MR. FRANK ZINDLER’S INTRODUCTION (ROB SHERMAN): Well, good evening. I’m a civil rights activist. My expertise is in articulating the civil rights concerns of the atheist community. Frank Zindler is a scholar. His expertise is in articulating the concepts of atheism and the circumstances surrounding the development of your Bible. Frank will make a presentation on how the evidence reflects upon atheism vs. Christianity. I will follow Frank’s presentation by relating that evidence to my civil rights activity.
Your Bible is the testimony of a number of people in support of the proposition that there is a God. Christians accept the credibility of that testimony. Atheists reject the credibility of that testimony. Tonight, Frank Zindler will explain to you why atheists reject your Bible’s credibility and why atheists are convinced that God is make-believe.
Frank is a former professor of geology and biology and for the last ten years has worked as a linguist and editor for a scientific publisher in Columbus, Ohio. An atheist spokesman like me, Frank has appeared on over 300 radio talk shows to defend atheism and on almost as many national TV shows as I have. The one time that Frank and I appeared together on national television was on the Morton Downey Jr. Show.
I wish to thank Willow Creek Community Church and Moody Bible Radio Network for providing this opportunity to debunk the mythology, which is your Bible, and demonstrate that atheism is the philosophy that makes sense. Here to make the presentation on behalf of atheism is my friend from Columbus, Ohio, Frank Zindler.
DR. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG’S INTRODUCTION (MARK MITTELBERG): It is my privilege tonight to introduce the man we’ve chosen to present the evidence for the Christian position. Although he is a native of Illinois, Dr. William Lane Craig has lived for the last seven years with his wife and two children in Belgium where he is a visiting scholar at the University of Louvain. Dr. Craig earned the Doctorate of Philosophy at the University of Birmingham, England under the direction of the eminent philosopher, John Hick. He then earned his second doctorate, this one in theology, at the University of Münich in Germany under Wolfhart Pannenberg. During this time he received a fellowship from the German government for two years to study the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.
Dr. Craig is a member of a number of professional societies including The American Philosophical Association, The Society of Christian Philosophers, and Science and Religion Forum. Dr. Craig has published a dozen books and numerous articles on both the scholarly and popular level including these titles: The Cosmological Argument from Plato to Leibniz, Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus, and his most recent book is being coauthored with an atheist philosopher named Quentin Smith, and that book is called Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology.
I knew it was truly a privilege for us to have Dr. Craig with us when I heard earlier this week that Dr. Dallas Willard, a professor at, and former head of, The School of Philosophy at the University of Southern California say that in his opinion William Lane Craig is “at the top ranks of philosophers, Christian or non-Christian.” Will you join me now in welcoming Dr. William Lane Craig?
MODERATOR (LEE STROBEL): Welcome to both sides, Frank Zindler and Bill Craig, glad you could both be here tonight. As we get started I want to indicate to you something about the timing that we’re going to be doing while they’re talking. In other words, these are going to be timed segments that they’re going to have in order to communicate their case to you. The first timed segment is 20 minutes, and during that time they’ll have their opportunity to build their basic case as they try to convince you that the evidence points either toward atheism or toward Christianity. A word about the time. Both of these men are very passionate about what they believe. They’re very enthusiastic about the evidence they want to share with you tonight. So if they go over the time limit it’s not anything to hold against them. It’s just a product of their enthusiasm for what they’re doing. So, I hope you won’t hold it against them but I hope you won’t hold it against me either when I step in and encourage them to wrap up.
Please, now, as we begin this first twenty-minute segment, really engage your minds. Give special attention because you’re going to be asked in the end to decide which side you believed presented the most compelling evidence. Keep in mind the rhetoric is not important. The style of delivery is not important. But the evidence that’s going to be presented tonight is very important. So, please give your attention first to Dr. William Lane Craig.
WILLIAM CRAIG’S OPENING SPEECH
Good evening! In tonight’s debate we’ve been asked to assess the question where the evidence points: To atheism or to Christianity? Now, before we can answer that question we need to have some idea of what we’re talking about. So, let me begin by defining some terms.
First, by Christianity I mean the view that God exists and has revealed himself decisively in Jesus Christ. We’re not being called upon to debate fine points of doctrine, which Christians themselves differ on, like “Is the Bible inerrant?” or “Did God use evolution to create living things?” These are of secondary importance in comparison with the fundamental truth that God exists and has decisively revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ.
Secondly, by atheism I mean the view that God does not exist. On the atheist view, there is no such being or person as God.
Now, the question before us tonight is: when you weigh the evidence for atheism against the evidence for Christianity, which way on balance does the evidence point? In support of a Christian answer to that question I’m going to defend two basic contentions in tonight’s debate. 1) There’s no good evidence that atheism is true. 2) There is good evidence that Christianity is true.
Let’s look then at my first basic contention: there’s no good evidence that atheism is true. The claim that God does not exist is just as much a claim to know something, as is the claim that God does exist. Therefore, if Mr. Zindler is to maintain that the evidence points toward atheism he’s got to do more than just say there’s not good evidence for God’s existence. He must present evidence against God’s existence. He’s therefore simply mistaken when he says in the Tribune that “atheism makes no claims” and so it has nothing to defend. Atheist philosophers have tried for centuries to disprove the existence of God. But no one’s been able to come up with a convincing argument. So, rather than to attack straw men at this point I’ll wait for Mr. Zindler’s response to the following question: “What is the evidence that atheism is true?”
Let’s go on to my second basic contention: there is good evidence that Christianity is true. Here I’d like to present five lines of evidence, which render the Christian faith highly probably in contrast to atheism.
Number 1: The evidence points to a Creator of the universe.
Have you ever asked yourself where the universe came from? Why does anything at all exist instead of just nothing? Typically, atheists have said that the universe is eternal and that’s all. But surely this is unreasonable. Just think about it for a minute. If the universe never had a beginning that means that the number of past events in the history of the universe is infinite, but mathematicians known that an actually infinite number of things leads to self-contradictions.
