Supernaturalism October 17, 2020

I posted the other day about motivated reasoning and eric commented as follows:

It’s possible to ‘dispassionately argue’ but still be engaging in motivated reasoning. I just don’t think that’s really the case here.

What that would look like is: let’s say Jonathan accepted pretty much every non-christian account of an unsubstantiated miracle, but used the exact same reasoning he uses now, with the same tone, etc., to reject the Empty Tomb argument. He’d still be arguing dispassionately about the Empty Tomb. And we might all even agree with his agrument and think it’s a good one. But he’d also be special pleading against Christianity in that case, because he’s not applying his logic consistently, and we could reasonably infer motivated reasoning from that – i.e. he’s okay with other theologies being supported, but he really doesn’t want Christianity to be true.

The reason that sort of MR-defense doesn’t work here is because skeptics don’t generally accept any miracle claims without substantiation. So there is no special pleading going on in the rejection of Christian miracle claims, they are being treated the same way as any other similar claim by the skeptic. So no evidence for MR.

This reminded me of some sections a little connected to this from the draft of my upcoming book on the Resurrection and it should be seen in the context of a previous post (and section from the book) on the presupposition of supernaturalism or naturalism:

The theist simply does not have this luxury because it all looks very circular.

  • I believe in a world where resurrection is possible.
  • Because I believe in a world in which Jesus was resurrected.
  • Because I have analysed the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and found them a plausible account of the data.
  • Because, feeding into that analysis, 1) I believe in a world where resurrection is possible.

And so the circle goes on, in perpetuity.

Read this again and truly take on board what I am saying here because this is absolutely fundamental to highlighting the foundational issues to the Christian worldview.

The skeptic or naturalist does not dismiss the claims of resurrection in the Easter story out of hand but assesses the evidence put forward in light of what we know about the world and the standard of evidence of the Gospel accounts. Indeed, Stecher replies to Blomberg’s arguments about presuppositions in this way:[1]

I am certainly willing to consider the evidence for the resurrection, just as I call upon Craig to consider the evidence from natural explanations and the problems with the evidence for the resurrection as a fact of history. Both of us, certainly, have presuppositions, but the hope is for both of us to make the strongest possible cases for and against resurrection as history (given the limitations of the format and the voluminous arguments on both sides), then to clarify where and why we differ, and to discover, if possible, where we are in agreement. My position is not that Jesus is resurrection did not happen, but that the evidence is scanned and deeply flawed, contradictory in almost every visit possible way, and are therefore insufficient to establish Jesus is resurrection as a fact of history. Furthermore, I argue, there are many plausible natural explanations to explain why some of Jesus’s disciples might have come to believe that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

And that is pretty much my approach and conclusion in this book.

In a sense, this book should still be strong enough for a supernaturalist who believes in resurrection, for whatever reason, to assess the historical analysis of the Easter story claims and conclude “Although I believe in resurrection being possible, I do not believe the claims of the Easter story have historical veracity because they fail on grounds of probability irrespective of supernaturalist beliefs.”

Hope springs eternal, and, of course, the supernaturalist would then be invalidated in any adherence to Christianity on account of having no evidential foundation to their belief.

[1] Stecher & Blomberg (2019), p. 155-6



Back to me in blog style.

So what I wanted to pique your interest with is the idea that you can have a supernaturalist who, even given a presupposition (when considering the Christian account and worldview) of supernaturalism but necessarily of Christianity, can look at the Resurrection claims and reject them – not based on motivated reasoning and not based on a presupposition of naturalism, but on the basis of whether the evidence actually supports a supernatural hypothesis.

In the meantime, please grab my book on the Nativity (UK):

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