Sunday, April 08, 2012

A quote from Swinburne on the Resurrection

For Easter.A redated post.

“It is simply not possible to investigate whether Jesus rose from the dead without taking a view about how probable it is that there is a God likely to intervene in human history in this kind of way. If the reader thinks that all the evidence suggests there is no God of the traditional kind, or that although perfectly good he would not intervene in human history, then the detailed historical evidence about what happened in Palestine in the first century AD is perhaps not strong enough to make it probable that Jesus rose from the dead. And this despite the very striking coincidence that the one prophet in human history about whom there is the kind of life was also the one prophet about whom there is the kind of evidence not too unexpected if his life was culminated by a super-miracle. There is significant historical evidence that Jesus did satisfy the requirements, and the coincidence to which I referred must be taken seriously. If the background evidence leaves it not too improbable that there is a God likely to act in the ways discussed, then the total evidence makes it very probable that Jesus was God Incarnate who rose from the dead.”—Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate

15 comments:

normajean said...

Just wanted to say thanks for your work, attitude, and endurance here. Blessings to you and your family this Easter, Sir.

Mark said...

If we have good reason to believe that technologically advanced extraterrestrials capable of visiting Earth exist, then likewise we may have good reason to think Jesus was sponsored and brought back to life by benevolent aliens. Which leaves me to wonder why apologists so rarely address the testimonial evidence of supposed UFO abductees.

Steven said...

(i) It isn't obvious that aliens could bring a person back to the dead; at least, I don't know what sorts of aliens the abductees report having experienced, but it is doubtful that they are capable of raising someone from the dead.

(ii) Even if they are, I don't think we have the same amount of evidence for aliens as we do for a god powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead.

Mark said...

(i) It isn't obvious that aliens could bring a person back to the dead;

I'd say there's no reason to think they couldn't. Besides, they wouldn't have had to literally bring Jesus back from the dead; they could have made him merely look dead in all sorts of ways undetectable to Iron Age human peasants.

(ii) Even if they are, I don't think we have the same amount of evidence for aliens as we do for a god powerful enough to raise Jesus from the dead.

I really don't agree. And as Swinburne notes, you don't just need a God powerful enough to resurrect people, but a God human enough to be remotely interested in doing so.

unkle e said...

Surely Swinburne's point is that philosophy (i.e. the arguments for the existence of God) and history (the documents relating to Jesus and the resurrection) reinforce each other. This doesn't happen if one has concluded that the philosophical arguments fail, in which case one has to find another explanation of the historical facts.

And surely the alien "hypothesis" likewise fails because (a) no philosophical arguments or verified observations support it, and (b) neither does it fit with Jesus' life and teachings. Are you sure you didn't write your post on April 1? : )

Mark said...


And surely the alien "hypothesis" likewise fails because (a) no philosophical arguments or verified observations support it,


"Verified observations?" There's a ton of elaborate testimonial evidence favoring alien abduction. Nor is it tremendously obvious why it's all worse than the testimonial evidence for Jesus' resurrection.

(b) neither does it fit with Jesus' life and teachings.

What do you mean?

Steven Carr said...

'. There is significant historical evidence that Jesus did satisfy the requirements, and the coincidence to which I referred must be taken seriously.'

Extraordinary events require an extraordinarily Old Book as evidence.

'Significant historical evidence' means that not one person in history ever named himself as seeing an empty tomb, or has having heard of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome, Joseph of Arimathea, Judas, Thomas, Nicodemus who allegedly heloed bury Jesus etc etc

Not even Peter.....

J said...

Does the real message of Christ depend on believing in the literal, supernatural Resurrection?? If so, few if any of the Founding fathers would count as christians.

Paine did not consider the biblical narrative convincing:

"Now, if the writers of those four books had gone into a court of justice to prove an alibi (for it is of the nature of an alibi that is here attempted to be proved, namely, the absence of a dead body by supernatural means), and had they given their evidence in the same contradictory manner as it is here given, they would have been in danger of having their ears cropped for perjury, and would have justly deserved it. Yet this is the evidence, and these are the books that have been imposed upon the world as being given by divine inspiration and as the unchangeable Word of God."