For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically you get self-contradictory answers. That shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind and not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert, perhaps the greatest mathematicians of this century states,
The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought. The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.
But that entails that since past events are not just ideas but are real, the number of past events must be finite. Therefore, the series of past events can’t just go back and back forever. Rather, the universe must have begun to exist.
This conclusion has been confirmed by remarkable discoveries in astronomy and astrophysics. The astrophysical evidence indicates that the universe began to exist in a great explosion called the big bang about 15 billion years ago. Physical space and time were created in that event, as well as all the matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, as the Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle points out, “The big bang theory requires the creation of the universe from nothing.” This is because as you go back in time you reach a point at which, in Hoyle’s words, “The universe was shrunk down to nothing at all.” Thus, what the big bang model requires is that the universe began to exist and was created out of nothing.
Now, this tends to be very awkward for the atheist. Quentin Smith, an atheist philosopher, writes,
The response of atheists and agnostics to this development has been comparatively weak, indeed, almost invisible. An uncomfortable silence seems to be the rule when the issue arises among nonbelievers . . . . The reason for the apparent embarrassment of nontheists is not hard to find. Anthony Kenny suggests it in this statement: ‘A proponent of [the Big Bang] theory, at least if he is an atheist, must believe that the matter of the universe came from nothing and by nothing.’ 
But that’s a pretty hard pill to swallow. Out of nothing, nothing comes. So, why does the universe exist instead of just nothing? Where did it come from? There must have been a cause, which brought the universe into being. From the very nature of the case this cause must be an uncaused, changeless, timeless, and immaterial being which created the universe.
Isn’t it incredible that the big bang theory thus points to exactly what the Christian has always believed? That in the beginning God created the universe. Now, I put it to you, which is more plausible: that the Christian is right or that the universe just popped into being uncaused out of nothing? I, at least, don’t have any problem assessing these probabilities.
Number 2: The evidence points to an intelligent Designer of the cosmos.
During the last 25 years scientists have discovered that the existence of intelligent life depends upon an incredibly delicate and complex balance of initial conditions simply given in the big bang itself. We now know that life-prohibiting universes are vastly more probable than our life-permitting universe. How much more probable? Well, before I give you an estimation let me share with you some numbers just to give you a feel for the odds. The number seconds in the history of the universe is around 1018! The number of sub-atomic particles in the entire universe is said to be about 1080 power! Now, with those numbers in mind, consider the following.
Donald Page, one of America’s eminent cosmologists, has calculated the odds of our universe existing as 1 out 10 billion to the 124th power. A number which is so inconceivable that to call it astronomical would be a wild understatement. Robert Jastrow, the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has called this the most powerful evidence for the existence of God ever to come out of science.
Once again, the view that Christians have always held, that there is an intelligent designer of the universe, seems much more plausible than the atheistic interpretation of chance.
Number 3: The evidence points to God as the source of objective moral values.
If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist. Many theists and atheists alike concur on this point. For example, the late J. L. Mackie of Oxford University, one of the most influential atheists of our time, admitted, “If . . . there are . . . objective values, they make the existence of a god more probable than it would have been without them. Thus we have . . . a defensible argument from morality to the existence of a god.” But in order to avoid God’s existence, Mackie therefore denied that objective moral values exist. He wrote, “It is easy to explain this moral sense as a natural product of biological and social evolution.”
Professor Michael Ruse, a philosopher of science at the University of Guelph, agrees. He writes,
Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth . . . . Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate that when somebody says ‘Love they neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves . . . . Nevertheless, . . . such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory. . . .
Friedrich Nietzsche, the great atheist of the last century who proclaimed the death of God, understood that the death of God meant the destruction of all meaning and value in life. I think that Friedrich Nietzsche was right, but we have got to be very careful here. The question here is not must we believe in God in order to live moral lives? I’m not claiming that we must. Nor is the question, “Can’t we recognize objective moral values without believing in God?” I think that we can. Rather, the question is, “If God does not exist, do objective moral values exist?” Like Mackie and Ruse, I don’t see any reason to think that in the absence of God, the morality evolved by Homo sapiens is objective, and here Mr. Zindler would agree with me. After all, if there’s no God then what’s so special about human beings? They’re just accidental byproducts of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust called planet Earth, lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe, and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time.
On the atheist view some actions, say, rape, may not be socially advantageous and so has become taboo but that does absolutely nothing to prove that rape is really wrong. On the atheistic view, if you can escape the social consequences there’s nothing really wrong with your raping someone. Thus, without God there is no absolute right and wrong which imposes itself on our conscience.
But the fact is that objective moral values do exist and we all know it. There is no more reason to deny the objective existence of moral values than to deny the objective reality of the physical world. Actions like rape, brutality, torture, and child abuse aren’t just socially unacceptable behavior. They’re moral abominations. Some things are really wrong. Similarly, love, equality, generosity, and self-sacrifice are really good. But if objective values cannot exist without God and objective values do exist, then it follows logically and inescapably that God exists.
Number 4: The evidence points to God’s decisively revealing himself in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
The historical person Jesus of Nazareth was a remarkable individual. Although Mr. Zindler takes the peculiar position that Jesus never existed, New Testament critics have reached something of a consensus that the historical Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene with an unprecedented sense of divine authority—the authority to stand and speak in God’s place. That’s why the Jewish leadership instigated his crucifixion for the charge of blasphemy. He claimed that in himself the Kingdom of God had come and as visible demonstrations of this fact he carried out a ministry of miracles and exorcism. But certainly the supreme vindication of his claim was his resurrection from the dead. If Jesus really did rise from the dead then it would seem that we have a divine miracle on our hands and thus evidence for God’s self-revelation in Jesus.
There are three main historical facts that support the resurrection of Jesus: his empty tomb, Jesus’ appearances alive after his death, and the very origin of the Christian faith. Let’s look briefly at each one of these.
