Archives of Reception of the Bible

Past blogging in more ways than one.

Monday, July 09, 2007

A comment on resurrection

A comment left on April Deconick's blog following the recent discussion of resurrection occasioned by James Crossley's post on Tom Wright and resurrection.


Fascinating discussion. But I doubt you’ll find it touching someone who believes in the resurrection. Part of the problem is that a certain utilitarianism keeps echoing - without ‘x’ we can’t do history. True, but not the ‘Truth’, I can already hear your critics saying.

Without wishing to criticise your historical methods, virtually all of which I habitually use, child of the Enlightenment that I am :), I would like to point out that your take on induction is badly flawed.

‘Tomorrow I might wake up to find myself green, or the floor no longer solid, or dead bodies rising out of the tombs. But I doubt that that will be the case tomorrow or the next day or any day of my life. Mr. Walters is correct that an inductive argument does not lead to a logically necessary conclusion. But the point of making arguments from history is that they are very strong inductive arguments.’

This is incorrect for two reasons. Historical arguments do not work from the events themselves, but rather from the traces of the events left in history. In other word, you are not operating as an empirical scientist would work, from present experimentation, but rather extrapolating from our texts and artefacts. Not problematic, but not very strong either – it is commonly called a weak form of induction.

The second reason is much more damning. The problem with induction - long recognised by the likes of David Hume and Karl Popper – is that however many times an event happens, there is an infinite number of times it has yet to happen. Dividing the sample by infinity always leaves a probability of virtually zero. In terms of induction, you can *never* have a strong argument. All I think you could say is that you have a strong psychological argument against resurrection.

Incidentally, Altmann’s solution is basically a version of Kuhn’s paradigms or Lakatos’ research programmes, both of which are responses to and replacements for induction. But both are very susceptible to a relativistic interpretation and quite probably will never be able to quell your opponents.

Best wishes



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