Friday, January 30, 2009

W.L. Craig Debate

All the details have been settled at last: I will debate William Lane Craig on the Resurrection of Jesus at the Mary Linn Performing Arts Center on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Missouri the night of Wednesday March 18 (2009) at 7pm (on the corner of College Ave. and College Park Dr).

The event is being sponsored by the campus Philosophy Club. Admission will be free, but it's first-come-first-serve, and I'm told the venue might fill, so there's no guarantee everyone will get in--but if you're planning to come from out of town, you might be able to get a reservation (see below). It will be recorded, and there may be a video and transcript released eventually (certainly one or the other, if not both), but possibly not for a long while.

I will give a brief talk on a variety of subjects followed by an open Q & A at 10:30am the day of the debate in (I believe) Fine Arts 200 on campus. Craig will also be lecturing somewhere on campus that day, too, for an ethics class, but that might only be for students of that class (I don't know the details).

Proposed Format: It will be a faculty-moderated formal debate. The format will likely be as follows (running about two to three hours altogether):

Opening Statements: Craig 20 minutes,
then Carrier 20 minutes.

Rebuttals: Craig 12 minutes
,
then Carrier 12 minutes.

Counter-Rebuttals: Craig 8 minutes
,
then Carrier 8 minutes.

Closing Statements: Craig 5 minutes
,
then Carrier 5 minutes.

Audience Q&A: moderated, 45 minutes or so.

We'll both be selling and signing our books after the event. I will likely have copies of The Empty Tomb to sell as well as Sense and Goodness without God, and if all works out, I might also have copies to sell of my new book, Not the Impossible Faith (which I briefly mentioned before, but I'll blog all about that book in a few weeks, once I've finalized everything for it). All three books pertain to the debate in one way or another.

The topic of the debate will be "Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?" even though I originally insisted we first debate "Are the Gospels Historically Reliable?" for the simple reason that you can't honestly debate the former until you've debated (and in fact settled) the latter. Craig simply refused to debate that topic, claiming it was too big to cover in an oral debate, which I found odd since it's a necessary component of the resurrection debate, and if a necessary component of a resurrection debate is too big to debate, the resurrection itself must be too big to debate. So for a while we considered instead debating the Moral Argument for God, since we were at an impasse otherwise. But we eventually negotiated a compromise: I would concede to debate the resurrection if I can go on record with (and criticize) his reasons for refusing to debate the reliability of the Gospels.

I'll quote his exact last words on the matter:
I propose the straightforward "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?" The reason I prefer this topic to the historical reliability of the Gospels is because (i) a case for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection does not depend on the Gospels' being generally reliable, and (ii) being narrower in scope, the topic is more manageable in an hour and a half's debate.
I find both (i) and (ii) to be patently false, in fact outright illogical. But if he wants to be illogical, that works for me. I also find curious his use of the word "prefer" for what was in fact a refusal. Make of that what you will.

As to (ii), defending the resurrection requires establishing a number of premises, including the reliability of the Gospel accounts, and the viability of miraculous explanations of ordinary evidence, and the authenticity, meaning, and reliability of passages in the epistles, and so on, and is therefore larger in scope, not narrower. The historical reliability of the Gospels focuses solely on the Gospels and the evidence within them (and from the field of history) as to whether we can trust what they say, which is necessarily narrower in scope than any argument that requires first establishing that we can trust what they say. As to (i), if the Gospels are not generally reliable, then everything they say is under a pall of suspicion, which entails we can't trust what they say about their most contentious claims, and the resurrection is exactly such, therefore it is not logically possible to make "a case for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection" without "the Gospels' being generally reliable" (unless he intends to make that case without ever appealing to the Gospels, which is unlikely).

I say this here as I might not bother making these points in the debate itself, except by simply pointing out why we can't trust what the Gospels say. I've also been asked about this quite a lot already, as apparently Craig was leaking details of our negotiations, so I might as well say here what I've already said to many people in email.

Out-of-Towners: The organizer Landon Hedrick wants to know who is coming from out of town or even out of state to see the debate, and is willing to reserve a limited number of seats for those of you who do. To get those reserved seats, you need to email him and ask, telling him how many and who you are and where you are coming from. I'm impressed to hear he already has people coming from as far away as Nebraska and Florida. He can be reached at landonhedrick67@yahoo.com.

94 comments:

Zachary Moore said...

Please tell me it'll be recorded in some manner for those of us who won't be able to make it.

Pikemann Urge said...

You know what? If Craig prefers the resurrection, that's fine. I wouldn't have a problem with that. It's just as interesting as the reliability of the Gospels.

But please: no more debates on God's existence. Please, for the love of all that is holy. How utterly tiresome. It's religion that is the proper issue, not God.

If there is a God of any kind then that's great (and I happen to think so, but that's not why I don't want it debated!). And if there isn't? So what?

The proper issue, specifically, should be whether or not God has expressed himself via a religion, and further, whether or not that religion should be practiced or taught dogmatically.

BTW Craig won't necessarily appeal solely to the Gospels to defend the positive notion. There is one scholar (I can look up the man's name if you like) who thinks that the Gospels are too corrupted by tradition to be reliable, but manages to rely on the Epistles to defend the reliability of the resurrection. I am not familiar with his arguement but it would be interesting reading.

Zachary Moore said...

Never mind... read too fast. Can't wait to see/listen, though!

The Science Pundit said...

Are Not the Impossible Faith and On the Historicity of Jesus Christ the same book?

DamianP said...

Hi Richard, I don't know if this is of interest, or not:

Ghost Stories: Visits from the Deceased

It's an article in SciAm that details the regularity with which people — and particularly those in their later years who have lost their partner — experience hallucinations.

"Mourning seems to be a time when hallucinations are particularly common, to the point where feeling the presence of the deceased is the norm rather than the exception. One study, by the researcher Agneta Grimby at the University of Goteborg, found that over 80 percent of elderly people experience hallucinations associated with their dead partner one month after bereavement, as if their perception had yet to catch up with the knowledge of their beloved’s passing. As a marker of how vivid such visions can seem, almost a third of the people reported that they spoke in response to their experiences. In other words, these weren’t just peripheral illusions: they could evoke the very essence of the deceased."

I've heard you talk about this before with respect to the Resurrection of Jesus — although, if I remember correctly, it's usually group hallucinations that you refer to.

Anyway, at the very least there might be some links to research that you may not have read, as yet.

Good luck with the debate.

Jon said...

Richard, is he expecting you to provide for him your opening statement?

David Fitzgerald said...

Looking forward to watching and/or reading the debate, and to reading Not the Impossible Faith!

Paul said...

Will be very interesting to see if Craig brings up Bayes' Theorem like he did in his debate with Bart Ehrman... if so, Richard will be ready for him! Anyhow, it was nice to see Craig's arguments neatly unravelled by Ben Wallis here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=seFoY_7QtCY

and here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2iHrq8T-vI

Steven Carr said...

Every time Craig mentions a Gospel story in the debate, I would tell the audience that Craig gave you permission to inform them that he refused point-blank to debate with you whether or not those stories are reliable.

And remind the audience that the reliablity of the Gospels is a 'larger' topic, so if they find Craig's rhetoric for the resurrection persuasive, that says nothing at all about whether any other Christian stories are true.

Pikemann Urge said...

Steven, you would be technically correct in bringing that up. But it smacks of pettiness and that might lose some of the audience.

Richard will be able to bring up the subject to some degree in his allotted time. In fact he won't be able to avoid it! So it isn't as if he can't talk about it at all.

Luke said...

Richard,

I think Craig has won every debate he has entered (with the possible exception of the Bradley debate on hell). Do not underestimate his skill.

Notice Craig's strategies. He:

1. Presents LOTS of arguments, such that you don't have time to refute them all.

2. Reviews the arguments put forth in a very organized manner, representing the debate thus far in a way that favors him.

