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May 13, 2013

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It doesn't matter if 50% or 75% or 90% percent or 110% percent of some group accepts something.

What matters is Why?, Rhodes scholar.

Hey RonH.

You're right that *why* is the real question. But Greg mentions this fact as an argument from authority. It's not that the majority of Americans believe it, or that the majority of Christians believe it - he is pointing out that the majority of historians believe it. We could talk about why they believe it, but wouldn't you say that most historians accepting these claims as being historically undeniable is a fact that must be dealt with?

Rather than waving it away with ridicule, it seems to me that you need to provide us basis to believe that the majority of historians are mistaken.

Actually, Scott Smith, it has been frustrating to determine what qualifications are necessary to be included in Dr. Habermas’ percentages. Notice Gregory Koukl (as common) does not state these are historians, but first declares “virtually everybody in the historical realm” and then further qualifies it to “75 – 95% of biblical scholarship.”

Who are these people on Dr. Habermas’ list? (Last I heard, Dr. Licona indicated it was 600 pages long in Word format.) What would it take to “make the list” as it were? Anyone writing on the internet? Only published works? If the same person writes five (5) articles and three (3) books—does this count for one or eight? Only those with appropriate degrees? And what degree? Theological? Historical? Is there a mandatory language minimum?

Who is “virtually everybody in the historical realm” or “biblical scholarship”? For example, in 2005, (the first instance regarding qualification I could find) Dr. Habermas indicated 75% of those person writing on the resurrection believed in a physical or spiritual resurrection. Unsurprisingly, guess what percentage equally held to an empty tomb? The exact same—75%. If some pastor of Backwoods Baptist wrote an article for the local community college paper indicting: 1) he believed Jesus was raised from the dead and 2) there was an empty tomb on Easter Sunday…is that really all that remarkable? Bit like saying 75% of the people at a banquet were vegetarian and only 25% of the people ate hamburgers. One follows the other fairly closely.

And would said Pastor of Backwoods Baptist qualify or not to be on Dr. Habermas’ list? Would I?

Further, Dr. Licona noted in his recent work, Dr. Habermas has re-reviewed his list of “scholars” (whatever that means) and has now revised his numbers to indicate less than 75% (but more than 2/3) of these “scholars” hold to an empty tomb. Raising the question whether some have changed their mind, or Dr. Habermas’ first calculation was incorrect.

This minimal facts approach is probably about the best historical argument a Christian apologist can make for the resurrection. To any skeptic who has studied the history, though, it is not very persuasive. If all Christians are doing is convincing themselves—it is sufficient; but really, it should not be utilized against an informed skeptic.

Scott Smith,

We could talk about why they believe it, but wouldn't you say that most historians accepting these claims as being historically undeniable is a fact that must be dealt with?

I'd say: DagoodS dealt with it.

Rather than waving it away with ridicule, it seems to me that you need to provide us basis to believe that the majority of historians are mistaken.

OK. Please show me...

1) a list (of historians, if you insist on calling them that)
2) the criteria used in generating the list
3) the beliefs of each of those on the list
4) the reasons for those beliefs

RonH

What field was Habermas working in when he did this work?

If fully one in four working paleontologists did not believe there were any transitional fossils, and I advanced this polling data as a "top argument" for common descent, how seriously would you take this argument?

If fully four out of four medical doctors agree that three-day-old corpses do not return to life, would you or would you not a fortiori believe that this has been established as a "fact" which must be "accounted for" in the resurrection stories?

DaGoodS/RonH...

I'm far from an expert, but based on my reading of those you've mentioned, the document being referred to is comprised of academic literature (not blogs) written by scholars (excluding your "backwoods pastor" example). That means that these are people who are either credentialed in the field of history of the New Testament or who have studied that field sufficiently to be cited among those who have.

This isn't an argument based on consensus. The point here is to focus on the claims that the majority of people accept. If he were to focus on miracle claims or on personal experiences, you would understandably cry foul because you don't accept those things. In this case, he's saying let's focus on those details which more people accept than not. It seems reasonable enough to me.

