Refuting Jake, part 1
An atheist posting under the name “Jake” has challenged my articles from God is NOT Imaginary. I’ve decided to take him on in a series of posts on this blog instead of in super-loooooooooong comments on the other site. His three comments appear in response to this article.
Your refutation to premise 1 is problematic. For example, you indicate that the absence of hostile sources is proof positive that Christ performed miracles. An equally valid, though alternative explanation is that Christ didn’t perform miracles. Or, that Christ didn’t exist. If either of these were the case, we could expect no contemporary hostile sources to exist. Because you obviously know that these alternative explanations are legitimately valid, your argument falls under the logical fallacy of “argument from silence”.
This isn’t true. First, I can’t prove that anything 2000 years ago happened. But I can go with the weight of the evidence, and the weight of the evidence is on the side of the gospels as historically accurate. Given the existence of these sources and given the deposed nature of Christianity, it seems to me that if Jesus didn’t perform miracles, secular sources would exist that refuted the gospels’ contention that He did perform them.
It is problematic for you that the epistles of Peter and John appeal to eyewitnesses (cf. 1 Pet 5:1; 1 Jn 1:1-3). This means that the apostles were writing to people who had actually seen the miracles performed–people who would know whether or not what the apostles said was true.
I don’t believe that any of those alternative explanations are possible, therefore I am not arguing from silence.
Furthermore, you know as well as I do that the authenticity of the gospel authors is highly disputed, even amongst Christian scholars. The fact that four gospels attest to miracles in the first person certainly is a type of evidence for the miracles, but if those four gospels are based off only one source (whether it be “Q” or Mark), or off oral traditions, it is incorrect to treat each as credible testimony.
To my knowledge, Christian scholars have always maintained the traditional authorship of the gospels. The second century Church Fathers are absolutely unanimous in attributing the authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Absent any earlier or more reliable testimony to the contrary, it is therefore easy to conclude that the authors of tradition are the authors of the gospels. There is no evidence that the gospels are based off of some anonymous source “Q.” It is more likely that Mark was first, and Matthew and Luke wrote next, one working from the other and both from Mark. Luke is most probably the copycat, since his intention was to create an orderly history (cf. Luke 1:1-4) and he probably would have used available source documents in order to create the most accurate history possible. For a more in-depth treatment, see here.
Your reply to number 2. You’re following circular logic: “I know that the resurrection is true because the Bible says that it is true. We know the Bible is true because Christ was resurrected”. Besides the gospels, there are no independent attestations to the resurrection, to an empty tomb, or to any of Christ’s miracles.
I’m not following circular logic. I believe in the Resurrection because nothing else explains the facts–not because the Bible tells me so. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God because of the Resurrection. J.P. Holding has an excellent essay on the low probability Christianity would exist today if not for positive proof of the Resurrection. William Lane Craig has an excellent article on the historicity of the empty tomb.
Tomorrow, I will continue examining Jake’s comments. He raises many good issues, and this is much better thought-out than the comments that I usually get. I’m enjoying sparring with him and I hope that my refutation illuminates the hearts of people like Jake, and of Jake himself. I pray that God uses this for His glory!