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Source: (consider it) Thread: Christianity without Jesus' physical resurrection? why or why not?
Stejjie
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet:
The canonical gospels are not older. Some are. But some gnostic books are about the same age, and at least the Gospel of Thomas is older.

I don't understand why your Christianity hinges on Jesus' physical rising. Christianity would simply exist differently than it does if our notions about various aspects were different. This is interesting. This is a discussion of what might be and the possibilities.

Thing is, I'm not sure Christianity would exist if not for the physical resurrection of Jesus. Would talk of a "spiritual" resurrection have meant anything to 1st century Jews desperately longing for God to come and set them free from Roman occupation? AIUI, people weren't longing for something "spiritual", in the sense of non-physical: they wanted God to change things right there, in the physical world. In that context, if this new "Jesus Movement" within Judaism had started waffling on about a purely spiritual resurrection, I think it would've been lost on most people, or they'd have simply dismissed it.

Not only that: St. N T of Wright reckons, when messianic movements, similar to the movement that grew up around Jesus, had their "messiah" killed - as often happened - they didn't simply carry on in that person's name or claim that their leader had been raised; they either disbanded or chose one of the leader's relatives to continue in their stead. So after Jesus died, you'd have expected his followers either to have disbanded or become the "James movement" or something like that.

But it didn't: they carried on claiming Jesus as their Messiah and said that his resurrection was the sign of this. So something happened that made them take a course of action quite different from any other movements of their kind - and that was persuasive to the others who joined their movement. I'm not sure talk of a "spiritual resurrection" would've cut it.

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Tea:
This 2002 article claimed that one third of Church of England clergy doubted or disbelieved in the physical resurrection.

Would a survey of Anglican clergy today yield very different results?

It depends how the questions were asked. When I get surveyed, I want to respond 'It depends what you mean by....'

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by StevHep:
quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
if a positive attachment to the stories of Jesus are the foundation of Christianity

'If' is the biggest word you use here. There is no reason to suppose that this is so.
This thread is about about what it is reasonable to assume "Christianity" means. Conservative and fundamentalist Christians like to claim it refers only to their particular set of beliefs. More orthodox members of most churches may want it to mean accepting the creeds their respective institutions have adopted as a basis for membership. But in the world outside church, Christianity can reasonably include any institution, community or individual who has a positive view of God and the Jesus of the Bible.

Your particular beliefs sound broadly evangelical. Clearly Christian, but they don't define Christianity, except perhaps within certain exclusive groups and churches who insist on them as a criteria for membership.

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Anglican_Brat
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quote:
Originally posted by Tea:
This 2002 article claimed that one third of Church of England clergy doubted or disbelieved in the physical resurrection.

Would a survey of Anglican clergy today yield very different results?

There is a difference between "doubted" and "disbelieved."

Disbelieved to me conveys a firm and secure rejection, whereas doubt conveys more of the "I'm not sure of this right now."

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd
you presuppose that the belief is not based on reliable evidence;

Yes. On the basis that there can be no reliable evidence that God physically resurrected Jesus, because it's a claim about an event documented only in stories handed down by those making the claim.
This assertion - without qualification - is a non sequitur.

If I claim that an event occurred, am I not to be trusted as a reliable witness because I claimed that the event occurred?

If that is the case, then no witness testimony is possible, ever, anywhere!

The way you have phrased it is unfortunate, but I assume you mean that those making this claim are not reliable, because they wanted to believe in this event for ideological reasons. Correct me if I am wrong about that. But this is the usual objection from detractors. If this is what you are saying, then it is also a non sequitur, because it doesn't follow that wanting something to occur means that you will lie about it occurring or somehow delude yourself that it has occurred. It also implies that the only trustworthy witnesses of the event are those who are either hostile or indifferent to it. In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, those who were hostile would have had a vested interest in denying it, and those who were indifferent would simply have gone the "way of least resistance" and would have probably not been too keen on affirming an event, belief in which might have got them into a lot of trouble!

Clearly those who welcome an event can be reliable witnesses, if it can be shown that there is no reason for them to lie about its occurrence.

It is clear to me, taking into account the political and religious climate of the time, that the gospel writers had no obvious motive to lie. Furthermore, if the early church had engaged in a huge conspiracy, then I have to say that the presentation of the accounts of the putative events has to rate as one of the most inept examples of contrivance ever to appear within the history of literature. One would have thought that conspirators would at least have made some attempt to harmonise their accounts. Lies are generally slick and polished. Those who speak the truth simply bear witness to what they have seen, and one naturally expects differences of perception, and even some small inaccuracies due to human frailty (wow! Does that mean I am not an inerrantist?!).

[ 29. May 2014, 11:49: Message edited by: EtymologicalEvangelical ]

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Dave Marshall wrote:

Yes. On the basis that there can be no reliable evidence that God physically resurrected Jesus, because it's a claim about an event documented only in stories handed down by those making the claim.

