Tough Questions Answered has first report of Licona/Ehrman debate!

Here is their commentary on the recent Licona vs. Ehrman debate at SES. And they didn’t even tell me about it, I had to find it myself. Those meanies!

Excerpt from their awesome post-debate report:

Here is my summary of the arguments that each of them presented.

Licona opened the debate with a historical argument that goes like this.  First, he argued, virtually all historians (close to 100%) agree on three key facts about Jesus:

  1. He died by crucifixion.
  2. His disciples believed they saw Jesus appear several times after he died.
  3. The apostle Paul believed he saw Jesus appear after he died.

Then, Licona explained that the historian’s job was to figure out the best explanation of these three facts.  There are four criteria that the professional historian should use to judge possible explanations of the facts:

  1. explanatory scope
  2. explanatory power
  3. plausibility
  4. less ad hoc

I read their post, and it sounds like Bart Ehrman made his standard discredited case based on 1) manuscript variants and 2) David Hume’s argument against miracles. He doesn’t even care that he lost his debate against Craig with these exact same arguments.

As I reported before:

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?

That post also had some links to other debates on the resurrection. Furthermore, in previous debates, Ehrman’s argument against miracles is really just David Hume’s argument against miracles, which even non-Christian scholars, like John Earman, have defeated at the highest level here:

Here is an another interesting part of part one of TQA’s report (part two is forthcoming, they say!):

Interestingly, Ehrman did fully accept Licona’s three facts about Jesus as historically true.  He just didn’t accept the explanation of Jesus rising from the dead to explain those facts.  His favorite explanation seemed to be hallucinations, so the two debaters spent a lot time discussing hallucinations.

UPDATE: Part 2 of their evaluation has been posted!

Further Reading

Here are some resources related to this debate.

Live-blogging the William Lane Craig vs Christopher Hitchens debate

UPDATE: My play-by-play transcript of the debate is here.

I got the following e-mail from Reasonable Faith regarding the debate tomorrow between William Lane Craig and Christopher Hitchens:


Follow the debate on our special blog update live from the debate floor!

The Live Blog will be held at: DoesGodExistDebate.blogspot.com

The debate begins at 7:30 pm (Pacific) on Saturday, April 4, 2009. If you can’t make it in person, join us online!

More debate info can be found at DoesGodExistDebate.com.


I’m really not sure what they have planned for this live-blogging. If you really want to get ready for the debate, check out my analysis of the 11 arguments Hitchens made in his opening speech in his debate with Frank Turek. You can also watch or listen to a preview debate that was held in Dallas recently between Craig, Hitchens and some other people.

For a complete list of arguments that are used in these debates, check out my list of posts on defending Christianity here. It includes information on scientific, philosophical and historical arguments, pro and con.

Featured site: The Western Experience

I had plans of writing lots of wonderful posts on foreign policy when I started this blog. But when I tried to do so, I found out that watching all the episodes of Danger Man and Secret Agent, together with my wargaming experience, was no preparation at all for being able to blog on current events!

And that is why I am glad to tell you about a relatively new blog called The Western Experience, that started up around the same time I did. The blog features great posts on foreign policy, and it’s off to a fast start in terms of readership!

Here are some of The Western Experience’s recent posts:

Blogging about foreign policy is hard. So I really appreciate Jason’s work on these issues.

Gary Habermas explains the earliest source of resurrection facts

UPDATE: Welcome, visitors from Free Canuckistan! Did you know that Binks is a web elf? It’s true!

UPDATE: Western Experience has video of Gary Habermas in action here.

UPDATE: Welcome, visitors from Stand to Reason! Thanks for the link, Melinda!

Do you just skim right over 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 when you read your Bible? Did you know that this passage is the best passage in the entire Bible when it comes to defending the resurrection? Let’s take a look at a lecture where historian Gary Habermas explains the importance of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 for defending the bodily resurrection of Jesus as a historical event.

Recall that there are certain criteria for deciding what passages of the New Testament writings are historically reliable. Here is a great article from Gary Habermas that explains all of the criteria. Below, I’ll list some of the criteria from that article.

Early attestation

Early sources include: 1) 7 of the 13 Pauline books that are unanimously accepted as being authored by Paul, 2) the “Q” passages which are shared by Matthew and Luke, but that are not in Mark, and 3) certain short creedal passages from the book of Acts. The 7 reliable Pauline epistles are Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philipians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians and Philemon.

Habermas writes:

With regard to the historical Jesus, any material between 30 and 50 AD would be exemplary, a time period highly preferred by scholars like those in the Jesus Seminar.

Reports from such an early date would actually predate the written Gospels. A famous example is the list of Jesus’ resurrection appearances supplied by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Most critical scholars think that Paul’s reception of at least the material on which this early creedal statement is based is dated to the 30s AD. Other examples are supplied by the brief creedal statements that many scholars find embedded within the Book of Acts, which Gerald O’Collins dates to the 30s AD. From the so-called “Q” material in the first and third Gospels, another instance is the statement of high Christology found in Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22. Further, Paul’s earliest epistles date from the 50s AD.

Eyewitness testimony

Habermas writes:

Whenever these early sources are also derived from eyewitnesses who actually participated in some of the events, this provides one of the strongest evidences possible. Historian David Hackett Fischer dubs this “the rule of immediacy” and terms it “the best relevant evidence.” When scholars have ancient sources that are both very early and based on eyewitness testimony, they have a combination that is very difficult to dismiss.