3. Continuously quotes the "consensus of scholars."

4. Has a succinct, rhetorically powerful response prepared to every possible thing you could say.

5. Does not go off-topic on rants against atheist morality or anything, but rather STICKS to the logic of the subject, and reminds the audience that he has done so.

Richard, you have one of the best cases against the resurrection ever presented, but I'm basically expecting you to lose this debate (because pretty much everybody else has lost to Dr. Craig.)

Even if you win on logic, you will not necessarily win against Dr. Craig unless you properly prepare.

Craig is an encyclopedia of quotes and knowledge, and IMO one of the most skilled debaters - on any topic - in the world. Do not underestimate him.

Steven Carr said...

Craig even claims the Gospel of Peter is 'independent testimony' to the burial of Jesus, even though he slags it off elsewhere as an examples of legendary accounts.

I guess Craig doesn't care about whether or not something is reliable. He only cares about whether or not he can use it for apologetics.

Andrew said...

Richard Carrier says:

"I originally insisted we first debate "Are the Gospels Historically Reliable?" for the simple reason that you can't honestly debate the former until you've debated (and in fact settled) the latter. Craig simply refused to debate that topic"

Your insistence on that debate is strange. Craig has always and only ever debated the Resurrection of Jesus. Why would he would suddenly entertain a new topic upon your request? It's more like YOU REFUSED TO DEBATE CRAIG ON THE RESURRECTION BECAUSE YOU COULDN'T HAVE YOUR WAY.

Actually the more I think of this, the more absurd this request of yours becomes. I mean, how is this supposed to work? You would have two debates, but the audience upon whom the debate would be for presumably would most likely not even be the same people the second time around. Hence it defeats the purpose of having the debate. What I find especially odd is your statement, in brackets, that the issue has to be "settled". But you're not going to settle it in a debate. Do you really think you and Craig are going to come out of the debate agreeing on the reliability of the gospels? Obviously not lol!

Also, it occurs to me that all of your concern here Richard could be incorporated into a debate on the Resurrection anyhow. Here's how it would work:

Topic of the Debate: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?

Craig Opening: Yes, because of these 4 facts.

Carrier Opening: No, because the gospels aren't reliable.

Craig Rebuttal: Carrier's argument's against the reliability of the Gospels doesn't affect the 4 facts that I gave. Here's why...bla bla bla... etc etc etc, hence the Resurrection is still true.

Carrier Rebuttal: Yes, my arguments against the reliability of the Gospels does affect the reliability of the Resurrection account. Here's how...bla bla bla...therefore, the Resurrection is not true.

Craig Rebuttal 2: (same as first Rebuttal)

Carrier Rebuttal 2: (Same as first rebuttal)

Craig Closing: Let me share with you a personal story of mine. Jesus saved me and he can save you too

Carrier Closing: No, Jesus did not Rise from the dead because the gospels aren't reliable.

End of Debate

PROBLEM SOLVED!!!!

Richard Carrier said:

"I find both (i) and (ii) to be patently false, in fact outright illogical. But if he wants to be illogical, that works for me."

Considering the fact that you think Jesus' existence is "very unlikely" it isn't saying much when you say Craig is illogical.


"I also find curious his use of the word "prefer" for what was in fact a refusal. Make of that what you will."

It's funny how you insist that he refused to debate with you, as if he's scared to do so. The fact that you compromised to have these silly details released to the public sounds so pathetic. If this is your idea of making Craig look bad then it is an epic failure lol. Right now it really looks like the opposite (ie. you refused).

But leave all that aside now. I think it can be easily demonstrated that your claim that (i) is false is itself patently false. For example, if you had a book of mostly BS in it written by generally unreliable person(s) but still nonetheless some true facts contained within it, then it could legitimately be said that the book isn't reliable, even if you could determine the validity of the true facts it reports. This could be the case with the New Testament. Most of what it reports could be false and the supposed authors of it could be very unreliable persons for reporting true accounts, but if they did record accurately the facts of the empty tomb, appearances and so forth (and suppose those particular facts could be determined by historical methods) then the Resurrection argument would not be affected by the unreliability of the Gospels. Therefore, (i) is true, if not obviously so.

As for (ii), your claim otherwise seems again outright false. First, you don't need to establish the reliability of the Gospels in order to establish the Resurrection. So you can take that out of the deck. Second, arguing for the reliability of the Gospels is most definitely larger in scope than the Resurrection. You have to argue that all 4 Gospels are not reliable. To do this you have to examine each one on it's own basis, separating out the individual and independent works contained within it, recognize the different authors and various circumstances they probably wrote and gathered their information in etc. You then have to show that most of what is contained within them is false, and that especially takes a great deal of time to do, at least if you're going to argue seriously for that contention. Since it doesn't follow that from (1)the fact that most of what is contained within the gospels are false to (2)therefore the Resurrection accounts are false, you'll have to show a logical connection here, otherwise the purpose of debating this topic is defeated. You'll have your work cut out for you in such a debate.

The Science Pundit said...

Could somebody please pass me some of what Andrew is smoking?

Andrew said...

I'll tell you what. I'll pass you a book on reading comprehension. Oh crap, I guess that wouldn't work either.

Pikemann Urge said...

Andrew, I totally agree with you when you say, "you don't need to establish the reliability of the Gospels in order to establish the Resurrection," even though I don't think the Resurrection actually happened.

Not because miracles can't happen - there is nothing IMHO that precludes them. That isn't the issue. The issue is the reliability of the NT as a whole, as well as the extra-Biblical testimony about Jesus.

And for goodness sakes Richard, don't use the 'miracles are improbable because they're rare, therefore the resurrection must be improbable' arguement. It's fair, but not rhetorically powerful enough.

Steven Carr said...

'Andrew, I totally agree with you when you say, "you don't need to establish the reliability of the Gospels in order to establish the Resurrection," even though I don't think the Resurrection actually happened.'

You mean that if one Gospel seems to place all the resurrection appearances in Jerusalem, while another has appearance in Galilee, then Christians don't even need to show these are non-contradictory?

There was a time when Christians at least attempted to show that the Gospel accounts of the resurrection were non-contradictory.

Apparently, that is now beneath them.

Their attitude seems to be now 'It is in the Bible, and who cares how reliable it is, it is true.'

Pikemann Urge said...

Well, Steven, I meant that in an academic way. That is, you can give a good case for the resurrection without using the Gospels. It doesn't mean it holds water under scrutiny, though.

I'll see if I can find more detail which I hinted at in my first post in this thread.

AIGBusted said...

I would echo the concerns of others: Do not underestimate Craig. However, it is an overstatement to say that Craig has won all of his debates. He hasn't. Paul Draper and Antony Flew have both given him hell.

On the other hand, he does succeed in a LOT of debates. I say be on guard and be prepared. Other than that, you are a good thinker Richard, and so I'm sure you'll be able to hold your own against him.

macroman said...

It may help to work out what Craig means when he says the issue of the reliability of the Gospels is a wider debate. He may have simply misunderstood you. He might mean he doesn't want to discuss contradictions between nativity stories, or any other contradictions in details, or he doesn't want to argue about loaves and fishes and walking on water or raising Lazarus or Jarius's daughter etc etc. All that could seem like a bigger, different debate, and if you make an issue of what is the bigger debate, it will sound petty to at least some of the audience (regardless of whether you are right or not). I guess Andrew (above) said something similar.

Steven Carr said...

I guess the question of whether or not UFO's exist is a much narrower topic than the question of whether the National Enquirer is a reliable sources of information.

If you are going to debate the reality of alien abductions, it is going to seem 'petty' to query the reliability of the National Enquirer....

David B. Ellis said...


That is, you can give a good case for the resurrection without using the Gospels. It doesn't mean it holds water under scrutiny, though.


