Sunday, September 25, 2005

Cases of Mythtaken Identity

Turns out that Odysseus may have been an actual historical figure, not just a character in Homer's Iliad. His likely tomb has been located in the village of Poros, on the Greek island of Kefalonia. And various details of Homer's account, such as the physical description of Odysseus's homeland, are supported by archaeological evidence.

Perhaps we should conclude from this evidence that Odysseus really was tormented by the sea-god Poseidon, that he blinded the cyclops Polyphemus, that the sorceress Circe turned his men into pigs, etc.

That, at least, is the logic of some Christians, who point to historical evidence about the life of Jesus to support their claim that he really was the son of God, that he walked on water, that he rose from the dead, and so on.


Over A. Barrel said...

You seem to be well-versed in Greek mythology, and to have acquired a lisp.

I suppose the point of your post is a good one: that there is little diffence between mythology and religion. So, do people use the word "mythology" to describe the false beliefs that they don't hold and usually deride, and "religion" to describe the false beliefs that they still hold and usually cherish and defend?

You make an even better point by bringing the popular idea of using archeological discoveries to bolster one's religious beliefs. This is an attempt to use the science of archeology to try to justify the false beliefs that one may hold. This is a little better, in my opinion, than seeing the image of the Virgin Mary in your breakfast toast and trying to sell it on Ebay. Well, since you are a good capitalist, you're probably all in favor of selling weird things on Ebay, but the lisp has got to go.

FatTriplet3 said...


If your skeptical, materialist worldview precluded the possibility of the 1855 World Fair in Paris would you believe it? Presumably not. If presented with evidence would you conclude that the evidence was fabricated? If presented with further evidence provided by disinterested, objective 3rd parties including diaries, news accounts, advertisements, signage and photographs would you resort to claiming conspiracy theories? Eventually, in the face of overwhelming evidence you would either relent to the evidence or be discredited as a fool.

Millions of Christians throughout the ages have been confronted with the inevitability of belief because they have concluded, despite their ardent wishes, that there was no plausible alternative explanation for the resurrection.

As an economist, you know that people respond to incentives. Have you ever applied your keen and penetrating mind to the question of the incentives before the disciples and apostles of Jesus, to the Romans and the Jews.

Clearly, the Jews and Romans were deeply incented to discredit this new and burgeoning religion. The simple production of the body of Christ would have killed it in its infancy.

Of course, the early believers would have been incented to hide the body only if their purpose had been to create a fraud. What would have incented them to do this? What would have incented them to fabricate a new religion? Was it fame, wealth, comfort and ease? They certainly failed miserably if so. In fact, under the threat and actual perpetration of torture, exile, ridicule and death, they would have been highly motivated to reveal the truth and the body of Christ. Instead, they all suffered brutal deaths believing that Christ had risen from the grave.

That great uber-skeptic, the Apostle Paul, actually made the audacious and imminently verifiable claim, after his conversion, in one of his letters to the church that over 500 witnesses to the risen Christ were still alive and could testify to what they had seen and heard.

If this is a conspiracy, it is the boldest, bravest, stupidest and most successful conspiracy in history. Alas, eventually you have to let the evidence, despite all presuppositions, speak for itself. I believe the only reasonable explanation for the evidence is that in fact, Christ was resurrected.

Coincidentally, 50 years ago, skeptics denied the existence of the old testament tribe called the Hittites. At the time, there was no evidence that they had ever existed. Today, you can study the Hittite language at Harvard. I wondered how the ancient Jews planted that evidence.

Glen, I love your blog. It is funny, provocative, insightful and engaging. I can imagine you do not want to engage in a debate about the historicity of the resurrection. If you like, you can consider me your token Christian friend and drop the issue. But give credit where credit is due. The faith of Christians is reasonable. Yeah a lot of us are wacky and weird. But we're not stupid.
Fat Triplet 3

Ben said...

Fattriplet I was wondering. Do you consider that Christanity is reasonable but that the dozens of other widespread (and conflicting) religions are just bold, brave, stupid and most successful conspiracies?

