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Inference to the Best Explanation and Rejecting the Resurrection

David Kyle Johnson

Vol. 3, No. 1

Summer 2021

Pages: 26-52

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2021.vol3.no1.02


More from the Author


Dialogues in Philosophy

Atheism, Religion, David Kyle Johnson, Inference to the Best Explanation, Resurrection, SEARCH Method, William Lane Craig, Abduction

Rational Faith.png
Rational Faith.png

Christian apologists, like Willian Lane Craig and Stephen T. Davis, argue that belief in Jesus’ resurrection is reasonable because it provides the best explanation of the available evidence. In this article, I refute that thesis. To do so, I lay out how the logic of inference to the best explanation (IBE) operates, including what good explanations must be and do by definition, and then apply IBE to the issue at hand. Multiple explanations—including (what I will call) The Resurrection Hypothesis, The Lie Hypothesis, The Coma Hypothesis, The Imposter Hypothesis, and The Legend Hypothesis—will be considered. While I will not attempt to rank them all from worst to best, what I will reveal is how and why The Legend Hypothesis is unquestionably the best explanation, and The Resurrection Hypothesis is undeniably the worst. Consequently, not only is Craig and Davis’ conclusion mistaken, but belief in the literal resurrection of Jesus is irrational. In presenting this argument, I do not take myself to be breaking new ground; Robert Cavin and Carlos Colombetti have already presented a Bayesian refutation of Craig and Davis’ arguments. But I do take myself to be presenting an argument that the average person (and philosopher) can follow. It is my goal for the average person (and philosopher) to be able to clearly understand how and why the hypothesis “God supernaturally raised Jesus from the dead” fails utterly as an explanation of the evidence that Christian apologist cite for Jesus’ resurrection.


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