With or without the Gospels, there is no credible case to be made for the resurrection. And it doesn't take that much scrutiny to recognize this. The evidence is vastly less than what would be necessary to convince a rational, unbiased person either way.

As to what Luke said, I've often heard that Craig's very skilled at oral debate. Certainly he has a lot of experience.

So I wonder how much debating you've done Richard. Being right and having to knowledge necessary to make a good case in writing isn't the same as being able to beat a smooth talker in a formal oral debate so I'm hoping you did a lot of debating in college at least.

If not, lots of luck. You'll need it.

David B. Ellis said...

By either way, above, I mean with or without the gospels. Not whether or not the resurrection occurred.

Quixie said...

Why does everyone think that Craig is so formidable? I guess if what you are looking at is debate as "sporting event" then there's something to be said for sticking to a predetermined script. It's like boxing a glacier.
Craig's "four fact" axiom is in fact SO easy to refute and yet no one does at these debates. Just once I'd love to hear one of his opponents play along and refute each one of his 4 "facts" . . . just so he can move on to new material.

John W. Loftus said...

Richard, I don't think you'll have any trouble at all with him. It's nice to know he finally has a formidable opponent on this topic. Craig uses what looks like a standardized opening statement, so you can pretty much know what he'll say with no surprises.

You'll do well. I have no doubt.

As to who wins the debate, it all depends on who's judging it, so don't worry much about that. With two formidable opponents like yourselves people will judge it based on their own previously held background control beliefs, so if believers say it was a tie that goes in your favor.

Just focus on the arguments.

Give 'em hell.

Luke said...

Richard, you may want to prepare by reading the latest and best case for the Resurrection made with contributions by Craig: McGrew's and McGrew's "A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth", to be published in Blackwell's forthcoming "Companion to Natural Theology" (ed. by Moreland and Craig). The full 75-page text is available here:
http://www.lydiamcgrew.com/Resurrectionarticlesinglefile.pdf

mikeduncan said...

I can't imagine even attempting such a debate without a very strict, impartial moderator. I read your account of the 2004 team debate with Corey-Rajabali and I was appalled. I hope you have a better mod for this one. That one could have used a few nice (ok, unrealistic) rules such as "Whoever uses ad hominem attacks the least automatically wins the debate," or "Repeated use of ad hominem will surrender the remaining speaking time to the opponent." And when I say ad hominem, I mean attacks on character that are not conceivably relevant to the line of argument, as it is possible to use that particular rhetorical maneuver in a justifiable fashion, though I can't remember any examples from that debate.

Eric said...

"It's nice to know he finally has a formidable opponent on this topic."

Gerd Ludemann, Robert Price, Hector Avalos, John Dominic Crossan, Roy Hoover and Bart Ehrman aren't formidable opponents with respect to the topic of Jesus' resurrection?!

John W. Loftus said...

Eric, I heard or read the debates with Ludemann, Price, Avalos, and Ehrman, and I can say Carrier is more formidable than they are, or were. I could provide a crtique of each of these debates and show where I think they didn't do as well as they could. Unlike Ehrman, for instance, Carrier knows about Bayes theorem. Ludemann was pathetic. Price focused not on the resurrection but on the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, although his final statement was astounding. Avalos had some kind of personal agenda, but I know he could've kicked Craig's ass had he focued on the argument itself. I haven't heard the ones with Crossan or Hoover, but I'll bet Hoover gave Craig a run for his money. What I meant was that most of the other debates Craig has had are with people who didn't know the facts as well as Carrier.

Cheers.

Jilul Syahid said...

May I know u are muslim or not?As a muslim we are believe that Allah is the Most Creator and Most Sustainer..He is the one who create all of the universe..1 ayah in quran mention that if all humankind n all the universe sitting together and counting the makhluk created by Him,surely the will never ever can do it...Let's us look if someone mention that Jesus is our god..it's really unacceptable because if he is powerful god why he is died..In holy bible also he never asking the people to obey him and he never mention that he is son of god or he is a god..tq

Pikemann Urge said...

Jilul, I don't know if Richard will allow my reply to you comment or not, but you have brought up a good point about Jesus being God or not.

You may know (or not?) that the early Christians believed that Jesus was many things. But the belief that he was God (not just the Son of God) came later.

The Gospels tell of him being the Son of God and the Messiah. But you are right: the Gospels do not tell us that he is God. If anything, it's just an interpretation.

I'm not religious, in case you are wondering.

Agnosis00 said...

I hope you will look over Craig's newest article , from the Journal Philosophia Christi, which responded to Dale Allison's book, Resurrecting Jesus. Another article from the same issue can be found on Gary Habermas' website. If someone can find a link to Dale Allison's response somewhere, let me know.

Steven Carr said...

CRAIG
It is noteworthy in this connection that Allison makes a strong case for the historicity of Jesus' entombment by Joseph of Arimathea (Excursus 2, pp. 252-63). One of the ironies of his treatment of the burial and empty tomb narratives--which is apparently unnoticed by Allison--is that virtually the same arguments which lead him to his confident and unqualified verdict of "highly likely" for the burial by Joseph (e.g., multiple attestation, lack of legendary embellishment, embarrassing features of the narrative, use of proper names, public knowledge of the burial and the tomb's location)

CARR
Use of proper names makes it more likely?

What amazing logic!

Nicodemus brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds...

So more than 5 stone of myrrh and aloes , and this is not legendary embellishment?

Has anybody found Joseph of Arimathea?

Or Arimathea?

Richard Carrier said...

The Science Pundit said... Are Not the Impossible Faith and On the Historicity of Jesus Christ the same book?

No. See here.

Jon said... Richard, is he expecting you to provide for him your opening statement?

No.

Steven Carr said... Every time Craig mentions a Gospel story in the debate, I would tell the audience that Craig gave you permission to inform them that he refused point-blank to debate with you whether or not those stories are reliable.

Technically he didn't say that. He splits hairs between debating whether the Gospels "as a whole" need be defended as reliable or whether he can just defend the bits he uses. And I expect him to attempt the latter. I'll address whatever he argues appropriately.

Luke:

Thanks. I knew all that, but it never hurts to hear others noticing these things and pointing them out.

I've always noted the general fact that debates cannot be won by the dissenting side, because oral debates favor tricks and rhetoric over actual concern for the truth. The shotgun tactic you mention is universal, for example, not just Craig's device: it always takes twice as much time to rebut an assertion as to make one, so the fact that both parties have equal time all but entails the affirmative position will always win on any technical measure (provided their aim is to do that, rather than be honest and fair).

However, I do appreciate that PDF link. I'm sure I'll find that useful.

Andrew:

Thanks for the demagoguery. But you either don't understand the issues or don't care to represent them honestly. You and Craig deserve each other.

Pikemann Urge said... And for goodness sakes Richard, don't use the 'miracles are improbable because they're rare, therefore the resurrection must be improbable' argument. It's fair, but not rhetorically powerful enough.

I presume you mean I should take Eddie Tabash's repeated advice to demagogically insist that miracles are absurd, therefore there was no resurrection, QED?

Unfortunately, unlike Craig (at least in my experience), I'm too honest to play such tricks. I actually, honestly do believe miracles are logically possible and could be demonstrated with historical evidence--if there were any, and sufficient evidence survived (at least if we limit "miracle" to the broader category of what I call the paranormal, rather than the narrower category of the supernatural, but that would be enough for the topic of this debate, IMO, i.e. I'm sure if I went in there and argued that space aliens raised Jesus from the dead a la Klatu, Craig would disagree but still count it a victory--not that I'd do that).

