You’d think so, right? After all, in the last several thousand years there’s been a single dubious report of someone coming back to life after having been dead for several days. Other than that, bupkus.
Ah, but you’re neglecting the enormous creativity of accommodationists, especially Matt Rossano, a psychology professor at Southeastern Louisiana University (we’ve we’ve encountered him before). Over at PuffHo, Rossano tries to show that the resurrection and science are indeed compatible. The deed of reconciliation is accomplished by making two claims:
1. It was more than just a “dead person coming back to life.”
Rossano gets a little help here from Pope Ratzi, who in a new book (where does a sitting Pope get time to write a book?) interprets the resurrection of Jesus for his flock. Ratzi says this:
“Anyone approaching the Resurrection accounts in the belief that he knows what rising from the dead means will inevitably misunderstand those accounts and will then dismiss them as meaningless” (p. 243).
In fact, if Jesus’ Resurrection were “merely” coming back to life in any way that we might comprehend, then it would be of little significance. . .
[He quotes Ratzi]: “Jesus had not returned to a normal human life in this world like Lazarus and the others whom Jesus raised from the dead. He has entered upon a different life, a new life — he has entered the vast breadth of God himself…” (p. 244).
. . .Because it is something entirely new, it cannot represent a violation of natural law as understood by science. . .
. . . Thus, in this view, Resurrection (as with all true miracles) is not contrary to science, but an indicator that science does not (yet?) describe the full expanse of reality.
Note the sleight of hand here. The question has changed from “did it really happen?” to “given that it happened, what did it mean?”
Correct me if I’m wrong here, but what about this isn’t a violation of natural law? Dead is dead. And if you expand our idea of biology and physics so that resurrection does become a “natural law,”—just one that we’ve not yet grasped—how come the law was enacted only once? Of course any miracle can be reinterpreted as natural law, but when you do that it’s no longer a miracle, which I thought was the suspension of natural law by God.
For a moment, let us entertain the possibility that Resurrection is as Benedict interprets it: not a violation of natural law but an indicator of something beyond our scientific understanding of the universe. This has interesting implications for understanding how believers and skeptics approach the issue. If Resurrection does not violate science, then science does not necessarily constitute an impediment to accepting the reality of Resurrection.
2. There is actually pretty good evidence for the scientifically acceptable Resurrection.
Rossano asks a good question, “Now, what convinces the believer that Resurrection merits such authority when other imaginative possibilities such as extraterrestrial life or time-travel do not?” Rossano considers one answer: historical commitment. “There’s no record of people committing themselves to the point of martyrdom to other imaginative possibilities as they have to Resurrection.” But he discards it, as well he should, because that’s not evidence for anything. Lots of people have committed themselves to dubious claims: Scientologists and Mormons are only two recent examples. Commitment says nothing about reality.
So a key question regarding the interpretation of Resurrection is this: Is the post-crucifixion history of Christianity extraordinary? Does it compel the dispassionate observer to concede that a categorically unique event could plausibly be its best explanation?
He clearly sees the answer as “yes”. But what’s the difference between the “extraordinary post-crucifixion history of Christianity”, which after all is precisely the “historical commitment” of its followers, martyrdom, and the like. And if those aren’t convincing to the skeptic, neither is the “historical” argument. And, after all, the post-Mohamed history of Islam is also extraordinary, as is the post-Xenu history of scientology and the post-Joseph-Smith history of Mormonism. All this shows is that credulous folks can commit themselves to an incredible idea. As for the best explanation for this “categorically unique event,” I defer to Hume.
Based on this mush-headed argument, Rossano calls for comity between skeptics and believers:
There’s a message here, one quite in keeping with the Easter season when the notion of something radically new breaking through is uppermost in our minds. It ought to be upon questions such as those above that skeptics and believers respectfully engage one another, rather than the simplistic and often acrimonious sloganeering that has increasingly become the norm.
How can one engage this kind of slippery non-evidence “respectfully?” The proper response is say “dead is dead” and ask for more evidence.