Recently James McGrath has said some important things about the tools of the historian:
I am not interested in defending "the claims of Christianity." I am interested in defending mainstream secular historical study as a discipline from those who seek to manipulate it for ideological ends, whether those be Jesus-mythicists or Christian apologists. Ultimately historical questions need to be settled using the tools of historical study, and not on the basis that a particular conclusion seems particularly appealing in order to defend or attack someone's beliefs...anyone who claims to use history to try to argue for the resurrection, or Matthew's zombie apocalypse, needs to be called out on it. And mainstream scholars do that.In reference to the resurrection McGrath has said this before: "All sorts of fairly improbable scenarios are inevitably going to be more likely than an extremely improbable one. That doesn't necessarily mean miracles never happened then or don't happen now - it just means that historical tools are not the way to answer that question." When it comes to methodological naturalism McGrath wrote:
I don't see how historical study can adopt any other approach, any more than criminology can. It will always be theoretically possible that a crime victim died simply because God wanted him dead, but the appropriate response of detectives is to leave the case open. In the same way, it will always be possible that a virgin conceived, but it will never be more likely than that the stories claiming this developed, like comparable stories about other ancient figures, as a way of highlighting the individual's significance. And since historical study deals with probabilities and evidence, to claim that a miracle is "historically likely" misunderstands the method in question. READ THIS LINK.The only way to know if Jesus bodily arose from the dead is by using the tools of the historian. But those tools cannot possibly lead anyone to conclude Jesus arose from the dead. Faith cannot help us know what happened in history. Faith is irrelevant to the historian's task. Faith has no method. Period.