Why don’t you believe in the Resurrection?
In a previous blog article of mine, Consistency of thought, I wrote that one of the main reasons why I left Christianity was because, as a Christian, I was using double standards when deciding what to believe. When I was a Christian, I would laugh at someone who might claim that they heard a dog speaking English. Why? Well, the idea of a talking dog is inconsistent with daily experience and our current knowledge of canine anatomy. But, as a Christian, I was more than willing to believe a four thousand year old story that a donkey once spoke.
Incredible claims require very good evidence, so as a Christian I would not believe the talking dog story if very good evidence was not presented. But, at the same time I fully accepted the Bible’s account of a talking donkey without any evidence at all. Can you see the inconsistency here? On leaving Christianity, I was free to use the same set of standards to evaluate various claims. As a result, I no longer believe the talking donkey account described in Numbers 22:28-30, just as I would not believe the hypothetical claim of a talking canine.
I approach the claim of Jesus’ Resurrection in the same way. The idea of a person bodily rising from the dead after three days is so alien to our daily experience of death and so counter to what we currently know about the human body, it’s only rational to be skeptical of such a claim unless very, very good evidence were presented. Is there good evidence? Consider the following: (1) we have no independent, non-Christian records of the Resurrection from the time of the event; (2) the accounts were written in an age of wonder and superstition, when stories of resurrected ‘god men’ were quite common, (3) when you work through gospels in the order in which they were written, the accounts of the Resurrection become more incredible and fabulous – indicating legendary development; and (4) there is evidence that the gospels were tampered with years after they were written (consider the late insertion of Mark 16:9-20).
In his article on the Resurrection, the historian Richard Carrier presents the following scenario:
“Can you imagine a movement today claiming that a soldier in World War Two rose physically from the dead, but when you asked for proof all they offered you were a mere handful of anonymous religious tracts written in the 1980's? Would it be even remotely reasonable to believe such a thing on so feeble a proof?”
Imagine if such a movement existed. If you are a Christian, and you ask me why I don’t believe in the Resurrection, I would turn the question around and ask if you believe the claim that the World War Two soldier rose from the grave? If you think you would answer no, think about why you wouldn’t believe that claim, and you will then understand why I don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead.
1) Jeff Lowder provides a good overview of both sides of the Resurrection debate.
2) Apologist William Lane Craig argues that the Resurrection is a historical fact.
3) Historian Richard Carrier argues why he doesn't buy the Resurrection story.