bookmark_borderThe Resurrection: Types of Skeptical Views

The traditional Christian view of the resurrection of Jesus involves a number of beliefs or claims:

  1. Jesus existed.
  2. Jesus was crucified.
  3. Jesus died while he was on the cross.
  4. After he was crucified, Jesus was buried in a stone tomb in the evening on the day that he was crucified.
  5. The stone tomb where Jesus was buried (on the day that he was crucified) was empty on Sunday morning, about 48 hours after Jesus was crucified.
  6. On Sunday, about 48 hours after Jesus was crucified, some of Jesus’ disciples had experiences that they believed were ordinary sense experiences of Jesus as a living, walking, and talking person in a physical body (i.e. not a ghost or spirit).

There are different degrees of skepticism about religious beliefs.  First, there are different degrees of disbelief or doubt.  The strongest sort of skepticism asserts that a specific belief is CLEARLY FALSE.  A slightly weaker form of skepticism asserts that a specific belief is PROBABLY FALSE.  An even weaker form of skepticsim asserts that a specific belief is NOT PROBABLY TRUE, and the weakest form of disbelief is to assert that the belief is NOT CLEARLY TRUE .
Second, there are degrees of skepticism in relation to the epistemological role of the belief that the skeptic challenges: how basic or essential is the assumption in the believer’s system of beliefs?  Skepticism about the existence of God is an extreme form of skepticsm, because belief in the existence of God is a very basic belief for Christians (and Jews and Muslims).  Skepticism about whether Jesus literally walked on water is a less extreme form of skepticism, because one could doubt that particular story about Jesus while still maintaining belief in the existence of God, and even while maintaining the belief that Jesus was the divine Son of God and savior of humankind.
There are different skeptical views in relation to the resurrection story.  The most extreme skeptical view rejects claim (1) as false or as probably false or as being dubious or unjustified.  If (1) is clearly false, then all of the five remaining claims must also be rejected, since they all presuppose that Jesus existed.  If (1) is probably false, then all of the five remaining are probably false (or probably involve a false assumption).  If (1) is a dubious claim or an unjustified belief, then so are the remaining beliefs or claims.  Call this TYPE I skepticism about the resurrection:
TYPE I: skeptic doubts (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), and (6).
The next skeptical view is only slightly less extreme: (1) is true, but (2) is rejected as clearly false, or as probably false, or as being dubious or unjustified.  If (2) is clearly false, then the four remaining claims–other than (1)–must also be rejected, since they all presuppose that Jesus was crucified.  If (2) is probably false, then the remaining claims are also probably false (or probably based on a false assumption).  If (2) is dubious or unjustified, then the remaining claims are also dubious or unjustified.  Call this TYPE II skepticism about the resurrection:
TYPE II: skeptic doubts (2), (3), (4), (5), and (6), but not (1).
The next sort of skepticsm is less extreme: (1) is true and (2) is true, but (3) is rejected as clearly false, or as probably false, or as being dubious or unjustified.  Call this TYPE III skepticism about the resurrection.
Since claims (4), (5), and (6) only presuppose that Jesus was crucified–claim (2)–and do NOT presuppose that Jesus died on the cross,  one could be a TYPE III skeptic, and yet accept some or all of the remaining three claims. So, there are different sub-categories for TYPE III skepticism:
TYPE IIIa: skeptic doubts (3), (4), (5), and (6), but not (1), and not (2).
TYPE IIIb: skeptic doubts (3), (4), and (5), but not (1), and not (2), and not (6).
TYPE IIIc: skeptic doubts (3), (5) and (6), but not (1), and not (2), and not (4).
TYPE IIId: skeptic doubts (3) and (6), but not (1), and not (2), and not (4), and not (5).
TYPE IIIe: skeptic doubts (3), but not (1), and not (2), and not (4), and not (5), and not (6).
Because claim (5) presupposes the truth of claim (4), there is no coherent skeptical position in which claim (4) is doubted but claim (5) is accepted.
The next sort of skepticism accepts the first three claims of the Christian story, but doubts the fourth claim.  Call this TYPE IV skepticism.  It is possible to doubt or reject (4) but accept claim (6), so there are two sub-categories of TYPE IV skepticism:
TYPE IVa: skeptic doubts (4), (5) and (6), but not (1), and not (2), and not (3).
TYPE IVb: skeptic doubts (4) and (5), but not (1), and not (2), and not (3), and not (6).
The next sort of skeptic accepts the first four claims, but doubts claim (5).  Call this TYPE V skepticism.  Doubting or rejecting (5) does not require that one also doubt (6),  so there are two sub-categories of this type of skepticism:
TYPE Va: skeptic doubts (5) and (6), but not (1), and not (2), and not (3), and not (4).
TYPE Vb: skeptic doubts (5), but not (1), and not (2), and not (3), and not (4), and not (6).
The final sort of skeptic doubts only claim (6), and accepts the other five claims:
TYPE VI:  skeptic doubts (6), but not (1), and not (2), and not (3), and not (4), and not (5).
Based on the above analysis, there are twelve different types of skeptic, just in terms of which of the six basic resurrection claims are doubted and which are accepted.  There are further permutations of these twelve types of skepticism based on the degree of disbelief the skeptic has for any particular doubted claim.  We should distinguish at least four different levels or degrees of doubt:   CLEARLY FALSE,  PROBABLY FALSE, NOT PROBABLY TRUE, and NOT CLEARLY TRUE.
For a few of the above TYPES of skepticism only one claim is doubted (VI, Vb, IIIe), and there are only four permutations for each of those types of skepticism,  in terms of degrees of disbelief.
But when there are multiple claims doubted, many permutations of those types of skepticism are possible, since one doubted belief may be thought to be clearly false, while another might only be thought probably false, and a third viewed only as not clearly true.  Many different permutations are potentially possible for the other types of skepticism.
In some cases the degree of doubt for one claim will determine the appropriate degree of doubt for other claims.  For example, if a skeptic believes that (1) is clearly false, then this implies that the other five claims are also clearly false (or are based on an assumption that is clearly false).  But in other cases, the degree of doubt for one claim will NOT determine the appropriate degree of doubt for another claim.  For example, if a skeptic believes that (4) and (5) are clearly false, and also doubts (6), the degree of doubt about (6) might be less, perhaps just that (6) is not clearly true (that it is dubious or unjustified).
Since there are AT LEAST four permutations for each of the twelve types of skepticism, there are AT LEAST 48 different sorts of skepticism about the resurrection story when we take into account both which beliefs are doubted and the degree of disbelief the skeptic has towards the doubted beliefs.