An Atheist's denial of the Resurrection vs. A Christian's Rebuttal

The following is my rebuttal to an atheist's claims, which you can find here. His quotes are not responses to me; this is part of a LONG debate which took place in the comments on the site linked to above. I felt it was worthwhile to share my thoughts with you all, and I wanted to reply specifically to the topic of the Resurrection and Christianity. My hope in posting this is to show that Christianity is a "sound doctrine" as the Bible says and can't be as easily dismissed as this atheist thinks. I also hope that it will help to strengthen your belief in Christ, and hopefully equip you with some ideas of how to respond to your non-believing friends. Be advised that this is long... Note: This is written in the second person; it is written to DL, the atheist, in dialogue form. Some of my responses may seem harsh, but this atheist was not budging and inch, and I responded how I felt it was best at the time. Since writing this, I have learned so much more, therefore, I have linked to several of my newer articles where you can find more information. DL, if you are reading this, I pray that God opens your eyes to the truth.

DL -- "Starting from a patently absurd belief, the Mormons built a giant religion, and many sacrificed their lives. How about the Scientologists? Same deal there, apart from the martyrdom. That people believe untrue things and will sacrifice their lives for such things is mundane."

Me--Just because it is common for people to sacrifice their lives for "untrue things" that does not mean that it is true of the Christians. That's like saying, "Because all religions have crosses (not asserting they do; this is just an example), therefore Christianity cannot be true, because it too has a cross as its symbol." In reality, this is backwards thinking. For it was Christianity that came first, and all other religions are distortions of it. That's why many things are so similar with other religions... The problem is that most people don't know that, so they blame Christianity for copying the pagan religions. But in real life, it is always the true story that is the most pure and simple, and the pagan stories add everything in to make it similar, but distorted and more complicated. For example, with the sacrifice example given above -- it is true that many people in various religions sacrifice their lives. However, it was the Christians in Asia who first endured such suffering for Christ. Later, other distortors came along and added their "version" of Christianity and many died for that. The Bible even predicts this. The most notable references are: "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple," (Romans 16:17-18) "If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself," (1 Timothy 6:3-5) and "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Timothy 4:3-4) The Apostles knew that people would come along and distort what was said, so they continued to persuade the believers to "keep sound doctrine," and stay away from such people.

DL -- "Is the story of Jesus more unusual than the story of the Mormons or Scientologists? Hardly. The belief that the Resurrection is true is irrational." Me -- If you are going to boldly proclaim that those of us who believe in the Resurrection are stupid, then I want to see proof of why you think it is stupid to believe in the Resurrection. After all, Joseph Smith didn't rise from the dead, did he? No; he is still dead and buried. But Jesus rose from the dead, and we have HISTORICAL evidence of it. DL -- "'Are you rejecting all eyewitness accounts of strange or unusual events, now?' Nope. I am saying that accounts are evidence, but they are not determining when the phenomenon being described is more rare than the incidence of false accounts."

Me -- So you're saying that because the Resurrection is a very rare phenomenon and because the incidence of false accounts is not, the apostles accounts don't count as evidence..."Since people tell false accounts all the time, and the Resurrection is very rare, we can't trust the eyewitnesses." You're assuming that the witnesses are telling falsehoods until they are proven true, but that isn't even how it's done in a court-of-law! Normally, they are assumed to be true until proven false -- that is just how it's done in court: "Do you swear to tell the the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?" Since everyone is made to swear to the truth of their statements, they are assumed to be telling the truth, unless the facts tell otherwise. You can't start out by assuming that they're wrong. (Dec. 31, 2010 - I will have a post on Mormonism coming soon...)

DL -- "What Jesus did wasn’t cheap magic.' I hear this absurd argument all the time. How do you know?... You can’t say, 'if the claims weren’t true, they would have been debunked.' That doesn’t even happen today."

Me -- How do you know that it was magic? "What Jesus did wasn't cheap magic." I agree, but that isn't even the point; many skeptics alive during Jesus' time attributed what He did to magic, but the point is that they didn't say that He didn't do what the Bible claims that He did. See, you're not getting rid of anything by saying that what Jesus did was just magic; you're only verifying the fact that He did do something, but you are unwilling to say that it was a miracle. You're saying that since no one in this day and age would debunk something if it weren't true, then it isn't true of the apostles in Jesus' day. How do you know that people today wouldn't debunk what is false? You are assuming that, but it isn't true, and you know it. Sure, some would keep their mouths shut and not say anything when they knew it was false, but most people are not that stupid! NO ONE will die for what he knows is a lie; it is only if he is unaware that it is a lie that he would even consider dying for it.

DL --"1. The people making the account are mundane [he clarifies that he means "common" by this term] with respect to the subject of the claim. 2. It is rare for mundane people to falsely claim extraordinary events about which they are indifferent. 3. The events claimed by the mundane witnesses were extraordinary. – 4. Therefore it is likely that the claims are true. Of course, (1) is false. Those claiming to believe Jesus returned had already risked their lives for his cause. They were filled with religious hysteria. They weren’t impartial witnesses."