First, the evidence indicates that Jesus’ tomb was found empty by a group of his women followers on Sunday morning. According to Jacob Kramer, an Austrian scholar who has specialized in the study of the resurrection, “By far, most scholars hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.” And he lists twenty-eight prominent scholars in support. I could think of at least sixteen more that he neglected to mention. According to New Testament critic, D. H. Van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.
Second, the evidence indicates that on separate occasions different individuals and groups saw apparences of Jesus alive after his death. According to the late Norman Perrin of the University of Chicago, “The more we investigate the traditions with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based.” These appearances were bodily and physical and were witnessed not only by believers but also by skeptics, unbelievers, and even enemies.
Third, the very origin of the Christian faith implies the reality of the resurrection. We all know that Christianity sprang into being in the middle of the first century. Where did it come from? Why did arise? Well, all scholars agree it came into being because the disciples believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and they proclaimed this message everywhere that they went. But where in the world did they come up with that belief?
If you deny that Jesus really did rise from the dead then you’ve got to explain the disciples’ belief in terms of either Christian influences or Jewish influences. Now, obviously it couldn’t have come from Christian influences for the simple reason that there wasn’t any Christianity yet. But neither can it be explained from the side of Jewish influences because the Jewish concept of resurrection was radically different from Jesus’ resurrection. As a renowned New Testament Scholar Joachim Jeremias puts it, “Nowhere does one find in the literature [of ancient Judaism] anything comparable to the resurrection of Jesus.” The most plausible explanation of the origin of the disciples’ belief therefore is that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
Attempts to explain away these three great facts like, “The disciples stole the body,” or “Jesus wasn’t really dead” have been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship. The fact is there just is no plausible naturalistic explanation of these facts. Therefore, it seems to me the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be.
Number 6: God can be immediately known and experienced.
This isn’t really an argument for God’s existence; rather, it’s the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by experiencing him. This was the way in which people in the Bible knew God, as Professor John Hick explains,
God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer given reality as inescapably to be reckoned with as a destructive storm and life-giving sunshine. . . They did not think of God as an inferred entity but as an experienced reality . . . . To them God was not . . . an idea adopted by the mind, but the experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.
Now, if this is so then there’s the danger that arguments for God could actually distract our attention from God himself. If you’re sincerely seeking God then God will make his existence evident to you. The Bible says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” We mustn’t so concentrate on the arguments that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own hearts.
In conclusion then, we’ve yet to see any evidence that atheism is true and we have seen five lines of evidence which suggest that Christianity is true. If Mr. Zindler wants us to believe atheism instead then he’s got to first tear down all of the evidence for Christianity which I’ve presented and then in its place erect a case of his own which is more convincing for the truth of atheism. Unless and until he does that then I think it’s pretty clear which way the evidence points.
 David Hilbert, "On the Infinite," in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Introduction by Paul Benacerraf and Hillary Putnam (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1964), pp. 139, 141.
 Fred Hoyle, Astronomy and Cosmology (San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1975), p. 658.
 Anthony Kenny, The Five Ways: St. Thomas Aquinas' Proofs of God's Existence (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), p. 66.
 Quentin Smith, “A Big Bang Cosmological Argument For God's Nonexistence,” Faith and Philosophy, April 1992 (Volume 9, No. 2), pp. 217-18.
 Page's estimation is to be found in L. Stafford Betty and Bruce Cordell, “God and Modern Science: New Life for the Teleological Argument,” International Philosophical Quarterly 27 (1987): p. 416. In fact, as Page explained to me (Dr. Craig) in personal conversation, Betty and Cordell get the number too low, misinterpreting 1010(124) to mean (1010)124, when in fact Page calculated 10(10(124)), an incomprehensibly huge number.
 Robert Jastrow, “The Astronomer and God,” in The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, ed. Roy Abraham Varghese (Chicago: Regenery Gateway, 1984), p. 22.
 J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), pp. 115-6.
 Ibid., pp., 117-8.
 Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-9.
 Jacob Kremer, Die Osterevangelien--Geschichten um Geschichte (Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1977), pp. 49-50.
 D. H. Van Daalen, The Real Resurrection (London: Collins, 1972), p. 41.
 Norman Perrin, The Resurrection According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974), p. 80.
 Joachim Jeremias, “Die älteste Schicht der Osterüfiberlieferung,” in Resurrexit, ed. Edouard Dhanis (Rome: Editrice Libreria Vaticana, 1974), p. 194.
 John Hick, “Introduction,” in The Existence of God, A John Hick, Problems of Philosophy Series (New York: Macmillan Co., 1964), pp. 13-14.
 James 4:8
FRANK ZINDLER’S OPENING SPEECH
Hello, it’s nice to see so many people! This is a little bit larger than the atheist luncheon gatherings. It also occurred to me that the church forgot to take up a collection and I thought I’d have my wife go along. If you all could just give her a dollar, she’s got a big bag. [laughter]
Seriously, it’s very, very wonderful to be here and to have such a worthy opponent.
I must immediately disagree with my opponent, however, as to what atheism is. Atheism in the Greek word from which it derives is a condition being without-god, without-god belief. So an atheist is nothing more or less than a person who does not believe in God. As such, it asserts nothing and as such it need defend nothing.
In the presentation we just heard we heard some things are alleged to be evidences for Christianity. There’s one thing I’d like to comment on right now in my main speech (we can talk about it later in detail). You heard a rather impassioned argument that essentially if there is no God then all things are permitted. This, I’m afraid, is a fallacy of the informal type, the appeal to the ad hominem circumstantial species fallacy. Appealing to the special circumstances of the opponent or to the audience. It makes no attempt to prove what is being asserted but appeals to the special circumstance of the audience. In this case, the special circumstance that you, as I, are appalled at the idea of moral anarchy. Atheism makes no claims one way or the other concerning moral systems. Atheists, just like all of you and other people in the world, have to depend upon man-made systems of ethics. The difference is that atheists know that all ethical systems are made by human beings, whereas everyone else makes up these systems but then claims, “God told me so. God handed this to me on tablets of stone.” The fact of the matter is that we are all dependent upon human made systems of ethics, and we can talk more about that.