Bit late on this, as I've been mulling it over. But there is a wider problem with supernatural stuff - that there is no method whereby it can be described. Well, people can say, 'I experienced it', which is OK.

But then there no 'limits on possible outcomes'. I mean, that people experience lots of things. How do we separate them out into plausible and implausible?

So using the word 'evidence' in relation to the supernatural is inappropriate, if we are using the term normally.

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
So using the word 'evidence' in relation to the supernatural is inappropriate, if we are using the term normally.

'Normally' being code for: "in accordance with the unproven and unprovable philosophy of naturalism, which ipso facto excludes the operation of any factor outside of or above the closed system as described by what we term 'the Laws of Nature'".

A question begging approach, in other words.

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
So using the word 'evidence' in relation to the supernatural is inappropriate, if we are using the term normally.

'Normally' being code for: "in accordance with the unproven and unprovable philosophy of naturalism, which ipso facto excludes the operation of any factor outside of or above the closed system as described by what we term 'the Laws of Nature'".

A question begging approach, in other words.

No, that's incorrect. You're confusing a naturalistic method, and a naturalistic philosophy. Science uses the method, but does not incorporate the philosophy. In other words, it studies nature, but does not say, 'there is only nature'.

But the term 'evidence' is associated with a naturalistic method - how then can it be applied to the non-natural or supernatural?

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
quote:
Originally posted by Tea:
This 2002 article claimed that one third of Church of England clergy doubted or disbelieved in the physical resurrection.

Would a survey of Anglican clergy today yield very different results?

There is a difference between "doubted" and "disbelieved."

Disbelieved to me conveys a firm and secure rejection, whereas doubt conveys more of the "I'm not sure of this right now."

Doubt? That word alone raises a good point. I wonder if some of our discussion is due to those (I'm one) who always have an element of doubt, in distinction to others who are certain. Doubt-certainty being the polarity.

Is it acceptable to the *certain* to believe at the level of "might have", "could have", "doesn't matter that much either way"? If not why not?

** you don't have to accept my label and I don't mean to be rude with it.

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StevHep
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
quote:
Originally posted by StevHep:
quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
if a positive attachment to the stories of Jesus are the foundation of Christianity

'If' is the biggest word you use here. There is no reason to suppose that this is so.
This thread is about about what it is reasonable to assume "Christianity" means. Conservative and fundamentalist Christians like to claim it refers only to their particular set of beliefs. More orthodox members of most churches may want it to mean accepting the creeds their respective institutions have adopted as a basis for membership. But in the world outside church, Christianity can reasonably include any institution, community or individual who has a positive view of God and the Jesus of the Bible.

Your particular beliefs sound broadly evangelical. Clearly Christian, but they don't define Christianity, except perhaps within certain exclusive groups and churches who insist on them as a criteria for membership.

Broadly Evangelical? Broadly Evangelical! First time this Ultramontane Catholic has been called that. Anyway, I thought this thread was about belief in the Primitive Church not factions in the contemporary one or in the ecclesial communities of the Regormation. The evidence from Acts and the Pauline Epistles is that conversion was always accompanied by the gift of the Spirit, or the gift of the Spirit was always accompanied by conversion. This suggests that attachment to the Jesus stories followed conversion not the other way round which is what you proposed.

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
If I claim that an event occurred, am I not to be trusted as a reliable witness because I claimed that the event occurred?

Not if the event you're talking about happened more than 20 years ago and you're part of a movement committed to a very particular interpretation of whatever occurred. The fact that they were committed enough to still be talking about it long after the fact seems almost irrefutable evidence of some kind of bias. Factor in the nature of claim you're making - a resurrection - and I suspect any fair judge would give your evidence very little credence.
quote:
If that is the case, then no witness testimony is possible, ever, anywhere!
Nonsense. Or if you prefer, a non-sequitur.

quote:
I assume you mean that those making this claim are not reliable, because they wanted to believe in this event for ideological reasons. Correct me if I am wrong about that.
OK. You're wrong about that. I've no idea what the motives were of any particular individual. I suspect most got caught up in whatever local expression of the early church they encountered and took on trust what the leaders said. Much like happens today.
quote:
It is clear to me, taking into account the political and religious climate of the time, that the gospel writers had no obvious motive to lie.
I agree. One of them spelled out that he was telling this story to support a point of view. But any story based on recollections of events 20+ years ago is in itself unlikely to be historically correct in terms of detail. When the actual recollections are tales of sightings of a publically executed man by grieving friends and supporters, fearful that they would be next if they let on they knew him, I don't think it's unreasonable to doubt the writers ever intended their work to be understood as historical fact.

For what it's worth, my take is they were simply recording a myth that had arisen around a charismatic preacher they used to know. More fool us if, 2000 years later, we assume we know better.

