The following dialogue was a quick one in a crowded discussion room. On the fly, it is difficult to give adequate answers; but the more you know, the better you can do. I can only hope that this conversation went well enough to be used by the Lord to accomplish His will in this person's life.
This dialogue began because a topic was offered stating that Christians were mentally disturbed. I jumped in by asking a question.
Matt: Why are Christians mentally disturbed?
Tom: Because they believe in things for which there is no evidence and that is irrational indeed.
Matt: But they would offer the eyewitness' accounts of the Bible, the fulfilled prophecies, etc., as some form of evidence. To say there is NO evidence is inaccurate. It would seem that you just don't like their evidence.
Tom: You are assuming that the "eyewitness accounts" are worthy of being called "evidence."
Matt: Why not? Is not eyewitness' testimony in a court valid?
Tom: I would contest that seemingly impossible happenings could be witnessed.
Matt: You can contest it, but that does not invalidate the evidence. The eyewitness' accounts are there.
Tom: So you are saying the evidence is valid?
Matt: You tell me. They claim to have eyewitness' accounts recorded down.
Tom: So you are saying that if someone says they witnessed something then it must be true?
Matt: The accounts seem to be consistent with archaeological evidence of times and places.
Tom: What are you trying to prove by this assertion?
Matt: I am only trying to get you to think. Logic can help find error in thinking.
Tom: I do plenty of thinking.
Matt: To say there is NO evidence is an illogical statement since you cannot know all evidence.
Matt: The Christians claim evidence in the eyewitness' accounts of Christ. I am asking why it isn't valid.
Tom: I am not disputing that Christ existed.
Matt: Are you disputing the eyewitness' accounts?
Tom: But what are you claiming that this evidence supports?
Matt: The evidence supports what it supports.
Tom: What proposition are you trying to establish?
Matt: If eyewitnesses see Jesus rise, is it possible that it could be true?
Tom: Hume said that no one should ever believe a miracle had taken place unless it would be a greater miracle that the person reporting the miracle was either mistaken or lying.
Matt: Why would the eyewitnesses lie? Why didn't the Jewish community say Christ did not rise? I am talking about the evidence. What does the evidence of the eyewitnesses suggest? Does it suggest that Christ rose from the dead? Or, does it suggest they were all liars?
Tom: Why would anyone believe that Jesus rose from the dead, when it is clear from all our experience that people do not do that?
Matt: You beg the question. You assume the thing you are trying to prove.
Tom: It does not suggest to me that Christ rose from the dead.
Matt: If there is a god, is it not logical to say Jesus could have risen . . . since he claimed to be God.
Tom: You are presupposing that there is a god.
Matt: I said, IF there is a god. That is not a presupposition. Follow the logic.
Tom: So what if there isn't a god?
Matt: If there is no God, then the resurrection cannot happen, correct?
Matt: But, if the eyewitness reported a physical resurrection, then wouldn't that suggest that there is a God? Again, what does the evidence suggest?
Tom: How is the supposed resurrection of a human suggestive of the existence of a divine being? Surely there is NO logical connection there?
Matt: You asserted that it couldn't happen because it just doesn't happen. I am simply asking what the evidence suggests.
Tom: So if it did happen, why would that suggest that God exists?
Matt: Okay, since the eyewitnesses saw him die, and saw him after three days of being dead, then isn't that evidence of the supernatural?
Matt: A resurrection would be supernatural, right? You stated that things like that don't happen. I am asking what the eyewitness' evidence suggests. Simple.
Tom: If a dead and stinking body rose from the dead, then it would be supernatural yes. So, the so-called eyewitness accounts are either mistaken or downright lies.
Matt: The third option is that they are accurate and true.
Tom: Why would one suppose that?
Matt: If you miss all the logical options, then how can you possibly draw accurate conclusions? Again, I ask you, what does the evidence suggest?
Tom: So you think that it is more "logical" to assume that the eyewitness accounts of Jesus rising from the dead are accurate and true rather to suppose that they are the products of mistakes or lies?
Matt: Mistakes are certainly possible. But, can all the witness be mistaken? That they lied is also possible, but why die for a lie? Remember, the Christian apostles died for the resurrection of Christ. Why would they do that if it were a lie? They had nothing to gain except being ostracized, ridiculed, and dying for what they believed.
Tom: You are forgetting the motivation factor.
