Cavin and Colombetti on the Resurrection of Jesus Part 2: The Failure of the Resurrection ‘Explanation’

What I want to do in this post is to summarize (and offer my own interpretation of) Cavin’s second main contention in his debate with Michael Licona on the Resurrection of Jesus:

CC2. The Resurrection Theory is a dismal failure as an explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus—being ad hoc and almost completely devoid of explanatory power and scope.

1. Explanatory Power

In order to properly assess CC2, it’s crucial that we first clarify what “explanation” means. In order to do that, let us begin by reviewing some basic concepts from Part 1 of this series. Let us divide the evidence relevant to the Resurrection into two categories. First, certain items of evidence function as “odd” facts that need to be explained.  Let us call these items the “evidence to be explained.” Second, other items of evidence are “background evidence,” which determine the prior probability of rival theories and partially determine how well those theories explain the evidence to be explained.

These two types of evidence have two probabilistic counterparts: (1) the prior probability of a hypothesis H and (2) the explanatory power of H. (1) is a measure of how likely H is to occur based on background information B alone, whether or not E is true. As for (2), this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.

The key takeaway is that if H (combined with B) does not predict E more than not-H (~H), then H does not explain E.

2. Four Problems with the Resurrection Hypothesis

2.1. Licona’s Resurrection Hypothesis is a Circular Explanation

“H explains E” is a necessary condition for H to be an explanation of E. But what does it mean for H to explain E? As Jan Narveson writes, part of what it means to say that H explains E is that H helps us understand how or why H leads to E (or, at least, how or why H gives us more reason to expect E than ~H does).

Well, for one thing, an explanation has to explain. That is: the proposal, the hypothesis, put forward as doing the explaining has to be such that, once you understand the thing and you understand the phenomenon to be explained, you can see how, yes, one of those things would lead to one of these things being the way it is–and not some other way.

Let us define a circular explanation as follows.

H is a circular explanation of E if (1) H is explicitly defined as the hypothesis that E is true; and (2) if the explicit reference to E is removed from H, the remaining content in H does not help us understand how or why H leads to E (or, at least, how or why H gives us more reason to expect E than ~H does).

So the problem with circular explanations is that they are no explanations at all. They successfully predict that E is true (or more likely to be true) without helping us to understand how or why E is true (or more likely to be true).

Cavin & Colombetti (C&C) observe that, on Licona’s definition of the Resurrection hypothesis, the Resurrection hypothesis is a circular explanation for the resurrection and empty tomb. Consider Licona’s definition.

Following a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, Jesus appeared to a number of people, in individual and group settings and to friends and foes, in no less than an objective vision and perhaps within ordinary vision in his bodily raised corpse.[1]

The italicized words are the explicit references to the postmortem appearances. Licona’s hypothesis predicts the postmortem appearances only because he builds the appearances into his hypothesis. His hypothesis does not, however, explain how or why Jesus appeared to people after his death.

2.2. Non-Circular Versions of the Resurrection Hypothesis Lack Explanatory Scope and Explanatory Power

C&C’s second objection follows from their first. If we modify Licona’s hypotheses by removing the explicit references to the appearances, the remaining content isn’t very informative. The Resurrection hypothesis becomes the claim that there was

a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, [involving] Jesus [as a] bodily raised corpse.

The problem, of course, is that this modified Resurrection hypothesis no longer predicts the empty tomb and the appearances (or, at least, it no longer makes the appearances more probable than the hypothesis that Jesus was not resurrected does.)

2.3. The Resurrection Hypothesis is Ad Hoc

Let us begin by defining “revivification” as a generic term to encompass any transformation of a corpse into a living body of some kind. One kind of revivification is resuscitation, viz., the mere restoration of a corpse to its original premortem state. For example, the New Testament claims that Lazarus was resuscitated. Another kind of revivification is resurrection, viz., the transformation of the corpse into a living, powerful, incorruptible, and glorious body which can never again suffer illness, injury or death. The New Testament claims that Jesus was resurrected, not merely resuscitated (as was Lazarus).

Consider the following thought experiment. Imagine that we know nothing about the New Testament, but, somehow and at the same time, we know that (a) Jesus was dead; (b) Jesus was buried in a tomb; and (c) Jesus was resurrected from the dead. We would not predict an empty tomb or postmortem appearances because the resurrection hypothesis, by itself, tells us nothing about the postmortem activities of Jesus. For example, it’s possible that Jesus was resurrected from the dead and stayed in the tomb, admiring his transformed body. Or, after the Resurrection, perhaps Jesus teleported to central America and appeared to people there so that he could be crucified again.

In order to rule out these and countless other scenarios, Resurrectionists must make “dubious assumptions about the postmortem activities of Jesus” (184). As C&C explain, these assumptions include “the Ascension, the ability to pass through solid matter and to appear and disappear at will, telepathy, clairvoyance, and the power to create ‘heavenly’ visions of glory” (185). The problem with these assumptions, however, is that they are not implied by either the modified Resurrection hypothesis or our existing (background) knowledge (184). This is what I take C&C to mean when they charge that the Resurrection hypothesis is ad hoc.

Cavin & Colombetti (C&C) provide a brilliant parable to illustrate this point.

Suppose Jones is found empty by Peter, John, and the two Marys. Later that morning, Jones is seen by the two Marys. Later that day, Jones is see at the club by his two employees. And three years later, people see Jones skydiving.

The hypothesis, “Jones woke up,” would not and does not predict the empty house; Jones’ appearance to the two Marys and his employees; or his skydiving. Jones’ waking up is, at best, a necessary but not a sufficient condition for his post-waking activities. What would predict the empty house is not the “wakening” hypothesis, but the “leaving” hypothesis: Jones left the house.  Along the same lines, the “wakening” hypothesis doesn’t predict any of Jones’ appearances; we need one or more other hypotheses to explain them.

2.4. “Atoms or Schmatoms” Explanatory Dilemma

Again, consider the modified, non-circular version of Licona’s resurrection hypothesis. There was

a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, [involving] Jesus [as a] bodily raised corpse.

The “indeterminate nature” of the risen Jesus creates another explanatory problem for the Resurrection hypothesis: it turns the risen Jesus into an “X-Man.” But how can an indeterminate, an unknown “X,” explain any historical facts (194)? C&C argue that it can’t. In support, they present the “‘Atoms or Schmatoms’ Explanatory Dilemma.”

(1) If Jesus was revivified from the dead, his post-revivification body was either composed of atoms or schmatoms.

(2) If Jesus’s post-revivification body was composed of atoms, then Jesus was not resurrected.

I want to make two comments regarding this premise.

First, the resurrection body, by definition (I Cor. 15), is supposed to be imperishable (immortal, unable to age, get sick, be injured, etc.). A body composed of atoms would not have these properties, and, thus, for that reason, not be a resurrection body. (In contemporary physical chemistry, I think, each molecule is defined as composed of a certain number of atoms of a certain subset of the elements in a certain configuration, and element is, turn, defined as composed of X number of protons, neutrons, electrons, etc., and that each of these particles is defined as having a certain mass, charge, spin, half-life, etc.)

Second, a body made of atoms (even assuming we can "stretch" the meaning of the term "resurrection" to encompass it) would be at best negligibly likely to lead to the empty tomb and postmortem appearance stories of Jesus as we find them in the gospels. A Jesus made of atoms would require energy (food) to survive, move, etc.; would thus realize that he’s not immortal, etc.; would be unable to disappear from the tomb and reappear outside and to disappear in Emmaus and reappear in the Upper Room; would quickly realize that he could be injured; and, thus, injured and killed by old his enemies if he re-entered the city to go meet his disciples there, etc.

(3) If Jesus’ post-revivification body was composed of something else (“schmatoms”), then there is no way to make testable predictions about what the post-revivification Jesus would be or do.

(4) If there is no way to make testable predictions about what a Jesus composed of schmatoms would be or do, then a Jesus composed of schmatoms does not predict an empty tomb or postmortem appearances.

(5) If a Jesus composed of scmatoms does not predict an empty tomb or postmortem appearances, it cannot explain an empty tomb or postmortem appearances.

(6) Therefore, either the postmortem Jesus was not resurrected or the resurrection of the postmortem Jesus cannot explain the empty tomb or the postmortem appearances.

3. Conclusion

C&C conclude that the Resurrection Theory is a dismal failure as an explanation of the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus—being ad hoc and almost completely devoid of explanatory power and scope.

Notes

[1] Michael Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 582-83. Italics are mine.

About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

    Licona’s hypothesis predicts the postmortem appearances only because he builds the appearances into his hypothesis. His hypothesis does not, however, explain how or why Jesus appeared to people after his death.

    What if we modified Licona’s hypothesis to something like: “Following a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, Jesus wanted to appear to a number of people, in individual and group settings and to friends and foes, in no less than an objective vision and perhaps within ordinary vision in his bodily raised corpse”?

    The problem, of course, is that this modified Resurrection hypothesis no longer predicts the empty tomb and the appearances (or, at least, it no longer makes the appearances more probable than the hypothesis that Jesus was not resurrected does.)

    I’m not sure a non-circular historical hypothesis will be able to predict, with certainty, that some other events will happen. But the parenthetical remark is unpersuasive. How is a resurrected Jesus not more likely than a corpse to leave behind an empty tomb and appear alive to others? At least the resurrected Jesus is capable of doing those things, unlike a corpse.

    In order to rule out these and countless other scenarios, Resurrectionists must make “dubious assumptions about the postmortem activities of Jesus” (184). As C&C explain, these assumptions include “the Ascension, the ability to pass through solid matter and to appear and disappear at will, telepathy, clairvoyance, and the power to create ‘heavenly’ visions of glory” (185). The problem with these assumptions, however, is that they are not implied by either the modified Resurrection hypothesis or our existing (background) knowledge (184). This is what I take C&C to mean when they charge that the Resurrection hypothesis is ad hoc.

    Wouldn’t Jesus’ pre-resurrection behavior be included in our background knowledge? This would include his tendency to teach his disciples in person or create heavenly visions of glory (transfiguration). Obviously the skeptic will question the pre-resurrection miracles too.

    The hypothesis, “Jones woke up,” would not and does not predict the empty house; Jones’ appearance to the two Marys and his employees; or his skydiving. Jones’ waking up is, at best, a necessary but not a sufficient condition for his post-waking activities. What would predict the empty house is not the “wakening” hypothesis, but the “leaving” hypothesis: Jones left the house. Along the same lines, the “wakening” hypothesis doesn’t predict any of Jones’ appearances; we need one or more other hypotheses to explain them.

    It seems to me the “leaving hypothesis” is a “circular explanation” of the empty house. It seems C&C(&L) have put historians in a bind. If your hypothesis is too detailed you are guilty of a circular explanation. If your hypothesis is not detailed enough you are guilty of an ad hoc explanation or an explanation that lacks explanatory power.

    The “indeterminate nature” of the risen Jesus creates another explanatory problem for the Resurrection hypothesis: it turns the risen Jesus into an “X-Man.”

    I’m not sure if that’s a fair reading of Licona’s statement. He seems to be limiting what he is saying about how Jesus was resurrected, not the nature of Jesus’ resurrected body.

    (2) If Jesus’s post-revivification body was composed of atoms, then Jesus was not resurrected.

    You seem to be assuming that any body composed of atoms would have to behave exactly like a regular human body. But this makes the premise rather circular.

    (3) If Jesus’ post-revivification body was composed of something else (“schmatoms”), then there is no way to make testable predictions about what the post-revivification Jesus would be or do.

    This only appears true on a materialist view of the mind. There’s no reason Jesus’ immaterial mind could not direct his body composed of schmatoms to act like he had acted before the resurrection.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      What if we modified Licona’s hypothesis to something like:

      “Following a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, Jesus wanted to appear to a number of people, in individual and group settings and to friends and foes, in no less than an objective vision and perhaps within ordinary vision in his bodily raised corpse”?

