Archive for ‘Resurrection of Jesus’

December 29, 2011

Geisler’s Denial of Inerrancy–The “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”

by Max Andrews

Norman Geisler has recently released a new addition to his “Licona Letters” condemning Mike Licona.  Geisler is very emphatic that there be a differentiation between inerrancy and interpretation.  Under this Geislerian understanding of inerrancy, interpretation and inerrancy simply have a formal distinction but are essentially conflated.

[Such] a disjunction of interpretation from inerrancy as Licona makes is contrary to the nature of truth itself…. So, a formal distinction between interpretation and inerrancy does not mean there is an actual separation of the two.[1]

Additionally, Geisler argues contra Licona[2] that the grammatico-historical hermeneutic is neutral.  Geisler argues:

[The grammatico-historical] method does not approach the Bible with a historically neutral stance.  After all, it is not called the “literal” method for nothing.  It assumes there is a sensus literalis (literal sense) to Scripture.   In short, it assumes that a text should be taken literally unless there are good grounds in the text and/or in the context to take it otherwise.  As a matter of fact, we cannot even know a non-literal (e.g., allegorical or poetic) sense unless we know what is literally true.  So, when Jesus said, “I am the vine” this should not be taken literally because we know what a literal vine is, and we know that Jesus is not one.  Further, the literal [grammatico-historical] method does not reject the use of figures of speech or even symbolic language.  It only insists that the symbols have a literal referent.  For example, John speaks of literal angels as “stars” (Rev. 1:20) and a literal Satan as a “red dragon” (Rev. 12:3).  However, the literal [grammatico-historical] method does not allow one to take a literal historical persons (like Adam) or events (like a resurrection) as not literal history.

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September 7, 2011

Christological Implications of The Multiverse Theory

by Max Andrews

This is a guest blog post by JT Turner. JT holds an M.A. in Religious Studies (Philosophy of Religion) and is working on a Master of Theology (Historical Theology).  He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy with Liberty University Online.


Disclaimer: I am not well-studied on the science behind the multiverse, nor have I done much research on the subject. I am simply putting forward what seem to be, at least prima facie, some possible difficulties with the prospect of a multiversed cosmos.

To begin, I suppose it’s only fair to say that this title needs a little tweaking.  First, it seems obvious to me that, if by ‘multiverse’ we only mean additional closed cosmic systems like the one in which we find ourselves, a multiverse doesn’t appear problematic for Christology, in particular, or Christianity in general. That is, if we are still housing these additional closed-systems under the heading of the one Creation (proper noun), then there isn’t, so far as my limited knowledge of the subject goes, any particular reason why a Christian ought to reject a reality that contains a multiverse.  I don’t see how a multiversed χοσμος negates anything in the creation account of Scripture, any prophecies concerning the eschaton or any other scriptural attestations.  This, however, is contingent upon these additional closed-systems not containing any moral beings.  If they do, it seems there could be acute christological and soteriological problems. Allow me to offer some explanations.

Christian theism takes it as a given that moral agents (i.e. creatures that can exercise a will for right and wrong actions) who perform wrong actions break their relationship with a perfectly holy and righteous God.  The God of Christian theism requires atonement for the breaking of His moral code (sin) in particular ways.  In this universe, at least, he requires blood atonement.  Without going too far afield, suffice it to say that God instituted the blood sacrifice (that is, the very life) of animals under an old covenant with His people as a type of coming archetype.  That archetype finds its fulfillment in the new covenant poured out through the blood of an individual, namely God the Son, Jesus Christ.  So, God the Father killed Jesus, His Son, on the behalf of morally debased human beings (moral agents) to bring humans back into His fellowship.  Christians take it that atonement is thus required to cover the sins of any wayward moral agent in order that she be brought back into the fold of God’s people.  I suppose the multiverse option raises this question: what do we say if moral agents exist in some other universe? Moral agency does not necessarily imply the existence of human beings; perhaps it is the case that some other alien life outside of our universe-system exercises a will and mind in a fashion morally equivalent to ours. That is to say, what if there are other creatures beyond our closed system that can do right and wrong actions, actions that a morally perfect and holy God finds either good or evil? How might God provide atonement, if, in fact, He does require it from them?

