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« Theological Poet - "Let Me Count the Ways" | Main | Justified in Not Believing? »

July 01, 2009

Comments

>I mean if your scribe argument carries any weight then so does my pizza argument.

No, it doesn't, for reasons that ought to be clear. Pizzas are not the the same thing as the word of God.

I would have thought that a god who is interested in being clearly understood would have written his own book. But hey, God can do as he wishes. We are but cosmic toe jam.

>>At the very least, the use (or “need”) for scribes is not very god-like.

First, you're misunderstanding the incarnation. Second, you're saying that since the records say that Jesus performed some miracles, we'd need tons more evidence than the usual to corroborate the account or else you won't believe they happened, but if Jesus had performed tons of miracles all the time (blinking documents into existence, etc.), then you would believe that He really was God?

Also, when you use the argument:

1. If Jesus were God, He could do anything.
2. Jesus did not do everything.
3. Therefore Jesus was not God.

(which also could be stated as:

1. God can do anything.
2. God does not do everything.
3. Therefore God does not exist.)

you're forgetting that God is a person with a will and purposes. He's not a miracle machine. He does specific things in a specific way for a reason. I think the real question you should be asking yourself is, why did Jesus (or God, depending on the situation) as described in the Bible, do the things He did? What reasons did the Bible give? What have great Christian thinkers over the centuries thought about why Jesus did what He did? And that's what you should be evaluating--the story as a whole, not your ideas about what could/should have been if you were in charge.

For example, instead of assuming that God wouldn't use human beings to spread the Gospel (rather than flashing messages across the sky), instead you should be asking why God would use human beings to spread the Gospel. Perhaps there's an answer already provided in the Bible that you don't know about--an answer that shows that God had much better ideas about running the world than any of us could have thought of on our own.

>>I would have thought that a god who is interested in being clearly understood would have written his own book.

He did. But in a better, more interesting and beautiful way than the one you thought of (i.e., blinking it into existence).

Didn't say, "therefore, Jesus is not God". Just said that find the behavior "not god-like". Just saying, not what I'd expect from a a god. Or perhaps I should say, God constantly disappoints.

That said, I get the argument. God can do as God damn well pleases.

...Speaking of writing that is not god-like, I've read 1 Corinthians 15 in its entirety about 20 times in the last day or so, and for the life of me, I can't tell if Paul thinks that Jesus was physically resurrected or not. He talks a lot about resurrection, but he jumps back and forth between talking about Jesus and talking about other human, and there's jumping around from spiritual bodies to physical bodies to flesh and blood to the "last Adam" had a spiritual body to...well, it's a mess.

Now, despite Jason's comments about me, I think I have reasonable reading comprehension skills. But this chapter is a mess. We really could use an all powerful god to act as editor here.

>>I think I have reasonable reading comprehension skills. But this chapter is a mess.

I'm not surprised you can't make sense of it. If you picked up any 1600 page book and read one chapter over and over that referred to concepts explained throughout the book, my guess is that wouldn't make much sense to you, either! :)

I doubt that most people had even "4 independent witnesses" for the first claim of an earthquake that they heard.

I learned about earthquakes in grade school. Pictures, textbooks, teachers. That's multiple independent sources. I don't know where you learned about them.

The principle here is not complicated. We judge the veracity of a claim in light of our current experience. If someone tells me spaghettio's turned into a bunny rabbit I don't believe it. If someone tells me that they ate eggs today I take them at their word. There's no need to find out if people were willing to die for the belief that spaghettio's turned into a bunny rabbit. We dismiss it immediately.

There was a first earthquake in history. Before that time, if you had said that we know that an earthquake won't happen, because it would be unprecedented, you would have been wrong.

Nobody is saying that things that haven't happened before won't happen. This is not about what can and can't happen. This is about what it is rational to believe has happened. Can spaghettio's turn into a bunny rabbit? Logically yes. We're open to it. We just demand a lot of evidence.

If you thought you saw the earthquake with your own eyes, would you reject your perception of what you thought you saw, since eyesight is ordinary rather than extraordinary evidence?

If you had no prior evidence of earthquakes, yes, you might not believe your own eyes. That's not irrational. See, there's a difference being being correct and being rational. A belief can be irrational and correct and also rational and incorrect. It was rational to believe that Newtonian physics described the motion of stars and planets based upon what was known at the time. Turned out it was incorrect. Likewise a person can look at star alignment and predict rain for tomorrow. If it does rain they were correct. But they were irrational. What we're saying is that belief in the resurrection is irrational. I wasn't there. I could be proven wrong if further evidence comes to light or a time machine is built. But the evidence does not justify it as a rational belief.

A human can catch an apple, and God can resurrect a human.

Once again, nobody is saying God can't resurrect a human. That is not in dispute. The point is God hasn't ever done this before as far as we know. He's let billions die without raising him from the dead. So when someone tells me that it happened I'm skeptical, and I demand exceptional evidence. Additionally I know that religious people claim that others have risen from the dead somewhat frequently, and they've never been proven correct before, but they've often been proven wrong. This claim fits that pattern, so I should be extra skeptical and demand even more evidence.

Your claim that "we would not believe" needs to be argued, not just asserted.

I spoke with Matt Slick and he never suggested he would believe it. Gary Habermas never suggested he would believe it. Nobody in the audience ever claimed that they should believe water was 600°C. I've never met someone that suggested they would believe it and I've posed the question to many people. So nobody I know would believe it and everyone I've asked say they would disbelieve it. Would you believe it?

For your analogy to be more analogous, you would have to add a context of religious significance, like that of Jesus.

Why wouldn't that rather make the situation worse for you? We know that miraculous claims are often made in a religious context. In fact it's almost strictly a religious context. Never once has a miraculous claim been proven true, whereas it's been proven false thousands of times. Given that this claim is being made in a religious context shouldn't we rather be even more skeptical?

And I'll put Eddie Tabash's question he posed to WL Craig to you. If a person claimed they flew around a couple of planets in an intergalactic spacecraft this morning you wouldn't believe them. What if they claimed they did it with God's help and for some Divine purpose? Does this really change anything?

Your reference to the alleged "notoriously unreliable" nature of eyewitness testimony also needs to be argued, not just asserted.

You've heard the Arif Ahmed debate so you must know that he provided the scientific study indicated the exceptionally poor performance of the eyewitnesses in the case study. 60% of the eyewitnesses in the case study positively identified the wrong person as the perpetrator of the staged attack after a mere 7 week interval. Not 20 years or 30 years or 70 years or whatever it is. 7 weeks. These are educated, intelligent people, not supersitious people living in an age of relative ignorance.

But observing what happens to dead bodies when no other factor is involved doesn't tell us what to expect when the intervention of God is involved, just as watching apples in your backyard fall to the ground doesn't tell you what will happen if you reach your hand out and catch one as it's falling.

Once again, nobody is disputing that God can alter what typically happens. Imagine that our spacecraft traveler dismissed our rejection of his claims by saying "People don't typically fly around in intergallactic spaceships, but this tells us nothing about what would happen if God helped me do it." Well obviously. But we're not aware that God typically does this. We're trying to decide what is reasonable to believe. We're not asserting that flying in a spaceship is impossible.

Saying that these people are "devoted" doesn't tell us how they came to be devoted.

Nobody said it does. But we do know that typically devoted followers are ready to tell us fantastical claims about their heroes. Right?

And there are many factors involved that you don't mention (the earlier dating of the creed of 1 Corinthians 15, the willingness of relevant sources to suffer for the claims they were making, hostile corroboration, etc.).

I can grant you the early date of the creed. We know eyewitnesses often get thing egregiously wrong in short order. Hostile corroboration of what? Authorship attributions? I've already granted you all the assumptions you could ask for. I'm granting all the authorship attributions that you want. I've assumed conservative dating on all the writings. These details don't change anything as far as our discussion here is concerned.

The mess in question is not so much derived from the concepts themselves, whether or not those concepts are somehow addressed elsewhere. The mess comes from the organization and writing itself. And the concepts themselves are simple enough that one should be able to read a single chapter without suffering from serious confusion. There are plenty of words available in a chapter-length discourse for clear explanation of the points one is trying to make. Seriously, this is clearly not well written, although it does help to explain why the Bible has been interpreted in a thousand different ways.

The chapter is useful in one other respect. It does explain Paul's motivation and conversion. He's clearly terrified of death. Nothing special or inexplicable here.

Jon wrote:

"I learned about earthquakes in grade school. Pictures, textbooks, teachers. That's multiple independent sources. I don't know where you learned about them."

You remember how you learned about earthquakes? You remember having those multiple sources and not believing in the earthquakes until you had heard of them from all of those multiple sources? Did you ever accept anything new after hearing of it from one source, such as a parent or teacher?

Most people in human history haven't had textbooks with photographs or photographs of any kind. Even today, I suspect that most of us hear of a new invention, a scientific discovery, a new animal that's been discovered, or some other such thing from less than "4 independent witnesses" and much less than "pictures, thousands of eyewitnesses, news reports, scientists explaining how it happened and why". I suspect that everybody reading this thread knows that we all accept many things we've heard of for the first time with less evidence than you've suggested we should have, without thinking we were wrong to do so.

You write:

"If you had no prior evidence of earthquakes, yes, you might not believe your own eyes."

I asked what you would do. If you were the first human alive when an earthquake occurred, and you saw it, would you reject your perception of what you thought you saw, since eyesight is ordinary rather than extraordinary evidence?

You write:

"What we're saying is that belief in the resurrection is irrational."

Why?

You write:

"The point is God hasn't ever done this before as far as we know. He's let billions die without raising him from the dead. So when someone tells me that it happened I'm skeptical, and I demand exceptional evidence."

See my marriage example above. When a co-worker who met thousands of women without marrying them tells you that he's getting married, you don't believe him until you have "exceptional evidence"? How would a lack of precedent make an action by a personal agent highly unlikely?

You write:

"Additionally I know that religious people claim that others have risen from the dead somewhat frequently, and they've never been proven correct before, but they've often been proven wrong."

People who are religious don't share each other's credibility just because they're all religious.

You write:

"I spoke with Matt Slick and he never suggested he would believe it. Gary Habermas never suggested he would believe it. Nobody in the audience ever claimed that they should believe water was 600°C. I've never met someone that suggested they would believe it and I've posed the question to many people. So nobody I know would believe it and everyone I've asked say they would disbelieve it. Would you believe it?"

I'm not Matt Slick or any of the other individuals you refer to. I referred you to my earlier citation of J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig for an explanation. In your example, we have to believe something we wouldn't normally believe. It's not as though it's normal for four independent temperature measuring devices to give the same misreading at the same time. In addition to what I cited earlier from Moreland and Craig, here are some more of their comments on the significance of independent witnesses:

"A further factor neglected by Hume is the remarkable increase in probability that results from multiple, independent testimony to some event. Charles Babbage, in his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, points out that if two witnesses are each 99% reliable, then the odds of their both independently testifying falsely to some event are only one out of 10,000; the odds of three such witnesses' being wrong is one out of 1,000,000; and the odds of six such witnesses' being mistaken is one out of 1,000,000,000,000, which, he points out, is five times as great as the improbability that Hume assigns to the resurrection of Jesus. In fact, the cumulative power of independent witnesses is such that individually they could be unreliable more than 50% of the time and yet their testimony combine to make an event of apparently enormous improbability quite probable in light of their testimony." (Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview [Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2003], p. 570)

Here are the comments from Moreland and Craig that I posted earlier:

"It was soon realized that if one simply weighed the probability of the event against the reliability of the witness, then we should be led into denying the occurrence of events which, though highly improbable, we reasonably know to have occurred. For example, if on the morning news you hear reported that the pick in last night's lottery was 7492871, this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, one out of several million, and even if the morning news's accuracy is known to be 99.99%, the improbability of the event reported will swamp the probability of the witness's reliability, so that we should never believe such reports. In order to believe the report, Hume's principle would require us to have enough evidence in favor of the morning news' reliability to counterbalance the improbability of the winning pick, which is absurd. Probability theorists saw what also needs to be considered is the probability that if the reported event has not occurred, the witness's testimony is still the same as it is. Thus, to return to our example, the probability that the morning news would announce the pick as 7492871 if some other number had been chosen is so incredibly small, given that the newscasters had no preference for the announced number, that it counterbalances the high improbability of the event reported. What Hume would have to say in the case of the resurrection, for example, is that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then it is highly probable that we should have exactly the testimony we do to the facts of his empty tomb, post mortem appearances and the disciples' belief in his resurrection. But clearly if Jesus had not risen, then the testimonial evidence, rather than being what it is, might be to any of a wide range of envisionable scenarios. A further factor neglected by Hume is the remarkable increase in probability that results from multiple, independent testimony to some event....The second problem with Hume's argument is that he incorrectly assumes that miracles are intrinsically highly improbable. With respect to the resurrection of Jesus, for example, there is no reason to think that the hypothesis 'God raised Jesus from the dead' is highly improbable relative to our background information. What is improbable relative to our background information is the hypothesis 'Jesus rose naturally from the dead.' Given what we know of cell necrosis, that hypothesis is fantastically, even unimaginably, improbable....But such evidence is simply irrelevant to the probability of the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead." (pp. 569-571)

You need to justify the implications you're drawing from your water analogy in light of such factors. What you're arguing is that it's more likely that the testimony of the four independent temperature devices is wrong, all four wrong at the same time and with the same temperature, than that the attributes of water under those conditions naturally changed. The resurrection parallel would be to conclude that it's more likely that the resurrection witnesses were wrong than that Jesus naturally rose from the dead. But Christianity doesn't claim that Jesus rose naturally. If we examine the supernatural possibilities instead, in both the water scenario and the scenario involving Jesus, the relevant factors change and the percentages change.

You write:

"Why wouldn't that rather make the situation worse for you? We know that miraculous claims are often made in a religious context. In fact it's almost strictly a religious context."

As I explained before, a miracle would make more sense in the context of Jesus' life than in the context of your water analogy. If your water example was a result of a miracle, then it was a miracle without an identified source or message. A context like that of Jesus, with an identified source and message associated with the miracle in question, makes more sense. I'll quote Moreland and Craig again:

"A miracle without a context is inherently ambiguous. But if a purported miracle occurs in a significant religio-historical context, then the chances of its being a genuine miracle are increased. For example, if the miracles occur at a momentous time (say, a man's leprosy vanishing when Jesus speaks the words, 'Be clean!') and do not recur regularly in history, and if the miracles are numerous and various, then the chances of their being the result of some unknown natural causes are reduced." (ibid., p. 569)

If your water example was miraculous, it would seem to be more random and purposeless than a resurrection at the end of a life like that of Jesus.

And, again, the fact that two individuals are religious doesn't prove that they share each other's credibility.

You write:

"If a person claimed they flew around a couple of planets in an intergalactic spacecraft this morning you wouldn't believe them. What if they claimed they did it with God's help and for some Divine purpose? Does this really change anything?"

Yes, it does. The claim would still have problems, as I explained earlier with regard to Joe's second, supernatural analogy of a man living to age 125. But God doesn't have the limitations of the natural world. It would be unreasonable to deny that there's a difference.

You write:

"You've heard the Arif Ahmed debate so you must know that he provided the scientific study indicated the exceptionally poor performance of the eyewitnesses in the case study. 60% of the eyewitnesses in the case study positively identified the wrong person as the perpetrator of the staged attack after a mere 7 week interval. Not 20 years or 30 years or 70 years or whatever it is. 7 weeks. These are educated, intelligent people, not supersitious people living in an age of relative ignorance."

Eyewitnesses serve as eyewitnesses in a large variety of contexts. Citing an instance of a staged attack, with attributes unfavorable to the preservation of memories, doesn't tell us much about the significance of eyewitness testimony in general. Has Ahmed's illustration convinced scientists to stop relying on eyewitness testimony in their experiments and their gathering of research? Has it convinced courts of law to stop relying on eyewitness testimony? Has it convinced you to stop relying on eyewitness testimony in your everyday life?

You said that you were granting the date and authorship of the New Testament documents for the sake of argument. It follows, then, that we have men like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John referring to conversations the resurrection witnesses had with the risen Christ, eating meals with Him, etc. They weren't just watching Him carry out an unexpected staged attack at a distance. And it's not as though the witnesses didn't begin trying to remember what had occurred, didn't write anything, and didn't tell anybody else anything about their experiences until "20 years or 30 years or 70 years" had passed. Thus, Luke can refer to the existence of many other accounts in the opening of his gospel.

Richard Bauckham discusses issues like the enhanced memory skills of oral cultures (such as first-century Israel) and the reliability of human memory in his book Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006). I quote Bauckham, and discuss this issue further, here. Regarding the alleged gullibility of ancient people, see here.

You write:

"But we do know that typically devoted followers are ready to tell us fantastical claims about their heroes. Right?"

