The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 4

One of the neglected aspects of the case for the resurrection of Jesus is what Swinburne calls General Background Evidence.  I have summarize this part of the case this way:
General Background Evidence
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(GTE) The God of traditional theism exists.
(GPR) God, if God exists, has purposes P1, P2, etc. that are relevant to whether God would be likely to raise someone from the dead.
(GLR) God would be likely to raise someone from the dead who had characteristics C1, C2, etc. 
Christian philosophers and apologists usually cover (GTE), but don’t usually have much to say about (GPR) or (GLR).  So, this is an area that I plan to focus in on, and Theodore Drange has pointed the way here.
Drange’s article in The Empty Tomb is called “Why Resurrect Jesus?”.   Drange discusses a couple of key questions:
(Q1) Does the resurrection of Jesus play an important role in the system of Christian theology?
(Q2) Is the resurrection of Jesus “the most important fact in the history of the world”?
Obviously, (Q2) begs a key question at issue, which is whether the resurrection of Jesus is a FACT.  But the question can be reformulated in terms of a hyptothetical assumption:
(Q2a) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the resurrection of Jesus was a fact, would it be “the most important fact in the history of the world”?
It should be noted that questions (Q1) and (Q2a) are NOT equivalent to each other.
It could be the case that the resurrection of Jesus plays an important role in the system of Christian theology, but that it is NOT a very important fact in the history of the world.  This could be the case, for example, if Christianity was a  false religion or point of view.  Also, Christianity could be true, but an insignificant and unimportant religion or point of view.  If Christianity itself is insigificant, then playing a crucial role in the system of Christian theology would not make the resurrection of Jesus an important historical fact.  Not all truths are important truths, and very few truths are among the most important in the history of the world!
It could also be the case that the resurrection of Jesus plays no important role in the system of Christian theology, but that it is, nevertheless, the most important fact in the history of the world.  For example, if Christianity was a false religion, it could be so because it failed to grasp the true meaning and significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  The mistaken understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus held by Christians could have the result that the resurrection is given an insignificant role in the system of Christian theology, but that the true meaning and significance of Jesus’ death and resurrection (which Christian theology failed to grasp) is one that makes Jesus’ resurrection the most important fact in the history of the world.
In any case, if the resurrection of Jesus plays an important role in Christian theology, then that role might well point to some divine purpose or motivation for God to raise a person from the dead.  Similarly, if the resurrection of Jesus can be shown to be a very important fact in the history of the world (on the assumption that it was a fact), that too might well point to some divine purpose or motivation for God to raise a person from the dead.
I will disagree with Drange on one or two important points, but I believe that he is (a) looking in the right direction, (b) asking the right questions, and (c) taking the right approach.  Drange is looking in the right direction by looking at what a Christian theologian has to say about the alleged importance or significance of the resurrection of Jesus.  Drange is asking the right questions, which include questions of clarification (e.g. What does Hodge mean in asserting that various Christian beliefs “rest on the fact” that Jesus rose from the dead?  Does Hodge mean that the resurrection of Jesus is a necessary condition for the truth of those beliefs?).  Drange is taking the right approach; namely, he is being skeptical and is demanding solid reasons and evidence for claims, and he is looking for logical errors, inconsistencies, and questionable assumptions.
If the resurrection of Jesus is the most important fact in the history of the world, then we ought to think very clearly, carefully, and critically about this “fact”.  If the resurrection of Jesus plays a crucial role in the system of Christian theology, then Christians, at least, ought to think very clearly, carefully, and critically about the resurrection of Jesus.
What Drange’s essay reveals is that this is not at all the case.  Christian theologians and Christian apologists do NOT think clearly, carefully, and critically about the resurrection of Jesus, not even about the significance or implications of the resurrection of Jesus.
Theologians and apologists generally are involved in preaching to the choir.  As a result the thinking of theologians and apologists about the resurrection tends to be unclear, shallow, sloppy, illogical, and overly emotional in character.  Christians have generally failed to think carefully and critically about what they claim to be the most important fact in the history of the world.  But we skeptics can help them to do a beter job of this.
Drange begins by pointing out that there is significant tension between the doctrine of atonement and the resurrection of Jesus.  The doctrine of atonement asserts that human sins were atoned for by the sacrificial death of Jesus.  Drange points out, however, that the resurrection makes the death of Jesus seem too easy and insignificant:
…the death of Jesus was supposed to be a great sacrifice that atoned for the sins of mankind.  But what sort of death is it if Jesus comes back to life on earth in a bodily form shortly after dying?…Not much of a death at all, one might say.  It would have seemed more like a real death if Jesus, or at least his body, had stayed dead. (TET, p.55)
Drange says that in order to hold up under this inconsistency between the atonement and the resurrection , “the resurrection must play some very important role within the system [of Christian theology].” (TET, p.55).  So, Drange takes a look at what the Christian theologian Charles Hodge says in defense of the claim that the resurrection is “the most important fact in the history of the world.” (Hodge quoted by Drange, TET, p.55).
Hodge’s first reason in support of this claim is that various important Christian beliefs “rest on the fact” that Jesus rose from the dead, which I abbreviate as: (JRD).   Here are a few of the Christian beliefs that Hodge claims have this relationship to (JRD):