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
If I claim that an event occurred, am I not to be trusted as a reliable witness because I claimed that the event occurred?

Not if the event you're talking about happened more than 20 years ago and you're part of a movement committed to a very particular interpretation of whatever occurred. The fact that they were committed enough to still be talking about it long after the fact seems almost irrefutable evidence of some kind of bias. Factor in the nature of claim you're making - a resurrection - and I suspect any fair judge would give your evidence very little credence.

Logic problem here. If something truly extraordinary happens and I witness it, and the event is something that by its very nature has strong implications for my life, then it is completely predictable that you will later find me in a movement, group, lifestyle, whatever based upon that event. If I am a sensible person, I mean. In fact, if such an event fails to change my life in any noticeable way, I would expect a judge to take my unchanged life as evidence that I am either a fool or a liar. If I claim to have discovered an easy, cheap way of making gold out of straw, and yet continue to live in poverty, wouldn't any judge conclude I am either a fool or a liar?

Taking the argument apart--

"Something truly extraordinary happens"--well, the resurrection qualified as that.

"has strong implications for my life"--this would exclude any number of extraordinary things such as seeing a leprechaun in my garden, or being the first to discover a new element, etc. Those events may be a nine-days'-wonder, and I may yak about them to all my friends, but it probably ends there. No real implications for my life. Maybe a note on my resume. Not much more.

However, the resurrection of Christ, if true, has profound implications for how I personally live and die. I would be a fool to be convinced of its truth and yet make no changes to my life based on this new information. The NT witnesses to the resurrected Christ were most of them not fools. And so they wound up in the early Church, the community of those believing in the resurrected Christ and changed by him.

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by StevHep:
Broadly Evangelical? Broadly Evangelical! First time this Ultramontane Catholic has been called that.

Ah. An evangelical Catholic! Sorry.
quote:
I thought this thread was about belief in the Primitive Church
That hasn't been my impression, so it seems we're talking about different things. I don't think the history is knowable in any meaningful sense, it's too long ago. But Christianity, that's very much still with us. It's unfortunate that its stories are too often devalued by association with Church institutions and their systems of hierarchical control.
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quetzalcoatl
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If you go to India, you can meet a ton of people who will tell you that their guru can translocate, can turn water into milk, materialize objects out of thin air, and heal people. Furthermore, they will swear that they have seen it with their own eyes, and I actually believe that they believe that they have.

Well, maybe they have of course. In that case, how do we distinguish all the miracles in the world? I suppose the ones that are meaningful to you, are meaningful to you. Fair enough.

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Lamb Chopped
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We may be back to the issue of whether a given claimed miracle has implications for one's life. Out of the list you gave, the healing is the only one that seems to me to fit that bill--and in that case, my first question would be, "So why isn't he down at the local hospital healing people?" That would be the logical working out of such a miraculous ability.

The bits about changing water into milk, etc. seem to me to fall under "odd but who cares, really?" Unless the person either gets himself to a starving country and does this sort of thing en masse, or else works with scientists to find a way to replicate it. Otherwise it's in the category of seeing a leprechaun in the garden.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
We may be back to the issue of whether a given claimed miracle has implications for one's life. Out of the list you gave, the healing is the only one that seems to me to fit that bill--and in that case, my first question would be, "So why isn't he down at the local hospital healing people?" That would be the logical working out of such a miraculous ability.

The bits about changing water into milk, etc. seem to me to fall under "odd but who cares, really?" Unless the person either gets himself to a starving country and does this sort of thing en masse, or else works with scientists to find a way to replicate it. Otherwise it's in the category of seeing a leprechaun in the garden.

I think you are taking it out of its cultural context. For the devotees of such a guru, the manifestations mean a lot, and show that he is capable of imparting wisdom and knowledge and liberation. But of course, there are much more sophisticated gurus, who do not do party tricks.

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall
The fact that they were committed enough to still be talking about it long after the fact seems almost irrefutable evidence of some kind of bias.

Lamb Chopped has well and truly refuted that assertion (I can't really call it an 'argument'), so no more to add!

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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Ikkyu
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For me the best example that shows that testimony from "true believers" is not evidence of a kind
that should convince skeptics or would stand in a court of law is the Mormon church.
If we go by the testimony of their eyewitnesses Jon Smithwas a prophet of God. People risked everything including their lives to follow him.
The last bit is used in arguments that claim that the supporters of Jesus had to be right because if not why would they give their lives. So by the same argument Mormons "have" to be right. The main difference is that while we lack contemporary independent accounts for the life of Jesus we have those for John Smith.
I'm not saying that the events in the New testament could not have happened. I'm just saying that the New testament is not "evidence" that would convince skeptics that they did. .

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quetzalcoatl
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This is true of Hindus and Muslims, isn't it? Some of them see their own death as a worthy sacrifice for the faith.