      It is not enough to merely propose a modified hypothesis; one must also be able to establish that the modified hypothesis has an overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power which exceeds its rivals. The problem with the modified hypothesis is that there is insufficient historical evidence to establish that it does, in fact, have an overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power which exceeds its rivals.

      I’m not sure a non-circular historical hypothesis will be able to predict, with certainty, that some other events will happen. But the parenthetical remark is unpersuasive. How is a resurrected Jesus not more likely than a corpse to leave behind an empty tomb and appear alive to others? At least the resurrected Jesus is capable of doing those things, unlike a corpse.

      Nowhere do I claim that a non-circular historical hypothesis must be able to predict with certainty (i.e., entail) the events it is supposed to explain. That is a straw man of your own creation. First, I nowhere even suggest that. In fact, I am in complete agreement with you that it is sensible to argue (if/when it’s true) that a non-circular historical hypothesis makes it probable that some other events will happen. Second, in fact, I explicitly state the opposite view, in complete agreement with you. In defining explanatory power, I write, “this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.” That entails that, in order to show that the Resurrection hypothesis (however it is defined) can explain the empty tomb and the postmortem appearances of Jesus, it is sufficient to show that the Resurrection hypothesis make those items of evidence probable.

      Regarding the parenthetical remark, as the “Atoms vs. Schmatoms” dilemma shows, the claim, “At least the resurrected Jesus is capable of doing those things,” presupposes that the resurrected Jesus is composed of atoms and not something else (”schmatoms”). If he was composed of atoms, then he was, at best, resuscitated, not resurrected. If, on the other hand, he was composed of schmatoms, then it’s far from obvious what he could do, since we would be talking about something that is completely indeterminate. There would be no way to make testable predictions about what the post-revivification Jesus (made of schmatoms) would be or do. The probability of his postmortem activities, conditional upon his resurrection, is unknown.

      Wouldn’t Jesus’ pre-resurrection behavior be included in our background knowledge? This would include his tendency to teach his disciples in person or create heavenly visions of glory (transfiguration). Obviously the skeptic will question the pre-resurrection miracles too.

      With all due respect, this reply shows you don’t t understand the A or S dilemma. Certainly Jesus’ pre-Resurrection behavior — in so far as we can establish what this is — would be a part of B. Clearly he had a tendency to teach his disciples. Even if we buy into the Transfiguration, Jesus is not said in the gospels to have created this; they indicate that this was the work of the Father and the Holy Spirit. But, even if they said that Jesus himself created the Transfiguration, so what? That wouldn’t make it more probable than not that the earthly Jesus actually had this power. And, the posterior probability that anyone made of atoms would have such power is negligibly above zip. Atom Jesus would be in no significant way different from resuscitated Lazarus — and I mean this even for Alien Jesus or Beast Jesus.

      But what you overlook is that there is no reason to hold on R that the postmortem Jesus has the same powers and abilities and psychology as the premortem Jesus. Imagine if you got a second chance at life. If you were a playboy the first time around, you might well want to be serious the second time around. If you were too serious, maybe the second time all you’d want to do is play. The fact is, we have no experience of those who have returned to life again after death and so we have no way of knowing what they would do.

      You beg the KEY question here by assuming a priori that the postmortem Jesus would have the same goals and interests as the premortem Jesus. Yet our experience shows us that people often radically change when they experience a dramatic event in their life. R will only say that the postmortem Jesus is like the premortem Jesus if R is defined this way. Suppose it is. Then the anti-Resurrectionist will now formulate and advance R’ which states merely that Jesus died and became alive in some sense. What the anti-Resurrectionist is interested in is R’, not R. Why? Because even if the anti-Resurrectionist disproved R with certainty, he would still have to contend with R’. So the anti-Resurrectionist who understands this will say that what he/she wants is an argument against R’, not R per se. R gets destroyed along the way as a component of R’. But the anti-Resurrectionist has no time to deal with R as a separate issue. R is just one sub-hypothesis among countless others under R’. But, then, with R’ as our focus, we are back to where we started, before the Resurrectionist brought up R to get around the vagueness of R’.

      Resurrectionists may say that R makes E more probable than does R’. So what? Since R’ is the real object of interest, what we really have to calculate is:

      P(E|B&R) = P(R|B&R’) x P(E|B&R&R’) + P(~R|B&R’) x P(E|B&~R&R’). [from the theorem of total probability]

      If P(R|B&R’) is small or, better yet, inscrutable, then so is P(R|B&R’). This is all the anti-Resurrectionist needs to say. (And note that I haven’t even gotten into the “Schmatoms” side of the A or S dilemma yet.)

      • steve hays

        Jeffery Jay Lowder:

        “Atoms are destructible; resurrection bodies (somata pneumatika) are not.”

        Jeff, when Paul talks about a “spiritual body” in 1 Cor 15, the adjective (“spiritual”) is not a property of the glorified body, but a shorthand descriptor for the agency of the Holy Spirit in glorification–as scholars like Wright, Rosner, and Ciampa have documented. “Spiritual” doesn’t refer to the composition of the glorified body. Rather, that’s an allusion to the Holy Spirit.

        “If he was composed of atoms, then he was, at best, resuscitated, not resurrected.”

        That’s a fallacious inference. That isn’t logical or exegetical.

        “The fact is, we have no experience of those who have returned to life again after death and so we have no way of knowing what they would do.”

        i) That begs the question.

        ii) Moreover, we don’t have to speculate. We have NT statements about the postmortem abilities, intentions, and psychology of Jesus.

        You and Cavin don’t believe those statements, but that’s beside the point inasmuch as you and Cavin appear to be attacking the position on internal grounds.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          “Atoms are destructible; resurrection bodies (somata pneumatika) are not.”

          Jeff, when Paul talks about a “spiritual body” in 1 Cor 15, the adjective (“spiritual”) is not a property of the glorified body, but a shorthand descriptor for the agency of the Holy Spirit in glorification–as scholars like Wright, Rosner, and Ciampa have documented. “Spiritual” doesn’t refer to the composition of the glorified body. Rather, that’s an allusion to the Holy Spirit.

          Irrelevant response. To say that resurrection bodies (somata pneumatika) are indestructible is not to say that they are made of spirit. Obviously, “pneumatikon” refers to the agency of the Holy Spirit, or, as Craig states, to the adaptation of the bodies for the world of the Spirit.

          “If he was composed of atoms, then he was, at best, resuscitated, not resurrected.”

          That’s a fallacious inference. That isn’t logical or exegetical.

          It is a sound inference. If the Risen Jesus was composed of atoms, then he was either resuscitated, and so still looked like Jesus, or his atoms were rearranged into some other form, so that he no longer looked like the premortem Jesus, e.g., he became Alien-Jesus or Beast-Jesus, the result being that the disciples would no longer recognize him. They might well flee from him as Alien-Jesus or Beast-Jesus. They might hang around him as Jim-Morrison-Jesus, but they wouldn’t come to believe that he rose from the dead. Thus, at the very best, “Atoms-Jesus” is a straight resuscitation-Jesus. Otherwise R can’t explain the postmortem appearances of the Risen Jesus — or will need to be supplemented with ad hoc miracles by God.

          “The fact is, we have no experience of those who have returned to life again after death and so we have no way of knowing what they would do.”

          i) That begs the question.

          *ii) Moreover, we don’t have to speculate. We have NT statements about the postmortem abilities, intentions, and psychology of Jesus. *

          You and Cavin don’t believe those statements, but that’s beside the point inasmuch as you and Cavin appear to be attacking the position on internal grounds.

          It begs the question to say we’ve had no experience of those who’ve returned to life again? Hummm. How many resuscitated or resurrected bodies have Hays, Lowder, Cavin, and Colombetti seen, so that they can study their properties? The answer is ZERO! And those NT statements about the postmortem abilities of Jesus are just the point — they are utterly incompatible with “Atoms-Jesus”! So now Hays is forced, once again, to turn to “Schmatoms,” i.e., “X-Man”-Jesus. But we know absolutely nothing about this Jesus! So he cannot be invoked as an explanation for the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus!

          Bottom line: It is clear that Hays has not taken the time and trouble to understand what the “Atoms or Schmatoms” Dilemma is saying. His constant appeal to 1 Cor. 15 is a red herring. He misunderstands how his “fix it” or “patch-up” jobs on R are equivalent to a host of ad hoc “auxiliary supplementary hypotheses” for R.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      It seems to me the “leaving hypothesis” is a “circular explanation” of the empty house. It seems C&C(&L) have put historians in a bind. If your hypothesis is too detailed you are guilty of a circular explanation. If your hypothesis is not detailed enough you are guilty of an ad hoc explanation or an explanation that lacks explanatory power.

      This reply seems to be based upon a misunderstanding of a circular explanation. The “leaving hypothesis” provides a mechanism for how the house became empty. In contrast, Licona’s non-modified hypothesis provides no mechanism for how the tomb became empty or how the post-Resurrection Jesus appeared to anyone. This is why the latter is a circular explanation and the former is not.

      I’m not sure if that’s a fair reading of Licona’s statement. He seems to be limiting what he is saying about how Jesus was resurrected, not the nature of Jesus’ resurrected body.

      Regarding being “unfair” to Licona: the truth is that Licona does not offer a genuine theory. He says he does, but, in all fairness, all he actually offers is what is aptly called a “theory sketch” or “theory fragment,” that is, what remains of a theory once its key elements have been removed (except that, in this case, the key elements have never been specified by Licona to begin with). This is true, not only of Licona, but of Craig, Davis, the McGrews, et al. They offer their readers a word, “resurrection,” but they do not assign this word a clear and sufficiently detailed meaning. The result is a “theory fragment,” rather than a genuine theory, that lacks the key elements required to give it explanatory power.

      The comment “He [Licona] seems to be limiting what he is saying about how Jesus was resurrected, not the nature of Jesus’ resurrected body.” may be true, but, at the same time, it misses the very point of the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” dilemma. To the degree that one fails to specify the crucial details of the nature of the resurrection body of Jesus, to that degree the so-called Resurrection theory becomes the vague, equivocal, and nebulous “X-Man” theory and thus opens itself up to the “Atoms or Schmatoms” dilemma.

      It’s not that Resurrectionists have willfully ignored this problem–rather, the problem has never even occurred to them. This, no doubt, is because they have uncritically accepted the “mantra” that “the Resurrection is the best explanation of the facts of Easter” without ever actually considering, in detail, how the Resurrection theory would function as an explanation, i.e., what implications or probabilistic consequences the Resurrection theory itself actually has, and have equivocated the Resurrection theory with its auxiliary hypotheses regarding the postmortem activities of the risen Jesus.

      It is instructive that Timothy and Lydia McGrew, in a technical essay 70 pages long, repeatedly claim that the Resurrection theory “has no difficulty accounting for” the facts of Easter, and yet they present no argument to justify this claim. The only conclusion for which they actually present an argument, rather, is their claim that each of the so-called “naturalistic” alternatives has very low explanatory power. Yet, even if it is supposed that this is true, it does not follow that the Resurrection theory has an explanatory power that is greater, i.e., greater than any subset of the “naturalistic” alternatives combined. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that P(E|B&~R) is 10^-100. (This, of course, is false, but let’s assume it just for argument’s sake.) It hardly follows that P(E|B&R) > P(E|B&~R), for even given this supposition, P(E|B&R) could be far, far less, e.g., 10^-1000. Resurrectionists, such as Licona, have, after 300 years, failed to justify their claim that the Resurrection theory can explain anything.

      You seem to be assuming that any body composed of atoms would have to behave exactly like a regular human body. But this makes the premise rather circular.

      With all due respect, this reply is simply confused. To be an atom, e.g., to be oxygen, is by definition to have certain properties: mass, atomic number, atomic weight, etc. Atoms are destructible; resurrection bodies (somata pneumatika) are not. It immediately follows that, if Jesus’ post-revivification body was composed of atoms, then it was not resurrected. This is not a circular argument. You simply have not thought through what it means to be an atom. What you are really thinking of, ironically, are “schmatoms,” not atoms!

