth for us in creation.

      So I'm not quite sure how you would even begin to test your hypothesis (even in a thought experiment) and as such I'm inclined to think it is incoherent (along the lines of whether a square circle can exist).

      There may be objective facts, but there are no objective (in the strict sense of the word) people.

  5. But do you deny, Wes, that it is possible that someone can earnestly seek the truth, not suppress knowledge, and still come to a sincere disbelief in the Christian God? Given how I think you will answer this, I will ask, how's life in Scotland with the rest of your true brethern?

    But if you will grant that it is possible, do you believe God is just and moral for damning these people to hell for eternity?

  6. Wes, the fact you find my question to be akin to that of square circles reminds me why it's useless to debate you. You think the "proof" of Christianity is incontrovertible. A LOT of people don't and hence, don't believe in Christianity.

    I tell you now, that I saw a man wearing a red suit yesterday on the train. Do you believe it? It's either true or it isn't and you have the evidence I just provided. Is there only one right way for you to answer the question?

    Unless you can produce the incontrovertible evidence for Christianity, you're merely dodging the question to avoid exposing the blatant untenability of your position. It's quite simple.

    • There's a big difference between providing sufficient warrant for a belief and believing that evidence. It may come as a surprise to you but my it is not my job to convince you but merely present the evidence to you. As I have said elsewhere, it is between you and God as to whether you accept the evidence.

      To go back to what you said earlier, though: "A LOT of people don't and hence, don't believe in Christianity."

      What exactly do you think happened to Jesus around 30-33AD? What do you think is a more plausible explanation than the simple scenario that Jesus died and rose from the grave as he predicted and as the early Christians believed?

  7. I reject the premise that Jesus resurrected is a "simple" explanation. In fact, it's probably the most extraordinary claim ever made in history. The fact that you call it simple reveals your steeled bias and unability to look at the situation objectively. Would you require different levels of evidence to believe that there's a dog or a Abraham Lincoln in my yard? Why?

    • I've read the Bible cover to cover more than once. I've read all of the links you provided to "defend the resurrection". It all is quite simply, not convincing enough to believe that a dead person rose again to live. Because it doesn't happen. Anywhere else, anytime else, ever. It's a wild and crazy claim that would require much stronger evidence than has been put forth.

      Of course I could be wrong, I admit that. You can't even do that. My point is, I don't disbelieve in Jesus because I want to live a life of sin, am mad at God, or any other nonsensical and unwarranted motivation you may want to ascribe to me to make your worldview fit. I simply don't believe it.

      If that means I have a ticket to suffer eternal damnation then while you may be right about the facts of how I am to be saved, it reveals what an utterly morally repugnant being your creator is.

  8. One can't will themselves to believe anything. Beliefs form based on information. This statement, "I've read all of the links you provided to "defend the resurrection". It all is quite simply, not convincing enough to believe that a dead person rose again to live. Because it doesn't happen. Anywhere else, anytime else, ever.," tells me that a priori you sir rule out the supernatural and therfore no amount of evidence, argument, or information will be allowed to persuade you of the claim, "Jesus was raised". In the post Bacon, Decartes world of certainty you will be frustrated if that is what you seek. Not sure anything beyond math will meet this level.

  9. Youknow: "beliefs form based on information", but not necessarily on the evidence. Most "born-again" christians (I was one, and a missionary, for 46 years), become so through submitting to an invitation through a sermon or testimony, through an emotional response, or something similar. Very, very few do so through a thorough examination of all historical/scientific evidence, and rational thinking.

    Most born-again christians who de-convert (and there many of us out here) do so, reluctantly, through a careful, slow, deliberate examination of the evidence: if you study the process of the formation of the N.T. canon, you will soon realize that if Jesus did exist, he certainly was not the man described in the gospels, and John in particular. Read some of Bart Ehrman's works, for an intro. Above all, do not be afraid of questioning and inquiring . . . do you think a real deity would send you to eternal torture for using the thinking ability in your brain? If you say it is wrong to rely on the certainty of evidence in order to justify faith, then your christianity is no more capable of being verified than Islam, or Judaism, or Hinduism, or Scientology. If I cannot rely on verifiable evidence, then why shouldn't I choose a religion other than yours? Or better yet, none at all?

    • I always find it strange when Bart Eherman is cited as a reason someone thinks the biblical account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is inaccurate since, in both debates as well as in the Q&A session after a non-hostile lecture Eherman has freely admitted that the gospel accounts are the best evidence we have of knowing about Jesus.