I will simply say what I honestly believe in the debate. I'm not going to use tricks to win. Let him win with tricks. My aim is not to win. That's impossible, as I just noted above the dissenting position can never win a debate. My aim is only to communicate to the public why I don't find his arguments persuasive and why they shouldn't either. If the effect is to sow seeds of doubt among fence-sitters and believers, arm nonbelievers with better information, and dispel myths clung to by both sides, it will be worth my time regardless of any technical score.

As to the pertinence of the reliability of the Gospels, you'll see why Andrew is wrong when you see the debate. Of course, if Craig never even refers to the Gospels, then their reliability won't matter. I'd love to see that happen. But I'm not holding my breath.

Richard Carrier said...

To everyone in general, I appreciate all the links and advice. Though obviously much of it is old hat to me, some is new or useful, and I quite like this kind of helpful feedback. Party on.

The Science Pundit said...

Thanks Richard.

Jon said...

One more resource for you Richard that you may already know about. AIGBusted mentioned Draper's performance against Craig which had the existence of God as the topic. I agree that it was among the best against Craig. On the resurrection Arif Ahmed used a tactic that is in some ways similar to what Draper used against Craig, and he was likewise extremely effective, completely neutralizing everything Habermas offered. It seems to me Ahmed is familiar with Bayesian inference and he was able to use an illustration to demonstrate the key issue on this question. That is the initial implausibility of the claim of resurrection and why this weighs so heavily in our evaluation of the question.

That was his first argument. His second two were equally powerful.

Paul Crowley said...

About the shotgun technique, I'm curious - would it be a poor debating style or a breach of debate etiquette to do something like "Dr Craig just presented no less than twelve arguments for the resurrection. Obviously I don't have time to rebut all twelve, so I wonder if anyone has a few favourites they'd like me to focus on? The twelve arguments were..." and get the audience to pick a few to reply to?

That way you can give the audience some confidence that you're able to rebut any of the twelve arguments without actually needing to take the time to do so. Might be considered grandstanding though!

nearenough said...

The reason why Craig "wins" is because all his audiences are packed with Christians, in addition to his organizational ability ("Fact 1...Fact 2...."), going first with his "stacking" requiring you to rebut everything and continuing with his smooth convincing and confident style. Plus he is handsome.

The resurrection of a dead man requires proof of an actual death. No death, no resurrection. I am a retired pathologist and can supply details by e-mail and even here later on. I occasionally read modern day new reports of the misdiagnosis of death. I can happen.

I will summarize: The body needs to be positively identified (one Mary mistook him for the gardener, remember?). The tomb must be identified too (too bad they didn't have GPS). Where was it exactly? Who knew the precise location or would any old empty tomb do? Grave robbery has been known to happen. Tombs are ALWAYS empty right after they have been constructed or outfitted.

Were there any physical signs of death? It's one thing to declare someone is dead, but anther to prove it with detailed findings. Was the body temperature taken? Was there rigor mortis, livor mortis, lack of breathing, lack of corneal reflexes and so forth. Absolutely NO findings of death are listed in the New Testament. Just the word of an unnamed centurion who certainly provided no EVIDENCE for a death.

Let's further go into the concept of a resurrection. Death usually results from interruption of the circulation of blood beyond a critical limit or interference with oxygen delivery to organs, the brain in particular. Death entails the breakdown of the body's cell by auolysis -- disruption of cell membranes resulting in released enzymes that further digests cells, and bacteria which invade and start consuming tissues. The brain starts degenerating (turning to mush) in minutes without oxygen; no brain no life. Creationists, and presumably other Christian sympathizers try to debunk evolution by alluding to the impossibility of wind blowing through a junkyard creating a 747. Well these same Christians could well be hung by their own bootstraps with the exact analogy of the self-reassembly of every molecule of the former body impossibly reassembling themselves into a viable creature. It would be like each water molecule in a drink jumping in the same direction and splashing against gravity on the table. You can do the impossibility math; say the odds are 1 in 10 to the 100000000000000000....(zillion)th power.

I would appreciate your simplifying Bayes' theorem. What Craig tries to do is prove the existence of "God" with it. Once he's done that it's simple for him to assert that "God" was then in a position to cause the Resurrection. That's his trick. It's in the debate with Ehrman, and also in the recently issued 3rd edition of his "Reasonable Faith."

That's all I can remember to say right now. I will go back and reread the comments and add more thoughts later. JN

Pikemann Urge said...

Nearenough, sorry, but you can't dismiss the idea that God did it a priori (I think that's the correct term). Saying 'there is no God' is as obnoxious as saying 'God did it'.

Of course if you have an atheistic, naturalistic worldview, the debate is over before it began. And if that's the most accurate worldview to take then sure, there's no need for a debate here.

Either that or I really don't understand your point.

mpg said...

Hi Richard

Cannot wait to see/hear this debate. Should be a riot. I would like to remind you of something you hinted at in your review of Eddie Tabash's debate with Craig, and that is Craig goes for the rhetorical point as much as he does the evidential one. To make an impact with your audience, don't be afraid of using rhetoric.

Darrin said...

>>Luke

I've seen tons and tons of Craig debates; he lost to Bradley ("Hell"), Q. Smith (Kalam), and Ally ("What Must We Do to be Saved?"), drew Ehrman and Avalos on the Rez and some guy named Austin on God, beat the rest.

>>Richard

I will see you there!! Looking forward to it.

The Infidel said...

In anticipation of Richard's debate with Dr. Craig, I've been listening to several debates on the same topic Craig had with others. With Craig's refusal to debate the reliability of the Gospels in mind, a couple of comments stood out:

Debate with Price: (about 2:0:46) "The real question has got to be how reliable are these documents? And that's got to be the bottom line that you gotta ask. It doesn't depend on who they're written by."

Interesting. He refuses to debate something that is the "real question" and reliability has nothing to do with authorship.

Debate with Avalos: (about 25 minutes in) "He (Avalos) must give evidence that the resurrection narratives of the New Testament are, in fact, false"

Oh, Dr. Craig, you jest!

Scott facehead said...

you guys act like this debate actually depends upon whether or not Jesus existed or not, Jesus either existed or He didn't, these debates have no bearing on that whatsoever.

Pikemann Urge said...

Scott, I deny that charge. Besides, it is a given that debates do not decide reality.

But debates do bring up new data or new ways of looking at data which can be helpful to uncover the best approximation to the truth.

Eric said...

"drew Ehrman and Avalos on the Rez and some guy named Austin on God, beat the rest."

I think this is fair, except for the notion that Craig's debate with Avalos was a draw. Craig beat Avalos handily IMHO, largely because he disconcerted him by pre-empting Avalos's rather underhanded tactics (do you recognize this document?). He especially crushed Avalos's verificationism, and showed quite clearly that while Avalos may be quite expert when it comes to near Eastern languages and the study of ancient texts, he's not much beyond the 101 level when it comes to philosophy.

stair_patato said...

Dear Dr. Richard Carrier,


I hope all is well. The debate next Wed I plan on attending and am looking forward to it. On the question of the validity of the Gospels, have to considered asking Craig Bloomberg to debate you on that particular subject since that(as it seems to me) is where a majority of his writings are about? That would be a good debate. I hope the debate next week goes well. See you there.

Philemon 1:3,
Jonathan

First said...

Whatever one wishes to say, making "a case for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection" without "the Gospels' being generally reliable" does not rise to the exalted levels of logical impossibility.

Quixie said...

First said...

"Whatever one wishes to say, making "a case for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection" without "the Gospels' being generally reliable" does not rise to the exalted levels of logical impossibility."

Making "a case for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection" without "the Gospels' being generally reliable" may not be impossible . . . . but . . . making a good, compelling case that does not rely on supernaturalist semantic pirouettes . . . . ahh!!! . . . that's a another matter altogether, ain't it?

Ó

Ó

stair_patato said...

Dear Quxie,

I do not understand your last post. Can you please elaborate? Thank you.