That's too vague of a comment to agree with or disagree with. How are you defining "devoted followers", "ready to tell", "fantastical", and "heroes"? A person can be "ready to tell" something without being willing to lie or be careless.

But why ask about what's "typical"? There are specific individuals we can examine. I cited the example of Paul. He was a Pharisee and persecutor of the church. He became "devoted" after seeing the risen Christ. He became devoted after the miracle. He didn't believe in the miracle because he was devoted.

In closing this post, I want to note that you keep emphasizing background information (how often miracles occurred in the past, how often religious people have been wrong, etc.). The comments I've cited from Moreland and Craig need to be kept in mind. Trying to raise the initial improbability of the resurrection as high as possible, by means of saying that there is no precedent for a resurrection, for example, only gets you so far. I see no reason to think that the background improbability is as high as you suggest, but even if it were, you have to move on to the other steps Moreland and Craig refer to.

In my last post, I linked to two articles on the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And I asked you to further clarify that phrase, as you're using it. You haven't interacted with the articles or offered that clarification.

Joe writes:

"The chapter is useful in one other respect. It does explain Paul's motivation and conversion. He's clearly terrified of death. Nothing special or inexplicable here."

Paul was an adherent of Judaism before becoming a Christian. He was a Pharisee. He already believed in concepts like Heaven and resurrection. He was highly satisfied and confident in his life as a follower of Judaism, as he tells us in Philippians 3. He was on his way to persecute Christians on the road to Damascus, not on his way to meet with Christians to ask them if they could help him with his fear of death.

Regarding whether he believed in a physical resurrection, see here, including the link to Chris Price's article. Even if we thought that Paul's writings were ambiguous on the subject, which I don't, the widespread belief in a physical resurrection among the companions of Paul and the early Pauline churches would strongly suggest that Paul held that view as well. Paul emphasizes the early church's unity on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:11). The gospels, Acts, the earliest church fathers, etc. affirm a physical resurrection explicitly and often, even by the standards of those who question Paul's belief in a physical resurrection. It's really doubtful that such a scenario arose after Paul traveled the Christian world for a few decades to preach a non-physical resurrection.

Didn't say that there were no other mentions of physical resurrections in other parts of the Bible. Said that 1 Corinthians 15 is not well written. And it's not. When I first looked this up, I honestly did not expect to find it so ambiguous, because I just knew of the few verses given to me by Amy's link. But then I read the whole chapter, and wow, this wouldn't pass freshman comp.

In this chapter, the chapter that you folks keep pounding home, things are not at all clear. And these are not difficult concepts to describe, they really aren't. Why can't Paul write clearly? Presumably, God could have done a better job. That suggests that leaving this in the hands of humans is a blunder.

>The widespread belief in a physical resurrection among the companions of Paul and the early Pauline churches would strongly suggest that Paul held that view as well..

Why should we be relying on "suggestion"? Why does it take so much work (your link) to explain what should be simple and straight forward? Why isn't this simply crystal clear in 1 Corinthians 15? How hard is it to say "Jesus came back from the dead in a flesh and blood body, you know, heart, lungs, liver, everything. And I'm not going to saying anything about that last Adam is spirit Adam, because that will just create confusion"? But no.

>He was highly satisfied and confident in his life as a follower of Judaism.

I don't know about that. It seems pretty clear that Paul is desparate to believe in resurrection. Without resurrection, everything is horrible, unbearable and pointless. In short, Paul must, must believe in resurrection to have anything even remotely approaching peace of mind. He strikes me as someone who is terrified of the thought of not believing in the resurrection. This is not a man who's going to ask too many questions about the events surrounding the crucifixion and this does not seem to be a man who had confidence in his beliefs or peace of mind when he started down the road to Damascus.

You know, there is something fundamentally wrong with the this...

"It was soon realized that if one simply weighed the probability of the event against the reliability of the witness, then we should be led into denying the occurrence of events which, though highly improbable, we reasonably know to have occurred. For example, if on the morning news you hear reported that the pick in last night's lottery was 7492871, this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, one out of several million, and even if the morning news's accuracy is known to be 99.99%, the improbability of the event reported will swamp the probability of the witness's reliability, so that we should never believe such reports."

Why shouldn't be believe the report, regardless of the reliability of the witnesses? The reliability of the witnesses really isn't relevant, in fact, the newscasters have nothing to do with whether or not I accept the fact that the lottery number is what it is.

The event in question is a lottery. A number will be picked. The process is going to generate a seven digit number. The number cited is no less likely to be picked than any other, so there's no reason why I shouldn't accept it, and my acceptance is independent of the reliability of the newscasters. The number 7492871 is as good and reasonable, and is as consistent with how the world works, as any other number. I don't need any witnesses or newcasters to accept this as a real occurence. There is nothing remarkable or extraordinarily improbable here.

As Jason would say, this whole passage is "disanalogous" to any discussion of the acceptance of miracles, reliability of witnesses, the need for extraordinary evidence, etc.

Joe wrote:

"Why should we be relying on 'suggestion'? Why does it take so much work (your link) to explain what should be simple and straight forward? Why isn't this simply crystal clear in 1 Corinthians 15?"

You need to justify your suggestion that consulting the context of 1 Corinthians 15 is too much work. Why is it too much?

Why do we understand what you're writing, Joe? Because of our knowledge of some relevant context. We had years of education related to English usage, we've looked up some of the terms in a dictionary in the past, we've had many discussions with other people in English, etc. If I don't understand something you say, it could be your fault, but it may be my fault instead.

There are advantages to the complexity of human life (deeper relationships, etc.), and human complexity involves complexity in the use of language. Making communication simpler would have some advantages, but it also would have some disadvantages. There are tradeoffs.

In the case of 1 Corinthians 15, other issues are involved. What was clear to the Corinthians may not be clear to you. And the Corinthians had other issues in mind as well, not just the nature of the resurrection, so neither they nor Paul wanted the passage to be only about that one issue. And they had different background knowledge than you have. Etc. That's the nature of human communication. It could be simplified, but you would then have to address the implications of that simplification, which would have ripples affecting other issues.

And why single out 1 Corinthians 15 as you're doing? Why expect it to be the one passage that communicates in the way you want it to? The fact that some humans in this forum mentioned 1 Corinthians 15 doesn't suggest that God should have singled out that passage in order to make that passage, by itself, clear on the issue of Paul's view of the resurrection in the way that you want it to be clear. There's nothing in our use of 1 Corinthians 15 that suggests the implications you're drawing from that use.

God can provide something that's sufficient without being exhaustive. In our everyday lives, we frequently consider it acceptable to do less than we could. If your wife asks you why you're late getting home from work, and you tell her that you stopped at the bank on the way home, she'll probably accept your claim at that point. You could show her a receipt from the banking machine. You could acquire a copy of a video tape from the bank, to prove that you were there. But it's sufficient to tell her you were there, so neither of you expects you to have to take the further steps of producing a receipt and a tape. We have sufficient evidence that Paul believed in a physical resurrection. That's why you're complaining about a lack of clarity in one passage without addressing the other evidence I cited.

You write:

"It seems pretty clear that Paul is desparate to believe in resurrection."

Again, he already believed in resurrection as a Pharisee. And he didn't hold all of the beliefs represented in 1 Corinthians 15 as a Pharisee, so you can't assume that everything he said there represents his pre-conversion perspective. His pre-conversion mindset is reflected more in passages like Acts 8-9 and Philippians 3 than in a passage like 1 Corinthians 15. You're focusing on the wrong set of data.

You write:

"The event in question is a lottery. A number will be picked. The process is going to generate a seven digit number. The number cited is no less likely to be picked than any other, so there's no reason why I shouldn't accept it, and my acceptance is independent of the reliability of the newscasters."

The issue under consideration isn't whether a number will be picked. Rather, the issue is whether a particular number will be picked. It's true that the number reported has as much of a chance of being correct as any other number. And every other number is also highly unlikely. Why believe that a particular highly unlikely number was chosen rather than one of the others?

>Why single out 1 Corinthians 15?

That just happened to be the passage that I was constantly told to read. When I did, I found what I found.

>You need to justify your suggestion that consulting the context of 1 Corinthians 15 is too much work. Why is it too much?

I believe that the link that you provided noted that I'm far from the only one to have found 1 Corinthians 15 ambiguous. I think that your rationalizations miss the point. Resurrection is one of the key concepts (if not the key concept) of your version of Christianity. It's not that hard to understand and one does not need years of study and context to get the idea. The fact that it takes years to learn a particular language is not really relevant, the main point is how well and how clearly is something written in that language

If one can understand the words of language being used, it's trivially easy to explain and understand the concept of physical resurrection.

Paul writes a chapter long essay on this critically important subject, on this most important tenent of the faith. He has plenty of words available. It should not take extensive annotation and rationalization to draw a particular conclusion. And he blows it. Such are the consequences of relying on humans.

(Just to clarify, my point is not so much to question what Paul did or did not believe. My point is that his writing skills leave much to be desired.)

>His pre-conversion mindset is reflected more in passages like Acts 8-9 and Philippians 3.

You keep making the classic apologetics error. You assume that all of the words of the Bible are true. In any event, Acts 8-9 describes Paul's actions and not his inner state of mind. It's not at all unusual for those with inner turmoils to lash out with great vigor, rather than confront inner doubts.

It is clear from the words of 1 Corinthians 15 that despite the fact that Paul never met Jesus and did not witness the events surrounding the crucifixion, Paul has concluded that any historical possibility other than the (physical?) resurrection of Jesus is totally and utterly intolerable. And so at the point in time of the writing of 1 C 15, he's not exactly an impartial recorder of history. Certainly, to call him a "hostile witness" would be absurd.

>Rather, the issue is whether a particular number will be picked.

No, it's not.

First, one issue is that Craig is trying the link the improbability of a given number being picked to the question of the reliability of witnesses. This is supposed to convince us that that we shouldn't reject witness testimony just because the witnesses are describing highly improbable events.

But there is little or no connection between the event and the reliabilithy of witnesses for the reasons I've given. I don't accept the number given because of the reliability or unreliability of the reporters. I accept it, because I understand how lotteries work. If the probability that the number 1111111 would be picked was a million times higher than the probability of picking 7492871, then Craig might have a point. But that's not how lotteries work.

Second, the event being described is not at all "very highly improbable". The lottery in question is going to generate a seven digit number. The probability that a seven digit number will be picked has a probability of one in one.

And that's what happened. The lottery generated a seven digit number. This is the event reported by the witnesses. Now that the lottery is over, at the point at which the story is being reported, we have given, selected seven digit number. At the point at which the story is reported, the odds that the number is 7492871 would be one in one. It's not the least bit improbable that this is the number. There had to be a seven digit humber and it happened to be 7492871. This very easy to accept without the need for any witnesses to tell me that it happened.

Quick question for Joe, how many differant arguments are you actually participating in? each time someone refutes your loosley held position you respond by saying "that's not what i meant" or " my point is...."

>Each time someone refutes your loosley held position you respond by saying "that's not what i meant" or " my point is...."

Examples?

Jason, you have made some excellent points that I think are useful in clarifying more precisely why we believe what we believe. Let me address what you have said.

You remember how you learned about earthquakes? You remember having those multiple sources and not believing in the earthquakes until you had heard of them from all of those multiple sources? Did you ever accept anything new after hearing of it from one source, such as a parent or teacher?

My earliest recollection of the concept of earthquakes was in either the 1st or 2nd grade. I could be wrong, but I'm just doing the best I can. I had the same teacher for both grades so I have difficulty distinguishing things perfectly. I didn't know anything about them prior to that to the best of my recollection, and as a child of course I readily accepted pretty much everything I was taught, like humans typically do. I wasn't a critical thinker at that time, so I wasn't doing Bayesian analysis.

I suspect that everybody reading this thread knows that we all accept many things we've heard of for the first time with less evidence than you've suggested we should have, without thinking we were wrong to do so.

I can understand your criticism here. What I've been suggesting is a simplified general rule that isn't strictly true but is useful in explaining the general conept of why we don't believe spaghettio's turn into bunny rabbits. I will add further clarification below.

If you were the first human alive when an earthquake occurred, and you saw it, would you reject your perception of what you thought you saw, since eyesight is ordinary rather than extraordinary evidence?

I would believe my perception, but not with high confidence. These things are subjective assessments. While I would believe my perception my point is that it would be rational for someone else to doubt their perception. The confidence is dependent on factors that vary from person to person.

It might sound strange to you that I said I would accept it, but I think the reason for that is because for simplification purposes we've only been considering two factors. What is the likelihood of an event based upon our background knowledge and what is the likelihood that my perceptions could be mistaken.

The real situation involves additional factors. Specifically, what is the likelihood that this evidence would exist (my perception of the ground moving) if in fact the ground hadn't been moving. The relevance of that factor was spelled out by my brother here.

I don't want to get too mathematical because I know how this can cause some people to glaze over, but truly it is the math that helps clarify the true picture. It helps us comprehend how various factors can affect our conclusion. For instance, in considering the earthquake, suppose I was naseaus at the time, or I had just stepped off a roller coaster, or I was drunk, or I was high. In those cases the likelihood that the evidence would be produced even if the event didn't occur goes up, and therefore my confidence that the ground had actually moved goes down. On the other hand if I'm totally sober and in my right mind, then the likelihood that the evidence would be produced if the ground didn't move is very low, and therefore I conclude that the ground did move. So I accept the earthquake. The math fully accounts for both the untuitions that you describe (people do accept things that were not observed before without mountains of evidence) and also the untuitions I describe (spaghettio's don't turn into ubunny rabbits). If you are interested I can spell this out with the math.

When a co-worker who met thousands of women without marrying them tells you that he's getting married, you don't believe him until you have "exceptional evidence"?

The same reasoning applies here. I must consider the likelihood that he would report this if it wasn't true. The likelihood of him reporting any particular woman without regard to whether or not he intended to marry them is one in thousands if he's met thousands of women. The likelihood that he would report this particular woman if she weren't the real woman is lower still. It would be one in thousands times the probability that he tends to report this type of thing falsely (if he reports these type of things falsely 10% of the time, then this value would be one in tens of thousands). Since this is an even greater improbability I conclude that he is in fact going to marry this woman. If you work out the math you'd conclude that he is really going to marry this particular woman with a probability slightly higher than 90%.

People who are religious don't share each other's credibility just because they're all religious.

Once again, this factor is relevant because it helps inform us about this factor I've been discussing. What is the likelihood that this evidence would be produced if in fact the claim was false? If religious people typically produce this type of evidence even when the claim is false, then this value goes up and the confidence in the claim goes down.

I'm not Matt Slick or any of the other individuals you refer to.

I don't think I stated or implied that you are Matt Slick. You asked me why I thought people wouldn't believe water was 600°C at atmospheric conditions. The opinions I was aware of were the answer. And I notice that you didn't answer the question of whether or not you would believe it.

Charles Babbage, in his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, points out that if two witnesses are each 99% reliable, then the odds of their both independently testifying falsely to some event are only one out of 10,000; the odds of three such witnesses' being wrong is one out of 1,000,000; and the odds of six such witnesses' being mistaken is one out of 1,000,000,000,000, which, he points out, is five times as great as the improbability that Hume assigns to the resurrection of Jesus.

By that reasoning we'd have to conclude that the 60% of the students that misidentified the staged perpetrator of the crime would have to be right that the person claimed to be the perpetrator in the study in fact was not. With dozens of eyewitnesses identifying someone else the probability of them all being wrong is astronomically low. I think we all know that people do frequently get this type of thing wrong. Babbage needs to go back to the drawing board and do some real scientific studies. Incidentally, one in a trillion is incorrect. It should be one in a hundred million.

For example, if on the morning news you hear reported that the pick in last night's lottery was 7492871, this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event, one out of several million, and even if the morning news's accuracy is known to be 99.99%, the improbability of the event reported will swamp the probability of the witness's reliability, so that we should never believe such reports.

Moreland and Craig are correct that this would be our assessment if we only considered the likelihood of a particular lottery number and the likelihood of the paper making an error. They go on to explain, as my examples above do, that this is incorrect. You have to also ask what is the probability that a paper would report that number though the number was wrong. The probability of reporting that number without regard to the truth is one in ten million. If the paper has a general track record of being right 99% of the time, then the probability of them reporting that number if the number was wrong would be one one hundredth of the one in ten million. In other words, though the likelihood of drawing a particular number is small, the likelihood of a paper reprting a particular number if the number is wrong is even smaller. You run the math and you see that it is very likely that the paper is accurate, so you believe their lottery number reporting with high confidence.