Where does the evidence point? Does the evidence point to Christianity? I submit that this is becoming more difficult all the time because Christianity is a shrinking target. It is becoming smaller and smaller. Despite the great variability of different types of Christianity we find – for example, the Christianity of Adolph Hitler who was a Catholic of a rather unusual variety, but he did claim he was doing God’s work. We have the Christianity of Jim Jones in Guyana, David Koresh recently who was in a sense Christianity incarnate, I guess. We have Mormonism, Christian Science, Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and a thousand Protestanisms. We have Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson, we have the snake handlers who claim to be Christians. They don’t know that the last twelve verses of the Gospel of Mark were a late addition, that they were not in the oldest editions, and I’m happy to see that my opponent agrees that those last twelve verses of Mark, which for the first time make mention of post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, are not authentic. We have people who follow the Pope, this is a form of Christianity, and they believe that not just the Bible is a source of truth but tradition is also a source of truth. Tradition has to tell you what the Bible means. We have predestinarians, people who think that we were predestined by birth to heaven or hell. We have those who go with faith versus works. And, of course, each one of these groups of Christians claims that all the others are counterfeits—all the others are wrong. Actually, what I’d like to do is just get all these groups of Christians up and just let them eliminate each other and I would have much less work to do.
As science has grown, Christianity has shrunken and many fundamental things in Christianity were obliterated centuries ago. Christianity hasn’t quite realized it—it’s sort of the walking dead, in my opinion. Let me give you some examples.
The development of astronomy: the biblical system of the universe collapsed. The Bible describes a three-story universe. Heaven is a solid sphere, or hemisphere that arches over the Earth. The raqiya (רקיע) in Hebrew, the firmamentum in Latin—the firmament in the King James Bible. There was water above there, that’s why the sky is blue, and somewhere above there was the abode of God and the angels. We are down here on this flat Earth. The Bible is definitely a flat Earth book. And below us in the sub-cellar is sheol or hell.
Now, with the development of telescopes and the discovery that the Earth goes around the sun and the Earth is a sphere some very important biblical ideas were shattered. Heaven, for example, which was a physical thing up there, heaven has gotten lost. Nobody knows where it is. It has moved outside the realm of space and time. It is in some other dimension I suppose. Like heaven, hell too has been displaced. It’s not longer down in the basement. It’s not at the Mohorovičić discontinuity. It’s not in the mantle. Nobody knows where the hell hell is.
Now as long as we had this three-story universe with a physical heavens to which the sun and the moon and the stars were attached, the magi could very easily follow a star, which was not many thousands of feet above them. They could follow the star to the birthplace of Jesus. But without the firmament and the stars many light-years away, the magi could not do that.
The ascension of Jesus, for example, in light of what we really have: that we are a planet flying through outer space. The ascension of Jesus is now as seen not to be a miracle but a simple absurdity. Jesus supposedly lifted off—the launching of the Lord. Where did he go? He was thought to be going up to heaven, which was just up there. But in reality we know he would’ve been going into outer space. Now, what would he do to survive in outer space? You see, Jesus was still breathing after the resurrection. We are told that Jesus breathed on the disciples to give them the Holy Ghost, and we’ll have more to say about the Holy Ghost, the Spirit, in a moment. But anyway, Jesus was going up into outer space and how he would breathe up there, I don’t know. Why a god would breathe anyway is an interesting question.
Now, the temptation of Jesus will have to be thrown out. Remember the devil supposedly took Jesus onto a high mountain and showed him all of the kingdoms of the world. Now that will work if the Earth is flat but it won’t work if the Earth is a sphere.
Then we have the problem of the end of the world. In Matthew 24:29-31, we read “The stars will fall from the sky. The celestial powers will be shaken. Then there will be the sign that heralds the Son of Man. All the people’s of the world will make lamentation and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with great power and glory.” Now, once again, if all the people of the world are to see Jesus at his second coming, we have to have a flat Earth. This will not work, really, with a sphere. Although, I must confess that on this point, Pat Robertson may have refuted me. Pat Robertson is planning to televise the second coming and he will make sure that everyone sees it all over the world, so I may have to concede that point. Maybe we can find a prediction of Pat Robertson if we search the Scriptures carefully.
Another thing that goes by the by are these things called angels. In Greek, the word is aggelos (ἄγγελος) and it means a messenger, which is an interesting word when you think about it. Why call these things messengers? Well, on a three-story universe we had to have communication: upstairs, downstairs, in the ladies chamber or whatever (we all know of the visit of the angel to Mary). We don’t have any need for angels now that we know they can’t climb down Jacob’s Ladder to get from heaven to Earth. It’s again, in some other dimension.
So, this whole thing of heaven and hell, and of course with it, the idea of eternal punishment, eternal reward, are certainly very enigmatic ideas. They don’t seem to make much sense anymore. Whereas they did make a lot of sense in the worldview with which the Bible was composed. It was a pre-scientific worldview.
Biology has gone to work on Christianity and many religions, and it has had even more devastating effects than physics or astronomy. We now know that the living condition involves a great deal of chemistry. Chemical marriages and divorces is something we call metabolism. To the writers of the Bible, however, there were vivifying principles. Some Bible passages tell us that it was the blood that makes something alive and a lot more passages indicate that it was breath—spiritus in Latin, where we get the word spirit, or pneuma in Greek, from which we get the Holy Spirit, the Holy Ghost, and pneumonia also.