Philemon 1:3,
Jonathan

Quixie said...

It was just a slightly sarcastic way to highlight the intrinsic folly of any insistence that the historical reliability of the gospel narratives is irrelevant to discussions of the resurrection of Jesus.

One commenter above seems to think that Craig's philosophy credentials somehow elevate his "historicity" case (by proxy? - by osmosis? who knows).

The sport of debate, perhaps a necessary evil, is usually flawed from the git-go, rarely rising above 'talking-past-each-other's-points'.

Richard is a very eloquent speaker and capable thinker, and I hope he stumps Craig, but chances are that it will be another "Let's see; Dr Carrier did not address any of my four facts in his opening remarks. Allow me to repeat them for you for the next five minutes. Or, as N.T Wright, an expert on the resurrection, has said so brilliantly . . . etcetera "

I hope that helps.

:)

Ó

macroman said...

Maybe Craig is planning what Bloomberg tries, leave the gospels out of it and rely only on Paul's epistles and the "fact" that many were converted because of the ressurection, and the "fact" that many were killed rather than give up their belief in the ressurection. (They rely a lot on Acts though and second century accounts of martydoms?). They say "scholars have identified a very early ressurection creed in Paul, maybe as early as 5 years after the crucifixion". They are vague on how scholars know this. Anyway, that is my guess. Craig will do this - it is what Bloomberg usually does.

First said...

Hello Quixie,
Semantic pirouettes? I'm not sure what that means. Is it a way of expressing that you don't care for theistic explanations? I don't see what's wrong with those.

In your post about me, you say, "One commenter above seems to think that Craig's philosophy credentials somehow elevate his "historicity" case (by proxy? - by osmosis? who knows)."

It's not so much his philosophy credentials, although I should say that Craig's philosophical training will most likely give him a leg up when talking epistemology, historical skepticism, and skepticism about miracles, and the nature of explanation. It's more his theological credentials that give him authority in this field. His doctoral work was studying the historicity of the resurrection, and this under Wolfhart Pannenberg at Munich, no less. As I understand it, Pannenberg argues for the truth of the resurrection solely on historical grounds, rather than Biblical.

ChristianJR4 said...

I think Craig's Q&A this week says it all really. Both (i) and (ii) are true and the reasons given by Dr. Carrier against them don't seem that convincing at all.

Eric said...

If the 'exchange' of ideas between Craig and Carrier on Craig's (i) and (ii) are any indication of what to exepect this Wednesday night, then Carrier's in big trouble, because Craig quite obviously schooled him here.

Steven Carr said...

How did Craig school Carrier into accepting that Paul was correct to say that after the resurrection ,Jesus, 'became a life-giving spirit'?

Those must be pretty powerful arguments to school Carrier in why Jesus became a life-giving spirit.

Pikemann Urge said...

I have to say that I don't disagree with Craig when he says that you don't need to establish the Gospels to establish the resurrection. Fair enough point.

He also wrote,

"Whether one is then willing to affirm Jesus' resurrection as the best explanation of the facts is apt to depend more on one's openness to a supernaturalist worldview than on historical considerations."

I'm more than open to the supernatural, but... WHAT FACTS?? Argh!!

Matthew said...

Whatever one wishes to say, making "a case for the historicity of Jesus' resurrection" without "the Gospels' being generally reliable" does not rise to the exalted levels of logical impossibility.

He says his mentor for his doctorate build his case without appealing to the gospels. Try again.

WAR_ON_ERROR said...

Where's the details for the earlier lecture, yo?

BTW, WLC posted a response to this post here. It may or may not be a helpful heads up on where he will go with things in the debate.

Ben

Richard Carrier said...

UPDATE: See bold red update to original post for where I'll be on campus earlier the day of the debate. I just learned this, and doing my best to get it out, despite having to use the hotel customer computer (a Windows platform--crashed five times already, had three virtual memory failures, and takes about two minutes to load a single comments screen on blogger...sigh, when will you PC freaks learn? :-).

Anyway, this 10:30 "talk" (in Fine Arts 200 they last told me) will actually be a variety intro followed by an open Q & A. So pretty much I'll talk about what the audience wants to talk about, which may be a lot of diverse stuff. Only off-limits item will be the resurrection and related material since that will be redundant. All that will have to wait for that evening's debate.

I'll address other comments here when I get back. By then you may have a different perspective :-)

mpg said...

Eric said:
"If the 'exchange' of ideas between Craig and Carrier on Craig's (i) and (ii) are any indication of what to exepect this Wednesday night, then Carrier's in big trouble, because Craig quite obviously schooled him here."

Eric, do you really think that Dr Carrier has no rebuttal to this? It seems you are not too familiar with Carrier's work. Perhaps you should simply wait to hear what he has to say rather than pronouncing victory for your guy.

The Weav said...

I just got back from this. You did a wonderful job, even amidst a "hostile" crowd of devout believers. Looking forward to reading your books.

DONG'S THOUGHTS said...

An eyewitness account (by Wes) re CRAIG-CARRIER debate...
[SOURCE: reasonablefaith.org]

Fellow Reasonable Faithers,

Well I was at the Richard Carrier Vs Lane Craig debate tonight, and I will be as objectively accurate as I can, when I say that Craig literally wiped the table with Dr. Carrier. All Carrier talked about all night long was the fact that certain events in the new testament, mirror those of certain events in the old testament. He claimed that "Barnabas" was a fictional character based on the fact that his name means "son of a father", which I found to be an incredibly weak argument. He goes on about how mary magdaline was a dirrect reflection to merriam (of Moses I believe) and this is again evidence of mythical legend. Carrier did not even try to attack any of Dr. Craig's 4 main facts. He said nothing in regards to the empty tomb really, or the origin of the Christian Faith. He then claimed that ALL of the appearances to the disciples and Paul were 100 percent hallucinations and that none could be trusted...of course we all know the problems with the hallucination theory, mainly that the tomb's emptiness cannot be explained...(which Craig Failed to point out!!)

Anyway Dr. Craig opened with his typical 4 fact approach, the empty tomb, the location of the tomb, the postmortem appearanc]es, and the origin of the Christian faith. When it came time for rebuttal number 2, Craig simply scolded Carrier for tyring to Change the topic midlfight. Carrier was trying to poke errors in the NT gospels all night, rather then actually trying to disprove the resurrection. There were several Fine points in the debate that Craig had, including the end of his first rebuttal where he finally concluded after refuting ALL of Carrier's little claims that were not even relevant to the resurrection, quoting Craig "I honestly cannot think of any reason that one would reject the resurrection based on historical grounds, only on a presuposition against miracles. So the real question is if you have an open heart, and can actually allow the idea that God just actually Might exist" and he went silent for a few seconds, and closed the rebuttal....but it was very powerful, and he nearly got a STANDING ovation at a secular university! haha

Dr. Craig also had other very funny things that he did to poke holes, and fun at Carrier, he Claimed that Carrier had "Failed to learn how to read between the lines", he claimed that Carrier had used "crank exegies that no serious scholar would except", That Carrier invoked a "casper's ghost theory into the gospel narratives" and on and on. At one point after Craig sat down, Carrier got up and was very upset that Craig had accused him of invoking a Casper the Ghost type story, while Dr. Craig Simotaneously threw his hands up and made very humerous facial gestures toward Carrier, while the entire audience could not hold back the laughter....haha.

Anyway No doubt Dr. Craig made a slam dunk here, he made such an impact, that after his first rebuttal, even Dr. Carrier's first words at the podium were "Wow that certainly was a shotgun of an argument, there is simply no way I can respond to all of it". Craig seemed calm and sophisticated throughout the debate, while Carrier almost seemed lost at times, rummaging through papers with large amounts of time lapsing while he had no words, it was just not a good day for Carrier.

They were videotaping the debate, so I suspect Craig will have it on the site before long.,/.......... any questions comments???????!!!