So what is the likelihood of seeing the evidence we have for the resurrection given that the resurrection is false? We've seen devoted followers report similar false things before. We've seen gullible and superstitious people report similar false things before. We see it today. We've seen this type of claim in a religious context before. Are our other examples exactly like the Christian example in every respect, supposing people really died for belief in a physical resurrection (which I don't think we can know), supposing this is eyewitness testimony (which I don't believe, but am granting for the sake of argument), supposing this testimony is independent (which I think is transparently false)? No, it's not exactly the same. Still, the likelihood of seeing this type of evidence if it were false is low. Is it as low as seeing 600°C on 4 different thermocouples if that were false? I say no. I say thermocouples are more likely to be accurate than years after the fact beliefs from a few superstitious and gullible individuals. Yet we don't accept that the water was 600°C (or I should say I don't and nobody I know of does. You haven't answered). I shouldn't believe the resurrection if I want to be consistent.

With respect to the resurrection of Jesus, for example, there is no reason to think that the hypothesis 'God raised Jesus from the dead' is highly improbable relative to our background information. What is improbable relative to our background information is the hypothesis 'Jesus rose naturally from the dead.

But God doesn't normally raise people from the dead. In fact we have no examples of God ever raising anyone from the dead. So it seems that the claim that Jesus rose naturally from the dead is implausible AND the claim that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead is impluasible.

Yes, it does. The claim would still have problems, as I explained earlier with regard to Joe's second, supernatural analogy of a man living to age 125. But God doesn't have the limitations of the natural world. It would be unreasonable to deny that there's a difference.

In fact you have it exactly backwards. If I say I flew around in a spaceship, that permits that I did it with God's help OR it was done in some other way. By saying you did it and it was only by these means (God did it) makes it less believable because the non-God possibilities are excluded. And you can't rule out non-Divine possibilities logically.

Has Ahmed's illustration convinced scientists to stop relying on eyewitness testimony in their experiments and their gathering of research? Has it convinced courts of law to stop relying on eyewitness testimony? Has it convinced you to stop relying on eyewitness testimony in your everyday life?

No, and why would it? I'll use whatever evidence is available to me, whether it is good or bad. I prefer good evidence, but if I only have evidence that is not as good I'll use that too. We can't just deny reality because we don't like the implications. The science shows that eyewitness testimony under these conditions is not very reliable. If that gives you less confidence in court decisions, so be it. Maybe you have too much confidence in them.

>>Without resurrection, everything is horrible, unbearable and pointless. In short, Paul must, must believe in resurrection to have anything even remotely approaching peace of mind.

You've misunderstood the point of this passage. Paul is making a point about the logic of the Corinthians' views, not a point about how he feels about it. He's building on the point he makes in verse 12 where he says it doesn't make sense for Christians to say that there's no resurrection of the dead--"Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?" Then he goes through an explanation of logic to show why what they're saying makes no sense (i.e., a Christianity without resurrection is pointless and useless).

The point of that section of the chapter, verses 12-19 is to make clear that the resurrection is central to Christianity. Some people were saying that there was no resurrection of the dead, and Paul is explaining that you can't be a Christian and believe this because if Christ wasn't raised, then Christianity is false and useless. Therefore, it doesn't make sense for them to call themselves Christians and then deny the resurrection. This has nothing to do with gaining peace of mind, it has to do with the need for the Corinthians to think consistently.

In other words, he does not say that without the resurrection, "everything is horrible, unbearable and pointless." He says that without the resurrection, Christianity is pointless--that it's stupid to follow Jesus and suffer for it if the main point of Christianity is false. That's an important distinction to see in order to understand the passage. Remember, he's speaking to Christians here, trying to help them think consistently; he doesn't understand why they would waste their time following Christ if they don't believe in the resurrection (according to verse 12, the verse that sets up this whole section).

If the resurrection didn't happen, perhaps one might find many other ways to find happiness--Paul doesn't address that here, what he does say is that it would not make sense to be a Christian in that situation. This is the logical end to his argument begun in verse 12.

Joe wrote:

"Paul writes a chapter long essay on this critically important subject, on this most important tenent of the faith. He has plenty of words available. It should not take extensive annotation and rationalization to draw a particular conclusion. And he blows it."

Paul is addressing more than one subject in 1 Corinthians 15, and his audience already has significant familiarity with Paul's beliefs, the Old Testament, and other relevant subjects. (Even when the nature of the resurrection body is discussed, there are more issues involved than whether the body is physical.) The fact that some Christians in an online forum mentioned 1 Corinthians 15, and you decided to read the passage as a result, doesn't prove that Paul should describe the physicality of the resurrection in a manner you consider sufficiently clear in that passage. He addresses the physicality of the resurrection in many places, and his contact with Christians like those in Corinth wasn't limited to his extant letters.

You'll have to explain why 1 Corinthians 15 allegedly isn't clear enough on the physicality of the resurrection in light of the multiple references to physicality in the passage. Paul was a Jew, and belief in a physical resurrection was the mainstream Jewish position. He had been a Pharisee, and the Pharisees believed in a physical resurrection. He cites the Old Testament, and the Old Testament teaches a physical resurrection. He refers to his agreement with the other apostles on the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:11), and those other apostles held a physical view, as we see in the gospels and elsewhere. As I document in the post linked above, the early Pauline churches, including the Corinthian church late in the first century (as reflected in First Clement), believed in a physical resurrection. Paul believed that Christians are spiritually alive, not spiritually dead, so there would be no need for a future spiritual resurrection. For Christians, in Pauline theology, it's the body that dies in the future. He refers to the "it" that's buried as the "it" that rises (1 Corinthians 15:43-44). He uses the analogy of a seed, which has continuity with what grows from it (1 Corinthians 15:36-38). He refers to how the mortal body must put on immortality, as a person puts clothing on (1 Corinthians 15:53-54). The old body remains, but has something added to it, roughly similar to adding clothing.

Given all of that evidence for a physical resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, what's the significance of the alleged evidence to the contrary? Some verses, such as 1 Corinthians 15:44, refer to the spiritual nature of the body, but the physical resurrection view doesn't deny that the body is spiritual. A spiritual body isn't equivalent to a non-physical body. Thus, Paul can refer to the Corinthian Christians as spiritual people (1 Corinthians 2:15), even though they had physical bodies, and we today refer to a physical Bible as a spiritual book, for example. The phrase "flesh and blood" in 1 Corinthians 15:50 is an idiom used to refer to humans in their weakness. It's not referring to body parts. Thus, "flesh and blood" in Galatians 1:16 is emphasizing the weakness of humans, not referring to parts of a body. There would have been no need for Paul, in Galatians 1:16, to point out that he hadn't consulted those two elements of the human body. He's using an idiom. The point in 1 Corinthians 15:50 is that a change has to occur. That's why he goes on to refer to being "changed" (verses 51-52) and the ongoing existence of the original body, but with something added to it (verses 53-54). Paul is addressing more than the physicality of the body. He's addressing the type of physical body that would be able to inherit the heavenly kingdom. It's a body transformed and ruled by the spirit of Christ, a spiritual body.

You write:

"You keep making the classic apologetics error. You assume that all of the words of the Bible are true."

The argument you're responding to doesn't "assume that all of the words of the Bible are true". And if I had been relying on that assumption, I've already directed you to the Triablogue archives, where I have a large amount of material on the reliability of the Bible. It's not as though I haven't made a case.

You write:

"In any event, Acts 8-9 describes Paul's actions and not his inner state of mind. It's not at all unusual for those with inner turmoils to lash out with great vigor, rather than confront inner doubts."

You don't address Philippians 3. Paul tells us that, in his pre-Christian state, he viewed himself as "blameless" and that he was "zealous" (Philippians 3:6; see also Galatians 1:14). His actions, described in his own writings (1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13, etc.) and in Acts, suggest the same. You're suggesting that we could reject what Paul said about his mindset, reject what his actions imply about his mindset, and assume that he had "inner turmoils" and "inner doubts". You cite no evidence that would lead us to that conclusion, and the conclusion would require us to go directly against the evidence we do have.

You write:

"And so at the point in time of the writing of 1 C 15, he's not exactly an impartial recorder of history. Certainly, to call him a 'hostile witness' would be absurd."

As Justin has noted above, you keep changing the subject. Who argued that Paul was a "hostile witness" at the time of 1 Corinthians 15? The issue is whether he was hostile to Christianity just before Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

You write:

">Rather, the issue is whether a particular number will be picked. No, it's not."

I quoted Moreland and Craig saying, "if on the morning news you hear reported that the pick in last night's lottery was 7492871, this is a report of an extraordinarily improbable event". They're addressing the choosing of a particular number, not the choosing of a number of any type.

You then go on to write:

"First, one issue is that Craig is trying the link the improbability of a given number being picked to the question of the reliability of witnesses."

If the issue isn't whether a particular number is picked, then why do you refer to how Craig "is trying the link the improbability of a given number being picked"? You're not making sense.

You write:

"Second, the event being described is not at all 'very highly improbable'. The lottery in question is going to generate a seven digit number. The probability that a seven digit number will be picked has a probability of one in one."

Where do Moreland and Craig say that they're addressing "the probability that a seven digit number will be picked"? They don't.

You write:

"At the point at which the story is reported, the odds that the number is 7492871 would be one in one."

If you assume that the number 7492871 was picked. But the issue under consideration is the probability that it was picked. You can't just assume that it was, then conclude that "the odds that the number is 7492871 would be one in one".

Amy,

I follow what you are saying, I understand that he's speaking to Christians, and what you are saying is not unreasonable. I understand how you can interpret this as you do. And this part of the chapter makes more sense than the rest.

However, I think that it's worth looking at what Paul believes will be the consequences if the resurrection did not occur. "Pointlessness" or being "lost" or concluding that your beliefs are "useless" are all pretty horrible things, right? I understand that Paul is speaking to Christians, but Paul is also a Christian, and so these are the horrible consequences for Paul, too. There's more going on here than just a need for logical consistency.

At the very least, this suggests that Paul is not going to work too hard to question is own beliefs. He is highly motivated to believe in the resurrections, regardless of available data. If Paul stops believing as he does, we're going to have some very serious peace of mind issues. And that might lead some to question his reliability as a witness.

Also, if you're interpretation is correct, then that suggests that Christianity is really just about getting into heaven. It's not about whatever moral lessons Jesus may have taught, because those lessons would remain, regardless of any resurrection. It's not about the philosophy of Christianity, because one can easily follow the philosophy without believing in the resurrection. Christianity certainly does not have to be "pointless" or "false", even if Jesus didn't rise from the dead. Many have found value in Christianity while rejecting the resurrection bit.

It's not logical to reject all of the teachings because one aspect of the teachings is "false". All philosophers and philosophies have their flaws. Does that mean that they are all stupid and useless and false? If so, it's not going to leave much to talk about in our philosophy classes.

But for Paul, it seems that personal resurrection is the big prize. Paul doesn't just say "no resurrection means Jesus is a liar and should be ignored". Paul clearly says "no resurrection for Jesus, no resurrection for you, no resurrection for me", and that's seems to be the only thing about Jesus that really, really matters. And that takes us back to Paul's fear of death and what happens after death.

For Paul, it would seem that the appeal of Jesus is almost solely based on the anticipated reward of heaven. Paul expects to suffer on earth, so it's the reward that brings peace of mind. No resurrection leads to "pointlessness" specifically because it means no reward after death. And there's your motivation for affirmation of the resurrection by a "hostile witness".

Jason,

Simple question. Is the picking of a number in the lottery a miraculous or supernatural event?

And, no, I don't take Paul's word with regards to his state of mind. There is no way to see into his head.

Jason,

You have helped me with one thing. If the belief in physical resurrection was widespread and was part of the Pharisee's belief system, then Paul's conversion becomes rather ordinary. He's already most of the way down the road to Christianity. It's not much of a leap to get to the place where you believe that a specific man rose from the dead. This big miracle on the road to Damascus doesn't seem very miraculous after all. If he already believes in supernatural, miraculous physical resurrection, then he's not much of a hostile witness, even before his conversion. So, what the big deal about Paul?

My apologies for the multiple posts. Earlier in the evening, I had to leave in a hurry.

>You'll have to explain why 1 Corinthians 15 allegedly isn't clear enough on the physicality of the resurrection in light of the multiple references to physicality in the passage.

Let’s make this simple. How long would it take you to write this chapter in a manner that was better organized and much simpler and clearer? Five minutes? If you can do a re-write in five minutes, then 1 C 15 is obviously is not nearly as clear as it could easily be. Given the choice, would you use idioms that could easily be misunderstood when read in other times and in other places? Remember, you have access to God when writing this, and so you should have insights into the future that are unavailable to other mortal men.

I understand that this a love note to the Corinthians, and they should have been able to understand it, but what about the rest of us? This is also the freakin’ Bible, you know. It’s the Word of God. It’s the Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. It’s supposed to be read by everybody. It’s not a place to stuff disorganized correspondences.

I don’t expect the Bible to be the theological equivalent of “good enough for government work”. If you could do a better job of explaining the concepts in this chapter with five minutes effort (and I think that you easily could), then you get my point. It’s not that it’s impossible to understand, it’s that it’s not nearly as good as the most important book in the world should be. On the other hand, “not nearly as good as it should be” is exactly what you get when you leave it to humans. Thus, the blunder.

(And this is just one example of a text that is so unclear and ambigious that it's been used to support an endless list of diametically opposing positions.)

>You're suggesting that we could reject what Paul said about his mindset, reject what his actions imply about his mindset, and assume that he had "inner turmoils" and "inner doubts". You cite no evidence that would lead us to that conclusion, and the conclusion would require us to go directly against the evidence we do have.

And how do we know about Paul’s mindset? Well, from Paul, of course. Is there any way to check the accuracy of his description of his mindset? No. As far as his actions go, do you really think that every persecutor is without internal turmoil? No persecutor ever have doubts or guilt or remorse? The point is that you can’t always judge the inner mind by the actions of the body. Not by a long shot.

Now, evidence to the contrary is going to be difficult to obtain, because there is no way to see into Paul’s mind, right? Even if he as standing in front of us, we would still have to rely on his description of what he was thinking, so asking me to provide evidence to the contrary should be a safe bet.

However, it’s pretty obvious that people who are truly confident, satisfied, content, utterly convinced of the correctness of the action, and absolutely certain that they possible deep theological truths…are not likely candidates for conversion. Never have been, never will be. On the other hand, people who are doubtful, afraid, uncertain, unhappy and racked with guilt? Now, there’s fertile ground. So, is it likely that Paul’s mindset was as Paul described or that his mindset was a bit more turbulent than he let on? Well, “more turbulent” would certainly be consistent with what we know about people and conversion. There’s no way to know, but given human behavior, it seems “probable” that Paul’s own account is not very reliable.

>Who argued that Paul was a "hostile witness" at the time of 1 Corinthians 15? The issue is whether he was hostile to Christianity just before Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus.

Fair enough. I’ve addressed this in other recent comments.

>Moreland and Craig.

Let’s say that I missed their point. What are they trying to say about witnesses and very improbable events? Explain it to me in your own words. Also, as I asked before, is the report of a lottery number equivalent to a report of a miraculous and supernatural events?

Jon wrote:

"What I've been suggesting is a simplified general rule that isn't strictly true but is useful in explaining the general conept of why we don't believe spaghettio's turn into bunny rabbits."

I don't think you even require precedent as a general rule. If you were to wait until the fourth report of an earthquake before believing in earthquakes, then you wouldn't be accepting them with precedent. If you rejected the first three reports, then you didn't believe that any precedent existed when you heard of the fourth report. If you accept the fourth report because it's consistent with earlier rejected reports, then you aren't requiring that an event happened before. You're requiring that it was reported to have happened in reports you've rejected.

You write:

"I would believe my perception, but not with high confidence. These things are subjective assessments. While I would believe my perception my point is that it would be rational for someone else to doubt their perception."

Do you subjectively accept some unprecedented events while rejecting others, then? Why would you be (allegedly) rational about the resurrection, but not about the first earthquake?

You write:

"I must consider the likelihood that he would report this if it wasn't true. The likelihood of him reporting any particular woman without regard to whether or not he intended to marry them is one in thousands if he's met thousands of women. The likelihood that he would report this particular woman if she weren't the real woman is lower still. It would be one in thousands times the probability that he tends to report this type of thing falsely (if he reports these type of things falsely 10% of the time, then this value would be one in tens of thousands). Since this is an even greater improbability I conclude that he is in fact going to marry this woman. If you work out the math you'd conclude that he is really going to marry this particular woman with a probability slightly higher than 90%."

I referred to whether the man is getting married, not whether he's marrying a particular woman. Does the fact that this man didn't marry before mean that we need exceptional evidence before believing that he's getting married? No. There isn't any exceptional improbability that his testimony has to overcome.

You write:

"If religious people typically produce this type of evidence even when the claim is false, then this value goes up and the confidence in the claim goes down."

Christians won't agree with your assessment of the credibility of resurrection claims. But even if we accepted your assessment for the sake of argument, in what manner would a false resurrection claim by an adherent of a non-Christian religion diminish the credibility of the witnesses to Jesus' resurrection?