Ben said...

I have to point everyone to Lucretius who made a good case against religion before christianity even existed: On_the_nature_of_things
or the book

JB said...

Fattriplet, good comment

Glen- I greatly enjoy your blog, but I can see we disagree when it comes to questions of faith.

Ben- Considering that 4 relatively major religions depend on much of the same history (Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, Christianity) that seems to suggest right there, that one has to not so much discount the whole story, but rightly determine which one is true. But those differences in detail, make huge differences.
Want to know the biggest difference... one of those religions is a grace based religion that rejects legalism, the other 3 tell men, that...if they just eat of the apple, they will be like God.

Anywho, about the other 2 major religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, Buddhism itself, is more of a way of life than a traditional religion, and Hinduism also, is far more cultural maintained than for its truth. Higher caste Hindus have a vested interest in maintaining the system. Sure, the pope does too, but there's only one pope, unlike the significant numbers of upper caste Hindus.

Ananda said...

Words fail me in my attempt to say anything about comparing the 1855 World's Fair in Paris to the alleged resurrection of a dead person. "One of these things is not like the other..."

FatTriplet3 said...


Why do words fail you? If I had used an example that happened in 1355 would that have been different. How about ancient history. We know for example, that Socrates and Plato were real while we have no strong evidence that King Arthur is real. Really, I laid out a fairly simple challenge. If your presuppostions preclude the possibility of miracles and resurrection, and if your presuppostions are correct, you will have no problem explaining the origins of Christianity.

Ben, your point is a common logical fallacy related to arguments regarding faith. Your logic is that because competing religions have conflicting truth claims, they must all be false. It may be true that they are all false but the fact that these conflicts exist does not prove the argument.

It would be logical that for Christianity to be true above all other religions, the truth claims would have to unique. I believe that they in fact are unique.

As for Lucretius, I will check it out. Am I correct that his arguments would exclusively be philosophical? In other words, arguements from cosmology or teleology? I do not believe they would address my contention which is that Christianity is supported by historical evidence.

I always appreciate a civil dialogue.

Fat Triplet # 3

Ben said...

JB OOO I see THAT's the big difference! Its the grace! Instead of the "if they just eat of the apple, they will be like God" Thank you for explaining this in consice and objective words that make sense. Ah,and that makes me so sad your comment about the pope's loneliness.

Glen Whitman said...

Fattriplet -- You won't be a token Christian friend, because I have quite a lot already, not to mention Christian family members. But those friends and family members know I think their religious views are bogus!

The main point of this post was that evidence of one kind of event is not evidence of a completely different kind of event, even if those events are supposedly connected. The evidence that Odysseus existed is *not* evidence that Circe turned his men into pigs. The evidence that Jesus existed is *not* evidence that he walked on water. Etc.

I was not attempting to make a broader argument against Christianity (though I've certainly done that elsewhere). I was simply drawing attention to one fallacious kind of reasoning.

With regard to your incentives point, it's clearly true that people respond to incentives *as they see them*. Muslim martyrs, for instance, are apparently strongly motivated by their belief in an eternal reward for killing infidels. Their willingness to do so is evidence of their beliefs, but it is *not* evidence of the *correctness* of their beliefs. Likewise for the actions of the disciples and apostles of Christ.

Ben said...

"Your logic is that because competing religions have conflicting truth claims, they must all be false. It may be true that they are all false but the fact that these conflicts exist does not prove the argument."

No my logic is that they all manage to create evidence that is arguably as convincing as the evidence for Christianity. Even IF Christianity is _the most_ convincing one it does not make it true. The most convincing lie is still just a lie. There is a much simpler and believable explanation that religions are all just big ridiculous scams that have been kept alive through time because of blind followers and manipulative opportunists playing on people's needs for answers to the unanswerable.

Glen Whitman said...

