Seeing is believing

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 9: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”)

William Lane Craig is trying to convince us that the “resurrection hypothesis” is the best explanation for what he calls the “three historical facts” about the origin of Christianity: the empty tomb, the (perceived) appearances to the disciples, and their subsequent faith. Last week he tried (without much success) to eliminate the “disciples stole the body” alternative. Granted, a conspiracy to hide the body and then lie about the resurrection is pretty unlikely, but it’s extremely possible that some small group of disciples might have removed it without the knowledge or consent of the others, resulting in a major misunderstanding on the part of the others.

The next two alternatives Craig deals with are the “apparent death” hypothesis and the “misplaced body” hypothesis. I’m basically going to skip those two because Craig is mostly correct in dismissing them due to their inherent implausibility. The main argument we want to look at is what Craig calls the “hallucination hypothesis,” i.e. idea that the disciples were just having hallucinations about seeing Jesus.

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The devil in the details

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 9: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”)

Before we start this week’s main topic, I want to pick up one loose end from last time, about a point Craig made that I didn’t have time to cover. Craig’s historical argument centers around three points: the empty tomb, the (perceived) post-resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith. Regarding that last point, he says this:

A Messiah who failed to deliver and to reign, who was defeated, humiliated and slain by His enemies, is a contradiction in terms. Nowhere do Jewish texts speak of such a “Messiah.” Therefore, it’s difficult to overemphasize what a disaster the crucifixion was for the disciples’ faith. Jesus’ death on the cross spelled the humiliating end for any hopes they had entertained that He was the Messiah.

In other contexts, of course, Craig would argue that Jesus did fulfill the Messianic prophecies, and that the cross was not “the humiliating end for any hopes” of Jesus being the true Messiah. But just here, just now, he’s denying any Biblical connection between the Old Testament Messiah and Jesus. And that’s the great thing about apologetics: you don’t have to tell a consistent story from one point to the next. All you have to do is come up with a plausible answer for the question of the moment.

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Body of evidence

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 9: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”)

The big problem with the story of the resurrection is that it’s not consistent with what we see in real life. The Gospels require a God with a certain set of characteristics, motives, and abilities, such as would be unmistakably obvious if they were actually present in the real world—and they’re simply not there. It is this fact, more than any other, that justifies interpreting the New Testament in a skeptical light.

William Lane Craig, however, is determined to make the best case he can for the resurrection. And that’s just awesome. Once we’ve seen this, we’ve seen the best Christianity has to offer.

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Deceived by appearances

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 9: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”)

In John 7:24, Jesus cautions his disciples, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge [with] righteous judgment.” Appearances can be deceiving—especially when they’re the “appearances” of a recently-deceased loved one.

In the next section of Chapter 9, William Lane Craig takes us through the so-called “appearances” of Jesus. His intention is to prove that Jesus really did rise from the dead, but if we take care to “judge with correct judgment” (as more modern translations put it), then I think we’ll see that the postmortem “appearances” of Jesus are indeed a (self-)deception.

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