Category Archives: News

Mike Licona to debate Bart Ehrman in April at SES

I sent an e-mail to Mike Licona last night to see if he had any upcoming debates. Mike debates in favor of the view that we can know historically, on the evidence, that God raised Jesus from the dead. Mike replied back to let me know that he will be debating Bart Ehrman, a professor at UNC Chapel Hill, again at Southern Evangelical Seminary in NC, on April 2, 2009. The topic of their debate will be “Can Historians Prove Jesus Rose From The Dead?”

In Mike’s first debate with Ehrman, (audio, video), Licona used the minimal facts approach pioneered by Gary Habermas, which is similar to Bill Craig’s approach. Mike’s minimal facts approach does not require that the Bible be inspired, inerrant, or generally reliable.  Mike uses only a fraction of the New Testament, the minimal facts, which are facts that are accepted nearly unanimously by scholars across the ideological spectrum, including atheists. He leans especially hard on 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, which contains the basics of the resurrection narrative and is dated to 1-5 years after the cross.

The minimal facts are accepted because they pass a variety of tests that the other passages do not pass. To be considered a minimal fact, the passage must be cited in one early source, such as Paul’s letters or Mark, and it must be in other independent sources. It also helps if the passage is attested to by enemies, or is dissimilar from Jesus’ Jewish milieu, or if it embarrasses the people who are recording and preserving the text. So, a fact like the guard at the tomb, which is only recorded in one source, (Matthew), is not a minimal fact.

Licona’s 4 facts last time were: 1) Jesus was crucified, 2) Jesus’ followers experienced visions of Jesus after his death, 3) Jesus’ enemy, Paul, had an experience that transformed into a powerful advocate for Christianity, and 4) Jesus’ brother, James, also had a post-mortem experience of Jesus, and changed from being skeptical of Jesus during his lifetime to being a leader in the early church. Both Paul and James were eventually martyred for their new faith in Jesus. This approach to the resurrection is a lot more acceptable to skeptics. There is no blind faith – just pure historical analysis.

Interestingly, Licona does not argue for the empty tomb, as Craig does. In the recent debate between J.D. Crossan and N.T. Wright, I was surprised to hear that Crossan was willing to grant the empty tomb, for the sake of argument, to Wright. Crossan is a radical liberal, so if he grants the empty tomb, then you and I can use it. I think that the fact that the earliest witnesses to the empty tomb were women, whose testimony was not regarded as reliable at that time, enhances the reliability of the empty tomb narrative.

Ehrman argues that the New Testament is not a reliable source for history, because there are manuscripts that differ from other manuscripts. He concludes that the resurrection cannot be proved historically. He also makes a point about how miracles are the “least probable” explanation, (which William Lane Craig demolishes in their debate, see transcript here). These manuscript differences are called variants, and there are quite a high number of them, because there are quite a high number of manuscripts. The number of variants sounds alarming, until you realize that no New Testament doctrine is affected by the large number of invariants.

In Ehrman’s debate with Peter Williams on the UK-based Unbelievable radio show, and in Ehrman’s debate with Dan Wallace, Ehrman lists the 4 worst problems caused by the invariants:

  1. the woman caught in adultery (John 7:53-8:11) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  2. the long ending of Mark (Mark 16:9-20) is a late addition not present in the earliest manuscripts
  3. Jesus was angry and not compassionate when he healed the leper (Mark 1:41)
  4. that Jesus died apart from God, and not by the grace of God (Hebrews 2:9)

Now I have to tell you, these disputes are irrelevant to standard Christian doctrine. Also, I personally prefer the woman at the well story being left out, and I prefer angry Jesus in 3). Why? Because I am snarky. The only variant that bugs me is the ending in Mark, because I liked the long ending. But none of these “worst cases” affects anything that Mike Licona might say on behalf of the resurrection, which is what the debate is supposed to be about, right?

For further study of Licona and Ehrman, I would recommend the book “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus”, by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona on the resurrection, which is the best introductory book you can get on how to argue the minimal facts case. If you like Lee Strobel’s interviewing style, then you can’t go wrong with this book, “The Case for the Real Jesus”. If you prefer books featuring debates between opposing scholars, check out William Lane Craig against Gerd Ludemann here, (audio of their re-match is here), William Lane Craig against John Dominic Crossan here, (audio of the debate is here), or N. T. Wright against John Dominic Crossan here, (audio of the debate only is here).

If you can get the audio for the N.T. Wright and J.D. Crossan debate, that’s quite useful because of the strong respondents, (Doug Geivett, Craig Evans and Charles Quarles). The audio from the Ben Wallace vs. Bart Ehrman debate is also worth getting. These are both available to buy here.

How divorce laws discourage marriage

A friend notified me of this new article by the Canadian journalist Barbara Kay about a recent decision by a judge in Ontario, Canada. The article states that a Toronto judge has awarded custody of the 3 children from a dissolved marriage to the father, as a result of the mental trauma suffered by the children while they were in custody of the mother. The article notes that this is a “stunning and unusual family law decision”.

According the Government of Canada’s own numbers, sole-custody is awarded to the mother in nearly 80% of divorce cases:

In the majority of cases (79.3 percent), the mother had sole custody; the father had sole custody in 8.7 percent of cases. Shared custody (a child spends at least 40 percent of the time with each parent) and split custody (one or more children have primary residence with the mother and one or more children have primary residence with the father) were relatively infrequent at 6.2 percent and 5 percent, respectively.

