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

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Amherst Conference

In my previous blog about The Jesus Project I promised a two-parter, the first on the Project in general, the next on December's conference specifically (it's been more than a week, I know, but a lot's being going on of late). This time my remarks will be rather long, as quite a lot went on, spanning the whole weekend. But all this was newsworthy, IMO.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Appearing at La Verne

I will be speaking on the historicity of Jesus at the University of La Verne in southern California in the Founders Hall Auditorium, which is next to the La Fetra Auditorium (1950 3rd St. in La Verne, California) the night of Monday, March 9 (7pm) 2009, for the campus Religion & Philosophy Club, aka The Most Greatest Club Ever. It's free and open to the public, and afterwards I'll be signing and selling my book Sense and Goodness without God (and possibly The Empty Tomb and remotely possibly a new book Not the Impossible Faith that updates and collects my work against J.P. Holding).

The talk will be "Why I Think Jesus Didn't Exist" and will essentially resemble my Stanford talk on that same subject in 2006, slightly updated in light of my current work On the Historicity of Jesus Christ (in progress). In a sense this will be a precis of the argument of that book, but greatly condensed and simplified. Per the official description, "Dr. Carrier will summarize some of the arguments of his forthcoming book On the Historicity of Jesus Christ, suggesting there is a reasonable case to be made that Jesus might not have been a historical person, but was instead a mythical cosmic being who became ‘historicized’ over time like other Greco-Roman gods and heroes. Even if you disagree with the conclusion, you will likely find the evidence fascinating and thought-provoking."

Teaser: I will also be debating William Lane Craig (the topic is awaiting official approval but likely will be the Resurrection of Jesus) at Northwest Missouri State University on Wednesday, March 18 (2009). When all the details are finalized at NMSU I'll blog that event in detail.