The Founders placed far more value on Christ's gospel message of, like, Peace and Justice than they did on an "enthusiastic" faith in the dogma of the Res.

Papalinton said...

Bear with me for a moment: The gist of what Swinburne contends is that; The probability of a resurrected jesus is not probable if the probability of an intervening god is not probable. But by simple happenstance the one prophet in human history that was resurrected probably happened if his life was culminated by a super-miracle. Because the gospels [what other sources are there?] claim significant historical evidence for jesus then it is probable that he was resurrected. And if the 'background evidence' [the bible] suggests the probability of a god, that is likely there to dispense a super-miracle, then it is highly probable jesus-god was resurrected.

Circular reasoning anyone?

Swinburne's argument is as circular as swinging a dead cat by the tail.
The most generous one could award this bit of 'reasoning' is; "The bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it".

History, anthropology, sociology and all other reason-oriented scholarship tells us we probably have a kernel of fact that an itinerant reactionary zealot fomenting public disorder was crucified [usual punishment for anti-government fanatics] by the Romans at the behest of the community and the body tossed in the local garbage dump at Gehenna.

Science, medicine, physiology, biology, physics, chemistry and all other reason-oriented scholarship tells us that a putrescent corpse only revivifies in mythology and fables.

Everything else is legendizing accretion borrowed, co-opted or appropriated from the myriad of extant contemporaneous belief systems. Even Justin Martyr makes known in his First Apology, at Chapter 21, "And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter."
In making claims regarding Christ's virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Justin is saying nothing different than what the Romans had maintained of their gods. The vast bulk of the Jews equally, rejected the notion of jesus being god incarnate and all the attendant mythological paraphernalia, right to this day.

Philosophy has failed to inform us in any substantive way of the case for miracles.
"For the evidence for a miracle claim, being public and empirical, is never strictly demonstrative, either as to the fact of the event or as to the supernatural cause of the event. It remains possible, though the facts in the case may in principle render it wildly improbable, that the testifier is either a deceiver or himself deceived; and so long as those possibilities exist, there will be logical space for other forms of evidence to bear on the conclusion. Arguments about miracles therefore take their place as one piece—a fascinating piece—in a larger and more important puzzle."
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/miracles/

May your chocolate bunnies lay lots of eggs during this festival of Oestre. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ēostre ]

B. Prokop said...

Coming off my 40-day Lenten internet fast (more on that later) and the 3-day high of Easter celebrations, I read through 5 weeks of DI comments in one morning. I am so grateful for my annual retreat from this and other forums. One gets a chance to put things into perspective, to perceive that the Blazing Truths of God, His Christ, and the Redemption call for no "defense". It is not necessary to prove anything. God is not a proposition to be demonstrated; He is a Presence to be recognized. Acknowledging His Immanence (look it up) is like putting on a pair of corrective eyeglasses. All that was formerly meaningless and purposeless becomes crystal clear and charged with significance.

And as for the skeptics' wearyingly repeated demand for "extraordinary evidence" for an "extraordinary claim", I respond thus:

Synonyms for ordinary - normal, commonplace, usual, expected, etc.

Synonyms for extraordinary - abnormal, atypical, not customary, uncommon, etc.

Given the above understanding of the terminology being used, and acknowledging the fact that 99.9% of humanity throughout history would answer the question "Does God exist?" in the affirmative, I see no alternative but to call the atheist's assertion that there is no God as being the extraordinary claim which requires extraordinary evidence. They've put the shoe on the wrong foot!

It's been many years since I've read the novel so I can't remember the exact wording, but there's a wonderful line in A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin which goes something like this:

"The atheist is like a person standing on the seashore in the midst of a powerful gale. He is blasted by sand and the surf, and can barely stand against the powerful wind. Yet all the time he stubbornly denies the existence of the Sea."

