The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 6

The Logic of the Resurrection – Part 6 May 29, 2015

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

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

Therefore:

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

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Abbreviations:

(JRD) Jesus rose from the dead.

(JSG) Jesus is the divine Son of God.

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In terms of symbolic logic, the argument is this:

(2b) (JRD)  implies  (JSG).

Therefore:

(1b)  (JSG)  implies  (JRD).

I argued for an alternative interpretation, but let’s stick with Drange’s interpretation for now and see where he leads us.

As mentioned previously, Drange points out that (1a) does not follow logically from (2a).  The inference is invalid.

Drange also objects to the truth of premise (2a):

 But, in fact, it [the claim that Jesus “rose from the dead”] does not entail any of them [any of nine different theological claims about Jesus, including that Jesus is “the Son of God”]. …His resurrection might have been produced by voodoo magic.  Or it might have been produced naturalistically, say through the work of highly advanced extraterrestrials. (TET, p.56-57)

Basically, the resurrection is thought to have theological significance, but that is true only on the ASSUMPTION that God performed the resurrection of Jesus.  As Drange notes, if some other being or power caused Jesus to rise from the dead, then the resurrection of Jesus does not have the theological significance that Hodge,  and Christian believers in general, attach to that (alleged) event.  Thus, (JRD) is not sufficient, by itself, to logically imply or prove (JSG).  Additional assumptions are required.

Then Drange considers the truth of Hodge’s conclusion (1a), and he rejects this conclusion:

The Resurrection was in no way necessary for that [for Jesus to be “the Son of God”].  Christ could still have been and could still be the Son of God even if his earthly body had been destroyed.   It is the spirit and/or soul that is supposed to live on. …it is his spirit and/or soul that could play the divine role of “Son”, just as it was presumably his spirit and/or soul that lived and was the Son of God prior to his advent on earth. (TET, p.58)

Since Jesus was the Son of God prior to having a physical body, it is clearly possible for Jesus to continue to be the Son of God without having a physical body after his death.

Drange makes other arguments showing that the Resurrection of Jesus is also not necessary for the truth of various other theological claims about Jesus.

Drange is correct on both counts.  (JRD) is NOT a sufficient condition for (JSG), and (JRD) is NOT a necessary condition for (JSG).  So, if Hodge or any other Christian believes that the resurrection of Jesus is the most important fact of history because they think that (JRD) is a sufficient condition of (JSG) or because they think that (JRD) is a necessary condition of (JSG), then they are sadly mistaken.  There is no such simple and direct logical relationship between the resurrection of Jesus and various theological claims about Jesus, such as that “Jesus is the divine Son of God.”

However, there may be some sort of logical relationship between these claims, a logical relationship that is less simple or less direct.

For example, (JRD) might be a premise of a key argument in support of (JSG).  If so, then even though there is no simple and direct logical relationship between these two claims, (JRD) could be an important fact, because of a role it plays in an apologetic argument for (JSG), an argument that might go like this (see Part 3):

(JRD) Jesus rose from the dead.

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

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

Therefore (probably):

(GRJ) God raised Jesus from the dead.

(JCD)  Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.

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

Therefore (probably):

(JSG) Jesus is the divine Son of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) It is NOT the case that (JRD).

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

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

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

Therefore:

(7)  It is NOT the case that (JSG).

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

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Anti-Christian Argument based on the Negation of the Resurrection

(3a)  ~ (JRD).

(4a)  (JPR).

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

(6a) (JFP)  implies ~ (JSG).

Therefore:

(7a) ~ (JSG).

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