You write:

"You asked me why I thought people wouldn't believe water was 600°C at atmospheric conditions. The opinions I was aware of were the answer."

Here's what I said:

"Your claim that 'we would not believe' needs to be argued, not just asserted. See my citation of J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig above, in one of my responses to Joe."

I wasn't asking for evidence that other people agree with your conclusion. I was asking for justification of what you think "we" would believe in light of the factors Moreland and Craig discuss.

You write:

"Still, the likelihood of seeing this type of evidence if it were false is low. Is it as low as seeing 600°C on 4 different thermocouples if that were false? I say no. I say thermocouples are more likely to be accurate than years after the fact beliefs from a few superstitious and gullible individuals."

Referring to "years after the fact beliefs from a few superstitious and gullible individuals" doesn't interact with the initial hostility to Christianity of some of the witnesses, the evidence we have for other witnesses who agreed with the witnesses whose writings are extant, hostile corroboration of some of the relevant evidence, my material on the reliability of human memory, my material on the alleged gullibility of the sources, etc. You're making vague references to your assessment of some of the issues involved while ignoring other factors and counterarguments already cited that are more specific than your vague assertions.

You write:

"But God doesn't normally raise people from the dead. In fact we have no examples of God ever raising anyone from the dead. So it seems that the claim that Jesus rose naturally from the dead is implausible AND the claim that Jesus rose supernaturally from the dead is impluasible."

Whether a person has done something before isn't the only factor involved in judging whether it's likely that he would do it. People often do something for the first time. If circumstances change, our actions can change. A person may do something for a child that he didn't do for anybody else, for example. If a resurrection is intended as a unique validating event, which Christians believe to be the case with Jesus, then we wouldn't expect it to occur with any previous individual. Saying that God hasn't raised anybody else from the dead doesn't suggest anything comparable to the improbability of a naturalistic change in the properties of water.

You write:

"If I say I flew around in a spaceship, that permits that I did it with God's help OR it was done in some other way. By saying you did it and it was only by these means (God did it) makes it less believable because the non-God possibilities are excluded. And you can't rule out non-Divine possibilities logically."

Who's excluding "the non-God possibilities"? I take the possibilities into account, and the comment of the person you mentioned in your spaceship example doesn't rule out other possibilities. We can state something we believe without thereby denying that something else might be true.

It makes more sense for a miracle to occur in a religious context, for reasons I discussed earlier. That was my point.

You write:

"No, and why would it? I'll use whatever evidence is available to me, whether it is good or bad. I prefer good evidence, but if I only have evidence that is not as good I'll use that too. We can't just deny reality because we don't like the implications. The science shows that eyewitness testimony under these conditions is not very reliable. If that gives you less confidence in court decisions, so be it."

You're ignoring most of what I said in response to the case you're citing from Arif Ahmed. We have far more than Ahmed's case to go by. That's why I cited Richard Bauckham's discussion of the subject. He cites far more data than what you're discussing.

But even if we limited ourselves to the case cited by Ahmed, what he describes is a case in which 60% of the witnesses to an event misidentified a person involved. But there was agreement on the occurrence of the event. If people who were far from the stage where the event occurred thought they saw different facial features, or some of the witnesses didn't pay much attention to such details, but instead were focused on the more general features of the event, then 60% can be unable to identify the person when asked to do so. But the identity of the person isn't equivalent to the event. As far as I know, from what Ahmed says about the case, nobody denied that the event occurred, thought that the person in question was an animal instead of a human, etc. And I mentioned some of the differences between Ahmed's case and the cases of the resurrection witnesses. You aren't interacting with my comments on that subject either.

You referred to "eyewitness testimony, which is notoriously unreliable". You cited Ahmed's case when asked for evidence. But you haven't given us any reason to think that his case is representative of eyewitness testimony in general. And even his case involves disagreement over some details accompanied by agreement over at least the general outlines of the event.

Furthermore, Ahmed is himself relying on eyewitness testimony when he cites this case. He's citing the research of Robert Buckhout. Not only is he relying on the testimony of Buckhout about what happened in the case in question, but Buckhout in turn was relying on the testimony of others. And you're relying on the testimony of Ahmed, who is even further removed, regarding what was reported about the case in question.

If you want to reject eyewitness testimony as "notoriously unreliable", then you need to make a lot of changes in your life. Stop using arguments that depend on eyewitness testimony, as you've been doing in this thread. Stop trusting eyewitnesses in scientific experiments, in court cases, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, etc.

C.A.J. Coady writes the following about Robert Buckhout, the source Ahmed is relying on:

"The claim that testimony is unreliable amounts to a sweeping rejection of it as a form of evidence. Just how drastic the rejection is supposed to be is never made clear by the critics, but since 'unreliable' means unworthy of being relied upon a remark like Buckhout's constitutes, on a natural reading, a pretty wholesale rejection. But any such rejection is absurd to the point of idiocy. This is exhibited in Buckhout's own article, as we can see if we ask why we should believe any of the results Buckhout reports to us about the experiments on testimony he says he has done and witnessed, or if we ask how Buckhout came by all sorts of information he relies upon in his work and quotes to us as definitively known. Buckhout tells the reader, fully expecting to be believed, that various results were obtained in a classic experiment in the 1930s by Jerome S. Bruner and Leo Postman at Harvard. This is only one of numerous pieces of hearsay that Buckhout produces to support the unreliability thesis. I do not myself object to the hearsay - it is part and parcel of all scientific work, especially in the social sciences - but Buckhout's own reliance is fatal to his unreliability thesis. Testimony cannot be unreliable if its reliability is required to prove that it is unreliable." (Testimony [Oxford University Press, 1992], p. 265)

Joe said:

"Is the picking of a number in the lottery a miraculous or supernatural event?"

The lottery number case doesn't have to be miraculous in order for it to involve some principles that are applicable to miracle accounts.

You write:

"Let’s make this simple. How long would it take you to write this chapter in a manner that was better organized and much simpler and clearer? Five minutes? If you can do a re-write in five minutes, then 1 C 15 is obviously is not nearly as clear as it could easily be."

See my comments earlier on the distinction between doing something that's sufficient and doing something that's exhaustive. 1 Corinthians 15 doesn't have to be exhaustively clear. And you don't know all of the factors involved, as I explained earlier. You don't have all of the background knowledge the Corinthians had, you don't know which audience of the letter (the original audience or some later audience) would have the most need to understand the passage, what positive impact some detail you don't like has had on other people, etc.

You write:

"As far as his actions go, do you really think that every persecutor is without internal turmoil? No persecutor ever have doubts or guilt or remorse? The point is that you can’t always judge the inner mind by the actions of the body. Not by a long shot."

The issue is probability, not possibility. Paul's testimony suggests the opposite of what you're suggesting, and so do his actions. We don't assume that people are lying as our default position, and the history of Paul's life as a Christian doesn't suggest that he would have lied about his background.

And you still aren't explaining why Paul thought he saw the risen Christ. Even if we were to accept your speculations about "inner turmoil", why are we supposed to reject his testimony about Christ's appearance to him? It's not as though a desire to become a Christian would produce a hallucination. Did the other non-Christians with him hallucinate at the same time? Did their experience just coincidentally align with some delusions Ananias was experiencing? And the hallucination left Paul blind? And gave him miraculous powers he didn't have previously?

You write:

"However, it’s pretty obvious that people who are truly confident, satisfied, content, utterly convinced of the correctness of the action, and absolutely certain that they possible deep theological truths…are not likely candidates for conversion. Never have been, never will be. On the other hand, people who are doubtful, afraid, uncertain, unhappy and racked with guilt? Now, there’s fertile ground."

It's not as though those are our only options. You're ignoring the event that the earliest evidence suggests was responsible for the change. The risen Christ appeared to him.

You write:

"Let’s say that I missed their point. What are they trying to say about witnesses and very improbable events? Explain it to me in your own words."

I think that Moreland and Craig are sufficiently clear on that point.

>See my comments earlier on the distinction between doing something that's sufficient and doing something that's exhaustive.

“Sufficient” is good enough? Even when you take the Bible as a whole, and not just the chapter in question, two thousand years of history have shown that “sufficient” isn’t anywhere near good enough. Two thousand years of splitting into thousands of denominations over disagreements about the meaning of the “sufficient” words, two thousand years of people killing each other over the meaning of the “sufficient” words, two thousand years of people using the “sufficient” word to defend diametrically opposing position. All this evidence says that the words that exist are far from “sufficient”, and not just the words of 1 C 15 alone that fail.

>The issue is probability, not possibility. Paul's testimony suggests the opposite of what you're suggesting, and so do his actions. We don't assume that people are lying as our default position, and the history of Paul's life as a Christian doesn't suggest that he would have lied about his background.

First, what do you mean by the word “lie”? There’s a difference between (1) not trusting someone to fully and/or accurately and/or reliably report something and (2) accusing someone of a flat out, total fabrication. I’m doing the former; I don’t accept Paul’s words as sufficient proof or sufficient evidence of his state of mind, and I question their accuracy, but I didn’t mean to suggest that everything he wrote is a complete fabrication.

Who says we don't assume that people may not be accurate in recalling their state of mind as our default position? Don’t our assumptions depend on circumstances and motivations? Once Paul has gone all in for Jesus, it’s highly probable that his recollections of his past mindset will be far from disinterested and objective. Once totally committed, it’s highly probable that past events and thoughts will be recalled and interpreted in a different way, that is, in a way that is not completely accurate. Does Paul consciously “lie”? Maybe not, depends how you define the word lie. But can we consider his account reliable? Probably not.

By the way, how does one quantify “probability” and “possibility” such that one can declare the one greater than the other? It’s a neat trick to say “probability is greater than possibility, so I am right”, but it’s just a rhetorical trick.

And I’ve already addressed the issue of Paul’s actions.

>Even if we were to accept your speculations about "inner turmoil", why are we supposed to reject his testimony about Christ's appearance to him?

I believe that I’ve already discussed Paul’s motivation.

You’re really into this version thing, aren’t you? It seems to me that of all the types of evidence one might cite, “visions” must be the weakest. There is zero chance of corroborating the vision, because versions are inside the mind of the visionary. Further, visions are a dime a dozen in religious traditions of all types, and visions can be triggered by a number of factors, including too much heat, too little food, too little sleep and even moldy grain. As evidence, visions are nearly worthless.

>It's not as though a desire to become a Christian would produce a hallucination.

No, but it predisposes one to have a specific type of vision. Paul is persecuting Christians. If he’s going to a vision (see “dime a dozen” above), who would you expect him to envision? Now, had Paul envisioned Buddha, then that would have been impressive.

>Did the other non-Christians with him hallucinate at the same time? Did their experience just coincidentally align with some delusions Ananias was experiencing? And the hallucination left Paul blind? And gave him miraculous powers he didn't have previously?

What is the source of information for the above?

>It's not as though those are our only options. You're ignoring the event that the earliest evidence suggests was responsible for the change. The risen Christ appeared to him.

See “visions” above.

>The lottery number case doesn't have to be miraculous in order for it to involve some principles that are applicable to miracle accounts.

Yes, it does. Lotteries are natural, ordinary things and miracles are not. There is a significant difference between unlikely but natural event, like picking a specific number in a daily lottery, and claims about events that are, as far as we know, impossible. Picking a given seven digit number is unlikely, but hardly impossible; there’s nothing here that conflicts with what we know about how the world works. But rising from the dead? Not so consistent with our understanding of the world.

It is “disanalogous” to use unlikely but natural events as something equivalent to a “miracle” in a discussion of principles that are applicable to miracle accounts. As one who looks for the slightest reason to reject an analogy or historical parallel that contradicts your point of view, I would have thought that is obvious. I’m just using the same type of argument that you used over and over against me.

>I think that Moreland and Craig are sufficiently clear on that point.

Really? Maybe I missed something here, but I thought that most of your comments to me on this subject suggested that you thought that I didn’t understand what they were saying. Ok, I admit it. I didn’t understand what they were saying. It wasn’t clear to me. Help me out here. Put it in your own words.

Jon,

I greatly admire your efforts, but Jason will never acknowledge that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, because there is no extraordinary evidence.

Joe said, "I would have thought that a god who is interested in being clearly understood would have written his own book. But hey, God can do as he wishes. We are but cosmic toe jam. "

I would have thought that a god who is interested in being believed in would have given me a pizza. But hey, God can do as he wishes...

You see, both of our arguments turn on what we think God should/would. Thus, I fail to see why you think my pizza argument against the existence of God is good, since you seem to think your scribe argument is good... or at least worth mentioning.

God can do as he wishes...and you can believe as wish. Whatever makes you happy.

>>He is highly motivated to believe in the resurrections, regardless of available data.

On the contrary, he had zero motivation to believe in Jesus' resurrection before his conversion. He was getting pretty popular and well-known by persecuting Christians, and he thought he was excelling morally, doing everything right to please God, following the letter of the law. (Also, the Jews believed the resurrection would occur on the last day. So while the word "resurrection" meant something physical, they weren't expecting it right then.)

And after the conversion, it's actually the opposite of what you say here. The whole reason he has this paragraph in there is to say that being a Christian isn't a walk in the park, so don't go through persecution if you don't believe the resurrection actually happened! Such a thing would be nonsensical. In other words, there's a strong pull away from being a Christian because of the persecution and a very strong desire to be sure the resurrection actually happened before believing it and putting yourself through that kind of suffering. It's only the truthfulness of the resurrection (and the true relationship with God that results from the resurrection) that makes it worth it. If the resurrection were shown to be false, he would have no incentive to remain a Christian and he could end all the physical persecution he suffered in an instant. That's what he was telling the Corinthians.

Of course after a person comes to know that Christianity is true, that person sees and experiences the value of having things between him and God made right, and he wouldn't trade that for anything (a situation that is only the case because it's actually real and true), but I don't know anyone back in Paul's day who would have been enticed into believing Christianity was true because being a Christian looked so great from the outside.

>>Also, if you're interpretation is correct, then that suggests that Christianity is really just about getting into heaven. It's not about whatever moral lessons Jesus may have taught, because those lessons would remain, regardless of any resurrection.

You've almost got it here! You've almost got what Christianity is about. You understood chapter 15 better than you thought. You are absolutely, 100% right that Christianity is not about the moral lessons. But neither would I say it's about getting to heaven. It's not the place Paul is after, but the personal, Trinitarian God. As he says in Philippians 3: "I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things." It's not about getting to heaven, it's about being with and knowing God. In 2 Corinthians 5, he explains that the point of Christianity is reconciliation with God through Jesus' death and resurrection:

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf….If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

The reconciliation is central, not moral teaching.

In fact, Paul says a big purpose of the moral teachings given throughout the Old Testament is to show us that we don't measure up to God's standard so that we realize our need for God's forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration--i.e., the need for Jesus' death and resurrection. Moral teachings are pretty humbling. That's how we come to realize we don't measure up and we need God. And when Jesus came, he pushed people beyond the letter of the law to show them that even the people who thought they were doing okay (like Paul) were breaking the spirit of the law (because that's our bent deep down) and still needed to be reconciled to God.

>>It's not logical to reject all of the teachings because one aspect of the teachings is "false".

Can you see now how it's completely logical to reject Christianity if one doesn't believe in the absolutely most important part of it? If Christianity teaches that the way to be reconciled to God is through the death and resurrection of Jesus, and the death and resurrection of Jesus didn't happen, then don't waste your time! You can just find wisdom anywhere you like--a lot of it is similar.

So as Paul says at the beginning of the chapter, the resurrection is of "first importance."

Joe, this is seriously the best conversation I've ever had with you! This is the most important thing you could ever get about Christianity if you want to understand what it's about.

>On the contrary, he had zero motivation to believe in Jesus' resurrection before his conversion.

I'm not so sure about that. If he can convince himself that the resurrection is true, than he can believe he has a ticket to paradise. Mighty strong motivation if you asked me, regardless of any "popularity" he might have enjoyed or any suffering he might have to endure post-conversion.

>It's about being with and knowing God. (And all the other things you said along these lines, reconciliation, etc.)

All of this presumably generates that certain peace of mind that Paul wants and needs. He feels guilty, and he doesn't want to feel guilty. All you have to do is believe, and it's more benefits, more motive.

>You can just find wisdom anywhere you like--a lot of it is similar.

True, but again, that's no reason to reject all of the Christianity if the resurrection didn't happen. Wisdom is wisdom, and there's some good stuff in the NT. It's not logical to say it's a waste of time if there are some valuable principles here. Insert baby, bathwater cliche here.

However, rejecting the resurrection could lead to a lot of worry about that ticket to paradise, so...that's pretty powerful motivation to not question things too much. Apparently, wisdom and morals are not enough for Paul. He wants the big prize at the end.

Well, who doesn't want peace of mind and a ticket to eternal bliss? Of course, the trick is to get your mind right. I understand the Christianity and a variety of other belief systems make people feel better. I certainly understand the value of that, and if it works for you, great (seriously, no sarcasm at all).