Fattriplet -- I think you also misunderstand Ben's point. I don't think he was saying, "Religions contradict each other, therefore they're all wrong." He was responding to your claim that the success of Christianity means that it's either the truth or a massive conspiracy. He was pointing out that there are other successful religions -- notably Islam -- for which the very same argument could be made: it's either the truth or a massive conspiracy. So one way or another, we end up accepting some form of conspiracy (if we accept your reasoning).

My view is that no big conspiracy is required -- maybe no conspiracy at all. Someone steals a body, nobody finds it, believers start spreading the story, others repeat the story with embellishments, etc. And we needn't assume that everyone involved had the same motivations. Some might be true believers, others knowing perpetrators of fraud. To see how it might start, look at Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard founded it on a dare, but now it's taken on a life of its own, with many true believers in the fold.

Dave L said...

"I do not believe they would address my contention which is that Christianity is supported by historical evidence."

The comparison of the historical accuracy of Christianity to the 1855 World Fair isn't exactly a fair comparison. A couple of photographs would probably suffice for proof of the World Fair, compared to the almost complete lack of any mention of Jesus in any writings during his own lifetime. I think your Plato/Socrates comparison is a better analogy. However, as far as I know, there are no supernatural claims being made for those two, unlike Jesus. I sure would like to hear the evidence for the resurrection, to quote you, that has been 'provided by disinterested, objective 3rd parties'.

Once you allow for miracles and suspension of the laws of nature, how can you evaluate 'reasonably' between competing miraculous claims? There are Christians who don't think the resurrection was physical but refers to a spiritual resurrection. What is the evidence that they are wrong?

Jesus allegedly cured someone of a disease by driving the demons out and into some pigs. Is it 'reasonable' to believe that actually happened? I think that is purely a faith claim, and has little to do with reason. If you allow for demons and angels, there really is no reason not to allow for Cyclops. It makes perfect sense though if you take into account that people 2000 years ago didn't know of microorganisms and germs; disease was pretty much supernatural to them. Sure, demons could still be causing diseases today, but so could Zeus; how would/could you tell?

I thought I had read something to the extent that at least one of the gospels didn't even contain the resurrection story until a later version, but I'm not sure about that. Regardless, the evidence for the resurrection is, you have to admit, seriously lacking (which of course is entirely consistent with a religion based on faith. I have trouble understanding why some are looking for reason to buttress that faith; if you can believe it on reason, what's the role of faith?)

FatTriplet3 said...


Thanks for letting us have this discussion.

Tell me if this is a correct summary of your argument. You basically are arguing that

just because there is historical evidence that, for example, Jesus existed, it does not

follow that that those same arguments would lead someone to conclude that he walked on

water, healed the sick, and otherwise. I know I am just rephrasing what you said but I

believe that this is the essence of your argument.

In your two examples, both Mohammed and Hubbard claimed to recieve special knowledge that

was unverifiable by any third party. Mohammed went into a cave and recieved the word of

God, the Quran. No one could verify his claims. Therefore they could have been originated

without a conspiracy.

The Odyseus-Circe analogy is not equivalent to the Jesus-Resurrection. There

is no evidence that Circe turned Odysseus' men into pigs. I believe that the overwhelming

historical evidence is that the resurrection was a real event with multiple witnesses who

were willing to suffer and die for the belief that they had seen the risen Christ. That is

what I mean by the objective 3rd party. Hundreds were so convinced that they had spent time with the risen Christ that they were willing to suffer and die for that belief. You are making an a priori argument without reference to the evidence for or against.

You say, "Someone steals a body, nobody finds it, believers start spreading the story, others repeat the story with embellishments, etc." Who stole it? Why? How do they convince others? There were essentially three interested parties, the Romans, Jews and Jesus followers. The first two parties certainly would have wanted to produce a body, the latter died believing that they had seen the risen Christ. So what is your plausible, alternative explanation for the origins of the Church that coherently allows for a missing body, a large and sincere following, and opponents extremely motivated to squash this burgeoning religion.

For a great review of contemporary scholarship regarding the historicity of the resurrection click here:

Glen, thanks for letting me share my views. Very gracious of you. This will be my last post on your website. Sorry to take up your bandwidth. If others want to continue the discussion, I have crossposted my comments on my own website here:



FatTriplet3 said...

