We now continue considering the group effort by Robert Greg Cavin, Michael Martin, Theodore Drange, Robert Price, Richard Carrier, Peter Kirby, Jeffery Lowder, Evan Fales, Duncan Derrett and Keith Parsons to discredit Jesus' resurrection? This group, referred to as a "murder"-a term in this sense is taken from referring to a group of crows a "a murder of crows"-is refuted by one single solitary Christian, Norman L. Geisler, in his article A Critical Review of The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave which I have parsed.
Chapter Two: "The Resurrection as Initially Improbable." By Michael Martin
Summary of the Argument:
Martin argues that "Bayes theorem indicates that if the initial probability of the resurrection is very low, the historical evidence must be extremely strong to make rational belief in the resurrection possible" (53). Further, he insists that even on the assumption of supernaturalism it is low because "there is good reason to expect God would not perform miracles" (53). And "even if some miracles could be expected, there is good reason to suppose they would be rare and thus a priori unlikely in any given case" (53). What is more, even suppose God has a good purpose for redeeming humanity, "given the many alternative ways that this could have been achieved, it is a priori unlikely that he would have chosen to do this in the manner, time, and place depicted in scripture" (53). His argument is summarized thus: "1. A miracle is initially improbable relative to our background knowledge. 2. If a claim is initially improbable relative to our background knowledge and the evidence for it is not strong, then it should be disbelieved. 3. The Resurrection of Jesus is a miracle claim. 4. The evidence for the Resurrection is not strong. 5. Therefore, the Resurrection of Jesus should be disbelieved" (46).
Martin rejects the free will objection that whatever the probabilities are, a person is free to chose otherwise. He insists that the improbabilities for the resurrection of Christ remain low since we do not know God's mind.He also rejects the argument that if God exists, there is a high probability that God wants to redeem mankind. He insists that, even granting this, it is still low because we do not know when or where God will chose to resurrect Christ, nor even whether He will since he could redeem mankind some other way.
Response to the Argument:
Martin's argument is particularly weak for several reasons. First, it admits that given God's existence, a miracle is possible. If so, then he cannot eliminate the possibility of miracles without disproving God's existence which no one has succeeded in doing.1
Second, his argument does not eliminate the probability of miracles since if God exists and if He wants to intervene supernaturally, then it is it more than probable that a miracle will happen - it is certain. This in spite of all alleged a priori probabilities to the contrary.
Third, whether a miracle has occurred is not determined by a priori probabilities but by a posteriori facts. Even from a purely experiential perspective, even though the a priori probability is 216 to 1 against getting three sixes on the first toss of three die, it does happen sometimes. And when it does happen, then all probabilities as to whether it would happen are irrelevant. All that is relevant is the evidence as to whether indeed this event did happen.
Fourth, when the free will of God is concerned, the only antecedent factor that is relevant for a miracle is whether He wills for a miracle to happen. And from the empirical side, the only relevant factor as to whether someone came back from the dead is the evidence that he was dead and that he later was alive again. Thus, Martin misses the point on his answer to both proposed objections. For if God wills a resurrection to occur, then there is a 100% chance it will occur. Hence, contrary to the anti-supernaturalist's claim, given God's existence, the entire issue boils down to a factual one, namely, what is the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth died and then came back to life some time later.2
1. See Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetic (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999)
2. See Steven B. Cown, ed., Five Views on Apologetics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 331-4, 337-8
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