bookmark_borderThe Logic of the Resurrection – Part 6

In Part 4 of this series, we saw that Theodore Drange interpreted Christian theologian Charles Hodge to be arguing as follows (“Why Resurrect Jesus?” in The Empty Tomb, p. 56) :

(2a) (JRD) is a sufficient condition for (JSG).

Therefore:

(1a) (JRD) is necessary condition for (JSG).

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Abbreviations:

(JRD) Jesus rose from the dead.

(JSG) Jesus is the divine Son of God.

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In terms of symbolic logic, the argument is this:

(2b) (JRD)  implies  (JSG).

Therefore:

(1b)  (JSG)  implies  (JRD).

I argued for an alternative interpretation, but let’s stick with Drange’s interpretation for now and see where he leads us.
As mentioned previously, Drange points out that (1a) does not follow logically from (2a).  The inference is invalid.
Drange also objects to the truth of premise (2a):
 But, in fact, it [the claim that Jesus “rose from the dead”] does not entail any of them [any of nine different theological claims about Jesus, including that Jesus is “the Son of God”]. …His resurrection might have been produced by voodoo magic.  Or it might have been produced naturalistically, say through the work of highly advanced extraterrestrials. (TET, p.56-57)
Basically, the resurrection is thought to have theological significance, but that is true only on the ASSUMPTION that God performed the resurrection of Jesus.  As Drange notes, if some other being or power caused Jesus to rise from the dead, then the resurrection of Jesus does not have the theological significance that Hodge,  and Christian believers in general, attach to that (alleged) event.  Thus, (JRD) is not sufficient, by itself, to logically imply or prove (JSG).  Additional assumptions are required.
Then Drange considers the truth of Hodge’s conclusion (1a), and he rejects this conclusion:
The Resurrection was in no way necessary for that [for Jesus to be “the Son of God”].  Christ could still have been and could still be the Son of God even if his earthly body had been destroyed.   It is the spirit and/or soul that is supposed to live on. …it is his spirit and/or soul that could play the divine role of “Son”, just as it was presumably his spirit and/or soul that lived and was the Son of God prior to his advent on earth. (TET, p.58)
Since Jesus was the Son of God prior to having a physical body, it is clearly possible for Jesus to continue to be the Son of God without having a physical body after his death.
Drange makes other arguments showing that the Resurrection of Jesus is also not necessary for the truth of various other theological claims about Jesus.
Drange is correct on both counts.  (JRD) is NOT a sufficient condition for (JSG), and (JRD) is NOT a necessary condition for (JSG).  So, if Hodge or any other Christian believes that the resurrection of Jesus is the most important fact of history because they think that (JRD) is a sufficient condition of (JSG) or because they think that (JRD) is a necessary condition of (JSG), then they are sadly mistaken.  There is no such simple and direct logical relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and various theological claims about Jesus, such as that “Jesus is the divine Son of God.”
However, there may be some sort of logical relationship between these claims, a logical relationship that is less simple or less direct.
For example, (JRD) might be a premise of a key argument in support of (JSG).  If so, then even though there is no simple and direct logical relationship between these two claims, (JRD) could be an important fact, because of a role it plays in an apologetic argument for (JSG), an argument that might go like this (see Part 3):

(JRD) Jesus rose from the dead.

(RAW) Jesus performed the right actions and spoke the right words making him a person with characteristics C1, C2, etc.

(GLR) God would be likely to raise someone from the dead who had characteristics C1, C2, etc. 

Therefore (probably):

(GRJ) God raised Jesus from the dead.

(JCD)  Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.
(GUR) If Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God, and Jesus was NOT the Son of God, then it would be very unlikely that God would raise Jesus from the dead.
Therefore (probably):

(JSG) Jesus is the divine Son of God.

Obviously, other assumptions have been added to (JRD) in order to be able to arrive at the desired conclusion.  Thus, even if this apologetic argument was a good argument, there would not be a simple and direct logical relationship between (JRD) and (JSG), but there would be a somewhat complex and indirect logical relationship between these claims.

It should be noted that there are OTHER apologetic arguments that are sometimes given in support of (JSG).  There are at least three main arguments that I’m aware of:

  • The Resurrection Apologetic Argument
  • The Fulfilled Prophecy Apologetic Argument
  • The Trilemma Apologetic Argument (Lord, Liar, or Lunatic)

Thus, if the Resurrection argument failed, there would still be at least two other arguments that could be used to defend the theological claim (JSG).  This somewhat diminishes the importance of the resurrection of Jesus, since even in terms of apologetics, it is not absolutely necessary.  Other arguments are available for the same conclusion.  However, to the extent that these are the three main apologetic arguments for (JSG), the resurrection does play a significant role in Christian apologetics.