      As for a deity sending anyone to hell for honest inquiry. Where do you get that notion? It is actually God who invites us, in Scripture, to examine and weigh the evidence. The problem is not that we lack the warrant to form a sufficient belief that Jesus lived, taught, died, and rose again. the problem is that we refuse to believe the evidence for the resurrection and, as Eherman aptly demonstrates, prefer instead to believe whatever the closes story, no matter how wild, evidenced, or illogical, it is which allows us to avoid the conclusion that Jesus is who he claimed to be and came to do what he claimed to do.

      • Still tooting the "willful rejection" horn, eh Wes. It's ironic, of course, because you continually willfully reject the honest testimony of real people that they simply don't believe based on the evidence.

        • It takes almost nothing to say \”I don\’t believe your evidence\” but its wholly different to 1. disprove the evidence presented and 2. present an alternative case which presents a more plausible explanation of the events in question. From all that I\’ve seen, the best a non-Christian (particularly a secularist) can do is say they refuse to accept the evidence presented because it points towards a metaphysical conclusion which they reject a-priori (in the secularist\’s case, thats because naturalism is their overriding world-view).

          So yes, I will continue to tout \”willful rejection\” until 1. the current evidence can be refuted without smuggling in a hidden premise of naturalism and 2. a plausible alternative explanation which adequately accounts for all of the available data can be proposed and sustained.

          Until that time, I will continue to consider rejections of Christianity to be the same as rejections of any other sufficiently established fact.

          • It is clear you don't understand how evaluation of evidence and subsequent belief-formation are supposed to happen.

            "Until that time, I will continue to consider rejections of Christianity to be the same as rejections of any other sufficiently established fact."

            This is truly hilarious and reminds me why you can't argue with someone who only brings dogma and a vicious protective streak to the table.

          • I've outlined clearly how I believe beliefs are formed, perhaps it would aid our understanding of one another if you were to take some time and outline what you believe is the correct model of belief formation and how one can go from belief to knowledge regarding any given proposition.

          • "Until that time, I will continue to consider rejections of Christianity to be the same as rejections of any other sufficiently established fact."

            Au contraire, Wes: my rejection of Christianity is exactly the same as my rejection of Islam and Mormonism, not one whit different. So what if Jesus was an historical figure? So was Muhammed, and so was Joseph Smith. It isn't their existence we reject, it is the extraordinary claims they made, or that their followers made on their behalf. You can no more verify or validate those claims than you can, say, your great-grandfather had dinner with aliens from Jupiter. You simply cannot subject the existence of heaven, hell, or salvation through accepting Jesus as Lord, to any kind verification process, and make it a "sufficiently established fact" (your words).

            Millions of Mormons sincerely believe they are right and you are wrong. You and millions of your fellow christians believe that they are right, and mormons are wrong. Until either of you can present valid proof that your claims are true, it's all just in your heads.

          • "my rejection of Christianity is exactly the same as my rejection of Islam and Mormonism, not one whit different."

            Since you lump them all into one category it is fairly easy to see how and why you would reject them all. From a naturalist perspective, if one makes a truth claim which leads towards or otherwise includes supernatural elements then it is rejected out of hand.

            "You can no more verify or validate those claims than you can, say, your great-grandfather had dinner with aliens from Jupiter."

            You are smuggling in a hidden premise here and you really should be more honest with yourself and others if you are serious about having a productive dialog. The premise is that only thing which are verifiable ought to be believed. However when put in those terms we can turn the statement around on itself and ask "does that statement meet it's own criteria?" The answer is no, it is self-refuting.

            The truth is that we can and do regularly do conclude propositions are true (ie. "sufficiently established facts") even when there is no chance they can be verified (even facts about metaphysical entities such as logic and mathematics). And if you were to apply an honest historical test for truth to the bible you would be forced, if you were being honest that is, to conclude that it meets and exceeds the historical tests for truth we've set for all kinds of other historical events we claim to have knowledge about.

            "Millions of Mormons sincerely believe they are right and you are wrong."
            I was not aware truth was up for a vote. This is another logical fallacy wherein you seem to be asserting that the evidence if different conclusions on a given piece of data has any bearing whatsoever on the actual truth claim of that data or whether it is possible for anyone to form true beliefs in regards to the data. I know this is a popular argument but it really is quite superficial. Come on, I know you can do better than that.

