It All Comes Back To Jesus

Question from Tim:
Thanks a lot for the website! If you guys are too busy to respond I understand.
Last year I finally managed to leave Christianity, but still have a few nagging doubts that I have been trying to resolve for some time now. My uncle told me that if I look at the evidence, I will see that the resurrection of Jesus is a fact. While I do doubt this, it is something that I feel like I need to learn about and take seriously. Do you know where I can find some resources addressing the resurrection from either an atheistic or neutral viewpoint? All I have managed to find so far are Christian ones.

Answer by SmartLX:
Don’t worry, we’d have to be a LOT busier not to be able to respond to every question we get.

This area of Christian apologetics is huge, as you’ll have seen by the sheer number of books specifically pushing it. It’s also a real sore point for believers when anyone questions even the divinity of Jesus, let alone his existence. That’s understandable since the whole of Christian doctrine hangs on the story of one man, and in the absence of physical evidence for that man the only traces of him are ancient documents.

There are a couple of starting points for you right here. My two long discussions in the comments of posts #271 and #574 with Rob (alias RP) cover a lot of ground and may suggest avenues of research. Post #271 itself contains links to earlier pieces of mine on specific documents and arguments.

As for things not on this site, the best-known critic of the New Testament and related documents is probably Bart Ehrman, so try one of his books. (He’s struck a nerve, because there are sites dedicated to answering everything he’s said.) A separate, highly-recommended book which challenges everything about Jesus is The Jesus Puzzle by Earl Doherty. Online, Jeffrey Jay Lowder has published a set of comprehensive responses to a wide selection from the apologetic arsenal, including William Lane Craig’s “empty tomb” argument and the entirety of Josh McDowell’s Evidence That Demands A Verdict.

YouTube is of course a treasure trove of individuals arguing both ways (Ehrman and Craig have many recorded debates on the subject, separately and together), but there you can also find one piece of work which prompted plenty of discussion when it came out: the independently produced documentary The God Who Wasn’t There. (It’s by the same group who debated Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron on Nightline).

I hope the above gets you started, but don’t take anything you find as gospel, so to speak. Any significant point that’s been made in opposition to the divinity or resurrection of Jesus has been answered (how well it’s been answered is always debatable) by apologists as a matter of principle. This means that if you read a major point, you can find major discussions to go with it.

Go get stuck in, and let us know how you do.

3 thoughts on “It All Comes Back To Jesus”

  1. 1) These claims come from a source that an objective person would consider unreliable. A religious group talking about itself is not a disinterested or objective party. And a small group that centers around a messianic spiritual leader would be considered particularly unreliable. When you consider how irrational and crazy people can be about their cherished religious beliefs, this presents hoards of problems with accepting their version of events at face value.

    2) An objective person would ordinarily be extremely skeptical of miracle claims. What would convince you that a fairy had visited your town once in the distant past, and then teleported away? You’d be extremely skeptical because all the evidence you’ve acquired about how the world works tells you that fairies don’t exist and that people don’t teleport. Our experiences also tell us that people don’t magically come back from the dead and/ or transport themselves into other dimensions.

    Growing up in a Christian culture, we’re taught to treat Christian extraordinary claims as more probable than others. But to be objective, we must show the same skepticism towards all extraordinary claims. That isn’t to say that we should be close minded to the existence of fairies or the Jesus claims, but those kinds of claims are a hard sell, and the personal testimony of strangers shrouded in the distant past about events likewise shrouded wouldn’t suffice to convince me.

    3) Christians believe that an all powerful, all knowing, all good God exists. “All powerful” means that, by definition, he can do absolutely anything without expending absolutely any effort whatsoever. They believe that he wants us to believe he exists, and that he set up the universe in such a way that it’s important that we do so.

    Now, for the sake of argument, lets say that all these things are true. This being must either want us to believe based on good evidence… or without it (belief based on faith). Well, if he wants us to believe without it, then that’s an admission that belief in him is irrational. On the other hand, lets say he wants us to have good evidence. Does anyone really believe that this all powerful being would say to himself; “The best way to convince them that i exist is to do something with a tomb and a body in iron age Palestine, and give personal religious experiences to some of the people living there”?

    That’s about the worst possible evidence he could provide. And I think that if an all powerful being really did exist… and if he wanted me to believe that he existed… he’d give me better evidence than that.

  2. Your Uncle said: “My uncle told me that if I look at the evidence, I will see that the resurrection of Jesus is a fact”. Well the only evidence that we have from the resurrection is from the Gospels. There is nothing from Roman sources. Nothing! If all of the great miracles did in fact happen, someone would have noticed. No one did. Also the Gospels are self-contradictory and not historically correct. OK, there may have been a jewish trouble maker named Jesus around that time to get the myth going – but perhaps not. In any event, the only “evidence” we have for the resurrection comes from the New Testament – which is essentially a work of fiction.

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