Search This Blog

Friday, April 21, 2017

Resurrection skeptics and "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

       He is Risen!

       He is Risen, indeed!

Except, there are some folks, especially now that they have the very convenient platform of social media, who proclaim their skepticism at the idea of Jesus rising from the dead.  

Their rejection is summed up here:

Image result for carl sagan extraordinary claims

And here:

Image result for hitchens extraordinary claims

That is, "We're not going to believe that extraordinary claim that your Jesus rose from the dead until you provide us with some really, really, amazing, extraordinary evidence.  That's only fair, right?"
However, in a rather delicious irony, it turns out that this oft-repeated doctrine "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" is actually not true. Instead it's statement of faith*--an atheist heard another atheist say it, who heard another atheist say it, but no one ever stopped to consider the evidence for this statement.

This is what is the correct formulation:  "Extraordinary claims require sufficient evidence".

All that is required to believe an extraordinary claim is that there is enough evidence to support that claim.

We know this from our own experience.

Let's take some examples of extraordinary events:  

All of these folks experienced something extraordinary, and we believe them because we've seen the video.  And a video is not, by any means, any kind of extraordinary evidence.  All it is is sufficient proof that the person is telling the truth.

(If a skeptic responds to the above by saying, "You offered videos of astonishing events, near misses, all caught on video.  Well, I'll believe in the resurrection if you can offer a video of the event!"...we can respond by telling the skeptic that he's missing the point.  The point of the examples caught on video was to demonstrate that ordinary means can provide proof of very out-of-the-ordinary events.)

Christian apologist/philosopher William Lane Craig presents a beautiful and pithy refutation in a short video here: Don't Extraordinary Claims Need Extraordinary Evidence?

And, in fact, sometimes, even for extraordinary claims, no proof is required.  All that is required is faith* and belief in the testimony of someone.  For example, if your loved one came home and related some really, really bizarre event had happened to her, most of us would believe her based on her testimony alone.  

That, too, is not extraordinary evidence.  It's rather ordinary indeed.  But we believe the extraordinary claim because we trust the deliverer of the story.  An extraordinary claim (like Jesus' resurrection) does not require any extraordinary, mind-blowing, in-your-face type of proof. It just requires sufficient proof, like every other claim does.

Finally, just a quick rejoinder to Hitchens' last comment "...what can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence":  we say, "Yes, you are essentially correct here, but we do have evidence for what we believe."  Hitchens is attacking a straw man that faith is "belief without evidence". No Christian ought to embrace the elements of the faith without evidence.  The definition of faith being "belief without evidence" is NOT what is the foundation of Christianity.  We "always have a reason" (or defense) of what we believe, as 1 Peter 3:15 says. 

And Christianity has done a wonderful job offering sufficient apologia for Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  

There is proof indeed that He is Risen! 

*(Clarification:  it's true that in refuting Hitchens' straw man of our faith I've rejected the definition of faith being "belief without evidence", yet earlier on in the text I do use "faith" in this manner.  That is, when I assert that atheists who proclaim "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" have made a statement of faith (they haven't examined the evidence), and when I say that we might believe our loved one's bizarre story based on faith alone (that is, without any corroboration that her story is true), I AM using the definition of faith as "belief without evidence".  Suffice it to say that, like "love", there are many definitions of "faith".  But Christians do not base their doctrines on "belief without evidence", as Hitchens is alluding to.

No comments:

Post a Comment