Furthermore, although Drange is correct that (JRD) is NOT a necessary condition for (JSG), the negation of (JRD) can serve as a premise in a powerful argument against (JSG), and this is another important, though not entirely simple and direct, logical relationship between the claims (JRD) and (JSG).

Here is the anti-Christian argument I have in mind:

(3) It is NOT the case that (JRD).

(4) It is the case that (JPR) [Jesus predicted that he would rise from the dead].

(5) If  (JPR) is the case and  it is NOT the case that (JRD), then it is the case that (JFP) [Jesus was a false prophet].

(6) If (JFP) is the case, then it is NOT the case that (JSG).

Therefore:

(7)  It is NOT the case that (JSG).

So, if it turns out that Jesus did not rise from the dead, then there would be a very powerful argument AGAINST the claim that Jesus was the divine Son of God.  So, the resurrection of Jesus also has this negative importance.  If (JRD) is shown to be false, then that would create the potential for a powerful argument against the Christian religion.

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Anti-Christian Argument based on the Negation of the Resurrection

(3a)  ~ (JRD).

(4a)  (JPR).

(5a)  (JPR) & ~ (JRD)  implies  (JFP).

(6a) (JFP)  implies ~ (JSG).

Therefore:

(7a) ~ (JSG).

bookmark_borderThe Logic of the Resurrection – Index

 
The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 1
Different assumptions about the existence of God have different implications concerning the resurrection.
The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 2
As Richard Swinburne has pointed out, a complete case for the resurrection must be a three-legged stool, resting upon general background evidence, prior historical evidence, and posterior historical evidence.
The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 3
The logic of the resurrection apologetic is summarized in an argument diagram.
The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 4
In “Why Resurrect Jesus?” Theodore Drange is looking in the right direction, asking the right questions, and taking the right approach to the resurrection of Jesus.
The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 5
In order to make a rational case for the resurrection of Jesus, one must establish God’s primary purpose(s) or motive(s) concerning humans.
The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 6
Drange shows that the resurrection of Jesus is neither a necessary condition nor a sufficient condition for the claim that Jesus is the divine Son of God.  I suggest that (JRD) is logically related to (JSG) as a premise of a key argument for (JSG).
The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 7
There is no reasonable or plausible way for Christian apologists to provide solid evidence about the motivations and purposes of God concerning human beings.  If I am correct about this, then there is no way for Christian apologists to show that “God raised Jesus from the dead.”
 
A Related Series of Posts about the Prior Historical Evidence part of the case for (GRJ):
Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? – Part 1
Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? – Part 2
Jesus: True Prophet or False Prophet? – Part 3
 

bookmark_borderThe Logic of the Resurrection – Part 2

The two most important writings on the resurrection of Jesus are, IMHO, Richard Swinburne’s book The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford University Press, 2003; hereafter: ROGI), especially the Introduction (pages 1-6), and Theodore Drange’s short article “Why Resurrect Jesus?” in the collection of skeptical essays The Empty Tomb, edited by Robert Price and our fearless leader Jeff Lowder (Prometheus Books, 2005; hereafter: TET).   [Please feel free to disagree, and/or to offer your own suggestions for the most important writings on the resurrection].
NOTE: I disagree with both Swinburne and Drange on key issues, so my promotion and admiration of their writings does NOT mean that I agree with their conclusions.
I will first explain a bit of Swinburne’s thinking about the Resurrection, and that will help me to show why it is that I view Drange’s article as one of the most important skeptical articles ever written on the subject of the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
Anyone intersted in thinking clearly about the alleged resurrection of Jesus MUST read at least the Introduction to ROGI, and I would also recommend reading the whole book (it’s just under 200 pages long).  Swinburne provides important insights into the logic of the resurrection issue, specifically in pointing out the importance of ‘general background evidence’ and ‘prior historical evidence’.
Here is one comment by Swinburne about general background evidence from the Introduction to ROGI:
The present book is very different from the writing of a typical New Testament expert (whether radical or conservative) on this issue, because only the final third of the book deals with the kind of evidence normally thought by such an expert to be relevant to this issue:  what the New Testament and other early documents had to say about what happened after the death of Christ.  I argue that we need to take into account a far wider range of evidence than that.  To start with, we need to take into account what I shall call ‘general background evidence’ , evidence (the data)  about whether or not there is a God able and likely to intervene in human history in a certain kind of way. …I shall argue that, insofar as the evidence is against the claim that there is such a God [an omnipotent person who would be able to bring about a resurrection], then the occurrence of such an event as the Resurrection is improbable.  If the evidence suggests that there is such a God, then it will give some probability to the occurrence of such a miracle insofar as God has reason to bring about such an event. (ROGI, p.2, emphasis added)
Not too suprisingly, Swinburne’s historical arguments concerning the events after Jesus’ death are not particularly well done.  But that is OK, because other Christian philosophers and scholars have covered that area in greater depth and detail already.
Swinburne is pointing out two major GAPS (or areas of weakness) in the case for Jesus’ resurrection, as typically presented by Christian apologists.  One of the gaps is the failure to make a serious effort to show that God’s character and purposes give God good reason to raise someone from the dead.  A second gap is the failure to make a serious effort to show that Jesus in particular was the kind of person that God would be likely to raise from the dead (‘prior historical evidence’):
Then we need to consider whether, if there is a God with reason to bring about such a miracle, Jesus was the sort of person whom God would have reason to resurrect–and this is a matter of considering the sort of life he led and what he taught.  Assessing this will be what I shall call assessing the prior historical evidence. (ROGI, p.3, emphasis added)
The usual historical evidence concerning the crucifixion of Jesus and what happened after the crucifixion are called ‘posterior historical evidence’ by Swinburne (ROGI, p.3).
Swinburne has laid out the key elements required to make a rational case for the resurrection:
1. General Background Evidence