Now, the idea that breath made something alive again made sort of sense because if someone died of a heart attack (in the year 1,000 B.C.) you wouldn’t be able to know what really had happened to him. You didn’t know how to do an autopsy. The only obvious thing is that he’s not breathing. His breath had gone out. His spiritus had left and it was thought that that was the vivifying principle. Breath is indeed a physical thing; it can survive outside of the body. Sometimes you can smell it. The spiritus was a real thing, and it was thought to hover around the tomb for a while and then dissipate. But now that we know the origin of the idea of spirit is simply a bit of a biological misunderstanding we have to re-examine many things of Christianity. We have to, for example, examine the Trinity, for which no evidence really could ever be accused; it’s a non-testable thing. But we do have the curious fact that the third member of the Trinity is the Haigos Pneuma, the Holy Breath. Now, why a god would have to breathe I can’t imagine. Most of the universe is devoid of air and there would be no employment for breath for a god. This would tell me that one third of the Godhead is useless, has no function. But again, this figures critically in the development of Christian theology and the theologies of other religions. It was thought that just as breath can leave you, breath can come back into you. You can become possessed of evil spirits. And remember now spirit is a breath. Now, just as you can become possessed of evil spirits you can also become possessed of good spirits. You can become possessed of the Holy Spirit. This is the beginning of Christianity. These were the people who were conceived to have become possessed by the breath of the deity himself. And certainly St. Paul had this idea in mind when he talked about the pneumatic man and all this sort of thing. There’s a great deal of this in St. Paul.
More interesting, the idea of inspiration, something which my opponent believes in. The idea of inspiration was simply that the breath of the god would come into you, he would inspire, you would breathe in. And under this condition you might write holy books.
The most devastating thing though that biology did to Christianity was the discovery of biological evolution. Now that we know that Adam and Eve were never real people, the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin then there is no need of salvation. And if there is no need of salvation there is no need of a savior. I submit that that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed.
I think that evolution is the absolutely death knell of Christianity. Consider if evolution is true, and all the evidence of science seems to show quite clearly that it is, then what about this idea of souls and spirits even if you ignore my historical analysis as to the origin of spirits? When in the course of human evolution did we get these souls or spirits? Did Neanderthal man have them? Was he capable of going to hell? Did Homo erectus with two thirds of our brain capacity, was he capable of going to heaven or hell? And you can go back to the jellyfish and ask, “In which generation did souls come into our toolkit?” Keep in mind the chimpanzee in the zoo is 99% the same as you, genetically. Only 1% of genetic material distinguishes you from a chimpanzee. 1.5% distinguishes you from a gorilla. So, why should we have souls and be capable of eternal bliss or eternal damnation and not our close cousins in Brookfield Zoo? The evolution of immortality is something that must be dealt with if evolution is true. When did living things become capable of immortality?
My opponent has alluded to the big bang and I want to skip to that for just a moment. This is something that apparently took place at least 12 billion years ago and geology tells us that our world is at least 4.5 billion years old. I submit that this vast age of the universe, this vast age of the planet, makes Christianity look really very absurd. The whole system of Christianity is so human centric, so conceitedly human, that when it is lost in this immensity of time it becomes absolutely silly. Think about it. We have a Creator, supposedly, 12-15 billion years ago making a big bang, creating the world out of nothing instead of out of water as the Second Epistle of Peter requires. As you know, Peter says the heavens and the Earth were created out of water—the first heavens and the Earth. The second Earth is made out of something combustible. Anyway, we have this Creator making this with a big bang and waiting for all the particles to condense, billions and billions of years go by as Carl Sagan would say (he says it much better than I). Billions of years go by until just the right galaxy forms somewhere in this immensity of the universe, and then somewhere in that galaxy, just the right star and planetary system formed and then 4.5 billion years after that of the slow crawling evolution from single celled forms to such wonderful things as Adolf Hitler and Jimmy Swaggart. After all those years, just the right primate female appears on this minor planet and this all powerful deity, who created all of this, has some fascination with this one primate female and he comes to her and makes her pregnant to give birth essentially to himself. If Jesus is the Son of God and is also God it’s God siring himself. It’s better than “I’m my own grandpa.” Then, at this particular point in time this particular God is reborn on this minor planet and sticks around for a little while and then goes back to heaven.
I submit that the immensity of the universe makes the whole Christian conceit seem very silly. To think that all of that out there is just for us, and you heard a mention of the so-called anthropic principle—the idea that the universe is just exactly the way it is just because of us. I submit it is that way of necessity. It cannot be otherwise.
WILLIAM LANE CRAIG’S REBUTTAL SPEECH
You remember at the end of my speech I suggested that if Mr. Zindler is to convince us that if atheism is true he’s got to first destroy the evidence for Christianity that I presented and then give us a case of his own that atheism is true. Unfortunately, in his opening speech he’s declined to do either of those two things.
Let’s look first at the issue of definitions. What is Christianity after all? I explicitly stated I’m not going to debate fine points of Christian doctrine. I’m defending what C. S. Lewis called “mere Christianity.” That is, the essential elements of Christian faith that is agreed upon by all major representatives of that faith, whether they be Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox and are encapsulated in the classic creeds of Christendom.
Secondly, what about atheism? Well, I hate to correct him about his definition of atheism but he’s simply wrong! Atheism is not just the absence of belief in God. Let me turn to the standard reference work in the field of philosophy, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. It quotes, “According to the most usual definition an atheist is a person who maintains that there is no God. In contrast, an agnostic maintains that it is not known or cannot be known whether there is a God.” Mr. Zindler has clearly confused agnosticism with atheism. The debate tonight is supposed to be over atheism, the proposition that there is no God. I invite him again; defend that point of view! I’ve come here to debate. Give me some arguments for atheism so that I can deal with them.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair in an interview in Life Magazine said that “agnostics are just atheists without guts” because they’re afraid to speak up. So, we’re not here to talk about agnosticism. I want to hear the arguments for atheism. Why is that important? Well, simply this: even if all the evidence that I gave for Christianity is wrong that doesn’t prove that God does not exist. Kai Nielson, an atheist philosopher writes,
To show that an argument is invalid or unsound is not to show that the conclusion of the argument is false. . . . All the proofs of God's existence may fail, but it still may be the case that God exists. In short, to show that the proofs do not work is not enough by itself. It may still be the case that God exists.