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Sipech
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quote:
Originally posted by Ikkyu:
If we go by the testimony of their eyewitnesses Jon Smith was a prophet of God. People risked everything including their lives to follow him. The last bit is used in arguments that claim that the supporters of Jesus had to be right because if not why would they give their lives. So by the same argument Mormons "have" to be right.

This is a slight straw man, particularly with reference to the level of compulsion indicated by your use of "have". The idea of the eyewitnesses is that, as a historical study, we are bound by a limitation of evidence. It is not really a case of anachronistically applying modern standards of evidence (whether by appealing to some quasi-legal or scientific paradigm) and in effect saying, "[well, it doesn't meet my standards of evidence, so it's probably wrong]" but rather it is asking the question "what are the earliest and most reliable sources we have?".
quote:
Originally posted by Ikkyu:
The main difference is that while we lack contemporary independent accounts for the life of Jesus we have those for John Smith.
I'm not saying that the events in the New testament could not have happened. I'm just saying that the New testament is not "evidence" that would convince skeptics that they did.

I would love for there to be more compelling evidence that would suit a modern sceptical audience, but we can't conjure it up. So all we are compelled to do is try to look at things in another way. To me, the most efficient is to look at the origins of christianity and ask "how and why did this group arise?"

Bearing in mind that it began as a group of Jews, with reference to a Jewish rabbi, then it seems sensible to look at the Jewish idea of resurrection, how it was prior to the christians, how it changed and then to ask, "why?" - once you ask the sensible questions in a sensible order (and even anachronistically applying Ockham's razor) one is left - after a lot of study & thinking - with the startling conclusion that Jesus' resurrection is the most reasonable explanation for the genesis of christian belief which takes into account all the known factors that we can glean from history.

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
The Alethiophile wrote:

Bearing in mind that it began as a group of Jews, with reference to a Jewish rabbi, then it seems sensible to look at the Jewish idea of resurrection, how it was prior to the christians, how it changed and then to ask, "why?" - once you ask the sensible questions in a sensible order (and even anachronistically applying Ockham's razor) one is left - after a lot of study & thinking - with the startling conclusion that Jesus' resurrection is the most reasonable explanation for the genesis of christian belief which takes into account all the known factors that we can glean from history.

The problem with that, as I see it, as that you can indeed trace developments in ideas and symbols in that way, e.g. from an early view of resurrection, to a later one, but how does that then translate into a view that the resurrection actually happened?

Studies in mythology often trace such developments, but I don't think they conclude that therefore a particular myth is true.

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
there is a wider problem with supernatural stuff - that there is no method whereby it can be described [...] so using the word 'evidence' in relation to the supernatural is inappropriate

Yes, supernatural complicates things. Some people use the word as if it referred to some out there dimension that intersects natural reality when a miracle occurs. Yet it's only ever discernable in the mind of someone who "experiences" it. Otherwise it would be a natural phenomenon that left natural evidence.

The best we can say about the resurrection is that it was real in the minds of those who believed they saw Jesus alive after his death. All the historical claims rest on that.

The story, on the other hand, is as real and inspiring as it ever was. Weighing it down with claims about an intervention from God effectively exclude from church communities anyone who is self-aware enough to recognise that minds can play tricks on us.

[ 29. May 2014, 16:06: Message edited by: Dave Marshall ]

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
there is a wider problem with supernatural stuff - that there is no method whereby it can be described [...] so using the word 'evidence' in relation to the supernatural is inappropriate

Yes, supernatural complicates things. Some people use the word as if it referred to some out there dimension that intersects natural reality when a miracle occurs. Yet it's only ever discernable in the mind of someone who "experiences" it. Otherwise it would be a natural phenomenon that left natural evidence.

The best we can say about the resurrection is that it was real in the minds of those who believed they saw Jesus alive after his death. All the historical claims rest on that.

The story, on the other hand, is as real and inspiring as it ever was. Weighing it down with claims about an intervention from God effectively exclude from church communities anyone who is self-aware enough to recognise that minds can play tricks on us.

Yes, it's a brilliant story, which presumably touches on various archetypal themes. But seeing it literally seems odd to me, as if symbols must be concretized and historicized. I suppose people can digest that more easily maybe.

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Ikkyu
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Another fascinating example is the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson . He died in 1994. But when alive he was so revered by his followers that many of believe that he is still in some way alive. Others are expecting him to come back from the dead. Chabad Messianism
There are many stories of his miracles circulating among his followers. These stories are "evidence" of something. But they don't even convince all Hasidim that they should join the Chabad movement let alone reform or conservative Jews.
The fact that some stories are devoutly believed and make a big difference in the life of those who believe them does not make them "objectively true".