  • Jesus is the Son of God.
  • Jesus is the Savior of men.
  • Jesus is the Messiah predicted by the prophets.

I am going to focus primarily on the Christian belief that “Jesus is the Son of God” which I see as one of the key conclusions of the resurrection apologetic:
(JSG) Jesus is the divine Son of God.
According to Drange, Hodges assertion that
(1) (JSG) rests on the fact that  (JRD).
means that:
(1a) (JRD) is a necessary condition for (JSG).  
Drange points out that Hodge’s reasoning is mistaken, because Hodge’s premise in support of this conclusion asserts that (JRD) is a sufficient condition for (JSG):
“If He [Jesus] rose, the gospel is true and He is the Son of God…”                                                              (Hodge quoted by Drange, TET, p.56)
In other words, Hodges premise is this:
(2) If (JRD), then (JSG).
Drange interprets this as asserting that (JRD) is a sufficient condition:
(2a) (JRD) is a sufficient condition for (JSG).
Drange thus interpret’s Hodge’s reasoning to be this:
(2a) (JRD) is a sufficient condition for (JSG).
Therefore:
(1a) (JRD) is a necessary condition for (JSG).  
In terms of symbolic logic, the argument is this:
(2b) (JRD)  implies  (JSG).
Therefore:
(1b)  (JSG)  implies  (JRD).
From the premise that (JRD) is a sufficient condition for (JSG) it does NOT follow logically that (JRD) is a necessary condition for (JSG).  So, Drange objects to this bad bit of logic.
However, it is not clear to me that the assertion that (JSG) rests on the fact that (JRD)  really means that  (JRD) is a necessary condition of (JSG).  Drange does not argue for this interpretation, and it seems to me that the phrase “rests on the fact that” could indicate the relationship between a conclusion and a premise of a key argument used to support the conclusion.  For example, consider the following argument:
(3) Socrates is a man.
(4) All men are mortal.
Therefore:
(5) Socrates is mortal.
If someone says that the conclusion (5) “rests on the fact” that (3) Socrates is a man, I would be inclined to agree with that claim.   But (3) is not a necessary condition for the truth of (5).  Socrates could be mortal because Socrates is a horse and not a man.  Thus (5) could be true even if (3) was false.  Thus, the truth of (3) is not a necessary condition of the truth of (5).  Yet, it is correct to say that (5) rests on the fact that (3).
In short, the premise of an argument can have a logical relationship to the conclusion of the argument that is neither being a necessary condition for the conclusion nor being a sufficient condition for the conclusion.

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