Steven Carr said...

'Craig seemed calm and sophisticated throughout the debate...'

' Simotaneously threw his hands up and made very humerous facial gestures toward Carrier....'

Wow! I didn't realise Craig would make funny faces, rather than try to produce a shred of evidence for the Gospel stories of Romans releasing rebels, who were called 'Son of the Father', while the real Son of the Father was about to be killed.

Were those peer-reviewed funny faces?

Eric said...

"Eric, do you really think that Dr Carrier has no rebuttal to this? It seems you are not too familiar with Carrier's work. Perhaps you should simply wait to hear what he has to say rather than pronouncing victory for your guy."

But might Craig not have a rebuttal of Carrier's rebuttal, and so on, ad infinitum? We have to make judgments based on the data we have, not on future credits. And, based on the data we have, Craig's rebuttal of Carrier's arguments concerning (i) and (ii) were just short of devastating.

I'm Carrier has a rebuttal, but I sincerely doubt that he has anything approaching a refutation.

Jon said...

while Dr. Craig Simotaneously threw his hands up and made very humerous facial gestures toward Carrier, while the entire audience could not hold back the laughter....haha.

Yeah, that sounds very much like WL Craig. That's unfortunate.

I'll be looking for reviews from people that don't find this kind of behavior persuasive.

tom said...

...even Dr. Carrier's first words at the podium were "Wow that certainly was a shotgun of an argument, there is simply no way I can respond to all of it"

This is my favorite part of the puerile and sycophantic review posted above.

A common criticism of Craig is that he uses the "shotgun" approach to debates, throwing out more arguments than his opponent could possibly respond to in the allotted time. I'm assuming Carrier called Craig on this to preempt his usual closing, in which he tallies what his opponent failed to rebut. Yet the reviewer manages to read this as Carrier conceding: a "shotgun of an argument?" Seriously?

How Craig managed to "literally" wipe the floor with Carrier is anyone's guess. And of course his admiration of funny faces and flailing arms tells us lots about the reviewer and nothing about the debate, but the commenter's name "Dong's Thoughts" makes suspect another instance of Poe's Law.

unBeguiled said...

tom,

Funny, I had the same reaction to Dong that you did: is this a parody? or is Dong really this stupid?

Does he really think calling an argument "shotgun" is a complement? You are correct to invoke Poe here. We just cannot tell if Dong is serious or is posting a parody.

Eric said...

"Wow that certainly was a shotgun of an argument, there is simply no way I can respond to all of it"

I fail to see how this criticism has any force whatsoever. Craig has been delivering the same opening statement, with minor variations, for *years*, and Carrier has known about this debate for months. Anyone who debates Craig and claims to be unable to reply to his opening statement is either unprepared or is using a debate trick of his own both to attack Craig's character (dirty shotgun tactics!) and to provide an excuse for not providing an persuasive response: "My, I had no idea he was going to throw so much out there at once! What a shotgun of an argument -- I can't possibly respond to all of it on the spur of the moment!"

I'm sure that anyone who is both familiar with the subject matter and who has studied Craig's standard, completely unsurprising opening could come up with a brief point-by-point rebuttal, focusing only on the strongest arguments against his case. Hence, the 'shotgun' riposte is farcical. It's a debate; you're not expected to reply with a dissertation to every assertion he makes.

mpg said...

I'm sure that anyone who is both familiar with the subject matter and who has studied Craig's standard, completely unsurprising opening could come up with a brief point-by-point rebuttal, focusing only on the strongest arguments against his case. Hence, the 'shotgun' riposte is farcical. It's a debate; you're not expected to reply with a dissertation to every assertion he makes.

ah, Eric. That's the very point. As an avid watcher of Craig, surely you have noticed that he tends to charge that his opponents haven't dealt with the entirety of his arguments. Your last sentence is an acknowledgment of that fact, but in the context of the theatre of oral debate, it still works on an audience. I think this is what the poster was trying to communicate.

Eric said...

"As an avid watcher of Craig, surely you have noticed that he tends to charge that his opponents haven't dealt **with the entirety** of his arguments."

I have never heard Craig claim that his opponent has failed to deal with *every single point* he raised, or even suggest that his opponent has any obligation to do so. Craig doesn't claim that X failed to respond to some minor point he has raised to support one of his main points, but he will -- and should! -- point out when X fails to respond to one of his main points.

mpg said...

I have never heard Craig claim that his opponent has failed to deal with *every single point* he raised, or even suggest that his opponent has any obligation to do so.

Wow! He used to say this all the time! Go back to some of his earlier debates and you will see that he ends his opening statement, particularly when debating the existence of God, with something like, 'for atheism to be true, my opponent must refute all of my arguments and then prove his own.' And after that he frequently ends with something like, 'I believe we've heard no good reasons for atheism/naturalism/agnsoticism/etc and all my reasons for theism/christianity/etc still stand.' Never heard him say something like this?

Eric said...

"my opponent must refute all of my arguments and then prove his own.' And after that he frequently ends with something like, 'I believe we've heard no good reasons for atheism/naturalism/agnsoticism/etc and all my reasons for theism/christianity/etc still stand.' Never heard him say something like this?"

Of course, but this is not what you initially claimed. To refute an argument Craig Makes, one would only have to point out a fallacy or a false premise (or something along these lines). This wouldn't require addressing the argument *in its entirety*. And if, as is often the case, one argument is used to support other arguments, showing that the foundational argument is flawed effectively undermines all arguments that rest on it. Therefore, one need not deal with each and every argument. For example, Craig's resurrection argument rests on four facts and an inference to the best explanation (with respect to how the four facts are best explained). Not all four facts are equally important, so if Carrier could either undermine one of Craig's more important facts, or show how Craig's explanation is not in fact the best explanation, he could refute his 'shotgun' argument without having to deal with all the details Craig provides to support each of his main points.

mpg said...

"Of course, but this is not what you initially claimed. To refute an argument Craig Makes, one would only have to point out a fallacy or a false premise (or something along these lines). This wouldn't require addressing the argument *in its entirety*."

I think you misunderstand me. My original point was not that Craig demands every single word of an argument be refuted, but that one must deal with all his arguments in total. And I absolutely agree with you, I don't think one has to. But I do say that a debater can benefit from the fact that, in the course of a time-limited debate, you cannot deal with every single bit of the argument. And do notice too, that Craig often suggests his rebuttal is also direct evidence for his position e.g. his argument against naturalism and evolution. But again, I agree with you, you don't have to rebut every single statement. I think this is what the previous posters meant by shotgun argument.

philip m said...

As someone who was there, let me clear something up.

First of all, the quote is 'That was certainly a shotguns of arguments', and was therefore a reference to the quantity, and not the quality, of the argumentation.

And secondly, the comment was not made in Carrier's opening speech, but in his first rebuttal; thus, he was responding to Craig's rebuttal to Carrier's opening speech and Craig's continued defense of his opening. The entire reason there was a shotgun of arguments was because Carrier chose to bring the reliability of the Gospels into the debate, thus widening the scope of what needed to be argued about. Craig therefore needed to argue against that, and anything else Carrier added, and reassert all his points.

In reality, Craig I think tried to make the debate quite focused, which you can notice in his opening as he tries to anticipate what Carrier will argue. He presupposes Jesus personal claims and the existence of God explicitly. He then puts a lot of arguments on the burial story, the empty tomb, and on the nature of the body in 1 Corinthians 15. The other facts he barely touches, because Carrier accepts them already, and then he talked about the best explanation of them. So given that he knew what Carrier stressed in his written work, it seems like the shotgun could have been avoided if Carrier just argued where he and Craig disagreed the most about the case (empty tomb, nature of 1 Corinthians 15, best explanation).

Brian said...

