William Lane Craig disses Stephen Law, cites irrefutable evidence for Jesus

A while back I wondered why atheists got so heated up about the historical existence of Jesus, even though none of us agree that the man was divine.  That was dumb of me; I should have realized that the existence of even a fully human Jesus would somehow buttress the Christian contention that he was the son of God, born of a virgin, resurrected, and so on. To that end, I suppose it’s meet that we apply the appropriate skepticism to whether there was a real Jesus around whom the miracle stories accreted.  That, of course, is what the argument between Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier is about.

Reader Justicar called my attention to the fact that the faithful are already appropriating Ehrman’s conclusions in support of their theology. Ehrman, of course, believes that there was a historical Jesus, even though that rabbi was neither divine nor a wonder-worker.  But it doesn’t matter, as we can see in a piece by theologian/debater William Lane Craig, responding to Stephan Law’s piece, “Evidence, miracles, and the existence of Jesus,” which I discussed yesterday.

On Craig’s blog, Reasonable Faith (what an oxymoronic title!) he pats Ehrman on the back and then goes after Law’s call for caution in accepting even a historical Jesus in an essay called “Stephen Law on the non-existence of Jesus of Nazareth.”

When I first encountered [Law’s] article in my debate preparation, my first thought was that only a philosophy journal would publish such a piece! This article would never have made it past the peer-review process for a journal of New Testament or historical studies. Even a radical sceptic like Bart Ehrman savages the so-called “mythicists” who claim that we have no good evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person:

Note that Craig calls Ehrman a “radical sceptic,” a label that Ehrman would deny but applies to mythicists like Carrier, who seem intransigent in their scepticism.  Craig then goes on to dissect and (to his mind) demolish Law’s argument (you can review Law’s six premises to be skeptical about Jesus here).  Recall Law’s premise 6:

6. There is no good independent evidence for even the mundane claims about Jesus (such as that he existed)

This is the one Craig singles out, but do look at the rest of his argument:

But premiss (6) is the most obviously false premiss in the argument. With respect to extra-biblical evidence Law is just misinformed. Jesus is mentioned in such ancient sources as Tacitus, Josephus, Mara bar Serapion, and Jewish rabbinic sources. If you’re interested in reading these, Robert Van Voorst has collected these sources in his book Jesus outside the New Testament. There is no reason to think that all of these sources are dependent exclusively on Christian tradition. For example, according to Van Voorst “the wording of almost every element” of Josephus’ original text “indicates that Josephus did not draw it, directly or indirectly, from first-century Christian writings.”

Worse, what Law doesn’t appreciate is that the sources in the NT itself are often independent of one another, so that we have independent evidence for many of the mundane, not to speak of the miraculous, events of Jesus’ life. It is precisely that multiple, early, independent attestation to many of the events of Jesus’ life that has persuaded historical scholars of the historicity of many of the events in the Gospel narratives. For example, we have references to Jesus’ burial in five independent sources and indications of the discovery of his empty tomb in no less than six independent sources, which is really quite extraordinary.

I’m no Biblical scholar, but I think every one of Craig’s claims here has been contested, particularly the “independence” of the sources of the New Testament! But Craig has further reasons for denying (6), and constructs his own three “principles”:

  • Principle of Sufficient Cause: Law says that Alexander the Great must have existed because of the military dynasties left in his wake. But in the same way, Jesus must have existed because of the first-century Christian movement left in his wake. Attempts to explain this movement away mythologically have failed.
I believe there is other independent evidence for Alexander the Great, not just the “military dynasties left in his wake”.  It’s my impression, in fact, that there’s far more evidence for Alexander’s existence than for that of Jesus.  And the “sufficient cause” principle is weak, and fails palpably with respect to other religions. Did Xenu exist because of the Scientology movement left in his wake, or the angel Moroni because his composition and delivery of the golden plates left Mormonism in his wake?
  • Embarrassment: Jewish Messianic expectations included no idea of a Davidic Messiah who, instead of throwing off Israel’s enemies and establishing David’s throne in Jerusalem, would be shamefully executed by them as a criminal. Jesus’ crucifixion was something the early church struggled to overcome, not something it invented. Jesus’ crucifixion is one datum upon which all historical scholars, even the most radical, agree.

I don’t think Carrier (or historical scholars, and Carrier is certainly one of these) fully agree on this, though I believe Ehrman does (I haven’t read his new book). At any rate, the fact that the crucifixion was embarrassing to early Jews doesn’t add one iota of support to its reality.  We need to look at the evidence for such an execution.

  • Archaeology: Law accepts the historicity of Alexander the Great partly because of the archaeological evidence for the dynasties he founded. But how about Jesus? The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has a very strong historical claim to be built over the actual tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. In 326-28 the mother of the Emperor Constantine, Helena, undertook a trip to Palestine and enquired where the tomb of Jesus was located. The locals pointed to a spot where a Temple to Aphrodite had stood for over a century. We have here a very old tradition as to the location of Jesus’ tomb which is rendered probable by the facts that (i) the location identified was inside the extant walls of the city, even though the NT says it was outside the city walls. People didn’t realize that the spot was, in fact, outside the original walls because they did not know the original walls’ location. (ii) When Constantine ordered the temple to be razed and the site excavated, lo and behold, they dug down and found a tomb! But if this is the very tomb of Jesus, then we have archaeological evidence for his existence.

Oy vey!  “Local tradition”? And, of course, archaeologists have not given that tomb any credibility as the resting place of Jesus.

115 Comments

  1. Dermot C
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    In the ‘Decline and Fall…’ (Kindle edition – 30%), Gibbon’s urbane and sceptical scorn takes wings whenever Christianity and miracles occupy the same air space. Here he is on the creation, in the fourth century, of Jerusalem as the destination for Christian pilgrimages.

    ‘The zeal, perhaps the avarice, of the clergy of Jerusalem, cherished and multiplied these beneficial visits (i.e pilgrimages – DC). They fixed, by unquestionable tradition, the scene of each memorable event. They exhibited the instruments which had been used in the passion of Christ; the nails and the lance that had pierced his hands, his feet, and his side; the crown of thorns that was planted on his head;…and…they showed the cross on which he suffered, and which was dug out of the earth in the reign of those princes (i.e. in the 4th century – DC)…Such miracles as seemed necessary to account for its extraordinary preservation, and seasonable discovery, were gradually propagated without opposition…the most respectable of the ecclesiastical writers have been obliged to confess, not only that the streets of Jerusalem were filled with the incessant tumult of business and pleasure, but that every species of vice – adultery, theft, idolatry, poisoning, murder – was familiar to the inhabitants of the holy city…

    Lourdes, crossed with Las Vegas!

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      The loaves and fishes were not His greatest miracle. It is said (by multiple independent sources) that there were enough pieces of the True Cross to satisfy the needs of every pilgrim seeking succor, provided by monks seeking suckers, to build a ship to carry them home in.

      • Jesse
        Posted April 30, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

        That comment, I believe, was made by none other than John Calvin, a great hater of the Church.

  2. Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    Craig knows how terrible all those standard bits of evidence are. At this point he is knowingly lying, and really obviously and transparently.

    He keeps trying to apply his debate techniques to the written word. This doesn’t work so well.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:38 am | Permalink

      Lying appears to be a major factor of his debate tactics.
      He gets away with it because too few of his audience ever bother to check out his claims. I can only conclude that he has nothing but contempt for his followers.

      • raven
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

        If their religion was true, they wouldn’t have to lie all the time.

        • Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

          Which, according to the “embarrassment” principle historicists are so fond of, means that the fact that they’re lying proves that they’re really telling the truth, so they’re not lies at all!

          b&

          • Aratina Cage
            Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            Whoever thought up the embarrassment principle should be embarrassed. (And since they’re likely not, I guess that means that anything the originator of the embarrassment principle says is true!)

            • Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

              How embarassing was the crucifixion to the early church? It’s right in line with “He was despiséd and rejected” (cue the contralto) and the “suffering servant” theme.

              Paul didn’t have much luck trying to graft Jesus on to the anticipated Mesiach of the Jews. In Thessalonika:

              “…where was a synagogue of the Jews:… And some of them believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; and of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few. But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people.”
              (Acts 17: 1,4-5)

              So instead, he grafted him on to the Unknown (Just In Case We Missed Any) God of the Greeks in Athens:
              “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” (Acts 17:23)

            • Posted April 29, 2012 at 12:03 am | Permalink

              The criterion of embarrassment was invented by Will Durant in Christ and Caesar, The Story of Civilization. Durant was not a bozo, but he was a popular historian only, and basically made it up. Ehh, everyone has their brainfarts. It was seized upon by Jesus historicists, and pretty much no-one else.

              That Biblical historians are told “this is how proper history is done, no really” is part of how they are taught to do pseudohistory.

              • Aratina Cage
                Posted April 29, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

                Well, I am embarrassed that I didn’t think to look that up on Teh Wiki. Thanks!

            • Jesse
              Posted April 30, 2012 at 9:05 am | Permalink

              It was Will Durant, and he was no devotee to the Bible.

      • Roz
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        Lying is like breathing to that guy. This is probably almost inconceivable to honest minded guys like Dawkins and Coyne. Because they have something that William Craig lacks – a conscience. But the fact that intelligent men feel compelled to meet his arguments at face value and debate them honestly, only adds to his credibility

  3. Greg G
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    The “Embarrassment” argument should be embarrassing to anyone who proposes it. Daniel 9 “predicts” that the Anointed One would be put to death and crucifixion was a major method of execution in the Roman Empire of the first century. Christianity expanded outside Judaea so the Jewish Messianic expectations didn’t have that much to do with it. In Galatians, both Corinthians, and Philippians, Paul whines about other Christs being taught, super-apostles, his disagreement with Peter, and he was, if you believe Acts, arrested when he returned to Jerusalem. The Pillars apparently had major opposition to Paul’s teaching. When Jerusalem was destroyed, Paul’s teaching was left unopposed to spread throughout the Gentile world.

    The James that Paul writes about seems to have considerable power. I infer that he was very literate. Paul calls James, John, and Peter the “esteemed pillars” (Gal. 2:9), so Peter and John may have been literate as well. Mark portrays the disciples as not so bright – they are just as astonished the second time Jesus feeds the masses as they were two chapters before – and they never understood who Jesus was. It is more plausible that Mark misrepresents the disciples humble beginnings as fishermen, too, in order to make them appear as The Twelve Stooges.

    • Amin
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Several remarks:
      – crucifixion was common only for severe crimes, such as rebellion – just think of the resources crucifixion needs compared to hanging or even simpler being stabbed by a sword. The Romans took their “pax romana” quite seriously and wanted to keep the nations they conquered from overthrowing their reign and therefore brutally executed those who might start a rebellion.
      – Christianity spreading outside of Israel is no argument against the probability of the “embarrassment argument” because the first believers were Jews nonetheless (that hole “Christ” part only makes sense in Jewish context, for instance). Still not a strong argument, though.
      – The Pillars’ disagreement with Paul is based on the question of whether one has to first become a Jew in order to become a Christian.
      – Jesus repeatedly tells his disciples in Mark to not speak of him as the Messiah. It’s not like they didn’t notice (according to the clearly constructed narrative, that is).

      • Greg G
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        Mark and Matthew have two others crucified for being thieves. How difficult would it be to come up with a used cross and three used nails?

        How do we know what the Jerusalem church believed? The Epistle of James doesn’t mention the crucifixion. Hebrews only uses the word tangentially. The “Anointed One” is Jewish but sons of Zeus are not unheard of in Greek culture. It’s not that much of a stretch for those who are bored with their parents’ religions.

        The pillars argument is the one disagreement that Paul discusses in that one letter. If we let Barnabas referee the argument, Paul lost as Barnabas left him. The other letters I mentioned testify to a larger disagreement.

        Mark has others understanding that he is the Son of God (Mk 15:39) but even when the disciples have an inkling, they do not understand what it means (Mk 10:35-45).

        • Reginald Selkirk
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          … and three used nails?

          But – you could get tetanus from that!

        • Amin
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

          You’re right about the thieves, my mistake. (The Romans did actually use rope though, as far as I know, contrary to the imagery of the biblical narratives)

          Why would one believe the so called Epistle of James was actually written by *the* James and therefore really reflects the beliefs of the community in Jerusalem? Because the author claims to be James?

          As for Messiah and son of god(s), I really don’t see your point. We’re on the same line here, aren’t we?

          The conflicting teachings of the pillars and Paul are rather clearly visible in the Incident of Antiochia (Gal 2,11-21).

          Mark has a Roman believe Jesus was the son of *the* God (Mk 15:39, as you rightly point out), not of *a* god, which would be way more in line with Roman belief of the time. Interesting detail, no?

          However, I was talking about Jesus telling his disciples to keep his nature a secret, like Mk 3,12 or 8,30.
          The narrative as a whole is rather inconsistent about them actually getting it, though, so I’ll have to take back what I said about them noticing it – this really depends on which story one reads.

      • Aratina Cage
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        The embarrassment argument never seems to take into account the other silly stuff said and believed in by Jews at the time and by other religious people. If they weren’t already embarrassed about YHWH and cock-chopping-for-skydaddy, etc., why would they be embarrassed about claiming other plainly false things? They don’t get embarrassed by their ridiculous ideas–they get angry at the people laughing at them.

    • Jesse
      Posted April 30, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      The Romans weren’t in Judea until c. 63b.c., and I think that Daniel was circulated much earlier.

  4. Linda K
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    Now we know why Richard Dawkins won’t argue with this moron anymore.
    As if we didn’t know before.

  5. chebghobbi
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Prof. Coyne – FYI, you’ve referred to ‘early Jews’ under ‘Embarrassment’ where it seems it should be early Christians.

    Rob

    • Amin
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

      Actually, early Christians were (early) Jews. Christianity started out as a Jewish sect with the first believers thinking of Jesus of Nazareth (whether he existed or not) as the Messiah (= Christ), strictly within Jewish contexts.
      It was not until Paul and his opening up to non-Jews becoming Christians that Jesus was thought of less as the Messiah (rather incomprehensible to a non-Jewish audience) and more as a/the son of God (way more common in the polytheistic beliefs of the time). This made Paul pretty unpopular with the early Christians in Jerusalem who insisted on Christians being Jewish, thus for instance circumcised.
      As for “early” Jews, an argument can be made to put the starting point of Judaism at 70 CE with the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. This meant a great theological shift for Jews away from a locally oriented religion with sacrifices towards one that more values scripture (think of the Talmud).

  6. Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    ‘I’m no Biblical scholar, but I think every one of Craig’s claims here has been contested, particularly the “independence” of the sources of the New Testament!’

    CARR
    Ahem… Even a ‘radical sceptic’ like Bart Ehrman writes ‘ ‘With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) — sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are is pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.’’

    That’s pretty outstanding evidence.

    And it comes from the pen of a ‘radical sceptic’ who wrote ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ to try to tell the general public about what the scholary consensus on the Gospels actually was.

    • raven
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are is pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.’’

      That’s pretty outstanding evidence.

      No it isn’t. Ehrman is making claims here that he can’t back up. There is no proof for any of these claims especially the one about Aramaic sources dated to 30’s CE.

      His evidence for sources in Aramaic is a few Aramaic words in the New Testamenet, which was otherwise written in Greek.

      This is so flimsy. The writers of the NT were probably all fluent in Aramaic, it may well have been there first language. Aramaic was the common language of that whole area including Israel. The educated knew Greek, the religious Jews knew Hebrew which by that time was just a liturgical language.

