My Review of the Apologetics Conference

Darrin Rasberry (who is a Ph.D. student in math at Iowa State University) and I went together to the Apologetics Conference 2008, sponsored by the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

This was not a professional conference aimed at scholars but it was still an excellent conference which provoked much thought. We first arrived Friday afternoon and attended Mary Jo Sharp's presentation across town at the Evangelical Philosophical Society National Conference. Mary Jo argued that Christianity did not borrow from the stories of the Pagan mystery religions. She was well informed and made the point that there are some definite and significant differences between these pagan mystery religions when compared to the stories about Jesus. Whether this leads to the conclusion that Jesus must therefore have existed based on her argument alone is left unresolved. She said this was only one part of the whole argument and she didn't have time to go into the other parts. The other parts are 1) "an examination of the Jewish revolt against complete assimilation of the Jews into Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty which resulted in bloodly battles;" 2) "The origination of Christianity out of the matrix of first-century Jewish monotheism;" and 3) "A review of the beliefs of the earliest Christians, namely the apostle Paul, which point to a disgust of pagan religious practices." These three other parts she didn't attempt to present. She did a good job on this! [To read my critique of her "Loftus-Wood Round Two" criticisms on the problem of evil, here's my response].

We walked in just as this was starting and without realizing it I sat down next to Bill Craig near the front. There was someone sitting between us. I saw him and he saw me at the same time. He blurted out "Are you John Loftus?" I had my hat on and he wasn't quite sure it was me since he didn't expect me there. In the quietness of the meeting room everyone heard him say this and saw his reaction to me. And he was genuinely glad to see me again. Wow! What a relief that was, especially after all I write against his arguments. He asked what I was doing there and all I could say was, "I don't know." And I told him how I hitched a ride with Darrin. In any case this was relieving to me. Bill is a warm person who genuinely cares about people regardless of our disagreements. He had to leave just as Mary Jo finished so I didn't talk with him afterward.

But I did have a good conversation with Richard G. Howe, Philosophy and Apologetics professor and director of the Ph.D. program at Norman Geisler's Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College. They had their own apologetics conference earlier in November in which Howe did a presentation on the new atheists where he included me among them! You can see where he did this in his Powerpoint presentation. That's pretty cool, I think. Richard has been assigned the task of reviewing my book in their Christian Apologetics Journal. Richard was genuinely glad to meet me, and I him. I wonder what he'll say about my book?

Probably the most interesting friendship I struck up was with Gary Habermas. He is unlike what I expected, although I don't know why I expected anything different. He was warm, witty, funny, and genuinely friendly toward me. He does not think he has any kind of notch on his belt for helping Antony Flew change his mind, and he openly admits Flew is a long way from Christianity. He says they talk all of the time. I believe he really is a great guy and enjoys people with no ulterior motive. His presentation on the resurrection of Jesus on Saturday morning was probably the most powerful one I had heard before. I actually liked it so much I bought his book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and he signed it. I'll be reading through it and commenting on it as I go, so watch for it.

I was disappointed that my friend Mark Linville didn't stay around after giving his Thursday night talk on "A Moral Argument for God," but I did buy the DVD. And I had to choose between attending Michael Murray's talk on "Is Belief in God a Trick of Our Brains?" and Dr. Greg Ganssle's talk on Richard Dawkins, so I also bought Murray’s DVD. I did get to meet Dr. Murray and talk with him at some length. He is a warm and extremely intelligent man who freely admits he doesn't have all of the answers. His latest book, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Oxford University Press, 2008) for him is supposed to be a "conversation starter not a conversation stopper." He and I have had some email discussions and he offered some good advice on the book I'm presently writing on the problem of animal suffering for Christianity (more on that later). He seemed actually glad I was going to attempt to further the conversation by writing about it! He is one Christian that is a joy to talk to.

Dr. Greg Ganssle (lecturer at Yale University), did a fine talk on Dawkins's The God Delusion book. It was fair and balanced. He claimed Dawkins criticisms of the traditional arguments for the existence of God do not work. He claimed that Dawkins's argument that the influence of Christianity on the world has been mostly negative doesn't fit the facts, since the "record is mixed" and it's not as bleak as Dawkins would have us believe. Then Ganssle focused on what he calls Dawkins's best argument and admits it's a good one. In his handout it's this:
1 A universe made by God would be different than one made by natural occurrences.
2) Our universe fits better with a naturalistic universe than with a theistic universe.
3) Therefore our universe is more likely to be a naturalistic universe than it is to be a theistic universe.
Ganssle says Dawkins's argument is about "fittingness." "A natural universe with complex life would included a long period of biological development through a process something like natural selection," whereas a theistic universe would most likely not (emphasis his) include a long process of biological development. There are many other options in a theistic universe for the creation and development of life." So he granted Dawkins his argument! It's just that he went on to argue that the world is ordered and susceptible to rational investigation by conscious agents who have significantly free agency in a world with objective moral obligations, and that these facts fit better within a theistic universe. Afterward I asked a question about these other so-called facts. I said something to the effect: "Why do these other facts fit better in a theistic universe when the theistic notion of God has the same problems? Theists must explain how God can be rational, free, self-conscious and must explain where God got his morals from too. So there are problems wherever the buck stops." My point was that if he grants Dawkins's argument then these other so-called facts are not an answer to Dawkins since we all have the same problems. He recognized this and said Christians must deal with these problems and that they have done so. Afterward we talked more about it.

Some of the Christians heard that two atheists were in attendance and I'm pretty sure they could find out who we were if they asked around. These Christians were warm and friendly toward us. A few of them treated me like some sort of celebrity, taking my picture and asking questions. That was interesting and a bit strange to me.

On Saturday afternoon after the conference was over Paul Copan asked Darrin and I to come into the presenters room for a discussion and some food. Bill Craig, James Sinclair and Gary Habermas joined us. What a delightful conversation we had about the issues. Gary and I talked about the resurrection and we found it interesting how much we were able to grant each other: that I think Paul wrote I Corinthians and Galatians, and/or if needed that a deistic god existed, and how he could grant me that most of the ancient people were indeed superstitious. He asked me a few questions and said he would tell his students how I answered them. Since Habermas maintains he has read everything written about the resurrection he asked me about my chapter on that topic. I had to candidly confess I didn't think that he would find anything new in it, but he said he's going to get my book and read it.

Darrin was the focus of Bill and Paul though. I think they thought he might be more open to their arguments. Perhaps they thought I was a lost cause! ;-) They discussed the Kalam argument and Calvinism. Darrin will tell us later how he thought it went. But Darrin thinks Calvinism is entailed by the Bible and that Calvinism is what led him to reject Christianity; that is, if Calvinism is true then Darrin wants nothing to do with Christianity. So Bill and Paul were actually trying to explain to Darrin how that Calvinism was not the correct interpretation of the Bible. I interjected with this comment: "So, you're trying to convert an atheist by convincing him that the Bible doesn’t support Calvinism," and I smiled. They said it's not unheard of, and Bill said to me, "you were an Arminian so you could explain to Darrin why we're correct about this.” He remembered my background. But I was of no help to him. I said I now think the Bible was written from different perspectives and that we can see both trains of thought in it, some supporting Calvinism and some supporting Arminianism because it's inconsistent with itself. He leaned back disappointed in my answer.

All in all it was a rewarding trip, but unfortunately I came away from it more convinced than ever that Christian theism is a delusion—a conclusion I’m sure they are disappointed to learn, even if their reception toward us was warm and winsome.