MP3 Audio of the Craig/Carrier debate can be found here. May be easier than listening off the web page player.

thinker said...

Any comments to Craig's response to what Carrier has written in this blog? Quoting Craig:

"I had seen those comments... and I think they're due to a misunderstanding, that's all. When Landon Hedrick at Northwest Missouri State invited us to participate in a debate, Richard stated three topics on which he was willing to debate: (1) Are Moral Facts Evidence of God?, (2) Does God Care About Us?, and (3) Are the Gospels Historically Reliable? He did not want to debate the historicity of Jesus' resurrection without first discussing the last question. Since I thought, for the two reasons stated above, that the historical reliability of the Gospels was a poor topic for debate, I chose his topic on the foundations of morality. In time, however, people expressed such disappointment with this topic that Richard relented and agreed to debate the historicity of Jesus' resurrection on the condition that I would issue a statement that he could quote as to why I declined to debate the historical reliability of the Gospels. (I'm amused at Richard's complaint that I was "leaking" details of our negotiations. When people asked me why we weren't debating the resurrection, I just told them, as I imagine Richard did. I wasn't aware that our "negotiations" were top-secret!)

So I agreed to go with the new topic and issued the statement quoted above. My use of the word "prefer" is meant merely to express my preference among the topics offered me for debate. I was given a choice, and I made one. It was Richard who refused to debate the resurrection until he felt sufficient pressure to do so.

Were my reasons for preferring the topic of the resurrection over the topic of the historical reliability of the Gospels illogical? I think not. With regard to (i), when Richard says, "defending the resurrection requires establishing a number of premises, including the reliability of the Gospel accounts," he needs to add, "with respect to specific events" (unless, as he notes, one plans to make a case for Jesus' resurrection without appeal to the Gospels, as my doctoral mentor Wolfhart Pannenberg in fact does1). If you're going to appeal to the Gospels in making your case, then obviously you need to show that the Gospels are reliable with respect to the specific events you are claiming to be historical. But a case for the historicity of the specific events underlying the inference to Jesus' resurrection doesn't depend on establishing the general historical reliability of the Gospels. This truth underlies the historical-critical method. The task of the critical historian is to sift the wheat from the chaff in order to discover the kernels of historical truth contained in a document.

Richard knows this. He writes, "There is no ancient history that is entirely accurate and without lies, distortions, or errors. Every qualified historian today agrees with that. It is a universal principle accepted throughout the professional community that no ancient work is infallible" ("Was Christianity Too Improbable to Be False?"). Unfortunately, too many Christians and "infidels" alike are under the misimpression that demonstrating an error in the Gospels invalidates their entire testimony, which is absurd. As Richard points out, even the best of ancient historians, such as Tacitus, Polybius, and Arrian, convey false information, and even the work of historians like Herodotus and Seutonius, who don't measure up the high standards of these authors, still provides valuable historical information with respect to specific events.

An illustration with respect to Jesus is the apocryphal Gospels. These generally unreliable documents embody lots of fanciful legends and fabrications. Nonetheless, they also contain historical nuggets, e.g., that Jesus of Nazareth died of Roman crucifixion. In his less radical days (before he came to believe that Jesus of Nazareth never existed), Richard wrote with respect to the Gospels: "Few doubt that Jesus and certain other characters and cultural, geographic, and other details of these texts form a genuine 'historical core' worth mining for data. This is generally not in question" ("William Craig, Herodotus, and Myth Formation"). Indeed, even today Richard would presumably agree with this statement—he just now finds himself among those few extremists. The existence of that historical core does not depend upon the general reliability of the Gospels.

In fact, when you think about it, it is viciously circular and therefore illogical to require establishing a document's general reliability in order to establish its reliability with respect to some specific event. For how else could one demonstrate a document's general reliability except by demonstrating its reliability on a good number of specific events? Suppose we were to discover some ancient historical document previously unknown, and we want to know if it is reliable in the events it reports. In order to establish its general historical reliability we'd have to show that it is reliable on the various specifics that it reports. Requiring that we first establish its general reliability would land us in a "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?" scenario. Clearly, the specifics come first, from which general reliability is inferred.

So when Richard warns, "if the Gospels are not generally reliable, then everything they say is under a pall of suspicion, which entails we can't trust what they say about their most contentious claims, and the resurrection is exactly such," there are a number of confusions here.

First, to say that a case for Jesus' resurrection does not depend on first establishing the general reliability of the Gospels is not to say that the Gospels are, in fact, generally unreliable! That is an obvious non sequitur. It's just to say that one needn't establish a document's general reliability before establishing that that document reliably records some specific event.

Second, even the general unreliability of a document doesn't entail that we can't trust what it says about some specific event, unless by "trust" Richard is implying some sort of criterionless acceptance of the document's assertions. That sort of trust is not at issue here. New Testament historians have developed quite a number of so-called criteria of authenticity for discerning the historical about Jesus, such as multiple attestation, dissimilarity to Christian teaching, linguistic Semitisms, traces of Palestinian milieu, retention of embarrassing material, coherence with other authentic material, and so forth.2 These criteria do not presuppose the general reliability of the Gospels. Rather they focus on a particular event or saying of Jesus and provide evidence for thinking that specific element of Jesus' life to be historical, regardless of the general reliability of the document in which the particular saying or event is reported. These same criteria are thus applicable to reports of Jesus found in the apocryphal Gospels, or rabbinical writings, or even the Qur'an. Of course, if the Gospels can be shown to be generally reliable documents, so much the better! But the criteria do not depend on any such presupposition. Richard might defend his above statement by emphasizing the word "contentious." But then his statement becomes trivial: obviously, historically speaking, we can't trust assertions in a generally unreliable document if they fail the criteria. The question is, do specific assertions meet the criteria?

Take, for example, the crucifixion of Jesus. Wholly apart from the general historical reliability of the Gospels, this specific fact about Jesus of Nazareth is recognized as so firmly established as to be indisputable. Indeed, the eminent historical Jesus scholar John Meier regards it as so certain that it becomes itself one of the criteria of authenticity for judging the historicity of other events of Jesus' life. Meier's confidence in the historicity of Jesus' crucifixion has nothing to do with general historical reliability of the Gospels. Rather he explains,

For two obvious reasons practically no one would deny the fact that Jesus was executed by crucifixion: (1) This central event is reported or alluded to not only by the vast majority of New Testament authors but also by Josephus and Tacitus . . . . (2) Such an embarrassing event created a major obstacle to converting Jews and Gentiles alike. . . that the church struggled to overcome. . . .3

The first point is an application of the criterion of multiple attestation and the second of the criterion of embarrassment. It's clear that Meier does not accept the crucifixion because the Gospels have been shown to generally historically reliable. Anybody who thinks that New Testament historians presuppose the general reliability of the Gospels only reveals his naivete about how New Testament criticism operates.

Third, Richard misleads when he says that the resurrection is one of those contentious events. For, as I have emphasized (see Question of the Week # 98), the facts underlying the inference to Jesus' resurrection, such as the empty tomb and post-mortem appearances, are not contentious but belong to the historical core recognized by the wide majority of New Testament historians today. I realize that this is hard for those of you in the "infidel" crowd to fathom, but it's true. It is you who are swimming against the current of scholarship; I am comfortably within the mainstream. Whether one is then willing to affirm Jesus' resurrection as the best explanation of the facts is apt to depend more on one's openness to a supernaturalist worldview than on historical considerations.

As for point (ii), a discussion of the reliability of the Gospels in general rather than of some specific events recorded in them is obviously broader in scope. Why should we get bogged down in a debate over the historicity of the birth narratives or the date of the Last Supper and so on, when nothing about Jesus' resurrection hangs on the reliability of those reports? As a topic for debate, the general reliability of the Gospels would be so broad as to be unmanageable. Imagine having to discuss the general reliability of not just one Gospel, or even of the Synoptics, but of all four! It's far better to focus on the historical reliability of the Gospels with respect to certain specific events relative to Jesus' resurrection."

