Michael Alter's Encyclopedic Book On the Resurrection Destroys Natural Theology

[Alter's book next to my favorite brew for size comparison.]
I've written before against the attempt to defend Christianity via Natural Theology. Michael Alter destroys it, and along the way refutes the claims of the resurrection of Jesus in his book, The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry.Natural theologians claim they can argue to the existence of God and then argue there is sufficient evidence for the resurrection of Jesus afterward. I've argued they cannot legitimately do that right here. Alter's book is premised on all of the things that the arguments to God's existence grant. And yet, even as a Jewish theist who believes in God, the inspiration of Old Testament, miracles, and certain other things about Jesus, he rejects the resurrection. His book is a massive one at 746 pages of text with 81 additional pages of bibliography! [Below are a couple of pages as samples]

To the left is page 3 in Alter's book. You can see very clearly that Natural Theology is dead. Believing that God exists does not grant Christians any better position regarding the evidence at all. They still must deal with the evidence. For who knows? Maybe God does exist but didn't raise Jesus from the dead. How can they know if God did? They must look at the evidence without any special pleading, the same way Alter does.

In my experience most Christians won't read books like this one. They only read the ones that support what they were led to believe from childhood. That's because they don't really want to know the truth. But from skim-reading this book by Alter they should.

Alter's book is another example of what I mean when I say believers debunk each other. So I consider Alter an ally in my attempts to debunk Christianity, even though I go on to offer a criticism of his belief in God and the Old Testament as the inspired word of Yahweh.

To the right you can see for yourselves the depth of how Alter argues. He tackles many details not addressed by other similar texts, like the significance of the name Arimathea. You can see he has done his homework even with regard to this small detail. Other small details he discusses are whether Jesus was crucified in the Spring or more likely in the Fall (pp. 52-54), whether the Last Supper was the passover meal (pp. 69ff), whether Jesus was crucified on Friday (pp. 94ff), and whether the disciples had any homes to return to, as stated in John 20:10, when they had previously "left all" to follow Jesus as stated in Mark 10:28 (p. 411). Of the claim that the temple veil was torn from top to bottom at the death of Jesus, Alter asks us to "imagine tearing a cloth fabric the thickness of a good-size telephone directory" which was the length of 82 feet (p. 141). There are many such discussions in his book. It is a treasure trove of research, including hundreds of important quotes from both conservative and liberal scholars.

Alter takes the Christian story as chronologically believed from the beginning to the end of the supposed events, from the Last Supper, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and appearance to Paul. Before each section Alter presents the relevant biblical verses in parallel columns. In the process he finds 120 contradictions and offers 217 speculations that seem to be more reasonable to him than what most Christians believe. He spent eleven years traveling around to different libraries in researching on the issue and writing this magisterial work. It more than rivals any other book-length treatment on the subject. Even as an encyclopedic work it still leaves a few issues unaddressed (like the role of cognitive bias in the minds of the dejected disciples, how to properly do historical research, and a discussion of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53). Nonetheless, it's the best volume on the resurrection by a single author one can find. It's certainly better than most of the ones coming from liberals and atheists. It's a tour de force. Best of it's kind. From now on Christian scholars don't need to concern themselves with atheist books on the resurrection. Deal with fellow believer and theist Michael Alter's book, if you can. But if you cannot convince a fellow theistic believer against the massive amount of evidence he presents, then you should give up all attempts to convince non-believers.

Christians, you're already on the same page with Alter so try to convince him otherwise. My prediction is you can't, and he's a theist of a different stripe very similar to you. Until Christians can convince Alter his Jewish faith is wrong, or until Alter can convince Christians they are wrong, I'll remain a non-believer. The reason neither of them will win this war of beliefs is because of the nature of belief itself. It's because of the cognitive bias of faith that resides in the brain of every believer. It causes them to overestimate the probabilities in favor of what they want to be true. Faith is the problem. Neither side really wants to know the truth. They all defend what they were raised to believe in their respective cultures (however small or large), which in turn is what they prefer to believe.

Let the contest begin! I'll be watching. When it comes to the resurrection I'm solidly in Alter's camp. On this issue he's defending atheism.

Now with my bookshelves already full, where can I put this doorstop of a book? ;-)