[Editor: Clashdaily.com believes editorially the evidence supporting the Christian Scriptures and Christianity in general is solid and defensible. We offer the following not to undercut that conviction, but to offer our readers — we hope — an opportunity to provide responses to it.]
Hold your pants on, Petunia.
This is not a rant against the resurrection of Jesus. Rather, it’s an appeal to apologists to consider how their arguments resonate to their opponents.
At issue is The Case for Christ. The film is a dramatization of the book by the same name. It’s currently in theaters. I saw it last week.
The story follows the life of Lee Strobel as he journeys from atheism to evangelicalism. Strobel employed his skills as an investigative reporter to lampoon Christianity. If he could disprove the resurrection of Jesus, Strobel figured he could debunk the entire religion.
His arguments are rock solid, iron clad, and slam dunk to most evangelicals. To skeptics, however, they are a package of Swiss cheese.
Imagine you’re at a basketball game. The fans in red-and-white cheer as those decked out in black-and-gold boo and hiss. With no other information, we can surmise the answer to this question: The referee called the foul against which team?
The answer: The foul was called against Purdue. It’s made apparent by the reaction of the fans. The Indiana University fans were eyewitnesses to the same event. Nonetheless, the fans of the opposing teams “saw” something totally different.
The phenomenon is called ‘confirmation bias.’ IU fans saw a foul. No doubt about it. The Purdue fans saw horrific officiating. No doubt about it.
Confirmation bias is our innate “tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories.”
Evangelicals see Strobels’ arguments as a fair and reasonable call. Skeptics boo and hiss. To convince skeptics, Christian apologists must look beyond confirmation bias and consider their arguments as seen through the eyes of the opposing team.
Examples? We have plenty.
• Apologists are unfazed by the absence of original manuscripts to which we can compare our current Bibles for accuracy. Many extant manuscripts are closer to the originals than other ancient works of literature such as Homer’s The Odyssey or, more recently, the works of Shakespeare.
Ignored by apologists — but not skeptics — is the fact that the Domesday Book originals rest securely at The National Archives at Kew, London and can be viewed online.
If England can preserve the original Doomsday Book from 1086 A.D., why couldn’t God preserve his original manuscripts?
How would apologists answer that objection to the satisfaction of skeptics?
• Apologists present a mountain of extant documents to validate the veracity of the Bible. Skeptics see a mountain of discrepancies.
Theologian John Mill invested his entire 30-year career comparing ancient biblical manuscripts. He ultimately identified 30,000 discrepancies. That was nearly 300 years ago. Today the body of discovered manuscripts has grown substantially. So has the number of discrepancies. In fact, there are so many discrepancies that no one has bothered to count them.
More extant manuscripts translates into more discrepancies, skeptics complain. The lone original manuscript, as in the Domesday book, is preferred.
How would apologists answer that objection to convince skeptics?
• Apologists argue that ten of the twelve disciples were martyred; something they would not have allowed had they known the resurrection didn’t happen.
That slam dunk argument needs tweaking as skeptics don’t buy it. The reason? Aside from church tradition, there is no extra-biblical record of the disciples’ deaths. The earliest record I could find — circa 1200 A.D. — was that of Bartholomew. In other words, no one actually knows how the disciples died.
The problem is this: Evangelicals appear to be looking for affirmation, not conclusive arguments. The Case For Christ provides much affirmation; few conclusive arguments.
• Apologists point to Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians in which the apostle states that more than 500 eyewitnesses saw the resurrected Jesus near Jerusalem. Were the story not accurate, they say, locals would have called Paul out on it.
How would apologists answer the following objections from skeptics?
First, Paul’s epistle was written about twenty years after the event. Bumping into an eyewitness would be unlikely. Second, the epistle was sent to Corinth, a city located 1,884 miles from Jerusalem if traveling by land. The chances of finding an eyewitness in Corinth twenty years after the event would be extraordinarily unlikely.
What’s more, eyewitness accounts are not considered highly dependable as apologists often claim. In fact, the research of psychologist Elizabeth Loftin concludes that eyewitness accounts are incredibly undependable as evidence.
That doesn’t disprove the resurrection. It is, however, reason for Christian apologists to delve into their arguments and make them more persuasive.
Let’s revisit the scenario.
A group of hundreds of individuals gathered where he was seen. Many testified to that fact, though some of the witnesses have since died. Still, there are many corroborating and collaborating testimonies. Some of those testimonies can be seen and heard of YouTube.
The person they met was the aging Adolf Hitler when he was the guest of honor at a posh hotel in Argentina in the mid-1960s.
One last time: The above information is not intended to disprove the resurrection of Christ, but to emphasize the human tendency to satiate itself with confirmation bias and accept arguments that, while affirming to the fans in red-and-white, do little convince their opponents.