In this particular case, Kay notes that the mother (K.D.) had pressured the children to distance themselves from their father (A.L.). She writes:

According to the judgment against K. D., she is denied all contact with the girls, even by telephone or text messages She has been ordered not to come closer to them than 300 metres. A. L. has been given the right to confiscate their computers and cellphones. This is necessary, Justice McWatt said, because the mother had so poisoned her children’s feelings toward their father that they had lost their capacity for independent judgment in relating to him.

Now, for good men, the thought of losing access to our own children after a divorce is a terrible thing to contemplate. Two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women, often against the wishes of the men, under no-fault, (i.e. – unilateral), divorce laws. Additionally, there is the question of money. Alimony and child support payments can be high, and men can often be required to pay even if they lose their jobs!

In another related story, a Quebec judge overturned a father’s grounding of his daughter because the judge felt the grounding was too harsh! Men are not going to feel comfortable about getting married when the courts interfere with families in order to implement their politically correct agenda. Men want to be fathers, but it seems as if the courts are sending men a message: don’t marry, don’t have children.

Stephen Baskerville, a professor at Patrick Henry College, has written a cover story for Touchstone Magazine in which he explains the danger that faces men and women who choose to marry. This article summarizes Baskerville’s new book, and is highly recommended understand how and why the government discourages marriage.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Though obfuscated with legal jargon (losing “custody”), what this means is that a legally unimpeachable parent can suddenly be arrested for seeing his own children without government authorization. Following from this, he can be arrested for failure or inability to conform to a variety of additional judicial directives that apply to no one but him. He can be arrested for domestic violence or child abuse, even if no evidence is presented that he has committed any. He can be arrested for not paying child support, even if the amount exceeds his means (and which may amount to most of his salary). He can even be arrested for not paying an attorney or a psychotherapist he has not hired.

This can happen to women as well, according to Baskerville, in certain cases. Christians typically believe in marriage, and research indicates that a stable marriage is the best environment in which to bring up children. Therefore, Christians should be concerned by the government’s attempt to weaken the bonds of marriage by providing spouses with financial incentives to file for divorce, seize custody of the children, drain their ex-spouse of money, and prevent the ex-spouse from having a healthy relationship with the children.

Stephen Baskerville was interviewed on the Chicago-based radio show Extension 720 with host Milt Rosenberg. This interview is alarming, but required listening for men and women contemplating marriage, and for those who want to see marriage encouraged, and not discouraged, by the government and the courts. Here is another interview with Dr. Baskerville, but this one is from the Dennis Prager show.

Marriage is without a doubt good for children, for spouses, and for society. Shouldn’t we be thinking of ways to encourage people to marry, and to stay married, instead of having the government provide incentives to divorce or not marry at all?

UPDATE: Australian study shows that kids are safer when they live with their fathers.

Birth control funding to stimulate the economy?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is an ideal exponent of the view that conservative libertarian capitalists do have an interest in promoting intact families as the best environment for raising children. She argues that certain social issues can impose huge costs on the taxpayer, and also increases the size and scope of government. Government should at least do no harm in discouraging traditional marriages and even stay-at-home mothers.

In this article, she examines Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments regarding the inclusion of contraceptives in the the Democrat’s so-called stimulus package. This bill is no stimulus. It is a giveaway to the secular left’s special interest groups, on the backs of the productive private sector. Dr. Morse argues that supporting marriage instead of contraceptives would reduce taxpayer costs.

Here is an excerpt from Dr. Morse’s excellent article:

If Nancy Pelosi wants to reduce the costs to taxpayers, she should be promoting marriage. Out-of-wedlock childbearing is one of the surest roads to poverty and, thereby, to taxpayer expenditure. A recent study by the Institute for American Values conservatively estimated the taxpayer costs of non-marital childbearing to be $112 billion per year, or roughly the GDP of New Zealand. Responsible, sustainable childbearing takes place within marriage. And, incidentally, if Speaker Pelosi really wants to reduce abortions (which she hinted at, but did not say) she should also be promoting marriage. Some 80 per cent of abortions, year in and year out, are performed on unmarried women.

Here is a related research paper by Christine C. Kim of the Heritage Foundation on teen sexuality and the effects of family structure and stability in curbing it.

Domestic violence and censorship

Here is a fascinating article from the Canadian journalist Barbara Kay in their national newspaper, the National Post.

The article describes how the Justice minister of a Canadian province was stripped of his Cabinet position for daring to suggest that men could be victims of domestic violence (DV) and not only women.  He did this in an internal e-mail – this was not even said in public.

Some special interest groups and their government allies have a vested interest in making sure that the public thinks that all DV is committed against women. There is a lot of taxpayer money at stake. If it were discovered that male victims of DV existed, that taxpayer money might have to be shared. Canada might then need a Minister for the Status of Men, an Office on Violence Against Men, a Violence Against Men Act, a National Council to Reduce Violence against Men and their Children, etc. I think that we should condemn DV against women and men, equally.

Here are the numbers from official government surveys in the UK and Canada:

UK numbers:

In the event, the CASI method found relatively high levels of male victimisation, to the extent that men appear to be at equal risk to women of domestic assault (4.2% of both sexes reported an assault in the last year).

Canada numbers:

An estimated 7% of women and 6% of men in a current or previous spousal relationship encountered spousal violence during the five years up to and including 2004, according to a comprehensive new report on family violence.

Here is a related research paper by Dr. Linda Kelly, a professor of Law at Indiana University School of Law.