I think there may be a few answers to the last question that might provide answers for the former ones (answers that give us a reason to believe that there probably do not exist any moral agents outside of our universe).  The first answer might be something like “he doesn’t require atonement for their sins.” But this causes a weird set of theological problems.  The most important of which, it seems to me, is that God behaves a lot differently in Universe 2 than Universe 1 (Universe 1 is our universe).  If God behaves differently in Universe 2 than Universe 1, it follows that our beliefs about God’s nature (e.g. that He requires atonement for sin) in this universe are contingent aspects of God, at best, or false, at worst. God, in other words, isn’t necessarily opposed to living in fellowship with sinful moral agents for which no atonement has been provided.  But if that’s the case, then we don’t know much about God’s justice either.  After all, most Christians believe that God is going to assign some unrepentant unatoned for sinners to the confines of an eternal Hell (in whatever form that takes). Why throw unatoned for sinners from Universe 1 into an eternal Hell and not any of the ones in Universe 2? How does that demonstrate a recognizable form of justice?  If this first answer is how God interacts with the multiverse, then maybe Occam is right.  Eww…

The first option seems silly.  I think a stronger option, one that keeps God the same in all of Creation, is that God is still going to require atonement for sin in Universe 2. God, necessarily, requires atonement for sin.  There are, as I see it, two possibilities for sinful creatures in Universe 2. Either God requires atonement and doesn’t provide it, or God requires atonement and does provide it, just as he does in Universe 1.  The first possibility runs us into at least one aspect of the problem of evil.  If God can save at least some of these moral creatures in Universe 2, why doesn’t He?  I’m a Calvinist, so I think this objection really sides up next to the more common “if God can determine to save all people, why doesn’t He?” question to which I can respond “God will do what God will do” and the like.  However, while I can at least point to the eschaton and cry “O Felix Culpa!” in this universe, it strikes against my moral intuitions to posit another universe where God simply creates moral beings in order to throw all of them into Hell.  I might be wrong about this, and forgive me if I am, but I’m not sure how a God that does that demonstrates any recognizable good to his “other” creation (little ‘c’ here).  I say this knowing full well that my compatibilist Calvinistic theology does run me against similar questions in this universe.  So, I’m going to move on to the next possibility. God does, in fact, provide atonement for his sinful creatures in Universe 2.

How does he provide atonement in Universe 2? This is, I think, an important question.  Is it possible that God, instead of sending His Son, atones for sins by means of the offering of burnt grasses?  I suppose it’s possible in a broadly logical sense, but does it make sense given the extreme price God requires in Universe 1?  Perhaps this isn’t similar enough of a paradigm. After all, when I say “the offering of burnt grasses” I might mean a continuous offering or a numerous offering or the like.  God, in Universe 1, provides a once and for all offering.  I think something like this is also possible in Universe 2.  Suppose that, like the old covenant in Universe 1, Universe 2 foreshadows the coming of their “Christ” by offering their many grass sacrifices.  The archetype to this type is Messiah Plant, a very large and very green (does it matter?) plant that God has grown for the once and for all atonement of sin in Universe 2. Its sole purpose is to grow and be burned. This plant, just like a plant in Universe 1, does not feel pain, isn’t sentient, and is completely physical (i.e. lacks any metaphysical component, including a mind). To provide for atonement, it is burned as a final offering to God and appeases God’s wrath.  This, as I say, is broadly logically possible (as far as I know, anyway. Perhaps there is something intrinsic to God’s character that says that the blood of sentient beings is necessary).  But doesn’t this raise some interesting questions? For example, why doesn’t God require an extremely painful sacrifice in Universe 2? Doesn’t it seem that God is going the extra mile in Universe 1 to provide atonement? I mean, after all, God does sacrifice His own Son in this universe.  It seems, at least from my perspective, that the consequence of sin in Universe 2 isn’t all that severe.  Is there something about Universe 2 and the types of sin possible in Universe 2 that make God less angry with them? I’m with Augustine on this; the root of sin is undo exaltation—that is to say, idolatry. So, if idolatry is an essential component of sin, then there isn’t a possible world (modally, physically, or metaphysically) that includes idolatryless-sin.  God seems to hate idolatry. His hate sure looks a lot different in Universe 1 than in 2 in this picture.

For sake of space, let’s skip ahead. Let’s suppose that God does, just like in Universe 1, require the death of a living sentient creature to atone for sin.  So, God requires that blood (or whatever the life force of a sentient creature is in Universe 2) be shed to atone for the sins of his moral agents.  Further, let’s suppose that He provides another Messiah such that, in one heroic act, God saves His people.  Just here are the Christological implications.  Again, let’s suppose that in order to save His people, God must provide a moral agent who lives perfectly and is of such a magnitude that His death will cover all sin.  I take it that not just any perfect creature will do; God must again humble Himself and take on the form of His creation in order to die on their behalf (I’m supposing, for brevity’s sake, that it is impossible for an ordinary moral agent in Universe 2 to live a perfect life, just as in our universe).

