One of the leading presuppositionalists was Greg Bahnsen (1948-1995). He wrote a paper in 1972 entitled, "The Impropriety of Evidentially Arguing for the Resurrection," (Synapse II [Westminster Seminary]).
Evangelicals are often prone to generate inductive arguments for the veracity of Christianity based on the historical resurrection of Christ, and such arguments occupy central importance in this apologetic. It is felt that if a man would simply consider the "facts" presented and use his common reasoning sense he would be rationally compelled to believe the truth of scripture. In such a case the evidences for Christ's resurrection are foundational to apologetical witnessing, whereas their only proper place is confirmatory of the believer's presupposed faith. There is a certain impropriety about attempting to move an opponent from his own circle into the circle of Christian belief by appealing to evidence for the resurrection, and there are many reasons why the evidentialist's building a case for Christianity upon neutral ground with the unbeliever ought to be avoided.The first reason why appeal to evidences is wrong, according to Bahnsen, is that it sets the mind of man above the Word of God in terms of what is the ultimate authority. He explains:
The Christian does not look at the evidence impartially, standing on neutral ground with the unbeliever, waiting to see if the evidence warrants trust in God's truthfulness or not. Rather, he begins by submitting to the truth of God, preferring to view every man as a liar if he contradicts God's word (cf. Rom. 3:4). No one can demand proof from God, and the servant of the Lord should never give in to any such demand (and obviously, neither should he suggest that such a demand be made by the unbeliever). The apostles were certainly not afraid of evidence; yet we notice that they never argued on the basis of it. They preached the resurrection without feeling any need to prove it to the skeptics; they unashamedly appealed to it as fact. They explained the meaning of the resurrection, its significance, its fulfillment of prophecy, its centrality in theology, its redemptive power, its promise and assuring function - but they did not attempt to prove it by appealing to the "facts" which any "rational man" could use as satisfying scholarly requirements of credibility. By trying to build up a proof of the resurrection from unbiased grounds the Christian allows his witness to be absorbed into a pagan framework and reduces the antithesis between himself and the skeptic to a matter of a few particulars.Secondly, Bahnsen points out that the study of history is based on uniformity. In other words, the historian assumes that the past was like the present. The same laws of cause and effect were in place then as they are now. He writes:
We note immediately that an inductive (historical) argument rests for its validity on the premise of uniformity (past and present) in nature; this makes possible a consideration of an analogy of circumstance. Yet the very point which the evidentialist is trying to prove is that of miracle, i.e. discontinuity. So he is enmeshed in using a principle of continuity to establish the truth of discontinuity! When the evidentialist seeks to exhibit that the resurrection very probably occurred as a unique truth-attesting sign he is divided against himself. What Bahnsen is saying is that when a historian looks at history, he is looking to discover what "most likely" or "most probably" happened. The fact that a miracle is, by its very definition, an improbable event makes it contradictory for a historian to argue that a miracle probably happened(Bart Ehrman does a good job of making this point in his debate with Mike Licona: Can Historians Prove Jesus Rose From The Dead?).
Next, we observe that probability is statistically predicated of a series in which an event reoccurs on a regular basis; that is, general probability might be proven for a reoccurring event, but the resurrection of Christ is a one-time event. Can probability be predicated of a particular occurrence? Not normally.
The third point that Bahnsen makes against the use of evidence in apologetics is that, at best, all evidentialism can do is establish that the resurrection is a plausible theory not a definite reality. This point, according to Bahnsen undermines the certainty of the resurrection which one can have by presupposing the truth of the Scripture. He explains:
Finally, once the evidentialist has failed to maintain that Christianity is the only adequate basis for a meaningful interpretation of historical facts and not simply a working hypothesis which is "as plausible" as the next with respect to isolated facts, and once he has lowered his sights by appealing to the probability of scripture's truth, then he has left the door open for the skeptic's escape to considerations of possibility. If Christ only probably arose, then it is possible that the evidence adduced has a completely different interpretation; even if certain facts seem to point to the probable resurrection of Jesus, it is admitted that other evidence points to the disconfirmation of the gospel records! But this is not the Christian position, for according to it there is no possibility that Christ did not arise; this is a foundational, incorrigible fact as revealed in God's authoritative word .Fourth, Bahnsen maintains that the historical evidence for the resurrection is dependent upon human testimony which everyone agrees is fallible. If human testimony can be wrong, then the testimony about the resurrection of Jesus could be wrong. He states:
Under cross-examination most of the considerations brought forth by evidentialists can be dismissed as overstated, gratuitous, or inconclusive. There is little if any basis for holding to a resurrection as probably taking place in the past and arguing that the witnesses are probably reliable is a completely different matter. It is also unsuitable for the intended aim of the argument, for the very place that the witnesses could be mistaken, deceptive, or distorted might be the very event under question!Bahnsen's final point is that even the evidentialist succeeded in proving that the resurrection happened, it would not prove the early Christian's interpretation of the event was accurate. Just as with the death of Jesus, unless a divine revelation is given explaining its meaning, the event has no theological significance. One could have witnessed the death of Jesus and his resurrection but without a word from God telling him what all of this means, the witness is no better off. He may put a completely erroneous meaning to the events. Again Bahnsen elaborates:
the evidentialist may prove the historical resurrection of Christ, but he proves that it is simply an isolated and uninterpreted "freak" event in a contingent universe. He is still stranded on the far side of Lessing's ditch (i.e. the skeptic can grant that Christ arose and then simply ask what that odd, ancient fact has to do with his own present life and experience). The fact that Christ rose from the dead does not prove anything within the neutral framework of an evidentialist's argument. Christ's resurrection does not entail his deity, just as our future resurrection does not entail our divinity! . . . The evidentialist may prove the resurrection of Jesus, but until he proves every other point of Christianity, then resurrection is an isolated, irrelevant, "brute" fact which is no aid to our apologetical efforts. Only within the system of Christian logic does the resurrection of Christ have meaning and implication; and that system of logical entailment and premises can only be used on a presuppositional basis - you do not argue into it. In terms of the evidentialist's approach to the unbeliever, that skeptic can accept the resurrection without flinching, for the resurrection is simply a random fact until a Christian foundation has been placed under it.I agree with most of Bahnsen's criticisms of attempting to prove the resurrection from historical evidence. He is to be commended for recognizing that ultimately a belief in the resurrection of Jesus comes down to faith. Faith that the Bible is a divine revelation and faith that Jesus is living.