But it just doesn't work for me anymore.

>>rejecting the resurrection could lead to a lot of worry about that ticket to paradise, so...that's pretty powerful motivation to not question things too much.

But Paul had a ticket to paradise as a Pharisee. The Pharisees weren't worried about making it to heaven. They had the rules that they followed, and they had sacrifices to make when anything went wrong. Imagine you're in this position and you believe it to be true. You're not looking for anything more, you've got it covered. You wouldn't be looking for a sacrifice and then find Christianity because you already have sacrifices.

It's only if you first came to believe that it was true that Jesus had replaced your sacrifices that you would then realize that your sacrifices weren't enough and feel a need. Otherwise, there is no need and no longing to believe something new. No new and true sacrifice, no need for it, no wishful thinking, no motivation to believe it.

>But Paul had a ticket to paradise as a Pharisee.

But did he really believe it? Or did he fear that he wouldn't be good enough or that he couldn't follow all the rules or that the Pharisees were simply wrong? Did he need more? Did he have a mid-life crisis (no, seriously, mid-life crises are not just recent inventions)? Or did he just find Christianity simpler and easier to follow?

I don't think that we can know either way. Here's where the lack of data, once again, because a problem. However, I don't know many people who were happy, contented, and confident of eternal bliss due to a belief in a first religion subsequently convert to another religion. People change when something isn't working, that's just human nature. And then having found something that works, it's best not to question it to closely.

In a more general sense, if Jews think that they're going to heaven, why does any Jew of any time period convert to Christianity? (I don't just mean in the first century.)

>>But did he really believe it? Or did he fear that he wouldn't be good enough or that he couldn't follow all the rules or that the Pharisees were simply wrong?

Well, if we take his word for it, it's the former:

Philippians 3:4-6 - If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh [i.e., in following laws in order to be right with God], I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

He thought he had everything all in a row. You can take his actual word for it, or you can make up your own speculations.

>>People change when something isn't working,

Or when they're dramatically convinced that something else is true. Or even when they're undramatically convinced something else is true.

>>And then having found something that works, it's best not to question it to closely.

As Paul said in that chapter, it only "works" if it's true. If it's not true, it's not working. That's what he thought, so I imagine he cared about whether or not it was true. That's how I was, too, and I put Christianity through the wringer.

>>In a more general sense, if Jews think that they're going to heaven, why does any Jew of any time period convert to Christianity?

Because he becomes convinced that Jesus really is the promised Messiah--the person who was represented by all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, the one who is now mediating all access to God. And it's funny you ask this question. Being in Los Angeles, I have a lot of Jewish friends who do now believe in Christ. It turns out that there's an unusual number of dramatic stories among Jewish people who become Christians (similar to Paul's) about how they suddenly became convinced Jesus was really who He said He was. Visions, etc. When you're content with where you are, sometimes it takes a little more.

You said it doesn't work "anymore" when referring to your Christianity. Did you go to church at one time earlier in your life?

Joe wrote:

"Even when you take the Bible as a whole, and not just the chapter in question, two thousand years of history have shown that 'sufficient' isn’t anywhere near good enough. Two thousand years of splitting into thousands of denominations over disagreements about the meaning of the 'sufficient' words, two thousand years of people killing each other over the meaning of the 'sufficient' words, two thousand years of people using the 'sufficient' word to defend diametrically opposing position. All this evidence says that the words that exist are far from 'sufficient;, and not just the words of 1 C 15 alone that fail."

That's an assertion, not an argument. The sufficiency of scripture isn't the only factor that can be involved in determining whether events like the ones you mention will occur.

You said that you're not an atheist. But the universe and various elements of it are interpreted in a wide variety of ways. Some people believe in creation. Others believe in evolution. There are differing and contradictory variations of creation and evolution. Some people are atheists. Some are theists. Some are polytheists. There are many disagreements about the meaning of life, morality, politics, economics, etc. There are far more divisions, wars, and such in the world in general than in Christianity. Shouldn't you conclude that the universe is insufficient, since a sufficient universe shouldn't be interpreted in so many different ways and result in so many divisions, wars, etc.? Such an insufficient universe cannot have come from God, right?

You write:

"Who says we don't assume that people may not be accurate in recalling their state of mind as our default position?"

Again, the issue is probability, not possibility. Saying that Paul "may not" have been accurate in his recollections isn't enough.

If a person has "inner turmoil" that makes him desire Christianity, even to the point of mistakenly thinking he's seen the risen Christ, how would he mistake that condition for the condition Paul describes in passages like Galatians 1:14 and Philippians 3:6?

Should we apply your reasoning to courts of law? Should we assume that all apparent hostile corroboration that occurs in court cases is coming from people who aren't actually hostile, despite what their actions suggest? Should that be our default assumption?

You write:

"Once Paul has gone all in for Jesus, it’s highly probable that his recollections of his past mindset will be far from disinterested and objective."

Why? And even if we accepted your claim, it doesn't tell us what direction Paul's recollections would take. Why would they go in the direction you're suggesting? Why wouldn't he alter his recollections to make himself seem to have been more open to Christianity than he actually was?

Do you believe that your recollections are as unreliable as Paul's allegedly are on issues where you've changed your mind? In a response to Amy, you wrote:

"But it just doesn't work for me anymore."

Did you come out of a Christian background? If so, should we assume that your recollections are unreliable, similar to how Paul's allegedly are? Why should we trust converts like you? Don't you just believe whatever you want to believe, distort your own memories, experience visions to convince yourself that you've seen things you haven't actually seen, etc.?

You write:

"By the way, how does one quantify 'probability' and 'possibility' such that one can declare the one greater than the other?"

Are you saying that you don't understand why something 60% likely should be preferred to something 10% likely? Or are you asking how we demonstrate that something is probable? If the latter, then the same question can be applied to you. In the sentence before the one I quote from you above, you make an assertion about what's "probably not" true. Why would you make such assertions if you don't understand how "does one quantify 'probability' and 'possibility' such that one can declare the one greater than the other"?

You write:

"And I’ve already addressed the issue of Paul’s actions."

Yes, by saying that his actions might be misleading us. But we don't assume that people's actions are misleading as our default position.

You write:

"There is zero chance of corroborating the vision, because versions are inside the mind of the visionary."

Paul's travel companions shared in the experience (Acts 9:7, 22:9, 26:14), the experience physically affected Paul (Acts 9:8; see also Galatians 4:13-15), Ananias had an independent experience that corroborated Paul's (Acts 9:10-12), and Paul acquired an ability to perform miracles, as we see in the remainder of Acts and in Paul's letters (Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 12:12). On the reliability of Acts, see here. On the many problems with your vague appeal to "visions", see here. On the empty tomb, which visions wouldn't produce, see here.

You write:

"There is zero chance of corroborating the vision, because versions are inside the mind of the visionary."

Why would a Pharisee persecuting the church be expected to see a vision of Jesus? People don't normally desire to see a vision vindicating a belief system they're opposing. You're standing the evidence on its head.

You write:

"Lotteries are natural, ordinary things and miracles are not."

They don't have to be the same in every way in order to be the same in some ways. Both are purported historical events and can be judged as probabilities as such.

You keep referring back to the idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, yet you keep ignoring the two articles I linked on that subject. And you've ignored much of what I wrote in response to you on the subject earlier in the thread.

You forgot something. Please explain Craig's point about the lottery and witnesses in your own words.

Jon wrote:

"Once again, nobody is saying God can't resurrect a human. That is not in dispute....Once again, nobody is disputing that God can alter what typically happens....We're not asserting that flying in a spaceship is impossible."

But Joe wrote:

"Lotteries are natural, ordinary things and miracles are not. There is a significant difference between unlikely but natural event, like picking a specific number in a daily lottery, and claims about events that are, as far as we know, impossible. Picking a given seven digit number is unlikely, but hardly impossible; there’s nothing here that conflicts with what we know about how the world works. But rising from the dead? Not so consistent with our understanding of the world."

Then, in his next post, Joe wrote:

"Jon, I greatly admire your efforts, but Jason will never acknowledge that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, because there is no extraordinary evidence."

Joe wrote:

"You forgot something. Please explain Craig's point about the lottery and witnesses in your own words."

And you "forgot" to respond to a large percentage of what I argued against your position earlier in the thread.

I told you that I think my citation of Moreland and Craig is sufficient. I explained some portions of it in an earlier response to you, but you ignored those explanations and went on to ask me to explain the entire passage. I don't want to spend my time and effort that way. You've largely ignored my previous explanations of some portions of the passage, and you ignored most of my explanation of 1 Corinthians 15, for example. I've noticed a pattern.

Amy:

>He thought he had everything all in a row. You can take his actual word for it, or you can make up your own speculations.

I’m not sure that this is Paul is saying he had everything in a row. It seems to me that he’s saying that what he had was not nearly enough, hence the need to sign up with Jesus, and since others are going to have less than him (in terms of Jewish credentials), their credentials aren’t going to save them. Like Paul, they have way too little, they don’t have everything in a row after all, and they are going to have to change, too.

It seems to me that anytime we attempt to discern the mindset of another human being at a particular point in time, we are all mostly speculating. We can talk about probabilities, but we can’t know. You base your speculations on one line of reasoning, I use another. I’m not sure that there is much more to say about this.

>As Paul said in that chapter, it only "works" if it's true.

No, it works if you *believe* that it’s true. In the case of religious faith, it’s the belief that counts, it’s the belief that makes it work for the individual in question. Whether or not the belief is “accurate” is almost irrelevant.

> Being in Los Angeles, I have a lot of Jewish friends who do now believe in Christ. It turns out that there's an unusual number of dramatic stories among Jewish people who become Christians (similar to Paul's) about how they suddenly became convinced Jesus was really who He said He was.

Interesting, but a little vague as to details. I don’t mean this in a critical way, just saying that more is needed before commenting.

>You said it doesn't work "anymore" when referring to your Christianity. Did you go to church at one time earlier in your life?

I went to church every Sunday for about 20 years. I slowly came to the realization that it didn’t work for me for numerous reasons, so I stopped going.

>I told you that I think my citation of Moreland and Craig is sufficient.

Well, since I can't understand it, it's clearly not sufficient. I don't want explanations in random bits and pieces that are responses to my comments, I want an organized explanation that will help me to understand the point. I'm beginning to think that you can't explain it. Maybe all you can do is cut and paste passages, but you don't really understand the point yourself.

I'm getting to my response to most of your latest comments, but if I "ignored" some of your still earlier comments, it's because you keep declaring that I can't use this line of reasoning or that line of reasoning. So, what's the point of responding? Frankly, in responding to your comments, I spend most of my time just trying to figure out what arguments and reasoning I'm "allowed" to use.

>That's an assertion, not an argument.

No, that’s two thousand years of history. Now, who’s ignoring the evidence?

And citing the wide range of religious beliefs that exist in the world isn’t an argument against what I’m saying, because we talking about a single book (or compilation), a book that is supposed to be *the* answer, the *only* answer. We’re not talking about every aspect of the universe. Besides, who says that the universe is here to answer our questions about the meaning of life, morality, etc.? Your answer is not relevant to the point.

>Again, the issue is probability, not possibility. Saying that Paul "may not" have been accurate in his recollections isn't enough.

Ok, so my explanation of motivations is “possible”. You wanted a different explanation for Paul’s actions and motivations, and I gave you one that is “possible”. Good enough.

>Why wouldn't he alter his recollections to make himself seem to have been more open to Christianity than he actually was?

Well, the way Paul tells it, it makes for a much better story don’t you think? Much more dramatic, more dazzle, more pizzazz. What religious leader doesn’t like a little spice in his stories? It also creates a make greater difference or greater break when compared with Judaism. These folks are trying to separate themselves from what came before. Do you want evolution or revolution?

>Do you believe that your recollections are as unreliable as Paul's allegedly are on issues where you've changed your mind? Don't you just believe whatever you want to believe, distort your own memories, experience visions to convince yourself that you've seen things you haven't actually seen, etc.?

Yes. To some extent, everyone does.

>Are you saying that you don't understand why something 60% likely should be preferred to something 10% likely?

I just didn’t understand how you were doing the calculations in this case so as to arrive at numerical values like 10%. You seemed pretty certain that the numerical value for your probabilities were greater than mine. Just looking for the math.

>Yes, by saying that his actions might be misleading us. But we don't assume that people's actions are misleading as our default position.

Didn’t say his actions were “misleading”, just saying that one should be careful about drawing conclusions about motivation by citing activities. I don’t know that Paul was conflicted about his mean, nasty, ugly treatment of the nice Christians, but it’s possible, right? This alternative explanation is reasonable, right?

The point is that you seem pretty confident about everything Paul, and I’m not so sure that you should be so confident. And let’s not use the “probable” word. You don’t strike me as someone who has the slightest doubt about your conclusions about Paul.

>Paul's travel companions shared in the experience (Acts 9:7, 22:9, 26:14), the experience physically affected Paul (Acts 9:8; see also Galatians 4:13-15), Ananias had an independent experience that corroborated Paul's (Acts 9:10-12), and Paul acquired an ability to perform miracles, as we see in the remainder of Acts and in Paul's letters (Romans 15:19, 2 Corinthians 12:12). On the reliability of Acts, see here. On the many problems with your vague appeal to "visions", see here.

So, Ananias could see into Paul’s head? Cool.

Yup, that’s what I thought. The Bible is the source of information about the events in question. No independent corroboration of any of this. More miracles, no independent records.

>On the empty tomb, which visions wouldn't produce, see here.

Now who’s changing the subject? Isn’t this supposed to be my flaw?

> People don't normally desire to see a vision vindicating a belief system they're opposing. You're standing the evidence on its head.

I’m not standing anything on its head. What you see depends on your state of mind. It’s Psychology 101. For one thing, guilt could lead to a vision vindicating the belief system you’re persecuting. Doubt about your own system, a desire to have something to really believe in, a desire to really feel like you would go to heaven. Lots of possibilities. Human behavior is a wonderfully interesting and flexible thing.

>(Lotteries and miracles don't have to be the same in every way in order to be the same in some ways.

Oh, this is rich. This is from the man who rejected any analogies and historical parallel as the first hints of the slightest difference between two items or events. Dude, you invented this argument. I learned this from you. You rejected every attempt that I made to compare two things that weren’t the same in every way in order to be the same in some ways. Now you want to change the rules. I think that you’re turning into Joe.

Any chance I can get that explanation of the Moreland and Craig's argument? What is the relationship between lotteries and witnesses? I'm listening.

Joe writes:

"Besides, who says that the universe is here to answer our questions about the meaning of life, morality, etc.? Your answer is not relevant to the point."

And why are we supposed to believe that the Bible is intended to address every issue involved in all of the divisions, wars, etc. that you vaguely referred to? Even when an issue the Bible was intended to address is involved, why should we think that the fault is with the Bible, not with people? You're making a series of assumptions that you need to justify.

You write:

"You wanted a different explanation for Paul’s actions and motivations, and I gave you one that is 'possible'. Good enough."

No, historical research is about probabilities, not possibilities, so possibilities aren't "good enough". If one explanation is more likely than another, we prefer the more likely explanation.

You write:

"Well, the way Paul tells it, it makes for a much better story don’t you think? Much more dramatic, more dazzle, more pizzazz. What religious leader doesn’t like a little spice in his stories?"

Religious leaders who are honest won't like "spice" if it involves inaccuracy. And it's not as though "pizzazz" is the only thing that interests people. You're assuming that Paul was interested in one thing and not others. You need an argument to that effect, not just an assertion or a speculation.

You write:

"These folks are trying to separate themselves from what came before. Do you want evolution or revolution?"

Then why didn't Paul say that he was the king of Israel, that he was the one who made the decision to have Jesus executed by the Romans, that he was placed in charge of all persecution of the Christians, that he had been involved in far more persecution than the New Testament refers to, etc.? If the truth was no obstacle to what Paul would think of himself or what Christians would claim about him, and they wanted "pizzazz" without regard for the truth, then why weren't far higher claims made about Paul's background? You could argue that they were somewhat concerned about truth, but not enough to disqualify your theory, but then you would need to argue for that position rather than just asserting it.

You write:

"Yes. To some extent, everyone does."

Prove it. I have no reason to think I've ever experienced a vision.

And saying "to some extent" isn't enough. You've argued that Paul experienced such things to a high extent. If it's not our default position to assume that such things happen to such a high extent, then you need an argument to the effect that they did occur to such an extent with Paul. Just saying that they happen "to some extent" with other people, without any accompanying argument, isn't enough.

You write:

"Just looking for the math."

As I explained earlier, you didn't provide math for your own probability claims. Why would you be expecting math from others, then?

You write:

"Didn’t say his actions were 'misleading', just saying that one should be careful about drawing conclusions about motivation by citing activities."