Matt: Did they not see Him die? Did they not see him after the resurrection? These are the accounts of eyewitnesses.
Matt: So, please offer some rational explanation for their consistent and repeated mistakes by all the disciples and/or their intent to lie about what they claimed they saw.
Tom: If I were to produce several eye witnesses who assured you that they had seen a giant ladybird lumbering down the street singing "land of hope and glory" would you believe them?
Matt: You are not addressing the questions I have asked. You offered a theory. Can you back up your theory with logic and/or evidence?
Tom: The onus is not on me to disprove that which according to all our knowledge of the universe could not possibly take place.
Matt: You offered two alternative theories to account for the resurrection. I am asking you to somehow substantiate them. If you cannot offer some rational reason for your theories, then why do you hold them? Is it because you presuppose that the resurrection could not occur? I suspect that you must simply dismiss the evidence without logical reason.
Tom: I have given a rational reason as to why I think that the resurrection did not occur.
Matt: So, if that is the case, if you cannot offer something suitable in place of it, then you have no point at all.
Matt: What is that rational reason that the resurrection did not occur?
Tom: That all our experience of the universe tells us that dead and stinking bodies do not return to life.
Matt: Really? "All" our experience? So, the experience of the eyewitness is not valid? You dismiss it. On what basis: because it contradicts your presupposition?
Tom: You didn't address my point about the giant ladybird, did you?
Matt: The facts should determine that--not a belief that makes an assumption as you have done.
Matt: So, you simply dismiss the eyewitness' accounts because they do not agree with your presupposition, isn't that correct?
Tom: And YOU cannot assume that "so called" eyewitness accounts of things which happened two thousand years ago are any indication of truth.
Matt: I am not assuming. I am simply asking you to tell me what the evidence suggests. But all you have done is dismiss the evidence. I do not consider that to be a good way to determine truth.
Tom: Ok I am dismissing the evidence because I do not consider it to be valid.
Matt: But you have not given a valid reason for invalidating the evidence.
Tom: Do YOU have a valid reason for assuming that it IS valid?
Matt: The evidence for its validity is that it is eyewitness' accounts recorded and corroborated by other writers of the New Testament, and there is no contradictory evidence of the resurrection of Christ offered by the Romans or the Jews of that time period.
Tom: Well, excuse me if I don't roll over and accept it.
Matt: The eyewitnesses then died for their faith later--based upon the resurrection. They had watched Christ die.
Tom: SO WHAT???
Matt: The most logical thing to assume is that He rose from the dead.
Tom: Oh it is is it?
Matt: Yes, it is. Think about it. There is no contradictory evidence for the resurrection. Many people attested to it. The Jews and the Romans left NO writings contradicting it. The Christian witnesses ended up dying for it. Why would I NOT believe it?
Tom: You are being totally illogical. So you would take the so called eyewitness accounts of people and hold them in greater account than all our present knowledge of how the universe operates????????
Matt: No, it is you--you are being illogical. You do not know how the universe operates. Therefore, the resurrection is possible.
Tom: You are placing your personal need to believe these things above all rational thought.
Matt: You presuppose the resurrection could not happen and contradict the evidence. Is that logical?
Tom: You are prostituting your intellect in favor of a selfish need to believe.
Matt: You are not a good mind reader. I see that you have run out of answers and are now attacking me personally. I think this conversation is over.
Tom: Fine by me. Goodbye.
Matt: I will return another time, and perhaps we can have another conversation after you've thought this through more carefully.
Tom: No I don't think so. I don't wish to talk to you again
This dialogue was interesting in that Tom refused to back up his denial of the resurrection with anything other than an argument that "It just can't happen." I offered him questions that he failed to answer regarding the apostles and their willingness to die for their faith. Please note, however, that dying for one's faith doesn't prove anything--the faith is true. But, dying for the belief in the resurrection of Christ is a powerful commentary on the beliefs of the apostles; namely, that they all believed in Jesus' bodily resurrection. It would take something major to move the apostles away from their Jewish beliefs and culture which led to their deaths as martyrs. Tom offered nothing substantial in place of this and simply said that I was being illogical. If I am illogical, then demonstrate the illogic of my statements instead of saying that the universe operates a certain way and Jesus' resurrection isn't possible. In so doing, he simply begs the question. That is, he assumes the thing he is trying to prove.
I would have like to have pressed him even more on this issue of logic and evidence. Perhaps next time in a similar discussion, I will.