Andrew Loke v Paulogia: Written debate on the resurrection of Jesus

The promised debate has now begun.

Loke’s opening statement is found here:

Dr. Andrew Loke's Opening Statement vs. Paulogia - Capturing Christianity

Paulogia’s here:

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Thanks for sharing. I’ve watched a little bit of the back and forth, but the YouTube videos were too long.

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These don’t seem to be much shorter. :wink:

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To make matters worse, Loke’s opening statement contains a large fraction of material devoted to complaints/rehashings about previous interactions. Yawn.

Yes, but I would note that Loke’s is nearly twice the length of Paulogia’s (88% longer by wordcount, excluding footnotes).

As well as yawn-worthy, I cannot help but think that this is also a tactical mistake, in that it makes Loke seem less likable to, and thus likely to get a sympathetic reading from, an on-the-fence reader.

Whereas Paulogia addressed some of this (specifically his lack of a PhD) in his own introduction with self-depreciating humour.

It is an interesting contrast in rhetorical styles. :thinking:

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Andrew makes a big deal about Paulogia’s view being a “fringe” one within NT scholarship. But how mainstream is the belief in a bodily resurrection among scholars? I know a lot of them believe it, but how often is this specifically advocated in scholarly journals, as opposed to in books (including those that are self-published), Youtube videos and the like.

Moreover, how “mainstream” is NT scholarship of the sort that even considers such supernatural claims worthy of serious consideration to begin with? It seems to me this already a “fringe” belief, and there is an overwhelming consensus among scholars in the relevant fields against the “resurrection” which is reflected in their utter silence on the matter, much as the consensus against the existence of Bigfoot or the position that the earth is 6000 years old is reflected in the fact that these claims are rarely even discussed in the scholarly literature.

Tagging @Andrew_Loke so he is aware we are discussing him.

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I have to say I am solidly in agreement with @Andrew_Loke on the question of whether groups of Jesus’ disciples believed they had witnessed one or more apparitions of the risen Jesus. The best evidence for this claim comes from the pre-Pauline creed in 1 Corinthians 15. All scholars are agreed that verses 3 to 5, at least, are part of the original creed. (Scholars do not agree as to whether the subsequent verses, which describe an appearance of Jesus to the 500 and to James and all the apostles, were part of the original creed.) Here are the verses in question:

3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. (NIV)

Elsewhere in Paul’s writings, Paul indicates that he personally knew Peter (Cephas) and some of the apostles, notably John (see for instance Galatians 2:2, 6-9). He was therefore in immediate contact with at least some of the people who, according to the pre-Pauline creed, had had a group apparition of the risen Jesus.

Can I prove that Paul asked these apostles about what they saw? No. What I can confidently say, however, is (a) Paul received a creed from someone about Jesus appearing to the Twelve and (b) he personally knew some of the Twelve, after they had witnessed an apparition of Jesus, and after he had had an apparition of his own. He was therefore in an ideal epistemic position to check the veracity of the claim that they had had an experience of what they took to be the risen Jesus.

And when it comes to historical claims from antiquity, that’s generally about as good as it gets. Doubting evidence like this would require us to doubt most of what we currently regard as history. Paulogia may deride the evidence I’ve cited as mere “hearsay,” but he overlooks the fact that Paul personally knew some of the twelve apostles. He therefore had opportunities to check the credal statement that they had seen the risen Jesus. And if (as Paulogia doubtfully alleges) the law turns its nose up at this kind of hearsay, refusing to even recognize it as “evidence,” then I can only respond by quoting the words of Charles Dickens: “The law is an ass.” (I note for the record that Paulogia is not a lawyer; his claims about what counts as evidence in a court of law should therefore be taken with a grain of salt.)

Nor will it do to quote Carl Sagan’s mantra that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. There’s nothing inherently extraordinary about the factual claim that a group of twelve people thought they’d seen Jesus. (The story of Judas found in the four Gospels is of later origin, and may or may not be historical. Paul’s resurrection account is the oldest, and I’m sticking with that one.)

Now, if one wanted to mount an intelligent argument against the claim that the twelve apostles had a group apparition of Jesus, one might suggest that Jesus appeared to the Twelve individually, and not all at once. Bart Ehrman makes precisely this suggestion in an online article here. And that’s a possibility, I suppose. But it goes against the plain reading of the creed, which says that Jesus “appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.” That sounds very much like a group appearance.