You've speculated that Paul was conflicted. His activities weren't conflicted. Thus, by your standards, Paul's activities are misleading in judging his inner life.

And I didn't suggest that we shouldn't be careful. You're the one who's speculating against the evidence. That's not careful.

You write:

"And let’s not use the 'probable' word."

You say that after you've used the term repeatedly.

We're discussing historical conclusions. And historical research seeks probabilities. Why should we refrain from discussing what's probable?

You write:

"You don’t strike me as someone who has the slightest doubt about your conclusions about Paul."

I've said that my conclusions are probable. If that "strikes you" with the impression that I consider my conclusions certain, then that's a problem with you, not me.

You write:

"So, Ananias could see into Paul’s head? Cool."

No. He had an independent experience in which information about Paul was conveyed to him. If you want to argue that Ananias was having a naturalistic vision, then you'll have to argue that he and Paul had naturalistic visions independently, around the same time and on the same subject, conveying information Ananias would have been unlikely to have known naturalistically.

You write:

"The Bible is the source of information about the events in question. No independent corroboration of any of this. More miracles, no independent records."

The articles I linked discuss some extra-Biblical sources as well. But many of the conclusions are drawn from Biblical documents. Why would independent corroboration be required? Do you require it before believing anything Josephus or Tacitus says, for example? Law courts regularly accept the testimony of one witness. So do historians. You've been drawing conclusions about Paul's alleged motives and experiences from Biblical sources, so why can't I cite Biblical sources when discussing such issues?

You aren't giving us any reason to reject the evidence I cited.

You write:

"Now who’s changing the subject? Isn’t this supposed to be my flaw?"

If your theory doesn't explain the empty tomb, then that's a disadvantage to your theory. Part of what we look at in evaluating a theory is its explanatory scope.

You write:

"What you see depends on your state of mind. It’s Psychology 101. For one thing, guilt could lead to a vision vindicating the belief system you’re persecuting. Doubt about your own system, a desire to have something to really believe in, a desire to really feel like you would go to heaven. Lots of possibilities. Human behavior is a wonderfully interesting and flexible thing."

Then you need to cite some evidence from the relevant psychological data. Telling us that your theory is "Psychology 101" isn't the same as demonstrating it.

And the idea that Paul had a hallucination (naturalistic vision) related to guilt has already been addressed by Christian scholars. See Gary Habermas' article here and William Lane Craig's comments on the subject in Paul Copan and Ronald Tacelli, edd., Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact Or Figment? (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000).

You write:

"This is from the man who rejected any analogies and historical parallel as the first hints of the slightest difference between two items or events. Dude, you invented this argument."

If I'm being inconsistent, then so are you. The nature of the alleged inconsistency you're accusing me of requires that you've been inconsistent as well.

I'm not being inconsistent. The reason why I criticized your analogies earlier in this thread was because the disanalogous aspects of your analogies were relevant to what we were discussing at the time. How is the difference between the non-miraculous nature of picking a lottery number and the miraculous nature of a miracle relevant to the topic we're presently discussing? It's not.

You write:

"Any chance I can get that explanation of the Moreland and Craig's argument?"

I've already explained why I'm not going to reword the entire passage for you. And you keep commenting on the lottery analogy, even though you claim to not understand it. Why have you been commenting on it so much, if you need somebody to explain it to you?

Does the fact that this man didn't marry before mean that we need exceptional evidence before believing that he's getting married? No.

I guess I'm confused at this point, Jason. You continue to point out that things can be believed without precedent. I've already explained that I agree, and I've explained why. In fact you've quoted Craig and Moreland who offer the exact same explanation I do, relying on the principles explained in several posts by my brother that you've seen regarding Bayes' Theorem. You can trust the reporting of a lottery number despite the fact that this particular number has a low initial probability based upon our background assumptions. You can know it with high confidence. So why are you pointing out that we don't need exceptional evidence to know that a man is getting married? What I've already said and what Craig and Moreland have said explains all of this. We can believe him and in fact we can believe him with high confidence despite the fact that he's never married a woman before. The same principles that apply to Craig and Moreland's lottery example apply here. I'm in full agreement with them. Are you?

But even if we accepted your assessment for the sake of argument, in what manner would a false resurrection claim by an adherent of a non-Christian religion diminish the credibility of the witnesses to Jesus' resurrection?

Remember that in a sense nobody was a Christian prior to the circulation of the stories about Jesus. When you ask what the likelihood is that this type of evidence would be produced if the claim were false you need to look at what type of people it was that produced this evidence. They were pagans and Jews. So we need to look at the type of things these people believed. Did they falsely believe in physical resurrections before they produced these claims about Jesus? If so obviously this means it's more likely that this type of evidence would be produced if the claims were false.

Let's also remember that the Bible itself claims that many followers of Jesus and even one of Jesus' enemies (Herod) falsely believed that he was the resurrected person that had been previously killed. Some thought he was Elijah. Some thought he was John the Baptist. This is the response of people contemporaneous with these eyewitnesses we're relying on. That is obviously directly relevant to the question of the probability this evidence would emerge if the claim was false, driving that value higher.

Whether a person has done something before isn't the only factor involved in judging whether it's likely that he would do it.

That's what I've been saying. Nobody is disputing that.

If a resurrection is intended as a unique validating event, which Christians believe to be the case with Jesus, then we wouldn't expect it to occur with any previous individual.

Sounds like your faith is in trouble because you claim that resurrections did occur prior to Jesus (Lazarus). But with reference to your main point, a skeptic would say likewise that he wouldn't expect this type of evidence to emerge if the adherents didn't regard it as having some purpose. All false miraculous claims that I'm aware of present themselves as being done for some important purpose. So while this is the way we would expect it to be if it were true it is also the way we would expect it to be if it were false. So this cuts both ways.

Who's excluding "the non-God possibilities"? I take the possibilities into account, and the comment of the person you mentioned in your spaceship example doesn't rule out other possibilities. We can state something we believe without thereby denying that something else might be true.

The question I asked you assumed that the non-God possibilities would be excluded, and you replied by indicating you thought this made it more likely to be true. I said that if someone claimed to fly around a few planets in a spaceship you'd reject the claim. What if they said they did it with God's help and with some Divine purpose (or in other words, not by natural means)? You said this does make a difference (i.e. it makes it more plausible). So by excluding the natural explanations you concluded it was more plausible, but in fact it is less plausible.

It makes more sense for a miracle to occur in a religious context, for reasons I discussed earlier. That was my point.

And I disagree that the occurrence of this in a religious context makes it more plausible from our perspective. This is the very type of context where we expect to find this type of false information. I think this is pretty obvious. Imagine that a bunch of scientists from CERN claimed to experience things like what is claimed about Jesus. They say "Never expected this kind of thing, have no bias in favor of supernatural claims, but this guy was dead for three days and now he's alive, passing through walls, etc. Can't explain it, but that's what we're observing. He says it's so that God can redeem man from his sins." This is far more persuasive than claims from people that think man was made out of mud in a garden with a talking snake. This is a fundamental disagreement between us, and I'll let others judge which view is more reasonable.

But even if we limited ourselves to the case cited by Ahmed, what he describes is a case in which 60% of the witnesses to an event misidentified a person involved. But there was agreement on the occurrence of the event.

Nobody even claims to have observed Jesus being resurrected. That's what we're trying to decide if we should believe.

If people who were far from the stage where the event occurred thought they saw different facial features, or some of the witnesses didn't pay much attention to such details, but instead were focused on the more general features of the event, then 60% can be unable to identify the person when asked to do so.

It's not that they were unable to identify the right person. They positively identified the wrong person. So that means they had some degree of confidence that they were right. It's not as if they said "I was too far away, I couldn't see." They thought they had seen well enough to positively identify someone and they were wrong. The victim of the staged attack also positively identified the wrong person.

But you haven't given us any reason to think that his case is representative of eyewitness testimony in general.

I haven't given ANY reason? A controlled scientific study about the reliability of dozens of educated eyewitnesses isn't ANY reason to assume these results would apply generally? Again, we'll let the reader be the judge.

And you're relying on the testimony of Ahmed, who is even further removed, regarding what was reported about the case in question.

It's always better to learn things first hand, but nobody is saying we should never accept eyewitness testimony. The other factors play a role. What is the initial probability of Ahmed's claim based upon our background assumptions? What is the likelihood that we would see this evidence if it were false? As I've said before, if you tell me you ate eggs this morning I'll believe you. Eyewitness testimony, while surprisingly unreliable, is still enough to establish non-outrageous claims.

Stop using arguments that depend on eyewitness testimony, as you've been doing in this thread. Stop trusting eyewitnesses in scientific experiments, in court cases, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, etc.

Once again, I'm in agreement with Craig and Moreland on the reliability of eyewitness testimony. The nature of the evidence is not the only factor in evaluating the believability of a claim.

The claim that testimony is unreliable amounts to a sweeping rejection of it as a form of evidence.

Absolutely not. All evidence should be considered, both excellent evidence and not so excellent evidence. There's nothing that I've said that has suggested anything different.

but since 'unreliable' means unworthy of being relied upon a remark like Buckhout's constitutes, on a natural reading, a pretty wholesale rejection.

Nonsense. "Unreliable" is being said in reference to certain types of claims about certain types of things. Buckhout is not spelling out all of Bayes' Theorem with his statements, but is speaking generally. Is eyewitness testimony unreliable when it comes to claims like what you had for breakfast this morning? No. But it does appear to be with unusual events that occurred a few weeks ago. Or even typical events from a few weeks ago. What did you have for lunch 7 weeks ago? I have no idea what I had.

if we ask why we should believe any of the results Buckhout reports to us about the experiments on testimony he says he has done and witnessed, or if we ask how Buckhout came by all sorts of information he relies upon in his work and quotes to us as definitively known.

If you kept a journal entry of everything you ate for breakfast over a several month period than I would believe you if you told me what you had had for breakfast 7 weeks ago. Buckhout probably observed the scientific method, took notes, etc. This is a different situation from simply observing an unusual event several weeks back.

Let's see...

Nothing new...nothing new...irrelevant comment...nothing new...not convincing...nothing new...misses my point...nothing new...nothing new...you say it's wrong when I (Joe) do it, but not when you (Jason) do it...nothing new...not going to explain Moreland and Craig...ok, we're done.

In summary, we have inadequate historical data to settle the issue. If the data were adequate, we sould speak of certainties, not probabilities. I believe that this is where this all started.

You have "probables" that depend on miracles, supernatural events and observations at odds with what we understand about how the world works. My interpretation only rates a "possible", but I don't need the most fantastical claims in the history of the world to support my interpretation. To each his own.

As the cliche says, it's much easier to start a war than to stop it. But I think I've seen the elephant, so I'm stopping this war. At least, I'm ending my participation in this war. Can't say it hasn't been interesting. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Thanks for the encouragement Joe. And by the way I don't think the contrast Jason is attempting to demonstrate between us is real. There's a difference between saying something is impossible logically and saying it's "impossible" in common parlance. I take you to mean the latter. If you mean that a resurrection is logically impossible, then we do disagree.

I find it interesting that though you are presumably not familiar with Bayes' Theorem you are making statements about your own intuitions that confirm Bayes' Theorem. For instance you had said:

The event in question is a lottery. A number will be picked. The process is going to generate a seven digit number. The number cited is no less likely to be picked than any other, so there's no reason why I shouldn't accept it, and my acceptance is independent of the reliability of the newscasters.

This sounds a lot like a description of the term I've been discussing regarding Bayes' Theorem. The paper is unlikely to any particular number just as any particular number is unlikely to be drawn. So given that, what is the likelihood of them reporting that number if it weren't true? It's even lower than the probability of them reporting that number randomly. For this reason we can believe the newspaper reporting. There's no difficulty here.

This is also what Jason's quote from Moreland and Craig argues. They are right on. And they're doing nothing but basing their claims on Bayes' Theorem. So when you asked this question:

By the way, how does one quantify “probability” and “possibility” such that one can declare the one greater than the other? It’s a neat trick to say “probability is greater than possibility, so I am right”, but it’s just a rhetorical trick.

I can imagine what is going through Jason's mind. He knows that there is a way to quantify this. Use Bayes' Theorem. It's the very basis for his argument here. He seems to accept it. Why not plug in the values and really quantify things? My brother and I have spent a lot of time explaing this stuff to Jason. He should understand these things well enough. We've also asked him to plug in his values and let's have a look. He has declined.

So his behavior is much like WL Craig. Craig uses Bayes' Theorem to go after people like Bart Ehrman. See my discussion of this here. But when you grant his point and the legitimacy of Bayes' Theorem and ask him to take the next step (apply it to the resurrection) he finds excuses not to. Why is that?

Jon wrote:

"You continue to point out that things can be believed without precedent. I've already explained that I agree, and I've explained why."

Here's what you said in your initial post in this thread:

"We know of nobody rising from the dead by either natural or super natural means, so we dismiss that as well."

And later:

"The point is God hasn't ever done this before as far as we know. He's let billions die without raising him from the dead. So when someone tells me that it happened I'm skeptical, and I demand exceptional evidence."

You went on to say that, if you were alive when the first earthquake in human history occurred and you saw it with your own eyes, it would be rational to reject what you perceived by your eyesight, since the earthquake would be unprecedented.

When you say that "things can be believed without precedent", what you seem to be saying, if you're to be consistent with your earlier comments, is that an exceptionally high initial improbability can be overcome by exceptional evidence. That initial improbability is so significant that it was the only factor you mentioned as justification for dismissing the resurrection in your first post in this thread, as if mentioning that factor alone was sufficient.

Yet, we regularly accept unprecedented events with far less evidence than you're demanding for the resurrection. You can't say that you accepted earthquakes, submarines, and other things in life because you had precedent for them, since you couldn't have precedent without first believing in one or more of them without precedent.

When asked whether you would believe in the first earthquake if you saw it with your own eyes, you said you would, but appealed to "subjective assessment" to justify it. Would you also appeal to subjective assessment to justify your belief in other things without precedent? Why do you accept so many thousands of things in life without precedent, allowing a subjective assessment to justify a belief whose rejection would be rational, yet reject the resurrection because it's allegedly rational to dismiss that event as a result of its unprecedented nature? It seems more likely that you're being rational about earthquakes and submarines and subjective about the resurrection.

Earlier, you suggested that you want to be consistent in these things:

"Yet we don't accept that the water was 600°C (or I should say I don't and nobody I know of does. You haven't answered). I shouldn't believe the resurrection if I want to be consistent."

But, apparently, you either aren't consistent or are relying on a subjective standard when you distinguish among these things. You accept the first earthquake and other things without precedent without having the sort of exceptional evidence you demand for the resurrection. If you're going to say that a subjective assessment is your consistent standard, and that your subjective perception is that you should accept things like the first earthquake while rejecting things like the resurrection, then you're depending on a subjective standard to accept some unprecedented things and reject others. That gives us no objective basis for agreeing with you.

You write:

"So why are you pointing out that we don't need exceptional evidence to know that a man is getting married? What I've already said and what Craig and Moreland have said explains all of this. We can believe him and in fact we can believe him with high confidence despite the fact that he's never married a woman before. The same principles that apply to Craig and Moreland's lottery example apply here. I'm in full agreement with them. Are you?"

I agree with Moreland and Craig. But they haven't said that there's an exceptionally high initial improbability for an event that's unprecedented. To the contrary, they deny that there's such an improbability with regard to the resurrection. My question is, why is it exceptionally improbable that God would raise a person for the first time, but not exceptionally improbable that a person would marry for the first time?

You write:

"When you ask what the likelihood is that this type of evidence would be produced if the claim were false you need to look at what type of people it was that produced this evidence. They were pagans and Jews. So we need to look at the type of things these people believed. Did they falsely believe in physical resurrections before they produced these claims about Jesus? If so obviously this means it's more likely that this type of evidence would be produced if the claims were false. Let's also remember that the Bible itself claims that many followers of Jesus and even one of Jesus' enemies (Herod) falsely believed that he was the resurrected person that had been previously killed. Some thought he was Elijah. Some thought he was John the Baptist. This is the response of people contemporaneous with these eyewitnesses we're relying on. That is obviously directly relevant to the question of the probability this evidence would emerge if the claim was false, driving that value higher."

Apparently, you're defining "resurrection" loosely. (On John the Baptist and the Herod passages in the gospels, see here.) What you're referring to, precedent for false claims on a subject or similar subjects, is of only minor significance. It's not as though Herod claimed to have seen an empty tomb, claimed to have met a resurrected John the Baptist, suffered and died for a belief system with belief in that resurrection at its core, etc. The fact that some people have falsely believed something without good reason doesn't give us much cause to doubt the testimony of people who seem to have had far better reason for believing something similar.

I had said:

"Whether a person has done something before isn't the only factor involved in judging whether it's likely that he would do it."

You responded:

"That's what I've been saying. Nobody is disputing that."