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quetzalcoatl
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I suppose the demand for objective truth becomes acute in the post-Enlightenment period, and with the growth of science and secular philosophy. I always wonder if Christianity adopted a kind of inferiority feeling then, and felt it had to really prove that it was historically true, not just symbolically real.

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Ikkyu
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Yes and that's unfortunate. How can you prove "objective truth"? All scientific claims are provisional, subject to further revision by new
data. I believe some people took a mistaken idea (that science gives us "objective truth" or claims to do so) and tried to compete with it in those terms.

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by Ikkyu:
Yes and that's unfortunate. How can you prove "objective truth"? All scientific claims are provisional, subject to further revision by new
data. I believe some people took a mistaken idea (that science gives us "objective truth" or claims to do so) and tried to compete with it in those terms.

Bloody hell, mate, genius. Also, you get the idea that science = atheism, or science = philosophy, or science = scientific realism. I'm tired from arguing these things now.

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
But seeing it literally seems odd to me, as if symbols must be concretized and historicized.

Hmmm, yeah... I think it's very strange that people should theorise that there is an actual objectively real person responsible for the posts headed by the symbol "quetzalcoatl". Clearly these posts are just a natural phenomenon, as in, a computer system just generating them. Why can't people just accept these posts for their symbolic value, instead of imagining that there is a real person writing them? (Not that there is such a thing as "objective reality" anyway, of course...)

I guess they must think in these concretised terms, because they can digest it more easily.

Most odd. [Paranoid]

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Ad Orientem
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
I suppose the demand for objective truth becomes acute in the post-Enlightenment period, and with the growth of science and secular philosophy. I always wonder if Christianity adopted a kind of inferiority feeling then, and felt it had to really prove that it was historically true, not just symbolically real.

How can something be "symbolically real"? Symbolism means nothing if the thing it symbolises isn't real. A good example if that would be the sacraments: sacraments mean bugger all otherwise.
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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:

The best we can say about the resurrection is that it was real in the minds of those who believed they saw Jesus alive after his death. All the historical claims rest on that.

The story, on the other hand, is as real and inspiring as it ever was. Weighing it down with claims about an intervention from God effectively exclude from church communities anyone who is self-aware enough to recognise that minds can play tricks on us.

I agree with your first paragraph. The first witnesses definitely, really believed they saw Jesus physically alive after his death. Their further actions are logically derived from that belief. Now remains only to decide whether they were correct or mistaken in that belief...

The second paragraph, though, I have a beef with. There are plenty of us in the church who are "self-aware enough to recognize that minds can play tricks" on us. We aren't idiots.

We simply hold that in regards to the Resurrection, we have a real occurrence and not a hallucination or other mental trick going on.

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
Yes. On the basis that there can be no reliable evidence that God physically resurrected Jesus, because it's a claim about an event documented only in stories handed down by those making the claim.

However you evaluate the evidence for a physical resurrection, it must have better support than the idea of a purely spiritual (non-physical) resurrection of the sort referred to in the OP. The spiritual resurrection would be exactly as unusual, and exactly as miraculously, but would lack the eye-witness testimony which (however flawed it may be) supports the concept of a truly physical ressurection.

I would concede that a coherent religion could be constructed on a supposed non-phgysical resurrection of Jesus, and even that such a religion could have great value in objectively improving the moral lives of its adherents. I just can't see any good reason why anyone should believe it in preference to the traditional view.

If something special and unique did happen to Jesus after his death, why not accept the best available evidence about what that was? Or, if you can't believe in the miracle, why not simple accept that Jesus was so inspiring a leader that such stories were made up about him, and learn from him what we can as a man and nothing more? Why would anyone want to believe that a miracle really did happen, just not the miracle that Jesus's closest followers actually claimed to have witnessed?

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
The first witnesses definitely, really believed they saw Jesus physically alive after his death.

We have no way of knowing that, only some stories written down more than 20 years later.
quote:
Their further actions are logically derived from that belief.
I imagine someone telling a story would want to write it that way.
quote:
Now remains only to decide whether they were correct or mistaken in that belief...
Not if we don't find the claim itself - physical resurrection - a real possibility. I've explained that's where I am.
quote:
We simply hold that in regards to the Resurrection, we have a real occurrence and not a hallucination or other mental trick going on.
I know that. You really, really believe it. But you haven't given me any reason to agree with you.
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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by Ad Orientem:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
I suppose the demand for objective truth becomes acute in the post-Enlightenment period, and with the growth of science and secular philosophy. I always wonder if Christianity adopted a kind of inferiority feeling then, and felt it had to really prove that it was historically true, not just symbolically real.

How can something be "symbolically real"? Symbolism means nothing if the thing it symbolises isn't real. A good example if that would be the sacraments: sacraments mean bugger all otherwise.
Christian symbols, or in fact, lots of symbols, can be used to refer to non-historical stuff. I know people who see death and resurrection as referring to stuff in their life. Or the virgin birth has been taken to refer to the birth of God in this moment.

