A moral argument against the resurrection

I don’t think that there is anything particularly original about the argument I will provide here. I had a brief conversation about this argument with some friends yesterday, including Greg Cavin. Greg was inclined to think that the argument could come across as too subjective, that is, based on subjective value judgments. I am not sure that he is right about that, but I thought I would present it here and solicit the thoughts of the Secular Outpost community:

(1) God is completely rational.


(2) Any action that God performs is undertaken on the basis of some good reason.

(3) There is no good reason for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead.


(4) God did not resurrect Jesus from the dead.

Premise (1) follows from the fact that God is perfect and (2) is a consequence of (1). Therefore, the soundness of the argument depends on the truth of (3). We can defend (3) by considering possible reasons that God might have for resurrecting Jesus and rejecting them. It is probably impossible to consider all possible factors that might count in favor of God’s resurrecting Jesus. However, that need not undermine the argument. Suppose we are not certain that there is no good reason for God to resurrect Jesus from the dead. We can issue a challenge to any person who believes that God did resurrect Jesus. That challenge would be to provide the good reason for God to resurrect Jesus. In the absence of any such account of God’s reason, we ought to be skeptical that there is such a reason.

The argument has significant virtues. For one thing, it is not committed to the claim that Jesus was not resurrected; only that God did not resurrect him. This fact allows us to set aside issues concerning whether the historical attestations of the resurrection are sufficient to provide a prima facie case that Jesus was resurrected. In the context of the current argument, it is irrelevant whether the historical accounts of a resurrected Jesus are evidence that he was resurrected. He may indeed have been resurrected (though we can remain skeptical) and there may indeed have been reliable witnesses of it, but, says our argument, if he was, God had nothing to do with it.

Another virtue that the argument has, probably its most important virtue, is that it allows us to focus on moral issues surrounding the resurrection. Many Christians believe that the death of Jesus was an act of love in which God sent his only son to die for us and for our sins. The resurrection, on this view, involves a sign that Jesus was truly the son of God and that, therefore, the salvation of humanity was accomplished through Jesus’s death. The resurrection also, on this view, indicates a promise that those who believe in Jesus and God’s saving grace can be restored to a new life. This judgement assumes that God was accomplishing something worthwhile by having Jesus die and resurrect. But there is nothing worthwhile that Jesus’ death and resurrection could have accomplished; at least nothing that we know of. The salvation of humanity could not have been accomplished via Jesus’ death and resurrection, nor could the forgiveness of any person’s sins. Forgiveness and salvation are not achieved by making an innocent person suffer and die for other people’s misdeeds.

What I like about this argument is that it gets us to focus on the insignificance of Jesus’s alleged resurrection. If Jesus did resurrect, it was a miracle; but this miracle would not be connected to God, nor would it have any obvious religious significance.