What I've written only highlights some of my experiences. Thanks to a few of you who donated some money on the sidebar to help pay for my expenses (I still need some financial help since I didn't work while I was gone and there are bills to pay). Paul Copan even refunded my money for registration. Thanks also to Abdu Murray of Aletheia International who let me stay the night with him and for sharing with me his story of how he left the Muslim faith for Christianity. He bought my book and I look forward to his response to it.

80 comments:

BobCMU76 said...

The folks who helped you get to the conference are getting their money's worth hearing your summary of the conference. I hope some you choose some incidents of the conference for some more in-depth reporting -- like the chat in the presenters room. That sure whets my appetite for more.

I think that evolutionary theorists enjoy folks like Behe, point out where the pieces don't quite fit. Some folks think him a distraction, but others a blessing. Science needs scoffers. The alternative is complacency.

And the warmth John reports of these apologists to his incisive criticism is not surprising. But it is gratifying to hear.

John -- did you hear anything to add you your list of six?

John W. Loftus said...

For anyone interested Bob is refering to my post on the six major ideas that may help save Christianity from refutation.

As I said, Habermas's argument is a strong one, one I hadn't heard put like that before, but I haven't read everything on the topic either, by far. Will his argument help save Christianity? Probably, in the minds of believers anyway. But I don't think it's strong enough to be among the six. We'll see. But I liked it because it's based upon what even skeptics can agree about. More on this later.

ahswan said...

John, thanks for providing this very interesting report on the conference. I'm curious to hear some of the reasons why you concluded, "I came away from it more convinced than ever that Christian theism is a delusion." To say that you were unconvinced by what you heard is one thing; your conclusion is something else.

John W. Loftus said...

ahswan, I know the distinction you make. It's just that the more often someone considers the arguments then the more he is convinced otherwise, if they don't work. Each time someone considers them and subsequently rejects them then the more convinced he is they are wrong.

kiwi said...

So what is the resurrection evidence that changed recent scholarship?

What evidence are we talking about, besides more sophistry from apologists?

John W. Loftus said...

kiwi, Habermas mentioned Richard Bauckham's book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses as the so-called new evidence, although he didn't tell us what it was or how he incorporated it into his talk.

Stay tuned on his particular argument since I'll devote more space later to it after I read Habermas's book and think more about it.

Edward T. Babinski said...

Sounds like fun. I've never gotten to meet Gary, though we exchanged letters on the resurrection long ago. [Google: Habermas-Babinski resurrection ] And I sometimes email him.

I enjoyed your review of the conference. (Bob Schadewald used to attend young-earth conferences, and his reviews of them were both insightful and witty, very fun to read, I think you did best not to insert wit but simply described things in a friendly fashion.)

And you replied exactly as I might concerning Arminian/Calvinism, namely, theologians have demonstrated that you can interpret the Bible Calvinistically or Arminianistically to Open Theistically depending on your philosophical preferences.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John,

Thanks for your review. I wished I could have went. Maybe next time...

Habermas uses "minimal facts" in as his argumentation basis and destroys every argument I've heard from opposing atheists regarding the resurrection, the historic Jesus and many other issues.

In other words, throw out the elements of the record you don't like and make agreements in the areas that you feel are reasonable to attain and with those minimal facts that you agree with there is enough info to confirm certain aspects of Christianity.

Example, even John agrees to Paul's authorship of 1 Cor. and Galations. He's in good company because even minimalist Robert Price and most other critical scholars do too. Well, within those discourses, the resureection is affirmed, the nature and historicity of Jesus and a whole bunch of other facts that even critical scholars agree that WERE NOT interpolations...So in order to get around this you -The Atheist-has to recreate a whole new set of history and events that just don't hold a drop of water, and if you are able to recreate certain events then you create other more glaring historic problems and fly in the face of CRITICAL scholars (not Christian Scholars) who affirm such events based on evidences.

Of course his argument is far more detailed than what I've outlined, but I love his approach because he doesn't monopolize the facts as atheists are somewhat accustomed too from us defending the faith.

Good post John.

Do they have a site set up to order CD's and materials from the conference? Thanks.

John W. Loftus said...

District Harvey, yes you are correct about Habermas, and as far as I can tell you'll be able to buy those talks sometime in the future.

philip m said...

The recent scholarship he's referring to is not Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, which focuses on whether or not the gospels are tied to eyewitness testimony. You'll remember, however, that Habermas threw out the gospels for his lecture. He said most Christians jump immediately to the gospels when people ask for evidence, but the gospels are too late to count as compelling evidence for nonbelievers.

Rather, Habermas wants to focus only on what secular critics will give him as evidence, and the recent scholarship that has affected the resurrection is what the critical scholars have been accepting. Namely, the narrative of Paul as it dates back to his conversion a few years after the resurrection, which places the creeds of the resurrection he got from Peter even further back, landing the formalization of the creeds to as far back as the fall of the year of the resurrection. So the standardization of the dates of the narrative of Paul is what I think the recent change in scholarship was.

I asked Habermas what critics were saying about Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, however, and he said that it's had a good reception, so that's a given for anyone wanting to stay afloat in the world of scholarship on the historical Jesus.

John W. Loftus said...

Well how then is this new evidence, Phillip? I see what you're saying and I may have missed the point. But how long has Habermas taken this position, and what makes it new evidence, or is this merely a marketing technique? Like I said, I liked his approach very much. I just may have missed the so-called evidence since it was publicizeed as "new evidence" not a new strategy.

Good to meet you there as well!

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Philip M,

The problem around here is, for as long as I've been reading these posts posing alternate theories, (Since Feb. 2008) these folk are convinced that Paul was a Second centruy construct even against their liberal and critical scholars teachings in that area.

Now, I've seen some of them try to defend that notion but they create all kinds of problems with extrabiblical evidence that was only indicitive to Frist century and specifically first half of first century but they turn their nose to that and recreate histories and writing that were even hostile to Christianity.

That's why I love Habermas's approach. To deny many of his conclusions is to radically rewrite nearly ALL of fisrt and second century history, not to mention the stark denial of liberal and atheist scholarship on the essential issues. To me it's funny to hear atheists explain all of this away while calling Christians deluded...It's just too funny to me.

Thanks.

philip m said...

I think he's referring to scholarship on a large timeline, and the fact that this timeline of Paul is fairly standard in modern scholarship is contrasted to the muddled history of scholarship where many scholars might have had different opinions on these dates. Today people like Ludemann, who don't believe in the resurrection, will readily grant all the dates about Paul and his letters which so easily progress back to the resurrection. (The analogy of the long jump where you've already got the momentum going in that direction, but there is a fault line where you have to jump.) But the bottom line for people like Ludemann is that "Modern science has proven that people don't raise from the dead."

So "Recent" by his standards I would judge to be the last 25-40 years.

Vinny said...

Doesn’t Habermas’ “minimal facts” approach follow the same logic that conspiracy theorists use?

The 911 nuts cherry pick two or three video clips and find a couple of witnesses who think they heard an explosion at a key moment. Then they demand that any theory must successfully explain their carefully selected facts to the exclusion of every other piece of evidence. Then it just happens to turn out that the only theory that works is their theory that the Twin Towers were brought down by a controlled demolition directed by the Bush administration. When all the evidence is considered, those few “facts” may be nothing more than anomalies, but when everything else we know is excluded they appear quite sinister.

By the same token, Habermas cherry picks a handful of facts (somewhere between three and eleven depending on the presentation) and declares that the only valid theory is the one that best explains those facts regardless of whether or not they fit everything else we know about history, sociology, or psychology. Throw on top of that the way Habermas establishes his “universally accepted facts” by surveying mostly conservative journals of Christian theology and I think you have very questionably histiography.

