Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 4
If you want something done right, then (sometimes) you have to do it yourself.
I now know what my next project will be. Since, to the best of my knowledge, no Christian philosopher or apologist has made a good case for the resurrection of Jesus, I am going to build the first good case for the resurrection.
First, I need to finish the article on Swinburne’s case for God. That article was supposed to be finished a year ago, and I still have several months more to go before it will be completed. But, when I’m done with Swinburne, I’m going to start building the best-possible case for the resurrection of Jesus.
Jeff – If I build this case, and then have a heart attack or get hit by a bus, will you dedicate some time to refuting my case? Promise? I would hate to unintentionally give a big boost to Christian belief among intellectuals.
Each of the leading defenders of the resurrection has at least one strong point and at least one serious weakness. I would take the strong points of each of them, and try to avoid their weaknesses and faults. Such a synthesis of the various cases for the resurrection by the leading defenders would, I believe, be the best possible case.
1. Richard Swinburne
Swinburne is the Aquinas of our age. Anyone who tries to build a case for the resurrection without consulting Swinburne is a fool.
His strengths are: apologetic strategy and logical apparatus. I would use Swinburne’s apologetic strategy and the logical apparatus of conditional probability statements and calculations. Swinburne is weak on two points: he fails to recognize the need and importance of proving that Jesus died on the cross, and he does not do an adequate job with historical data and arguments.
Swinburne’s apologetic strategy is NOT to prove that God exists, and then argue for the resurrection, but rather to try to prove a weaker claim, namely that there is a 50/50 chance that God exists, and then use that probability as the basis for a case for the probability of the resurrection. This is the best apologetic strategy, and has the best chance of being successful.
2. William Craig
Craig’s strength is his attempt to use criteria for the evaluation of historical hypotheses in a systematic way. I would use the criteria Craig lays out, or something similar to those criteria.
Craig, like Swinburne, fails to take seriously the burden of proof to show that Jesus really died on the cross. Craig only writes about one paragraph on this key point, and so his case for the resurrection, while intellectually sophisticated, fails completely.
3. Norman Geisler
One of Geisler’s strengths is his simple and clear logical analysis of the question at issue, breaking the historical question into two pieces: (1) Did Jesus die on the cross? (2) Was Jesus alive and walking around on Easter Sunday following the crucifixion? Another strength is that he, unlike Swinburne and Craig, recognizes the need to prove that Jesus in fact died on the cross.
Geisler’s weaknesses are that he attempts to defend the resurrection in just a few pages, which is absolutely ridiculous, and his naive uncritical use of Gospel accounts, and his apologetic strategy (deductive proof of God’s existence followed by argument for the resurrection).
I would break the historical issues into two pieces, following Geisler, but would use something like Craig’s criteria to evaluate the two historical hypotheses, and I would avoid a naive and uncritical use of Gospel accounts.
4. Gary Habermas
Habermas makes the best case for the resurrection, in my view. His strengths are that he recognizes the need to prove that Jesus died on the cross, and he also puts together a good deal of historical and medical data and arguments to support this claim. Habermas is more careful than Geisler with his use of the Gospel accounts, and Habermas recognizes that a good case for the resurrection cannot be made in just a few pages; a good-sized book is required, at a minimum.
Habermas has a weaker apologetic strategy than Swinburne, and is not as systematic in his historical analysis as Craig. So, his approach could be improved upon by importation of Swinburne’s strategy, the use of conditional probability, and by use of general criteria for the evaluation of historical hypotheses.
Take the strongest points of these four Christian philosophers, and avoid their weaknesses, and you would have the best possible case for the resurrection of Jesus.