Me -- You are wrong again, DL, they hadn't risked their lives for Jesus at that point; Peter was a coward and denied that He knew Jesus and all the rest ran away when He was arrested in the garden. It was after His resurrection that they began to risk their lives for Him, because they believed that He had truly risen. As a matter of fact, the Bible records that when Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and told her to go tell the disciples that He had risen, "When they heard that He was risen and had been seen by her, they did not believe." And it happened over and over again; the disciples would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead no matter who told them so; They had seen Him die. When they believed that Jesus had risen was after He appeared to them; showed them His hands and His side, "For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have"; ate with them; and then continued to appear to them and others for a period of over forty days. So it wasn't until after all of this that they finally believed that Jesus had risen from the dead. They weren't "filled with religious hysteria" before that time; they were cowards before.

DL -- "...It will take more than one brief, unrepeatable appearance of ice to convince a rational man that water can be a solid in the desert. With controls and repetition, the belief can become rational.But if he only gets to see ice briefly, one time, he would be foolish to believe he saw solid water."

Me -- Using your own argument then -- it would take more than one brief appearance by Jesus to convince His disciples that He had risen from the dead, and the Bible claims that He appeared to them over a period of 40 days -- to one, then two, then 11, then over 500 of them. So the belief, for them, was rational, and as someone mentioned, the apostles weren't stupid enough to believe a lie; if Jesus had only appeared to them once, they would be foolish to believe that they saw Him, but He appeared to them again and again for forty days, and to 500 people at once, no less.

DL -- "Do you think the Letters of Paul are independent of the Gospels? Are you saying the Paul was not exposed to Christianity before his conversion? He had no exposure to the claims of Christians? Are you taking his word for his independence?" 

Me -- Paul never said that he wasn't exposed to "the claims of Christianity." Paul was raised under Gamaliel, a Pharisee and a teacher of the law (Acts 5:34; 22:3). The Pharisees and Sadducees did not want anyone talking about Jesus (see Acts 5:40), so it is likely that they never taught Paul about Jesus, because they did not believe in Him as their Messiah. (Why would they teach about someone they didn't believe in? If they did, they wouldn't have said anything nice about Him.) You will notice in Acts 22:3 that Paul says that he was zealous for God. The Law of Moses was important to the Jews; they taught it in their schools. I think that the Pharisees and Sadducees were zealous against Christ; it is evident throughout Acts that they kept commanding the apostles not to speak in Jesus name, and they denied being guilty of killing Him. So naturally, they would have refused to recognize that Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies in the Old Testament pertaining to the Messiah, and probably wouldn't teach it. Even so, Paul would have heard about Jesus, and thus been exposed to Christian claims, because the apostles did not cease from telling the Council about Jesus. (Acts 4:10-12; Acts 7:52) Another thing is that the Sadducees, of which the high priest and his assistants were members, did not believe in the resurrection, so when the apostles came preaching that Jesus died and was resurrected, naturally they wouldn't hear of it. So Paul was exposed to "the claims of Christians," but because of the way he was brought up, he wouldn't accept them -- until his conversion. If Paul was a Jew, and he was a member of the Sanhedrin as he said he was, he would have been very zealous about getting rid of the Christians (and this is recorded in Acts 9). By the way, if we can't take Paul's word for it, then consider the fact that the writer of Acts records Paul's persecution of the Christians; if Paul were a "normal" human being, he would have requested that his wrongs not be recorded, as would any human being. However, we see that in this case, as well as in the case of the apostles, all of their faults are written. They weren't seeking to make themselves look good as you said; they were recording everything -- the good AND the bad. And the writer of Acts must have known Paul personally, or he would not have bothered to tell of Paul's blasphemy and conversion -- who would talk of such a thing without first finding out if it were true or not. Also, everyone who knew Paul before his conversion saw the change in him after it, so the evidence didn't rest soley on Paul's claim; it also rested on the change in him that people could see and testify to -- something must have happened to cause this drastic change in him. If you won't consider this, or anything else as "evidence" there is nothing more to be said. As a side note, Paul was beheaded by Nero, but for what crime? Because Paul was a Christian. Paul would not have died for a lie; he said, "I know whom I have believed..." 

DL -- "The Resurrection does NOT survive Bayesian analysis. You and all the other theists here have consistently ignored effects of bias and human psychology. When people tell stories or make claims in an effort to persuade, they embellish, they claim the stories are more independently reported than they really were, they claim that dispassionate third parties were also convinced by the evidence, that the experts were baffled, etc. You are basing your belief in the resurrection on a SINGLE SOURCE. You don’t have multiple independent witnesses. You have multiple collaborating witnesses AT BEST. Your belief that the NT constitutes adequate evidence for the Resurrection is simply delusional. It’s not independent or unbiased reporting. It’s the most biased kind of reporting there is. It’s a document created by passionate religious believers in an effort to convert and persuade. You’re saying you cannot see how the NT could have been so persuasive to so many people if it weren’t true, and yet you ignore the fact that the Mormons and Scientologists (among others) have done exactly the same thing. You say that if the NT was false it would have been debunked. But for the Nth time, you’ve ignored the fact that other obviously fraudulent religions have been debunked but that doesn’t dissuade believers." 

