The Resurrection vs. History

I consider evidentialist apologetics flawed. My chief reason for thinking so is that evidentialism contradicts the attributes of God. God, as defined in Christian theology, is the creator of the universe. As such, God is believed to be metaphysically necessary. What this means is that God does not require a special explanation for his existence nor can God be reduced to more prime substances, laws, or existants to explain his existence. God is believed to be metaphysically necessary because he is eternal; God has no beginning and, therefore, no need of a cause for his existence. If God was not eternal, then at one point God began to exist, and therefore would need a cause to explain his existence. That cause, and not God would be the creator then. If God needed a cause for his existence, God would be a metaphysically contigent Being. The universe, in Christian theology, is metaphysically contigent; it began to exist and is not eternal. Therefore, it needs a cause for its existence to explain why it exists. Christians believe that God is this Cause.


Metaphysical necessity, therefore, is an attribute of God's existence. Another attribute, closely related to metaphysical necessity, is moral necessity. God is believed to be a morally necessary being. What this implies is that God cannot do anything wrong. God is the ultimate source of all that is moral in Christian theology. Note that moral necessity implies that God cannot do anything wrong, not that he could if he wanted to, but simply chooses not to. Otherwise, God would be a morally contigent being like humans are. This makes perfect biblical sense and explains a number of biblical passages. For instance, in the New Testament epistle of James, it says that God does not tempt nor can he be tempted to sin. If God was a morally necessary being, then God canno be tempted. If God was a morally contigent being, then God could be tempted to sin and would have to resist it like human beings would. It also makes sense of a passage in the New Testament letter to the Hebrews. It says that it's impossible for God to lie. This makes perfect sense if God is believed to be a morally necessary being. If God was a morally contigent being, then God could lie but would have to chose not to. Thus, moral necessity is an attribute of God as is metaphysical necessity.

This poses tremendous problems for evidentialist apologetics. Why? Consider the following: If it's impossible for God to lie, then whatever God says is true by definition. If God says something, then what God says cannot be false and must be necessarily true. Thus, if God, speaking through Peter, by the Holy Spirit in the Pentecostal Sermon, declares that God has raised Jesus from the dead, then "God raised Jesus from the dead" is necessarily true. There is no way it can be false. Therefore, the resurrection, as an explanation of 1.) the empty tomb, 2.) the postmortem "sightings" of Jesus, and 3.) the origin of the resurrection faith, must be a necessary historical explanation. It cannot be a historically contigent explanation, such as an inference-to-the-best-explanation. To argue that the resurrection is the best explanatory explanation is to say that it's possible that the resurrection didn't happen but in all probability did. To say that it's possible that the resurrection didn't happen but in all probability did, is logically the same as saying that it's possible that God lied but in all probability told the truth about Jesus being raised from the dead. Therefore, in Christian theology, the resurrection is a necessary historical explanation. There is no way out of this!

The problem this creates for evidentialism is twofold. First of all, it shows that the resurrection cannot qualify as an historical explanation proper because the defining hallmark of any historical theory is falsification and testability. Secondly, to say that there is "evidence" and "facts" in favor of the resurrection, is to say that the empty tomb, postmortem "sightings' of Jesus, and the origin of the Christian faith are historically contigent events, which directly contradicts the divine attribute of moral necessity. Let me elaborate on both of these points and then spell out my conclusion as to what the implication of this argument is for Christians in terms of consequences.

First of all, an historical hypothesis is an explanation that is formulated to explain a given set of facts. Often with a given set of facts there is bound to be more than one possible explanation. The task of the historian is to use the Historical Method to test the explanations and see which one best fits the facts. Thus, in order to be an historical explanation proper, an historical hypothesis must be testable and, hence, vulnerable to falsification. The resurrection doesn't qualify as such because the resurrection is a necessary historical explanation. There is no possible way for it to be false or else God cannot be a morally necessary being. Yet to be an historical explanation proper, a hypothesis or theory must be capable of being testable and vulnerable to falsification. If it's impossible for a theory to be false, then it cannot qualify as an historical explanation. Hypotheses and theories must be capable of being falsifiable and the resurrection isn't testable or else it would be falsifiable and such an epistemic status would directly contradict the divine attribute of moral necessity.

The second reason the resurrection cannot be an historical explanation is because there cannot be, in principle, evidence for the resurrection, or any facts for the resurrection, as an hypothesis or theory, to explain. The reason for this is that "facts" and "evidence" presuppose historical contigency. Historical contigency means that the course of history could've turned out a different way. If Julius Ceasar had not crossed the Rubicon in Roman history, history would've turned out differently and any "facts" and/or "evidence" that he did cross the Rubicon in northern Italy with his army would simply not exist. If history had turned out different, certain "facts" or "evidence" would simply not be available to an historian to test hypotheses or theories against, using the Historical Method. To say that the empty tomb in the synoptic Gospels is a "fact" is to imply that had history turned out differently, and say, Jesus' body was left to rot on the cross and never buried in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb, there would be no "fact" of an empty tomb to serve as "evidence" for the resurrection of Christ. "Facts" and "evidence" presupposes, by it's very nature, historical contigency. Christians have to believe that the empty tomb, postmortem "sightings" of Jesus, and the earliest Christian faith in the resurrection, are historically necessary. There could've been no other way it might have turned out differently! Christians cannot grant that the empty tomb, the postmortem "sightings" of Jesus, and the earliest Christian faith in the risen Jesus, are a matter of historical contigency, because that would directly contradict the divine attribute of moral necessity. Christians have to argue that the empty tomb, postmortem "sightings" of Jesus, and the earliest Christian faith are morally necessary. I'm not sure what they might regard these events as- perhaps "self-evident truths" of history, which is consistent with historical necessity and is not consistent with historical contigency?

In conclusion, I believe that the resurrection cannot qualify as a historical hypothesis/theory proper because to do so would imply testability and vulnerability to falsification; no necessary truth is capable of being proven false or vulernable to being tested. There cannot be any "facts" or "evidence" in favor of the resurrection because such terms presuppose historical contigency which directly contradicts the divine attribute of moral necessity. Where, then, does this leave the Christian? I believe that the Christian must presuppose the resurrection. The resurrection, as a necessary historical truth, would, therefore, transcend all attempts to test, verify, or refute it! It is therefore presuppositional apologetics which has the upper hand. On the contrary, evidentialim in apologetics is self-refuting and hopelessly destructs on further scrutiny. Any questions or comments are very welcome. Fire away!

Matthew

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