Sunday, October 11, 2009

Mike Licona Has Lost Me

First things first. Mike Licona seems like a nice enough guy, but he's obviously a bit of a nerd. I'm not knocking it. I have nerd tendencies. I'm an engineer. But his attempts at jokes are hard to listen to. I'm talking about his last debate with Ehrman. "Run Forrest!! Run!!" This is not funny, nor is his repeated use of this "There's a Jew an agnostic and a Christian...this is not a joke." He's getting polite laughter and nothing more.

OK, on to some substance. I like it when I hear a debate where the issue of the plausibility of a claim of resurrection comes up. Mike brought it up in his opening statement. He puts 3 facts on the table. They are 1-Jesus died by crucifixion, 2-the disciples had experiences where they thought they saw Jesus post mortem and 3-Paul likewise saw Jesus post mortem.

He then considers different explanations for these facts. One explanation would be hallucinations, but this seems implausible. The reason is that you can't share a hallucination with someone else. The authors of Hallucinations: The Science of Idiosyncratic Perception couldn't find much on shared hallucinations. Also licensed critical psychologist Gary Sipsey (sp?) says he looked at the professional literature for about 2 decades and couldn't find anything on it.

So next Mike compares this explanation to the resurrection hypothesis. There's nothing in the literature that says people rise from the dead, however it's not implausible like hallucinations because there's nothing that says resurrection can't occur. God could raise someone from the dead. So resurrection is more plausible than hallucinations, which find themselves in a negative position.

Somebody please explain to me how this makes any sense at all. Hallucinations are implausible because a couple of people say they couldn't find anything on it. But there's nothing on resurrections, yet they're not implausible. Is this not transparent double standards? If nothing in the literature makes hallucinations implausible, why doesn't it make resurrections implausible?

Well, God could make it happen, says Mike. God can make anything happen. God can make group hallucinations happen. God can make the Lions win. Nothing is implausible if "God can make it happen" is somehow relevant to the discussion.

The apologist says "Sure, Jesus rising from the dead naturally is implausible, but not Jesus rising supernaturally." Then my running 100m in 8 seconds is not implausible, because God could have intervened to make it happen. God could intervene to have you fly in a space ship, levitate, or leap across the Grand Canyon while simultaneously throwing 1000 stones at 1000 targets placed along the perimeter and hitting bullseye for each.

Face facts, Christians. The resurrection hypothesis is implausible. Doesn't mean it didn't happen. Doesn't necessarily means it's not knowable (in theory). But it's implausible. If you want to deny it then deny the nose on your face as well.


Steven Carr said...

If aliens visited the earth, they could have beamed the body of Jesus up using their wonderful technology.

Therefore this is more plausible than a resurrection.

Perhaps if Christians just produced this resurrected Jesus, it would save an awful lot of argument.

But this powerful evidence went off to Heaven, just like the Golden Plates that Joseph Smith had went off to Heaven.

And then there was a government conspiracy to cover up the resurrection.The authorities knew Jesus had been resurrected, but covered it up.

All amazing events in history had government cover ups.

The involvement of the Bush administration in 9/11. The shooting of JFK by a second gunman. Aliens landing at Roswell. Jesus being resurrected. The lack of gas chambers at Auschwitz.

All covered up by the authorities.

Coincidence? Possibly.

Jer said...

2-the disciples had experiences where they thought they saw Jesus post mortem

That we have no first-hand accounts of and we only know about because Paul says they happened in one of his letters and 50+ years later the Gospel writers described them in contradictory stories across three different Gospels. Not exactly sterling evidence.

and 3-Paul likewise saw Jesus post mortem.

And Paul's viewing of Jesus post-mortem is expressly given in Acts as a revelatory vision of Jesus post-ascension, not that Paul saw Jesus in a physically resurrected body. If you don't want to trust the author of Acts (and frankly, I think most of Acts is chock full of ahistorical tales to buttress the writer's personal theology) then you only have Paul's letters to go by. Where none of his words are inconsistent with the idea that Paul had a divine revelation of Christ like the one described in Acts rather than himself seeing a physically resurrected body.

The only eyewitness account we actually have in the Bible are from Paul. The only at-the-moment reporting we have that others were eyewitnesses is from Paul as well. And nothing Paul says in his letters is inconsistent with the idea that the witnesses to the resurrection were witnesses to a divine revelation or vision and not a physical encounter with a body that had crawled out of a tomb. Those accounts come much later, and have theological agendas behind them that have to make us suspect (not that Paul didn't have a theological agenda as well, but arguing evidence of the bodily resurrection of Jesus didn't seem to be one of them, given his discussion of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. He always seemed to me to be arguing against the idea that the physical body was going to be crawling out of the grave anyway, so I don't see this as convincing evidence of a bodily resurrection rather than a "spiritual" one).

The only place where you need to worry about a "mass hallucination" is where Paul says that Jesus "appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living..." The rest of his list could be individual revelatory experiences for all we know. If Paul wasn't making that part up, or repeating a lie he was told and believed (who knows? None of them are alive now to ask), then you have one case where a mass hallucination might be needed to explain things. Or not - it could be fakery on the part of one of the first to claim to have seen the resurrected Savior - it wouldn't be the first time a cult leader used magic tricks to convince followers of divine truth. It could be that they worked themselves into a highly suggestible state and started seeing what they wanted to see. It could be that they took some mind altering substance that helped them along in their visions. Or were given a substance without their own knowledge. Any of these explanations are more plausible than an actual resurrection. (Not that they mean that the resurrection didn't happen, just that it isn't a plausible scenario.)

Steven Carr said...

If hundreds of people see Jesus in a piece of toast, are they all hallucinating?

Steven Carr said...

God could raise someone from the dead. So resurrection is more plausible than hallucinations...

And Satan could possess people to believe that a false Messiah had risen from the grave, letting millions of people go to Hell for believing in this false Messiah.

One can only hope that Licona is not so consumed by anti-supernatural bias that he dismisses out of hand the possibility of demon possession.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I saw your comment, and thought you might be interested in this, you're of course free to delete it or ignore it as you see fit:
Physical evidence of the Resurrection
Yeshua ha Mashiach, died on the cross for your sins as according to the Scriptures, on the 3rd day He raised again And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom are fallen asleep.After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of Paul also, as of one born out of due time. (Like when I saw Him) If you repent and trust him, you will have eternal life and reign w Him in His Kingdom.