Confident Christianity said...

John,

It was good to meet you.

MJ

asharpfamily said...

John,

What a pleasure it was to meet you in person. You and Darrin are genuine in your approach to finding the truth. I commend your efforts and am now more open to reading your blog from time-to-time.

Roger Sharp
http://www.confidentchristianity.com

John W. Loftus said...

Roger and Mary Jo, thanks for your friendship. I would really like to see the other three parts of Mary Jo's argument sometime. Thanks for visiting and for commenting, Come back often.

Steven Carr said...

None of the early Christian creeds claim Jesus was resurrected as a flesh and bones person who walked the earth.

All they say is that Jesus 'appeared' but they do not say if he appeared on a nacho or on a tortilla.

Paul can find not one detail of eyewitness testimony as to what a resurrected body was supposed to be like, even when talking to Christian converts who scoffed at the idea of their god choosing to raise a corpse.

Paul says flat-out that Jesus became a spirit.

Paul knew that the body of Jesus was dead and buried.

Hence his telling the Corinthians what happened to the earthly body.

It was destroyed. ' For we know that if our earthly dwelling, a tent, should be destroyed, we have a building from God, a dwelling not made with hands.'


Destroyed, not saved. That was Paul's message.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Vinny~ "By the same token, Habermas cherry picks a handful of facts (somewhere between three and eleven depending on the presentation) and declares that the only valid theory is the one that best explains those facts regardless of whether or not they fit everything else we know about history, sociology, or psychology."

No, Habermas uses facts that both YOU and liberal scholars who have examined the evidence and are hostile toward Christianity coceide. In other words he plays in your ballpark with your referees and whoops the crap out of ya using the facts that you agree with.

Other facts can be argued quite successfully and convincingly but cut through the clutter and only talk in common terms...when we do that the atheist denial takes a totally new spin...and your denials are shown for what they are...

Steven Carr said...

VINNY is right about Habermas arguments resembling conspiracy theorists.

All historians agree JFK was killed in Dallas.

This is a minimum fact that sceptics of the second gunman theory must accept.

Habermas says Paul implies an empty tomb and that an empty tomb implies a resurrection.

I guess, the idea that JFK was shot by a second gunman implies a second gun.

Wait a minute, doesn't a second gun imply a second gunman?

So we now have a minimal facts approach to proving that JFK was shot by a second gunman.

All thanks to Gary Habermas!

I'm not a great expert on comparative religions.

Has any New Religious Movement ever produced a short creed to be memorised by people within six months of forming?

'...formalization of the creeds to as far back as the fall of the year of the resurrection'

What New Religious Movement has ever produced a formal creed within 1 year?

Why would they ever want to do that?

After all, these things were recent history, and of such startling nature that every Christian convert within 1 year would automatically have known they happened.

Has anybody ever made a formal creed , within 1 year of events happening such as 9/11, Pearl Harbour, the death of JFK?

Of course not. Creeds are much later in the life of a New Religious Movement.

I could be wrong though and would be happy to hear of counterexamples.

Why didn't Jesus ever think of producing a creed for Christians to learn? Did Jesus not want people to believe anything? Or was what he wanted people to believe not important enough to put into a creed?

kiwi said...

"Doesn’t Habermas’ “minimal facts” approach follow the same logic that conspiracy theorists use?"

Absolutely.

His approach is not scholarly; it's smoke and mirrors Christian apologetics.

Habermas and Craig use selective "facts" (that in reality should not all be considered as facts) to reach a desired conclusion X. That's indeed exactly the modus operandi of all conspiracy theorists.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Steven Carr,

You raised some good points my friend and study of how statements etc arise within religions and especially ANE religions are in order to properly appreciate this.

So far as Jesus speaking in "creeds" although that wasn't the official terminology, that was basically the whole sermon on the mount in Mat.5. Jesus took the OT Narratives, repackaged them, made them memorable to the audience and his followers etc. So in essence there were evidence of "creedal" type of statements that were used in discussion of the nature of God and the OT.

John P. Meier in "A Marginal Jew" Vol. 3 takles discussion regarding this. He approaches the subject much in a similar manner of Habermas. For a minute I even had to look and see whether this guy was a Christian Professor or not because of the way he approaches certain subject matter...by no means an apologetic work (at least in my opinion)but very insightful and balanced.

John W. Loftus said...

No, No, No. Habermas is not doing what conspiracy folks do. Rather, he's taking that which is common to both sides and showing that based on these agreed upon minimal facts that they still point in the direction of a resurrected Jesus.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

John~ "Rather, he's taking that which is common to both sides and showing that based on these agreed upon minimal facts that they still point in the direction of a resurrected Jesus.
"


EXACTLY...Now that does not automatically make one a believer as he readily and easily admits BUT it does change the basis for which one remains a non-believer. Some rationalize in a different manner to which they are entitled, but this argument does reframe the whole picture and allows facts to stand on their own without anyone claiming that they have been proped up by presuppositional biases which we all have...Even in that we'll have bias, but I believe this approach is an honest attempt to even address that.

Great assessment John!

Steven Carr said...

'Habermas is not doing what conspiracy folks do. Rather, he's taking that which is common to both sides and showing that based on these agreed upon minimal facts that they still point in the direction of a resurrected Jesus.'

Really?

Habermas argument that Paul's resurrection implies and empty tomb and that an empty tomb implies a resurrection is , I admit, too circular even for KFK consiparacy theorists.

But his empty tomb claim is highly controversial even on his own figures that 25% of professional scholars disagree.

Where is Habermas evidence that James was a 'sceptic', despite his brother being born of a virgin?

Where does Paul say James had been a sceptic, or that any appearance had 'converted' him?

Where does Luke/Acts even claim James had ever seen Jesus even once?

There is not one first-century source which says James had been a 'sceptic' and then converted. Not one!

Would Habermas claim that Mormonism had been proved if the brother of Joseph Smith had been 'sceptical' of the claims of Golden Plates, and had then 'converted' to become the Mormon leader, while a semi-official church history never even said that there had been any such family relationship?

In all honesty, claims that the brother was sceptical and had been convinced usually come from people playing card-game scams in the street, where somebody claims to be sceptical and magically 'wins', proving that the dealer is not crooked.

But even such con-artists normally don't use their own brother in such blatant scams.

Steven Carr said...

I would be genuinely interested to see a NRM that had a formal creed within 1 year of foundation.

I just can't see it happening.

I could easily be wrong.

Please feel free to show me that this is not unique.

kiwi said...

"Rather, he's taking that which is common to both sides and showing that based on these agreed upon minimal facts that they still point in the direction of a resurrected Jesus."

Can you list the minimal "facts" of Habermas? 1) I do not think all of his facts are facts. Just because a majority of scholars share the same opinion on something does not make it a fact. 2) Picking minimal "facts" out of a lot of data to reach an irrational conclusion is exactly what conspiracy theorists do.

Sogn said...

Ed Babinski said...

... you replied exactly as I might concerning Arminian/Calvinism, namely, theologians have demonstrated that you can interpret the Bible Calvinistically or Arminianistically to Open Theistically depending on your philosophical preferences.
_____

I just want to add that I think the Bible can very plausibly be interpreted in terms of 3, not 2, soteriological schemes. The third, besides the better known Calvinism and Arminianism, is Universalism. This view had some prominent advocates in early centuries, but was stamped out by the church hierarchy because it's obviously not conducive to maintaining control of people. The best (quasi-evangelical) advocate of universalism I know is Tom Talbott, a philosopher at Willamette University in Salem, OR. I recommend visiting his web pages:
http://www.willamette.edu/~ttalbott/phil.html
http://www.willamette.edu/~ttalbott/theol.html
http://www.thomastalbott.com/
And I can't speak highly enough of his book, The inescapable Love of God. When I was a Christian, universalism was the only view I could even imagine, for moral reasons, but I agree with Talbott that there is plenty of material in the Bible to support that view. Of course he admits that there is material to support each of the other views as well. There is no denying the ambiguity of the Bible. Well, there is plenty of denial, but you know what I mean.