You ought to reread your first post in this thread. Lack of precedent was the only factor you mentioned as justification for dismissing the resurrection in your first post in this thread, as if mentioning that factor alone was sufficient. But lack of precedent is so insignificant that we all accept many thousands of things in life without precedent. If the alleged exceptionally high initial improbability of the resurrection isn't due to naturalism, and it isn't due to lack of precedent alone, then why think that there's an exceptionally high initial improbability?

You write:

"Sounds like your faith is in trouble because you claim that resurrections did occur prior to Jesus (Lazarus)."

How do you know that Lazarus was resurrected rather than resuscitated?

You write:

"The question I asked you assumed that the non-God possibilities would be excluded"

How did your question assume that?

You write:

"Imagine that a bunch of scientists from CERN claimed to experience things like what is claimed about Jesus. They say 'Never expected this kind of thing, have no bias in favor of supernatural claims, but this guy was dead for three days and now he's alive, passing through walls, etc. Can't explain it, but that's what we're observing. He says it's so that God can redeem man from his sins.' This is far more persuasive than claims from people that think man was made out of mud in a garden with a talking snake."

You've misunderstood the issue under consideration. The CERN example you've cited does have a religious context. It refers to "supernatural claims", God, and redemption from sin. That's a religious context.

Earlier, while discussing this subject, I referred to "an identified source and message associated with the miracle in question". Your CERN example identifies God as the source and associates the resurrection with a message of redemption from sin.

Maybe it will clarify this issue in your mind if you ask yourself whether a resurrection would be more likely to occur at the end of a life like that of Jesus or at the end of the life of an ordinary farmer who was a contemporary of Jesus. Let me requote what I cited from Moreland and Craig earlier:
"A miracle without a context is inherently ambiguous. But if a purported miracle occurs in a significant religio-historical context, then the chances of its being a genuine miracle are increased. For example, if the miracles occur at a momentous time (say, a man's leprosy vanishing when Jesus speaks the words, 'Be clean!') and do not recur regularly in history, and if the miracles are numerous and various, then the chances of their being the result of some unknown natural causes are reduced." (Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview [Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2003], p. 569)

Regarding your comments on "people that think man was made out of mud in a garden with a talking snake", I suggest that you consult some scholarly commentaries on Genesis. Your representation of what was believed about the origin of man is about as inaccurate and tendentious as your description of the resurrection evidence as "years after the fact beliefs from a few superstitious and gullible individuals".

You write:

"Nobody even claims to have observed Jesus being resurrected."

The witnesses report Jesus' death, an empty tomb, meetings with the resurrected Jesus, and other data implying a resurrection.

You write:

"It's not that they were unable to identify the right person. They positively identified the wrong person. So that means they had some degree of confidence that they were right."

Have you consulted any source other than Arif Ahmed's brief description of the case? If not, then all you have to go by are those brief comments. Ahmed tells us that the eyewitnesses were asked to identify the person in question from a set of photographs. The eyewitnesses didn't initiate it. They were asked to do it, and they were given a set of photographs to choose from. That doesn't suggest "some degree of confidence".

You write:

"The victim of the staged attack also positively identified the wrong person."

Do you know how easily the attacker could be identified (how unique his appearance was, what he was wearing, the angle at which he approached his victim, how long the victim had to see him, etc.)? Not if all you have is Ahmed's brief description of the case.

You write:

"A controlled scientific study about the reliability of dozens of educated eyewitnesses isn't ANY reason to assume these results would apply generally?"

I was saying that it doesn't lead us to the conclusion that eyewitness testimony is generally unreliable. I wasn't denying that it would take us closer to that conclusion. But it doesn't take us all the way there.

It's not as though that study is the only data we have. That's why I keep referring you to Bauckham's book and other sources that address a much larger amount of data than the one study you keep referring to.

How can a study involving one type of eyewitness testimony, namely eyewitnesses of one unexpected and relatively unimportant event that may have been brief (I don't know much about it beyond Ahmed's description of it), lead you to a conclusion about eyewitness testimony in general? Not only is it just one case, but, as I pointed out earlier, the witnesses seem to have agreed on the general outlines of what happened. You're assigning far too much significance to the unreliability of 60% of the witnesses on one aspect of one event in one study.

You write:

"Eyewitness testimony, while surprisingly unreliable, is still enough to establish non-outrageous claims."

The vast majority of eyewitness testimony is about what you would consider "non-outrageous claims". Why, then, would you cite the case Ahmed referred to, which isn't about "outrageous claims", to counter my claim that eyewitness testimony is generally reliable? If you agreed with me, but wanted to make an exception for "outrageous claims", then why didn't you say so earlier? Why did you make an unqualified reference to eyewitness testimony as "notoriously unreliable", then argue against my dispute of that claim by citing the case discussed by Ahmed? I made it clear that I was referring to eyewitness testimony in general. I cited examples such as eyewitnesses in court cases and in scientific experiments. You had to have known that I was addressing eyewitness testimony in general. But now you tell us that you accept eyewitness testimony in general, but not for "outrageous claims". You've changed your position.

And you give us no justification for the exception of "outrageous claims". What qualifies as "outrageous"? How do you know that eyewitness testimony is unreliable in such cases? If you're defining "outrageous" as "unprecedented", then see my comments above on precedent.

Did you have precedent for the case cited by Ahmed? Did you already believe in one or more scientific studies in which a majority of eyewitnesses were wrong? Even if you did, how did you believe in the first such case? It would have been unprecedented.

I've mentioned specific differences between the case cited by Ahmed and the case of the resurrection. I've linked to an article that discusses eyewitness testimony in more depth, and I've cited Richard Bauckham's book, which takes into account far more data than the one case cited by Ahmed. As I said before, you're assigning far too much significance to the unreliability of 60% of the witnesses on one aspect of one event in one study. You want us to believe that 100% of the resurrection witnesses were wrong, including ones who had lived with Jesus for years, claimed to have seen the risen Jesus more than once, thought they spent enough time with Him to eat meals and have conversations, etc. And you don't want us to believe that they were wrong about one thing related to the events while being right about the general outlines. Rather, you want us to believe that they were wrong about far more than the 60% of witnesses were wrong about in Ahmed's case. It's far easier to be mistaken about the identity of one man you've never met before, who you saw only briefly and unexpectedly, than to be mistaken about seeing Jesus risen from the dead under the conditions described in the New Testament. How does one mistakenly think he experienced such things? If only 60% of the people in Ahmed's case were wrong about such a comparatively forgettable detail, then why think that 100% of the resurrection witnesses would be wrong about not only far more details, but also the general outlines of what happened?

Jon wrote:

"And by the way I don't think the contrast Jason is attempting to demonstrate between us is real. There's a difference between saying something is impossible logically and saying it's 'impossible' in common parlance. I take you to mean the latter."

Here's what Joe wrote:

"There is a significant difference between unlikely but natural event, like picking a specific number in a daily lottery, and claims about events that are, as far as we know, impossible. Picking a given seven digit number is unlikely, but hardly impossible; there’s nothing here that conflicts with what we know about how the world works. But rising from the dead? Not so consistent with our understanding of the world."

Not only did he not suggest the qualifier you're adding, but look at what he's contrasting "impossible" with. He's contrasting it with picking a seven-digit lottery number, something that's highly unlikely. If he meant "impossible" in the sense of something highly unlikely, then he communicated the concept poorly.

Earlier in this thread, before you joined the discussion, Joe wrote:

"Remember, you opened the door to the supernatural. Anything is possible. Probabilities are irrelevant."

Why would he criticize me for "opening the door to the supernatural" if that door is opened to him as well? The implication, again, is that he's ruled out the supernatural.

Maybe he hasn't given the issue much thought. Maybe he's being inconsistent. But some of his comments in this thread have suggested that he thinks miracles are impossible in the fullest sense of the term.

You write:

"My brother and I have spent a lot of time explaing this stuff to Jason. He should understand these things well enough."

I didn't get the information from either of you. Neither of you had to "explain this stuff to Jason". And both you and your brother left our initial discussions in which Bayes' Thereom came up. I wasn't the one who left those discussions. As I explained to you in 2005, the results we get from Bayes' Theorem are only as good as the numbers we put in. When so many matters related to those numbers remain in dispute, it's not of much importance to run our numbers through Bayes' Theorem. Even among those who use Bayes' Theorem, the vast majority of the probability judgments they make in life are made without any use of it.

Jon,

I see that over at Triablogue, the boys have three posts on you for just this week alone, and just on this comment thread alone. Of course, being banned, there's no way you can reply.

These folks seem to have an unhealthy obsession with you. What on earth did you do to those poor boys?

It's not clear to me what you are arguing at the initial part of your last large post to me, Jason. You've been arguing that it is not true that it is reasonable to believe things without precedent. I responded that I agree entirely. I responded that I agree with Moreland and Craig's assessment. So now in response you've quoted some of my previous comments, including comments that I admitted were a simplified expression of something that was in fact slightly more complex. Again, I agree with Moreland and Craig's clarifications. I've already explained how on my view earthquakes can be believed without precedent. Are you still arguing the position that things can be believed rationally without precedent? Do you agree with Craig and Moreland's explanation for why they can be? Seems I'm repeating myself.

When asked whether you would believe in the first earthquake if you saw it with your own eyes, you said you would, but appealed to "subjective assessment" to justify it. Would you also appeal to subjective assessment to justify your belief in other things without precedent?

Yes. Bayes' Theorem is all about subjective assessments. What is rational for me to believe based upon my own experiences and background knowledge? This is why it is reasonable for a drunk to doubt that an earthquake had occurred whereas a sober person might not. It's about conditions that vary from person to person. I think I already explained this as well. I had said:

I would believe my perception, but not with high confidence. These things are subjective assessments. While I would believe my perception my point is that it would be rational for someone else to doubt their perception. The confidence is dependent on factors that vary from person to person.

I went on to explain why this was the case.

For instance, in considering the earthquake, suppose I was naseaus at the time, or I had just stepped off a roller coaster, or I was drunk, or I was high. In those cases the likelihood that the evidence would be produced even if the event didn't occur goes up, and therefore my confidence that the ground had actually moved goes down. On the other hand if I'm totally sober and in my right mind, then the likelihood that the evidence would be produced if the ground didn't move is very low, and therefore I conclude that the ground did move. So I accept the earthquake.

Why do you accept so many thousands of things in life without precedent, allowing a subjective assessment to justify a belief whose rejection would be rational,

Because we must consider the likelihood that the evidence (my subjective perceptions) would be produced if the claim was false. I've said this many times already, and Craig and Moreland also explained it.

yet reject the resurrection because it's allegedly rational to dismiss that event as a result of its unprecedented nature? It seems more likely that you're being rational about earthquakes and submarines and subjective about the resurrection.

Precedence is not the only factor. It is a critically important factor, but we also must consider the other factors. We're really going around in circles here.

And this is not about a contrast between a subjective assessment and a rational conclusion. These are all subjective assessments. Our assessments will be subjective AND they should be rational.

If you're going to say that a subjective assessment is your consistent standard, and that your subjective perception is that you should accept things like the first earthquake while rejecting things like the resurrection, then you're depending on a subjective standard to accept some unprecedented things and reject others.

Again, this is all about subjective assessments. What I'm doing here is I'm appealing to my subjective experiences, but I think you share those experiences, so if we both want to be rational there would only be one conclusion to draw. For instance, we're both aware of no cases of people rising from the dead (excluding the biblical cases in question). We both have knowledge of false resurrection beliefs (as I mentioned last time). We're both cognizant of the fact that eyewitness testimony is not good enough in some cases. It would be tough to convict a murderer based upon a single eyewitness report. We look for physical evidence, multiple eyewitness reports, etc.

We also have differences. For instance just recently I watched a movie you may not have seen. It's called The Thin Blue Line. It's a documentary about a man convicted of murder. The man was serving life when the film was released and the film showed that multiple independent witnesses made assertions about the events that upon closer examination were transparently false. The crime was the murder of a police officer. One woman claimed to have seen the accused at the scene just prior to the act. The officer's partner claimed that the murderer had bushy hair (in fact the real murderer did not). The real murderer of course also blamed the accused. So perhaps I have some knowledge about the tendencies of eyewitness reports being mistaken that you don't have. This is the subjective element that could make my assessment different from yours.

My question is, why is it exceptionally improbable that God would raise a person for the first time, but not exceptionally improbable that a person would marry for the first time?

I can hardly believe you don't know the answer to this, but it seems you don't, so I'll explain. People do sometimes get married. It's not often that a man meets a girl and marries her. Most women that I've met I haven't married. So based upon the background information, if you were to consider if I was going to marry a girl, you had no knowledge if I'd ever met her, no claims that I intended to marry her, based upon your background assessment alone you'd think it extremely unlikely that I was marrying her.

What if your background knowledge included knowledge that I knew the girl, that she was marriageable age and single and the same was true of me. It's still unlikely that I'm marrying her based on that background knowledge, but it's a lot higher.

What if your background knowledge included knowledge that we were dating? Perhaps the likelihood that we are getting married is still low, but certainly not extraordinarily low.

What about God raising someone from the dead? Can we with confidence say that resurrections, while rare, do sometimes happen? No. What additional background knowledge do we have to look at prior to looking at evidence from the gospels that makes this claim initially more plausible, like dating was used above? None that I know of.

You know of resurrection claims of others. You probably haven't looked too much into most of them, though you dismiss them. You accept the claims of people when they say they are getting married. Why don't you explain why you do that.

The fact that some people have falsely believed something without good reason doesn't give us much cause to doubt the testimony of people who seem to have had far better reason for believing something similar.

That's just an assertion. There's a way to show that it "doesn't give us much cause" to doubt the resurrection claims made by the biblical authors. Plug in the values and generate a result. Asserting that this makes little difference is easy to say but tougher to show.

You had said:

"Whether a person has done something before isn't the only factor involved in judging whether it's likely that he would do it."

I responded

"That's what I've been saying. Nobody is disputing that."

You now say:

You ought to reread your first post in this thread. Lack of precedent was the only factor you mentioned as justification for dismissing the resurrection in your first post in this thread, as if mentioning that factor alone was sufficient.

Lack of precedent may have been the only factor I happened to discuss in my first post, but that in no way implies that it is the only relevant factor. I've told you over and over that I don't think it's the only relevant factor, but you seem to want to spend your time arguing as if I think it is the only relevant factor. This is the kind of thing that leads me to believe that you're struggling to respond with arguments, so now you will just recycle previous already corrected statements. I don't think precedence is the only relevant factor. If you want to continue to argue as if I do, then maybe we're done here.

I had said:

"The question I asked you assumed that the non-God possibilities would be excluded"

You responded:

How did your question assume that?

Let me offer the entire paragraph from which you cited me:

The question I asked you assumed that the non-God possibilities would be excluded, and you replied by indicating you thought this made it more likely to be true. I said that if someone claimed to fly around a few planets in a spaceship you'd reject the claim. What if they said they did it with God's help and with some Divine purpose (or in other words, not by natural means)? You said this does make a difference (i.e. it makes it more plausible). So by excluding the natural explanations you concluded it was more plausible, but in fact it is less plausible.

A full explanation of how my question had assumed that has already been presented, but you have just responded as if it hasn't been. I think we're wrapping up here.

You've misunderstood the issue under consideration. The CERN example you've cited does have a religious context. It refers to "supernatural claims", God, and redemption from sin. That's a religious context.

OK. But I already also had addressed this understanding of your "religious context" point. I had said:

But with reference to your main point, a skeptic would say likewise that he wouldn't expect this type of evidence to emerge if the adherents didn't regard it as having some purpose. All false miraculous claims that I'm aware of present themselves as being done for some important purpose. So while this is the way we would expect it to be if it were true it is also the way we would expect it to be if it were false. So this cuts both ways.

You had said:

then 60% can be unable to identify the person when asked to do so.

I replied:

It's not that they were unable to identify the right person. They positively identified the wrong person.

You now reply:

Have you consulted any source other than Arif Ahmed's brief description of the case? If not, then all you have to go by are those brief comments.

You're just not responding to my point. We are both relying on Ahmed and what I'm saying is if you are going to rely on Ahmed and present what he said you should do it accurately. If you want to say Ahmed is wrong or hasn't given us certain details, that's fine. But don't present things in a manner that he didn't say. He didn't say "they were unable to identify the person." That implies that they looked at the photos and said "I couldn't tell you who the attacker was. I was too far away, I failed to pay attention, etc." That is the thesis you were arguing and attempting to support with Ahmed's claims. That's not what Ahmed says. He says they positively identified the wrong person. That's different. So your assertions about being too far away or not paying attention are not justified by Ahmed's description.

The vast majority of eyewitness testimony is about what you would consider "non-outrageous claims". Why, then, would you cite the case Ahmed referred to, which isn't about "outrageous claims", to counter my claim that eyewitness testimony is generally reliable? If you agreed with me, but wanted to make an exception for "outrageous claims", then why didn't you say so earlier?