a. The existence of God

b. The purposes and motivations God has for performing miracles (especially a resurrection)

2. Prior Historical Evidence

a.  Jesus’ actions and whether they are the actions of a person God would be likely to resurrect.

b. Jesus’ teachings and whether they are the teachings of a person God would be likely to resurrect.

3. Posterior Historical Evidence

a. Jesus died on the cross on the same day that he was crucified. (DOC)

b. Jesus was alive and walking around (unassisted) about 48 hours after he was crucified. (JAW)

NOTE: I have supplemented Swinburne’s general category of ‘posterior historical evidence’ by adding two sub-categories, which I take to be the key historical claims related to the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
According to Swinburne, the case for the resurrection must have three basic elements, like a three-legged stool. I agree with Swinburne about the basic logic of the resurrection, but in my view, all three legs are broken, and thus any complete case for the resurrection of Jesus will be a complete failure.
Case for Resurrection B
(GRJ) God raised Jesus from the dead.
One important gap in traditional Christian apologetic cases for the resurrection concerns general background evidence.  Obviously, there has been a ton of writing on the question ‘Does God exist?’ so that is not a gap in traditional Christian apologetics.  The gap is in (1b) above, concerning the purposes and motivations God has for performing miracles (especially a resurrection).  Christian apologists and theologians have failed on this point.  Theologians have made some attempts in this area, but because they are basically preaching to the choir, their efforts are sad and pathetic, when examined carefully and critically.
This is why I believe that Drange’s short article ‘Why Resurrect Jesus?’ is so important.  Drange takes a close and critical look at the attempt of one theologian to explain why the resurrection of Jesus is “the most important fact in the history of the world.” (TET, p.55).  Drange argues that the theologian fails to show the resurrection to be an important event, in relation to Christian theology.  I don’t necessarily agree with Drange’s conclusions, but he is doing the sort of critical examination of Christian theology that skeptics need to carry out in order to fully break the first leg of the case for the resurrection of Jesus.
The ‘importance’ or ‘role’ of the resurrection of Jesus is the focus of Drange’s article, but this touches on a key question concerning the resurrection:  What purposes or motivations does God have for performing miracles (especially resurrecting someone)?  The attempts by Christian theologians and apologists to show the importance of the resurrection have implications for the question about God’s motivations and purposes.
Drange does not appear to fully realize the implications of his own critical analysis of the arguments about the ‘importance’ of the resurrection of Jesus, but he does hint at the idea of divine purposes/motivations in a number of places.  The title of his article is one such hint: “Why Resurrect Jesus?”  The title is in the form of a question that one might well pose to God if one was given the opportunity to interview God.
In criticizing the idea that the resurrection is important because of “what it showed to mankind” (TET, p.65), Drange speaks directly about God’s purposes:
Similarly, with the second claim, that the Resurrection showed something to mankind about Jesus of Nazareth, that one, too, is refuted by the fact that billions of people have had no awareness of the event.  …One would think that an omnipotent deity would have done a better job of advertising (or “marketing”) the Resurrection to mankind…if indeed that had been his aim.  At the very least, the resurrected Jesus would not have appeared only to his followers, but also to thousands of other people, thereby making what happened into a genuine historical occurrence.  But that did not happen.  Thus, it seems not to have been God’s aim to have the Resurrection show something to mankind…(TET, p.66, emphasis added)
Drange criticizes the view that the resurrection of Jesus is of central importance to Christian theology, and I think Drange is probably wrong on that point.  However, the sort of careful, skeptical criticism that he does on this question points the way for future work by skeptics, including myself, to address the general background evidence relevant to any complete case for the resurrection, in order to fully break that first leg of the case.