Blake Stacey said...

Demonstrating that a tradition about a resurrected body and an empty tomb existed earlier than had previously been expected is not the same thing as demonstrating that the body in question actually rose from the dead. The oldest known complete manuscript copy of Homer's Iliad is the Venetus A document, dated to the 10th century CE. If we found a papyrus copy of the Iliad which was fifteen hundred years older, it would not prove that Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia, that Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world or that Hera and Poseidon assisted the Greek army at Troy.

Vinny said...

No, No, No. Habermas is not doing what conspiracy folks do. Rather, he's taking that which is common to both sides and showing that based on these agreed upon minimal facts that they still point in the direction of a resurrected Jesus.

John, John, John . . . . I am so disappointed.

Assuming for the sake of argument that these are “agreed upon facts,” how can it possibly be that they the only facts that need to be explained by the theory? For example we know from the Mormons that a religion can grow and spread quickly with its adherents willingly accepting great risks despite the fact there is no evidential basis whatsoever for its founders claims. If we include this known fact about how religions grow and spread, doesn’t the need for a miracle to explain the behavior of early Christians change dramatically? Similarly, we know from the dancing sun miracle at Fatima that huge crowds have either reported or been reported as sharing the same visionary experience. If we include this known fact, doesn’t that undercut the need for a supernatural explanation for the resurrection appearances described in the gospels?

I am not a student of historical methodology, but I am willing to bet that there is no precedent for cherry picking a subset of facts and proclaiming that the best theory is the one that explains those facts to the exclusion of all others even if there is some sort of general agreement on that subset.

In the case of the 911 conspiracy theorists, many of the things they cite are generally accepted, too. Their videos and pictures are real. The things that witnesses say they saw and heard are really the things those witnesses remember. That doesn’t mean that we decide the case based on those select bits of evidence. When we look at the overwhelming mountain of evidence that shows that the Twin Towers came down because terrorists attacked them with hijacked airliners, the fact that a controlled demolition better explains a couple of video clips is laughable.

In any case, I fully share Steve’s skepticism that these can even legitimately be called “facts” in the first place. The sample of scholars upon which Habermas bases his claim that these facts are widely accepted is composed primarily of theologians rather than historians, 75% of whom were conservative Christians. The fact that 75% of this sample, i.e.,100% of the conservative Christians, agreed that the empty tomb was a fact is hardly very impressive.

Bill said...

John, I'm just now starting into your book. Thanks for writing it from "the inside" so-to-speak. Although this thread is about your review of the Apologetics Conference, I've read elsewhere on your blog that you could refute "liberal Christianity" also. If you get the time and inclination, I would appreciate hearing your refutation of the liberal side of Christianity where the focus is not so much on the literal and miraculous.

Thanks,
bill mc

John W. Loftus said...

Bill, I never said I could refute liberal theology any more than I have refuted evangelical theology. But you can take a look at a review I did of liberal theologian John F. Haught's book on the new atheism, and a few posts on it starting here.

Let me know what you think of my book. I learn from everyone.

Steven Carr said...

PHILIP M
'Namely, the narrative of Paul as it dates back to his conversion a few years after the resurrection, which places the creeds of the resurrection he got from Peter even further back....'

CARR
Any evidence that Paul got these creeds from Peter?

And if this creed was 'formalised' so early, within 1 year, why does it say that most of the 500 were still alive?

Clearly this 'creed' has gone through several editions, and has been revised.

One fact agreed upon by everybody is that early Christian converts scoffed at the idea of their god raising corpses.

How does Habermas explain this?

It is also a fact that not one person named himself as having seen any empty tomb.

It is also a fact that not one person names himself as seeing a flesh and bone Jesus , with wounds.



Paul, of course, trashes the idea that resurrected people are made from the dust that corpses dissolve into :-

'The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.'

Bill said...

Thanks, John, for the reply. I'll read all of those articles shortly. In brief, I was a fundie for 30 years and then a liberal Christian for about 5. But the more I read of Spong and Borg, the more I felt that whatever "liberal Christianity" is, it isn't the same religion that the bible portrays (which I rejected anyway). After all, when the Jesus Seminar says that 85% of Jesus' words in the bible aren't Jesus' words and probably aren't even close to what he actually taught, where does that leave folks who want to get out of the legalism of fundamentalism but still value the teachings of Jesus? Anyhow, I ended up leaving Christianity altogether.

I'd be glad to give you feedback on your book, John, as soon as I am done reading and musing over it. But I can already tell that it is one of those books where a reader says, "So I'm not the only one who notices this!"

And with that, I'll back out of this thread. Thanks again.

bill mc

NFLP said...

I assume there was no appearance by JP Holding aka Robert Turkel aka JP Holding.

I'd like to hear real Christian apologists' opinion of him.

Jon said...

You mean Geisler's former university. He's since resigned. Don't know why.

And let me shamelessly plug my own blog to note that I also have a copy of Habermas and Licona's book and I've reviewed it in several parts, many of which are linked from here.

Sounds like a great time.

philip m said...

Steven,

The two books used in the reasoning are 1 Corinthians and Galatians, both staples on the list of books typically accepted by liberal scholars as written by Paul.

Starting with 1 Corinthians 15:3, Pauls says, "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance." Received? When, where and from whom did Paul receive this?

A few years after the crucifixion, Paul had his experience of the risen Jesus. In Galatians 1:18-19 he says that three years after his conversion experience, "I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord's brother." The comment of a Cambridge university scholar on this event runs, "Paul spent fifteen days with Peter and James. It is safe to say they did more than talk about the weather." This is when most believe Paul got the creed, given that it's the right time, right circumstances, etc.

(Apparently, also, the word that is translated "to get acquainted" is a real ersatz replacement for the implications of the Greek word, which implies a much more investigatory act.)

When Paul spent this time with Peter and James depends on where you put his conversion experience. If you put it in an average spot, it's two years after Jesus was crucified. Pauls says it's three years later he went to stay with Peter, which puts his reception of the formalized resurrection material at about five years after Jesus's supposed resurrection.

Now that's when Paul got the material himself. When was the material actually formalized into the creed that Paul recapitulates to the church in Corinth? Gerd Ludemann says no later than three years after the crucifixion. The Jesus Seminar says it predates Paul's conversion. James D.G. Dunn says it's formalized within a few months.

Paul felt like adding the fact that some of the five hundred were still alive, I'm sure, and since he is reporting it at about 55 A.D. it certainly is pertinent to do so.

It is also a fact that not one person named himself as having seen any empty tomb.

It is also a fact that not one person names himself as seeing a flesh and bone Jesus , with wounds.


Playing omniscient, now are we? You must remember we are not even really dealing directly with the evidence of Jesus's resurrection, we are dealing with the evidence for the evidence. A good deal more went on in the first century than you and I were present to witness. Paul's epistles were not intended to be evidence of the historicity of Christ's death and resurrection thousands of years later - these are just things he happened to include in the letter. And it seems letters to Paul were a supplement for when he couldn't be somewhere to preach what he needed to say directly.