This is where it gets really sticky in a multiverse with moral agents outside of our system.  Just who is their Messiah?  If it is God, Himself, and it seems that it must be, then the Messiah must be, again, God the Son.  Unless we’ve totally erred in our theological understanding of the Trinity, the self-revelation of the Father is the Son—He is the Word, the Λογος and all that it represents. So, it isn’t possible for God the Father to incarnate; that is only possible for the person of the Son. So, this means that the person of the Trinity that is, yet again, humbling himself to the stature of His creation is God the Son, who is Jesus Christ. Do you begin to see how this is getting muddy?  It was hard enough for the Cappidocian Fathers to figure out how it is metaphysically possible for God the Son to unite with a human nature, it would be something else entirely to figure out how he would unite with two creaturely natures.  Heck, if two is possible, why not three, or four, or five, ad infinitum? Let’s try a thought experiment.  Since, on the multiverse view, it might be possible for God the Son to be united to more than one creaturely nature (one in Universe 1 and so on), let’s suppose that, in Universe 2, God the Son is united to three creature-natures (I say ‘creature-nature’ in the event that the moral agents in Universe 2 aren’t human).  Let’s call these three creatures Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus.  God the Son is, of course, also Jesus in Universe 1 provided that Christianity is truthful in its claim that Jesus rose from the dead and is now, in human form, residing in Heaven (where might this be? Hmm… 🙂 ). Let’s suppose that Peper and Mohn are disciples of Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus and they have come to believe that Jebus, Jefus, and Jenus are the Son of God.  Further, let’s suppose that Peper and Mohn are reclining at some version of a table eating (or whatever they do for sustenance in Universe 2) with Jebus, but Jefus and Jenus are off working miracles.  Doesn’t it follow that Peper and Mohn can, in a meaningful way, say: “God the Son is both here and not here”? Doesn’t that violate the law of non-contradiction? How can a person both be in location L and not be in a location L at the same time?

A further problem is God the Son’s conquering death in Universe 1.  If it is true that these moral agents in Universe 2 can both live and die, then their death is probably an identical thing to ours. That is to say, their death is the end of their life such that they are no longer alive in Universe 2 when they die. So, closed system or not, I take it that when we say that a sentient being must be killed to atone for the sins of moral creatures in Universe 2 that ‘death’ has the same meaning there as it does here.  But, doesn’t Scripture indicate that Jesus conquered death never to die again?  If Jesus is identical with God the Son, then it follows that God the Son, no matter what other nature He might add to Himself, can no longer die.  I suppose it’s possible that they might have experienced simultaneous deaths and simultaneous resurrections, but then we would have to suppose that their space-time continuum is exactly like ours.  I don’t know the science behind the multiverse, but that seems problematic if we’re going to insist that this universe is a “closed system.”

There are a host of other problems here, problems that would take a mountain of additional prose to explicate.  The foremost of these problems is trying to unite two (or more) creaturely natures to the one divine nature in one hypostasis and still call the combination “one person.”  Physically speaking, it seems to stretch credulity to think that Jebus, Jenus, Jefus, and Jesus aren’t different people.  If they are, then God the Son isn’t one person, but four (or more).  Here is where Occam is correct: let’s let the simplest hypothesis win the day. But, I digress…

June 20, 2011

The Problem of Miracles

by Max Andrews

Why must the possibility of miracles be so foundational? Because it’s the crux of the gospel message, the resurrection of Jesus.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15.17).

Undoubtedly, one of the major stumbling blocks to becoming a Christian for many people today is that Christianity is a religion of miracles.  It asserts that God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, being born of a virgin, that he performed various miracles, exorcised demonic beings, and that, having died by crucifixion, he rose from the dead.  But the problem is that these sorts of miraculous events seem to belong to a worldview foreign to modern man—a pre-scientific, superstitious worldview belonging to the ancient and Middle Ages.[1]

Miracle def.: A divine intervention into, or an interruption of, the regular course of the world that produces a purposeful but unusual event that would not have occurred otherwise.