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by Eliab:
I would concede that a coherent religion could be constructed on a supposed non-physical resurrection of Jesus, and even that such a religion could have great value in objectively improving the moral lives of its adherents. I just can't see any good reason why anyone should believe it in preference to the traditional view.

Obviously if you present an alternative to the "traditional view" in such pejorative terms you can make it appear unattractive. The question I was addressing was whether it is reasonable to believe the claim that God physically resurrected Jesus.

I'm not interested in improving the moral lives of the "adherents" of a religion, whatever that means. That's the realm of big brother paternalism, straight out of too much of the Church of England as it is now. But religion as community, built around shared values exemplified in the life and person of Jesus in the Christian story, that's an idea I'm drawn to. The history is academic in that context.
quote:
If something special and unique did happen to Jesus after his death, why not accept the best available evidence about what that was?
Um, what evidence? As I've noted before, there is only a claim documented in stories handed down by those making the claim. Whatever else you're thinking of, "the best available", is teetering on top of that. I'm fairly sure I won't find it convincing.

[ 29. May 2014, 23:45: Message edited by: Dave Marshall ]

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
But seeing it literally seems odd to me, as if symbols must be concretized and historicized.

Hmmm, yeah... I think it's very strange that people should theorise that there is an actual objectively real person responsible for the posts headed by the symbol "quetzalcoatl". Clearly these posts are just a natural phenomenon, as in, a computer system just generating them. Why can't people just accept these posts for their symbolic value, instead of imagining that there is a real person writing them? (Not that there is such a thing as "objective reality" anyway, of course...)

I guess they must think in these concretised terms, because they can digest it more easily.

Most odd. [Paranoid]

I hope you're not saying that all symbols refer to something physical and concrete. For example, yes, 'quetzalcoatl' might refer to me, and I am physical; but it can also refer to the plumed serpent god of Mesoamerica. Well, OK, maybe he really exists also.

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
Not if we don't find the claim itself - physical resurrection - a real possibility. I've explained that's where I am.... I know that. You really, really believe it. But you haven't given me any reason to agree with you.

I'm not trying to. I see no point in trying to argue you into Christianity, that's not my job. I was simply pointing out the logical chain--and in one place, actually agreeing with you. Though now you seem to disagree with yourself... but whatever.

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Martin60
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All we ever prove here is that apologetics, rhetoric, the dialectic, reason can't work.

Only love can and we're infantile at it at best. In fact infantile love would be good. I love interacting with babies.

Can Dave Marshall encounter the risen Christ in any of us? Do we see Him in him?

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Eliab
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:
I'm fairly sure I won't find it convincing.

I'm fairly sure you won't find it convincing too.

My point's much more limited than trying to persuade you of the fact of a physical resurrection. It is simply to assert that the evidence for it is stronger than the evidence for a miraculous but non-physical resurrection. Then live options for me are belief or disbelief in what the disciples claimed to have witnessed. I can see why a reasonable person would believe, or not. I can't see why anyone would believe in a different miracle which is unsupported by testimony, in preference to the one that is.

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quetzalcoatl
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Another interesting example of symbols that don't have to be taken literally or physically, is the ascension.

Have you got ascension deficit disorder? Don't worry, read what Keith Ward said:

"We now know that, if [Jesus] began ascending two thousand years ago, he would not yet have left the Milky Way (unless he attained warp speed)."

I append a charming image, which I hope will not discommode anyone.

http://tinyurl.com/k2pezhz

(Thanks to James McGrath for some of the above material).

[ 30. May 2014, 08:41: Message edited by: quetzalcoatl ]

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl
I hope you're not saying that all symbols refer to something physical and concrete. For example, yes, 'quetzalcoatl' might refer to me, and I am physical; but it can also refer to the plumed serpent god of Mesoamerica. Well, OK, maybe he really exists also.

So why should I believe that you exist? I could simply be talking to a sophisticated computer programme, for all I know.

Perhaps you will feel inclined to defend the theory of your existence by appealing to evidence?

To which I will reply: exactly!

In other words, the discussion should be about evidence, not symbols, which frankly are irrelevant.

But you seem to be saying, that in the case of the resurrection of Jesus, it is odd that people should attach something real and concrete to a symbol. Therefore, by that same logic, it is odd that anyone should attach a real person to the symbol 'quetzalcoatl' as frequently used on this website.

You simply cannot have it both ways!

[ 30. May 2014, 09:50: Message edited by: EtymologicalEvangelical ]

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quetzalcoatl
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Well, do you believe that the plumed serpent god Quetzalcoatl exists? He might do. I might be his representative in the Home Counties.