As far as eyewitness attestation goes, maybe you should pick up a copy of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and see what there is to say on the topic, to know where the issues lie. It's extremely comprehensive, so you'll at least know what there is to say on the topic.

Steven Carr said...

SO even on Philip's reckoning Paul spent 3 years before learning anything, and never claimed that Peter taught him any creed.

If it took 3 years before Paul met Peter, how can it be fixed that all this creed was formalised in the first year?

Nor did Paul ever claim to have met the Twelve (sic), or any of these 500, or any of the alleged women witnesses.

And , of course, Paul taught that the earthly body was destroyed, trashed the idea of his god choosing to resurrect the dust that corpses became, and told Christian converts that Jesus had become a spirit.

And, of course, Paul was unable to find a single bit of eyewitness testimony as to what a resurrected body was like, although when Paul investigated Peter, you would think that Paul would have learned that his Lord and Saviour had allegedly taught that a resurrected body had flesh and bone.


I guess when Paul was interrogating Peter, Peter refused to say what Jesus had said on the nature of resurrected bodies.

And, of course, Christian converts in Thessalonica were getting very worried about the fate of corpses, while Christian converts in Corinth were openly mocking the idea of their god choosing to raise corpses.

Steven Carr said...

Which New Religious Movement has ever formalised a creed within 1 year?

And why does Paul change the creed, as Philip M, says he does?

And why would an almost semi-official church history like Luke/Acts omit all mention of this James ever having seen Jesus, let alone being his brother, and omit any appearance to any 500, or omit any mention of this creed as something Christians were taught?

As for Habermas' minimal facts, VINNIE is quite right.

I can take as a 'minimal fact' the fact that no paper or document signed or dictated by Hitler ever ordered the Jews in Europe to be liquidated in gas camps.

What best explains this 'minimal fact'?

Habermas should use ALL the facts, not just cherry-picked 'minimal facts'.

Otherwise his methods are the same as Holocaust deniers....

Justin Brierley said...

John - thanks for sending me the link to this.

I think Habermas' approach is really interesting - as other posters have said it doesn't "prove" the resurrection per se, but it does deal with numerous objections to the resurrection in terms of it being a later legendary affair.

I did a show with Habermas where he sets out the Minimal facts approach - you can hear it at http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable dated 12 July 2008 in the show archive

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Steven Carr,

Obviously you don't care to read the narrative or Philip M's answer for yourself. It's clearly outlined in both Galations and 1 Cor. 15 which TOP critical scholars including Robert Price (who generally doesn't go along with anyone just for the sake of being in the crowd, affirms)

Now if you claimed an interpolation theory, you may have some strength of a debate, but for you to throw out and reinvent the natrrative is silly and shows and disinterest in letting the narrative speak for itself.

It couldn't be more clear. Luke didn't have to write a blow by blow historic and you totally overlook the fact that Paul already knew about Christianity as he was one of the main advocates against it before he was converted. He was a persecuter of the church which meant he had knowledge of Christianity to begin with all though he may not have known exact detail UNTIL his conversion as often is the case when there is a spiritual "repair" and repentance from sin that one undergoes.

Paul outlines his experience and details what we'd expect to see...Galations- that he knew anout Jesus appearing to multiple individuals INCLUDING 500 that were still alive (this event wasn't a past long ago historic or mythic event), James, then all of the Apostles, the 12, and Cephas.

1Cor. 15:3 Paul says what they (the Corinthians) received(parelabete) he (Paul)passed on(paredoka) what he himself received(parelabon)- This is called the vocabulary of handing on and receiving.

"This technique and style was used in the ancient world by philosophical schools, gnostic literature and within Rabbinic cirlces to designate important tradition that were carefully passed down from teacher to student."Hans Conzelmann, Der erste Brief an die Korinther(Mey-erK5; Gottingen:Vandenhoeck & Reprecht,1969)pg.230

"Paul uses this same terminology to intorduce his narrative of the institution of the eucharist at the last supper (1 Cor. 11:23-25)"Dr. John MeierA Marginal Jew Rethinking the Historical Jesus (Doubleday,2001)pg.139

This was clearly a tradition passed on to Paul and all one has to do is follow the trail of his own testimony because he tells us where it came from...

Atheist's such as yourself hear mythical figures and a whole bunch of conspiracy, whereas the Jew of that day would have heard and understood a LITERAL tradition, handed down from person and delivered to them, and in this case it was something that they (The Corinthians) probably weren't hearing for the first time from him, as he (Paul) was confirming what they already knew, heard and had received.

The evidence is clear, in the text if one is honest with the text.

Steven Carr said...

BURNETT
This technique and style was used in the ancient world by philosophical schools, gnostic literature and within Rabbinic cirlces to designate important tradition that were carefully passed down from teacher to student."

CARR
Gosh, those ancient gnostics and Rabbis really did pass on carefully their traditions didn't they?

Why, some of the Rabbinical traditions about the Oral Law went back to Moses himself!

No wonder Paul felt free to change what was passed on, adding new bits about how some people had died, etc.

'Paul uses this same terminology to intorduce his narrative of the institution of the eucharist at the last supper'

None of the Gospels use the same wording, except for some manuscripts of Luke, where probably the copyist harmonized it to Paul.

And, of course, Paul was totally unable to find one single piece of eyewitness testimony as to what a resurrected body was like, although it is alleged that his Lord and Saviour had taught on that very subject!

John W. Loftus said...

To see Gary Habermas argue his case he directed me to his "Lecture at UNC Chapel Hill - April 11, 2007" to be found here.

Vinny said...

Phillip M,

Just before describing his visit to Jerusalem, Paul makes it absolutely clear that he did not receive the gospel from Peter: “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. “I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” Gal 1:11-12. I am always amused by the way Habermas bootstraps Paul’s use of the word histerio to argue that Paul received something from Peter without ever mentioning that Paul expressly denied that very thing six verses earlier.

I cannot help but wonder whether Paul’s preaching during those first three years was based on what he had learned from the Christians he was persecuting. For all we know, 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, is a mishmash of stories that Paul got from informants and torture victims who would have told him any crazy story to save themselves. “No. No. No. I’m not a Christian, but my next door neighbor is and he says that Jesus appeared to 500 people!” By the time Paul finally made it to Jerusalem, he had been enjoying great success preaching this message for three years. Given Paul’s intensity, education, and reputation for violence, I doubt that Peter was going to tell Paul that he had gotten things wrong.

Burnett,

Actually Price does not affirm 1 Corinthians 15:3-11. See Apocryphal Apparitions 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 As a Post-Pauline Interpolation in The Emprty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

Vinny said...

John,

I have watched most of that lecture.

philip m said...

Vinny: Just before describing his visit to Jerusalem, Paul makes it absolutely clear that he did not receive the gospel from Peter.

The claim is not that Paul got the gospel from Peter, rather the claim is that Paul got the material of the resurrection appearances from Peter. Therefore it is not expressly denied that Paul got anything from Peter (who's reading into the text now?) simply that Paul already had the gospel.

For all we know, 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, is a mishmash of stories that Paul got from informants and torture victims who would have told him any crazy story to save themselves.

No, that's ridiculous, Paul is writing to the Corinthians a good 20+ years after his conversion experience. He has been in the Apostolic community long enough to know the story, whether he got it from Peter in Jerusalem or not.


Given Paul’s intensity, education, and reputation for violence, I doubt that Peter was going to tell Paul that he had gotten things wrong.