People do this all the time. In Habermas' case though, he has a document backing up his stats rather than pulling them from thin air. You don't have to accept his numbers I suppose, but it seems like you would need your own bibliography to counter his. Also, Habermas is a respected scholar himself. He has questioned numerous historians on the veracity of his claims and they have granted him his premises. What do you do with that?

I'm open to hearing your challenges, because I'd like to check them out. But it sounds like you have less to support your assertions than Habermas does. Are you aware of a significant number of New Testament scholars that dispute the premises of Dr. Habermas' minimal facts argument?

he has a document backing up his stats rather than pulling them from thin air

OK, show it to me.


"...based on my reading of those you've mentioned, the document being referred to is comprised of academic literature..."

In other words, based on your wild guess with no more evidence than Dagoods or anyone else has access to.

Question to all apologists and fans of apologetics: wouldn't it just... feel so much more awesome to have a ready reply based on actual information to answer this question? Given how awesome it feels to be able to back up one's assertions with readily verifiable facts, what conclusions do you think non-apologists draw when they observe that Habermas refuses to supply this information?

Scott Smith,

What field was Habermas working in when he did this work? Think about that.

Scott Smith,

Two areas to address—the percentages and the minimal facts themselves:

1) Percentage. As Gregory Koukl correctly points out, Christianity’s crux is the Resurrection. Consequently, many Christians—scholar and non-scholar—write articles regarding the resurrection. Philosophers, theologians, doctors, historians, lawyers, engineers, psychiatrists, sociologists, etc. etc. It is a primary focus for Christians to write upon.

As many of these individuals already believe the resurrection occurred (according to the only statistic I recall supplied by Dr. Habermas 75% believe in a physical or spiritual resurrection), they equally believe many claims necessarily following such a belief—empty tomb, disciples’ statements, James’ conversion, etc.

Why should we be impressed many Christians write in support of what they believe? Why is the percentage important? Equally, we might point out 75% (made up statistic) of those writing about eating meat are against it. Only it turns out those most concerned about eating meat are vegetarians. Or we might point out 75% (another made up statistic) of those writing about Obama’s birth certificate do not think it is legitimate. And as it turns out, those most concerned about the birth certificate are Republicans.

Christians focus on the resurrection. Christians write about what they focus on. Most writings on the Resurrection are written by Christians. Most writings on the Resurrection believe facts necessarily following from a resurrection. The percentages themselves are not very persuasive.

I agree there are still legitimate historical points to be made. We cannot discount the claims simply because Christians write them. These facts may still be true…but the percentage of people making them is not significant.

[Additionally, I would note as others have, many Christians do not stay consistent in this methodology when the method would require them to change their own beliefs. Depending on the metric 95 – 99.9% scientists are persuaded evolution is a fact. If percentages reflect reality, Christians holding to the minimal facts percentage method must (to stay consistent) equally hold to evolution. Even more so. Yet what I see is when this methodology becomes inconvenient—evolution—it is abandoned. If Christians are not persuaded by this method when it would cause them to change their position, why should I be convinced it is an appropriate method?]

2) Minimal facts. Obviously to fully address them would require length inappropriate to blog comments. I will briefly touch two items—Paul and Doubting Thomas. (For purposes of this section, I will assume arguendo the New Testament claims.)

Prior to his conversion, did Paul know the minimal facts? If he did not, then the idea Jewish leaders would have tried to debunk Christianity is exploded—Christians were not sharing the claims for the Jewish leaders to have knowledge as to how to debunk them! If Paul did know the minimal facts, they were not enough to persuade him.

Paul had immeasurably more access to evidence than I ever could. If the minimal facts didn’t convince him at the time, why would they convince me 2000 years later? Paul knew the culture, the language and individuals involved. Paul could talk to the bribed soldiers at the tomb. Visit the tomb itself. See the repaired tear in the temple curtain. Talk to the priests at the Sanhedrin convicting Jesus. Let alone Jesus dying, empty tomb, James’ conversion, etc.

Even with the minimal facts and additional information, it took a Special Appearance by Jesus to convince Paul. The Minimal facts were not enough.