B. Prokop said...

From the very beginning, I never included “business related” internet activity as part of my Lenten fast. Thus, I could still do on-line banking, check the weather, and perform my duties as president of the Howard Astronomical League (HAL) while satisfying the terms of my self-imposed annual withdrawal from the net. As part of those aforementioned presidential duties, I started up in February what amounts to a blog, called “President’s Corner” on the HAL Forum. So if you’re at all interested in what I spend the majority of my leisure time at, go to http://www.howardastro.org/phpBB3/viewforum.php?f=4 and see what I write about when not posting to Victor’s site.

Walter said...

Swinburne's argument is as circular as swinging a dead cat by the tail.
The most generous one could award this bit of 'reasoning' is; "The bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it".


It seems a pretty poor argument to me as well.

What I have noticed is that most Christian apologetic arguments are not designed towards convincing skeptics, their main purpose is to assuage doubts that crop up in the flock. If you already believe but have occasional doubts, apologetics helps to ease your mind. Those of us on the outside don't get the same benefit.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

"What I have noticed is that most Christian apologetic arguments are not designed towards convincing skeptics, their main purpose is to assuage doubts that crop up in the flock. If you already believe but have occasional doubts, apologetics helps to ease your mind. Those of us on the outside don't get the same benefit."

The same Walter can be said of Atheist apologetics too. Take for instance Papalinton. Papa is quick to quote the next Atheist or unorthodox apologetic website as the next man especially if it agrees with it.

If he agrees with it, it appears that he does not look through the material or question it validity. Take for instance his quoting of material for justifying his belief that the trinity was a fourth century development. When showed at least some of the quotes* were taken out of context he just bombarded through and instead quoted a rationalist website that disagreed with Encyclopaedia Britannica .

If he does not agree with a quote then its apologetic smokescreen and falls back on "nuff said" as a definitive end all argument. Heads he win tails the other guy loses.

I think this concurs with your statement, If you already believe but have occasional doubts, apologetics helps to ease your mind. Those of us on the outside don't get the same benefit. Its just that this applies to Atheist apologetics swell, which is the case for me.

* Quotes from Encyclopaedia Britannica and the New Catholic Encyclopaedia

Victor Reppert said...

Fundamental changes of mind, such as the change from atheism to theism, requires a fundamental change in life orientation. There is a lot of natural human resistance to doing this. But evidence does do something to people, because there are changes and conversions form one side to the other.

Papalinton said...

"Fundamental changes of mind, such as the change from atheism to theism, requires a fundamental change in life orientation."

Yes, true. It requires that one resort to the primitive instincts of teleology and the primeval intuitions of agency detection built into the survival mechanisms expressed in our genetic makeup, designed for the times humanity spent in the savannahs of Africa. We have come a long way as a species since that time.

Only a working understanding of the evolutionary sciences through education and knowledge have we come to appreciate the context in which living matter was established and propagated on this planet. And with that understanding comes the clear realization that there is no need for humanity to remain a perpetual captive to its genetic predisposition. Indeed the next fundamental and momentous change in life orientation will be our intellectual and philosophical capacity to set aside the chains of the genetic species-survival imperative that served us so well in our early times of ignorance. The continuing anguished clutching for the religious placebo is a clear indicator of those who remain held captive to their basal genetic inheritance. Deep ignorance of the scientific narrative is the principal [and quite unnecessary] condition for adherence to ancient texts of unknown origins, sources and writers.

We can count on one hand the numbers that change from atheism to theism. We know them because believers leave no media stone unturned to trumpet their conversion. Meanwhile the tidal wave of theism to atheism quietly goes about transiting humanity into a society ready to unlock their ancient genetic shackles.

Last night I watched a program matching Cardinal George Pell, the highest ranking catholic official in Australia, with Richard Dawkins. While the show itself did not rise to great heights for either side, interestingly, a concurrent poll was held with the question, " Does religious belief make the world a better place?" With some twenty-plus thousand responses during the hour-long show, the results: Yes - 24%. No - 76%.
http://www.abc.net.au/iview/#/view/921568