  • Wondrous natural events do not qualify as miracles.
  • Supernatural events that do not interrupt the regular course of the world do not qualify as miracles.
  • “Laws of Nature” are not fixed laws; they are descriptive, not prescriptive.
  • Miracles are not violations of laws of causality, but are simply unusually effects produced by the introduction of a supernatural cause.

David Hume was an 18th century skeptic from Scotland who is considered an authority by many philosophers in challenging miracles.  Consider his take in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding,

A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience as can be imagined… It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed, in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation.

Hume’s idea of “extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence” is pictured in a scale.  On one side is full proof and the other side is the evidence from all people in all the ages for the regularity of the laws of nature, which also amounts to full proof.  Thus, proof stands against proof and does not incline in either direction, the wise man cannot hold to a miracle with any degree of certainty.  According to Hume, miracles are violations of the “laws of nature” that “firm and unalterable” experience has solidly established.[2]  Only a superior testimony of experience may override this proposition, but, unfortunately, there cannot be such a testimony, for if there were, miracles would no longer merit their name.[3]  For clarification:

  • Hume is not arguing that miracles are impossible, just that there can never be enough evidence to believe in them.
  • The entire fund of human experience has established the laws of nature and one would need a greater amount of evidence than all of mankind’s experience to believe in miracles.
  • Hume’s argument is based on probability:  It will always be more probable that a person will be in error (deceiving or being deceived) than an entire experience of mankind is wrong.

Keeping Hume’s criteria and experiential background information in the back of your mind, with respects to the resurrection, let’s consider witness credibility.  What about the contention that the disciples were guilty of fraud?

Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Its message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax… If it is true, then it is the supreme fact of history; and to fail to adjust one’s life to its implications means irreparable loss. But if it is not true, if Christ be not risen, then the whole of Christianity is a fraud, foisted on the world by a company of consummate liars, or, at best, deluded simpletons. St. Paul himself realized this when he wrote: If Christ be not risen, then our preaching is meaningless, and your faith worthless. More, we are found to be false witnesses. [4]

What about the cause of the rise of Christianity?

If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested by the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole the size and shape of the Resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with? … the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church… remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself. [5]

So, how should we answer the Humean objection?

  • Hume begs the question:  “Firm and unalterable experience”; He assumes that miracles have never occurred in order to prove that miracles have never occurred.  CS Lewis notes,

“Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact we are arguing in a circle.”[6]

  • Hume presupposes naturalism.  Yet if God exists then surely miracles are possible.
  • Hume misuses probability:  1) Highly improbable events do occur; 2) probability cannot tell what actually happened in the past.
  • Miracles appear as sense perception and therefore can be supported by testimony; if miracles are possible then claims should be investigated rather than just ruled out a priori.

How about a more scientific challenge? Early and mid 20th century theologian Rudolph Bultmann argues that “man’s knowledge and mastery of the world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world… the modern conception of human nature as a self-subsistent unity immune from the interference of supernatural powers must take its place.” According to Bultmann God is the Wholly Other, there are no points of contact between us and him.  God is, but we cannot know him objectively.  God is hidden and thus neither God nor his actions are open to verification.  This world is a closed system of cause and effect; we can never find God by empirical processes. There are no breaks in the links of causation; thus, there are no miracles. No event can ever be ascribed to God; all are natural causes.  There is an infinite qualitative difference between God and the world, which makes it impossible for God to objectively act in the world.  Paradoxically, the hidden God reaches down to finite humanity and reaches himself (via the kerygma).  Miracles would be intrusions of God into the natural realm.

What is quite interesting about Bultmann is that he was a contemporary with the rise of Einsteinian physics and relativity.  Bultmann was still shaping his theology and philosophy to a Newtonian system.  It’s not so much that God wouldn’t cause miracles; rather, it’s that he can’t. It would be morally wrong if he interfered with his creation.

How should we respond to objections based on science?

  • The closed-universe view, which says that the universe contains all of reality, is now being either questions or flat-out rejected by many scientists.  Many cosmologists are adopting the view of the multiverse, which is an open-system.  This is quite interesting, though I’m not using it argumentatively, if God were to create, wouldn’t you expect him to create an open-system such as the multiverse given is infinite creativity?
  • Physical science cannot account for all events purely on natural laws.
  • Probability applies even to the field of physics.
  • Some physical events are unpredictable and do not conform to laws (depending on which interpretation of quantum mechanics one ascribes to, particularly concerning wave collapse).
  • Causal agents (agents with libertarian freedom) create several events, which are unpredictable and cannot be ruled out.
  • Investigating an event to see if it actually occurred is valid apart from science and is regularly practiced in other fields (particularly the historical sciences).
  • All we need to establish by this method is that miracles cannot be ruled out a priori.
  • See more from John Lennox on philosophical and scientific objections.