So he’s got to give use a positive case for why God does not exist. Now, he hasn’t done it in that first speech. That first speech could’ve been given by a Hindu, a Buddhist, an agnostic, even a deist (somebody who believes in God but doesn’t believe in Christianity). There was nothing in that first speech that denied even the existence of God, or even called it into question. So, again, I want to invite him in the next speech to give us some evidence for why we should think atheism is true.
Now, secondly, I said there is good evidence why Christianity is true. I first said the evidence points to a creator of the universe. Here he responded that the age of the universe is inconsistent with Christianity. Not at all! Here I think that the anthropic principle is very helpful. The anthropic principle tells us that in order for the universe to have in it the elements for human life, carbon based life, the heavy elements; these must be formed in the stars. In order for the stars to form these you need a considerable amount of time. In order for that time to elapse the universe must have expanded to be the dimension and breadth that it is; and therefore far from showing the lack of care of the Creator for man, the enormous size of the universe actually bespeaks the incredibly fine-tuning of the universe for the production of those very elements essential for our existence right now. So I think the anthropic principle to which he appeals has completely evacuated his argument of any substance. Besides, he never denied the main point of the argument: where did the universe come from? Why does it exist? The atheist has no answer to that question. I think the Christian answer is eminently more plausible.
I then suggested the evidence points to an intelligent designer of the universe and he didn’t bother to refute that point.
My third argument is that the evidence points to God as the source of objective moral values. He asserts this is an ad hominem argument. Not at all! An ad hominem argument is to attack the person instead of to attack his position. My argument is what is called a metaethical argument. It’s an argument about the very foundations of ethics.
Paul Kurtz, who is an atheist and humanist philosopher, writes that the “The central question about moral and ethical principles concerns their ontological foundation. If they are neither derived from God, nor anchored in some transcendent ground, are they purely ephemeral?” What I’m suggesting is that the atheist is committed to the view that since there is no grounding in God of ethical values, they are just human inventions, and Mr. Zindler admits this. They’re just made by human beings, and that immediately leads to moral relativism and non-objectivism.
In fact, on Mr. Zindler’s view, he says that atheists’ ethics are founded upon principles of enlightened self-interest. The atheist believes the beer commercial, which tells us to “Go for the gusto since we only go around once!” Now, I submit that’s a patently false view of ethics. If there is no God then Mr. Zindler is absolutely right—just live for total self-interest. There is no objective right and wrong. Nobody holds you accountable so just go for all the gusto you can get. Now, of course, you have to be rather careful about this because if you just pursue your unbridled lusts you may hurt other people and they, in turn, may try to get you back and diminish your gusto. So, the enlightened atheist will temper his pursuit of his passions and pleasures in such a way that he can maximize in the long run his own self-interest. Again, I submit to you, that’s just patently false. What that view means is that a Jeffrey Dahmer or a Richard Speck didn’t really do anything wrong. Their mistake was that they got caught. The enlightened rapist or pedophile will only rape women or children when he knows that he can get away with it and that there’s a high probability he won’t get caught. That way he can maximize his gusto in accord with his self-interest. Now, of course, if he doesn’t care about going to prison then he can just go for the gusto right now and there’s nothing the matter with that on the atheist view! I submit that this is simply crazy. Anybody who thinks that raping little children is a morally neutral act is simply morally handicapped.
J. P. Moreland, who is a Christian philosopher, has pointed out that the radical nature of the atheist thesis is concealed because we think that people will simply choose the moral life, but, as he points out, this decision is totally arbitrary. He says that the decision to be a Mother Teresa instead of a Hitler is very much like the decision to go to McDonalds instead of Burger King. There simply is no objection foundation for moral values.
I discussed the evidence for God’s revealing himself in Jesus and also for God being immediately known and experienced. There was no refutation on those points.
But Mr. Zindler does suggest some arguments against Christianity.
Number 1 he says, “The Bible describes a three-story universe” and this is obviously false. I think a three-story universe is false. But I submit to you that this is no objection to Christianity. The Bible simply uses phenomenal language in describing what it does—like when we say “the sun sets” or when we speak of the “four corners of the Earth” or such things as this. The Bible doesn’t teach thingslike a flat Earth or a three-story universe, and that’s true even if its authors themselves presupposed that or believed it themselves. That’s not part of the doctrine or the teaching of the Bible. We see this in certain passages. For example, in Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple, he says, “Lord, heaven and Earth cannot contain Thee. How much less this house that I have built.” It’s clear that for him God completely transcends the universe. Or the Apostle Paul when he says, “In him [God] we live and move and have our being.” God is not resident in some sort of three-story heaven above the Earth.
As for angels, they could still serve as messengers regardless of what cosmology you adopt. There’s no contradiction there at all.
What about biology? Well, again I would simply deny that the Bible teaches as doctrine the things that Mr. Zindler claimed. When it speaks of the Holy Spirit or spirit possession, the notion here isn’t that these are literally God’s breath. The notion here is that of incorporeality or immateriality. Think of the second commandment, which forbids the making of graven images of God or any kind of image of God. Why? Be cause God is not a physical being. He’s not a physical object. He’s immaterial, and therefore the use of things like inspiration, that is simply a metaphor. God breathed. In fact, we use the word inspiration today as a metaphor for God’s breathing something out but not to be taken literally because God doesn’t have a physical body. He doesn’t lungs. Therefore he doesn’t literally have breath.
Now, what about the question of evolution? Let me submit to you that this is a complete red herring. The theory of evolution is irrelevant to the truth of the Christian faith. Genesis 1 permits all manner of different interpretations and Christians are not necessarily committed to special creationism. Howard van Till of Calvin College, a Christian School, asks,
. . .is the concept of special creation required of all persons who profess trust in the Creator-God revealed in Scripture? . . . most Christians in my acquaintance who are engaged in either scientific or biblical scholarship have concluded that the special creationist picture of the world’s formation is not a necessary component of Christian belief.
I want to emphasize this is not a retreat caused by modern science. St. Augustine in the 300’s in his commentary on Genesis argued that the days needn’t be taken literally nor need the creation be a few thousand years ago. He didn’t even envisage special acts of creation. He said the world could have been made by God with certain potencies that unfolded in the progress of time. This interpretation was enunciated 1,500 years prior to Darwin. Therefore, this is a position that is consistent with being a Christian.
