XFiles Friday: The resurrection and the “historical evidence”September 21, 2007 — Deacon Duncan
(Book: I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, pp. 23-24)
Geisler and Turek have defined their terms (or stacked the deck, if you prefer), and are now ready to discuss faith and religion, in the context of the claim that “religion is simply a matter of faith.”
Facts are also central to all religions because all religious worldviews–including atheism–make truth claims, and many of those truth claims can be evaluated through scientific and historical investigation…
The alleged resurrection of Christ presents another example. Christians claim that Jesus rose from the dead, while Muslims say that Jesus never even died. Again, one of these views is right and the other is wrong. How can we know which one is right? By evaluating each of these conflicting truth claims against the historical evidence.
So the only two possibilities are that Jesus rose from the dead or that he never died? What about the possibility that he did die, and never rose?
Regardless, Geisler and Turek make an interesting observation: the way to distinguish between true claims and untrue claims is to evaluate the evidence. This is a very important point, and it’s both encouraging and just a bit ironic that the authors would make it. Truth is consistent with itself, which means that in order for a claim to be the truth, it must be consistent with the truth we find in the real world, aka the evidence, historical and otherwise.
It must also be consistent with itself, a point which Geisler and Turek fail to mention. For example, the Gospel story tells us that Jesus was God, and became a man, in order to die on a cross to pay the penalty for our sins so that we would no longer need to be separated from him and could live together with him in a real, personal, two-way relationship. Now, if Jesus wants to eliminate the separation between himself and the rest of us so badly that he’s willing to die for it, the most fundamental and obvious consequence is going to be that once he rises victorious from the grave, he’s going to show up, in person, in the real world, to participate in that relationship with us.
Geisler and Turek single out the “historical evidence” for the resurrection, as though that were the sole means we had for deciding the issue. If we have to go back and try and piece together what happened 2,000 years ago in order to tell whether or not Jesus is alive again (or still alive), then that fact in and of itself is a piece of evidence against the resurrection. If Jesus died so that he could be with us forever, and if he rose because he succeeded in eliminating the sin that separated him from us, then we shouldn’t need historical evidence of his existence. He would be here, showing up in person in the real world, because that’s the kind of relationship he wanted badly enough to die for.
Christians tell a story about Jesus “ascending into heaven” (as though heaven were a physical place with a geographical location that is “up” relative to Jerusalem), but it’s easy to see that this is merely a post hoc rationalization for the fact that Jesus very clearly no longer shows up in the real world. Why would he leave and create an artificial separation between himself and mankind when he had just died in order to eliminate such separations?
Christians tell husbands they should love their wives “as Christ loved the Church,” but honestly, if a man truly loved a woman, and pursued her, and willingly sacrificed all he had and suffered all that a man could suffer in order to rescue her and marry her–would he really turn around and abandon her the moment he had succeeded in doing all that needed to be done so that they could be together? Would his love allow it? Could he stand to be apart from her now that there was no longer any obstacle between them? If he did abandon her, would you believe his love for her was sincere?
So right away, Geisler and Turek inadvertently refer to a substantial piece of evidence against Christianity: they refer to the “evidence” for the resurrection as being merely “historical evidence.” If Jesus really did love us enough to die and rise again so that we could be together forever, then he ought to be showing up in real life to participate in a real-world relationship with each of us, since forever isn’t over yet. As anyone can easily verify, that’s not happening out in the real world where Jesus’s real, physical body was supposedly really physically raised.
People have unverifiable mental/emotional “experiences” that they ascribe to Jesus, but the objective evidence–if any–is a couple thousand years old, and thus “historical.” That’s most consistent with the consequences that would accompany the possibility the authors didn’t mention: that Jesus died and that he subsequently stayed dead.