"The New Atheists never tire of citing Bertrand Russell’s reply when he was asked what he would say if God were to ask him after his death why he had not believed: “Not enough evidence, God, not enough evidence.” But then a curious thing happens. When evidence is offered to them, they refuse to examine it. I have already mentioned Richard Dawkins’ contemptuous dismissal of the resurrection in our God Delusion debate; so his attitude is clear. Furthermore, I know of no serious attempt by any of the New Atheists to engage with the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (Emphasis mine.)I commend Lennox for the extraordinary efforts he has surely expended to avoid atheist writing on what he calls evidence for the resurrection. Perhaps he merely read the copyright information of "Not The Impossible Faith" by Dr Richard Carrier, missing the lengthy discussion therein that spawned debates with William Lane Craig and others. He must have hidden from Dan Barker, former preacher and now co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation who speaks of little else. Robert M Price has doctorates in both Theology and NT studies and discusses the subject at inordinate length. I could go on, and those interested in further examples are invited to consult the search feature of Amazon, a step Lennox has obviously not bothered to take.
One can disagree with atheist writings on the subject - even I don't accept it all uncritically - but to deny its existence smacks of laziness, deceit or a rather odd definition of new atheist, twisted in whatever manner supports Lennox's current point.
In a previous instalment I expressed concern for Lennox's back as he went to great efforts to perform reverse baptisms on all those Christians who he judged as falling short of the mark and unworthy of the title. My worries have extended further - Lennox must have performed acrobatic backflips to avoid well-known rebuttals of the arguments he advances. The tired old "wouldn't die for a lie" argument is shuffled to centre stage in hopes of ovation, but the crowd has seen it too often before, and it still lacks evidence.
The early growth rate of the Christian Church is a popular point among some apologists, suffering only from its core premise being entirely wrong. Despite this Lennox considers it indicative of the miraculous:
From a frightened group of men and women — utterly depressed and disillusioned at what was to them the calamity that had befallen their movement when their leader was crucified — there suddenly exploded a powerful international movement which rapidly established itself all over the Roman empire, and ultimately all over the world. (emphasis mine.)Plunging archives of 1960's writing on the subject, Lennox finds a quote that supports his sheltered point:
"the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church… remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself." -The Phenomenon of the New Testament, C. F. D. Moule, 1967.I mention the date of writing because in the 90's Rodney Stark, now a Christian, decided to research the numbers involved and found the growth rate to be about 40% per decade, or a little under 3% per annum, lower than that of, say, Mormonism. No-one with passing familiarity of the subject could honestly use words such as 'suddenly', 'exploded' and 'rapid rise' in its description, and no sane or honest scholar would support this as evidence for the miraculous.
Moving on he conflates belief in the resurrection and the resurrection itself:
If we reject the early Christians’ own explanation for their existence, on the basis that it involves too big a miracle, what are we going to put in its place that will not involve an even greater strain on our capacity for belief? To deny the resurrection simply leaves the church without a raison d’être, which is historically and psychologically absurd.Precisely the same logic proves irrefutably that an angel dictated the Qur'an to Mohammed, that Joe Smith could translate divine tablets and that Sun Myung Moon is the Messiah. Belief in the core elements of religions are required for their spread, but that belief does not render the subjects true.