Although Christians are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and its importance for humankind’s salvation and reconciliation to God we do still, sadly, have atheists like David McAfee trying to bring the whole show down on that very special day. The show of Jesus’ resurrection if is one that all of us have been invited to and that we can all partake in; it’s also a show that we all take a stand on. In our western world, for example, we either believe in it, disbelieve it, or stand indifferent to it. Unfortunately an atheist such as McAfee not only disbelieves in it, but he makes it his life mission to ridicule anything Christian related. I’ve read his book twice (done a review), interacted with some blistering reviews of his work, visited his Facebook page numerous times, seen him deny requests to debate Christian apologists (such as Tyler Vela & Nick Peters), and I’ve also seen him make penis jokes in response to criticism of his work! What a champ. In truth I think that it is quite a sad state of affairs that while Christians are celebrating the resurrection over joyous meals and occasions with friends and family (indeed that Easter lamb shank I had yesterday was amazing!) McAfee is sitting behind his PC reposting memes mocking the Christian story. But I also know that no matter how I reply an atheist like McAfee’s will neither change his mind nor his motives. On the other hand I am also aware that there are genuine seekers of truth who will consider what I have to say in response (whether they agree with me or not). So, with that intro out of the way we can tackle the chart that McAfee has reposted at his Facebook page. This shouldn’t take long because what I shall say is fairly straight forward.
Firstly, the chart depicts “contradictions” in our four gospel accounts that relay our historical data on Jesus’ resurrection. However, this falls well short because most of the alleged contradictions are actually differences. Take, for instance, the number of women who went to the tomb. All the gospel authors mention that women first went to the tomb. All of them include Mary, and only John excludes mentioning the others besides one Mary. That is a difference and not a contradiction. Reliable human testimony, as any homicide detective will tell you, has differences in recollection of the same event. They are all relaying the very same event from differing perspectives. I wonder if an atheist would throw out eyewitness testimony to a crime because one eyewitness says she saw blood on a chair while the other said he saw blood on a window. Why can’t the blood be on both the chair and the window? Both eyewitnesses are describing the same event.
Further, that there are these differences in our gospel accounts are actually important for the historian. In fact, as an amateur, I prize these differences as valuable when I do my own research into the historical reliability of our gospels. Why? Simply because it shows us that our different authors are relaying accounts from their own perspectives. This means that we can have a higher degree of confidence in the events that they describe because they haven’t deliberately distorted the event! Professor Burridge explains this well:
“With the Gospels, we have four witnesses to one event, but if you were to spend any time at a court case, you’d realise that everybody views things from a different angle. If four witnesses came in and all said the same thing in a flat, leaden voice, you’d think there was something fishy going on. Difference is a mark of authenticity” (2).
Thus in this way McAfee’s chart works against him and his intention to undermine the resurrection story falls apart. For example, all of our gospels sources agree that 1) women went to the tomb, 2) that they saw a moved stone from its entrance and that some entities were present (described as angels), 3) that words were said and shared on Jesus’ resurrection with these entities, 4) that Jesus appeared to the women, and 5) also to the disciples. Thus all these facts need to be accounted for and merely trying to undermine them because the authors describe events from differing perspectives (which is what we’d expect considering the nature of historical, eyewitness evidence. For example, John deliberately avoids mentioning the involvement of women in his story (hence why he only mentions Mary going to the tomb, while deliberately neglecting the other women) because he viewed the testimony of women as worthless and embarrassing; but he still mentions a woman! These intentions behind our authors are sorely neglected by this chart) looks very weak and contrived. What really needs to be accounted for are the areas of cross agreement, and this is what the atheist, such as McAfee, hopes that he doesn’t have to do (hence why he reposts a chart such as this). Because if he had to actually put his mind to making sense of data he will soon realize just how contrived and ad hoc alternative naturalistic explanations for Jesus’ resurrection really are. And atheists don’t really want to have to sit with that sort of thing (so mocking it should sort out that problem). Exegete William Craig explains:
“In fact, when you look at the supposed inconsistencies, what you find is that most of them—like the names and number of the women who visited the tomb—are merely apparent, not real. Moreover, the alleged inconsistencies are found in the secondary, circumstantial details of the story and have no effect at all on the four facts as I’ve stated them” (1)
The fact of the matter is that even if I grant McAfee his contradictions it does nothing to undermine the central core of the resurrection story. For example, the gospels agree that Jesus appears to the women and the disciples, so what does it matter (granted we give McAfee his contradiction) whether they are told to go to Galilee or stay in Jerusalem? It’s just immaterial. As long as the core facts of the story stay in tact then the atheist has fallen short of his intentions and Jesus still remains risen.
Happy Easter all!
1. Craig, W. Is There Historical Evidence For The Resurrection? Available.
2. Burridge, R. Four Gospels, One Jesus. Available.