      IIRC, the current thought is that the author of Mark, who wasn’t Mark but someone anonymous, was an Aramaic speaker. His Koine Greek isn’t the best and comes across as someone writing in a second language.

      • Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:02 am | Permalink

        Perhaps Ehrman is making claims he cannot back up.

        But Ehrman says this is the scholarly consensus , so why should Craig be accused of lying when even sceptics like Bart Ehrman say such things?

        You are not lying if you agree with the scholarly consensus, even if that turns out to be wrong.

        • raven
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:11 am | Permalink

          But Ehrman says this is the scholarly consensus ,

          It’s not the scholarly consensus at all. This is the first time I’ve heard this claim.

          I’ve read most of the popular accounts, around 2/3 of those available maybe 15-20 books. Ehrman, Crossans, Wells, Borg, Mackie, Sanders, Spong, Avalos, and many more.

          This is the first time I’ve heard that claim.

          • Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:22 am | Permalink

            But it was Ehrman I was quoting!

            He says in his new book on page 88 – ‘There is very little dispute that some of the Gospel stories originated in Aramaic, and they therefore go back to the earliest stages of the Christian movement in Palestine.’

            What part of ‘very little dispute’ means it is not the scholarly consenus?

            • raven
              Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:38 am | Permalink

              Yeah, I saw that.

              So what?

              It is Ehrman’s claim we are disputing.

              What part of ‘very little dispute’ means it is not the scholarly consenus?

              The part of “very little dispute”. I’ve never heard that claim before and I’ve read quite a lot of the popular works.

              It may not be often disputed, because it is an outrageous claim with just about zero evidence.

              • Nikos Apostolakis
                Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

                I think that Steven’s original comment was sarcastic.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      We also have multiple independent sources for the Loch Ness monster.

      Debating Craig is like debating Robin Williams. It doesn’t matter what you say, he’ll just go off on a tangent, get a laugh and big applause and no one will notice that he evaded the point.

      Master debater indeed!

  7. Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Mara Bar-Serapion wrote something about Jesus? News to me. I wonder which of his nether-orifices Craig pulled that one out of.

    b&

    • The whole truth
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      Probably the same orifice he shat this out of:

      “So whom does God wrong in commanding the destruction of the Canaanites? Not the Canaanite adults, for they were corrupt and deserving of judgment. Not the children, for they inherit eternal life. So who is wronged? Ironically, I think the most difficult part of this whole debate is the apparent wrong done to the Israeli soldiers themselves. Can you imagine what it would be like to have to break into some house and kill a terrified woman and her children? The brutalising effect on these Israeli soldiers is disturbing.”

      ― William Lane Craig

      • Roz
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Where did he say that?

        • Dermot C
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

          Roz, on his website.

          An audience member read this quotation to him on his recent visit to the UK; I wish I had been there to see his retort.

          I think I’ve posted this point before but I can’t resist. Under Divine Command Theory any Christian who rejects Marcionism is still bound by God’s imposition to kill any Cannanite, Amalekite etc. that they come across. Fortunately, there is no archaeological evidence that the OT genocides took place. So any psychopathic Christians will have to look elsewhere for random innocents to expunge, in God’s name.

          Simultaneously, funny, tragic and repulsive; rather like WLC himself

          • Roz
            Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

            Thanks. He’s clearly a sociopath feeding off the innocence of children and impressionable people and needs to be exposed. Using prominent atheists as some sort of platform for free marketing. But anyone that fraudulent is sure to have some skeletons in the closet to dig up (so to speak)

            • Roz
              Posted April 28, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

              *He is using prominent atheists as some sort of platform for free marketing.

              • Roz
                Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

                It seems he also thinks since atheists don’t believe in god and therefore don’t have any morals, we have no business passing judgement on whether the god we’re so wrong for not believing in has any morals

                find it ironic that atheists should often express such indignation at God’s commands, since on naturalism there’s no basis for thinking that objective moral values and duties exist at all and so no basis for regarding the Canaanite slaughter as wrong. As Doug Wilson has aptly said of the Canaanite slaughter from a naturalistic point of view, “The universe doesn’t care.” So at most the non-theist can be alleging that biblical theists have a sort of inconsistency in affirming both the goodness of God and the historicity of the conquest of Canaan. It’s an internal problem for biblical theists, which is hardly grounds for moral outrage on the part of non-theists. If there is an inconsistency on our part, then we’ll just have to give up the historicity of the narratives, taking them as either legends or else misinterpretations by Israel of God’s will. The existence of God and the soundness of the moral argument for His existence don’t even come into play.

                Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/the-slaughter-of-the-canaanites-re-visited#ixzz1tTXwnvLK

      • PeteJohn
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Let’s say that Craig was accurate in his point that the Canaanite adults deserved what they got, and let’s assume he’s also right in saying that the children would die in a state of grace (I don’t, but let’s just pretend)… I think this still shows that God is a huge raging jerk. Knowing that it would cause great pain to his people to bash in doors and massacre women and children, but commanding them to do it anyway, is the act of a sadistic monster who is too cowardly to send a well-placed bolt of lightning or something to the deed. That Craig thinks this someone exonerates his bastard god is somewhere between deeply hilarious and deeply disturbing.

    • Dermot C
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:07 am | Permalink

      Yes, this Jewish chap is called “the wise king” by MB-S, and the dating of the text ranges from 73 – 3rd century C.E.

      Scholars dispute the identification of ‘the wise king’ with Jesus the Nazarene; dating evidence is hopeless. Nevertheless, characteristically slippery proffering of evidence on WLC’s part.

  8. Egbert
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    Josephus writes about how Moses writes philosophically when it comes to the Eden story and Adam and Eve. That means writing myth or metaphor or however you want to call it. Even Josephus is smart enough to understand that religious texts contain myth.

    I wonder if Josephus was smart enough to realize Moses was also a myth.

  9. raven
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    That was dumb of me; I should have realized that the existence of even a fully human Jesus would somehow buttress the Christian contention that he was the son of God,

    Xians have been desperately grasping at straws since the beginning.

    During the late middle ages, there were 17 foreskins of jesus in various European churches.

    Jesus is god and can do anything. So if he wants 17 penises, whatever. One wonders if he threw in a few vaginas to keep those penises company though.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:11 am | Permalink

      So that’s what people mean when they say, “You can’t take it with you.”

  10. andreschuiteman
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Craig:

    ‘(…) but the evidence for the facts of the empty tomb, Jesus’ post-mortem appearances, and origin of the disciples’ belief is such that the majority of scholars, even radical critics like Ehrman, are convinced of their historicity.’

    Wait, the majority of scholars, including Ehrman, are convinced that Jesus rose from the dead?

    Craig is a liar. But we knew that already.

    • raven
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:05 am | Permalink

      but the evidence for the facts of the empty tomb,

      Craig is a liar and he knows it.

      What empty tomb? It isn’t a fact. It’s from a story in a book that is known to be mostly fiction, the bible.

      He does this a lot. Tosses out as facts things that are in fact, not facts.

      IIRC, there are or were at least 3 tombs of jesus. Why does one dead body need 3 tombs anyway? None of which are in reality, the tombs of jesus.

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        A triple miracle!!

        All three of the tombs were empty.

        • Chris
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

          Jesus needed three tombs because of his tripartite nature as one of the hypostases of the Trinity. It all makes perfect sense.

      • Jeff Engel
        Posted April 29, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

        Three tombs, one body, two empty tombs! Guaranteed!

  11. raven
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    There is a gigantic dog that didn’t bark about the historical jesus.

    1. We have exactly zero writings from jesus himself. This is very strange because the claim is that jesus is god, the creator and most powerful being in the universe. Even grade schooler humans can write something down.

    The thought was that if jesus existed, he was probably illiterate. Literacy at that time was 10-15%. A carpenter from an obscure village would be expected to be so. Same for his disciples, all from working class origins.