How about a historical challenge?  Sociologist Ernst Troelstsch’s objection to miracles:  the principle of historical analogy.  In essence this principle states the historian has no right to accept as historical fact the account of a past event for which he has no analogy in the present.  For example, if one were to read of a great battle in ancient times in which one army massacres another without suffering a single casualty itself, one would be suspect of its authenticity.  To quote Troelstsch, “God never does miracles today, at least I’ve never seen one.  Therefore, I have no reason to believe that he did them in the past.”

Responding to Troelstsch’s historical challenge:

  • There are positive reasons to believe that the miraculous may be occurring today.  There is a growing awareness in the world of the paranormal—events that cannot be explained by natural causes.  (E.g. near death experiences).
  • It is impossible to argue that miracles do not occur merely because one has not experienced a miracle.  Miracles may be occurring beyond the scope of one’s awareness.  This is confusing an epistemological issue [knowledge based] with an ontological issue [a nature of being].
  • There is no reason a priori to reject the testimony of others who have experienced the miraculous.  As stated above, while one may be justified in requiring evidence for miracle claims, miracles are objective events that can be verified like any other event.

How about multireligious miracles?  The claim is that all religions have their miracles, so what makes Christianity’s miracles true and other religions’ false?

  • Not all religious teach miracles and the Jewish-Christian religions are the only traditions that claim to prove its teachings through miracles.
  • In all cases of miracles, no miracles have the historical evidence like the gospel miracles.
  • Christianity’s miracles are religiously significant.  Jesus’ miracles occurred at the climax of his unparalleled life.
  • Religio-historical context distinguishes miracles from physical anomalies.  When a scientific anomaly occurs it is usually assumed that some unknown natural factors are interfering, so that the law is neither violated nor revised.

It has been shown that miracles are not irrational, unscientific, or non-historical.  They can be rationally shown to be possible, are completely compatible with science, and because they are events in history, can be argued as historically have taken place.  If God exists then miracles are not only certainly possible, but one would expect them to take place as a sign of God’s presence.  Miracles are not beyond logic, logical absurdities, or contradictory.  No one is punting to the “God of the gaps”.

Miracles shape the crux of the Christian worldview.  The Jesus Seminar presupposes the impossibility of miracles, “The contemporary religious controversy turns on whether the worldview reflected in the Bible can be carried forward into this scientific age and retained as an article of faith… the Christ of creed and dogma… can no longer command the assent of those who have seen the heavens through Galileo’s telescope.”[7]  Miracles are a stumbling block for naturalists.  The use of miracles as an apologetic method is known as evidential apologetics.  Evidentialists will appeal to miracles to argue for theism:  1) historical evidence shows miracles occurred, 2) a theistic context is necessary for a miracle; 3) therefore, God must exist.  One of the most prominent proponents of this method is Gary Habermas.  This is what he calls “one step apologetics”.  Classical apologists also use the resurrection and miracles as arguments for the existence of God; however, they use it in conjunction with other arguments for the existence of God to set up a theistic context prior to arguing for miracles.

This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle.” –AW Tozer

[1] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, ed. 3 (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2008), 247.

[2] David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 2nd ed., Eric Steinberg, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 1993), Sec. X, Part I, 76.

[3] Ibid., 77.

[4] Sir Norman Anderson, The Evidence for the Resurrection (Leicestyer:  Inter Varisty Press, 1990), 1.

[5] C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament (London:  SCM, 1967) 3, 13.

[6] C.S. Lewis, Miracles, (New York Macmillan Publishing Company, 1960), 102.

[7] R.W. Funk, R.W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, “Introduction” to The Five Gospels (New York:  Macmillan, 1993), 2. For more on miracles, arguments for them, and applications see William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith ed. 3, a source for much of the included information.

June 20, 2011

Ancient Texts Compared to the Bible

by Max Andrews

Below is a chart that compares popular ancient texts with the Bible in when it was written, the earliest copy we have, and the number of copies there are.  This information is about a decade old so the number of NT manuscripts has most likely increased by now.  This may serve as a simple illustration of a component to the textual reliability of the Bible.