Doubting Thomas had even more. He had his friends directly relating their experiences. (Not second- and third-hand writing in a dead language such as we have.) He could visit the tomb, talk to people who saw the resurrected saints, felt the earthquake, and talk to the woman. He could touch the Shroud of Turin while the paint was still wet; see the bread with Jesus’ teeth marks.

Even with the minimal facts and direct additional information, it took a Special Appearance by Jesus to convince Doubting Thomas. The Minimal facts were not enough.

I could address each claim and explain the problems. But for now, in brief, I would indicate if the minimal facts weren’t convincing to skeptics who were at ground zero, it is understandable why these same facts and less available information are not convincing now.

Scott Smith,

Regardless of a scholar's credentials, always ask for reasons. Don't settle for opinions. This is the key to Rhodes Scholar.

-Greg Koukl

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, pg 168

DagoodS,

As many of these individuals already believe the resurrection occurred (according to the only statistic I recall supplied by Dr. Habermas 75% believe in a physical or spiritual resurrection), they equally believe many claims necessarily following such a belief—empty tomb, disciples’ statements, James’ conversion, etc.

An empty tomb doesn't follow necessarily from a spiritual resurrection, does it?

Hey DagoodS, evidence has little to do with belief.

"1Pe 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 1Pe 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. 1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1Pe 1:4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 1Pe 1:5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1Pe 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 1Pe 1:7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 1Pe 1:8 and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, 1Pe 1:9 obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."

Sam, I agree an empty tomb does not necessary follow from a spiritual resurrection. I figured my comment was long enough without dealing with exceptions to the larger statistic (and arguably exceptions within those exceptions!) If:

1) 75% believe in the Resurrection (physical or spiritual); and
2) 67 – 74% believe in the empty tomb,

I would presume those who believe in a spiritual resurrection and a full tomb are in that 1 – 7% difference. (Although this would also include those holding to a physical resurrection but a full tomb, and the larger percentage would include those holding to a spiritual resurrection and an empty tomb.) I thought I would address the largest percentage—and we are supposed be convinced by the larger numbers—those holding to a physical resurrection and an empty tomb.

Brad B,

Refreshing to see someone admit the evidence is not sufficient to convince to the point of belief. I guess your concerns should be directed to those Christian apologists (such as this blog entry) who keep presenting evidence as if it was.

Tried to leave a comment twice and it is just not taking it...ah well.

DagoodS, if you had a lot of links in it, it might've been caught by the spam filter. I'm sure somebody from STR will be along to check.

Sam, I agree an empty tomb does not necessary follow from a spiritual resurrection. I figured my comment was long enough without dealing with exceptions to the larger statistic (and arguably exceptions within those exceptions!) If:

1) 75% believe in the Resurrection (physical or spiritual); and
2) 67 – 74% believe in the empty tomb,

I would presume those who believe in a spiritual resurrection and a full tomb are in that 1 – 7% difference. (Although this would also include those holding to a physical resurrection but a full tomb, and the larger percentage would include those holding to a spiritual resurrection and an empty tomb.) I thought I would address the largest percentage—and we are supposed be convinced by the larger numbers—those holding to a physical resurrection and an empty tomb.

DagoodS, is your point that since there's such a close correspondence between the percentage of people who believe in a physical or spiritual resurrection and the number of people who believe the tomb was empty that it must be that the reason all those people believe the tomb was empty is because they think Jesus was raised from the dead and that for that reason we shouldn't be surprised that 67 - 74% of people think the tomb was empty?

Sam,

I think DagwoodS makes a couple of good and interesting arguments - even if you find places where they need refinement.

But, why why why get bogged down in all this?

As far as I can tell, we can't examine Habermas's data: it's in a 'private manuscript'.

Even if we could see it, his method is rubbish; historians ought not to be polling each other to find out what (probably) happened in the past.

Doing more analysis of it is a complete waste of time.

Instead of polling people (whoever they may be), examine directly the reasons people offer for their belief or lack thereof.