    There is also a Tyrannosaurus size dog that didn’t bark about the sky fairy magic jesus.

    2. Where is he? If the gods existed, they would be as obvious and noncontroversial as trees, rocks, and water.

    Jesus would have his own TV show, radio show, website, and Youtube channel, all tasks within the grasp of a smart grade school human. If jesus isn’t as competent as a human child, then why call him god?

    • Egbert
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Even the term ‘carpenter’ could be translated to the better term builder, as in the metaphorical builder of a new religion.

      • gr8hands
        Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Actually, carver of wood would be a better translation. Probably an artisan, who made decorations.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted May 5, 2012 at 12:30 am | Permalink

          “Probably” what?

          Are you presuming there was a real Jesus who was imperfectly described?

          No reason to go that far.

    • Greg G
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      The thought was that if jesus existed, he was probably illiterate.

      Luke 4:16-19 has Jesus reading in a synagogue in Nazareth. Of course, synagogues were a Diaspora thing and there were no synagogues in Judaea or Galilee in the early first century as the Second Temple was still standing.

      • raven
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Teh Gospel of John has jesus writing in the dust while the crowd decides “who is without sin to cast the first stone” in the famous story about the adulterous woman.

        That story is one of the better and more benign stories in the NT. It’s also widely considered to be a later addition to the Gospel. I’ve always wondered if the author has jesus writing in the dust to counter the claims that he couldn’t read or write. Even in the first few centuries, the Roman Pagans were making the same criticisms of the bible and xianity that we make today.

    • Posted April 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Raven, you forgot to factor in the carpenter from the obscure village had magic powers. If he can turn water into wine, surely he could miracle into existence the ability to read and write. Checkmate, atheists!

  12. darrelle
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    When Constantine ordered the temple to be razed and the site excavated, lo and behold, they dug down and found a tomb! But if this is the very tomb of Jesus, then we have archaeological evidence for his existence.

    I guess even Craig was compelled to equivocate a tiny bit while trying to tell such an obvious lie.

    Craig is a charlatan, a carny. I wonder if he has any respect for himself. He obviously has none for his followers.

    Even without considering any of the other arguments against xian religions and religious belief, just the fact that someone of such low character as Craig repeatedly demonstrates himself to be, is held up as a champion of the cause by so many would be enough to give any unbiased observer reasonable cause to doubt the veracity of xian claims.(How’s that for a run on sentence?)

    It is also a sad commentary on the condition of our society. Makes me weep it does. I listen to the guy, I read what he writes, and it is so obvious to me I truly cannot understand, at a visceral level, why anybody gives him any respect whatsoever. It disgusts me. I would guess one of the reasons Dawkins refuses to debate him is that he would feel an uncontrollable urge to vomit on Craig’s shoes if he tried.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      They found a tomb under a temple? In the middle east? That’s so unlikely that it must be proof of Jesus or whoever.

    • Chris
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      That’s a rather large hanging “if” that tyou’ve quoted there!

      • Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

        It suddenly occurs to me: if there’s a god…then…there’s a god.

        Think about THAT, atheists!

        • Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

          Well, you’ve sold me. Pass the collection plate!

  13. Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    On page 108 of ‘Did Jesus Exist?’, Bart Ehrman writes ‘Luke is recording traditions that – some of them at least – stemmed from as much as half a century later.’

    And this comes from a sceptic.

    Bart is obviously telling the truth, as he is writing against interest.

    He would love to paint the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles as unreliable, but he is forced professionally to write things like that.

    So why attack Craig who is simply repeating what even sceptics like Bart Ehrman are grudgingly forced to concede is true?

    • Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      Sorry. I misquoted Professor Ehrman. That should obviously be ‘half a century earlier.’

      Ehrman continues ‘Moreover Luke has access to sayings of the historical Jesus, not recorded elsewhere, even in his Gospel is clear….’

      It is ‘clear’ even to a sceptic like Professor Ehrman that the Gospels and Acts are recording history.

      If even an Ehrman has to admit that, however grudgingly….

      • Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        “Moreover Luke has access to sayings of the historical Jesus, not recorded elsewhere, even in his Gospel is clear….’”

        Or…he made them up. Uncorroborated testimony does not equal accurate source material.

        • Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          But Bart is a sceptic who would love to see that Luke made them up.

          But professional integrity meant he had to inform his readership what the scholarly consensus in this matter is.

    • raven
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

      Bart is obviously telling the truth, as he is writing against interest.

      No he isn’t.

      If fact, he obviously has a huge personal interest in there being a historical jesus.

      If there isn’t a historical jesus, his entire life’s work is just analyzing a book that is entirely fictional. Ehrman started out trying to reconstruct the original New Testament. Even the earliest manuscripts we have are already highly divergenet in key areas and it is obvious that they have been evolving from the beginning.

      It would be like a scholar spending their entire existence analyzing the Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, or Star Wars.

    • Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      Bart is obviously telling the truth, as he is writing against interest.

      I sincerely hope you don’t use that heuristic in your everyday life. If you do, there isn’t a single scam you won’t fall for.

      b&

      • Daryl
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Steven’s having a bit of fun with you. He’s not a Poe, but something altogether subtler…

        The depressing thing is that Ehrman’s book will do its job, no matter how bad it is. Historical Jesus doubters will be painted as cranks, and HJ scholars will continue to use their fallacious criteria, and wave Josephus and Galatians 1:19 as if their unanswerable prooftexts and make weak excuses for why the evidence is so spotty and tendentious etc.

        Critical investigation hasn’t been kind to the bible. Most parts have been discredited: Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; historicity of the Flood, Patriarchs, Exodus and conquests of Canaan; the reality of a Davidic and Solomonic kingdom; one author of Isaiah; Babylonian dating of Daniel; apostolic authorship of the Gospels; 7 of Paul’s letters and various other bits and pieces probably spurious.

        All that’s left is 7 of Paul’s epistles and a historical Jesus. It’s going to take a hell of a lot to wrench them out of current biblical scholarship’s grasp (which right now has a distinctive conservative outlook). But you never know, biblical scholarship may one day be done like any other field of ancient history. It might happen…

        • Reginald Selkirk
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          Critical investigation hasn’t been kind to the bible. Most parts have been discredited…
          .
          The genetics lesson in Genesis 30; you know the one about breeding animals with stripes by putting sticks near their watering trough.

  14. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Craig just can’t help himself, can he? What a creep.

  15. raven
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    It is ‘clear’ even to a sceptic like Professor Ehrman that the Gospels and Acts are recording history.

    If even an Ehrman has to admit that, however grudgingly….

    This is false.

    I’ve read most of Ehrman’s books, maybe 5 or so. He is well aware that much or most of the New Testament is fiction. Maybe half of Paul’s epistles are forged in Pauls name, an overwhelming (and real) scholarly consensus. If fact, that was the subject of Ehrman’s last book before this one.

    Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are [Hardcover]

    Bart D. Ehrman

    • raven
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      Misquoting Jesus Bart D. Ehrman
      Library Solutions PAC edited for length
      ——————————————————————————–
      When world-class biblical scholar Bart Ehrman first began to study the texts of the Bible in their original languages he was startled to discover the multitude of mistakes and intentional alterations that had been made by earlier translators.

      Ehrman makes the provocative case that many of our cherished biblical stories and widely held beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself stem from both intentional and accidental alterations by scribes — alterations that dramatically affected all subsequent versions of the Bible.

      Bart Ehrman has made a career out of pointing out how reliable the NT bible is.

      Not very much. According to Ehrman, the NT has been evolving since the beginning and a lot of key beliefs of xians were added along the way.

    • Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      I was simply quoting the guy.

      Professor Ehrman is entitled to dispute Dr. Craig’s interpretation of the evidence, but it is clear that Professor Ehrman, although a sceptic has to acknowledge the (I quote) ‘outstanding’ historical evidence that the Gospels provide.

