What new evidence would be sufficient to lead the speakers to adopt the opposite view? The resurrection of Christ

(Matt Western) #1

I am watching the recent debate between John Lennox and Peter Atkins, which is part of Lennox’s new book ‘Can science explain everything?’.

A member of the audience raised an interesting question to both speakers:

What new evidence would be sufficient to lead the speakers to adopt the opposite view? (video embedded will play at the question asked)

Peter Atkins: Has asked himself that question. Can’t think of any, if I tell myself that if I agreed with some evidence, I would think that I had simply gone mad. Even if i was standing at the foot of a Cross, and saw a resurrection with my very eyes, I would put it down to hallucination. David Hume argument: there is always more reason to disbelieve the reporter than what he is reporting.

Lennox mentions mass-hallucination is not possible to multiple eye witnesses .

Lennox: If you could give me evidence, that for example, that the Gospel writers like Luke were not authentic, give evidence that there is a really convincing explanation that Jesus did not rise from the dead. If you show me that all the experiences I’ve had in life with my family and I’ve had with other people, that I could definitely put down as the activity of God, then I’d be prepared to consider. Those cumulative evidences in my life are so large, that I don’t think it’s likely to happen, but I have to be open to that. Why, because I come from a very religious country, I was accused of ‘of course you believe that stuff, your Irish’, the Freudian explanation.

I’ve spent my entire life, opening up my Christian commitment to it’s opposite,and I’ve spent my entire life doing, a lot of it in Russia where you meet a lot of hard atheism, and doing that constantly questioning my own position, has confirmed my position.

Peter, do you constantly question your own position. …

Lennox mentions the Freudian argument: religion is wish fulfillment, works equally well with atheism, but it does not answer the question if there is a God.

My thoughts:
It’s interesting that John Lennox is still open to his worldview being disproven, whereas Peter Atkins is closed and thinks if he were to consider it, it would be madness.

It’s interesting that both speakers hinge on evidence for the resurrection, which is what the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthinans 15:14-23.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ

(SeanO) #2

@matthew.western N. T. Wright proposes something called ‘critical realism’, which stands in contrast to both positivism and phenomenalism.

  • positivism - every rational assertion is provable by mathematics or experiementation
  • phenomenalism - everything is uncertain because it is rooted in our own experiences
  • critical realism - we must remain open to new knowledge (be willing to be critical of our current view) while also holding on to the reality that we can know some things

‘Over against both of these positions, I propose a form of critical realism . This is a way of describing the process of ‘knowing’ that acknowledges the reality of the thing known, as something other than the knower (hence realism), whilst also fully acknowledging that the only access we have to this reality lies along the spiraling path of appropriate dialogue or conversation between the knower and thing known (hence ‘critical’). This path leads to critical reflection on the products of our inquiry into ‘reality’, so that our assertions about ‘reality’ acknowledge their own provisional nature. Knowledge, in other words, although in principal concerning realities independent of the mind of the knower, is never itself independent of the knower’ N.T. Wright New Testament and the People of God

The Hermeneutic Spiral

In both theology and science we are in a spiral of learning and reevaluating. Simply because we do not know everything does not mean we cannot know anything. We iteratively grow in knowledge of things as we have new experiences and gain wisdom.


Video Evaluation

Lennox seems to be practicing something like critical realism. While Atkins, at least in relation to Jesus, is practicing phenomenalism - we must doubt the reporter because his experiences cannot be trusted - they are too subjective. However, as Lewis has noted, most of what we believe is based upon the witness of others. Most of us have never conducted experiments to verify Newton’s calculations or visited the countryside in France - but we trust that someone conducted those experiments and that there is such a thing as a French countryside. To doubt something simply because it is the word of a witness is to erase most of what we claim to know. It is nonsense.

(Matt Western) #3

Thanks Sean, some great points.

In reference to the Hermeneutic spiral: Is this a personal experience (ie: my learning) or a group experience (society as a whole) or both?

We have many biases, and if you Google you’ll get more than can be counted almost, and I’m sure the fact of each being a ‘thing’ is also up for debate - bias has been on my mind for a while but really had no reason to raise it in this forum just yet in relation to a useful conversation…

take confirmation bias - that is: I generally seek out evidence to support my world view. It takes a much braver person to see out evidence that is contrary to my worldview.

Would you be able to explain what is the inward contracting force of ‘So what?’, and what is the outward expansive force: ‘What if?’. I’m guessing that ‘What if?’ is the better way to approach things? Does this diagram speak to our biases? (you may have to dumb it down a little if possible as I’m not really at university level for some of these things). :slight_smile:

Could this statement be carried to both historical witnesses (as in historical or forensic science where evidence is being gathered for an event that is not repeatable), as well as expert (scientific) witnesses for repeatable events that I do not fully understand. Ie: as a non-scientist I have no choice but to trust somebody for explanations of things outside my field of expertise.
Lennox seems to take this approach - and frequently says he has asked experts in that particular field.
edit: sorry your last paragraph answers this question already. We do indeed trust witnesses of both historical events as well as scientists for repeatable tests that we are unable to do on our own.

(SeanO) #4

@matthew.western I would say the hermeneutic spiral occurs at both the individual and group level. There are many diagrams and ways of thinking of this spiral, though the basic elements are the same:

  • have an initial idea or interpretation of data
  • study that idea at a deeper level or encounter new evidence
  • refine the idea and put it into practice
  • rinse and repeat, always going deeper in understanding / nuance

When it comes to Scripture, the Holy Spirit plays an important role in this process by participating with us in the hermeneutic spiral, which is why it is important to pray as we study the Scriptures. Occasionally we have ‘aha’ moments - when the light bulb goes off and we see something in a new way.

(Jimmy Sellers) #5

I like what Francis Schaeffer says about a similar subject.