Don McLeroy, young-earth creationist dentist and former head (and then member) of the Texas Board of Education, left a comment on my website a while back–a comment that I didn’t approve but put it up as a main post. Here it is:
He then tendered his “evidence” for those 500 witnesses, which I also posted; let me just say that it wasn’t very convincing. Readers asked him a number of comments, but his replies were ineffectual and I suggested he lay out his evidence on his own website.
He has done so, in a post on his site (To My Listening Ear) called “My response to Jerry Coyne and his readers on the Resurrection.” It’s a long post, and I’ve eliminated the introduction for brevity, but have reproduced the bulk of his text below. Since he’s banned here, if you want to argue with him, I suggest you go over to his site, which will surely gladden him as it will boost his traffic by several orders of magnitude.
What I’m just doing here is showing you how one diehard believer justifies not only his faith in the Resurrection and the 500 witnesses, but in why he thinks Christianity is the “true faith.” I’ll leave the comments up to you either here or there.
My Response to Jerry Coyne and his Readers on the Resurrection
Posted on August 1, 2014 by Don McLeroy
Reply to “Why Evolution Is Not True”
This blog post is my response to Dr. Coyne and the WEIT readers who made almost 400 comments to these two blog posts.
First, I would like to thank and complement the many who took the time to thoughtfully reply to my two comments on the 500 eyewitnesses. Daniel Dennett touts “Sturgeon’s Law” which says that 90% of all comments are rubbish, but here, this is clearly not the case. Most were very serious reflections and reasonable statements and questions.
Biblical scholars differ on the resurrection. I admit that I am only well-read among the conservative scholars and my familiarity with the liberal scholars is limited to the critiques of them by the conservatives. Definitely not the best policy. The only skeptical book I have read is Russell Shorto’s Gospel Truth: On the Trail of the Historical Jesus as he had interviewed me for a major essay in the New York Times Sunday Magazine.
Just as the scholars differ so do I and the readers. I accept a scholarship that dates the Gospels as written between 40 and 65 A.D. whereas most readers believe they were written 65 to 100 A.D. or later. These later dates allow for conspiracy theories and myths to be more easily developed. I don’t think any reader held the early dating gospel view.
But no matter which scholars are correct, we still have to account for the phenomenon of Christianity and its powerful influence over the last 2000 years and today. And, we have to account for the fact as to why my simple comment about “500 eyewitnesses” could stir up so much interest? Christianity seems to draw a lot more interest than it should. Of course, atheism and evolution do the same for me. I admit that I enjoy following many of Dr. Coyne’s blog posts. I like keeping up with the evolutionists and atheists; I want to understand how the atheist mind thinks and reasons. I believe that Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins are much clearer thinkers about the implications of evolution than Kenneth Miller and other theistic evolutionists.
Overall, I found the objections raised to the resurrection to be focused on plain skeptical thinking about miracles in general, the accuracy and reliability of the scriptures, contradictions in the gospel story, and especially, the lack of corroborating evidence of biblical accounts concerning the resurrection—especially the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem.
Specific to the resurrection, no one advocated the swoon theory, and only a few commented that they thought the disciples hallucinated. Most focused on the idea of a conspiracy of early Christians or the gradual development of Christianity as myth. Also, no one was impressed with the experts I cited—Andreas Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, and Josh Chatraw, Peter Kreeft, Norman Geisler, Frank Turek, Lee Strobel, James Hannam, Moyshe Averick, Rodney Stark, Ravi Zacarias,G. K Chesterton, Paul Johnson, Abraham Kuyper, C. S. Lewis, and David Brog.
I do not know why there is no mention of the dead coming out of their graves and seen walking around Jerusalem. But it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened.
While we do not know their names or have the testimonies of the 500 in question, we do for Paul and James and Peter and John and Mark and Matthew. I am not too bothered about the actual number of eyewitnesses. As noted in my comment to McLeroy replies about the crucifixion the testimony of just two eyewitnesses is very powerful. Even so, if Jesus did actually rise from the dead and spent around a month among the people, it seems logical the claim of the 500 witnesses could have happened. And, Paul is issuing a challenge to those skeptics reading his words to go and ask these folks—many who are still alive. This is not something you would do if making up a myth or a conspiracy.
Another good point the readers made are why some disciples did not recognize Jesus immediately. I don’t know. Again, it does seem odd though for a bunch of conspirators to add such a detail that could easily be dismissed unless it actually happened. I can only speculate as to why he was not recognized; my speculations are not very important.
I am not in a position to debate the strength and weaknesses of Bart Ehrman’s scholarship. As noted in my first reply in Jesus Delusion I have my own set of experts I trust. I will let them have that debate.
As for Paul’s claims he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, it certainly was more than a vision. There was light and all present heard Jesus speaking.
One reader stated that Christianity “attained its current heights due to” purely naturalistic causes. I hold the view that Christianity reached its lofty status because it is based on truth—truth about the nature of God, the nature of man and the nature of the world.
One reader asked if I would still believe if there were no eyewitnesses. A good question. I can only speculate because the account says they were eyewitnesses. With no witnesses, the biblical accounts would have been totally different and history would have been completely different. I don’t know what I would believe today if that were the case.
Biblical Trustworthiness in General
It seems to me that the starting point for many of the readers in rejecting the resurrection are an anti-supernatural bias and assumption that the Bible is not reliable or authoritative. I believe the supernatural exists and miracles happen. Miracles can happen; the greatest miracle was the creation of the world. For me, I have found the Bible to be extremely reliable; this is not the case for many of the readers; I see no way of resolving these differences here.
A very good question raised by Dr. Coyne and others is why I believe I am right when I have not studied other religions for 29 years. Could I be wrong? Yes, I could be wrong. I try to understand what others believe or don’t believe. This is one reason I listen to the podcast “Point of Inquiry.” They have fascinating discussions about issues such as these. Again, my testimony of “How I became a Christian” can be found on my website.
The timing of events during the “Passion Week” is difficult. I do not know for sure. A lot had to happen if the “Last Supper” was Thursday night and the crucifixion was Friday. For me, this is not insurmountable.
One reader asked “What would it take to change my mind?” This is a good question. Since my whole life is wrapped up in my faith—my friends, my church, my sense of who I am, it would be very difficult to give it all up. I believe I am honest enough to do so if I was presented evidence of a viable alternative.
This works both ways. For those of you who are atheists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence? You have to have something from “Nothing.” If “Nothing” is defined as “what a sleeping rock dreams of;” I would think you have a serious problem.
For those of you who are evolutionists, how can you hold to something with so little evidence? To explain all the diversity of life on this planet by unguided natural processes requires a titanic amount of evidence. I think the best evidence you have is the fossil record. You say the present is the key to the past, present animal life consists of life so discontinuous that it is unimaginable how you could have bridged the gaps, and the fossils record shows the same gaps—with a some transitional fossils. But it is not enough! There should be “zillions” of them. When it comes to explain the evolution of the biochemical processes in the cell, you have nothing.
Therefore, I find my biblical beliefs to be much more reasonable. For any other alternative, the evidence doesn’t support it.
In conclusion, all of us reasoning creatures hold some irrational beliefs. I find mine to be less of a problem than the way I understand yours; this is why I read your blogs—to better understand your beliefs. And, after reading your responses to these two WEEIT blog posts by Dr. Coyne, I find your reasoning much more coherent and evidence based.