RonH

Sam,

In a nutshell...yep. (Also based upon my experience talking with Christians and reading Christian material.) I do not recall ever reading or talking with a Christian who held to a spiritual--not physical--resurrection. Presumably (unless I am completely off-base) there is a relatively small percentage of such people.

"Refreshing to see someone admit the evidence is not sufficient to convince to the point of belief. I guess your concerns should be directed to those Christian apologists (such as this blog entry) who keep presenting evidence as if it was."

Well, DagoodS, I'm not sure we agree much, apologetics is for belivers, not unbelievers who cannot reason rightly. It's not as if Christians dont need to be reasonable in their faith, in fact it is essential for sanctification as faith seeks understanding.

You earlier said:

"If all Christians are doing is convincing themselves—it is sufficient; but really, it should not be utilized against an informed skeptic."
as though an "informed skeptic" is willing to reason coherently to foundational propositions. If they were, as some seem to have professed, they will at minimum see the irrationality of a worldview that attempts to reason without God in the first principle.

Brad B,

If they were, as some seem to have professed, they will at minimum see the irrationality of a worldview that attempts to reason without God in the first principle.

Tell me, where do get this stuff?

And since it is, as you say, for believers, what does it do for you?

I know the answer to the first question, but the second is interesting.

Hi RonH, I think the answer I will give is found in the previous post also when I said:

"It's not as if Christians dont need to be reasonable in their faith, in fact it is essential for sanctification as faith seeks understanding."

The Divine Logos Is the foundation of knowledge, the world as experienced by humankind is comprehended in and by biblical revelation.

"Jhn 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Jhn 1:2 He was in the beginning with God. Jhn 1:3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. "

“If they were, as some seem to have professed, they will at minimum see the irrationality of a worldview that attempts to reason without God in the first principle”

It is interesting that the set of presuppositions and first principles necessarily embraced by the naturalist inevitably leads to the death of Reason as all physical systems fail to account for freedom. This is touched on in an Opening Piece here on STR from February 15, 2013, “Our Sense of Moral Obligation Proves Materialism Is False”.


As we follow the regress of these aimless reverberations of photons ever backwards, not only does “good” die the death of irrational physical systems enslaved to blind quantum forces comprising intention-less photon fluxes within “psychic phosphorescence” but so also Reason, and so also Thought, and so also Thinking, and so also Love.


There is a door out for naturalism’s irrational slaves (its version of “consciousness” or “volition of thought”) as we begin to explore the pontifications of George Berkeley and Sir James Jeans although idealism is simply a restatement of those topographies of Actuality already described ages ago by the Hebrew and by the Christian in startling depth. If some Flavor and Nuance of Word, be it Proposition, be it Presupposition, be it Premise, be it Law, be it Property of Thought, or be it Content of Thought, and so on, is our Final Regress, our End of Ad Infinitum, then the Christian is quite happy to allow others to borrow from him as all this is simply another testimony of the truth of Scripture as all Vectors converge within that flavor and nuance which just is Word. If one commits to those varied vectors and assorted avenues and diverse doors within Word then, well, welcome to the Truth of All Things as made plain to Consciousness ages ago via Word as “knowing” and “volition of thought” could never be found in Consciousness alone but is found only by Word thus poured into Consciousness for it is not enough that Word be Consciousness but Word must also be with Consciousness as it is Word and Word alone which is the Final Regress, the End of Ad Infinitum.

Short of all this, and without any explanation as to how his Reason is free of all these necessary deaths, oddly, the naturalist continues to dialogue about this and about that as if nothing is fatally wrong with all his (our) “Thinking”.

So right scbrownlhrm. The hand waving away of the inconvenient truth continues no matter how plainly the epistemological challenge for legitimacy is requested. Of course it cannot be met as your post above clearly stated. I might add, that if there were even a hint of legitimacy in a Godless system, I would probably be more patient when critiquing these arguments, but there just isn't--bottom line is there is none so blind as him who will not see.

It is simply not the case that historians believe in the resurrection to the extent stated in this video. *Maybe* christian historians do. Maybe. But if we widen the field to include secular historians, there is simply no way this claim holds up. It is patently dishonest.

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