I think I've been clear that eyewitness testimony is generally reliable. I told you I'd take you at your word if you told me what you had for breakfast today or if you bought gasoline. When I talk about whether eyewitness testimony is reliable I have to mean that in reference to what it is establishing. You can say it's reliable in one sense and unreliable in another. It's reliable in establishing what you had for breakfast. It's not good enough to demonstrate that spaghettio's have turned into a bunny rabbit.

Why did you make an unqualified reference to eyewitness testimony as "notoriously unreliable", then argue against my dispute of that claim by citing the case discussed by Ahmed? I made it clear that I was referring to eyewitness testimony in general. I cited examples such as eyewitnesses in court cases and in scientific experiments. You had to have known that I was addressing eyewitness testimony in general. But now you tell us that you accept eyewitness testimony in general, but not for "outrageous claims". You've changed your position.

You're certainly talking about the easy cases, like experiments. But I'm often talking about the not so easy cases. Spaghettio's to bunny rabbits. So I'm not sure what you're claiming I've said that is different from what I'm saying now, but I think my position has been consistent. Eyewitness testimony is good enough in a lot of cases, but not good enough in others.

And you give us no justification for the exception of "outrageous claims". What qualifies as "outrageous"? How do you know that eyewitness testimony is unreliable in such cases?

When exactly does stubble become a beard? Who knows? Spaghettio's to bunny rabbits is outrageous and getting married is not.

As I said before, you're assigning far too much significance to the unreliability of 60% of the witnesses on one aspect of one event in one study.

Yeah, you do say that. What you need to do is show it.

You want us to believe that 100% of the resurrection witnesses were wrong, including ones who had lived with Jesus for years, claimed to have seen the risen Jesus more than once, thought they spent enough time with Him to eat meals and have conversations, etc.

Don't forget about the selection bias going on here. Those that say nothing happened aren't likely to write books about it. What you are doing is accepting the word of the devoted and superstitious followers but ignoring the fact that if there were other more skeptical voices you would probably have limited access to their claims.

And you don't want us to believe that they were wrong about one thing related to the events while being right about the general outlines. Rather, you want us to believe that they were wrong about far more than the 60% of witnesses were wrong about in Ahmed's case. It's far easier to be mistaken about the identity of one man you've never met before, who you saw only briefly and unexpectedly, than to be mistaken about seeing Jesus risen from the dead under the conditions described in the New Testament.

I don't think so. The conditions described in the NT lead us to conclude that these are devoted followers that happen to be superstitious and gullible people. So these are people that may just desperately want to believe what they are reporting. That's a very strong tendency, and it becomes even more powerful as time lapses.

Take as an example Matthew's correction of Mark 2:25. In Mark Jesus misidentifies who the high priest was at a particular time (Abiathar) so at Matthew 12:3 Matthew has a new memory of Jesus words and the error is corrected. At Mark 10:18 Jesus says "Why do you call me good" in which Jesus appears to question his own goodness. Matthew remembers it differently at 19:17. "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Now Jesus does not appear to be questioning his own goodness. So we can see the tendency to improve the story, a common feature of legendary development. They may have genuinely believed it. We've seen this before.

Jon wrote:

"Again, I agree with Moreland and Craig's clarifications. I've already explained how on my view earthquakes can be believed without precedent. Are you still arguing the position that things can be believed rationally without precedent? Do you agree with Craig and Moreland's explanation for why they can be?"

What you agree with Moreland and Craig about is the general outline of how they proceed after arriving at an upfront probability, such as the likelihood that a particular number was chosen in the lottery. But that's not the issue in dispute in this context. The issue under dispute is whether unprecedented events have an extraordinarily high upfront improbability. I've quoted Moreland and Craig disagreeing with you on that point:

"The second problem with Hume's argument is that he incorrectly assumes that miracles are intrinsically highly improbable. With respect to the resurrection of Jesus, for example, there is no reason to think that the hypothesis 'God raised Jesus from the dead' is highly improbable relative to our background information." (Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview [Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2003], p. 571)

And if an unprecedented event like the first earthquake can be accepted on the basis of ordinary evidence, such as eyesight, then why can't the same be done with an unprecedented miracle, like the resurrection? As I explained earlier, we frequently accept unprecedented claims on the basis of what a school teacher tells us, what we read in a newspaper, and other ordinary evidence.

I linked to two articles on the subject of whether extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I asked you to clarify the phrase ("extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"). You haven't interacted with the articles I linked, and you haven't offered the clarification I asked for. If "extraordinary" is being defined as "unprecedented", then are you saying that unprecedented claims require unprecedented evidence? But eyesight, which you consider sufficient for accepting the first earthquake, isn't unprecedented. If you're going to define "extraordinary" differently each time you use it in the phrase "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence", then the phrase loses its symmetry. Without its symmetry, it loses the force it initially seems to have. Why are we supposed to believe that the phrase is true, then?

You write:

"What about God raising someone from the dead? Can we with confidence say that resurrections, while rare, do sometimes happen? No. What additional background knowledge do we have to look at prior to looking at evidence from the gospels that makes this claim initially more plausible, like dating was used above? None that I know of."

The background knowledge wouldn't be limited to information outside of the gospels. The gospels give us information about Jesus' life prior to the resurrection. And other sources give us information about Jesus that would be relevant. I've given examples repeatedly. Jesus was perceived to be the Messiah, He had a reputation as a miracle worker, etc. It would be unreasonable to put Jesus in the same category as an ordinary farmer or housewife, as if the absence of a resurrection in such lives makes it doubtful that God would raise Jesus from the dead.

You write:

"That's just an assertion. There's a way to show that it 'doesn't give us much cause' to doubt the resurrection claims made by the biblical authors. Plug in the values and generate a result. Asserting that this makes little difference is easy to say but tougher to show."

Or I could argue for my position without running numbers through Bayes' Theorem, just as you haven't been running numbers through Bayes' Theorem to argue for your position on this point.

The fact that Herod falsely believed that Jesus was John the Baptist in some sense doesn't give me any significant reason to doubt Paul's belief that Jesus rose from the dead, for example. Paul claimed to have seen the risen Christ, whereas we have no reason to believe that Herod claimed such evidence for his view of Jesus and John the Baptist. Paul was corroborated by others who claimed to have seen the risen Christ, whereas Herod had no such corroboration. Etc. Similarly, if most people falsely believe that a phrase from the Gettysburg Address comes from the Constitution instead, it doesn't follow that we should doubt scholars who specialize in the study of the Gettysburg Address when they tell us what the Gettysburg Address says. We distinguish between people who have more evidence for the claims they make and people who have less. The ignorance of most of the population on a matter of American history doesn't give us much reason to doubt the knowledge of American history among historians who specialize in that field.

You write:

"A full explanation of how my question had assumed that has already been presented, but you have just responded as if it hasn't been."

Your "full explanation" doesn't interact with my earlier response. As I said earlier, a belief that God empowered a person to fly a spaceship can be a belief about what probably occurred, without ruling out the possibility of something naturalistic. Your initial comments didn't rule out such a scenario.

You write:

"All false miraculous claims that I'm aware of present themselves as being done for some important purpose. So while this is the way we would expect it to be if it were true it is also the way we would expect it to be if it were false. So this cuts both ways."

You're missing the point. I was addressing the distinction between an event that's set in a religious context and one that isn't. For you to respond by saying that a claim set in a religious context can be false is correct, but irrelevant.

You write:

"If you want to say Ahmed is wrong or hasn't given us certain details, that's fine. But don't present things in a manner that he didn't say. He didn't say 'they were unable to identify the person.' That implies that they looked at the photos and said 'I couldn't tell you who the attacker was. I was too far away, I failed to pay attention, etc.' That is the thesis you were arguing and attempting to support with Ahmed's claims."

That's not true. In the paragraph of my earlier post that you're quoting, I said that "60% of the witnesses to an event misidentified a person involved". I also commented that there was disagreement over the details among the witnesses. I didn't say or suggest that the witnesses chose not to identify the person from the photos. You're taking one phrase I used out of context in order to give it a meaning it clearly didn't have.

The problem isn't that I'm misrepresenting Ahmed. The problem is that you're misrepresenting me.

You write:

"So your assertions about being too far away or not paying attention are not justified by Ahmed's description."

Ahmed doesn't say that the witnesses were told to refrain from choosing a photograph if they weren't confident. They were given photos to choose from. I suggested some possible reasons why people who witnessed the event in question might have misidentified the attacker from the photos. I also gave some examples of how the resurrection witnesses were in a better position to judge what they witnessed. If you think you have a better explanation for why 60% of the witnesses in Ahmed's case chose the wrong photo, and you think I'm wrong about the resurrection witnesses' advantages, then you should explain why.

You write:

"When I talk about whether eyewitness testimony is reliable I have to mean that in reference to what it is establishing. You can say it's reliable in one sense and unreliable in another. It's reliable in establishing what you had for breakfast. It's not good enough to demonstrate that spaghettio's have turned into a bunny rabbit."

Ahmed's case doesn't establish that argument.

You write:

"When exactly does stubble become a beard? Who knows? Spaghettio's to bunny rabbits is outrageous and getting married is not."

Making an analogy to stubble becoming a beard doesn't give us any reason to agree with you.

Your Spaghettio example is similar to Joe's analogy of a man living to age 125. I've already explained why both of Joe's analogies, the natural one and the supernatural one, are problematic. The same principles apply to your Spaghettio analogy. If you still haven't read that portion of the thread, then you ought to read it.

Citing Spaghettios turning into rabbits as an example of an outrageous claim doesn't explain why it's outrageous. If it's considered outrageous because it would be unprecedented, then my earlier comments about precedent apply.

What's the significance of precedent? It's significant because we don't expect the same circumstances to produce different results. But Jesus' life doesn't represent the same circumstances as the life of an ordinary farmer or housewife.

Earlier, I cited an analogy of a man reaching his hand out and catching an apple falling from a tree, before it falls to the ground. If you had never heard of anybody catching an apple like that before, would you consider it extraordinarily improbable that it would happen? No, because you know that humans are capable of doing such a thing, and you can imagine many scenarios in which such a thing would occur.

If you witnessed the first earthquake, you wouldn't have had any reason beforehand to expect it to happen, but you also wouldn't have had any reason to consider it extraordinarily improbable. If an earthquake were to happen, it would occur under circumstances different from those you had experienced so far. The lack of earthquakes in previous circumstances wouldn't make it extraordinarily unlikely that they would occur under different circumstances.

You write:

"Yeah, you do say that. What you need to do is show it."

You're the one who brought up the case cited by Ahmed. You're more responsible to prove its alleged significance than I am to disprove that significance.

I've cited Richard Bauckham's research, which address far more data than the one case Ahmed cites. I've also explained how even Ahmed's case suggests the general reliability of eyewitness testimony. And I've discussed some of the differences between the witnesses in Ahmed's case and the resurrection witnesses. You've ignored most of what I've said in response to Ahmed's case, and you now say that you agree with me about the general reliability of eyewitness testimony. You have yet to demonstrate that eyewitness testimony is unreliable in cases of "outrageous claims", and you haven't even defined what qualifies as an outrageous claim, let alone explained how Ahmed's case supposedly establishes the unreliability of eyewitnesses in cases involving outrageous claims.

You write:

"Don't forget about the selection bias going on here. Those that say nothing happened aren't likely to write books about it. What you are doing is accepting the word of the devoted and superstitious followers but ignoring the fact that if there were other more skeptical voices you would probably have limited access to their claims."

You keep repeating phrases like "devoted and superstitious followers" without interacting with the evidence I've cited to the contrary. And you'll need to argue for your claim that "Those that say nothing happened aren't likely to write books about it". The earliest Jewish and Roman enemies of Christianity had more political power and social status than the earliest Christians. They were willing to persecute the early Christians and write against them, argue against them in public forums, etc. We know that they were willing to do such things because the historical record suggests that they did such things.

We have a large amount of information about the claims that circulated in the earliest generations of church history. In addition to the New Testament, we have Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, and other early Christian sources discussing a vast amount of claims and counterclaims that were circulating in their day and in earlier generations. Justin Martyr gives us some of the details of disputes between Jews and Christians regarding the meaning of particular Old Testament passages, Irenaeus discusses a large variety of heretical beliefs in detail, Origen interacts at length with a treatise written against Christianity by a second-century source, etc. Anybody who has read much of the patristic literature should know that there are many places where even highly obscure beliefs are mentioned and interacted with. We hear of the theory that Revelation was written by Cerinthus, we hear of a minor dispute over whether Paul wrote 2 Timothy, etc. We don't have every conceivable piece of information we'd like to have. The same is true of Greek history, Roman history, etc. But we have enough information, and we see enough interest among the early sources in discussing such things, to place a heavy burden on the shoulders of those who want to argue for a theory that leaves no trace in the historical record where so many sources would have been in a good position to know about and discuss what the theory implies. The early Christians seem to have had the interest and means to hear about the claims that were circulating about Christianity in a wide variety of contexts.

And any suggestion that such data was distorted by later sources, such as the church under Constantine, has to address the major problems any such theory would face. See here, especially my first post in the comments section.

You write:

"So these are people that may just desperately want to believe what they are reporting."

You keep making that sort of vague suggestion without interacting with the more specific counterarguments I've already provided. See my earlier comments on hostile corroboration, Paul's initial hostility to Christianity, reasons people have to question whether their desired beliefs are true, etc.

You write:

"Take as an example Matthew's correction of Mark 2:25. In Mark Jesus misidentifies who the high priest was at a particular time (Abiathar) so at Matthew 12:3 Matthew has a new memory of Jesus words and the error is corrected. At Mark 10:18 Jesus says 'Why do you call me good' in which Jesus appears to question his own goodness. Matthew remembers it differently at 19:17. 'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Now Jesus does not appear to be questioning his own goodness. So we can see the tendency to improve the story, a common feature of legendary development."

Aside from the fact that you make no attempt to interact with conservative scholarship on those passages, your argument only goes so far even if we accept your comments above at face value. If Matthew developed the account of Mark, that doesn't tell us how reliable Mark is (or Paul, Luke, etc.). And it's not as though the two passages you mention are all we have to go by. You haven't demonstrated any general trend. The New Testament scholar Craig Keener, who has studied the issue more than you have, refers to Matthew's use of Mark as "basically conservative" (A Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1999], p. 10). As with your Ahmed example, you overlook general agreement while focusing on a disagreement in a lesser detail. As Lydia and Timothy McGrew explain:

"Some of the alleged contradictions among the gospel narratives arise from demonstrably uncharitable or uninformed readings of the texts. But with respect to the historical argument, the debate over the resolution of such issues is beside the point. Even a passing acquaintance with the documents that form the basis of secular history reveals that the reports of reliable historians, even of eyewitnesses, always display selection and emphasis and not infrequently contradict each other outright. Yet this fact does not destroy or even significantly undermine their credibility regarding the main events they report. Almost no two authors agree regarding how many troops Xerxes marshaled for his invasion of Greece; but the invasion and its disastrous outcome are not in doubt. Florus’s account of the number of troops at the battle of Pharsalia differs from Caesar’s own account by 150,000 men; but no one doubts that there was such a battle, or that Caesar won it. According to Josephus, the embassy of the Jews to the Emperor Claudius took place in seed time, while Philo places it in harvest time; but that there was such an embassy is uncontroversial. Examples of this kind can be multiplied almost endlessly. In law, it has long been recognized that minor discrepancies among witnesses do not invalidate their testimony – indeed, that they provide an argument against collusion. The eminent legal scholar Thomas Starkie stresses this point in his discussion of testimonial evidence" (here, page 6)

Some of what we might call the most developed elements of the resurrection claims made by the early Christians come from purportedly earlier sources. Paul mentions more resurrection witnesses than any of the gospels, for example. For further discussion of this topic, see here.

>>No, it works if you *believe* that it’s true. In the case of religious faith, it’s the belief that counts, it’s the belief that makes it work for the individual in question. Whether or not the belief is “accurate” is almost irrelevant.

Joe, I still don't understand what you mean when you say it "works" irrespective of truth. Are you saying that if a Christian believes that Christ's dying on the cross paid the penalty for sins and reconciled us to God such that we are changed now and will be with Him after we die, then that will really happen merely because we believe it? The truthfulness of that statement is irrelevant to whether or not that will actually happen? If you're merely saying it "gives someone psychological help," that's not "working," that's just "giving someone psychological help." Christianity isn't about psychological help, as Paul makes plain here. "Working" would be doing what it claims to do, i.e., reconcile us to God.

>>I slowly came to the realization that it didn’t work for me for numerous reasons, so I stopped going.

So my definition of "working," above, is the way I and many others view the purpose and result of Christianity. But I am very interested, if you don't mind too much, to hear what you mean by it "not working" for you. What were you looking for it to do that it didn't do?

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