      This only appears true on a materialist view of the mind. There’s no reason Jesus’ immaterial mind could not direct his body composed of schmatoms to act like he had acted before the resurrection.

      Again, with all due respect, this reply is quite confused. The issue here has nothing to do with minds and, thus, nothing to do with any theories of minds, be these materialist or otherwise. You have completely missed the point of the “Schmatoms” side of the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” dilemma. With the exception of not being atoms, “schmatoms” are complete unknowns–”X’s.” There is thus no way to predict what an unknown will or will not do, how it will or will not behave, or, indeed, whether it is even the kind of thing that can act or behave. Unknowns can have no justified implications, namely, test implications, predictions, or explanatory consequences. But to be an explanation is to have implications that are justified, i.e., explanation involves epistemic probabilities. Clearly, none of this has a thing to do with materialism, dualism, or immaterialism. This criticism is simply a red herring. Thus, contrary to what you write, if the post-revivification body of Jesus was composed of something other than atoms, i.e., “schmatoms,” then there is nothing (except that it’s not made of atoms) that we can say about it.

      In fact, to even call something made of “schmatoms” a “body” is to go too far. It–whatever “it” is–should be called a “schmody” rather than a “body”! Is there now reason to question whether Jesus’ immaterial mind could direct his “schmody” composed of “schmatoms” to act like his body composed of atoms had acted prior to the Resurrection? The answer is clearly, “Yes!” For we have no idea what a “schmody” is, other than that it is comprised of unknowns. Can “schmatoms” and “schmodies” move? Can they act? Can they behave? We have no idea. Perhaps they can, but perhaps they are static and immobile. We have no way of knowing. And, because we don’t, we have no reason to hold that Jesus’ immaterial mind could direct his “schmody” composed of “schmatoms” to act like his body composed of atoms had acted prior to the Resurrection. But, because explanation is epistemic, this is just to say that a Resurrection theory formulated in terms of “schmatoms” and, thus, “schmodies” has no power to explain anything.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      One final comment:

      Many Resurrectionists are aware that they have been less than clear about the meaning of “resurrection” and “resurrection body.” They are aware that their camp has proposed theories ranging from materialistic to spiritualistic. In section 2.3 of my OP, I am very explicit in distinguishing between the categories of revivification, resuscitation, and resurrection proper. One cannot assess the explanatory power/scope of a theory until one specifies clearly what the theory states. Licona’s definition is clearly circular, and the way he introduces and draws attention to his definition (“I hearby define the resurrection theory as follows…”) suggests that he doesn’t really appreciate the problem. Cf. Craig, who is more philosophically sophisticated but who equivocates between meanings of “resurrection” in the arguments that comprise his overall defense of the resurrection “theory.”

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        It is not enough to merely propose a modified hypothesis; one must also be able to establish that the modified hypothesis has an overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power which exceeds its rivals.

        My modified hypothesis was intended to provide a “why” to Licona’s hypothesis without being a circular explanation.

        That entails that, in order to show that the Resurrection hypothesis (however it is defined) can explain the empty tomb and the postmortem appearances of Jesus, it is sufficient to show that the Resurrection hypothesis make those items of evidence probable.

        Bracketing out the atoms/schmatoms discussion for the moment, my modified hypothesis seems to explain both the empty tomb and the postmortem appearances. Why is the tomb empty? Because Jesus’ corpse came back to life and exiting the tomb was a good way to fulfill his desire to appear to people. Why did the disciples have postmortem appearances of Jesus? Because Jesus desired to visit them.

        But what you overlook is that there is no reason to hold on R that the postmortem Jesus has the same powers and abilities and psychology as the premortem Jesus.

        I would think that they are the same person would be reason enough.

        The fact is, we have no experience of those who have returned to life again after death and so we have no way of knowing what they would do.

        But we do have people who believe they’ve been given a second chance at life after a brush with death. In the case of near-death experiences, we even have people who believe they have died and returned to life. This experience may result in some changes but the person is not unrecognizable.

        Atoms are destructible; resurrection bodies (somata pneumatika) are not.

        A body is not merely any collection of atoms. Various atoms that make up the body can come and go while the body itself persists.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman

        It is not enough to merely propose a modified hypothesis; one must also be able to establish that the modified hypothesis has an overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power which exceeds its rivals.

        My modified hypothesis was intended to provide a “why” to Licona’s hypothesis without being a circular explanation.

        That entails that, in order to show that the Resurrection hypothesis (however it is defined) can explain the empty tomb and the postmortem appearances of Jesus, it is sufficient to show that the Resurrection hypothesis make those items of evidence probable.

        Bracketing out the atoms/schmatoms discussion for the moment, my modified hypothesis seems to explain both the empty tomb and the postmortem appearances. Why is the tomb empty? Because Jesus’ corpse came back to life and exiting the tomb was a good way to fulfill his desire to appear to people. Why did the disciples have postmortem appearances of Jesus? Because Jesus desired to visit them.

        But what you overlook is that there is no reason to hold on R that the postmortem Jesus has the same powers and abilities and psychology as the premortem Jesus.

        I would think that they are the same person would be reason enough.

        The fact is, we have no experience of those who have returned to life again after death and so we have no way of knowing what they would do.

        But we do have people who believe they’ve been given a second chance at life after a brush with death. In the case of near-death experiences, we even have people who believe they have died and returned to life. This experience may result in some changes but the person is not unrecognizable.

        Atoms are destructible; resurrection bodies (somata pneumatika) are not.

        A body is not merely any collection of atoms. Various atoms that make up the body can come and go while the body itself persists.

  • steve hays

    “First, the resurrection body, by definition (I Cor. 15),
    is supposed to be imperishable (immortal, unable to age, get sick, be injured,
    etc.). A body composed of atoms would not have these properties, and, thus, for
    that reason, not be a resurrection body.”

    So Cavin is recycling the same discredited argument he used in The Empty Tomb.

    i) 1 Cor 15 doesn’t define a glorified body in all those terms. The defining property of a glorified body is immortality. It doesn’t grow old. It may also have greater immunity to disease.

    However, that doesn’t mean a glorified body is indestructible. It doesn’t mean a glorified Christian couldn’t die from accidental causes, or snakebite, or drowning. It doesn’t mean the glorified body is fireproof. It doesn’t even mean a glorified body is
    impervious to fatal infection.

    The biblical promise of immortality doesn’t have to pack everything into the nature of a body. Immortality can also be due to divine protection. God protecting the saints
    from harm. The promise of immortality can involve extrinsic conditions as well as intrinsic (bodily) conditions.

    In Scripture, we have examples of God shielding individuals from harm.

    “A Jesus made of atoms would require energy (food) to survive, move, etc.; would thus realize that he’s not immortal, etc.; would be unable to disappear from the tomb and reappear outside and to disappear in Emmaus and reappear in the Upper Room; would quickly realize that he could be injured; and, thus, injured and killed by old his enemies if he re-entered the city to go meet his disciples there, etc.”

    i) Once again, Cavin is burning the same straw man. Immortality doesn’t mean you couldn’t starve to death or die of thirst. Rather, that would be a question of God preventing a glorified saint from starving to death by providing for his nutritional needs. We have examples of that in Scripture, even before the Eschaton.

    ii) Cavin is also making unargued assumptions about how Jesus had to exit the tomb, vanish at Emmaus, or appear in the Upper Room.

    There’s no reason to attribute that to properties of his body. Even before the Resurrection, Jesus performs nature miracles.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      1 Cor 15 uses the terms “imperishable” (“incorruptible”)/”imperishability” (“incorruptibility”). Contrary to Hays, these are the terms it uses to define the Resurrection body. It does also use immortality, but this is in context a subpoint under “imperishably.” That is Paul’s most general category. Clearly, imperishably and immortality are not the same. As the movie Death Becomes Her makes us humorously aware, one can be immortal and not imperishable. Clearly, immortality is a curse if one will still age and can get sick and injured. How Hays can say that “immortality” is the defining category for Resurrection in 1 Cor. 15 is beyond me. The text says it (the body) is sown in weakness, dishonor, corruption, but is raised in glory, power, and incorruption. The idea that a resurrected believer could die again, e.g., have a fatal accident, is laughable. Craig argues in Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection that the resurrection body has all these properties.

      The mere restoration of life to a corpse is not a resurrection. A person who has resuscitated returns to this earthly life and will die again. In Christian teaching, by contrast, resurrection is to eternal life, and a person raised from the dead is immortal. (Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection, pp. 14-15).

      Indeed, this is the essence of the point made by Christian theologians and apologists in distinguishing mere resuscitation (e.g., what happened to Lazarus) from genuine Resurrection (what happened to Jesus and Paul says will happen to all Christians).

      Re: the “Atoms or Schmatoms” Explanatory dilemma

      Nothing Hays has written refutes the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” dilemma. Just the opposite. To say, as he does, that God would have to continually intervene on an ad hoc basis is equivalent to admitting that the Resurrection theory of itself has no explanatory power. We have to add in auxiliary hypotheses about God doing this and that for the post-Resurrection Jesus to get explanatory consequences.

      • steve hays

        Jeffery Jay Lowder

        “Nothing Hays has written refutes the ‘Atoms or Schmatoms?’ dilemma. Just the opposite. To say, as he does, that God would have to continually intervene on an ad hoc basis is equivalent to admitting that the Resurrection theory of itself has no explanatory power. We have to add in auxiliary hypotheses about God doing this and that for the post-Resurrection Jesus to get explanatory consequences.”

        i) Jeff, since you’re changing the subject, there’s nothing for me to refute. To my knowledge, Licona was invoking the explanatory power of the Resurrection to account for the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus.

        He wasn’t citing the Resurrection to explain what would happen to a glorified Christian if (ex hypothesi) he was bitten by a Taipan, eaten by a crocodile, or fell into a lava flow. And, needless to say, Paul wasn’t addressing that hypothetical question in 1 Cor 15.

        ii) Finally, there are different kinds of impossibility. It is impossible for the glorified body to die of old age. That’s a property of the glorified body.

        But glorification doesn’t prevent a saint from dying by other causes. His immunity to death in other cases isn’t a property of his body, but a result of divine protection in the world to come. His body qua body is still vulnerable to harm from external factors. He can’t be killed in the sense that God won’t permit him to die again.

        Biblical eschatology isn’t deistic. The final state doesn’t confer autonomy on the saints. They don’t cease to need God’s providential care.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          This proves that Hays simply doesn’t understand the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” Dilemma. Licona was invoking R to explain the tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus — especially that to Paul from “up” in “Heaven” in “glory.” But the “Atoms” side of the dilemma won’t do this — for the reasons already discussed above — and the “Schmatoms,” i.e., “X-Man,” side won’t do this either because we have no idea what the “X-Man” Jesus is. All the stuff about being “bitten by a Taipan, eaten by a crocodile, or fell into a lava flow.” is just icing on the cake. That Hays focuses on this, instead of the dilemma itself, shows that he fails to understand.

      • steve hays

        Jeffery Jay Lowder:

        “Nothing Hays has written refutes the ‘Atoms or Schmatoms?’ dilemma. Just the opposite. To say, as he does, that God would have to continually intervene on an ad hoc basis is equivalent to admitting that the Resurrection theory of itself has no explanatory power.”

        Except for the awkward little fact that I didn’t say God would have to continually intervene on an ad hoc basis. You’re assuming a
        particular model of how God relates to the world. If you’re going to deploy that model against my position, then you need to defend your model.