      To quote Professor Ehrman again, when Jesus raises a girl from the dead, Ehrman says on page 87 of ‘Did Jesus Exist?’ that the story was originally told in Aramaic, and that it clearly goes back a very long way.

      ‘There is very little dispute that some of the Gospel stories originated in Aramaic, and they therefore go back to the earliest stages of the Christian movement in Palestine.’

      Professor Ehrman does not want this to be true, as he is a sceptic, but professional integrity forced him to agree with Dr. Craig about the ‘outstanding’ (I quote Ehrman here) historical evidence of the Gospels.

      • Your Name's not Bruce?
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        But just being old and originally in Aramaic does not guarantee its truth, does it? That particular tale could be an old bit of Aramaic fanfic. Just because an English version of a Grimm tale might contain some structural hints of its Germanic origins doesn’t mean that the tale was a record of an actual event or about actual people. The story originally told in Aramaic might represent an early accretion of mythological nacre to the Jesus story rather than a faithful, unvarnished record of a fragment of the Jesus story itself (assuming for the moment there is a Jesus in the first place). How does one get past that without pinches of salt and leaps of faith?

      • Dermot C
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        This is interesting, Steven, your report of Ehrman’s ‘outstanding’ historical evidence of the Gospels.

        Can you provide a reference?

        • Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

          No problem

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bart-d-ehrman/did-jesus-exist_b_1349544.html

          ‘With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) — sources that originated in Jesus’ native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are is pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.’

          • Your Name's not Bruce?
            Posted April 29, 2012 at 6:38 am | Permalink

            But when he says “we have” these sources, we actually don’t. These sources are hypothesized to have existed; nobody, including Ehrman, has ever seen them.

            http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/03/what-ehrman-actually-says/

            This is an instance of counting ones chickens before they’ve hatched where there aren’t even any eggs yet. He’s counting chickens from conjectural eggs.

            • Posted April 29, 2012 at 7:09 am | Permalink

              Ehrman is simply relaying what the scholarly consenus is. He teaches this stuff for a living, you know. He would soon lose his job if he misleads his students.

              • Posted April 29, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

                You’re simulating the hard of thinking marvelliously, but it’s getting tiresome and you should consider stopping now.

              • Posted April 29, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

                It may be tiresome, but you can be sure that Craig will not miss that Ehrman has written a book straight out of Craig’s post-it notes he uses to remind himself what to say during a debate.

              • Posted April 29, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

                Oh, I have no doubt. But if I were working out what to do about Craig, “no real time debates, do it in writing” is probably first on the list, worrying that a previously-sensible academic has gone a bit funny and is about to crash and burn by having written something really stupid that happens to be useful to Craig would be rather lower. Craig is a noisy idiot, Ehrman is someone better should be expected of.

              • Your Name's not Bruce?
                Posted April 29, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

                Do other scholars use this same novel meaning of “have” in place of “are conjectured to have existed but have never been actually proven to have existed”? If so I hope they don’t do their own bookkeeping. By Ehrman’s use, I “have” a million dollars. There are lots of dollars in the same bank branch and in the rest of the branches in the company. Some of that money is in accounts in which the account numbers differ from that of my own by only one digit. None this money is actually mine,I haven’t actually held it in my hands and I can’t spend it, but yup, I “have” a million dollars.

              • gr8hands
                Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                No, Steven Carr, Ehrman is incorrect. It is most definitely not “the scholarly consensus” that we “have” these documents.

                Even Ehrman will concede that when pressed.

  16. Schenck
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I’m kinda curious as to people who think Jesus didn’t exist historically (miracles aside), if they think people like Mark, John, and Peter didn’t exist either, and if they think Paul didn’t exist? And also, do they think that there was an early jewish-christian sect centered around Jerusalem, or that Christianity starts as a non-Jewish, Urban-Roman cult?

    I’m not trying to say “Therefore Jesus”, I am just curious as to what most people think.

    • Posted April 28, 2012 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      Most of the cast of characters in the Bible are either entirely fictitious or share nothing more than a name with a real-world model.

      Somebody clearly wrote the Pauline Epistles, and about half of them were probably written by a single individual. That person was probably known amongst the Christians as “Paul.” Paul’s official biography (that is, as he himself would have told it) probably shares more than a few elements in common with the Biblical version, but it’s most unlikely that said official biography had any bearing on reality. We know this because such a figure couldn’t possibly have escaped the notice and ire of the authors of the Talmud…and yet he did.

      Consider that everything we have and know about early Christianity is in Greek, written by Greeks who studied Greek in Greek schools, addressed to Greeks, and is Hellenistic syncretism of Greek myths about Greek gods and Greek philosophy…set in Judea, and it seems pretty clear that the whole “Jewish” bit about Christianity is nothing more than a bit of exotic color thrown in for excitement.

      Think California Buddhism. Would you call that an Asian religion, or a Western one?

      b&

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      I have considerable doubt(!) as to the existence of the apostle Thomas, and his alleged travel to India (in direct defiance of Jesus’ admonition about going to Asia) to found a church there.
      .
      And if he did, it is miraculous indeed that The Acts of Thomas and The Gospel of Thomas should have been found in the middle east, rather than in India.

    • Nikos Apostolakis
      Posted April 29, 2012 at 2:08 am | Permalink

      @ Schenck

      I’m kinda curious as to people who think Jesus didn’t exist historically (miracles aside), if they think people like Mark, John, and Peter didn’t exist either, and if they think Paul didn’t exist? And also, do they think that there was an early jewish-christian sect centered around Jerusalem, or that Christianity starts as a non-Jewish, Urban-Roman cult?

      That depends on who these people are. There is a great variety of mythical Jesus senarios for Christian origins, some more plausible than others. Some of these senarios reject even the historicity of Paul and consider (all) his letters to be second century forgeries. Others (eg Doherty, Carrier, Wells) accept some of the letters of Paul as genuine (at least those that mainstream biblical scholars consider genuine) and the people referenced there (eg Peter, James etc) as real. The thing is that there is very little about the historical Jesus in all early Christian epistles (not only in Paul’s), so even if you consider them genuine still you can make an argument that the Jesus they talk about is mythical—actually they content that this the most natural reading.

    • gr8hands
      Posted April 30, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Schenck, do a little research and see if you can find evidence that Saul of Tarsus, who then became Paul of the bible, actually existed.

      Here’s a hint: there is none.

  17. Posted April 28, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    That was dumb of me; I should have realized that the existence of even a fully human Jesus would somehow buttress the Christian contention that he was the son of God …

    No, Jerry, you’re not the dumb one. Even supposing that a real person is at the centre of the Jesus narrative in the gospels, there is no good reason for supposing that the mythical parts of the story have any historical bona fides. That’s just stupid.

    We need to make a clear distinction between what his historically plausible, and what is not. The existence of a man around whom mythical stories developed is perfectly believable. The stories, however, remain myths.

    For WLC to suggest that the existence of such a figure in case of the Jesus myths renders the myths plausibly historical is a nonsense that one expects from people like WLC, about whose judgement we have every reason to be sceptical. Using supposedly independent attestation to Jesus’ existence to buttress claims as to the historicity of the miracles or the resurrection is simply a non sequitur.

    That should be obvious even to WLC, but note that he says what he says in the context of preparing for a debate — one in a long line of his missionary ventures. Why any self-respecting person would debate with this idiot is simply beyond me — especially now that his motives have become so clear. He uses debates in a set-piece way, crowing victory even when he is demolished, since he refuses to deviate from his script, and demands that those who debate with him stick to the same script. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The guy should be hiding in embarrassed silence, but he has no sense of shame at all, an intransigently self-deceiving believer who really thinks he does defeat his opponents, when it is evident that he is only a victor in his own mind, and in the minds of those who share his pathology.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      The existence of a man around whom mythical stories developed is perfectly believable.

      Believable (plausible is a better word), yes. Well-evidenced, no.