Seriously? You will point out the fact that the text never mentions Peter giving the creedal formula to Paul to cast doubt on the point, but then you will infer what Peter's demeanor was, which is arrantly more absent from the text? Get your methodology straight. If we are working with probabilities based on background knowledge, then Peter and Paul were both men entrusted with the gospel, Peter to go to the Jews, Paul to the gentiles. They are spending time together, it's the induction of Paul into the Apostolic community, Paul's primary mission is to share the good news with the whole gentile world .. and you think Peter lied because he was scared? Granting that Peter did lie, Paul would still get the information somehow, whether it be from James or John. But there's no evidence Peter was scared, and in fact there's good evidence he wasn't, since Paul was a genuine convert, and all the churches in Judea were convinced by a single report that he had become a defender of the gospel. Even if there was initial skepticism on Peter's part, they were together for more than two weeks, and eventually they are dicussing things at council meetings, and Peter is affirming the content of Paul's letters in a letter of his own.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Vinny,

So far as Robert Price is concerned I only MEANT to say that he affirms the Pauline writing of both Galations and 1 Cor. (at a minimum) YOU ARE CORRECT that he believes that 1 Cor. 15:3-11 is an interpolation but that is something that he makes out of "whole cloth" he provides no literary evidence, historical evidence or any other evidence to support his conclusion of interpolation. In essence he bases his argument on how the passage would read without those verses which is hardly a scholarly technique when literature and certain passages are not otherwise challenged.

I have heard his 2 hour long debate with Habermas regarding this issue specifically and one thing that comes up is that he doesn't believe that 1 Cor. 11:23-25 was an interpolation which as I said uses the same type of language to support a tradition and information that has been handed down from one generation to the next.

So far as your other assertion about Paul you said this:

"I cannot help but wonder whether Paul’s preaching during those first three years was based on what he had learned from the Christians he was persecuting."

I am a firm believer, as I've stated, that Paul would have known certain details of Christianity from individuals that he persecuted simply because of the fact that he had to identify them both by demeanor and belief system when they were questioned.

This is not unusual as we find the same true of Pliny The Younger, and we know his testimony of the questions he asked to determine what the Christians believed and affirmed.

For us to assume that Paul was totally dumbfounded is absurd, in addition Paul lays his soteriology directly at the feet of the OT and sounds like a straight Pharisee many times in his epistles...so yes, he already knew some things but other things were both revealed and learned through human agency and a supernatural God.

This is a good discourse in this thread and I appreciate you guys's courtesy and sticking to the arguments at hand...very good!

brian_g said...

Vinny said
John, John, John . . . . I am so disappointed.

Assuming for the sake of argument that these are “agreed upon facts,” how can it possibly be that they the only facts that need to be explained by the theory? For example we know from the Mormons that a religion can grow and spread quickly with its adherents willingly accepting great risks despite the fact there is no evidential basis whatsoever for its founders claims. If we include this known fact about how religions grow and spread, doesn’t the need for a miracle to explain the behavior of early Christians change dramatically? Similarly, we know from the dancing sun miracle at Fatima that huge crowds have either reported or been reported as sharing the same visionary experience. If we include this known fact, doesn’t that undercut the need for a supernatural explanation for the resurrection appearances described in the gospels?


As far as I'm aware, the witnesses to Mormonism only claimed to have seen "gold colored plates with unknown markings on them." This is hardly something that requires the miraculous.

As for Fatima, how can you be certain that this wasn't caused by God? Your using it as a counter example of how people can have common visionary experience. This would only be relevant if you had some additional evidence that this was not miraculous.



I am not a student of historical methodology, but I am willing to bet that there is no precedent for cherry picking a subset of facts and proclaiming that the best theory is the one that explains those facts to the exclusion of all others even if there is some sort of general agreement on that subset.



I don't think your understanding the "minimal facts" argument. The point is not to use it as a means of eliminating facts that count against the resurrection, but to eliminate facts that support the resurrection. The point is to build a case on only the most well supported evidence. It does not mean Habermas gets to throw out evidence against the resurrection a priori. His books spends a good deal of time responding to counter arguments against the resurrection.

The minimal facts approach eliminates evidence which could support the resurrection. For example, the longer ending of Mark (16:9 and following) is generally not considered authentic by scholars. So the minimal facts approach would set these verses aside. However, if one accepted the authenticity of those verses, we would have additional evidence for the resurrection appearances. Setting these verses aside is not cherry picking only the good evidence and ignoring the bad, it is trying to be careful not to make the evidence bare more weight then it can.

kiwi said...

You're missing the point. The less data you consider, the easier it is to reach a conclusion X. Of course his approach does mean excluding some evidence supporting the resurrection, but so what?

There is no serious discipline where you pick minimal facts to reach a conclusion. This is certainly not a scholarly approach, but another trick in the Christian apologetics hat. A trick with the sole purpose of reaching a predetermined conclusion. This is no better than the trilemna, and the other sophistry apologists are good to come up with.

When history is concerned, all the relevant available data must be considered, and from there historians try to reconstruct what happened. Habermas and Craig approach is a fraud. The fact that only apologists take that road shoudl tell you something.

Steven Carr said...

Habermas , of course, throws aways facts such as Paul being unable to provide one single detail of eyewitness testimony as to what a resurrected body was like.

Habermas throws away the fact that not one person said James was converted by a resurrection appearance.

Habermas throws away the fact that not one person claimed A) James was a sceptic and B) James converted.

Habermas throws away the fact that early Christian converts scoffed at the idea that their god would choose to raise the dead.

How is his approach different from people whose 'minimal facts' are a couple of videos of 9/11 and certain eyewitness statements?

Incidentally, how does a resurrection 'explain' Habermas 'fact' that Jesus was buried?

Backwards causation?

Steven Carr said...

BRIAN
As far as I'm aware, the witnesses to Mormonism only claimed to have seen "gold colored plates with unknown markings on them."

CARR
Sorry, Brian, but you are not allowed to use that fact.

We are using Habermas 'minimal facts' approach, which says that it is a fact that people claimed to have seen the Golden Plates,that Joseph Smith claimed to have existed.

It is a fact, undisputed by Christians, that Joseph Whitmer had inscribed on his tombstone his testimony to his beliefs in the Book of Mormon.

You are not allowed to introduce other facts, such as the markings being unknown to them, and unverified to them.

After all, Christians do not have double standards.

They cannot have a 'minimal facts' approach in one case, and then insist that ALL the facts are considered in another.

No Christian would use such double-standards.....

Steven Carr said...

Sorry, that should be David Whitmer.

Can you imagine just how loudly Habermas would trumpet a fact that Paul had his testimony inscribed on his tombstone, if that had only happened?

Can you begin to comprehend how many videos Habermas would make if he was a Mormon, and he used the 'minimal facts' that Mormons could make if they descended to the 'minimal facts' approach?

Vinny said...

One of goals of the “minimal facts” approach is to bypass an evaluation of the evidence.

Here are two “widely accepted” facts:

(1) Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address.

(2) Plato wrote The Timaeus

In support of the first fact, we can fix the day and time that the Address was made public. We can trace Lincoln’s movements in the preceding days. We have reports from contemporaries who saw him working on it or who discussed it with him. We have drafts of it Lincoln’s own hand.

Regarding the second fact, we have little more than tradition. We have no evidence that would enable us to eliminate with any certainty the possibility that The Timaeus was written by one of Plato’s students or some anonymous author living in another city who simply attached Plato’s name to his work or anyone of a number of other people. The second fact is widely accepted not because it is well established by the evidence, but because the little evidence we have seems to point in that direction.

Habermas’ approach sidesteps the fact his “facts” are based precious little evidence no matter how widely accepted they are.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Kiwi~ "You're missing the point. The less data you consider, the easier it is to reach a conclusion X. Of course his approach does mean excluding some evidence supporting the resurrection, but so what?"