Sorry for the messed up formatting.

Over A. Barrel said...

I happen to be a lifelong atheist, but that is not stopping me from currently reading a small book entitled, "How to Know God." It is about the yoga aphorisms of an Indian swami named Patanjali who lived thousands of years ago. A lot of it has to do with becoming one with the Godhead within yourself through breathing techniques, meditation, and maintaining a positive & virtuous belief system. It is a very ascetic & non-materialistic way of life if adopted in the extreme. It is all seems very wise & philosophic and the "dogma" as it were, seems quite rational.

There is a part of me that wants to tear down people's belief system because what they believe is so blatantly false and has been the source of so much war & strife throughout history. Really, who wants to see the Mullahs in Iran with their fingers on the bomb? It gives me the creep that they may not care if this world is destroyed because there is going to be paradise after death anyway.

On the other hand, many people find happiness holding all kinds of kooky beliefs, and I've generally had little success in getting them to see things my way. Who am I to knock their success and happiness? If Linus wants to run around with a security blanket, is it for me to try to snatch it away from him? Then again, wouldn't it be better if Linus weren't so insecure and could face the world realistically and valiantly? A life without being able to stand on your own two feet and face the world with courage isn't a life much worth living.

Ben said...

OAB My quest isn't to convert people to atheism either. I'm not finished reading it yet but the Lucretius books I pointed to in a previous comment has a similar philosophy to yours I think. It's a fun read. I recommend it. It's interesting to see how people were debating the same issues about religion as today more than 2000 years ago.

sk said...

wow, this is an amazing string of comments--so many well thought-out posts. i'm glad i checked in and read them.

i do have to agree with fattriplet3 that the Odyseus-Circe analogy is not equivalent to the Jesus-Resurrection. There really was no real evidence that circe turned men into pigs--it's just mythology. On the other hand, there is a number of historical evidence as ft3 mentions which suggests the vieweing of resurrected Jesus and some of the miracles performed was real. Most people would not die for a big fat lie, even if it's to further a political/religious agenda: i do not have that much faith in men.
i guess you can argue and say the islamic fundamentalists do it all the time; but that's more of a cause of ideological/cultural brainwashing then allegiance to a belief/Jesus because of evidentiary material.

"Someone steals a body, nobody finds it, believers start spreading the story, others repeat the story with embellishments, etc."
That conspiracy theory about the disciples stealing the body is not as strong as people make it out to be. The stone that covered Jesus' tomb was no little stone. It was a gigantic boulder that needed several strong men to move. If in doubt, go look at some history books about the ancient tombs. There were all these Roman guards guarding the tomb. It is virtually impossible to move that tomb alone and without noise (some were as absurd to suggest mary magdalene moved it alone, or that Jesus just woke up and moved it. Remember, even if he were not really dead, he took a serious beating/flogging was tortured and there is no way he could have moved the stone himself and escaped in that condition--remember the visuals in "passion of the christ"? yeah, it's like that.) Even if several men moved the stone, don't you think one of the Roman guards would have noticed? The stone would make loud noises when moved. And don't tell me that the Roman guards were sleeping, and all of them at once? And wouldn't the noise woken up at least once of them? They are guards--sensitive sleepers. And if they were to have made mistakes like this, their necks would be on the line with no mercy. The authorities were not so forgiving back in the days. Also, the Roman guards were one of the best trained at the time, and the authorities would certainly assign the most competent of the guards to guard Jesus' tomb--remember he was a highly controversial figure and not just a nobody who died.
this is why i just don't buy the "the body was stolen and stories were embelished" theory. it's just not convincing enough.

Ananda said...

So, in other words, the "objective, disinterested 3rd parties" turn out to be Christian martyrs, and they were martyrs not because of "cultural/ideological brainwashing", which explains the behavior of all non-Christian religious martyrs, but because of "evidentiary belief". I suppose they too gained that belief from another set of "objective, disinterested 3rd [4th?] parties".