Author Book When Written Earliest Copy Time Gap No. of Copies
Homer Iliad 800 BC 400 BC 400 yrs 643
Herodotus History 480-425 BC AD 900 1,350 yrs 8
Thucydides History 460-400 BC AD 900 1,300 yrs 8
Plato   400 BC AD 900 1,300 yrs 7
Demosthenes   300 BC AD 1100 1,400 yrs 200
Caesar Gallic Wars 100-44 BC AD 900 1,000 yrs 10
Livy History of Rome 59 BC – AD 17 4th Cent. (Partial)Mostly 10th Cent. 400 yrs1,000 yrs 1 Partial19 Copies
Tacitus Annals AD 100 AD 1100 1,000 yrs 20
Pliny Secundus Natural History AD 61-113 AD 850 750 yrs 7
New Testament   AD 50-100 AD 114 (fragment)AD 200 (books)

AD 250 (most of NT)

AD 325 (complete NT)

+50 yrs100 yrs

150 yrs

225 yrs


Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 1999.

February 20, 2011

Miracles and Leibniz’s Principle of Least Action

by Max Andrews

The principle of least action states that God always chooses the most minimal means by which to produce the world.  For example, if God had the choice to intervene in the world three times or five times but he would still receive identical glory for either number of interventions then God would always choose the minimal means (three interventions).  I believe this principle bears truth, if anything it is quite attractive.  Now how does this compare with God’s interventions via miracles?  Let’s define a miracle as:  A divine intervention into, or an interruption of, the regular course of the world that produces a purposeful but unusual event that would not have occurred otherwise.  Miracles are not violations of laws of causality.

Are miracles thus dependent on strong actualizations or will weak actualizations be sufficient (God weakly actualizes S iff there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes [direct causation] S* and S* → S, where → is “counterfactual implication” [Let S be a state of affairs])?  It seems that strong actualization is the most obvious or most appealing means by which God intervenes (miracles), but perhaps weakly actualized miracles is more in sync with the principle of least action.  Perhaps at the initial conditions of the universe God constructed the world in such a way that the miracle would happen naturally given the states of affairs at the time of the miracle (including physical states and counterfactuals of human freedom).  This could have been the case that a natural quantum perturbation/anomalous event occurs at the time of the resurrection, thus, it is weakly actualized. (Now this includes all historical/physical events in time preceding the resurrection but this perturbation is not strongly/directly caused.  In other words, God does not introduce a new cause into the already existing cause and effect system).  It would still be a miracle given the religio-historical context which surround the miracle, which God anticipated.  These weakly actualized miracles that occur naturally are not mere natural events given the background information.  If weakly actualized miracles are a priori defined out of existence by the definition given, then if weakly actualized miracles are plausible, perhaps we need a new working definition.  This begs the question, which, for God, is the least course of action:  weakly actualized miracles or strongly actualized miracles?

January 10, 2011

Bayes’s Theorem Applied to the Historicity of the Resurrection

by Max Andrews

I concluded that the probability the resurrection of Jesus happened lies within a 72% likelihood that it occurred.  I thought that was a bit low myself, my biggest interfering factor was the possibility of living in an open system multiverse.  I would like to see some more evaluation on the role and probabilities when open systems are considered as an objection to the resurrection.  An abstract from my [non-exhaustive] recent paper titled “An Application of Bayes’s Theorem to the Case for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus“:

Thomas Bayes’s theorem, in probability theory, is a rule for evaluating the conditional probability of two or more mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive events.  The conditional probability of an event is the probability of that event happening given that another event has already happened.[1] The theorem may be expressed as:

What the solution [P(h|e&k)] represents is the probability of the hypothesis in question is given the evidence and the background information.  The numerator [P(e|h&k) P(h|k)]  is the probability of the product of evidence and background knowledge and the background knowledge alone. The denominator [P(e|k)] is the probability of the event with the evidence alone.  Each factor involved is assigned a probability between 0 and 1 with 0 as impossible and 1 being completely certain.[2]

When this theorem is applied to the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus the hypothesis in question is that God raised Jesus from the dead.  The evidence for the resurrection will be Gary Habermas’ minimal facts approach.  The background knowledge will be commonly accepted dates, the actual existence and crucifixion Jesus, the roles other persons played in the crucifixion, and the method of inquiry.

[1] Patrick J. Hurley, Logic (Belmont, CA:  Thomson Wadsworth, 2008), 519.

[2] For an in-depth look at Bayes’ Theorem applied to arguments, particularly theistic arguments, see Richard Swinburne, The Existence of God (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2004) 66-72.