Fellas, I won't draw this out any longer because I think adequate points have all been made regardin this approach. The thing that must be kept in mind is that the Atheist has said that certain things are not plausible. Minimal facts simply grants the atheist THEIR wish...aquiest for the sake of argument and argue on based on common ground...there's no deceit...in fact the atheist is the HOME TEAM...you get the ball first and last and set the rules...even when MINIMAL facts that you don't try to explain away are considered there is enough left to adequately make the case for the resurrection. The facts left out DON'T take away from anything that was established using minimal facts...in fact the case is even made stronger once those points are argued in addition to what you, Carrier, Price, Ehrman, Crossan, and the wholse host agree upon.

So don't cry because you loose at your own game...you're the one that wants to minimize the facts and circumstances and only grant that a portion of the narrative is plausible...as soon as you grant whatever portion you're overwhelmed with the argument and you case looks horrible.

It doesn't matter what Paul described. doesn't even matter what he had for dinner...since we can't agre then FORGET THOSE things. IF you agree that Paul wrote it which MOST even radical scholars do (after having examined the evidence from a clinical and schoilarly view) then it is encumbent upon THEM (you) to explain how these things could be since you agree that they are to begin with...As a Christian we're already confident of the argument even with all facts considered, but we just give you the courtesy as to not overstate the case...

Look, that's how I se it...I've seen and heard smart atheists debate against it with the same frustration I read here and in every case minimal facts (THE FACT YOU AND YOUR BEST SCHOLARS AGREE TO) is enough to affirm the resurrection account.

As I said. It doesn't make one a believer either way, but it sure changes the basis upon which one disbelieves...Now that's the truth RUTH!

Later fellas...I'll catch ya in another thread!

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

By the way, I'm sorry i can't type...Thanks.

Steven Carr said...

Minimal facts, not all the facts.

It is a fact that no document signed or dictated by Hitler said to liqudate Jews in Europe in death camps.

It is a fact that 'Gas chamber 1' Auschwitz was an air raid shelter in 1944 and the building seen today dates largely from 1948.

These are undisputed facts. Even Wikipedia agrees these are facts, down to the building being an air-raid shelter in 1944.

Now using Habermas 'minimal facts' methodology, how can we best explain these undisputed facts?

Remember, we are only allowed to use these minimal facts, which nobody denies.



Why is it that Habermas's technique of cherry-picking allegedly 'undisputed minimal facts' is so close to the techniques used by Holocaust deniers?

kiwi said...

Harvey, you do not answer the points that have been made. It would be a waste of time to continue the discussion.

Anyway it's worth mentionning again that just because radical scholars, atheist scholars and 95% of people share an opinion on something, it does not make it a "fact". A fact is something that is established as true, not a shared opinion by scholars. Are Habermas "facts" all really facts?

If 95% of scientists would share the opinion that God doesn't exist, it wouldn't mean that it is a fact that God does not exist.

John W. Loftus said...

Steve said...Minimal facts, not all the facts.

You're making sense to me, Steve. There are agreed upon facts from both sides (A); then there are so-called facts skeptics accept that Christians deny (B); and then there are so-called facts Christians accept that skeptics deny (C).

Who is to say that if we just look at the facts in category A that we might be led to the wrong conclusion?

Who sets the standard for what is considered in category A? If one side or the other disputes something then it can no longer be placed in category A. So if we went only by the facts agreed upon in category A one side or the other can stack the deck in their favor by simply denying a fact, thereby placing that claim in category B or C and thereby outside the discussion, if we merely consider the facts in category A.

For instance, I believe it's a well established fact that we should interpret the past by the present and in the present no one has ever seen a resurrection of a body like it's claimed about Jesus. That should be a fact that both sides agree on but Christians deny this, so because they do it's placed outside the limits of discussion into category B. The present lack of miracles is no simply not a fact to them.

What we need is a way to agree not only on that which we call facts, A, but we need to agree on the so-called facts that can be excluded from the discussion in categories B and C. If both sides can agree to THAT then Habermas can go ahead and make his case. If not, then not.

Vinny said...

John,

"Widely accepted" does not equal "well-established."

John W. Loftus said...

Yes Vinny, that!

Eric said...

"Why is it that Habermas's technique of cherry-picking allegedly 'undisputed minimal facts' is so close to the techniques used by Holocaust deniers?"

This is absolutely ridiculous.

First, Habermas doesn't 'cherry-pick' the facts. Cherry-picking involves taking only the facts that support your position, while ignoring the rest; the criterion, in other words, is 'what supports my position.' What Habermas does, however, is to take only those facts that *even skeptical scholars will grant are facts* and proceed *from there* -- from the ground on which the skeptics stand -- to make the case that *even on these limited, widely accepted grounds*, the best explanation is that Jesus rose from the dead. Now, you can of course disagree with his interpretation of the data, but you can't claim he's cherry-picking the data *if he deliberately precludes data that conservative scholars accept (and that would obviously support his position)* if skeptical scholars reject them. In other words, your definition of 'cherry picking' must be 'accepting only the premises that those who disagree with you accept.' That's not exactly what the phrase means, you know.

Second, as far as Holocaust deniers go, an analogous case would be to take the facts that Holocaust deniers accept, *and use only those facts alone to make the case that the Holocaust **did** happen*.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Eric,

This is the first time I've ever seen atheists cry that Christianity hadn't submitted enough facts for them to argue.

Atheists are loosing even with minimal facts but these guys still want more--(LOL-LOL-LOL!)

I'd like to see any of them argue with Robert Price over why he accepts what he does...that would be interesting. I guess to an atheist that would be like arguing with God???

Totally hillarious.

Vinny said...

First, Habermas doesn't 'cherry-pick' the facts. Cherry-picking involves taking only the facts that support your position, while ignoring the rest; the criterion, in other words, is 'what supports my position.'

What facts does Habermas acknowledge that don't support his position? None. Ergo cherry picking.

Eric said...

"What facts does Habermas acknowledge that don't support his position? None. Ergo cherry picking."

No, that doesn't follow at all. You've taken a necessary condition of cherry-picking -- using only those facts that support your position -- for a sufficient condition. To cherry-pick is to accept only those facts that support your position *because* they support your position. For example, if Habermas had reached, through a random process (picking blindly from a hat, etc.), ten facts, all of which supported his position, we wouldn't accuse him of 'cherry-picking,' since *he* wouldn't have *consciously* chosen only those facts that supported his position. (Also -- it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway -- if one's position is correct, then of course the facts will support one's position.) Again, the criterion is the facts that nearly all scholars -- which necessarily includes liberal, skeptical scholars -- accept. To show that Habermas is cherry-picking, you'd have to show that he's ignoring or denying a fact about Jesus (note, a fact, not an interpretation of a fact -- at least to the extent that we can keep the two separate) that nearly all scholars accept. Do you have an example?

kiwi said...

Why does Burnett keeps repeating the same thing over and over again while ignoring all the points people have made so far? Once again we have the confirmation trying to dialogue with a Christian is liking banging your head on a wall.

And why doesn't he know how to spell "lose", or "losing"?

kiwi said...

Let's take a look at the "minimal facts, maximum crap" approach of Habermas.