And then we get gems like "all these Roman guards guarding the tomb." Right. No doubt the evidence for a bunch of guards at a tomb is yet more ODTP (that's "objective, disinterested third parties"... clearly we need an acronym here).

Glen is being very nice, but the arguments being advanced by FatTriplet and others are just laughable. There's no other word for them. They do not deserve Glen's charity.

sk said...


yes, glen is charitable. but just because you disagree with others' comments doesn't make them laughable or illogical. they're just different theories being presented. and compared to some other sites i've seen where religion is debated uncivily, i think these comments are all very respectful and well thought-out.

FatTriplet3 said...

Just because that is what I meant in my original post by third party witness does not mean that there are no ancient documents by non-Christians that support the claim as well (which is what you seem to be asking). In fact there are quite a few both Roman and Jewish. For example, there are early Jewish polemics that contend that the tomb was in fact empty but they contend that body was stolen by the guards. In other words there is an acknowledgement of the problem of an empty tomb that needed to be explained. In a court of law, the exculpatory evidence of a hostile witness is considered extremely persuasive! (I could give about a dozen examples from the movies to illustrate this point).

Josephus, the great Jewish historian, wrote about the resurrection (although, in truth, the authenticity of this passage is debated by scholars).

Don't you find it amazing that Paul, in his epistle to the Church at Corinth (Ch 15) would make the imminently verifiable claim that over 500 witnesses to the risen Christ were still alive and could therefore verify Paul's his claim regarding the resurrection? People wanting to perpetrate a fraud usually do not invite that kind of thorough evaluation.

Thanks for listening,


Ben said...

What amanda is saying is that to us atheist your arguments aren't just illogical they are laughable, we are just being nice when we omit saying it. There are always huge gaping holes. for example:

"that Paul, in his epistle to the Church at Corinth (Ch 15) would make the imminently verifiable claim that over 500 witnesses to the risen Christ were still alive and could therefore verify Paul's his claim regarding the resurrection?"

Is this story documented by an ODTP? Anybody could say or write that they or someone else made a claim which was never made in reality. If it is then did an ODTP document the result of the withness interogation Paul aledgedly invited?

Ben said...

What is important here is that you can't say that something is documented by an ADTP and then use some other document that is not in your argument. If you want to convince anybody, your arguments have to be clean of anything that could have been writen by non ADTP, specially members of the sects and doubly so martyrs.

And just to be clear, the Bible is NOT considered to be written by an ADTP. That is the kind of claim that would be laughable. Particurlarly when trying to prove resurection because it constitutes a circular argument. The Bible is not credible unless resurection is true.

Ananda said...

Good of you to admit that the Josephus passage describing the resurrection is of questionable authenticity. Wells in "The Jesus Myth" and Martin in "The Case Against Christianity" deal very extensively with the non-Christian literature surrounding the events in the Gospels. Suffice it to say that its scope and reliability are well short of anything that would convince someone coming to the question unburdened by the requirements of faith.

And why is it necessary that Paul wanted to "perpetrate a fraud" if he were indeed exaggerating or fabricating the existence of these alleged witnesses? After all, no doubt the Christian archivists who "edited" Josephus' writings to "clarify" the events around Jesus' death believed that they were bringing out the truth and eliminating ambiguity. So what if the 500 alleged witnesses don't really exist? He might have believed that he was telling the truth, so there was little harm in making up a few people that could testify to it. Just like a police officer, absolutely convinced of a suspect's guilt, might falsify evidence demonstrating it so that people less inclined to believe it solely based on the officer's word might be persuaded. The act of falsifying evidence doesn't entail that the officer secretly believes the suspect is innocent. (On the contrary!)

I looked up the passage you cite. Ironically, it differs in details -- ironic because if you, with the power of the Web at your fingertips, cannot precisely state the contents of a Bible verse, imagine how distorted and inaccurate the verses themselves must be after thousands of years of retelling, translation, re-translation, and so forth! Anyway, it says, according to

"After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." (1 Cor 15:5-6).