        Divine protection doesn’t require God to “continually intervene on an ad hoc basis.” Consider some models in which that’s not the case:

        i) Take a possible worlds framework. On that model, there’s a possible timeline in which a glorified saint is exposed to life-threatening dangers, as well as another possible timeline in which he avoids those dangers. God protects the glorified saint by instantiating the timeline in which he is never exposed to those hazards. That doesn’t require God to “continually intervene on an ad hoc basis.” Rather, it’s a choice
        between God instantiating one alternate history or another, in toto.

        ii) Or take predestination, where everything that happens or doesn’t happen is prearranged according to God’s master plan for the world.
        Divine protection doesn’t require God to “continually intervene on an ad hoc basis.” Given predestination, everything happens according to plan. Divine protection is part of the plan, not in spite of the plan. BTW, (i) & (ii)
        aren’t mutually exclusive.

        iii) You also have Christian occasionalists like Jonathan Edwards, George Berkeley, and Arnold Geulincx who subscribe to continuous divine causation. That’s not my own position, but given that position, there’s
        never a moment when God isn’t active in world affairs.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          If, as Hays says, the Risen Jesus is only “immortal” but not “imperishable,” then, assuming that he is still and will forever be alive, God has had to, is, and will forever have to intervene every femtosecond (or less) to keep the Risen Jesus from dying, aging, etc. At least if He keeps the same laws of nature we have now! This is ad hoc since nothing in the concept of “resurrection,” according to Hays, requires that God so act. Furthermore, to explain the gospel Easter narratives, e.g., Jesus dematerializing/ materializing, or, as Hays idiosyncratically suggests, becoming invisible/visible, God will have to intervene on an ad hoc basis, since R alone will not do the job. Unfortunately for Hays, the laws of nature, specifically, quantum mechanics, are incompatible with the kind of predestination he has in mind. Note, moreover, that the predestination hypothesis is yet another ad hoc device that must be “glued onto” R in order for the (alleged) facts of Easter to be explained.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      I want to expand on my previous reply. This expanded reply is not intended to be a reply to Hays’ reply to my reply.

      To repeat what I said yesterday, even if Hays were right that ‘incorruptible’ is equivalent to ‘immortal,’ which he is not, this still wouldn’t show that the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” dilemma is false. Immortality is more than enough for the “schmatoms” side. The atomic elements, e.g., carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen (and the protons, neutrons, and electrons of which they are made) are not immortal. Nor can God make them immortal, which would be equivalent to God making a bachelor happily married. So Hays is thus forced to move (unwittingly) to the “schmatoms” side, and, in so doing, deprive R of any testable implications. In other words, Hays, for all his quibbles about the meaning of ‘aphtharsia’ ['incorruptibilty'], has still not shown that R — and thus P(E|B&R) — is defined. He hasn’t given R a testable meaning. Again, what I would expect Hays to say next is that God can change atoms so that they are still atoms but now immortal. But, to repeat, this would be equivalent to saying that God can change bachelors so that they are still bachelors but now happily married.

      However, Hays is not right: ‘incorruption’ is not equivalent to ‘immortal.’ The following argument of Hays, in particular, contains a huge inductive non-sequitur:

      The word translated ‘imperishable’ entails the negation of
      corruptibility and as such was also a common word for immortality,
      although the more literal word for immortality will feature along with
      this word in the climactic vv53-54,” Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner,
      The First Letter to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Nottingham:
      Apollos, 2010), 811-13. So the word in question is a period synonym
      for “immortality.”

      Obviously ‘imperishable’ is equivalent to ‘incorruptible,’ and, therefore, is an antonym for ‘corruptible.’ Obviously, too, since whatever is incorruptible is immortal, one could use the stronger term ‘incorruptible’ instead of the weaker term ‘immortal’ in certain contexts, i.e., those in which it wouldn’t matter that one was thereby saying more than merely that something is immortal, and thus, in only this sense, Hays is right to say “as such was also a common word
      for immortality.” However, as I pointed out yesterday, it is a blatant non-sequitur for Hays to conclude from this that

      the word in question ['aphtharsia'] is a period synonym for “immortality.”

      Just because ‘aphtharsia’ [incorruptibility], as a stronger term than
      ‘athanasia’ [immortality], can be used in the aforementioned contexts
      instead of that weaker term, it hardly follows that it is a synonym for
      it. Then, beyond this, clearly ‘corruptibility’ pertains to the ability
      of flesh to undergo decay/decomposition; and, therefore, conversely,
      ‘incorruptibility’ pertains to the inability of flesh to undergo decay
      and decomposition. But disease, aging, and injury are all forms — at
      the organ, tissue, cellular, and organelle levels — of decay and
      decomposition. It thus follows that that which is incorruptible is
      incapable of disease, aging, and injury. As I also wrote yesterday,
      Hays also overlooks the fact — emphasized by Craig and others — that
      Jesus is represented as saying that the resurrected are “like the
      angels in heaven.” But angels are not merely immortal. Hays also
      states:

      “Power” is not a property of the glorified body.
      “Raised in power” is a divine passive. It refers to the power of God in
      raising the dead to life.

      He provides no evidence for this claim, and Craig and others provide arguments for the exact opposite. (I do not have time to rehearse them here.) The same holds for “glory.” It is bizarre and, therefore, hard to believe that Paul and the early Christians went around preaching that the dead would be merely raised ‘immortal’! That would be a horrible curse! Imagine spending eternity like Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her:
      immortal but with skin peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, Alzheimer’s, etc. Who’d sign up for this kind of “salvation.” Annihilation would be infinitely preferable!

      Then think about the Resurrected Jesus himself. If Hays were right and ‘incorruptibility’ meant nothing more than ‘immortality,’ then unfortunately for the Resurrected Jesus, he’d be, just like his followers, merely immortal with skin eventually peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, etc. That would be a horrible fate for the Resurrected Jesus. After 500 years he’d look like a shriveled up prune, and he’d have such a bad case of Alzheimer’s that he wouldn’t remember who he was. When he got out of the tomb on the first Easter Sunday — I guess by kicking the stone “plug” out of the entry passage and hurting his feet — his enemies would easily recognize him and try to kill him. Since he’d be immortal, they couldn’t succeed, but, since on Hays’ view immortality is not freedom from disease, aging, and injury, the Resurrected Jesus’ enemies could inflict a considerable amount of damage to his body (especially since he could only walk or run away on his painfully injured feet): they could cut off his arms, light him on fire, poke out his eyes, dip him in acid, pierce him with lances, give him a cold, leprosy, HIV, etc. The “Resurrected” Jesus would still be “alive,” but just barely. After they were through, no one would be able to recognize him. Whatever the precise details, this version of R has negligible power to explain the facts of Easter. Note, moreover, that Hays contradicts himself. He says, on the one hand, that ‘incorruptibility’ only means ‘immortality,’ but then states:

      there are hypothetical situations in which the body of a glorified saint would be vulnerable to injury or death.

      So then the Resurrected Jesus — although “raised in glory” and immortal — could die after all! This makes no sense!

      • steve hays

        Jeffery Jay Lowder:

        “Obviously ‘imperishable’ is equivalent to ‘incorruptible,’ and, therefore, is an antonym for ‘corruptible.’ Obviously, too, since whatever is incorruptible is immortal, one could use the stronger term ‘incorruptible’ instead of the weaker term ‘immortal’ in certain contexts, i.e., those in which it wouldn’t matter that one was thereby saying more than merely that something is immortal, and thus, in only this sense, Hays is right to say ‘as such was also a common word for immortality.’…Just because ‘aphtharsia’ [incorruptibility], as a stronger term than ‘athanasia’ [immortality], can be used in the aforementioned contexts instead of that weaker term, it hardly follows that it is a synonym for it.”

        Jeff keeps repeating the same mistake. He begins with his assumption that aphtharsia is conceptually equivalent to indestructibility. From this initial misstep, he proceeds to argue that indestructibility is a stronger concept than immortality. Therefore, the fact that Paul allegedly uses the weaker term doesn’t confine Paul’s analysis to the weaker term. For the weaker term is consistent with the stronger term, which goes beyond the weaker term.

        But the problem with this argument is that Jeff hasn’t established on lexical or exegetical grounds that aphtharsia (“imperishable, incorruptible”) is a stronger term than “immortal.”

        Is the concept of indestructibility synonymous with the concept of immortality? No, but that’s irrelevant–for Jeff keeps assuming what he needs to prove concerning the semantic import of the Greek word. He hasn’t even demonstrated that aphtharsia *means* “invincible.”

        Moreover, there’s a difference between words and concepts. Jeff is operating with the concept of invincibility rather than the sense of the word. That commits the word-concept fallacy.

        “Then, beyond this, clearly ‘corruptibility’ pertains to the ability of flesh to
        undergo decay/decomposition; and, therefore, conversely, ‘incorruptibility’ pertains to the inability of flesh to undergo decay and decomposition. But disease, aging, and injury are all forms — at the organ, tissue, cellular, and organelle levels — of decay and decomposition. It thus follows that that which is incorruptible is incapable of disease, aging, and injury.”

        i) Jeff is committing the word-concept fallacy.

        ii) In addition, Jeff is equivocating. To say the glorified body is “incapable” of injury is ambiguous. For there are different kinds of impossibility.

        iii) Apropos (ii), Jeff is raising a more specialized issue than 1 Cor 15 was
        designed to address. Paul wasn’t answering a question about whether or not the glorified body is fireproof, bulletproof, &c. He’s not dealing with
        hypothetical scenarios like that. Jeff is reading far more into the text than
        Paul was discussing. Jeff is reframing the original discussion, as if Paul was answering a very different question.

        By contrast Paul addressing the possibility of a resurrection. And he’s also discusses the resurrection of the body as an antidote to mortality.

        “As I also wrote yesterday, Hays also overlooks the fact — emphasized by Craig and others — that Jesus is represented as saying that the resurrected are ‘like the angels in heaven.’ But angels are not merely immortal.”

        I specifically responded to that objection. Jeff presents no
        counterargument.

        “He provides no evidence for this claim, and Craig and others provide arguments for the exact opposite. (I do not have time to rehearse them here.)”

        i) Craig is not a NT scholar, much less a Pauline scholar. Why should he be the first person we turn to interpret 1 Cor 15? When he did become the standard of comparison?

        ii) Does Jeff not know what a divine passive is? That’s a standard construction in Biblical usage.

        iii) “Raised in power” is a shorthand expression for what Paul previously said in the same letter: “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).

        “The same holds for ‘glory.’”

        In actuality, nothing holds for “glory,” inasmuch as Jeff fails to even explain, must less defend, his interpretation. As Pauline commentators like Thiselton, Rosner, and Ciampa point out, doxa here means “honor,” as the antonym for “dishonor,” in Paul’s antithetical parallelism. “Honor” is a relation, not a property. To be *held* in honor.

        “It is bizarre and, therefore, hard to believe that Paul and the early Christians went around preaching that the dead would be merely raised ‘immortal’! That would be a horrible curse! Imagine spending eternity like Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her: immortal but with skin peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, Alzheimer’s, etc. Who’d sign up for this kind of ‘salvation.’ Annihilation would be infinitely preferable!”

        This is the third time Jeff has trotted out that movie. He keeps illustrating his flawed methodology. Once again, Jeff is committing the word-concept fallacy.

        You can’t derive a full-blown concept of glorification from words like aphtharsia or doxa. Jeff is repeating the word-study fallacies that James Barr took to task in his celebrated review of Kittel.

        “Then think about the Resurrected Jesus himself. If Hays were right and
        ‘incorruptibility’ meant nothing more than ‘immortality,’ then unfortunately for the Resurrected Jesus, he’d be, just like his followers, merely immortal with skin eventually peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, etc. That would be a horrible fate for the Resurrected Jesus. After 500 years he’d look like a shriveled up prune, and he’d have such a bad case of Alzheimer’s that he wouldn’t remember who he was.”

        i) Jeff is raising the question of whether glorification merely brings people back to life in the condition they were at the time of death. Likewise, he’s raising the question of whether glorification merely turns back the clock, so that a newly glorified body will undergo the same process of senescence all over again. Unfortunately, Jeff lacks the intellectual discipline or hermeneutical savvy to distinguish that question from what Paul is teaching in 1 Cor 15. But 1 Cor 15 is simply silent on many ancillary issues concering the resurrection.

        The question is whether glorification merely restores the dead to life, or whether it restores the dead to a pristine condition. I never said or suggested that glorification immortalizes the decedent’s physical condition at the time of death. But exegesis isn’t supposed to answer questions beyond the scope of the text. Jeff is trying to make Paul say more than he says.