1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.
2. He was buried, most likely in a private tomb.
3. Soon afterward, the disciples were discouraged, bereaved, and despondent, having lost hope.
4. Jesus’s tomb was found empty very soon after his interment.
5. The disciples had experiences that they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.
6. Due to these experiences, the disciples’ lives were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief.
7. The proclamation of the resurrection took place very early, at the beginning of church history.
8. The disciples’ public testimony and preaching of the resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before.
9. The Gospel message centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus.
10. Sunday was the primary day for gathering and worshipping.
11. James, the brother of Jesus and a former skeptic, was converted when, he believed, he saw the risen Jesus.
12. Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) became a Christian believer due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Who can seriously say, without laughing, that those 12 points are events that have been established as true (ie, all facts)?

I'm not even going to mention that taking a small subset of "facts" to reach a conclusion is not a scholarly approach. No serious historian does that. Ever. However, that's what crackpots do. All the time.

District Supt. Harvey Burnett said...

Kiwi~ "Who can seriously say, without laughing, that those 12 points are events that have been established as true (ie, all facts)?"

How about the MOST critical scholars in the atheist, agnostic and skeptical camp such as Leudemann, and a host of others who have examined the evidence and are generally trained to look at the evidence and come to certain conclusions and on "good days" happen to understand that truth is better than a presuppostional bias such as yours. That's who...

By the way that was a good one about loosing or shall I spell it losing...(LOL) I almost fell out of my seat on that one.

FYI~I keep repeating because you and others keep saying the same stuff as if you can't read because your questions have ALREADY been answered...Now I'm satisfied that you can.

Good job

PhilipK said...

"Disciples thought Jesus was resurrected" =/= "Jesus was resurrected."

I've never understood why Christians, especially apologists, can't seem to get that.

Steven Carr said...

Eric still does not say why Habermas ignores the fact that Christian converts scoffed at the whole idea of their god choosing to raise corpses.

Or why Paul was unable to produce a single bit of eyewitness testimony as to what a resurrected body was like, even though his Lord and Saviour was alleged to have spoken on that very subject.

Steven Carr said...

When were more than 500 Christian brethren together at one location?

Were they having an apologetics conference?

According to Habermas 'facts', the disciples were beaten and despondent after the crucifixion.

And they did not start converting people until after Jesus had ascended into the sky.

So when and why did these 500+ Christians gather together for Jesus to make a flesh and blood appearance to them?

AdamH said...

Bill Craig's response to you shows what kind of man he is, even though you call him your friend at at the same time call him delusional and a liar...which in itself shows what kind of man you are.

But do I believe you just happened to sit next to him?

Not for one darn minute, sport!

Anthony said...

AdamH, what in the world is your problem, dude, get a life or something. A) John can still have a friendly relationship with someone, and even call them a friend and still see that friend's beliefs as wrong and even delusional. I haven't seen John call Bill a liar, can you substantiate your statement? And if you do find such a statement, what is its context? B) Why is it that difficult to believe that John sat next to Bill? Is your whole existence here to dispute anything that John has to say?

kiwi said...

"How about the MOST critical scholars in the atheist, agnostic and skeptical camp such as Leudemann, and a host of others who have examined the evidence and are generally trained to look at the evidence and come to certain conclusions and on "good days" happen to understand that truth is better than a presuppostional bias such as yours. That's who..."

The problem is that you think that because critical scholars have an opinion X on something, then X must be a fact. It is nonsense.

When ancient history is concerned, there is always a great deal of speculation; Vinny explained it already. Sometimes scholars consider something as a "fact" simply because the tiny evidence point in that favor. Or they simply presuppose that it's true, because it makes more when looking at the big picture to think so. In any case, it's certainly not always because the evidence is overwhelming.

Confident Christianity said...

AdamH,

In response to your insinuation about John 'just happening to sit by Bill Craig,' I would say that it doesn't really matter either way. I was there and watched everything unfold. John simply chose a seat near the front/middle. Did he choose it to 'get noticed?' What would be the purpose? There were about 35 people in this presentation. It wouldn't have mattered where John sat; it was simple to look around and see who was there. I had never met John in person before that moment and knew exactly who he was (facebook). Bill Craig would have noticed at some point.

Also, Gary Habermas, Richard Howe, Rob Bowman, Jr. and others would have spotted John too. These men sat behind John. Of the paper presentations I have attended, it is natural to look around and figure who is in attendance.

The bottom line here is, John and Darrin went out of their way to seek truth and seek the best arguments from the Christian representatives in their respective fields. That should say enough about their integrity.........unless I am totally off base and have missed something obvious in their actions or words.

Roger Sharp
Confident Christianity

John W. Loftus said...

Thanks Roger. I never said Dr. Craig lied about anything at all. I did say that a few Christians have lied for Jesus but I never said Dr. Craig was one of them. He isn't one of them.

AdamH is basically a troll who repeats this unsubstantiated accusation several times a month. From what I see HE is a liar for Jesus. He can prove me wrong by merely documenting where I said such a thing, or he can apologize and never repeat such a thing again.

Then AdamH needs to explain to us why the truth needs to be bolstered by such a lie? THAT doesn't make sense.

Cheers.

Traveler said...

Please forgive my lack of intelligence, but golly. All of this sure has my head spinning. After wading through this entire dialogue, I can't help but wonder why in the world the Christian "God" makes it so hard for people to believe in him? I mean, it always seems like apologists are coming up with new and more clever ways to "prove" the existence of God.

I'm immediately reminded of two points that John raised in his latest book:

1. God has chosen some very poor mediums to convince skeptics and freethinkers that he exists and that Christianity is true.
2. John's wife had an excellent point: "If God exists, then why doesn't he show me?" Why in the world does it take so much clever philosophical debate about history (very poor medium to base an eternal choice on) to convince unbelievers of God's existence? (and no, His existence is NOT obvious).

Why is my eternity based on my adherence to a set of claims and teachings that derive from such poor mediums?

-Traveler-

ismellarat said...

I'm glad I read this thread through until the end. I'd been wondering about a point similar to Traveler's for most of my life:

1. If EVERYONE supposedly knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible is true in every detail, and will be judged merely on whether or not they've accepted or rejected its God - by what means can they have been said to have come across this knowledge? I can think of almost no knowledge in this direction that every single person has in common - let alone anything remotely as comprehensive as that that would be required to make such a determination. I certainly don't have it, since I still have much to learn.

2. If we do indeed know less than what would be required to say the Bible is true in every detail, wouldn't that concede the point that John has made so well - that there IS such a thing as an honest doubter?

It seems we're all agnostics here, so what's with all the "I know this is true, and so can you, if you'll just read this simple tract (which really can't teach you anything, but rather will simply remind you of what you already know, or whatever...)"

The average person won't read one non-school related non-fiction book in their entire lifetime. Yet I'm to believe that millions of such people know enough about their faith to determine that it's valid.

Amazing.

tyaddow said...

I'm looking forward to hearing more about this particular conference, especially a good dose of critique. In my experience there is no shortage of good conversation and kindness at these events, as well as confirmation bias and credulity. I attended a similar conference in Charlotte, which I recollect here:

http://fruitsofdoubt.wordpress.com/

Steven Carr said...

I see that nobody managed to come up with any New Religious Movement that ever had a formal creed within 5 months of foundation.

unkle e said...

John, I'm a little late to comment on your report, but I want to thank you for it. It was very pleasing to read for two reasons.

1. Your open-hearted attitude to the christians at the conference, and your generous assessment of people like Craig, Habermas, Murray & Ganssle. So many of the more militant atheists are unwilling to recognise any virtue in their opponents, whereas, like you (I presume), I believe we should recognise our common humanity and our, and as much as possible treat each other as fellows on the journey rather than enemies.

2. As a christian, I am relieved, though not surprised, that the christians behaved similarly open-heartedly towards you. Too many don't, although I think they move in different circles to such conferences!

Best wishes.