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Monday, September 2, 2019

Evidence For The Empty Tomb of Jesus and Big Bang Cosmology

Introduction

The concept of "enemy attestation" is an important concept that is often used when arguing for the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. The importance comes from the general recognition that if an enemy (here, "enemy" just means someone who is philosophically committed against a view) affirms the truth of a claim, especially if that claim's being true is damaging to their counter-claim, it is likely true. Usually, in such a case, the evidence is so strong for the claim that the enemy would publically risk intellectual integrity if they were to continue with their rejection. They "bite the bullet," so to say, accept the evidence, and search for some way to make the evidence compatible with their view.



The Empty Tomb And The Jewish Leaders of Jesus' Time

After Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified and buried in a publicly known tomb, an unexpected discovery was made on the morning of the third day: the tomb was empty (John 20:1-8). The tomb of Jesus being empty did not help the case for the Jewish leaders at all; in fact, the empty tomb was quite devastating to their claim that Jesus was not God (why they crucified Him in the first place- Mark 14:64). They understood that if God raised Jesus from the dead, that would vindicate Jesus' claim to be God, so the tomb's being empty was quite problematic. But the evidence of the empty tomb was so strong (too many people had been there to see it) that the Jewish leaders felt the need to provide an explanation to compete with the Resurrection explanation. They offered the idea that the Disciples stole the body (Matt 28:13) as the alternative explanation that is compatible with their claim that Jesus was not God (and that no resurrection, thus divine vindication, actually happened). This "enemy attestation" by the Jewish leaders is commonly recognized as a powerful piece of evidence that the tomb of Jesus was, in fact, found empty after his crucifixion.

For those unfamiliar with this evidence, the first half of this video from Reasonable Faith presents the pieces of evidence for the empty tomb including the enemy attestation:



If Christians are to grant that such enemy attestation provides a strong piece of evidence for the truth of the idea that Jesus' tomb was found empty (and for the wider truth of the Christian worldview), then we need to consider that enemy attestation regarding other claims about history provide powerful evidence for the truth of those claims as well. However, I am not talking about another claim in human history. No, I am talking about a claim of the universe's history: its very origin.

The Big Bang And Atheistic Scientists Of Modern Times

The modern analog to the empty tomb is the origin of the universe. Numerous pieces of evidence (both direct and indirect) have been put together to form both deductive and abductive arguments that conclude with the universe having a beginning in the finite past and having been finely-tuned as if designed for advanced life.

This video (also, from Reasonable Faith) describes just a little bit of the evidence for the beginning of the universe:


The big bang does not help the case of the atheist at all; in fact, the big bang is quite devastating to their claim that the universe does not have a transcendent beginning (or Beginner) and that it is not designed (thus the need for a Designer). Atheists, though, understand that the evidence of the big bang (the beginning and design of the universe, in particular) is so strong that they feel the need to offer competing explanations (simulation and multiverse theories are pretty popular today).

This video (again, from Reasonable Faith) focuses on the design of our universe and the enemy attestation of such a conclusion:


Despite the theological implications of such conclusions, atheistic scientists have acknowledged that the evidence is so strong that to deny the truth of this "big bang" theory would be tantamount to denying that evidence has the power to persuade them at all. To maintain their claims that they are open to persuasive evidence, they follow where the evidence is leading, even if it is one small step at a time.

To Accept or Deny The Power of Enemy Attestation?

Unfortunately, some Christians deny big bang cosmology and deny that the enemy attestation of it supports its truth. If we believe that this is not a supporting piece of evidence for the truth of big bang cosmology, then we logically must also reject enemy attestation as a supporting piece of evidence for the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. Both rejections come at a price for the Christian: their reasonable witness (1 Peter 3:15) to God as Creator (Genesis 1:1) and Jesus as Savior (1 Cor 15) are weakened. Dr. Hugh Ross puts these implications quite well in his book "A Matter of Days: Resolving A Creation Controversy":

Quote from the book "A Matter of Days" by Dr. Hugh Ross: "Perhaps the most tragic aspect of denying nature's scientifically established characteristics is that such a denial forces the rejection of timely, compelling evidence for the God of the Bible and for the accuracy and authority of His Word."

"Perhaps the most tragic aspect of denying nature's scientifically established characteristics is that such a denial forces the rejection of timely, compelling evidence for the God of the Bible and for the accuracy and authority of His Word."- Hugh Ross

If we are going to insist on an evidentially guided epistemology (rules for determining how we know what we know) regarding one part of our worldview (the Resurrection), we cannot abandon it regarding other parts of our worldview (origins). Such an illogical philosophical move results in a contradiction that unbelievers rightfully detect, and because they detect that contradiction, they conclude that the Christian worldview necessitates such rejection of evidence elsewhere, thus disconnecting the worldview from reality.

If the Christian worldview is truly disconnected from reality, it cannot be true. Thus when we change our rules for knowledge, that action testifies against the knowledge of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). For the Christian, such a philosophical "about-face" is unacceptable.

Conclusion

By denying the validity of enemy attestation, many Christians unwittingly deny powerful evidence for the empty tomb of Jesus Christ. If the Christian does not accept enemy attestation as evidence for the truth of a claim (the big bang), why should they expect a non-Christian to accept enemy attestation as evidence for the truth of a claim (the Resurrection)? If the Christian wishes to remain logically consistent, then they do not have to reject either. 

The Resurrection of Jesus and the universe's big bang origin are not competing explanations of reality (as even atheistic scientists recognize and react vehemently to). Rather they combine to present an even more powerful abductive case for the truth of the Christian worldview. If you have held that the enemy attestation of big bang cosmology does not provide powerful evidence for its truth, I implore you to reconsider the logic with which you used to arrive at that conclusion, see the fallacy, and accept that the very reason that enemies of God today accept the big bang is the same reason that the enemies of God in Jesus' day accepted the empty tomb: because they can (could) not intellectually escape its truth. 

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For more on the evidential case for Jesus' Resurrection, I recommend these posts and books:

For more on the evidential case for the universe's creation at the big bang, I recommend these posts and books:


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