      • Egbert
        Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        It is also plausible that there is a real Harry Potter, although not necessarily called Harry Potter, and baring no resemblance to the Harry Potter in the Harry Potter books.

        • Marella
          Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

          And certainly not a wizard. Perhaps Ehrman could turn his talents towards the discernment of the the real Harry? Unfortunately I think that will just be a kid called Harry living somewhere in England.

  18. Posted April 28, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    So I read Craig’s rebuttal:

    The stuff about Ehrman is weird. I guess Craig’s point here is to show how reasonable he’s being by pointing out that even this bloke he beat in a debate (Ehrman) agrees with him. But Ehrman is not a radical sceptic, Law is not die-hard mythicist. The conclusion of Law’s argument is that we should be sceptical about J’s existence, not “Therefore J never existed”, so it’s not even clear that Ehrman’s ire applies to Law.

    On Sagan: This sounds so commonsensical, doesn’t it? But in fact it is demonstrably false. … Rather what’s crucial is the probability that we should have the evidence we do if the extraordinary event had not occurred. This can easily offset any improbability of the event itself.

    Craig makes a reasonable statement of Bayes Theorem. Note, however, that Sagan’s dictum that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” can be read in a Bayesian way (claims with low prior odds require evidence with a high likelihood ratio). Craig gives no good argument that the dictum must mean what Craig takes it to mean, or that Law’s argument relies on taking it to mean what Craig thinks it means.

    In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, for example, this means that we must also ask, “What is the probability of the facts of the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection, if the resurrection had not occurred?” It is highly, highly, highly, improbable that we should have that evidence if the resurrection had not occurred.

    This might be Craig’s attempt at that argument, namely, Craig saying that Law has neglected P(E|~H) being very low. But Craig plays fast and loose: the facts we have are that we have the gospel narratives (and whatever other historical documents we have to hand). The empty tomb and post-mortem appearances are not facts, and Law’s argument is that they cannot be treated as facts. Law: “It would also be foolish to try to construct a two part case for Jesus’ miraculous resurrection by (i) bracketing the miraculous parts of the Gospel narrative and using what remains to build a case for the truth of certain non-miraculous claims (about Jesus’ crucifixion, the empty tomb, and so on), and then (ii) using these supposedly now “firmly established facts” to argue that Jesus’ miraculous resurrection is what best explains them (yet several apologetic works – e.g. Frank Morrison’s Who Moved The Stone? – appear implicitly to rely on this strategy).” (Add Craig to the list of apologists here, I suppose). Craig cannot have the empty tomb or the post-mortem appearances as “facts” without addressing the rest of Law’s argument that we should be sceptical of Jesus’s very existence and then also showing that there is sufficient evidence for the empty tomb and whatnot.

    Craig doesn’t address P2 or Law’s arguments for it at all: he just says “oh no it isn’t”.

    Craig’s strongest when he says that there is extra-Biblical evidence. I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that Josephus is thought by historians to have a core around which Christian interpolations of Jesus accreted, for example. Since even if we grant P2, Law’s argument fails without premise 6, perhaps this is a good tactic on Craig’s part. Law appears to agree that premise 6 is his weakest empirical premise: “6 is at the very least debatable”. In a way, it’s odd that everyone is concentrating on P2. Craig’s debating instincts take him to the weak point 🙂

    Craig’s point on Alexander is silly: does Craig think that everyone who is credited with starting a movement therefore existed, or even that Law thinks that? As far as I can tell, Law’s trying to argue that we have better archeological evidence for Alexander than we do for Jesus. Craig must address that claim. The claim that the Holy Sepulchre is the very tomb of Jesus is as good as the archeological evidence for Alexander sounds suspect, but I’m not an archeologist. Any archeologists in the house?

  19. akismet-40ce12ddb2623e473d03ba906b3f75cb
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I’d drop the “oxy”.

  20. Roz
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Just looking at the website reasonablefaith.org and the first thing that jumps out at me is DVD’s to order the On Guard Curriculum which you become a ‘sustainer giver’ by donating $40 per month or more.

    It is pointless debating William Craig. He probably doesn’t believe anything he tells people himself.

  21. Roz
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    I should have proof-read that first paragraph before I clicked Post. In a nutshell the guy just wants peoples money. No big revelation there.

  22. Roz
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The Fill in the Blank workbook for Budding Apologists, with the pic of a young man enduring a brainwashing session. Sad to see.

  23. CrackPotTheologian
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    ‘Reasonable Faith’ is a joke.

  24. Jacob
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Richard Carrier proves quite convincingly that some Jews did expect a dying Messiah to arrive as a means of preparing Israel for the final judgment. In fact, I bet that Craig accepts the dying Messiah prophecy in Isaiah as incontrovertible proof that humanity had foreknowledge of Christ’s crucifixion centuries before it occurred. So why does he think it is inconceivable that Jews would accept this prophecy around which a new religion was eventually invented? Besides, it would not be the first or last time that a group of people invented new doctrine that those around them found rather blasphemous or untenable.

    (With that said, I do believe that Christianity was based upon a real historical figure who may or may not bear much in common with the Jesus of the gospels.)

  25. andreschuiteman
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Craig is like the archetypical used car salesman. Even if a car looks as if it had taken part in the Paris-Dakar rally he will maintain that it was previously owned by an old lady who always parked it in the garage and, besides, hardly ever drove in it. He is not above tampering with the mileage either.

    ‘Bearing false witness’ doesn’t even begin to describe the tactics of Dr. Craig.

    • Roz
      Posted April 28, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes, a used car salesman is exactly what he is and he deserves to be taken as seriously as one. (No offence to any used-car salesmen reading this.)

  26. stevenjohnson
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    However William Lane Craig may have conducted himself in other instances, in this case when he says that there is evidence as construed by the majority of scholars in the field, he is quite correct.

    When Craig attacks the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, he is technically correct. It’s hard to fault him for slipping through an equivocation on what extraordinary means, because Law, a professional philosopher, put the equivocation in himself. What is extraordinary about Jesus’ miracles of course is that they defy the laws of nature as we have shown them to work. Since Law is a professional philosopher however he may feel that philosophical materialism has no consensually accepted logical a priori justification and therefore is an illegitimate ground on which to reject miracles.

    Craig’s remarks on Law’s contamination principle as stated enough. Law’s contamination principle also implies the notion that a source containing demonstrable falsehoods may mean the author is lying. Or a source that avows crazy things may indicate a mentally disturbed author. But Law pretty specifically goes out of the way to disavow these implications for a vague unreliability, which is easily refuted for precisely that reason.

    I believe, despite the claims of Ehrman and all his ilk before him, we know nothing about an historical Jesus, neither his teachings nor even whether he was actually crucified. And I believe that in this case it is absurd, if not outright dishonest, to prattle of an historical Jesus, just as it is to imagine an historically possible figure and thereby give a myth a pedigree in something besides fraud and fiction. It seems that the desire to find some ground agnosticism on the issue or assume a pose of indifference, at least so long as the supernaturalists don’t carry on, is rooted in the desire to accommodate the liberal theology.

    My version of P1 is that reports of physically impossible events are fictions or frauds. My version of P2 is that a source that tells stories about physically impossible events is wholly unreliable without outside confirmatory evidence, being at best entirely without judgment, at worst being conscious deception.

  27. Posted April 28, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    §

  28. Posted April 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    “But if this is the very tomb of Jesus, then we have archaeological evidence for his existence.”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Thanks for that William Lane Craig. That was funny.

  29. Vaal
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Egads!

    William L. Craig again!

    William L. Craig: “1. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
    This sounds so commonsensical, doesn’t it? But in fact it is demonstrably false.”