Will Fenio said...

I'm sure that i am not the only one to notice this. But it occured to me that whenever Dr. Craig refers to the criteria of C. Behan McCullagh to establish the best historical explanation, he conveniently leaves out the very first criterion. And when you read it you can see why.. here it is: "The statement, together with other statements already held to be true, must imply yet other statements DESCRIBING PRESENT, OBSERVABLE DATA."

if anyone wants to check it out just go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_method

It is funny that Craig always refers to McCullagh's 6 criteria when in actuality there are 7...and the one he omits is #1. very humorous. but then again, not suprising given Craig's record of playing shell games with the principle of analogy so as to sneak in his supernatural explanations.
Dr. Carrier did a fantastic job in the debate.

Pikemann Urge said...

Brian, thank you for the MP3 file. I can't f****** stand those streaming Flash players. Blech.

And Thinker, for goodness' sake can you please not do a cut-and-paste dump of Craig's entire article? How about a short quote and a link next time? Manners and all that.

Richard Carrier said...

Just so everyone is aware: as I find time, I will reply to comments made here about the debate, in comments appended to my post about the debate here.

Jeanne said...

Will,

Would you mind providing a bit of analysis for what the first criterion entails?

I couldn't make up my mind on how it could be fairly applied historically.

Thanks

Will Fenio said...

Jeanne,

sure. I will simply follow the form as cited above but plug in Craig's case for the resurrection:

The statement (Craig's claim that Jesus supernaturally rose from the dead), together with other statements already held to be true (that Jesus was tried, executed, and experienced in post-death visions) must imply yet other statements DESCRIBING PRESENT, OBSERVABLE DATA (people are supernaturally resurrected from the dead TODAY, in the same manner).

That is how I take it to apply.

techboy said...

Will Fenio,
You might be the only one to notice that Dr. Craig only makes use of 6 of the criteria because you're wrong. In his book Reasonable Faith, he references all 7. My guess would be that he drops the first in debates because it's not directly relevant, and also because it's easily misunderstood (as you have), and so would likely sidetrack argument, which is something he's trying to avoid.

If you'd like to see how Craig argues for a fit with criteria #1, read this Google limited preview of Dr. Craig's book (it should take you to page 397, the correct page, just cut and paste the link).

http://books.google.com/books?id=DZ8XzHSJpd4C&pg=PA1&dq#PPA397,M1

So, Dr. Craig in no way is abusing Dr. McCullagh's method, dishonestly or otherwise.

Still in doubt? Check this review of Dr. Craig's book:

"In admirably clear prose, Professor Craig presents important philosophical and historical issues relevant to Christian beliefs. With extraordinary erudition, he sketches the arguments of major thinkers of both past centuries and recent times, and he presents his own reasons for concluding that traditional Christian doctrines about God and Jesus are credible. His replies to those skeptical of the existence of God, of historical knowledge, of the occurrence of miracles, and in particular of the resurrection of Jesus, take debates over those difficult topics an important stage further. Here is an admirable defense of basic Christian faith."

-C. Behan McCullagh, Philosophy Program, La Trobe University

Yes, that McCullagh. :)

Will Fenio said...

techboy,
thanks for directing me to the text and clearing that up. I was looking at McCullagh's criteria out of the context of the rest of his book. that's why I ended my first remarks with "that is how i take it to apply". Craig's understanding of it, and I assume McCullagh's, is that the hypothesis in question initiates a causal chain of events which can be detected empirically in the present. I was seeing it as an expression of the Troeltsch's principle of analogy. the wording of it was a little tricky, hence my interpretation.
anyway, thanks again for clearing that up.
Will

Will Fenio said...

I noticed that McCullagh's endorsement of Craig's book does not actually state that he agrees with his assesment of the resurrection. In fact, if you look at McCullagh's book "Justifying Historical Description", on page 21 he says, "...the Christian hypothesis that Jesus rose from the dead. This hypothesis is of greater explanatory scope and power than other hypotheses which try to account for the relevant evidence, but is LESS PLAUSIBLE AND MORE AD HOC than they are."
Of course this doesn't prove Craig's case either way, but it does show that endorsement is not necessarily agreement - a good thing to keep in mind.

blindingimpediments said...

I think WLC puts out too many points to defeat all at once. You should just concentrate on maybe one of his arguements and tear that one arguement to bits. And mention that due to time constraints, you won't address the other points unless there is time afterwards. And just emphasize that just because you didn't address the other points, doesn't mean they are infallible. You can then mention that if you were able to successfully argue this one point, then the audience can use this as a surrogate that potentially WLC's other points may also be argued against successfully, and if you don't get to those points during this particular debate. Then you would be happy to address WLC's other points in a separate debate.

techboy said...

Will Fenio,
Yes, and actually Dr. Craig addresses Dr. McCullagh's comments on page 238 and 239.

http://books.google.com/books?id=DZ8XzHSJpd4C&pg=PA1&dq#PPA239,M1

My point was not that Dr. McCullagh agrees with Dr. Craig's conclusions. In fact, I think it's more powerful that he doesn't totally agree (As your cite mentions, Dr. McCullagh agrees with Dr. Craig on a couple criteria, disagrees on a couple, ends up calling the whole thing inconclusive, basically) because it shows that the endorsement is not merely a matter of faith-based support.

My point was simply that Dr. Craig does, indeed, make proper use of Dr. McCullagh's method, and I think we can see that both from his application of it (and Dr. McCulllagh's, actually) and from Dr. McCullagh's endorsement, which he certainly would not have given to someone that misused his method.

Quixie said...

Posted on the debate (very likely my last words on WLC, in fact) on my own blog.

Ó

Will Fenio said...

techboy,
I agree. I'm sure McCullagh also appreciates his methodology being employed by Craig as well. As it will bring many new people to his work.
I tried to check out pgs 238-239 on the e-book but it wouldn't let me. Do you know of any other way of viewing those pages online? If not, no big deal. thanks.
-Will

techboy said...

Will Fenio,
When I cut and paste this link:

http://books.google.com/books?id=DZ8XzHSJpd4C&pg=PA1&dq#PPA239,M1

into my browser, it brings up the Google Books limited preview, which for me includes the relevant pages.

Does that work for you?

Will Fenio said...

techboy,
ok.. it works now. last time i had reached my "viewing limit" by skipping through pages. But I was able to view it this time.
thanks.
Will

Richard Carrier said...

As promised earlier, I have replied to comments made here about the debate, in comments appended to my post about the debate, starting here.

Will Fenio said...

Going through Craig's essays online and through some of his books, it has amazed me that despite his proclivity for making simple arguments sound complicated, he really provides no persuasive argument for his theological or historical claims. His turgid analyses are obviously designed for the believer to use as rhetorical defenses for their improbable beliefs. I give him credit for being erudite and skilled at debate. After hearing his debates over and over, however, they loose their luster and impressiveness. It's amazing how much he depends on fallacious tactics like appeal to authority and majority opinion. These fallacies are especially misleading in a field which attracts mostly believers into it's academic ranks. Anyway, I actually don't think he wins as many debates as most people. He just dumps more arguments on his opponents than there is time to deal with. He also uses a strawman tactic often, in which he doesn't sufficiently deal with his opponents arguments and debates a caraciture of his opponents position, which he himself has constructed. The more one reads and listens to him, the more transparent he becomes. However, he is interesting and entertaining nonetheless.

Julio César Fernández said...

Maybe we can not firmly rely on the gospels because they were approved under the conviction of creecias and political expediency of epoca.Por Therefore, if they had passed all those who were ruled to have fewer rather controversial because the written word would been more open to scrutiny and truth. Religiously speaking.