A Critical Examination of a Panel Discussion On The Resurrection

Christian apologists Tom Gilson, Jonathan McLatchie, Timothy McGrew and Lydia McGrew participated in panel discussing the resurrection of Jesus recently, and invited questions beforehand. So I obliged with two questions:
1. Would you comment on this quote: "The minimal facts approach is not a fair approach the data, to say the least. By virtue of any disagreements it’s not fair for their side to take off the table any “facts” the other side objects to. That is special pleading, pure and simple, in favor of Christian scholarship. So what is offered are “minimal facts, not all the facts”. What is needed is a sound argument for why apologists can arbitrarily exclude certain things from the discussion. Only if both sides agree to this can apologists Habermas and Licona go ahead and make their case. But skeptics atheists and agnostics don't.
Before the panel discussion Jonathan McLatchie responded:
John W. Loftus I find your objection to the minimal facts approach quite bizarre. The whole point of the approach is that it is tying one's arm deliberately behind one's back and limiting themselves to data that is granted by the skeptics -- i.e. starting from common ground assumptions. How is that "special pleading in favor of Christian scholarship"?
I replied:
Jonathan McLatchie WL Craig and others have said it frees the apologist from first having to defend the authority of the Bible. But defending the authority of the Bible is the major task of theirs. So it allows them to escape from the major task of theirs, which is special pleading.
My reply was not mentioned in the discussion. You can watch the video below.

On the minimal facts question Jonathan McLatchie says such an approach to the resurrection is essentially tying the apologist's hands behind his back to admit only the data which enjoys the consensus of scholarly support. Lydia McGrew says that if anything they're excluding things that might tell in favor of their arguments. Timothy McGrew's comment is irrelevant since it boils down to a mere assertion that my criticism is not a fair one, since someone can adduce other facts also widely agreed upon that would be better explained by the miracles not having taken place. I don't disagree with doing this and I think I do it well. However, it's clear that the minimal facts approach is an apologetic strategy. Its goal is to by-pass those beliefs that are hard to defend, like the inspiration and authority of the Bible. See more here.

On to my next question, a long one.
2. Would you please make three distinctions then answer the question that follows? 1) Do you differentiate between objective evidence (coming from artifacts, astronomy, geology, genetics, archaeology, philology, DNA, clinical trials, cell phones) and testimonial evidence coming from people who say they saw a miracle? Testimonial evidence is weak by comparison. Testimonial evidence over time is weaker by comparison. Hearsay testimonial evidence over time is very weak by comparison. Hearsay testimonial evidence coming from the pre-scientific world of superstitious people is extremely weak evidence. Objective evidence doesn't lie. People do. People misunderstand and mischaracterize. Most people believe first and ask questions later. Thinking like a scientist is a learned skill. 2) Do you also differentiate between evidence that directly confirms what you believe from evidence that's merely consistent with what you believe? Even if we accept that the body of Jesus might be missing that doesn't prove he was raised from the dead, not by a long shot. 3) Do you admit there's a distinction between ordinary claims and miraculous claims, and that ordinary claims don't require a great amount of quality evidence for them, whereas miraculous claims do? [On this last distinction just think of the virgin birth claim of Mary, and the dream story of Joseph that convinced him she was telling the truth, along with the inclusion of his dream story into the gospel of Matthew (1:19-24)].

Now for my next question: Since you don't have any objective evidence that specifically confirms the miraculous resurrection of Jesus, and although the available scant ancient testimonial evidence alone doesn't provide adequate grounds to confirm it (the testimonial evidence is based largely on hearsay testimony from just 2-3 authors), what is the real reason you believe it?
Whew! That's a long one, right? To their credit they dealt with it all.

The context of question two was the concrete example of resurrection miracle, and partially the virgin birth story Mary supposedly told. Now Timothy is right that there's more to testimony than mere testimony. For there is also expert testimony based on evidence, and evidence that needs experts to explain. Objective evidence is not inherently self-explaining, he rightly says. But the context is the supposed miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. So what he said is irrelevant to the question at hand. For when it comes to the miracle of the resurrection we need objective evidence that the ones who wrote these stories down are indeed "experts" and can best explain what happened, if anything happened at all. Plus, his criticism that we cannot detect a plastic comb with a metal detector is also irrelevant. For to use his own analogy, if his god only gives us a metal detector and we cannot detect something like a plastic comb, then his god should have given us eyesight too! Furthermore, if Timothy has a different more reliable way to detect miracles then what is that method? A subjective feeling is evidence of a subjective feeling and every religious person claims a lot of different miracles from a lot of different gods based on subjective feelings. To be specific, what other method but the historical method (i.e., the metal detector) is there to know Jesus was resurrected from the dead, if he was? If we cannot detect that miracle with the historical method than what else is there? The resurrection cannot be reasonably defended with this method, so that's not our problem. It's god's problem for not giving us better historical evidence than he did.

In fact, almost everything Timothy McGrew said is irrelevant to the issue at hand! Later he goes on to argue that there are a lot of ordinary events that might require extraordinary evidence, so the line between ordinary and extraordinary evidence is blurred. Okay. What does that have to do with the specific concrete example of the resurrection miracle? That supposed miraculous event requires a lot of good evidence for it. That's the point! It goes way beyond any ordinary event since it presumably violates or abrogates or suspends or transgresses natural law. It does no good to have a philosophical discussion about the difference between ordinary evidence and extraordinary evidence about it. What you see in Timothy McGrew here is obfuscationism. That's why I wrote the book Unapologetic: Why Philosophy of Religion Must End. The goal with Christian apologists of a philosophy of religion orientation is not to make clearer, but to make thicker, to muddy the waters, to throw up dust, by obfuscating the facts.

Timothy went on to dispute David Hume, whom I and others have defended in my new anthology The Case against Miracles, which none of them have read. Timothy says people "can't ask for more evidence than in principle can be given." Yes, that's true, but irrelevant. What does it have to do with the resurrection miracle? Is he saying we must accept less than sufficient evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? What does he do with claims that are defended with all the available evidence but don't rise up to an adequate reason to believe? I would hope he wouldn't accept such a claim, or that he would simply suspend judgment.

Lydia McGrew shows she didn't understand the distinction between that which is consistent with her beliefs and that which confirms her beliefs. She disagreed with my distinction by suggesting equivalent synonyms for the word "consistent" like "pertinent" and "compatible." So in the end she disagreed with my distinction only to submit that same distinction using exact synonyms of the word "consistent." It should be clear to honest thinkers that the missing body of Jesus doesn't confirm Jesus arose from the dead, but would instead be merely consistent with it. Disagreeing with this without showing why, is an indicator that someone is desperate, I think.

When it came to the virgin birth story, Tom Gilson says he doesn't start there in defending his faith. He says he comes to the confidence of the virgin birth story after he becomes confident in the whole gospel. But in my experience it's unevidenced claims like we find in the virgin birth story that tell me not to trust the whole story. Because those kinds of unevidenced stories are littered throughout the Bible, why should we take anything written in it as a fact without outside corroboration? On the virgin birth story the whole gospel stands or falls with it anyway. See here and the tag "virgin birth" for more.

One thing I liked was how they got a chuckle over my very last question. I liked that. I had already made my point in the question itself.