He does not give any names of these witnesses who might not already be committed to the view that Jesus rose; he does not give any detailed statements; he simply says they exist (and some of them, he doesn't say how many, were asleep at the time, and "most of them" are still alive). Well, gee, in the Iliad of Homer, a whole ARMY saw gods and goddesses appear and take part in the battle over Troy! I guess that means Athena, Zeus, Eris, and all the others in the Greek pantheon really exist! Right?

Glen Whitman said...

Just a note to everyone: I think this is an interesting debate, but let's keep the tone civil.

I think it's important to keep in mind that history has many unsolved mysteries. Pointing to them does not constitute evidence of the supernatural. Jimmy Hoffa vanished, and no one knows what happened to him. Most people figure it was probably a mob hit. But the police authorities assuredly followed that lead, and they've never found anything strong enough to support criminal charges. Should that lead us to invoke a supernatural explanation, e.g., that he rose to heaven in a shining light? Of course not. We just recognize that we lack the relevant facts, and maybe we always will. I feel the same way about the disappearance of Jesus's body. There are dozens of possible explanations for what happened, involving various combinations of deceit, illusion, blind faith, embellishment, incompetence (sleeping guards), malfeasance (bribed guards), and so on. We may never know what really happened.

The tack taken by Fattriplet and many others is essentially the "process of elimination" strategy: they seek to rule out all the natural explanations, leaving the supernatural as the only possibility. But I think this shows a lack of imagination. There are innumerable explanations, some more plausible and some less, and we can't rule them all out.

Even if we ruled out all the natural explanations, there are competing supernatural explanations. I can make up a few right now. Maybe God teleported Jesus out of the cave. Maybe Jesus evaporated into thin air. Maybe Jesus was just a divine hologram his whole "life," created by the mischievous Loki. Do these explanations sound absurd? Yes, but no more absurd than resurrection. So if you're going to prove Christ was resurrected, you'll have to rule out all these explanations as well.

it's settled said...

Glen I beseech you: block stupid people from posting. Those with differing view points are fine, but there happens to be one posting up there that sounds as if its written by a second grade catholic school girl. Isn't there a delete button?

Z said...

Glen, you are fond of simplifying complex situations as mathematical equations, so lets consider the following:

P=the probability of the Christians being right;
S=the satisfaction you derive and all associated benefits from from believing as you do;
C=the consequence of you being wrong

Your position, mathematically speaking is that:
S > P*C

Given the Christian belief that non-believers are doomed to Hell, the consequences for being wrong on this matter (eternal damnation) can be taken as infinite (C=infinity). Given this, to make your belief rational, you would have to be infinitely confident that P=0. That is, beyond any shadow of a doubt, beyond the odds of winning the lottery five times in a row, you have to be certain of this belief. The remote chance you harbor that reality is non-existent or that the universe is set up only for your thoughts to exist have to be infinitely more plausible than the possibility that Christians have it right.

Given the pairing of finite knowledge and infinite consequence, couldn't one argue your beliefs are, mathematically speaking, needlessly reckless?

Ben said...

Z you are joking right? I have to ask because you never know with Christian logic.

Glen Whitman said...

Z -- What you're talking about is Pascal's wager. Pascal said it's wise to bet on the existence of God, because the consequences of being wrongly atheist are so incredibly large.

There are at least two problems with Pascal's wager. First, from the religious perspective, theologians will tell you that even contemplating the wager denies faith. If you really think there's that small a chance God exists, then you really don't believe in God.

From the non-religious perspective, the problem is the sheer number of different god possibilities. Whose god should worship? What if I worship the wrong one? If there's a chance of a jealous god, then worshipping the wrong one could be just as bad or worse than not worshipping at all.

Dave L said...

