Brad wrote:Would you mind summarizing what it was in particular you found so persuasive about NT Wright's book on the resurrection? Yes, I know it was a really long book, but if it really knocked you out, I'd imagine you'd readily recall the points that really got your attention, no?
I've been thinking over the past few days about just what you're asking for - a summary of what, in particular, I found so persuasive from Wright's book. And a summary really wouldn't do it justice, I'm afraid, even though I'm going to offer you one shortly here.
The problem is that Wright spends a few hundred pages laying down detailed background information, analyzing writings and opinions of others on both sides, looking at the contextual, historical, cultural, and religious influences on the people of the time of the Easter story and the writers of the Gospel accounts of the events they reported on. And Wright is thorough, to put it ridiculously mildly. He also does a lot of side-explaning of his intentions and reasons for bringing up various issues from various points of view so as to not appear to be ignoring opposing opinions and ideas. He's extremely - perhaps to a fault - inclusive and respectful of others' ideas and viewpoints. So, honestly, it would be a terrible injustice to his points to give only a summary and not all the information and reasoning that leads to it. I almost bought the Amazon Kindle version of the book so I could copy/paste large sections of it, but a) it costs too much, and b) I'd have to copy/paste too much stuff for the forum. I'd still recommend the book to anyone who wants probably the best there is from the Christian perspective on the resurrection, including responses and rebuttals to virtually all the counter-arguments and positions.
The issue is the dual consideration of both the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances/meetings of Jesus. Taken individually, there are numerous ways to adequately account for each. But taken together, that becomes quite difficult.
First, a little about why I think what the Gospels say about the resurrection story is reliable. Here's what I said back in November 2006:
"What we have are four accounts of an event. Each is written by a different 'investigator', each of whom talked to who knows how many different people, some eyewitnesses and many only 'hearsay' witnesses, whose circles may or may not have overlapped, and if so, no one knows by how much. Each writer also had his own ideas and opinions and had heard a number of various stories about the event. And to make it worse, they wrote their accounts separately from each other in time, but also separated from the event itself in time by perhaps several decades. The details they gathered in compiling the overall story differed significantly from writer to writer, as we would expect from what we know about the recollections of witnesses in our own time, even not far removed from the event in time. In fact, if the details had all matched identically from story to story, that would raise enormous red flags to tip off investigators that the stories had been contrived and rehearsed to make them line up. In honest accounts, the details never match up perfectly. There are always differences in the details. What investigators look for are the similarities in the accounts. When the details generally differ, but a very few things stand out in full agreement, that lends a great deal of credibility to those few things.
In the case of the resurrection stories, the things that stand out in full agreement are the empty tomb and the post-resurrection appearances. And the fact that the details surrounding those two points do not agree across different reporters' accounts just makes it more likely those things that agree are 'true'. Once that is accepted as a high probability, a judge and jury can then go forward to determine what it all means, and what the best 'verdict' is. When I do that, considering the empty tomb and appearances in conjunction with each other, and also considering the other possibilities, I come up with the resurrection as a good (and, for me, the best) explanation for the empty tomb/appearances agreement in the stories."
So, what makes the resurrection as Wright explains and defends it so compelling and persuasive, to me, is that I could easily explain away an empty tomb, since Jesus' body could have been stolen or hidden or otherwise been missing, even as unlikely and without reason as that would have been. I could easily explain away the post-Easter-morning appearances of Jesus as fabrications or impostors. But if he was dead and placed in the tomb, the tomb was later found empty, and Jesus appeared to many people who had known him and recognized who he was (some, apparently, after their initial shock of seeing him alive), then some pretty good explanations are required. After considering all the myriad of other explanations and the arguments for and against them, I am persuaded that the resurrection is the best explanation for the events as they reliably, to me, appear to have happened. Even if it "couldn't possibly have happened," I am persuaded that it apparently did.
You might want to peruse the "Am I A Christian" thread in the General Section. But it'd be much better to read the book. But please read Wright's book someday, at least Part IV. Or maybe get Wonders to come back here and explain it all....
Brad wrote:JustJim wrote:If you consider what Christianity claims, for example, is there anything more important to think about?
I get your point, Jim. But I don't really buy it for the same reason that I don't spend a lot of time sweating over Joseph Smith's claims or L Ron Hubbard's claims or Muhammed's claimed dictation, or imagining that the FSM may be the real God after all, although I'd love to have a driver's license with a pasta strainer on my head. I would look mahhhvelous!
I spend (too much) time here and elsewhere arguing about religion not because of the likelihood of religious claims, but because like an increasing number of other people, I'm convinced - far beyond my own reasonable doubt - that the likelihood of any god is extraordinarily low and that the net result of god beliefs is a terrible scourge to mankind.
Uh oh.... Woops! I must have deleted and then forgot to re-insert "to be the truth" when I was editing my question. What I originally intended to write was:
If you consider what Christianity claims to be the truth, for example, is there anything more important to think about?
Sorry 'bout that. I agree with your misgivings as I mis-typed it.