Our New Home

We have a new home, come join us at WeAreSMRT (We Are Skeptical Minds & Rational Thinkers)

The Forum

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Questions for Christians: The Resurrection (part 1)

First, the usual disclaimer: the purpose of these posts is to pose questions to Christians who come here (or go anywhere, for that matter) with the intent of converting us to Christianity, but also with an open mind about their own faith. You may post your answers here, or answer them privately, at your discretion. My ultimate goal in asking these questions is to have you deconvert from Christianity. If you are not open to at least the possibility of that happening, then I suggest you not respond to these questions, as that will be a waste of your time (and possibly our bandwidth). At the same time, I am open to the possibility of learning a thing or two about Christianity along the way -- but if you answer these questions publicly, with the intention of being a teacher instead of a learner, then please don't bother doing so here. These questions are for your educational benefit.

This is one in a series of "Questions..." posts that deal with the Bible, the scriptural compilation that constitutes the conceptual framework of the Christian faith. If you were ever a Christian, chances are you've read some of the Bible. If you are still a Christian today, chances are you haven't read all of it.

The next two or three posts will deal with the most critical of all Christian doctrines: the Resurrection of Jesus. This is the alleged event that purportedly proved that Jesus was correct in the things he said. Without the Resurrection, there is no Christianity. Paul himself purportedly said, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14).

Although it's not Saturday, I'm going to limit myself to one single question today -- partly because my time today is limited, and partly because this is the perhaps the most important question on the subject and I want to give Christians extra time to focus upon it:

1. Can you tell us what happened on Easter?

Dan Barker, an evangelical minister turned outspoken atheist, issued what he calls the Easter Challenge to Christians. The challenge is simple: taking all the details from the six seperate Resurrection narratives in the New Testament,

  • Matthew 28
  • Mark 16
  • Luke 24
  • John 20-21
  • Acts 1:3-12
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Barker challenges Christians to, "without omitting a single detail from these separate accounts, write a simple, chronological narrative of the events between the resurrection and the ascension: what happened first, second, and so on; who said what, when; and where these things happened."

Sounds simple, right? Well, Barker first issued this challenge in 1990, and as of this writing (2008), it remains unmet. Many Christians have addressed the challenge, and a few have made attempts at meeting it (you can probably find one or two on the internet), but not a single one of them succeeds in constructing a single plausible narrative without omitting one or more Biblical details and/or contradicting one or more extant narratives in the Bible. In other words, there is no sequence of events that is consistent with the reports of all the New Testament writers.

You might think that this doesn't matter, that what's important is that the writers agree on the major details -- for instance, they all agree that Jesus appeared to the disciples after the Resurrection. But as Barker says,

I am not a fundamentalist inerrantist. I'm not demanding that the evangelists must have been expert, infallible witnesses. (None of them claims to have been at the tomb itself, anyway.) But what if one person said (an) auto accident happened in Chicago and the other said it happened in Milwaukee? At least one of these witnesses has serious problems with the truth.

Luke says the post-resurrection appearance (to the disciples) happened in Jerusalem, but Matthew says it happened in Galilee, sixty to one hundred miles away! (...) Something is very wrong here.

Then, too, witnesses to a car accident, or to another person's life such as Lincoln or Julius Caesar, didn't purportedly receive divine inspiration or ghostwriting when delivering their accounts. The gospel writers and Paul purportedly did. One would therefore expect a harmony in their accounts, commensurate with the importance of the message and the infallibility of the divine being in question. In other words, one would expect perfection. But we don't have it.

Can you succeed where 18 years of Christians have failed? If not, then you are forced to concede that the Resurrection accounts are not inerrant -- and what does that say about the story as a whole? If people disagree, then they can't all be right -- but they can all be wrong. Isn't it possible that you are wrong about the Resurrection?

To be continued . . .


  1. Dave,

    I hope you get more of a response for this question than you did your last. Is this a Christian strike?

  2. I'm not aware of any organized Christian strike -- but I don't particularly care if they respond here or not. I'm content with their reading my posts and thinking about them.

  3. Dave,
    I read your posts and enjoy them very much. Keep it up.


Unlike Ray we don't censor our comments, so as long as it's on topic and not spam, fire away.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.