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EtymologicalEvangelical
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The question of the existence of the plumed serpent god is irrelevant. What you are arguing is that it is 'odd' that people should want to connect a symbol with a reality. The fact that there are symbols that are only connected to fantasy, does not mean that all symbols -especially those pertaining to spiritual things - should be regarded in this way.

There is simply no logic to your position, I'm afraid.

And if we were to think that there is some validity to what you say, then logically we should think it odd that anyone should connect a name - or internet moniker - (which is a symbol) with a real person. Clearly the act of making this connection is not strange behaviour, and this therefore demonstrates the fallacy of your claim.

[ 30. May 2014, 12:34: Message edited by: EtymologicalEvangelical ]

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You can argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome': but you neither can nor need argue with a man who says, 'Rice is unwholesome, but I'm not saying this is true'. CS Lewis

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I see no point in trying to argue you into Christianity

It would be difficult anyway, as we're both already part of the tradition.
quote:
that's not my job.
Probably for the best.
quote:
I was simply pointing out the logical chain
You've said that, but if you mean this post I couldn't see the logic. You wrote:
quote:
If something truly extraordinary happens and I witness it, and the event is something that by its very nature has strong implications for my life
as if you were referring to something that could be shown to have actually happened. If no-one else saw it, and there was no physical evidence that it had happened, it's just an experience personal to you.

Like, say, me seeing a water vole while walking by the river (they're rare here). If I told my partner she would believe me because a) she would trust me not make something like this up, and b) she's seen water voles in other places.

But if, say, I'd seen her (long dead) first husband and had a conversation with him, it would be an entirely different situation. We would both be concerned for my welfare. Certainly if it happened again we'd want to take steps to find out what was going on in my head. The point being, I don't think it would occur to us that anyone had been physically resurrected. We would assume this was something entirely in my mind that for some reason I was perceiving as real.

Why assume it was different for some early follower of Jesus?
quote:
then it is completely predictable that you will later find me in a movement, group, lifestyle, whatever based upon that event.
It's not a question of "then". The resurrection story is supposed to have originated among a group that were already followers, or at least supporters, of Jesus. Someone says they've seen him alive? After what he said before? Who is going to be the first to say "don't be silly, it's grief/fear playing with your mind".

[ 30. May 2014, 12:59: Message edited by: Dave Marshall ]

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quetzalcoatl
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quote:
Originally posted by EtymologicalEvangelical:
The question of the existence of the plumed serpent god is irrelevant. What you are arguing is that it is 'odd' that people should want to connect a symbol with a reality. The fact that there are symbols that are only connected to fantasy, does not mean that all symbols -especially those pertaining to spiritual things - should be regarded in this way.

There is simply no logic to your position, I'm afraid.

And if we were to think that there is some validity to what you say, then logically we should think it odd that anyone should connect a name - or internet moniker - (which is a symbol) with a real person. Clearly the act of making this connection is not strange behaviour, and this therefore demonstrates the fallacy of your claim.

I don't think the plumed serpent is irrelevant. Despite my best efforts in spreading the word in the Home Counties, regrettably I have found few people who believe in Quetzalcoatl. But why is this? Partly just cultural conditioning I suppose.

I don't see all symbols as the same. Thus, the use of names to denote people is fairly well established in many cultures.

You can't really say that because 'Bill' refers to the bloke next door, therefore this is no different from the resurrection (or Quetzalcoatl). They are different kinds of symbols.

Quetzalcoatl is a nice example, since in one sense it is unexceptional, when it refers to me, but in another sense, it is aberrant in our culture, when it refers to a literal plumed serpent god.

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:

You wrote: "If something truly extraordinary happens and I witness it, and the event is something that by its very nature has strong implications for my life" as if you were referring to something that could be shown to have actually happened. If no-one else saw it, and there was no physical evidence that it had happened, it's just an experience personal to you.

Like, say, me seeing a water vole while walking by the river (they're rare here). If I told my partner she would believe me because a) she would trust me not make something like this up, and b) she's seen water voles in other places.

But if, say, I'd seen her (long dead) first husband and had a conversation with him, it would be an entirely different situation. We would both be concerned for my welfare. Certainly if it happened again we'd want to take steps to find out what was going on in my head. The point being, I don't think it would occur to us that anyone had been physically resurrected. We would assume this was something entirely in my mind that for some reason I was perceiving as real.

Why assume it was different for some early follower of Jesus?

Because there were multiple witnesses, and usually multiple witnesses to the same event, who could (and doubtless DID) compare notes afterward. You seeing adead man while alone on a single occasion is quite different to several hundred people, in groups ranging from two to five hundred, seeing the same formerly-dead man on multiple occasions during a forty-day period.

And in fact that is what the text shows us. The first witnesses (the women) were considered crazy; /but when others (Peter, the ten, the disciples walking to Emmaus) all came back with the same testimony, the balance started to shift; and even Thomas changed his mind after he finally got to see for himself.
quote:
Originally posted by Dave Marshall:

The resurrection story is supposed to have originated among a group that were already followers, or at least supporters, of Jesus. Someone says they've seen him alive? After what he said before? Who is going to be the first to say "don't be silly, it's grief/fear playing with your mind".

