From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Sunday, October 05, 2003 11:44 AM
To: 'Kris Key'
Subject: RE: I am an ex-atheist
I am looking over your list of probabilities and truth of the matter is that there is nothing to dare. You simply do not do history that way. [..] From what I have seen so far your seem to be using a hopelessly flawed historicial method. And I will state in all my years of studying history, all the handouts I have had to memorize, I have never, ever seen anything like that.
That's because there is no other major historical episode for which serious consideration is given to such radically different and mutually exclusive possible explanations. (Of course, it is a historical accident that this episode is still considered possibly supernatural at all. If China or India instead of Europe had been first to undergo the scientific and industrial revolutions, then Jesus would now just be considered one of history's influential human sages.)

The way to rigorously analyze the possible explanations for an event with a distinct cause (i.e. that must be only one of several mutually exclusive causes) is called fault tree analysis. For almost any important historical episode, the candidate causes are a mixture of influences, and the debate is merely over the relative importance of the influences. But for an episode like the resurrection accounts (or the Columbia space shuttle disaster), a candidate cause either completely explains the event or is completely irrelevant. Columbia either was taken down by a meteor strike, or it wasn't. Jesus either rose from the dead, or he didn't. Historians don't practice rigorous fault tree analysis, because important historical events almost never have such numerous and mutually exclusive possible causes.

1.) it was caluculated that the odds of the Titanic seeking [sic] was one in a billion, using your probability argument I would have to assert the Titanic sake.[sic]
No serious maritime architect would have dared assert that any such ship was unsinkable. I defy you to cite any such "calculation" published by a maritime architect. The idea that such a ship would be unsinkable is (and was) utterly at odds with the relevant engineering and scientific consensus.
2) In general Armies with numerical superiority win in Combat. Using this argument I would have to assert that the North won at Chickamauga
You clearly are confused by the distinction between prior possibility and posterior possibility.
3.) It views history in too probabilistic of a manner.
How so?  Are you saying that history in general, or the life of Jesus in particular, is exempt from the laws of probability?
Obviously if I conclude that your historicial method is flawed, then I will feel no obligation to respond to it.
You fail to realize that you already have a response. The laws of probability ensure that the possible explanations for an event sum to 100%, even if you close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears and sing to yourself.  Your current response can be presumed to be this: Such an analysis of the possibilities is clearly deficient compared to mine. Your tacit endorsement of this analysis clearly indicates your dogmatism and suggests you fear an open-minded and rational analysis of the possible explanations of the gospel evidence.
4.) How do you know you have figured in every factor necessary to make a proper evaluation of the odds anyways
How do you "know you have figured in every factor necessary" to decide that your Yahweh explanation has 100% probability?  (If you don't think it has 100% probability, than what does it have? 51%? 90%? 99.99%? Feel free to hedge your estimate by quantifying your confidence interval.)
I read the article by Lowder. Please respect the fact I will deal only in NT scholarship, which none of the people mentioned in the article come close to becoming.( Including Lowder) You have a right to be a freethinker, but you do not have a right to pretend nonscholars are relevant to this discussion.
What's relevant is evidence and arguments, not credentials. I might cite the scholarly consensus in declining to explain or defend that consensus, but I would never say that some evidence or argument is "irrelevant" simply because of who is offering it. You can either rebut Lowder's evidence and arguments, or you can't.  (Or do you claim that Lowder's position is utterly at odds with some mainstream scholarly consensus?)
 the historians we are looking for is one that is qualified in the following areas.
a.) Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew
b.) Roman, Greek and Hebrew History
c.) Christian History
Guess who best fits this bill. A NT scholar.
For the third time: quote me one secular historian saying in a mainstream secular peer-reviewed journal that the basic historic plausibility of the Gospel narratives implies that their supernatural claims should be assumed reliable until proven otherwise. (The topic is in fact moot, as I've already forced you to admit that it is rational for historians to be more skeptical of the supernatural claims of the gospel narratives than the normal claims. QED.)
I was a bit suprised at your disagreement with the Tektonics link.
Please quote the statement of mine with which you claim you're disagreeing.
Why dont we have a different debate, but one that is relevant to the subject at hand. What kind of resurection of Christ did Paul teach, that of  a spiritual one or a Physical one.
No, thanks. My time budget for atheist polemics needs to be more focused on rebutting the best available arguments for Christianity. If you can produce or cite an argument as good or better than these, I'll add it to that page and enqueue it for rebuttal. Otherwise, I'll be confining our discussion to meta-debate.