    Bullcrap, it’s not false at all. It’s a principle we all use when we are being careful and rational about claims.
    Extraordinary claims, typically claims concerning events that would upturn our understanding of nature, or reality, are different than mundane claims that are ratified by our everyday shared experience, and ratified also by our most careful and rigorous form of inquiry: science. Hence if I make the claim I drove to work in a car, there is so much empirical evidence for such events having taken place before, it’s not an extraordinary claim and can be rationally believed on my say-so. But if I said “I was at home and wished I was at work, and I suddenly appeared in my office 20 miles away within the next second” THAT would be an extraordinary claim and it WOULD require an entirely different level of evidence over my mere claim it happened. Insofar as I could provide rigorous evidence for my power to manifest myself in various place by wishing it, that would certainly be extraordinary evidence. But mere claims about miraculous happenings are never extraordinary: they are made mundane and unconvincing by the absolute tsunami of historical and contemporary experience of people making shit up, being tricked, being deluded, being mistaken about their experience, etc.

    Insofar as any sane person would recognize the large shift of the burden of proof between the claims “I drove a car to work” and “I magically appeared at work”…and we all recognize this burden shift…then that is to recognize the warrant for the principle underlying “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Craig is as usual trying to shift the burden of proof.

    <b:WLC: “Probability theorists studying what sort of evidence it would take to establish a highly improbable event came to realize that if you just weigh the improbability of the event against the reliability of the testimony, we’d have to be sceptical of many commonly accepted claims.”

    What, like the claim “I won the lottery?” (I’ve heard Craig use that as an example for the above). No. If I claimed a lottery win that is an improbable event, and if I exclaimed it to my family they’d most likely be in disbelief until I showed them the winning ticket. But it is not extraordinary – it’s a class of known natural events that happen almost every day. It is not some overthrowing of the natural order and we do not have to be skeptical an anything like the same way as we should be skeptical of claims for, say, “I’ once made a perpetual motion machine” or “Ted ran faster than the speed of light” or “John rose from the dead and joined us for dinner.”

    WLC “Rather what’s crucial is the probability that we should have the evidence we do if the extraordinary event had not occurred.3 This can easily offset any improbability of the event itself.”

    A criteria that Craig clearly doesn’t bother putting much effort into outside apologetics for his own faith. Why? Because he at least implicitly understands the context of wild claims…outside his own religion. There are countless claims made for fringe or supernatural phenomena – UFOs, Alien Abductions, Astrology, New Age experiences, other religions…contradictory supernatural claims absolutely suffuse the world. Recently deceased Indian Miracle Man Sathya Sai Baba had millions of devotees, many of them claiming to have witnessed him performing the same type of miracles as Jesus (including resurrecting the dead). There are FAR more accounts of miracles for him than for Jesus, by living people. But Craig is not burdening himself on the principle “What is the probability that we should have the evidence we do if the extraordinary event(s) had not occurred?” Because to do so, in the way he expects us to explain in detail the story of Jesus, he’d have to come up with explanations for every single of the thousands of miracle claims. But he doesn’t take on that burden because he’s operating under the same heuristic we all are: The propensity for people to make false claims about supernatural events is so well established, that it’s rational to say “Claims about supernatural occurrences are not extraordinary at all…they are in fact utterly mundane, given their number. Hence, CLAIMS ARE NOT ENOUGH. They don’t constitute evidence for the supernatural, anymore than claims for a perpetual motion machine will constitute evidence, without anyone being able to see the machine.
    So Craig, like any other rational person works on “Ok, you’ve got claims…so what? Can you actually show me and other skeptics a miracle? No? All you’ve got are someone’s claims? Ok…not good enough. You go over there with the millions of other claims-with-no-evidence.”

    Vaal

    • Posted April 29, 2012 at 12:07 am | Permalink

      Best quote I’ve heard on this subject is from a Harry Potter fan fiction, no less:

      “Lies propagate, that’s what I’m saying. You’ve got to tell more lies to cover them up, lie about every fact that’s connected to the first lie. And if you kept on lying, and you kept on trying to cover it up, sooner or later you’d even have to start lying about the general laws of thought. Like, someone is selling you some kind of alternative medicine that doesn’t work, and any double-blind experimental study will confirm that it doesn’t work. So if someone wants to go on defending the lie, they’ve got to get you to disbelieve in the experimental method. Like, the experimental method is just for merely scientific kinds of medicine, not amazing alternative medicine like theirs. Or a good and virtuous person should believe as strongly as they can, no matter what the evidence says. Or truth doesn’t exist and there’s no such thing as objective reality. A lot of common wisdom like that isn’t just mistaken, it’s anti-epistemology, it’s systematically wrong. Every rule of rationality that tells you how to find the truth, there’s someone out there who needs you to believe the opposite. If you once tell a lie, the truth is ever after your enemy; and there’s a lot of people out there telling lies -“

      • Posted April 29, 2012 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        But why do you accuse Craig of lying when he is in the mainstream of academic consensus, as even Professor Ehrman, a noted sceptic, has to admit.

        Professor Ehrman says the Gospels are ‘outstanding’ historical evidence.

        Craig says the Gospels are outstanding historical evidence,

        They can’t both be lying , surely?

        Professor Ehrman even has this to say about Gospel stories of people rising from the dead ‘There is very little dispute that some of the Gospel stories originated in Aramaic, and they therefore go back to the earliest stages of the Christian movement in Palestine.”

        This is the scholarly consensus.

        You are entitled to disagree with that, that is your choice.

        But why accuse somebody of lying when they are following the scholarly consensus?

        • Your Name's not Bruce?
          Posted April 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          But the age of the story does not constitute proof of its accuracy. The raising of the dead part is still made up though, isn’t it?
          If that bit was in the story from an early time it shows that right from the outset, people were making things up about Magic Jesus. That doesn’t bode well for the parts of the story that are supposed to have “really” happened in the life of Historical Jesus. Because Magic Jesus could also have been expected to have done boring, mundane stuff as well as magic, how does one determine that the “real” things attributed to Historical Jesus were just not parts of the story of Magic Jesus added for verisimilitude? Clark Kent does lots of boring stuff as a mild mannered reporter but that does not make him any less fictional than his Superman alter ego. The Clark Kent bits are more believable in that they could happen to actual people. This believability is a necessary part of the structure of the story but does not make it any less fictive. Maybe Historical Jesus just consists of the “Clark Kent” parts of the story of Magic Jesus.

          Whatever the age and original language of a given story, you’re still left with the task of filtering out the whoppers, with no guarantee that any there will be any story left at the end.

  30. Vaal
    Posted April 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    W.L Craig’s biggest howler follows:

    WLC:“In the case of the resurrection of Jesus, for example, this means that we must also ask, “What is the probability of the facts of the empty tomb, the post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection, if the resurrection had not occurred?” It is highly, highly, highly, improbable that we should have that evidence if the resurrection had not occurred.”

    Wait…among his list of “facts” are “the post mortem appearances (of Jesus)’? Is he kidding? Could he beg the question any more vigorously? Of course if it’s a “fact” that Jesus appeared post mortem, then we have a resurrection to explain. But that is hardly a “fact,” let alone do the majority of scholars consider it a “fact.” That’s ludicrous.

    Craig continually, in his debates, equivocates between the type of “confidence” one might have in historical happenings vs the confidence we would rationally require to overturn our understanding of reality and the natural order. We MUST, to be rational and sane, rely on the analogy to the present: that is, we apply the light of modern knowledge to ancient claims: insofar as the ancient claim clashes with how we understand nature to operate, we reject the ancient claim. That’s why when we see the ancient Egyptians claiming the Sun was a God Ra traveling on a sun boat, we don’t say “Well…who knows? Even though the sun now seems to be a star, a ball of hydrogen and helium undergoing fusion, we weren’t around in ancient Egypt. Back then the glowing thing in the sky COULD have been Ra on a sunboat…no can say!”

    No. Rather, we say “They were mistaken about the nature of the sun.”

