After I had finished writing Monday’s Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence post, I Googled extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence to see what else had been written about it: had I missed anything or got something wrong? Surprisingly, the first hit was the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) – with a critique of the way atheists supposedly apply the extraordinary claims doctrine when examining claims of Jesus’ resurrection. Unsurprisingly, they managed to mangle the atheists’ position. Equally unsurprisingly it’s choc full of logical fallacies. It starts with a possibly unintentional statement that the Christian has already made his mind up about the resurrection, whether he has any evidence or not:
In Jesus' resurrection, for example, Christians presuppose that God exists and that He could easily have raised Jesus from the dead. The evidence of fulfilled prophecy, eyewitness records, and changed lives of the disciples is enough to convince many people who believe in God that Jesus rose from the dead. This is a logical conclusion based on the presupposition and the evidence.
The CARM’s position that “Christians presuppose that God exists and that He could easily have raised Jesus from the dead” is circular reasoning: they’re using the resurrection as evidence that Jesus was resurrected (and was therefore the son of God, etc), but their admitted presupposition is that God exists and would have resurrected his son. Of course, if you start from the position that Jesus was the son of God then your “logical conclusion” pretty much has to be that Jesus was resurrected. Who needs evidence?
They then misstate the atheists’ position to accuse atheists of doing what they just admitted to doing themselves:
Atheists, on the other hand, would negate the resurrection by default since their presupposition that there is no God would require that God involvement cannot occur. Therefore, for an atheist the extraordinary evidence would have to be "exceptionally" extraordinary in order to overcome his atheistic presuppositions.
No. It has nothing to do with “atheistic presuppositions”. It is because of the “presupposition” (actually, the extraordinary evidence that exists), that show DEAD PEOPLE DO NOT COME BACK TO LIFE. I’m not talking about people who were technically “dead” for a short while but who were brought back by heroic modern medicine. I’m talking about someone who was really dead, for nearly two days, without modern machinery to keep the organs working, who was resurrected by magic.
I find it telling that the CARM accuse atheists of presupposing their conclusion (they don’t), when that is exactly what the CARM just did. (Projection?) And remember, I used their own actual statement of what their presuppositions are, from their own article – not a straw man version of their presuppositions as they did with the atheists' supposed presupposition.
This is why the skeptic must require "extraordinary evidence." It enables him to retain his presupposition should the extraordinary level of the evidence not be met. Therefore, requiring extraordinary evidence effectively stacks the deck against the claim.
No. The absurdity of the claim – a dead person coming back to life - stacks the deck against the claim.
When debating skeptics, I often ask them to tell me what would qualify as extraordinary evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Generally, nothing sensible is offered. Normal evidence would be written accounts. Extraordinary evidence would be a film, but we know that this extraordinary evidence is not reasonable since there was no film in Jesus' time. Therefore, can the requirement that extraordinary claims (Christ's resurrection) require extraordinary evidence apply to Jesus' resurrection?
It can and it should. It is not the fault of the atheist that Christians have nothing but lame second-hand anecdotes for this patently absurd claim. The burden of proof is upon the claimant, not upon those who doubt the absurd claim.
It would seem not. Since Jesus' resurrection is alleged to be a historical event, then it seems logical that normal historical evidence and normal historical examination of that evidence would be all we could offer. The resurrection is supposed to be an event of history and since it claims historical validity, then typical criteria for examining historical claims should be applied.
No. Unless the historical claims they refer to also involve raising the dead. Which they rarely do.
They go on to equivocate about how historic claims are judged differently because of the difficulty in testing events that happened a long time ago. But historians are generally evaluating claims such as who won a war, why they won (better tactics, better weapons?), who was involved in implementing legislation, etc. These things can often be inferred from a variety of sources. But they are not, in the main, extraordinary claims. One historian might say a war was won because of a better general; another might say it was bad weather than got the troops of one side bogged down in the mud. One or both of these explanations might be wrong. But neither requires you to accept some new and extraordinary claim such as (for example) that if you accept Jesus you will live in heaven forever. The CARM equivocate about this difference:
Furthermore, we cannot ascertain all things with absolute certainty. We cannot, for example, prove that Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) ever lived by observing him. But, we have ancient writings from eyewitnesses concerning his existence. Skeptics readily believe in Alexander the Great without involving the scientific method and without requiring "extraordinary evidence" yet they will require it of Jesus' existence.
No. They have created a false analogy. When expressed properly, it applies to the atheist position, not the Christian one, as I will demonstrate. As with Alexander the Great, we cannot prove that a historic Jesus actually existed. However, we have ancient writings (not from eyewitnesses, but I’ll let that slide for the sake of argument), concerning his existence. I am prepared to accept that a historic Jesus could have lived, without involving the scientific method and without requiring "extraordinary evidence". What I will not accept is that he died, was resurrected, and now lives in the sky. That, is the extraordinary claim. It is absurd. And there is no rational reason for anyone to believe it.