As I showed in the last post, one way to show the resurrection happened is to eliminate all other possibilities. These can be categorized into two distinct subgroups. We can say the ancient sources reporting the resurrection are either 1) misinformed, 2) lying, or 3) telling the truth. All theories fall under those three umbrellas.
However, most alternative theories to the resurrection involve an evidential double standard. Here's how:
1) Theory: Disciples hallucinated resurrected Jesus
Double Standard: In every other situation in life, 11 people is enough to ascertain the bodily presence of some individual!
Example: Hallucination theory allows me to be skeptical of the presence of my own girlfriend, even when more than one person sees her.
2) Theory: Jesus had an evil twin who stole the body and pretended to be the resurrected Jesus
Double Standard: In every other situation in life where the outcome is unexpected, we do not propose ad hoc, unethical stunt doubles for everyone!
Example: Everyone who commits a crime can offer the "twin defense" and get away with it.
3) Theory: Disciples preaching of resurrection was metaphor
Double Standard: In every other situation, we take things at face value unless the person tells us something is a metaphor.
Example: Perhaps the person shouting "The building is on fire! Get out!" is speaking metaphorically?
4) Theory: Jesus faked his own death and survived, and pretended to be resurrected.
Double standard: In every other situation, when a historical figure is brutally executed and buried, we take it for granted that they didn't survive.
Example: Perhaps Saddam Hussein is still alive, and merely survived his hanging and his burial.
5) Theory: Jesus didn't exist and wasn't crucified.
Double standard: In every other situation, when multiple ancient sources report something within less than 70 years of the event (or even as little as 5 years!), we take it for granted.
Example: Perhaps Caesar was not assassinated by the senators at all!!
6) The disciples lied about the resurrection
Double standard: In every other situation, when multiple people suffer for their beliefs, they are considered sincere. However, liars are by definition insincere.
Example: Perhaps Martin Luther never really believed in justification by faith at all, despite the repeated risks of persecution he faced because of the Protestant Reformation!?!?
7) There is not enough information to decide if Jesus rose or not.
Double standard: In every other situation, when multiple people offer honest testimony to the death of some person or their bodily presence, we take it for granted that we have enough evidence of their death and/or presence in a room.
Example: Perhaps I should be agnostic about whether or not anyone actually saw Ronald Reagan during his life? Perhaps there is not enough evidence?
Two Choices: Have Double Standards or Accept Too Many Concessions
I can go on and on. The important thing to note is that most alternative theories involve suggestions that would not be considered realistic or even remotely acceptable explanations in other situations.
This places skeptics in one of two camps (or a little of both). One can accept the implausible alternative theories and risk losing debates. Or, one can concede the point that apologists are trying to make. (Aka concede that the disciples were sincere, or that the appearances were intended as bodily).
But this leads them to concede so much that their position looks unreasonable. In fact, it ends up leading them to concede so much that more evidence would be, in practice, unhelpful in causing them to change their mind (at least in some cases). This is the inspiration for the title of this blog "Death by a Thousand Concessions." The opponents of Christianity end up conceding so much of the data that their own position becomes highly untenable to the point that more evidence for our position would be unhelpful in practice.
But!!! But!!! But!!!!! Wait a Second!!!
Isn't the resurrection just as crazy??
Unfortunately, saying the resurrection is highly improbable has a very big assumption behind it. It also misconstrues the situation (perhaps accidentally on the skeptics part).
Not by Natural Causes...
If we were to say that the resurrection happened naturally, all on its own, then this argument would have a lot of merit. Of course the resurrection is less likely than an evil twin.....if we say the resurrection happened by purely natural causes.
But that's not what any Christian is saying....
William Lane Craig points out that the contention is not that Jesus just randomly rose from the dead, as some kind of unexplained natural mystery or freak of nature. The contention is that God raised Jesus from the dead.
...but by a Personal Cause
Michael Licona points out that probabilities of this nature immediately break down when personal, free agents are purported to be involved. For example, we know that books don't pick themselves up off the floor and set on the table all by themselves. If someone where to say that, we would justifiably reject their theory. However, if someone said that a person freely picked up a book and put it onto a table, then the probability that the book wouldn't pick itself up on its own no longer has any bearing on the situation anymore.
And it doesn't even matter if we know that the personal cause exists or not. This is not how we handle things of this nature in our lives. If someone named "Alvin Plantinga" emails me, I don't have to go independently assess whether or not a person named "Alvin Plantinga" exists. The email itself acts as evidence for his existence. (For the record, Alvin Plantinga has never emailed me.) If I am skeptical of the existence of mechanics, a repaired car acts as evidence for his existence. I don't have to prove the existence of mechanics before believing that a car has been repaired!
We seem to have exhausted all the available alternative possibilities. After all, skeptics have had 2000 years to come up with them.
The Only Game in Town
So unless we want to believe that God supernaturally caused a tomb robbery and supernaturally caused the disciples to hallucinate a bodily Jesus, the resurrection is the only game in town.