  10. Trouble is, Wes, that you put the claims of Christianity in the same realm as "sufficiently established fact".

    All I am saying is that you can't put the claims of Christianity in that realm. It may be "sufficiently established fact" for you and most other Christians, but it doesn't meet the criteria for anyone who isn't a Christian, nor does any religious claim. I live in the real world, where scientists have defined the operations and laws of natural science, including brain science and neurology. When you try to put religious claims to that kind of observation and verification, it fails miserably. You can say "la, la, la, la, la" with your fingers in your ears all you like, but it doesn't change the vast gap between religious claims and observation of the real, physical universe around you.

    • And by saying that, I don't say that religious beliefs don't meet a certain need. I respect that some individuals embrace religion and it's claims. What I object to is those same people saying to us non-religious people that it is necessary and/or obvious that we should believe in your religion, not only because it is "sufficiently established fact", but that your particular religion is the only one worthy of believing in. You cross the line in credibility when you do that, and prove to us that there is no objectivity in your approach.

    • Ah, but you see that is the crux of the matter. Your claim that "you can't put the claims of Christianity in that realm" is only valid if you import the hidden premise of naturalism.

      Further, if something is a "sufficiently established fact" it is so for everyone at all times everywhere whether they like it or not, whether they agree with it or not.

      "I live in the real world" …as do I… "where scientists have defined the operations and laws of natural science" scientists defined that you say? Interesting…

      "When you try to put religious claims to that kind of observation and verification, it fails miserably."

      Yes, when you attempt to measure something using the wrong scale and instruments you will not get a correct answer. This comes to no suprise but it does beg the question of why you are using the wrong instruments.

      "You can say "la, la, la, la, la" with your fingers in your ears all you like, but it doesn't change the vast gap between religious claims and observation of the real, physical universe around you."

      What "vast gaps" are you referring to? You see, you keep making that claim and failing or refusing to substantiate it. Makes me wonder whether you are serious about having an intellectually honest examination of a serious nature or whether your aim is merely to toss about poor rhetoric.

  11. Pardon my language, Wes, but that's bullshit. I was a born-again, soul-winning, praisin', Bible-thumpin' christian for 46 years. I DID NOT, repeat NOT, de-convert so I could fornicate and sin. You apparently assume I'm lying when in an earlier comment I said that most de-converts do so because of examining the evidence, not because they want escape a god who watches their behavior. Most de-converts I know are even more moral than when they believed. All kinds of statistics (divorce rate, prison population) bear this out.

    This will be my last comment. As Lance Dance says above, I simply cannot answer a fool according to his stupidity.

    • I find it interesting that you claim to have been "a born-again, soul-winning, praisin', Bible-thumpin' christian for 46 years" and yet you either do not understand the arguments for Christianity or else you deliberately misrepresent them if you do understand them. Either way, I find it very hard to believe that your supposed belief was based on anything more substantive than raw emotions. It certainly was not based on a cognitive understanding of Jesus as a real person who performed real miracles in space in time, who died and who rose again from the grave. Why do I say this? Because you have yet to demonstrate how A. the claims of Christianity are objectively false (other than dismissing them a-priori out of a prior commitment to philosophical naturalism) or B. offer any competing scenario which adequately accounts for the collected evidence that even Bart Eherman admits is the best we have when examining the life of Jesus. The best Eherman can do, as is evidenced in his debates is offer speculation and chronic doubt, hardly worth forming any worldview on.

      "You apparently assume I'm lying when in an earlier comment I said that most de-converts do so because of examining the evidence"

      I don't assume, your lack or refusal to adequately understand or represent the objective truth claims made by the gospel writers speaks for itself. Actually, the second part of your statement really sums it up
      "not because they want escape a god who watches their behavior"

      Like I said, you want to be your own god and do things your way. It has little to do with any evidence whatsoever as you are bound and determined to view yourself as your own ultimate authority. While that may sound good to a rebellious heart, the sad reality is that if you are the ultimate authority in your universe, then there is no one who can or will save you.

      "Most de-converts I know are even more moral than when they believed. All kinds of statistics (divorce rate, prison population) bear this out. "

      That is really more so a testimony to their being crappy Christians than it is a detriment to Christianity. Moreover, and I'll ask this yet again, what do the actions of others have to do with the objective truth claims? I really wish you and your non-Christian friends would stop and address this red herring you seem to be compelled to drag across the trail here. At the end of the day your struggle is not with the actions of the followers of Christ, your struggle is with Christ Himself and the objective truth of his life, death, and resurrection.

      "I simply cannot answer a fool according to his stupidity."
      Indeed, the fool is the one who says in their heart that there is no God, then refuses to acknowledge any and all evidence to the contrary.

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