    Same thing if we had ancient reports of people inventing a perpetual motion machine. Do we say “Hey, they claimed it happened. That’s strong evidence!” No. We say the reports must be deemed false because nature shows no such thing is possible. The same goes for resurrections from the dead as for perpetual motion machines. Nothing we know now indicates this is even possible. Saying “Ok…it wouldn’t happen naturally, but a GOD made it happen” adds no more plausibility than saying “Ok, a GOD made the perpetual motion machine happen back then.” It would make mere ancient claims no more trustworthy.

    Hell, our everyday justice system or medical system recognizes these issues. If there is anything we’ve learned about human nature, it’s that claims often change, or falter, when you can interrogate the purported eyewitnesses. You suddenly get “Hey, I never said THAT” or “Ok, maybe it didn’t happen exactly like it was reported I said it happened…” Mere say-so isn’t even good enough to get mundane drugs on to the market, or to convict people of utterly natural crimes like stealing or murder. Eyewitnesses themselves have to survive rigorous scrutiny before we think it is even warranted to conclude their claims are reliable, and often they are not. Imagine submitting papers, claims of hearsay by unknown witnesses, expecting it to act as “evidence” in a mere murder case. How quickly would someone be kicked out of court as being an absolute nutbar? And yet Craig and his ilk want to say that claims by unknown authors, thousands of years ago, made about other “eyewitnesses”….with no actual eyewitness around to interrogate…THAT is good enough “evidence” on which to overturn our view of the entire natural order of reality. This gap, this equivocation Craig uses between the type of tentative confidence we can have in historical natural claims, vs claims that conflict with what we seem to know about the nature of reality, needs to be highlighted more rigorously by his debate opponents.

    Vaal.

  31. Posted April 29, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    On page 78 of ‘Did Jesus Exist?’, Bart Ehrman says we have seven independent accounts of Jesus, some of them quite extensive.

    Ehrman says ‘For a historian these provide a wealth of materials to work with….’

    Both Craig and Ehrman agree on the basic facts – there is a lot of material for a historian to work with.

    Craig looks at the Gospels and says – there is a lot of material for a historian here, what do these multiple, extensive independent reports say?

    Ehrman looks at the Gospels and says – there is a lot of material for a historian here, I’m going to construct an alternative scenario and automatically discount anything they say which does not fit my worldview.

    Who is following the evidence where it leads?

    Because both agree on the evidence…

    • andreschuiteman
      Posted April 29, 2012 at 2:25 am | Permalink

      The existence of earlier drafts of Grimm’s fairy tales and ancient folk tales on which they are based proves that Cinderella is a historical character.

      On this point Ehrman and Craig may well agree. But Craig is still lying when he writes that Ehrman is ‘convinced’ of the historicity of Jesus’ post-mortem appearances. Ehrman has made it very clear that he doesn’t believe in the supernatural bits of the fairy tales.

  32. Jesse
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    In ‘A Marginal Jew’ author J.P. Meiers goes over the Rabbinical references to Jesus and and holds that while there are at least a dozen or so, they are not independent of the Gospels [see, Volume No. 1, p. 89-111].

  33. Jesse
    Posted April 30, 2012 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    When Craig discusses the ‘sufficiency of the cause’, he isn’t doing anymore than turning Law’s methodology around on him. Using Law’s methods, Xeno would be real, as would the angel Moroni, ad infinitum.

  34. Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    The biggest reason for atheism is “SELF”.

    If you log every person since the beginning of time, you will find an amazing number of followers of God. Now keep in mind I am talking about authentic followers, not the ones who broadcast it for all to see. True followers are humble and modest.

    Anyway. All these people exercise self denial and they sacrifice. One can easily demonstrate that all humans are born imperfect and with a particular flaw. That flaw can vary. But it leads us directly into struggle with life. There can be no positive without a negative. Inner growth and ultimate wisdom cannot be achieved without this struggle. So to leave out the 2 components mentioned would be devastating to humanity.

    Now let’s assume that a person accepts the flaw they are born with and embraces it. Self denial and sacrifice are no longer needed. Rather, one exercises “SELF” In other words, self serving behavior.

    Now think about the consequences of the above. A person rejects self denial and embraces “SELF” behavior. They will become very selfish. Everything they do will be to benefit themselves. Even if they do good, it will only be IF there is a personal incentive. One example of this is the Roman Catholic church. They give a small percentage to charity while keeping a bundle for themselves.

    The flaw at birth I speak of can be a number of things. Sexual attraction to children (pedophile), sexual attraction to same sex (gay), desire to kill living things (psychopath), and other off-balance defects. Obviously not all are sexual.

    When one practices the 2 components of self denial and sacrifice, they learn to deal with the “struggle” of their inherited flaw. But over time they learn to cope and deal with it. Will it ever go away? Of course not. Life is a struggle until the day we die. It is designed that way. You think plants and animals don’t struggle with life? They do indeed.

    The bottom line is this. All humans are inherently the same in regards to the fact we all have some flaw that makes us struggle. But many of us are being deceived by LIES. Remember when the serpent promised to liberate Eve by deceiving her? That is what liberation (freedom) means. It promises something that cannot be delivered.

    So, many people fall for the deception, thinking that their inherited flaw (abnormal feelings and unhealthy desire) is natural. So, something natural is normal and should be embraced. Yes, nature is normal. But it isn’t normal to embrace something just because it’s natural. Poison Sumac trees are natural, but I wouldn’t want to touch one. Piranhas are natural. But I wouldn’t want to hold one. Some things aren’t meant to be embraced.

    The deceived are embracing their inherited flaws and becoming self absorbed. They are being “liberated”. They are dwelling in their indulgence and loving it. Therefore, they are believing it is what was meant to be. So they think the whole world needs to be “freed” from traditional religious values.

    Now, the biggest difference between a “liberated” group and a “Conservative” one is simple. Conservatives want to be left alone to preserve and protect what has been for thousands of years. Liberal groups seek to dominate the world. To shape it to accommodate the flaw they have so heavily embraced. They are indeed deceived. But to them, they are doing the right thing. They believe they are being good. But in reality, they are doing evil by spreading their dysfunction to others. Their primary target is children. They seek to “liberate” children which is God’s most precious creation.

    • Posted July 13, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Further.

      Liberals do feel the guilt of their evil ways. And that is why they fight so hard to alter the world. If they turned society into a liberal one, then they would feel normal. So, they could go on indulging in their dysfunction. We would have a world full of selfish individuals. We would have no community. If you pay close attention, you will see that liberals form separate groups such as Gays, Feminists, Pro-Abortion, etc etc. In each one of those groups exists a bunch of individuals. They each stand for their own purpose. That is not a community. Just a group full of “selves”. They would stab one another in the back if it suited their own cause. And this often happens. Of course, that is an absolute stereotype and there can be exceptions due to the variability of personal beliefs. But overall, what I speak of is accurate.

      On a personal note. I once dated a girl from another state who came from an atheist family. I was raised in a community full of Christians. Although I didn’t attend church. I was young. It was sort of a culture shock to me to date this girl. Her family and friends behaved in ways that were contrary to my own upbringing. I was taught to put my own interests aside for the sake of others whenever possible. Never sell a person short for personal gain. But these people were all back stabbers, gold diggers, and liars. They were all screwed up. I could tell they were all lost and miserable. I gained a lot of insight from that experience and saw firsthand what it’s like to live in an atheist world. It is NOTHING like a Christian world. People often talk about the “good ole days”. More often than not they are referring to Christian values. People get together all of the time and have family bonding time. They do for each other. There is no “SELF”. We give. That’s all. Atheists are liberals. Liberals are the ones who are responsible for all the marketing in the world. Always having something to sell to make a person WANT things.

  35. Jonathan MS Pearce
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Jerry, just out of interest, on the subject of WLC,

    http://skepticink.com/tippling/2013/01/05/exclusivewilliam-lane-craig-accidentally-admits-nativity-accounts-of-matthew-and-luke-may-be-legend/

    An interesting admission…


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