I alluded to a question concerning faith above and I've never been able to get an answer to it. It applies to the idea that there is 'overwhelming' evidence for the resurrection, as well as to some points that are raised in the creationism/evolution battle. I have always been told that the reason God does not make it obvious that he exists is that he wants us to have faith. If someone truly believes that there is overwhelming evidence for the resurrection, or that there is evidence that God intervened in creating the diversity of life, it would seem that you've crossed into the area where you believe in God based on reason, not on faith. Doesn't the fact that God wants us to believe on faith mean that we shouldn't really find any 'overwhelming' evidence that point to his existence?

Ben said...

Dave, I think faith is the only honest reason for believing in religion. I say that if you want to *believe* on a gut feeling and then keep that faith _just because_, go right ahead. But I think the debate here is that some Christians pretend it's a rational choice suported by real evidence. They are trying to pretend that religion is a logical and rational choice by way of finding the ever elusive evidence of a supernatural event. I, on the other hand, think that if you beleive in religion in an honest way you are knowingly doing an irrational thing and that makes you an irrational person by choice because there is no evidence of supernatural events ever happening. But you are right, most religions promote faith over rationalism which is one of the reasons I don't adhere. I just prefer living rationally.

JB said...

Dave l-

Your point about faith is an interesting one, but I don't think faith and reason are at odds. I think for many, faith is that jump from what is available by reason, to that which is not. At some point, we all have to make the jump and believe things we do not yet know to be true, but we make decisions based on the likelihood of their truth.

Abraham had God directly speak to him, his faith then, for which he was counted righteousness, was not mere belief, but the act of faith. Trusting fully in the Lord, but Abraham, had a good reason to trust, after all, he knew God and his nature. Providing him after all, the son who was to be his heir.

Glen makes the point that there seems to be on the part of Christians to make a leap of faith in belief of the resurrection, because no other natural explanation fits, it must be supernatural. I personally, think most consider all the explanations, and find the resurrection the most persuasive explanation.

In some ways this whole discussion mirrors that of evolution and creation. Evolutionists posit a method by which life could have developed, with granted extremely remote possibilities offset by an near limitless expanse of experimental grounds.

Creationists say, the universe was created.

Christians say, Chirst resurrected,

Skeptics say, there are a near limitless explanations for what happened and how everything that come after arranged itself.

I find myself more persuaded however to believe Christ resurrected than to believe that the aggregate of all the natural explanations. Seems like given the course of events, to me, the resurrection event is more plausible than the others. Of course, this is my own personal weighting of the evidence.

Ben said...

jb I think that is a good synopsis.

"Skeptics say, there are a near limitless explanations for what happened and how everything that come after arranged itself."
And I think you should add:
They say that all these explanations have a infinitesimally small probability of being true and that this is even more so for the ones that include supernatural phenomenon.

JB said...


I was actually thinking of adding something much like you said. Because I think it is true. The only quibble is, I think those who choose faith, have different probability values for selected events.

My nature for whatever reason is more willing to accept the existence of supernatural occurence.

So while the skeptic would said that all the limitless possibilities are greater in probability than the single supernatural event, the believer would disagree.

The believer would state that each probability of natural and/or other supernatural probability is infinitemisly small with an aggregate of all probabilities having a limit at .5. Whereas, the probability that the single proferred supernaturual probability is 1>p>.5. Thus making faith rational.

It may even be that the believer has a P of p<.5 for the single supernatural explanation, but that it remains the single best p>p1, p2, p#. This is perhaps less rational, but I'd suggest still reasonable. "It's not a good explanation, but it's the best we got." Would effectively be the motto of such a believer.

Dave L said...

Thanks for the replies JB and Ben; interesting points. In your example with Abraham, faith seems to be akin to trust, in that the question of God's existence to him was settled, but he had faith in God and I guess that he was good and righteous. To me, it says strange things about God's nature though if one believes he's left evidence of his existence or clues that would lead us to state he exists based on reason; I'm back to why he doesn't make his existence obvious. If people would just take the time to look at all the overwhelming evidence for the resurrection they'd determine that he exists? Why the puzzle? Mystery of faith I guess...

Anders said...

Z and FatTriplet3 and other Christians: I reccommend the research on about the origin of Christianity.

Anders Branderud