        “When he got out of the tomb on the first Easter Sunday — I guess by kicking the stone ‘plug’ out of the entry passage and hurting his feet — his enemies would easily recognize him and try to kill him. Since he’d be immortal, they couldn’t succeed, but, since on Hays’ view immortality is not freedom from disease, aging, and injury, the Resurrected Jesus’ enemies could inflict a considerable amount of damage to his body (especially since he could only walk or run away on his painfully injured
        feet): they could cut off his arms, light him on fire, poke out his eyes, dip
        him in acid, pierce him with lances, give him a cold, leprosy, HIV, etc. The
        ‘Resurrected’ Jesus would still be ‘alive,’ but just barely. After they were
        through, no one would be able to recognize him. Whatever the precise details, this version of R has negligible power to explain the facts of Easter.”

        i) I realize Jeff thinks that’s oh-so witty, but his witticisms are unwittingly witless. The doctrine of the resurrection is a theological construct, based on many lines of exegetical evidence. The fact that Jeff misinterprets and overinterprets 1 Cor 15 doesn’t mean my corrections yield his alternative. Unfortunately for him, Jeff lacks the critical detachment to distinguish his own framework from my framework. Because he equates atoms with resuscitation, he imputes his equation to me, to generate his cutesy parody. That’s yet another intellectual failing on his part. Apparently, Jeff is so conditioned by his own paradigm that he can’t even think outside his paradigm.

        ii) BTW, Jesus was perfectly capable of defending himself against any and all assailants even before the Resurrection.

        “So then the Resurrected Jesus — although ‘raised in glory’ and immortal — could die after all! This makes no sense!”

        i) Why is Jeff unable to draw a rudimentary distinction between a hypothetical vulnerability and an actual vulnerability? Does he imagine that every hypothetical vulnerability is a live possibility?

        ii) Moreover, as I already explained to him, something can be possible in one respect, but impossible in another. Does Jeff not understand counterfactuals?

        To say, for instance, that a glorified body would combust if (ex hypothesi) heated to 20 million Kelvin is not to say that that’s a realistic prospect. Why is it necessary to keep explaining elementary distinctions to Jeff?

        But Jeff’s biggest problem is that he needs 1 Cor 15 to mean certain things to provide an easy target for Cavin. So he tries to make it mean whatever he needs it to mean, rather than respecting the fairly limited parameters of Paul’s discussion.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          Ultimately this is a Red Herring. Suppose that Hays is correct in everything he says here. None of it is crucial to the “Atoms” side of the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” Dilemma, for exactly the same reasons as given above.

          But is Hays right in what he says here? “Aphtharsia” is translated, not as “immortality” (there is a different Greek term for that), but as “imperishability.” This word choice was not arbitrary. Perishability is (like corruptibility) the ability to decompose. When food perishes, that is exactly what it does. When dead flesh perishes, that is precisely what it does. Aging, injury, sickness, and death are all — equally — forms of “perishing.” “Perishing” (like “corruptibility”) is a process that takes place on the organ, tissue, cellular, organelle, and macromolecular level. Thermal energy (which all atoms have) is constantly causing molecules in normal living bodies to decompose — to perish — and the body is constantly having to replace these. That’s ultimately why we have to eat. It’s not that dead bodies decompose and living bodies don’t. The truth is that both bodies are constantly undergoing decomposition. The difference is that a living body is also constantly replacing decomposed macromolecules and organelles with newly manufactured ones, whereas dead bodies cannot. Thus, there is no misstep here. Imperishability is a far stronger concept than immortality. That which is imperishable is, ipso facto, immortal; but not vice versa. One hardly needs to consult a Greek lexicon to see this. The translators of the Greek NT already have.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          i) Craig is not a NT scholar, much less a Pauline scholar. Why should he be the first person we turn to interpret 1 Cor 15? When he did become the standard of comparison?

          ii) Does Jeff not know what a divine passive is? That’s a standard construction in Biblical usage.

          iii) “Raised in power” is a shorthand expression for what Paul
          previously said in the same letter: “And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Cor 6:14).

          Craig is a scholar of the Resurrection, and has undertaking detailed word-studies and exegesis of the key passages of 1 Cor. 15 in his book Assessing. He also makes extensive use of other Pauline scholars. Hays, in contrast, keeps referring to one book by Eerdmans. It seems as though Hays has found a book — one favorable to his interpretation versus numerous others which are unfavorable — to support his point. Hays offers no proof that 1 Cor. 15 is using “raised in power” as a divine passive. “Sown in weakness” is not a divine (or human) passive. Hays offers no prove that the divine passive is “standard construction in Biblical usage.” Even if he were right, it would not follow that Paul is following suit here. Hays offers no proof that 1 Cor. 6:14 uses “raised in power” as shorthand for “raise us up by his power.” Clearly, they do not mean the same thing.

          “The same holds for ‘glory.’”

          In actuality, nothing holds for “glory,” inasmuch as Jeff fails to even explain, must less defend, his interpretation. As Pauline commentators like Thiselton, Rosner, and Ciampa point out, doxa here means “honor,” as the antonym for “dishonor,” in Paul’s antithetical parallelism. “Honor” is a relation, not a property. To be *held* in honor.

          Note that Hays fails to explain or defend his interpretation. Again, Craig and other experts on the Resurrection disagree in their interpretation of 1 Cor. 15. From the fact that “doxa” is contrasted with “dishonor” it hardly follows that it means “honor.”

          “It is bizarre and, therefore, hard to believe that Paul and the early Christians went around preaching that the dead would be merely raised ‘immortal’! That would be a horrible curse! Imagine spending eternity like Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her: immortal but with skin peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, Alzheimer’s, etc. Who’d sign up for this kind of ‘salvation.’ Annihilation would be infinitely preferable!”

          This is the third time Jeff has trotted out that movie. He keeps illustrating his flawed methodology. Once again, Jeff is committing the word-concept fallacy.

          Hays is not responding to the point. He is simply trying to be funny: “trotted out that movie.” It is clear that Hays here is missing the point of the comment. It’s pointing out low prior probability of Hays’ view. I’m sure that the authors of the Eerdmans commentary upon which he relies have never studied inductive reasoning and haven’t the faintest idea what prior probabilities are.

          You can’t derive a full-blown concept of glorification from words like aphtharsia or doxa. Jeff is repeating the word-study fallacies that James Barr took to task in his celebrated review of Kittel.

          “Then think about the Resurrected Jesus himself. If Hays were right and ‘incorruptibility’ meant nothing more than ‘immortality,’ then unfortunately for the Resurrected Jesus, he’d be, just like his followers, merely immortal with skin eventually peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, etc. That would be a horrible fate for the Resurrected Jesus. After 500 years he’d look like a shriveled up prune, and he’d have such a bad case of Alzheimer’s that he wouldn’t remember who he was.”

          i) Jeff is raising the question of whether glorification merely brings people back to life in the condition they were at the time of death. Likewise, he’s raising the question of whether glorification merely turns back the clock, so that a newly glorified body will undergo the same process of senescence all over again. Unfortunately, Jeff lacks the intellectual discipline or hermeneutical savvy to distinguish that question from what Paul is teaching in 1 Cor 15. But 1 Cor 15 is simply silent on many ancillary issues concering the resurrection.

          The question is whether glorification merely restores the dead to life, or whether it restores the dead to a pristine condition. I never said or suggested that glorification immortalizes the decedent’s physical condition at the time of death. But exegesis isn’t supposed to answer questions beyond the scope of the text. Jeff is trying to make Paul say more than he says.

          Granted, 1 Cor. 15 is silent on much. But it doesn’t follow that it is silent on glorification. “Doxa” is not the only term used there. It uses “immortality,” “power,” “glory,” and “imperishability.” It says that “flesh and blood,” i.e., “human nature,” i.e., destructibility, cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          “When he got out of the tomb on the first Easter Sunday — I guess by kicking the stone ‘plug’ out of the entry passage and hurting his feet — his enemies would easily recognize him and try to kill him. Since he’d be immortal, they couldn’t succeed, but, since on Hays’ view immortality is not freedom from disease, aging, and injury, the Resurrected Jesus’ enemies could inflict a considerable amount of damage to his body (especially since he could only walk or run away on his painfully injured feet): they could cut off his arms, light him on fire, poke out his eyes, dip him in acid, pierce him with lances, give him a cold, leprosy, HIV, etc. The ‘Resurrected’ Jesus would still be ‘alive,’ but just barely. After they were through, no one would be able to recognize him. Whatever the precise details, this version of R has negligible power to explain the facts of Easter.”

          i) I realize Jeff thinks that’s oh-so witty, but his witticisms are
          unwittingly witless. The doctrine of the resurrection is a theological construct, based on many lines of exegetical evidence. The fact that Jeff misinterprets and overinterprets 1 Cor 15 doesn’t mean my corrections yield his alternative. Unfortunately for him, Jeff lacks the critical detachment to distinguish his own framework from my framework. Because he equates atoms with resuscitation, he imputes his equation to
          me, to generate his cutesy parody. That’s yet another intellectual failing on his part. Apparently, Jeff is so conditioned by his own paradigm that he can’t even think outside his paradigm.

          ii) BTW, Jesus was perfectly capable of defending himself against any and all assailants even before the Resurrection.

          Hays isn’t refuting the point here; he’s merely ridiculing it. That’s no argument. Moreover, Hays fails to understand that the “Atoms” side of the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” Dilemma is no different in essentials from resuscitation. Alien-Jesus, Beast-Jesus, etc., are all made of atoms and are, thus, mortal, subject to injury, sickness, aging, etc. The Romans would have a field day with “Atoms-Jesus” in any form. Only if Jesus were pure neutronium would he be anywhere near impervious to destruction. Of course, if he were pure neutronium, he couldn’t do anything, except just exist.

          Hays is living in Fantasyland at Disneyland! The pre-Risen Jesus was made of atoms and, therefore, he was completely corruptible in every way: mortal, subject to injury, illness, aging, death, and destruction. He had no power beyond what the ordinary man has to defend himself against potential assailants.

          i) Why is Jeff unable to draw a rudimentary distinction between a hypothetical vulnerability and an actual vulnerability? Does he imagine that every hypothetical vulnerability is a live possibility?

          ii) Moreover, as I already explained to him, something can be possible in one respect, but impossible in another. Does Jeff not understand counterfactuals?

          *To say, for instance, that a glorified body would combust if (ex hypothesi) heated to 20 million Kelvin is not to say that that’s a realistic prospect. Why is it necessary to keep explaining elementary distinctions to Jeff?

          But Jeff’s biggest problem is that he needs 1 Cor 15 to mean certain things to provide an easy target for Cavin. So he tries to make it mean whatever he needs it to mean, rather than respecting the fairly limited parameters of Paul’s discussion.

          Let’s see: vulnerability is the ability to be harmed in some way, i.e., the possibility of being harmed. Then what is an “actual vulnerability”? The actual possibility of being harmed? And then what is a “hypothetical vulnerability”? The ‘possible’ possibility of being harmed?

          Hays overlooks, once again, that any living body made of atoms will — due to thermal motion alone — eventually self-destruct. This is not a mere possibility — an un”realistic prospect,” but an ultimate certainty. “Atoms-Jesus” cannot escape the Earth’s gravity — he cannot ascend “up” into “Heaven” (wherever that is!). But, as we know, in 5.5 billion years, the sun will swell to become a red giant engulfing the Earth and even so hot as to fry Europa to a total crisp. It’s certain that “Atoms-Jesus” still on Earth at that point will combust, any, instantaneously vaporize!

          None of this relies in the slightest on 1 Cor. 15. That is Hays’ red herring.

