Observations on belief in the resurrection of Jesus

I posed the following on a Facebook group page. I thought others may find it helpful.

On the probability of the resurrection.
I have two observations about belief in the resurrection.

Based on my recent interactions with Christians, it seems that belief in the resurrection may be simply a problem with a mathematical misunderstanding.
Imagine that, for each of five naturalistic explanations, the resurrection is twice as probable.

  • 1: It is twice as probable that a man has come back to life than that the story was intentionally fabricated.
  • 2: It is twice as probable that a man has come back to life than that a legend of a resurrection can grow out of the many retellings of a hero’s life among those devoted to him.
  • 3: It is twice as probable that a man has come back to life than that a man who had not actually died appeared alive after being thought dead.
  • 4: It is twice as probable that a man has come back to life than that that the body of that man was stolen or simply moved to a different place.
  • 5: It is twice as probable that a man has come back to life than that those looking for someone’s body went to the wrong sepulcher.

Let’s add a sixth proposition that constitutes a “all others” category necessary to complete our sample space.

  • 6: It is twice as probable that a man has come back to life than that one of all remaining unintroduced or unimagined natural explanations is the actual explanation.

Let’s grant these six assumptions for the sake of argument.
Now, based on these assumptions, are we justified in concluding that Jesus resurrected from the dead based on the principle of abduction or “inference to the best explanation”?
I would argue that we are not.
Based on the relative probabilities of the six assumptions we have granted, the probability that someone has come back from the dead is only 25%.
That someone has come back from the dead, granting the assumptions above, is the best explanation. Yet this explanation justifies only a 25% of belief. The complementary doubt must be at 75% for a rational mind.
The problem is that many think that the best explanation is inherently deserving of a high degree of confidence. It is not.
And it is this fundamental error that may lie at the base of the confidence of many that Jesus rose from the dead.
This is my first observation.

Belief in the resurrection may be simply based on a logical blunder.
Many claim that the resurrection is the most probable explanation without providing the probability of a resurrection.
For the rational mind, the following two premises can not be held at the same time.

  • P1: X is more probable than Y.
  • P2: I don’t know the probability X.

I have encountered not just a few Christians who hold both of these premises.


So these two observation may assist believers in reassessing their belief in the resurrection. If you have already taken both of these observations into consideration, and have come to the conclusion the resurrection of Jesus did actually happen, good on you. But you may want to assist the many other Christians who believe in the resurrection based on a blunder in probability or logic.


The Wages Of Faith

Girl from Wisconsin
(Madeline Kara Neumann)
Boy from Capernaum
A woman from Everest Wisconsin of extraordinary faith had a young daughter named Madeline who fell horribly ill. Unshaken, she took her concerns to Jesus with whom she had a personal relationship.

Though she had never seen Jesus work miracles, she trusted Jesus’s promise, for he had clearly said “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
(Mark 11:24)

Now she could have doubted Jesus, especially since other less devout relatives had expressed doubts. But she did not even consider calling a hospital. No one could claim that she did not have the faith required for Jesus to keep his promise.

A man from Capernaum Galilee of extraordinary faith had a young son who fell horribly ill. Unshaken, he took his concerns to Jesus who he had heard was currently performing miracles in a nearby town.

Now though he had never met Jesus before, he honestly believed that Jesus could heal his son. When he asked Jesus to come and heal his son, Jesus looked at him and said “Go thy way; thy son liveth.”
(John 4:51)

Now this man could have easily doubted since he had never before met Jesus. However, without any further questions, he immediately turned and happily began his journey home. He surely had enormous faith in the promise of Jesus.

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