Thursday, April 12, 2012
Resurrection Series Part 7: Science and the Supernatural
Welcome to part seven of the Resurrection series, based on the book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Today, we will be talking about science as a means to explain away the supernatural. Please see all preceding parts before continuing.
Since the “supernatural” of the alien theory does not work, another favorite approach of many skeptics is to use naturalism to explain the Resurrection. Appealing to science is a common tactic: “Only what science proves is true,” they say, in an effort to remain true to naturalism. But science has its limits; it relates to what is observable and testable. It cannot measure love, for instance, but this does not mean that love does not exist. Regardless, this is not an excuse to deny the Resurrection. It is important to also consider that when a scientist is placed in a room with all the latest technology, he cannot prove that “only what science proves is true.” Thus this tactic fails its own test; it is self-refuting. Additionally, “to require that historical events be predictable or repeatable is self-refuting” (page 135), because it is merely a restatement of the claim that “only what science proves is true”; it is self-refuting because “The rule that science is the only way to know something is itself unscientific; it cannot be tested” (page 134). For example, history records that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon River and it also states that George Washington was the first President of the United States; these facts are not repeatable, so science cannot "measure" them to determine whether or not they will happen again – there are “one-timers” in history. Additionally, whether something in history is repeatable or not does not stop historians from determining the non-supernatural facts of Jesus life – Did He die? Did people see Him alive after this? In this case, the scientist or historian could conclude – and many have – that “Jesus was seen alive after His death” (page 235). Yet, skeptics claim that science does not prove that people come back to life; therefore, Jesus did not rise from the dead. This is true in one aspect only: science does not support natural causes as the source of resurrections – science does not support the very claim that the critics are making! Additionally, the Scriptures do not claim that Jesus rose from the dead by natural causes; rather, Jesus’ claims to divinity and the miracles which He did provide the perfect context for His Resurrection.
Yet, “Science can explain everything. We don’t need God,” we are told by the naturalists. God was only necessary to fill in the little “holes” of knowledge in the past, they claim. However, this is comparable to using old scientific theories and medical beliefs to undermine the science and medicine of today. This is a fallacious thinking; for if we merely figure out how a belief originated, this is not sufficient evidence to explain the belief at present. In other words, it is only attacking the origin of a belief, not the belief itself (which might even be correct). It is also important to consider that the evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection comes from what we do know from science, not from what we don’t know. To say that science will one day reveal how the Resurrection occurred is unjustifiable, because this can be said of almost everything with all the scientific advances of today; would we have to discredit all these other things, as well, until science “proves” them right? The skeptic may grant all of these things, but he most certainly won’t grant that God is the cause of the Resurrection. He will say, “If God exists, He cannot intervene in the laws of nature.” But if the skeptic does not even believe in God, how does he know what He will and will not do? And “If God created the universe, including the natural laws that govern it, it is neither logically impossible nor inconsistent for [H]im to override those same laws at will” (page 235). Based upon this, the Resurrection of Jesus proves that God can and did act in the world, contrary to the skeptics’ claims. But “Science must assume a naturalistic explanation for everything,” the skeptic will argue back. True, science must look for a naturalistic explanation, but this does not preclude a supernatural one – especially when both evidence and the context of religious history are present and no naturalistic explanation is possible. The question should be whether a supernatural God can supercede the laws of nature, not whether naturalistic explanations are probable. In fact, miracles provide an example of an overriding of the laws of nature; this is why many skeptics reject miracles. Furthermore, “When a naturalist insists on assuming that all events must be interpreted naturally, or that the laws of nature must have been expanded to allow an events [such as the Resurrection], that person is engaging in circular argumentation because he or she assumes a naturalistic stance” (page 236, brackets mine).
Even though miracles occur, the skeptic will often assert that we cannot know whether or not it was a miracle. This, of course, assumes that there is no God; for if God exists, then we can link qualified events to Him. And, given a “religio-historical” context, we can easily identify such events as miracles. Additionally, as noted earlier, skeptics claim that the laws of nature would have to expand in order to allow for miracles; thus, they “eliminate the miraculous nature surrounding Jesus’ resurrection” (page 236). However, by doing so, the skeptics only create more problems; for since he cannot use the supernatural, the skeptic must lean on “unreasonable natural theories that are highly impossible” (page 236). Yet, in an effort to keep maintaining that miracles are nothing spectacular, the skeptics will often claim that miracles happen in other religions; there is nothing different in the miracles accompanying Christianity. But this view does not make much sense when we consider that real miracles could happen among unbelievers and still agree with Christian beliefs. For example, Naaman was cured of his leprosy and even demons have been known to do the supernatural. Additionally, “Miracles in other religions are for the most part poorly evidenced and are scarcely able to rule out a well-evidenced one” (page 236). Furthermore, although many have presented opposing theories for Jesus’ Resurrection, these theories have never dismissed the Resurrection; yet, in the case of miracles of other religions, there are many good opposing theories which can easily dismiss them. Still, critics say, “Even before investigating a claimed miracle, there is a huge mountain of improbability against it ever being an act of God” (page 236). However, if God exists, there is no reason to reject miracles, especially in the case of the Resurrection for which we have much proof historically and for which there is no plausible naturalistic explanation. Saying that we should reject Jesus’ Resurrection regardless of the strong evidence in its favor “is being biased against the possibility that this could be the very case for which we have been looking” (page 236). Everyone knows that our experiences help us to learn about the natural world; therefore, to take the approach of a “mountain of improbability” concerning the Resurrection as conclusive evidence against it “is to rule out many claims of supernatural experiences” (page 236). There is plenty of evidence in favor of the supernatural (for example, near death experiences, answered prayer, etc.). These experiences challenge the naturalistic interpretations and make the Resurrection all the more plausible with each miracle thereafter.