And now, we get to a crux question again. Did Jesus rise from the dead? This is a long chapter and to do respect again, I simply have to break things up into parts.
Loftus begins by telling us a story of someone coming from Iran who is a follower of a man named Achmed. He claims that Achmed was murdered by the authorites where he lived but rose from the dead. He is the third person of the Trinity incarnate and he did many miracles. He died because God decided that there were too many damned people going to Hell. (One wonders if this is Loftus’s view how many are too many.) Achmed died so that those who never heard will be saved. We are told we would be in the same position as the Roman world because they could not check out the story either.
Eh? That didn’t seem to stop Luke from researching it. Anyone could do so who wanted to. It’d require some work of course, but they could do it.
We are told they believed it though. (Well, some did of course, but Loftus leaves out how many times Paul suffered such as in 2 Cor. 11, which is a Pauline letter you will be hard-pressed to find one who denies that Paul wrote it.) Even in Jerusalem, he met several people who didn’t believe it. Loftus tells us that we would be skeptical because we do not live in an ancient and superstitious world.
There’s our favorite card played again. (Remember, this was the world where Paul was routinely persecuted by these superstitious people.) Now I would be skeptical of this but not for the same reason. I would be skeptical because I know Scripture and I know Jesus died for the sins of the world and since we have the NT, I am skeptical of claims of new revelation. It is a reason I am definitely skeptical of the Mormons that come by now. (I question its historicity also with these Mormons being unable to tell me any independent facts on the BOM that would testify to its truthfulness.) The big one though is that it contradicts Scripture.
Loftus asks how we’d respond if the missionary told us to just believe and not be skeptical, or to pray this prayer and you’ll believe. He then says you’ll understand how he feels when Christians approach him the same way.
I don’t blame him. I have no problem with someone wanting evidence. I have a problem with someone not accepting what evidence they have been given. This is definitely something Christians need to work on.
Sorry Christian friends, but your personal testimony by itself is not evidence. The Mormons have a great testimony that come by here. New Agers will give you testimonies of seeing UFOs with messages from aliens.
Why should I believe yours over theirs? Here’s why. There’s evidence. We have arguments from philosophy, textual criticism, archaeology, history, theology, etc. Now if you want to say “Now that I’ve established a case for Jesus, I’d also like you to know what following Jesus has meant in my own life,” then all is well. No problem. But when you go out on evangelism, be ready with intellectual answers. (C.S. Lewis has suggested when churches go forward that the arguers go first and demolish the intellectual blockades and then let the ones that are probably more empathetic speak.)
We are also told the evidence must be overwhelming. We can simply say “Consider it done.” The evidence was enough for writers like Frank Morison and Simon Greenleaf.
Loftus also states that he finds Christians are accepting of miracles in their own faith but skeptical of those outside them. U
um. No. Not really. I have no problem with a miracle in a non-Christian religion. I have a problem with one that doesn’t have evidence. I don’t accept the Gnostic gospel miracles not because they’re miracles, but because I believe they’re dated late and I don’t believe Gnosticism to be in accord with what I see the historical Jesus teaching. I don’t see the Muslim miracles as valid in the Hadith simply because Muhammad never claimed a miracle but said the Qu’ran was his miracle. I also see his first biography written 135 years after his death.
Now DJ suggests we do a time traveling experiment. Let’s suppose we went back and heard about a man who was a teacher who spoke righteousness. (Loftus leaves out that he claims deity. That’s important.) Let’s suppose that he was sentenced as a blasphemer and crucified. Then let’s suppose that the tomb was found empty and he was claimed to have risen again. Let’s add in some facts.
First off, let’s add in that this guy’s own brother became a believer saying that his brother was the Messiah and even God. (It’d take a lot for most people to think that about their brother.)
Let’s add in that one of the great persecutors of this new movement became a believer.
Let’s add in that there is no reason the apostles would steal the body.
Let’s add in that a resurrection in the middle of time like that of a Messiah figure was unheard of.
Let’s make note that an early creed can be traced to within a year of the event to show that over five hundred believed they saw him alive.
Let’s add in that Jews changed their long-held traditions they believed to be from God because they believed a man who had been crucified for blasphemy had really been vindicated by God himself with a resurrection.
Why yes. It’s believable then. There has not been a better counter-explanation yet.
In fact, let’s note this odd fact Loftus says. “The curious fact is that while the book of Acts says many people believed, most in Jesus’s day did not.” (p. 200)
How can this be? I thought all these people were superstitious and gullible and would believe anything! Instead, they don’t believe it happened. Why is that? Could it be that they had this idea that dead people don’t come back to life? (N.T. Wright makes a powerful case in “The Resurrection of the Son of God” that in the Hellenistic world, that was EXACTLY the case.)
“Why didn’t it convince most people?” Loftus asks. It’s simple.
They weren’t gullible and superstitious.
Really. They were not going to be easily convinced that a blasphemer had been raised from the dead. The evidence would have to be strong, and apparently for some, it certainly was as they put all of eternity on the line with them changing their minds.
All the while, we’re still told they were gullible and would believe based on the sincerity of the storyteller. Which is it?
Tomorrow, we’ll start looking at the questions asked about the resurrection accounts.