In our previous example, one reason critical scholars take Paul’s testimony so seriously is that his writings provide both a very early date as well as eyewitness testimony to what Paul believed was a resurrection appearance of Jesus. This is even conceded by atheist scholar Michael Martin. Other crucial instances would concern any eyewitness testimony that can be located in the Gospel accounts.

Multiple attestation

Habermas writes:

Independent attestation of a report by more than one source is another chief indication that that a particular claim may be factual. Ancient historian Paul Maier asserts that: “Many facts from antiquity rest on just one ancient source, while two or three sources in agreement generally render the fact unimpeachable.” The Jesus Seminar emphasizes items “attested in two or more independent sources.”

Several important examples might be provided. Of the five sources often recognized in the Gospel accounts, Jesus’ miracles are reported in all five, with some specific occurrences reported in more than one. Jesus’ crucial “Son of Man” sayings are also attested in all five Gospel sources. And the empty tomb is reported in at least three, if not four, of these Gospel sources. This helps to understand why these items are taken so seriously by contemporary critical scholars.

Timeline of New Testament sources

You can only use the data that pass these criteria when you are constructing historical hypotheses in a debate setting. But the passage of 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 is special, because it has the markings on an ancient creed. As Habermas explains, Paul received this creed within five years of the crucifixion. Paul verified this creed twice with eyewitnesses, Peter, John and James, in Galatians 1:11-24 and Galatians 2:1-10.

So, let’s set the date of Jesus’ death as being 30 AD. Then ask the question: what sources are closest to the event? We need to have multiple early sources in order to be able to surface minimal facts that can be used when debating skeptics and atheists. Here’s the timeline, using the absolute latest possible dates for the sources:

  • 30 A.D.: Jesus is crucified. (+0)
  • 31 A.D.: The early creed originates around this time
  • 35 A.D.: Paul receives the early creed from Peter, John and James in Jerusalem
  • 55 A.D.: 1 Corinthians (+25)
  • 70 A.D. Mark (+40)
  • 80 A.D. Matthew (+50)
  • 85 A.D. Luke (+55)
  • 95 A.D. John (+65)

My preferred dates on the gospels are at least 5 years ealier than the skeptical dates. So, your earliest source for minimal facts about the resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. I explained before how to leverage the facts in 1 Cor 15, and other minimal facts, into a case for the resurrection.

Personal application

You really need to be able to talk to your friends and co-workers about the resurrection. That is our obligation as Christians. When you talk to non-Christians, you cannot use the entire Bible on faith. Your opponent is not going to allow you to use the entire text as a source because they don’t assume that it is inerrant. You need to argue from minimal facts that pass the standard historical criteria.

So, you need to learn how to explain how scholars extract the minimal facts from the Biblical sources. You need to list the criteria, explain why they are generally accepted, and then apply them. You need to know the dates and authors of the New Testament writings. You need to know which passages are considered to be minimal facts. And then you can make you case on those facts.

I think the most promising strategy is to argue from a supernatural creator and designer, using some recent scientific discoveries, and then go on from there to historical concerns once the existence of a deistic God has been firmly established.

Further study

First, listen to the 30-minute lecture delivered at California Polytechnic State University in 2008 by Gary Habermas, on 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Then, check out N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection. Then listen to this lecture delivered at California State University in 2005 by William Lane Craig, on arguing from the minimal facts.

And finally, you can check out some debates on the resurrection. I recommend the debate between William Lane Craig and Roy Hoover. But it is important to read the N.T. Wright’s case for the resurrection first! There is a cross-examination section in the debate, so if you’re into that, as I am, then get your fix here.

Green policies will cost hundreds of thousands of jobs per year

Gateway Pundit has the story here.

He cites Heritage Foundation research for these figures:

Perhaps the most alarming part is the price tag associated with attempting to reduce such a small part of the atmosphere and something we really cannot control. Our analysis shows the cumulative GDP losses for 2010 to 2029 approach $7 trillion. Single-year losses exceed $600 billion in 2029, more than $5,000 per house¬hold. Job losses are expected to exceed 800,000 in some years, and exceed at least 500,000 from 2015 through 2026. It is important to note that these are net job losses, after any jobs created by compliance with the regulations–so-called green jobs–are taken into account. In total, the “climate revenue” (read: energy tax) could approach two trillion over eight years. Keep in mind, this is all for negligible environmental benefits.

The Heritage Foundation piece also makes clear how much of an impact this will have on the planet’s temperature:

Out of the entire atmospheric makeup, only one to two percent is made up of greenhouse gases with the majority being nitrogen (about 78 percent) and oxygen (about 21 percent). Of that two percent, “planet-killing” carbon dioxide comprises only 3.62 percent while water vapor encompasses 95 percent. And of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, humans cause only 3.4 percent of annual CO2 emissions.

They have a nice graph that shows these numbers.

Ace of Spades also has nice graphs of solar activity and how well it coorelates to planetary temperature. You know, exactly in the way that CO2 doesn’t. (And Ace has a graph for that, too).

Further reading

I blogged about the United Nations’ plan to stop global warming with global wealth redistribution here. More on how much your energy prices will rise, the democrats plan to impose carbon-tariffs on imports, scientific dissent from catastrophic anthropogenic global warming, Al Gore’s refusal to debate and Obama’s plan to raise taxes on oil production.

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

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