Any doubts that I might have about the theory of evolution really are not biblical but scientific. Namely, what the scenario envisages is so fantastically improbable. In their book The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Barrow and Tipler lay out ten steps necessary for human evolution, each of which is so improbable that before it would occur the sun would’ve ceased to be a main sequence star and would’ve burned up the Earth. Now, it seems to me that if evolution did occur then it would have had to have been a miracle! In other words, evolution is literally evidence for the existence of God!
In fact, the Christian has an advantage over the atheist here. We can be open to what the evidence shows us. But as Alvin Plantinga points out, for the atheist evolution is the only game in town! So he’s stuck with it no matter how fantastic the odds! No matter how poor the evidence, he’s got no choice! But the Christian can be open to follow the evidence where it leads and therefore I think can be more objective.
So, I don’t think we’ve seen any refutation of my arguments for Christianity.
 Kai Nielsen, Reason and Practice (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 143-4.
 Paul Kurtz, Forbidden Fruit (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1988), p. 65.
 A point made effectively by J. P. Moreland in Does God Exist? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1990), p. 124.
 cf. 1 Kings 8:27
 cf. Acts 17:28
 Robert T. Pennock (ed.), Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives (A Bradford Book, 2001), p. 150.
 John Barrow, Frank Tipler, The Anthropic Cosmological Principle (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986), pp. 561-65.
FRANK ZINDLER’S REBUTTAL SPEECH
I will take my first minute or so to finish what I intended to say and then proceed to the rebuttal. I wanted to say that it was important to also point out that the study of the Bible has been very important. The Bible has been found out. Scholars have been studying the Bible for several centuries with increasingly scientific methodologies, and some pretty exciting things have been discovered, although some of these have been known for a long time.
For example, it has been discovered that the book of Daniel, a very important book in the Christian Scriptures, is actually a forgery. It was written in the second century B.C. even though it claims ostensibly to have been composed during the Babylonian captivity during the sixth century B.C. The book of Daniel, as you probably know, has the wrong last king of Judah. It has the wrong liberator of the Jews from Babylon. It has the wrong last king of Babylon, and so forth. So, it’s historically totally unreliable and as a matter of fact it has been discovered that the New Testament also is not very historically reliable. The book of Acts, which is supposed to be history, has some errors in it. It has some wrong material about Gamaliel, and Theudas, and Judas, and so forth.
Analysis of the Gospels themselves shows that they are the result of evolution. The Gospel of Mark is anterior to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. They plagiarized a large amount of material from Mark, something that, of course, real eyewitnesses would not have to do. So, we have a lot of material, which I can only claim at the moment, that shows that the New Testament is not a historically reliable document overall and that it is man-made.
There are books that falsely claim to be written by various people. There are a number of books claiming to have been written by St. Paul that clearly were not written by the same person who wrote Romans and Corinthians and so on.
Another thing that I wanted to mention is the development in archeology. Archeologists have shown that the conquest stories of the Old Testament are not supportable and most interesting is the study of the geography of the New Testament shows that much of the geography is mythical. For example, it can be seen that Bethany, Bethpage, and Nazareth, and probably Capernaum did not exist in the first century A.D. or the first century B.C. These towns are not known, with the possible exception of Capernaum, in the Old Testament, not known to any other historians or geographers of the period. In the case of Nazareth we have a very interesting thing. We have some Christian archeologists who have been digging away there for a century but the material that they have come up with is quite clear to me, it shows that it was not a city of the living in the first century A.D. It was a necropolis, a burial place, and so if there was no Nazareth in the first century then what are we to make of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s sort of like, “What do you do with the Wizard of Oz?” once you find out there is no Oz. I have a plausible explanation as to the origin of the name Nazareth and the epithet Nazarius, which was given to this character Jesus but I can’t go into that right now.
Well, what of the empty tomb? What of the appearances, and what of the origin of the Christian faith? These are really kind of trivial things, I think. If the Gospels are not historically credible or reliable documents then why should we take seriously this claim of an empty tomb? We have lots of mythologies that come from the ancient world and we certainly don’t waste much time on thinking about them. As far as the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, there are a lot of things I could say about that. For one, I think that we should realize that almost all of the ancient gods who were resurrected made appearances to their followers: Vishnu to his disciples and so on. So, this is just part and parcel of ancient mythology, comparative mythology, and furthermore, we don’t have the eyewitness accounts of the people to whom these appearances supposedly occurred. We have hearsay. We have no real understanding of the circumstances, if any, if these actually existed. What were the psychological conditions? We know that people hallucinate in a variety of ways. We know that people can have visions in a variety of circumstances. I myself once hypnotized an atheist friend to have him have a very vivid visit from Jesus Christ. It scared the bejesus out of him it was so vivid. But certainly no one would suppose that it was real, that someone could have taken a photograph of Jesus there. We just don’t have enough evidence despite the very large book that my opponent has written on this subject. We just do not have enough reliable evidence to form a psychiatric opinion as to just what these people did see.
We don’t even know who the people were! A lot of this centers around the disciples, who I think are just as legendary as Jesus. I should say that there is no convincing evidence that Jesus was an historical figure and the disciples are even more shadowy. They seem to be, perhaps, symbolic for the twelve tribes of Israel. They, of course, were in turn symbolic of the twelve signs of the Zodiac. There was quite a bit of astrology at the beginning of Christianity. It was a New-Age cult. It ushered in the age of Pisces and the end of the age of Aries, the lamb. And so, the first symbol was the fish.
Now, with regard to the origin of the Christian faith, the idea that it spread so suddenly, this is a legitimate question for scientific investigation. Again, we have a lot of ideas but as with so many things from the ancient world a conclusive understand is not yet available. But it certainly does not require a miracle to suppose that there was something magical behind Christianity in order for it to spread. Certainly, once it became the official religion of the Roman Empire we need to ask no further questions as to why it succeeded. But we see a similar thing in the spread of Islam. Islam spread extremely rapidly after the prophet Mohammad wrote the Qu’ran.
