There are a lot of things that happen to people that go against the overwhelming odds. Let's take the example of Oprah Winfrey's revelation in November 2010 that she has a half-sister named Patricia who was adopted out by her mother shortly after being born. What are the odds of someone discovering late in life that she has a half-sister? I don't know, but surely it's extremely rare. It wasn't a miracle, that's for sure. Things like that do occur from time to time. By contrast, if Jesus arose from the grave then such a thing was a miracle, and as such has even less of a chance of happening than a sister discovering she had a half-sister, by far!
Right out of the gate: What is a miracle? A miracle is not just an improbability. A miracle is not just a rare occurrence. A miracle by definition must contain some impossibility and carry with it the knowledge that it wasn't brought about human interaction or contrivance. I agree that discovering a half-sibling later in life is rare but not miraculous. I would also agree that Jesus' Resurrection is a miracle
Incredibly rare events within the realm of the natural world take place all of the time, like people getting stuck by lightning, winning the lottery, finding a bottle with a note in it that washes up on a beach, or living through a disaster that should have killed them. Yes, these things are all extremely rare, but they happen, all of the time.
How can something be "extremely rare" and yet simultaneously "happen all the time"? Definitely a stumble here at a logical paradox. I think also what's missing here is forgetting that God is involved in each of these occurrences. And I'm not sure how living through a disaster despite all logic that says death was imminent would not be a "miracle".
In a like manner, a natural explanation for the resurrection should almost always be preferred over any claim that Jesus arose from the dead, so long as it has a minimal degree of plausibility (i.e., aliens did not do it). It's the rational thing to conclude. Even if we cannot produce a natural explanation of what actually happened from the so-called evidence, it's still far more reasonable to say we don't think Jesus arose from the dead. Why? Because incredible things happen all of the time.
So any alternate explanation for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ should be preferred as long as it's plausible to someone - doesn't matter if it's true or not. From a stumble to trip. And the first faceplant comes at the assertion that the explanation does not need to be supported by evidence because incredible things happen a lot. Couple of problems here.
1. Something is incredible because it's outside of normal experience and
2. By definition incredible means it doesn't happen all the time - if it did then it would be "credible".
In what follows I'll offer a very brief natural explanation of the claim that Jesus resurrected. Compare it with the claim he physically arose from the dead. You cannot say my natural explanation lacks plausibility because I already admit that it does.
So by his own admission, Loftus' natural explanation is worthless.
As I said, incredible things happen all of the time. What you need to say is that my natural explanation is MORE implausible than the claim that Jesus physically arose from the dead, and you simply cannot do that.
My natural explanation is that the early disciples were visionaries, that is, they believed God was speaking to them in dreams, trances, and thoughts that burst into their heads throughout the day.
No place can you find that in scripture before the Crucifixion among the Apostles. Toe stub while trying to get up.
Having their hopes utterly dashed upon the crucifixion of Jesus they began having visions that Jesus arose from the dead. They began preaching this to people who subsequently had these same kinds of visions.
The problem is that no one began preaching until after the tomb was found empty - and the whole city of Jerusalem knew the tomb was empty. And until the Apostles saw Jesus, they didn't default to belief in the Resurrection.
In these visions they thought Jesus was speaking to them, so they began preaching what they learned from him (Acts 2:17-21; I Cor. 14; 2 Cor. 12:1-10).
So they all had the same visions and heard the same messages? I don't think so. Bad conjecture - another trip.
The most obvious of these revelations was Paul's claim that he learned the Gospel and the Lord's Supper directly from Jesus himself, not from men (Galatians 1:11-12; I Cor. 11:23). The author of Revelation wrote down seven dictated letters from Jesus as the result of his vision (Rev. 2-3).
They "saw" Jesus. They preached what he "revealed" to them. There was no objective evidence for any of this, so there is no reason why we should take their word on it. After all, these visions were subjective experiences.
I don't think there is any such thing as objective evidence that Loftus would accept given that he wants to throw out and disregard eye witness testimony.
With this as a basis for their faith anything can be believed and taught with the authority of Jesus speaking from heaven. All one needs to do is compare this phenomena with the rise of Mormonism.
The origins of Mormonism is quite different. If Loftus wants to make such a comparison as to how Joseph Smith's testimony came about and was transmitted with the Bible, he should be prepared to produce the Golden Plates and the seer stones because the Bible has plenty of historical and manuscript evidence backing it up. FacePlant number 2.
It can also be believed that there was an empty tomb on the basis of a vision from someone who is thought to receive this revelation from Jesus himself. We call these people "liars for Jesus," and we know plenty of them who have claimed they found Noah's Ark.
Either the tomb was empty or it wasn't. Vision? Really?? Does he really want to go there - calling the first 3000+ Christians Liars? People who would know if the tomb was empty or not because they were in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified and buried? What would they have gained by lying? They weren't making money. They were beaten, jailed, and executed. Oh yeah, I'd lie to get that. More and and more fail. FacePlant number 3.
My natural explanation doesn't require a conspiracy, or that Jesus didn't die on the cross. All it requires is one liar for Jesus, and I think this liar is the author of Mark, the first gospel. He invented the empty tomb sequence. That's it. The rest is history among superstitious people who were wanting to have hard evidence for their claim and would believe Mark's Gospel based upon the visions of a visionary. Just think of Joseph Smith who started the Mormon church. It's the same claim.
No it's not the same claim. Joseph Smith built a theology based on himself. The Apostles pointed to Jesus Christ and said that Jesus has all the answers and didn't leave a book that has so many historical errors and lies like Joseph Smith did. Try again, Mr Loftus.Stranger things have happened.
But a miracle is simply more incredible than my natural explanation, by far. Therefore no reasonable person should believe Jesus arose from the dead. Just as it was utterly incredible but non-miraculous that Oprah would discover she had a half-sister, so also there is no reason to punt to a miracle when it comes to the early church claim that Jesus physically arose from the grave.
Another faceplant. Who said that visions are more plausible than the physical Resurrection? It's not because visions don't reconcile all the facts that we do know. Let's be honest. Lying for the Devil is just as bad as lying for Jesus and Jesus will hold people account for both.
And if my natural explanation doesn't work there are a number of them, any one of which has more probability to it than that Jesus physically arose from the dead.
Good thing for unbelievers there are other explanations because punting to visions and accusing the first Christians of being liars is pretty silly. Other have indeed tried to do better than that. All have failed.
Debunking Christianity: Oprah Winfrey's Half-Sister and The Odds of The Resurrection of Jesus