Among the tools historians use to investigate the past is the principle of analogy which assumes that events of the past do not differ in kind from those in the present. Since events in the present appear to follow natural law, it is difficult to see how any historian could conclude that a miracle occurred in the past as there are no events within present knowledge or experience with which to draw analogies. If an event is unlike anything in the historian's knowledge and experience, he has to conclude that it is unlikely. The principle of analogy doesn't preclude supernatural causes of events, but it has a very difficult time detecting them just as a ruler has a hard time detecting radon gas.
Naturally Licona doesn't like the principle of analogy, but some of his objections to it are pretty silly.
Numerous established modern beliefs would fail according to the principle of analogy. For example, we could not conclude that dinosaurs existed in the past.Licona doesn't seem to get that it's the principle of analogy. Big reptiles are analogous to small reptiles so there they pose no problem.
He also has some stupid reasons for thinking the principle of analogy unnecessary.
If historians do not follow the principle of analogy, will they find themselves embracing superstitions? I see no reason why this must be the case if proper historical method is applied. We do not interpret Aesop's Fables as history because a highly plausible natural hypothesis is available considering genre. Miracle-claims must be judged on an individual basis. Accordingly the threat of superstition should not prohibit historians from proceeding while being careful to apply sound method.I don't know about Licona, but the reason I don't interpret Aesop's Fables as history is because they are filled with talking animals. It is because Aesop's Fables are filled with talking animals that I conclude that the genre is something other than history. I don't need to decide on the genre before I decide whether to believe that the animals really talked.
Licona is correct that the principle of analogy makes it difficult to recognize unique events, but that's just the nature of historical inquiry. The historian can only say what probably happened in the past and it is always going to be difficult to assess an unprecedented event as more likely than a common one.
Licona keeps accusing the principle of analogy of ruling out God and miracles a priori, but it doesn't. If present knowledge and experience could be shown to include miracles worked by God and a past miracle could be shown to be similar to those that are currently known, the principle of analogy could be used to argue for the historicity of the event. Unfortunately, as Licona's criteria acknowledges, establishing a miracle requires knowledge of that it is the kind of thing God would want to do.
Licona wants to claim that the historicity of the resurrection turns on whether one believes in a God who acts in history, but he can't because he knows perfectly well that a belief in such a God doesn't lead to the conclusion that He acted in any particular situation. Again and again, Licona is forced to acknowledge that belief in a God who wanted to raise Jesus from the dead is required.
However, if we take into consideration the existence of a God who may have reasons for raising Jesus from the dead, the probability that Jesus rose is increased significantly. For example, if a historian holds that God does not exist, she will also hold that Jesus' resurrection is implausible. However, if she holds that God exists, that he acts within human history and that Christianity is probably true, she is most likely to hold that Jesus' resurrection is quite plausibleWhy should a historian take into consideration the existence of a God who may have reasons for raising Jesus from rather that a God who may have reasons for not raising Jesus? Of course if we beg the question by holding that Christianity is true, we will conclude that the resurrection is plausible.
The failure of billions who have not returned from the dead only warrants the conclusion that the dead are not raised by natural causes. The Christian claim is not "Jesus is risen by natural causes." The claim is "Jesus, the Son of God, is risen" or "God raised Jesus from the dead."40 Can historians a priori conclude that if Jesus is divine he cannot raise himself or that if God wanted to raise Jesus from the dead there is a high degree of probability that he cannot have done so? It would not appear so.Actually, the success of billions who have remained dead warrants the conclusion that the dead stay dead, period. Until someone can be shown to have returned from the dead, their is no justification for limit those who are not raised to "those who are not raised by natural causes." Of course it is impossible to show that a God who wanted to raise Jesus from the dead couldn't do so but neither is it possible to show historically that God would want to do so.
Since we are bracketing the question of worldview in relation to RH [the Resurrection Hyposthesis], it is difficult to name widely accepted truths that suggest RH. In order to illustrate this point, let us presuppose for the moment that supernaturalism is false. In this case, we can conclude that RH is implausible, since it is certainly not implied by other accepted truths, namely that metaphysical naturalism is an accurate representation of reality. Conversely, let us presuppose for the moment that supernaturalism is true or that God or some supernatural being wanted to raise Jesus from the dead. In this case, we can conclude that RH is very plausible, since it is certainly implied by the accepted truth that a supernatural being wanted to raise Jesus.Ta Da! By presupposing that God wanted to raise Jesus from the dead, Licona has turned it into "the accepted truth."
As Dagoods pointed out on a comment on an earlier post "Just because a god could transform me into a giant pickle, does not create an expectation a god would." Being open to the possibility of a God who can act in history may make the resurrection not impossible, but it does nothing to make it any more than infinitesimally probable.