This is an interesting article. It’s by no means conclusive, but it’s a good read nonetheless. Check it out if you have five minutes.
Posts Tagged ‘history’
I liked this blog post, so thought I would share the link for you all. Enjoy!
An atheist that came on this blog recently “challenged” me to present the case for the resurrection of Jesus based on this post I put up a couple of weeks ago. Luckily, this very topic was also a part of our SWAT Seminar that took place about a month ago, and Craig Hazen presented what we call a “minimal facts” argument that the best explanation of the knowledge we have is that Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.
It’s called a “minimal facts” argument because the facts used don’t say very much (in length), but the argument uses only statements that both religious and secular scholars will agree are true. Believing and unbelieving (perhaps also termed “skeptical”) historical scientists will stipulate to the veracity of each of these statements, so we don’t need to debate their merits. When put together, they actually say a great deal. The debate centers around which hypothesis best fits the historical information we all agree on.
Before I give these statements (of which there are 12), it’s important to note the method for discovery and explanation. The scientific method is not the preferred method when discussing history. Rather, the method of inference to the best explanation is more commonly used. To steal from another blog post of mine, let me explain.
…We must use the evidentiary method, which is rooted in abductive reasoning. The problem is that in abductive reasoning, the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent is possible. For example, no one doubts the existence of Napoleon. Yet we use abductive reasoning to infer Napoleon’s existence. That is, we must infer his past existence from present effects. But despite our dependence on abductive reasoning to make this inference, no sane or educated person would doubt that Napoleon Bonaparte actually lived. How could this be if the problem of affirming the consequent bedevils our attempts to reason abductively? Philosopher and logician C.S. Peirce: “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without” the hypothesis of his existence. Peirce’s words imply that a particular abductive hypothesis can be strengthened if it can be shown to explain a result in a way that other hypotheses do not, and that it can be reasonably believed (in practice) if it explains in a way that no other hypotheses do. In other words, an abductive inference can be enhanced if it can be shown that it represents the best or the only adequate explanation of the “manifest effects.”
In modern times, historical scientists have called this the method of inference to the best explanation. That is, when trying to explain the origin of an event in the past, historical scientists compare various hypotheses to see which would, if true, best explain it. They then select the hypothesis that best explains the data as the most likely to be true. But what constitutes the best explanation for the historical scientist? Among historical scientists it’s generally agreed that best doesn’t mean ideologically satisfying or mainstream; instead, best generally has been taken to mean, first and foremost, most causally adequate.
So let me give the 12 statements that historical scholars almost universally agree are true and valid, and then perhaps you can decide for yourself what the best explanation of these truths is. For my money (and soul, consequently) the best explanation is that Jesus rose from the dead.
1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. Jesus was buried.
3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended.
4. The tomb was discovered to be empty just a few days later.
5. The disciples had experiences which they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.
6. The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of His death and resurrection.
7. This resurrection message was the center of preaching in the early church.
8. This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried shortly before.
9. As a result of this preaching, the church was born and grew.
10. Sunday became the primary day of worship.
11. James, who had been a skeptic, was converted to the faith when he believed he also saw the resurrected Jesus.
12. A few years later, Paul was also converted by an experience which he likewise believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.
Someone in a Facebook group I’m a part of posted this. Inflammatory initial scrawl aside, this is fantastic perspective on the reality of Jesus’ existence by a notable scholar that has no vested interest in the conclusion other than a historical one.
I know that this is not an objection held by any real majority (most reasonable atheists and agnostics don’t dispute the existence of Jesus, rather, the dispute is on the truth of His claims and the claims made about Him). However, the view is popular enough that it warranted discussion on this radio show, and so it warrants discussion here.
Listen to Bart Ehrmann give a terrific account about what matters to historians when discussing historical data, and how this relates to the existence of Jesus.
Perusing blogs I came upon a comment that someone posted to the blog titled “Why I am not an Agnostic.” While I can’t vouch for the validity of any of the examples this commenter used (and I also don’t own the material or the statement), he/she certainly seems well-informed. The part of one response to which the commenter is responding is in italic quotes below. The comment is all of the text that follows.
“… it is a historical fact that religion is dangerous and has killed more people than any other cause in nature combined.”
This is a fairly strong statement, and a common theme in the modern atheist movement. However, what is the basis of this claim? For example, what constitutes ‘death by religion’? As an abstract concept it is incapable of directly damaging a living being, so the definition must be ‘death motivated by religion’. But even this is fairly nebulous. Using the early Catholic Church as an example, some of the more conniving Popes (and some were surprisingly conniving! see The Corpse Synod) may not have been religious in the least. There was a period wherein the role of Pope was a political position sought after by politicians and used for political means. During their reign, some of these Popes murdered, engaged in warfare, etc. This was facilitated by the infrastructure in place within the church – but could those caught up in the crossfire be called casualties of religion?
The common factor in most deaths attributed to religion is politics. Religions are political entities, and therefore they are often caught up in ideological disputes that can result in bloodshed. The only difference is that at the end of the day, a ‘political figure’ will appeal to political ideals as a means of encouraging his constituents to engaged in whatever act they desire whereas a ‘religious figure’ will appeal to religious ideals. Often the underlying motivation between these two figures is negligible – speaking cynically, they both want to improve their grasp on power and (perhaps) improve their overall quality of life. Even so, I imagine any deaths resulting from the latter would be attributed to religion, likely because these acts are always coached in religious terminology (e.g., see the persecution of the Knights Templar – a probable political maneuver to claim their wealth and consolidate power).
Jim Jones (of Jonestown) is another possible example: According to his son (who survived the massacre) it is quite possible that Jones did not believe any of the religion he preached and was instead using religion as a means of controlling the population. Reading historical accounts of Jonestown seems very congruent with this interpretation – near the end it was far more political than it was religious. Also look to Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.
Even if political/ideological involvement were responsible for many of the deaths attributed to religion I suppose one could argue that whereas political influence is unavoidable, religious influence is unnecessary; and as something that is unnecessary that has the potential to encourage harm, why not abolish it? The same argument could be made for alcohol (which directly and indirectly kills an impressive number each year), fast cars (why even make a vehicle that travels faster than legally permitted?), and rap music (the misogyny found in some rap lyrics is comparable to ancient Biblical texts). The reason we do not abolish these things (besides the fact that abolition only begets illegal trade) is because it is not the alcohol, car or music that commits any wrong. People kill people, not objects and certainly not abstract notions.