  • http://www.facebook.com/calumiller Calum Miller

    Just for fullness, copying my response to this from the other blog:

    This is really quite ambiguous because of its annoying IBEesque-ness. I’m not really sure what it means to say that x is the best explanation of y. But in any case, there are problems with Cavin’s analysis. It’s hard to see what “viciously circular” can mean when talking about an explanation – I know what it means when we’re talking about arguments, but not explanations. Lots of colloquial expressions of explanations, when put more formally, entail the data, but this hardly makes them viciously circular. If I am wondering why there is a chair in my room and someone says “Bill put it there”, I’m hardly inclined to call that a viciously circular explanation just because it entails the data (when conjoined with some uncontroversial auxiliary hypotheses). Indeed, part of the whole point of explanation is to render the data probable – and deductive-nomological explanations, which most people take to be quite good ones, even make it certain. But that’s not problematic. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding Cavin, though – perhaps he’s suggesting that Licona is saying that the hypothesis and data are basically identical. But that would obviously be a ridiculously uncharitable misreading of Licona – clearly the data Licona are referring to are the appearances to the disciples of *what seemed to them to be Jesus*, and the explanation he is advancing is that someone who was *actually* Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Licona’s use of natural language is a bit colloquial and doesn’t make this absolutely blindingly obvious (though, honestly, I really think it is) is hardly something to fault him on.

    Cavin then seems to just assert that the resurrection hypothesis no more explains these data than Jones’ getting out of bed explains the data he gives. He doesn’t seem to me to give any reason to believe this, and it seems quite obviously false. And Cavin follows this up by saying that we need to appeal to postmortem activities of Jesus to explain the data. Well, *obviously* to give a *full* explanation of the data (i.e. one which entails the data), we need to do so. But that hardly seems problematic. We often give explanations of things which don’t involve entailment relations between the explanation and data, but this is hardly problematic. We very often need to add auxiliary hypotheses for that (cf. the Duhem-Quine problem, and just about any Bayesian treatment of it), but that doesn’t go anywhere near implying that therefore the hypothesis doesn’t have explanatory power, which Cavin seems to suggest. And, of course, Cavin neglects that whether a theory has explanatory power is not only a function of the likelihood (in the technical, Fisherian sense) of the hypothesis, but also a function of the likelihood of the negation of the hypothesis. Even if P(data|resurrection) = 0.1, the resurrection still has overwhelming explanatory power if, for example, P(data|~resurrection) = 10^(-10). But Cavin’s analysis seems to neglect this entirely. The same point applies to Cavin’s discussion of ad hoc-ness, though this discussion has the additional impoverishment of not realising that whether a theory is ad hoc is not so much to do with how probable the auxiliary assumptions are on our background knowledge alone, but to do with how probable the auxiliary assumptions are given our background knowledge AND our explanatory hypothesis. And in any case, the auxiliary theses Cavin suggests are not really ones which the resurrection hypothesis requires. Since when did anyone base their case for the resurrection on the ascension? I may be ignorant here, but I think it’s at least fair to say that *most* resurrection proponents don’t do that.

    I honestly don’t know where to begin with the atoms vs schmatoms stuff. I don’t mean as a malicious jibe; but I just honestly can’t see where to begin discussing. If you want me to offer a rebuttal I can try.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      1. re: “viciously circular”: see my definition of “circular explanation” in this post.

      2. re: “Cavin then seems to just assert that the resurrection hypothesis no more
      explains these data than Jones’ getting out of bed explains the data he
      gives”: see my interpretation of what I think Cavin means by “ad hoc” in this post. For the record, I think appealing to auxiliary hypotheses is fine so long as they are made probable either by the ‘main’ hypothesis or existing background knowledge.

      3. re: “atoms vs. schmatoms”: see my formulation of the argument in this post.

      • http://www.facebook.com/calumiller Calum Miller

        1. Right, and it seems that my point about colloquialism stands. The data are that Jesus’ tomb was empty, and that his disciples had appearances of what seemed to them to be Jesus. Licona’s hypothesis is that Jesus actually was raised from the dead, left his tomb and appeared to his disciples. It’s hard to see how that satisfies the first criterion of your definition of a circular explanation.

        2. Sure, but it seems very plausible, given the theological context of the resurrection and Jesus’ teaching in his life (which will depend a lot on how plausible one thinks it is that, for example, Mark 14:28 is authentic), that Jesus would show his resurrected self to people who were likely to recognise him, or at least to someone. It hardly seems plausible that Jesus, raised from the dead by God, would be content to sit in his tomb playing Solitaire, not letting anyone find out that he’d been raised. Surely most sincere people would be inclined to think that P(empty tomb|resurrection & ministry & background knowledge) > P(Jones is skydiving|Jones woke up one morning 3 years earlier), would they not? In any case, the parable doesn’t really work, because Christians who affirm “Jesus was raised from the dead” aren’t *attempting* to *fully* explain the empty tomb, for example (in the hypothetico-deductive sense). They are saying that the empty tomb is evidence for Jesus’ resurrection. And obviously we are both agreed (I hope) that P(explanandum|explanans) does not have to be particularly high for the explanandum to strongly confirm the explanans. After all, Jones being seen at a club later that day IS very good evidence that Jones woke up that day! So for these reasons I can’t see that this objection has much traction.

        3. Of course, it depends partly on what we mean by atoms, but let’s simplify things by stipulatively defining atoms as things essentially having the same characteristics we currently think atoms have according to standard atomic theory, with the relevant physical powers and liabilities, such that God would have to suspend these laws for Jesus’ appearances to occur in the manner they did. I take this to be a reasonably charitable reading of the argument, but I am open to correction. Then there seem to be at least two options open to the Christian. The first, obvious option is to say that God suspended the natural laws and allowed atoms to behave differently. Given that the Christian is already likely to be positing the suspension of natural laws in resurrecting Jesus, this is hardly a difficulty for them. The second option is to say that it was made of schmatoms. And then one could simply deny (3). (3) is not likely to strike any schmatom-believing, Bayesian Christian as remotely plausible and really needs to be substantiated before anyone accepts it as plausible. What is the reasoning for it? Is it that anything which is not an atom is thus utterly unpredictable? That we have absolutely no grasp of the probability distribution over an algebra when conditioned on something not being an atom? These seem obviously implausible, but it’s not clear what the argument is supposed to be. So I don’t think any Christian needs to take this objection seriously unless it’s fleshed out in a lot more detail.

        • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

          1. Right, and it seems that my point about colloquialism stands. The data are that Jesus’ tomb was empty, and that his disciples had appearances of what seemed to them to be Jesus. Licona’s hypothesis is that Jesus actually was raised from the dead, left his tomb and appeared to his disciples. It’s hard to see how that satisfies the first criterion of your definition of a circular explanation.”

          Your point about colloquialism misses C&C’s logical point. Furthermore, you’ve misstated L’s hypothesis. Again, here is how he defines it in his own words.

          “Following a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, Jesus appeared to a number of people, in individual and group settings and to friends and foes, in no less than an objective vision and perhaps within ordinary vision in his bodily raised corpse.”

          L’s hypothesis says nothing about an occupied tomb becoming empty; indeed, Licona didn’t appeal to the empty tomb in his debate with Cavin! But let’s put that to the side and focus on the postmortem appearances. As L defines it, the Resurrection hypothesis is circular because it doesn’t describe how or why the post-Resurrection Jesus appeared to people. Again, all that L actually offers is what is aptly called a “theory sketch” or “theory fragment,” that is, what remains of a theory once its key elements have been removed (except that, in this case, the key elements have never been specified by L to begin with).

          Here’s an analogy that might help further illustrate the problem. Suppose two people, Natty and Theo, are talking about the existence of first life on Earth (E).

          Theo: E is evidence for theism and against naturalism since theism makes E highly probable.

          Natty: Not so fast! There is a naturalistic explanation for E just as good or better than theism.

          Theo: And what explanation is that?

          Natty: The explanation is what I call the “abiogenesis hypothesis.” I hereby define the hypothesis as follows: “Following a naturalistic event of an indeterminate nature and cause, first life emerged on Earth.”

          Theo: But that’s a circular ‘explanation.’ It tells us nothing about how first life could have emerged naturalistically. The abiogenesis hypothesis reduces to this: “I have no idea how or why first life emerged, but it did and, I’m sure, God had nothing to do with it.” The title, “abiogenesis hypothesis,” simply names the problem to be solved. That hypothesis mystifies the emergence of first life. Mystification is the opposite of explanation.

          Similarly, to talk about the “Resurrection hypothesis” as an “explanation” simply names the problem to be solved.

          Explanation is epistemic in nature, and it involves expectation, which is epistemic. If R does not lead one to expect E more than ~R does, then R is a weak explanation. If it doesn’t lead us to hardly expect E at all, or, even worse, if there’s no way on R to tell what to expect and to what degree (even roughly) to expect it, then R is not even weak, but no explanation at all. Remember, explanation is epistemic in nature, i.e., it is justified degree of belief, in particular, justified degree of expectation. This must be greater on R than it is on ~R for R to be the “best” explanation, and this cannot be indeterminate — which it is — if R is to even constitute a “minimal” explanation.

          Resurrectionists seem oblivious to this, but only when they’re discussing R. It’s interesting how they suddenly do understand it when it comes to the specific “naturalistic” alternatives. They complain that one would not expect E on these theories. And they specifically challenge the anti-Resurrectionist to explain how, say, the mass hallucination theory H explains the empty tomb and the postmortem appearances of Jesus. The implication or argument here being:

          1. H sucks as an explanation for E in that E is improbable on H; or, if it’s not, then the anti-Resurrectionist has to explain how H is able to explain E, how H leads to the expectation of E.

          2. But this can’t be done.

          3. H sucks as an explanation for E.

          The irony is that when we anti-Resurrectionists demand that these
          Resurrectionists explain how R can explain E (by raising the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” dilemma), they say they don’t have to. Licona did that repeatedly during his debate with Cavin. “I can assert that R explains E even if I can’t explain how. And I don’t have to be able to explain how.” Massive double-standard going on here.

          • http://www.facebook.com/calumiller Calum Miller

            Thanks for responding, Jeffery. I’m still not clear whether you expect a good explanation to entail the data or not. It’s also not clear to me that explanations need to be fully mechanistic. Indeed, I think talking about mechanisms obscures the real issue. Surely what we really want to know is the value of P(R|E), where R =df Jesus was raised from the dead by God and E = {e: e is a piece of relevant evidence we have}. It’s hardly obvious that in order for me to hold that P(T|R) > P(T|¬R) (where T =df Jesus’ tomb was found empty three days after his crucifixion), I need to specify R in greater detail. Perhaps mechanisms and the “why?” question give us further grounds for thinking that P(T|R) > P(T|¬R) (or e.g. that P(T|R) >> P(T|¬R)), and perhaps it gives us more grounds for saying that R is an explanation of T. But they’re not really necessary to make these kinds of judgments. Perhaps it would be most useful to leave Licona’s case aside since he’s not even intending for it to be Bayesian (though I still don’t really see how it’s “circular” in any detrimental sense, according to your definition).

            Your complaint about resurrectionists seeming “oblivious” to the fact that P(E|R) must be greater than P(E) for R to explains E seems unfair. Firstly, because many resurrectionists do agree with you, and secondly (and more pedantically), because it might even be that R increases the probability of E given some background knowledge but not given other background knowledge. So it’s not clear that there is such thing as E confirming R simpliciter – only on some given background knowledge.

            But anyway, I’m not really sure what’s wrong with the following account. Let R = God raised Jesus from the dead. E = Jesus was not in his tomb three days later. K = background knowledge, including knowledge about Jesus’ ministry. Then we can give an artificially precise value of 0.01 to P(E|¬R&K). We wouldn’t really expect Jesus’ tomb to be found empty if all we knew was that he was dead. Sure, P(E|¬R&H1&K) might be a lot higher where H1 is some auxiliary hypothesis, but then this will only boost P(E|¬R&K) insofar as P(H­­1|¬R&K) is probable, which we are reasonable to suppose isn’t the case. But P(E|R&K) seems relatively probable. If you really want to ask for an explanation of how, we could say that, plausibly, Jesus left his tomb and didn’t go back, leaving it empty. If you want to push the hypothetico-deductive model, we could add an auxiliary hypothesis L = Jesus left his tomb and didn’t return before the third day. Then P(E|R&L&K) = 1, and it hardly seems reasonable to ask how R&L&K explains E. If we have the hypothesis that Jesus was raised from the dead by God, left his tomb, and didn’t return, what more is there to explain about why he wasn’t in the tomb? P(L|R&K) seems moderate – we wouldn’t really expect Jesus, risen from the dead, to just stay in his tomb counting sheep or vandalising the walls – and so it would follow that P(E|R&K) is moderate. Then E confirms R over ¬R relative to background knowledge K. What’s wrong with this account?

          • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

            Hi Calum–

            I think it’s absolutely essential we are clear by what we mean by “explanation.” Since I think that issue lies at the core of our disagreement, please indulge me while I quote one paragraph from my last comment.

            “Explanation is epistemic in nature, and it involves expectation, which is epistemic. If R does not lead one to expect E more than ~R does, then R is a weak explanation. If it doesn’t lead us to hardly expect E at all, or, even worse, if there’s no way on R to tell what to expect and to what degree (even roughly) to expect it, then R is not even weak, but no explanation at all. Remember, explanation is epistemic in nature, i.e., it is justified degree of belief, in particular, justified degree of expectation. This must be greater on R than it is on ~R for R to be the “best” explanation, and this cannot be indeterminate — which it is — if R is to even constitute a “minimal” explanation.”

            I’d now like to turn to your most recent comments and explain why I think your response shows a confusion about explanation.

            I’m still not clear whether you expect a good explanation to entail the data or not.

            Please allow me to state as plainly as I can that a good explanation need only make the data probable. A good explanation need not entail the data. I am not “pushing the hypothetico-deductive model,” as you suggest.

            It’s also not clear to me that explanations need to be fully mechanistic.

            I haven’t claimed that explanations need to be fully mechanistic. What I have argued is that a non-circular explanation is informative insofar as it states how or why the evidence is to be expected.

            Indeed, I think talking about mechanisms obscures the real issue.

            Again, I said that a good explanation needs to address “how” (a mechanism) or “why” (which could include an agent’s intention or purpose).

            Surely what we really want to know is the value of P(R|E), where R =df Jesus was raised from the dead by God and E = {e: e is a piece of relevant evidence we have}.

            If R is supposed to explain E, then R should lead us to expect E more than ~R does. What we have is simply the claim that R should lead us to expect E; what we do not have is a defense of that claim. Please look again at my fictitious conversation between Theo and Natty about the “abiogenesis hypothesis.” The claim that R explains E is no better justified than Natty’s claim that the “abiogenesis hypothesis” explains first life.

            It’s hardly obvious that in order for me to hold that P(T|R) > P(T|¬R) (where T =df Jesus’ tomb was found empty three days after his crucifixion), I need to specify R in greater detail. Perhaps mechanisms and the “why?” question give us further grounds for thinking that P(T|R) > P(T|¬R) (or e.g. that P(T|R) >> P(T|¬R)), and perhaps it gives us more grounds for saying that R is an explanation of T. But they’re not really necessary to make these kinds of judgments.

            Again, the whole point of C&C’s critique is a logical critique. I could be wrong, but I strongly suspect that (a) you are unintentionally conflating your R with various auxiliary hypotheses about Jesus’ post-Resurrection activities; (b) are equivocating on the meaning of “raise” or “resurrection”; or (c) both. If you avoid (a) and (B), then I think you will see what I am talking about.

            Perhaps it would be most useful to leave Licona’s case aside since he’s not even intending for it to be Bayesian (though I still don’t really see how it’s “circular” in any detrimental sense, according to your definition).

            C&C’s critique doesn’t even depend upon Bayesianism. Suppose we instead adopt an explanationist approach and evaluate Licona’s argument as an inference to the best explanation (IBE), measuring it against criteria of adequacy. The same problems still apply. Licona’s resurrection hypothesis is devoid of “explanatory scope” and “explanatory power” in an IBE sense.

            Your complaint about resurrectionists seeming “oblivious” to the fact that P(E|R) must be greater than P(E) for R to explains E seems unfair. Firstly, because many resurrectionists do agree with you,

            I, of course, disagree that it is unfair. In fact, I think your response further validates my original complaint: you just argued that you can assert R can explain E even if you can’t explain how. But that is equivalent to arguing that you can assert R explains E even if you can’t show how Pr(E|B&R) is greater than (E|B).

            and secondly (and more pedantically), because it might even be that R increases the probability of E given some background knowledge but not given other background knowledge. So it’s not clear that there is such thing as E confirming R simpliciter – only on some given background knowledge.

            I’m not sure why you attribute to me the view that “E can confirm R simpliciter,” since that isn’t my view. In my OP, I explicitly defined explanatory power as “this measures the ability of a hypothesis (combined with background evidence B) to predict (i.e., make probable) an item of evidence.”

            But anyway, I’m not really sure what’s wrong with the following account. Let R = God raised Jesus from the dead. E = Jesus was not in his tomb three days later. K = background knowledge, including knowledge about Jesus’ ministry.

            It would be most helpful if you could directly and explicitly state the propositions you wish to include in the relevant background knowledge.

            … But P(E|R&K) seems relatively probable.

            I, of course, do not agree for reasons outlined in my OP, in this comment (above), and in my other comments.

            What you overlook is that there is no reason to hold on R that the postmortem Jesus has the same powers and abilities and psychology as the premortem Jesus. Imagine if you got a second chance at life. If you were a playboy the first time around, you might well want to be serious the second time around. If you were too serious, maybe the second time all you’d want to do is play. The fact is, we have no experience of those who have returned to life again after death and so we have no way of knowing what they would do.

            You beg the KEY question here by assuming a priori that the postmortem Jesus would have the same goals and interests as the premortem Jesus. Yet our experience shows us that people often radically change when they experience a dramatic event in their life. R will only say that the postmortem Jesus is like the premortem Jesus if R is defined this way. Suppose it is. Then the anti-Resurrectionist will now formulate and advance R’ which states merely that Jesus died and became alive in some sense. What the anti-Resurrectionist is interested in is R’, not R. Why? Because even if the anti-Resurrectionist disproved R with certainty, he would still have to contend with R’. So the anti-Resurrectionist who understands this will say that what he/she wants is an argument against R’, not R per se. R gets destroyed along the way as a component of R’. But the anti-Resurrectionist has no time to deal with R as a separate issue. R is just one sub-hypothesis among countless others under R’. But, then, with R’ as our focus, we are back to where we started, before the Resurrectionist brought up R to get around the vagueness of R’.

            Resurrectionists may say that R makes E more probable than does R’. So what? Since R’ is the real object of interest, what we really have to calculate is:

            P(E|B&R) = P(R|B&R’) x P(E|B&R&R’) + P(~R|B&R’) x P(E|B&~R&R’). [from the theorem of total probability]

            If P(R|B&R’) is small or, better yet, inscrutable, then so is P(R|B&R’). This is all the anti-Resurrectionist needs to say. (And note that I haven’t even gotten into the “Schmatoms” side of the A or S dilemma yet.)

  • steve hays

    “A Jesus made of atoms would require energy (food) to survive, move, etc.; would
    thus realize that he’s not immortal, etc.; would be unable to disappear from
    the tomb and reappear outside and to disappear in Emmaus and reappear in the
    Upper Room.”

    Cavin is assuming that the gospel accounts attribute these abilities to the glorified body of Christ. But he offers no supporting argument to justify that inference or interpretation.

    i) Leaving the tomb doesn’t require Christ to dematerialize for
    him to pass through solid rock. To take one alternative, Jesus could dematerialize the rock. Even before the Resurrection, the Gospels certainly grant him the power to do that.

    Likewise, you could postulate some “transporter” model (a la Star Trek). This is a serious scientific hypothesis:

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/48087875/ns/technology_and_science-science/#.URmKxHGkAbU

    I’m not arguing for that myself. Just pointing out that Cavin is ignoring alternative explanations.

    ii) Becoming visible or invisible (e.g. Emmaus) doesn’t require Jesus to materialize or dematerialize. Rather, this can involve psychological perception. For instance, in 2 Kgs 6, we have a divine-inspired collective hallucination, where the enemy forces misperceive reality. We have a similar incident when Peter escapes from detention (Acts 12). The guards don’t register his escape. In both cases you have a telepathic illusion. It’s possible for an observer not to perceive something that’s actually there, as well as perceiving something that’s not really there.

    iii) Appearing in the Upper Room, behind locked doors, doesn’t
    require Jesus to dematerialize and rematerialize. Compare that to Peter
    escaping from detention, where locked doors miraculous open.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      Hays misses the point of the “Atoms” side of the Dilemma here. (Aside: Certainly the Gospels do attribute supernatural abilities to the body of the Risen Jesus! Craig and all the Christian writers on the Resurrection (R) state this themselves repeatedly. Craig states in Assessing the New Testament Evidence… that the body of the Risen Jesus can materialize and dematerialize at will and go into other dimensions. Hays may not like this. But he’s given no argue that would refute the exegetical arguments of Resurrectionists.) The point is that somehow Jesus had to get out of the tomb, get into Jerusalem, get into Galilee, and ascend “up” into “Heaven” and appear to Paul in heavenly visions of light. A body made of atoms cannot do these things. A body made of atoms cannot be immortal (forgetting about incorruptible). There is no fallacy of composition here. A body of atoms can be taken completely apart. A body that has been taken completely apart is no longer living (and no longer a body); it is mortal. Of course, Hays will say that God can step in on a completely ad hoc basis and work a continuous string of special miracles to (1) keep the mortal body of Jesus from being taken apart, e.g., by the same parties who gave him over to be crucified or by the Romans themselves and to (2) get Jesus out of the tomb and “up” into the clouds and then through them into “Heaven.” And that is right. But what Hays overlooks is that it will then no longer be R that is doing the explaining of the NT Easter traditions–it will be these myriad of ad hoc auxiliary hypotheses that will be doing all the work. Thus, Hays does nothing to undermine the “Atoms” side of the “Atoms or Schmatoms” Dilemma.

  • Pingback: MUST READ: Greg Cavin’s Case Against the Resurrection of Jesus

  • Bradley Bowen

    Jeff Lowder said:

    If we modify Licona’s hypotheses by removing the explicit references to the appearances, the remaining content isn’t very informative. The Resurrection hypothesis becomes the claim that there was

    a supernatural event of an indeterminate nature and cause, [involving] Jesus [as a] bodily raised corpse.

    The problem, of course, is that this modified Resurrection hypothesis no longer predicts the empty tomb and the appearances (or, at least, it no longer makes the appearances more probable than the hypothesis that Jesus was not resurrected does.)

    =====================
    Comment:

    It seems to me that a living Jesus is more likely to exit the tomb than a dead Jesus, although somebody else could have moved a dead Jesus. If Jesus was alive and trapped in the tomb, then he probably would have yelled for help. So, a living Jesus is much more likely than a dead Jesus to get himself out of the tomb, and a living Jesus is also more likely to get assistance leaving the tomb than a dead Jesus (because he could yell for help). If someone had planned to move the body of Jesus then that person would probably attempt to do so even if Jesus was still alive (unless yelling from inside the tomb scared them away).

    It just seems like common sense to me that a living Jesus is more likely to leave the tomb than a dead Jesus. If so, doesn’t the pared-down hypothesis still make the empty tomb evidence more likely than the negation of the pared-down hypothesis?

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      It all depends on the theory being used to explain the empty tomb. If we are talking about resuscitation, then I think the following holds:

      Pr(empty tomb | resuscitated Jesus) > Pr(empty tomb | dead Jesus).

      If, however, we are talking about resurrection (and Jesus’ “schmody” is made of “schmatoms”), then it seems there is no way to justify this:

      Pr(empty tomb | resurrected Jesus) > Pr(empty tomb | dead Jesus).

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

      There’s one other point I forgot to mention. Even the “pared-down hypothesis,” by itself, would be at best negligibly likely to lead to the empty tomb. It’s only after we conjoin the “pared-down hypothesis” with an auxiliary hypothesis (e.g., the living Jesus yelled for help and someone on the outside moved him) that we get anything more than a negligible increase in explanatory power.