Belief-wise, New Testament scholars belong to many different creeds and quite often, none at all. However, there are very few who would question the fact that Jesus’ disciples thought they saw him alive again. For instance, the late Professor Maurice Casey, in his book, Jesus of Nazareth: An Independent Historian’s Account of his Life and Teaching, writes about Jesus from a thoroughly Jewish perspective and is openly critical of the efforts of Christian apologists like Dr. William Lane Craig to prove the resurrection of Jesus from the New Testament. Yet Casey has no hesitation in accepting the occurrence of the group appearances themselves, although he also draws attention to the scandalous fact that some of the apostles doubted that they were seeing Jesus (Matthew 28:17). And of course, a group apparition doesn’t prove anything about the truth of the resurrection itself, as Dr. Bart Ehrman points out in an online article here. However, Paulogia’s refusal to let Loke even “get to first base,” as it were, in his case for the resurrection, strikes me as curmudgeonly and uncharitable. The notion that it was only individuals who had apparitions of the risen Jesus is a view that has few defenders, even among atheists, and which should be rejected as highly unlikely, given the evidence we currently possess.

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All that shows is that some people at that time believed Jesus had been resurrected. It is not a statement from anyone saying they, themselves, believe they witnessed the resurrected Jesus.

But, as Paulogia pointed out in one of his videos, this is what Paul said himself regarding his first trip to Jerusalem, in the passage just preceding that (my emphasis):

11 I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas[b] and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

That is to say, the point he is gong to great pains to emphasize, is that he did not arrive at his beliefs thru the sort of exhaustive interrogation of facts and eyewitnesses that you are implying. Rather, his conviction is based on the personal revelation he believes he received from Jesus himself.

And this gets back to my earlier point regarding how seriously we are obliged to take what often passes for New Testament scholarship. What is the exact nature of “the evidence we currently possess”? A small number of documents largely of unknown provenance and uncertain date, much of which is acknowledged to be later additions or extrapolations, and which are generally considered to have been based on one another and earlier written and oral accounts. Just how fine-grained can we expect the knowledge obtained from such sources to be? Can we really figure out from these scanty records exactly who claimed to see what, and when they said they saw it?

For a much more widely documented contemporary of Jesus, Julius Caesar, we still only know the broad details of his life and accomplishments. So, OK, we can be reasonably certain that he crossed the Rubicon with his army in 50 BC, which led to an event as immediately momentous as the Roman Civil War. But did he really see an apparition that guided him to do so? Did he really say the words “The dye is cast” after completing the crossing? Do we really know the names of the people with whom he dined the following night? I doubt any serious historians would assert we know any of this with any high degree of confidence, and this was by far the most powerful, famous and well-documented individual of his time and place. Not some obscure radical preacher with a small ragtag following.

I can appreciate the importance the Christian believer would attach to efforts to establish the resurrection as an historical fact. But history is just not up to the task of demonstrating that physically impossible things happened in the distant past, even under the most favourable circumstances. And in this case the circumstances are far from the most favourable.

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That seems to be what @andrew_loke is arguing. I found both opening statements to be radically different - which may make it more interesting in the responses but right now I found them difficult to sort out. I’d kinda rather see Paulogia have a written debate with J. Warner Wallace since they both address the question of the resurrection from the legal angle.

I think this is a bias on your part against the supernatural. I think you just want history to show that the most reasonable explanation is a supernatural one. That’s what I think is the case. Paulogia’s explanation of two believing in resurrection appearances strikes me as an unreasonable explanation of the documents. I am actually surprised that people find it to be a credible or good argument.

On that note, this is interesting. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/sources-for-caesar-and-jesus-compared/

You’re not comparing apples to apples. You’d want to compare the broad details of Julius Caesar to the broad details of Jesus’ life, in which his crucifixion and resurrection are central. The Beatitudes or a specific parable are not being debated.

That’s weird because there are billions of Christians in the world who believe the resurrection occurred even without having actually witnessed the events they purport to detail. People become convinced of this for reasons that have nothing to do with evidence and argument. They’re raised to at a young age, or taken to church by their parterns and friends and have conversion-provoking experiences while singing.

