TBS: During this period of your life, you investigated the arguments for atheism. What were the strongest arguments you found for atheism? What counterarguments did you discover that persuaded you atheism is false?
ML: Most would agree that the best argument atheism has to offer is the problem of evil, pain, and suffering in the world. And it’s a powerful card to hold in one’s hand. But it’s not at all conclusive. The highly esteemed Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga has demonstrated the unlikelihood of a race of beings with free will who all choose to do the right things all of the time. Thus, in a world of free beings, there is going to be evil, pain, and suffering that result, and especially so if the report of the fall in Genesis is accurate.
What the atheist must demonstrate is that there are possible worlds of free beings in which there is on balance a greater amount of good and lesser amount of evil than we experience in this world. This burden cannot be met. The late agnostic philosopher William Rowe countered Plantinga by noting what appears to be senseless evil in the world, such as a fawn burned to death by a tree that fell on it after being struck by lightning. This argument makes the problem of evil more difficult to answer. But there are Christian philosophers such as Ed Martin, Jeremy Evans, Bruce Little, and David Wood who have presented what I regard as plausible solutions to Rowe’s challenge.
One thing some of us have noticed about such challenges is the illegitimate use of sentimentality. Why a fawn? Why not a mature skunk – a creature few would miss?
(Rube butts in again: Why not two skunks, killed instantly?)
The animal suffering is the same, yet the human emotional reaction is different. This fact should arouse suspicion in the hearer if the argument is supposed to be strictly rational.
TBS: Resurrection is a 700-page work dense with scholarly annotation. Nevertheless, would you be able to summarize the main conclusions you reach in this work for our readers? What does this book add to conservative New Testament scholarship about the Resurrection? What’s new here? How does it differ from other magisterial work in this area, such as that of Gary Habermas and N.T. Wright?
ML: I think there are three major differences between my new book and where others have previously gone. First, I discuss issues pertaining to the philosophy of history and historical method with a depth that exceeds by far what other scholars have offered pertaining to the question of Jesus’ resurrection. Second, I interact with the debate over whether historians are within their professional rights to investigate miracle claims to a far greater degree than has been previously offered. Third, I subject a variety of hypotheses to strictly controlled historical method in a more comprehensive manner than has been previously offered. There are other contributions the book makes to the discussion, such as a discussion pertaining to the historicity of Jesus’ predictions pertaining to his imminent death and resurrection, as well as the meaning of two Greek terms upon which an important discussion hinges. But the above three are the major ones.
TBS: Resurrection, despite its very traditional view that the bodily resurrection of Jesus occurred in space and time, has engendered a good deal of controversy in the evangelical community. In particular, Norman Geisler accused you of denying biblical inerrancy for your interpretation of a few verses in Matthew 27. As a result, you resigned your appointment with the North American Mission Board and left Southern Evangelical Seminary. On the other hand, you have also received public support from William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, J.P. Moreland, and many others. Please give us your version of what happened. …