      Notice, too, that when we start adding auxiliary hypotheses, they don’t come for free. We have to consider the probability of the auxiliary hypothesis conditional upon the core hypothesis and we have to consider the probability of the auxiliary hypothesis conditional upon our background knowledge. It may be the case that whatever gains we get in explanatory power are offset by decreases in prior probability. Whether that is so is something that has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. This is why it’s essential to determine which hypothesis enjoys the greatest overall balance of prior probability and explanatory power. (And, of course, if we are going to add an auxiliary hypothesis to R, we can also add an auxiliary hypothesis to ~R. For example, ~R combined with, say, the grave robber hypothesis.)

      The above comments are not directed at Bradley, who I know already knows this.

    • http://angramainyusblog.blogspot.com/ Angra Mainyu

      A living Jesus (with a body made of atoms) would not be at all likely
      to result in the kind of appearances described in the Bible. For instance, in order to appear and disappear, pass through walls, etc., to the best of our knowledge he’d have to be quantum-tunnelling all around, and that’s so improbable that, for all intents and purposes, its probability is zero (almost, but the difference is negligible),
      unless of course some entity beyond our understanding of the world helps him out, but in that case, those appearances are not predicted by the living Jesus hypothesis alone.

      Moreover, there is the issue of several of the disciples’ failure to recognize him, even after talking to him for considerable time, side by side, etc., which is essentially psychologically impossible for those disciples, unless you introduce shape-shifting powers in Jesus, but that’s another hypothesis, not the resurrection hypothesis
      itself.

      ETA: Sorry, I didn’t mean to reply so late. I didn’t see the date before replying, and I thought the post was recent.

  • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Even if Hays were right about “immortal,” which he is not, he hasn’t shown that the “Atoms or Schmatoms” dilemma is false. Atoms (protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, etc.) are not immortal. Nor can God make them immortal, which would be equivalent to God making a bachelor happily married. Again, as I wrote in the original post:

    In contemporary physical chemistry, I think, each molecule is defined as composed of a certain number of atoms of a certain subset of the elements in a certain configuration, and element is, turn, defined as composed of X number of protons, neutrons, electrons, etc., and that each of these particles is defined as having a certain mass, charge, spin, half-life, etc.

    So Hays is forced to move (unwittingly) to the “schmatoms” side, and, in so doing, deprive R of any testable implications.

    Then, moving on, Hays’ exegesis of Paul is idiosyncratic. This, in particular, is a huge inductive non-sequitur:

    The word translated ‘imperishable’ entails the negation of corruptibility and as such was also a common word for immortality, although the more literal word for immortality will feature along with this word in the climactic vv53-54,” Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans; Nottingham: Apollos, 2010), 811-13.
    So the word in question is a period synonym for “immortality.”

    He also overlooks the fact — emphasized by Craig and others — that Jesus is represented as saying that the resurrected are “like the angels in heaven.” But suppose Hays were right. Then the resurrected would be like Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her–immortal with skin peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, etc. And that still wouldn’t touch the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” dilemma. Immortality is more than enough for the “schmatoms” side. Hays’ statement:

    there are hypothetical situations in which the body of a glorified saint would be vulnerable to injury or death.

    is laughable. If that’s what the risen Jesus is like, that’s pretty scary. But the main point is that Hays has still not shown that R — and thus P(E|B&R) — is defined. He hasn’t given R a testable meaning.

    Again, what I would expect Hays to say next is that God can change atoms so that they are still atoms but now immortal. But, to repeat, this would be equivalent to saying that God can change bachelors so that they are still bachelors but now happily married. Yes, God as an omnipotent being can do anything which is logically possible. But since atoms are by definition not immortal, if God were to change atoms to be immortal, by definition he would be changing atoms into something else (“schmatoms”). So, again, we are back to the “Atoms or Schmatoms” Explanatory Dilemma.

    • steve hays

      Jeffery Jay Lowder:

      “Even if Hays were right about ‘immortal,’ which he is not…”

      Notice that Jeff is merely asserting that I’m wrong, rather
      than demonstrating his claim.

      “…he hasn’t shown that the ‘Atoms or Schmatoms’ dilemma is
      false.”

      To the extent that the alleged dilemma is predicated on
      misinterpretations of biblical prooftexts, that’s a false dilemma.

      “Atoms (protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, etc.) are not
      immortal.”

      i) Jeff is committing the composition fallacy. To say that individual atoms are “mortal” does not entail that something made of atoms is mortal. To the extent that we define a body in terms of atoms, what makes a body immortal is not the constituent atoms, but the pattern. The pattern can be permanent even if the atoms are impermanent.

      Jeff’s objection is equivalent to saying a one-mile stretch
      of river isn’t the same river an hour later due to the turnover of water molecules. Yet what makes it the same stretch of river isn’t the same water molecules, but the same overall pattern. Even if all the water molecules change over the course of an hour–with newer water molecules replacing previous water molecules–it’s the same stretch of river.

      ii) BTW, for Jeff to say atoms are “mortal” is a category mistake. Atoms aren’t alive or dead. Even if you think biological life is
      reducible to atoms, atoms aren’t living entities.

      iii) Likewise, if you define a person in terms of his memories, character traits, &c., you could transfer the same person to a
      different body.

      “So Hays is forced to move (unwittingly) to the “schmatoms” side, and, in so doing, deprive R of any testable implications.”

      That only follows based on Jeff’s false dichotomy, where he
      arbitrarily defines atoms as mortal and shmatoms as immortal.

      “Then, moving on, Hays’ exegesis of Paul is idiosyncratic.”

      Another assertion bereft of argument.

      “This, in particular, is a huge inductive non-sequitur.”

      Jeff posits a non-sequitur, then quotes me. But he gives no
      argument to justify his claim that my explanation was “a huge inductive non-sequitur.”

      “He also overlooks the fact — emphasized by Craig and others — that Jesus is represented as saying that the resurrected are ‘like
      the angels in heaven.’”

      Notice, once again, that Jeff isn’t presenting an actual argument. But let’s briefly examine the passage he’s alluding to:

      “34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Lk 20:34-36, ESV).

      i) In what respect are they like angels? What’s the comparison? In context, they are analogous to angels with respect to immortality.

      ii) They are not analogous to angels with respect to incorporeity, for the passage says “worthy” humans will be resurrected. But
      angels won’t be resurrected. Angels don’t die. They don’t bodies. So the context involves a contrast between mortality and immortality, not between physicality and nonphysicality.

      iii) That receives corroboration from 24:37-43, which goes out of its way to accentuate the physicality of the Resurrection.

      iv) Keep in mind, too, that this passage has reference to
      levirate marriage. Mortality was the specific presupposition of levirate marriage. To replace a dead husband so that her widow could have kids by the brother-in-law. So, once again, the context involves a contrast between mortality and immortality, not between physicality and nonphysicality.

      BTW, I’m interpreting the passage the same way as Lukan
      commentators like Joel Green, John Nolland, and C. F. Evans,

      “But suppose Hays were right. Then the resurrected would be like Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep in Death Becomes Her–immortal with skin peeling off, gaping holes in the stomach, deep wrinkles, etc.”

      Jeff hasn’t even begun to explain how he derives that conclusion from what I wrote.

      “Hays’ statement: ‘there are hypothetical situations in which the body of a glorified saint would be vulnerable to injury or death.’ is
      laughable. If that’s what the risen Jesus is like, that’s pretty scary.”

      This is the second time Jeff has said my argument is “laughable.” But adjectives are a sorry substitute for arguments. When is Jeff
      going to present something resembling an actual counterargument?

      Jeff’s final paragraph simply repeats the same question-begging assertions he made before.

      • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Jeffery Jay Lowder

        “Even if Hays were right about ‘immortal,’ which he is not…”

        Notice that Jeff is merely asserting that I’m wrong, rather
        than demonstrating his claim.

        “…he hasn’t shown that the ‘Atoms or Schmatoms’ dilemma is false.”

        To the extent that the alleged dilemma is predicated on
        misinterpretations of biblical prooftexts, that’s a false dilemma.

        Again, Hays simply fails to understand the “Atoms or Schmatoms?” Dilemma. It has nothing to do with the biblical “prooftexts.” That issue is simply a red herring that Hays is using to divert the attention of those reading this blog from the real issue — the non-existent explanatory power of R.

        “Atoms (protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, etc.) are not immortal.”

        i) Jeff is committing the composition fallacy. To say that individual atoms are “mortal” does not entail that something made of atoms is mortal. To the extent that we define a body in terms of atoms, what makes a body immortal is not the constituent atoms, but the pattern. The pattern can be permanent even if the atoms are impermanent.

        Jeff’s objection is equivalent to saying a one-mile stretch of river isn’t the same river an hour later due to the turnover of water molecules. Yet what makes it the same stretch of river isn’t the same water molecules, but the same overall pattern. Even if all the water molecules change over the course of an hour–with newer water molecules replacing previous water molecules–it’s the same stretch of river.

        It has already been shown above that the fallacy of composition is not being committed here. Hays fails to get the point that because atoms are not indestructible, bodies made out of them cannot be either. Here the properties of the parts — atoms — does hold for the whole — the body. The “atoms” body is made out of organs, themselves composed of tissues, which are, in turn, made of cells, which once again are made of organelles, which, ultimately, are made of macromolecules, molecules, and ions. If the latter are widely separated from one another, the body will die and be decomposed. Furthermore, even if the molecules were not taken apart, they would eventually decay into their sub-atomic constituents, thereby destroying the body.

        ii) BTW, for Jeff to say atoms are “mortal” is a category mistake. Atoms aren’t alive or dead. Even if you think biological life is reducible to atoms, atoms aren’t living entities.

        iii) Likewise, if you define a person in terms of his memories, character traits, &c., you could transfer the same person to a different body.

        “So Hays is forced to move (unwittingly) to the “schmatoms” side, and, in so doing, deprive R of any testable implications.”

        That only follows based on Jeff’s false dichotomy, where he arbitrarily defines atoms as mortal and shmatoms as immortal.

        Atoms aren’t alive? Duh! Hays misses the metaphor. Say you could transfer the same person to a different body. That wouldn’t be RESURRECTION of the body. That would be — literally — REINCARNATION! Atoms are defined as “mortal” by contemporary physics. “Schmatoms” aren’t defined as anything other than not being atoms. They aren’t defined as immortal. Hays again misses the point.

        “He also overlooks the fact — emphasized by Craig and others — that Jesus is represented as saying that the resurrected are ‘like the angels in heaven.’”

        Notice, once again, that Jeff isn’t presenting an actual argument. But let’s briefly examine the passage he’s alluding to:

        “34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection” (Lk 20:34-36, ESV).

        i) In what respect are they like angels? What’s the comparison? In context, they are analogous to angels with respect to immortality.

        ii) They are not analogous to angels with respect to incorporeity, for the passage says “worthy” humans will be resurrected. But angels won’t be resurrected. Angels don’t die. They don’t bodies. So the context involves a contrast between mortality and immortality, not between physicality and nonphysicality.

        Angels don’t have bodies? Where does Lk. 20-34-36 say that? This is an eisogetical figment of Hays’ imagination.

        “Hays’ statement: ‘there are hypothetical situations in which the body of a glorified saint would be vulnerable to injury or death.’ is laughable. If that’s what the risen Jesus is like, that’s pretty scary.”

        This is the second time Jeff has said my argument is “laughable.” But adjectives are a sorry substitute for arguments. When is Jeff going to present something resembling an actual counterargument?

        Jeff’s final paragraph simply repeats the same question-begging assertions he made before.

        Ask any Christian whether he would serve a “risen” Jesus would can age, get sick, be lanced by the Romans again, be blow to smithereens by an H-bomb, etc. Ask any Christian whether he himself would want such a body. End of argument.

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  • steve hays

    Hi Jeff,

    Since I doubt many readers are still visiting this old thread, I’ve posted a response to your latest comments on my own blog:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2013/03/bungling-resurrection.html