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Not on my part, but on the part of history and all other academic fields related to determining things that have and have not, can and cannot, happen in the physical world. Believers in the supernatural can claim they have their own special way of answering questions about supernatural occurrences they believe to have happened in physical reality. But if they do, it is just their own private game they are playing amongst themselves and not something that has been accepted and validated in the wider sense as has history, science, etc. And if they claim those disciplines do demonstrate supernatural things to have occurred, they are just wrong. The supernatural is not part of what those disciplines can evaluate.

As a point of clarification: I do not say that science etc cannot be used to evaluate claims regarding anything that might be seen as supernatural. But this is done by presuming methodological naturalism. So if someone claims telekinesis exists, that can be evaluated scientifically even if it is conceived of as a “supernatural” phenomenon.

Three words in that article destroy its entire premise: “Caesar’s autobiographical account.” Case closed.

But those claims are being assessed by examining fine details of the Gospels and trying to determine exactly who claims to have seen something, exactly what they claimed to have seen, when they claimed to have seen it, etc. The records are just too shoddy and scant to know anything about these questions with sufficient certainty to overrule the scientific fact that resurrections do not occur. Even if we could know with 90% certainty that 500 people claimed to have seen the resurrected Jesus at the same time, that 10% uncertainty is far higher than the odds that a resurrection actually occurred, so it remains far more probable that this event with 500 people never happened.

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Definitely not! :slight_smile:

Maybe he was throwing around some woad he picked up in the Gallic Wars. :stuck_out_tongue:

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This viewpoint is expanded upon in this article: In defense of naturalism

Abstract:

History and the modern sciences are characterized by what is sometimes called a “methodological naturalism” that disregards talk of divine agency. Some religious thinkers argue that this reflects a dogmatic materialism: a non-negotiable and a priori commitment to a materialist metaphysics. In response to this charge, I make a sharp distinction between procedural requirements and metaphysical commitments. The procedural requirement of history and the sciences—that proposed explanations appeal to publicly-accessible bodies of evidence— is non-negotiable, but has no metaphysical implications. The metaphysical commitment is naturalistic, but is both a posteriori and provisional, arising from the fact that for more than 400 years no proposed theistic explanation has been shown capable of meeting the procedural requirement. I argue that there is nothing to prevent religious thinkers from seeking to overturn this metaphysically naturalistic stance. But in order to do so they would need to show that their proposed theistic explanations are the best available explanations of a range of phenomena. Until this has been done, the metaphysical naturalism of history and the sciences remains defensible.

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This is a big part of Erhman’s argument. The problem with the argument is the supernatural is part of history. Intelligent beings exist that can observe the universe. This is a “supernatural fact” as it cannot be explained solely by the laws of physics and chemistry. A bodily resurrection by the original creator of this “supernatural fact” should be a “chip shot” :slight_smile:

Assuming that the intelligent beings you are talking about are humans etc, not gods, angels, etc, how is this a “supernatural fact”? Even if its is not a direct consequence of “the laws of physics and chemistry”, it is explicable by scientific fields such as biology, neurology, etc that are consilient with those laws.

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This whole debate seems so silly to me. If the person I trusted most in the world came to me and told me she had seen someone rise from the dead, I would not believe her. I would be concerned for her mental health. If I had good reason to believe there were 500 other people who claimed the same thing, I would not believe them, either. Putting this situation at a remove of 2000 years and with secondary accounts just makes it so much worse (This is where Mormonism has a leg up—three hostile witnesses who never recanted!).

I could even accept that the supernatural exists, that God exists, that miracles do happen—just like billions of non-Christian theists do—and the historical evidence for the resurrection would still not even come close to being enough for me—just like it’s not enough for those billions of non-Christian theists. If someone believes because of a personal experience or something, okay, to each their own, but on the historical evidence? I can’t lower my standards like that.

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The “Roswell Incident” is a great example of how a mundane reconnaissance balloon crash story spun into a myth festival, including battling “witnesses”, death-bed recants, fabricated alien autopsies, schisms among the True Believers, and of course numerous grifters selling fragments of the True UFO, books, movies, and a museum in Roswell.

If you do find yourself in Roswell, skip the museum and treat yourself to some fish tacos at Los Cerritos.

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Not to mention the even more recent examples of QAnon and the belief that Trump won the 2020 election.

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