Me -- And yet you're basing your belief in the Resurrection on ONE SINGLE theory: "The belief that the Resurrection is true is irrational." Since you are comparing other religions to Christianity, let me ask you a question: Why then, are many people from all religions turning to Christianity on a daily basis if all other religions are equal to Christianity (as far as being false, as you say)? I'm not presenting this as evidence, but it IS something to consider. What do so many thousands of people see in Christianity that makes them turn away from other religions? Why is Christianity one of the biggest "religions" in the world? What makes it so different? You don't hear of people turning to other religions at such a growing rate as Christianity has witnessed. All you ever hear is that people who follow these religions are without hope and without a purpose; I know because I have read many of their personal testimonies. They say that when they come to Christ, everything changes -- they have a hope, a purpose, peace, a God with whom they can have a personal relationship instead of slaving away to please him and never knowing if he is mad at them or not. I don't wish to divert the conversation, but these questions are worth considering, and if you merely dismiss them as nonesense, then you haven't considered every angle. If someone is sincere in their search for truth, they will not just look at every angle and then blind their eyes if they don't like what they see; rather, they will carefully consider the evidence before making any decisions. I agree with what MM said, "...The Bible is not a single source. There are many independent authors, and there are more sources supporting supernatural events than the NT. You’re assuming that I consider the NT as entirely sufficient evidence for the supernatural. I don’t, actually, but there hasn’t been anything in your comments to suggest that discussing extra-biblical sources would be worthwhile. You wouldn’t care anyway..." 

DL -- "If God were visibly present performing the resurrections, then it would be God. Suppose that whenever you get 100 children to pray simultaneously, God appears to all present (even those with video cameras), and God communicates with the pastor. The pastor begs for God to resurrect the individual, and God does so (or not) after explaining God’s rationale for the resurrection. In other words, God could make resurrection a repeatable thing associated only with a personal God. In this case, there would certainly be something we would call "God" who responds to prayers, can be conversed with, and who resurrects people." 

Me -- Apparently, you fail to have heard about people who have died and then been resurrected after having spent some time in the "after-life." Though God was not physically seen performing the resurrection, there is no doubt that He did it if you listen to these people's stories. They tell about what it was like in Heaven or Hell, and who can say unless they have actually experienced it? In many cases, Jesus tells them that it is not there time yet, and He sends them back. In other cases, it is also the prayers of Christians that "draw" the person back. Many times, relatives who are in the room with the individuals when they die can sense a "Presence" in the room with them. And this is all documented in books and videos. So in this sense, God does perform resurrections still. This may sound like "fiary tales" to you, but until you read their true testimonies, you can't say that it didn't happen. If you continue to argue the fact that resurrections cannot occur, then what you are really saying is that because you have never seen anyone resurrected, resurrections do not occur, nor have they ever occurred. But how can you know for sure? That would be like saying that you know everything, and you most certainly couldn't know everything unless you had traveled to every nook and cranny in the entire universe, which is impossible. Only then could you say that something truly does not occur. I mean, out of all the knowledge in the world, how much do you think you know? You can only know so much, and the rest is what you don't know; so how can you say that the Resurrection is irrational, that Christians are stupid, that Christians made everything up if you don't even know? You are rejecting the miraculous, because you have never experienced it -- which is totally irrational -- and then you are turning it around to falsly accuse those who have experienced it by dismissing them as irrational people who have no idea what they are talking about; in reality, you are the one who is irrational, DL. 

DL -- "However, I would say that there have been millions of paranormal claims, and perhaps a few thousand have been investigated to a conclusion. All of them have turned out to be fraudulent or delusional. That tells us what the noise level is for this sort of claim. If your evidence isn’t extraordinarily good, you’ll get swamped by the noise of human bias and fakery. 2,000-year-old stories from a single source are not going to provide signal to this noise. If all you have is non-predictive anecdotal evidence of past events, then you don’t have significant evidence." 

Me -- What about the rest of the thousands that make up the millions? Have there been no conclusions to these? If there have been no conclusions to those, that leaves room for the fact that some of them might be true. Yet you say that all of them are false. How do you know? Like I said before, you don't know everything... and if you dismiss what I've said as "2,000-year-old stories from a single source," you further prove my point, because you haven't even considered a word I or others have said in support of the Resurrection. You have to admit that the evidence is at least compelling, even if it doesn't meet your standard of what evidence is suppose to be. (Who made you the judge of deciding what evidence is, anyway?) It's completely irrational to just ignore/dismiss whatever idea is presented to you without considering it, and yet that is what you have done on every point. I agree with MM, "So, no matter what cultural, historical, or textual evidence, is offered, you’ve got an excuse to ignore it. If it supports Christianity, it must be biased and therefore cannot be considered. After all, you’ve already determined that it can’t be true, so there’s no other explanation for supportive texts than bias. Nice work. Too bad that what you said does not fit the culture, evidence, or claims. Like I said, there are reams and reams of info on this that any half-hearted attempt to examine the issue could uncover, but you have no real interest... You’re convinced that these things cannot be true, and you’re making excuses to justify your belief."


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