And yet that's precisely what they said to the women. The disciples don't seem to have felt the qualms you imagine.

By the way, I used "I" because I was trying to avoid the generic "you" which would inevitably be misunderstood as a personal you. We seem to have fallen into the same trap regardless.

And as for the water vole example--I did stipulate "and the event is something that by its very nature has strong implications for my life". Seeing a water vole is not a matter of that sort.

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Lamb Chopped
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
Another interesting example of symbols that don't have to be taken literally or physically, is the ascension.

Have you got ascension deficit disorder? Don't worry, read what Keith Ward said:

"We now know that, if [Jesus] began ascending two thousand years ago, he would not yet have left the Milky Way (unless he attained warp speed)."

I append a charming image, which I hope will not discommode anyone.

http://tinyurl.com/k2pezhz

(Thanks to James McGrath for some of the above material).

Quetzalcoatl, love the goofy image. But you need to distinguish between "symbols that don't have to be taken literally" and "events that are both literal and symbolic." Both can exist. I do in fact believe the Ascension happened as specified (though if you recall, a cloud covered him from their sight, and at that point I rather suspect things proceeded in a different and quicker fashion!). But the symbolic meaning of the Ascension is clear--Christ is returning to heaven, is becoming higher/more in authority than all creation, etc. The physical action IS the symbol which conveys the meaning.

Let's take another example (hope this doesn't tangent-wreck the thread): baptism. The spiritual meaning of this is plain--rebirth, washing away of sins, death and resurrection, etc. Yet, if I were to tell you about my son's baptism, you would not say, "Oh, the symbolism is clear, and therefore the water-on-the-head bit never actually happened, it was just symbolic." Yes, it happened. We have multiple witnesses all saying the same thing, and also photographs. Yes, the event also has a symbolic dimension (or spiritual dimension, if anyone's going to get freaked out by the word "symbol" and think I don't believe in baptismal regeneration). That is also real. The two realities, physical and spiritual, do not cancel out one another.

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quetzalcoatl
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Lamb Chopped

Yes, good examples, although I guess that some Christians don't really see the ascension as a physical movement upwards, do they? Or see heaven as up there?

I think the Eucharist works because it is operating at different levels. In fact, religious ritual generally does this, but then I suppose many human activities do also, if they have a symbolic dimension. If you see 'Hamlet', you might think that's not just about a man procrastinating.

This always reminds me of Camus, who made that famous statement, that a lot of his moral insight came from football. But then he was a goal-keeper, so there is a lot of standing around brooding over one's bad luck.

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Lamb Chopped
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[Killing me]

Actually, I don't see heaven as "up there," if we're going to talk in terms of physical location. But as somebody pointed out, if Jesus is going to leave, and make it clear that this is permanent, no popping up anymore on the beach or at the local coffee shop, well, he can't simply walk away. Or vanish, as he seems to have done with some of the resurrection appearances, only to reappear someplace later.

No, he's got to go, and be seen to be going. As in going, going, gone. And by physically acting out the mythological motif of ascension into heaven, he makes sure they know a) this is (visible) goodbye for quite a while, stop looking behind the sofa, guys, and b) I'm going back to the near presence of God as his right hand Man, that's where I'll be and what I'll be doing when you need me.

This, of course, does not require that he continue to float upward any longer than the disciples can see him for. [Biased] Once they're out of sight, he can get practical.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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quetzalcoatl
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I was just looking at some of the fabulous paintings of the ascension, of which there are many famous ones, but here is the Dali one, which I like, but probably, some people really don't.

http://reflectious.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/1-ascension-dali.jpg

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I can't talk to you today; I talked to two people yesterday.

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Dave Marshall

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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
Because there were multiple witnesses, and usually multiple witnesses to the same event, who could (and doubtless DID) compare notes afterward...

According to a story, written down more than 20 years after the event, by those spreading the story. That would only be credible if it backed up more compelling evidence. But there is nothing else.
quote:
The disciples don't seem to have felt the qualms you imagine.
Or, they were committed to what Jesus had being doing and willing to work very hard to keep it going in whatever way they could. Including reworking and retelling the stories that became the Gospels and Acts.

There's no logical justification for saying the stories must be historically accurate. Other things being equal it would be a judgement call for historians. But when a story includes a supernatural claim, other things are not equal. We'll only believe that if we want it be true and no-one can refute it.

That's the case with the resurrection; no-one can prove it didn't happen. So anyone who wants to can believe it, with social pressure from dissenters the only external disincentive. It's an ideal basis for religion, as long as no-one is too concerned about whether it is actually true.

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