What kind of evidence would it take to convince you that Jesus bodily rose from the dead? Vocab Malone.
This is a question that is frequently asked of skeptics by Christian apologists in the blogosphere. Its purpose (as I understand it) is to expose the skeptic’s bias. The skeptic is very likely to demand very convincing evidence for the resurrection in which case the apologist will accuse him of having a double standard since he accepts other events in history with much less proof.
Even better for the apologist, the skeptic might answer that no evidence could ever convince of the historicity of the resurrection. Then the apologist can argue that the skeptic is unable to honestly evaluate the evidence since he has determined the conclusion he will reach before he starts. My usual answer is that I am unable to imagine an array of evidence that would convince me of the resurrection without denying that such an array might exist. While I believe this to be perfectly true and a perfectly valid answer, I realize that I am sidestepping the question to some extent.
Recently, I came across a skeptic who said that personally witnessing a spectacular supernatural event might be sufficient to convince him that Jesus had been raised from the dead. “This could – as an example – be a miraculous event like the stars suddenly spelling out ‘ACCEPT JESUS AS YOUR PERSONAL LORD AND SAVIOUR AND ESCAPE THE FIRES OF HELL!’ and the gates of Hell and Heaven being opened to touring visitors.” The apologist claimed that the skeptic wasn’t debating in good faith, but I don’t think it is an unreasonable answer.
The reason that I say that I can’t imagine a particular array of evidence is that five decades of observation and learning have persuaded me that resorting to supernatural explanations for the world around me is unnecessary. Christians will accuse me of having an anti-supernatural presupposition, but I don’t believe that it is a presupposition at all. I believe that methodological naturalism is an empirical conclusion. I take this approach because it has proved itself in practice.
In evaluating any supernatural claim, I have to take into account my own experiences and observations which include the following: (1) I have known people who claimed to see supernatural intervention in ordinary events; (2) I have known people who accept the supernatural claims of others and pass them along without thinking critically about them; and (3) I have known people who exaggerate the basis for supernatural claims when they pass them along. On the other hand, my own experience and knowledge do not include any verifiable supernatural miracles.
Since I am quite familiar with spurious miracle claims and I have no familiarity whatsoever with verifiable miracle claims, it is hard for me to imagine how I might be convinced that one of the latter had occurred. In evaluating any new miracle claim, I have no choice but to compare it with my previous experience with the subject. Just as I am always going to assess the likelihood that it is raining when a wet person shows up at my front door as much higher than the likelihood that there is a swimming pool in my front yard, I am always going to assess the probability of a spurious miracle claim higher than a true one.
On the other hand, if I were to witness a spectacular supernatural event myself, I might well decide to apply a different probability distribution to supernatural claims made by others. So if I were to personally witness a miracle of resurrection caliber (along with other witnesses so I can be confident I am not hallucinating), I might conclude that the bodily resurrection of Jesus in first century Palestine was likely.