This house believes that Jesus rose boldly (I mean bodily) from the dead!

A debate from Cambridge between Arif Ahmed and Gary Habermas.

Arguments from Arif :

  • If Gary believes the bible to be inerrant then he is not sufficiently sceptical about his historical sources and we should not trust him when he sites other sources. He mentions a guys who wrote cleaver looking papers with lots of citations undermining the historicity of the holocaust. We should not be tricked just because someone cites lots of “authorities”.
  • If water is not boiling yet the thermometer in it reads 600 degrees Centigrade then we naturally suspect that the thermometer is wrong. They do go wrong, and water never does not boil at 600oc (at atmospheric pressure). Ie its more likely that the eye witnesses must have been wrong about the resurrection.
  • 60% of cleaver people identified the wrong attacker in a (staged) attack in a university lecture. Therefore independent eye witness testimonies even from even cleaver people cannot be trusted.
  • Bodies have never been observed to come back to life. Bodies have never been observed to pass through solid rock. Therefor it is more likely that the witnesses got it wrong than the resurrection actually occurred.
  • Let’s say we had managed to rule out all the naturalistic explanation (Jesus didn’t really die, body was stolen, mass hallucination, etc – (he notes about the swoon theory that the same people who say that a body cannot survive crucifixion, also say that a body can survive death). Yet there are many natural phenomena that have no known natural explanation at the time but later one is discovered. Ie how were the pyramids made or what are meteors. It is reasonable therefore the suppose some unknown natural explanation for the resurrection.
  • Now lets suppose that there is no known natural explanation that could ever be given. The reason for this is that if we are allowed to suspend certain regularities or laws in our explanation, then who is to say which laws we suspend. For example, you could say that 500 people cannot see a hallucination at once, but why not say that that law, that regularity, could be suspended and they did in fact see a collective hallucination. That is no better as reason than the resurrection (me – except that Jesus’ claims and in fact prophetic passages in the OT t-up the resurrection miracle beforehand)
  • Christians do not believe in the resurrection because of the empirical evidence but through faith.

Habermas replies

  • Faith alone is not the basis for believing the resurrection. The evidence needs to be there.
  • I will not argue that “the bible tells me so”. I will not assume the bible is inerrant. My position is that the world was not made in a literal seven days, so I have no problem with saying that that is not true. Was there a universal flood at the time of Noah? I am willing to admit I have questions about these things.
  • I do cite the vast majority of critical scholars. But if there is consensuses among liberal, Conservative, moderate and atheistic scholars about something then probably there are some good reasons was to why they share this view.
  • I will not be arguing that the resurrection is a miracle, at least not by David Humes definition. I’m going to argue that a man named Jesus of Nazareth died and that a man named Jesus of Nazareth appeared bodily. How that happened I leave open.
  • If there was a God then it would be easy for him to raise people from the dead.
  • Several groups saw Jesus, so you would not need one miracle group hallucination but several, therefore one resurrection is a simpler possibility.
  • We need early eye witness data even though it can be wrong because its good data.
  • How much evidence would a take for you to believe the resurrection?
  • You and your buddies at the pub may not have witnessed miracles, but as you extend your sample size you will find lots of people who do say they have seen miracles.
  • What about near death experiences? 8 million people have experienced near death phenomena. I have 100 highly evidential cases. Do they count as evidence for the afterlife? Do they open up the possibilities for resurrection a little bit.
  •  The key questions are did Jesus die and was he seen later and if so in what form.
  • There is virtually no scholarly dissention on the fact that Jesus died by crucifixion.
  • Same with the notion that Jesus disciples thought they saw Jesus after he died.
  • The gospels are written 40 years after the cross. But consider that the easiest biographies of Alexander are 400 years after his death. For Julia ceases its 150 years after his death.
  • Lets just focus on an early testimony by Paul. He got his material 5 years after the cross from the disciples. The latest this formalisation of the data could be is 3 years after the cross. Some say 2 years or even 1 year. In any case this is amazing in terms of data in the ancient world.
  • Dr Arif’s arguments are good if they cause us to be cautions of evidence but they do not rule out a resurrection.

Q&A paraphrase

H confirmed that he is doubtful that a literal 7 day creation happens.

H If God existed surly he could get a body to rise from the dead?

A That’s not the issue. It’s to do with probabilities. What is more likely?

H But let’s say God was ok with producing evidence. So we do have some evidence. Doesn’t that make it a lot more likely that it’s possible. What would it take for you to believe that Jesus rose form the dead? Would near death experiences make you more open to resurrection from the dead.

H The early disciples died for their belief that they saw Jesus so they were sincere in their beliefs. What do you do with that?

A What is the evidence that they died for their belief in the resurrection rather than something else. People change their lives for all sorts of reasons. If they believed it happened it is still a long way from knowing why they came to the beliefs that they had.

H There is evidence for their deaths. Paul Peter James and John. 3 / 4 were martyred. Their martyrdoms are reported in the first century.  We know they died for the resurrection because of the texts in the NT. The resurrection was a central belief in their thinking.

A But Paul had to write to the Christians in Corinth to tell them how central the resurrection was.

H There is no Christianity without the resurrection. It was central. There is virtually no one in history who died for something they knew to be a lie unless they had mental issues.

H There may have been people later like those in Corinth who needed correcting in terms of the centrality of the resurrection but the disciples were clear on it and they are the ones closest to the data and who were willing to die for it.

H What evidence would you accept or be more open to the resurrection?

A …

I think the motion was eventually carried, but in any case my house certainly believes that Jesus rose bodily from the dead!


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