So, I don’t see any reason that we must believe in miracles or something supernatural to account for the success of Christianity in the marketplace of human needs and human values; it obviously had something useful to sell and so it spread.
Now, getting back to “What is an atheist?” I’m sorry that my opponent keeps thinking that I should try to prove a universal negative. But I would say that the idea of atheists, theists, and agnostics as three categories is sort of an old-fashioned idea. Once upon a time, it is the case that atheists said there is no God, theists said there is a God, and agnostics said I don’t know, maybe there is, maybe there isn’t. The problem with that was that we saw that the ideas of gods evolve to such sophistication that they became meaningless. Let me explain.
The gods in which people claim to believe nowadays are so ephemeral, so elusive, that you cannot define them really. And you cannot imagine a way you could test for their existence or not. Once upon a time when god lived on Mt. Olympus we were able to check out whether he really did or not. A lot of people climbed Mt. Olympus and so the priests got wise and they said, “Well, Zeus is permanently out to lunch, he doesn’t live here anymore.” And so the god idea today is totally impalpable. You cannot grasp it. You cannot test it. I could do a simple test and say, “Well if there is a god within the next two minutes he will strike me dead here on the podium and that will be a sign to you that there is a god.” Now, I’m relatively confident that’s not going to happen. When I am still here talking about it two minutes and two seconds from now and I say, “Well, I guess that shows there was no god.” You will say, “My God isn’t going to get involved with your silly ideas with your silly tests. My God is above that sort of thing.” It’s sort of like the undetectable gremlins on Saturn, however. You can’t imagine a way that you could test for the undetectable gremlins on Saturn. If you flew there with the best ‘gremlinometers’ that NASA could provide you still wouldn’t find them because they are, by definition, undetectable.
The God of Christianity has evolved into something that is essentially undetectable and we cannot do anything with it. Now, that is not really a weakness for the atheist. The atheists now says, “All of these statements about God are basically meaningless. We can’t handle them in any meaningful way.” Now lest you think this is a weakness for the atheist, I would challenge you with this idea: Let me say I’ve just been convinced by my opponent that, yes, indeed, there is a god and I’m it! And, moreover, I created all of you just three minutes ago with all the false memories thinking you actually came here from the beginning of the show. Now, can you disprove that? No you can’t. You cannot imagine a way that you could disprove that because everything you would do I could claim was actually part of my divine intent. You could say, “Well I will torture you into confessing that you are not a god.” I would say that I will pretend to be tortured but I’ll get even with you after you die. You’re going to burn for that. You could, perhaps, get me to say something else that would seem compromising, but in my divine knowledge I would just be pretending all of this, I might even pretend to die if you chose to torture me excessively. But I would get even with you somewhere later on in eternity!
Now, what would you do with this? You can’t handle that. So, atheism is simply the absence of god belief because it is meaningless to say that you believe in a god. We’d have to know the particulars. Now, Dr. Craig’s God does have some particulars, we suppose. He began the universe, but this creates a biblical problem—the Melchizedek problem. I think you are all familiar with Melchizedek from the Epistle to the Hebrews. Melchizedek, King of Salem, that is King of Peace – he has no father, no mother, no lineage. His years have no beginning. His life, no end. He is like the Son of God. He remains a priest for all time. Now, if Melchizedek has existed forever with no beginning and he is part of the universe then we have a serious problem here if the universe is finite and if the universe began. That would mean that Melchizedek is older than the universe, and I rest at that point.
We’ve still yet to hear any good reason to think that God does not exist!
Mr. Zindler says you can’t prove a universal negative. That’s false in the first place. Of course you can! For example, you could disprove the statement that there are polka dotted geese. That would be a universal negative. You could disprove that.
But more importantly, the statement that God does not exist is not a universal negative; it’s a singular negative statement. Certainly you can prove negative singular statements such as there is no planet between Venus and the Earth. You could provide arguments to show that a singular negative statement is true, but he hasn’t done it.
But he says the idea of God is so impalpable. Now, look, if this is not just going to be a village atheism where you say I can’t see and touch and hear God so he doesn’t exist, you’ve got to have a better objection than that.
Perhaps, Mr. Zindler’s saying, “Well, because God can’t be verified, this is a meaningless statement, that God exists or that God does not exist.” Indeed, he seems to indicate this in some of his writings. This is based, however, upon a verificationist theory of meaning, which is simply false and self-refuting.
Number one, this type of theory of meaning would not only eliminate God statements, it would eliminate ethical statements, aesthetic statements, many metaphysical statements, and many scientific statements, like statements about quarks, strings, other high level theoretical entities in science.
Secondly, even worse, this verification theory of meaning is self-refuting. If you say to be meaningful, a proposition must be verifiable, what about that very proposition? Is it verifiable? No! It’s just an arbitrary definition. So, it was very soon realized that this verification theory of meaning, if it were true, it’s meaningless! It’s a self-refuting theory and therefore this verification theory of meaning that Mr. Zindler is propounding has been abandoned universally today by epistemologist theorists of knowledge. So that it is not at all absurd to say that you have to give some sort of argument against God if you’re going to maintain atheism.
He says, “Well, maybe I’m God.” Well, I think this just trivializes the debate this evening. Mr. Zindler obviously didn’t bring about the origin of the universe or design it. He’s not the source of absolute moral value. If we’re going to have a serious debate I think we’re going to need to weigh the alternatives that are really credible.
So, I haven’t seen any refutation of my first three arguments: for a Creator, a Designer, and a source of moral values. What about the evidence for God’s revealing himself in Jesus? Here, all we got, frankly, from Mr. Zindler was a series of assertions but no evidence to support them. He says, “But the Gospels aren’t credible. Why take them seriously? They’re not eyewitnesses.” Let me make a couple of quick points.
Number one, he falsely assumes that only an eyewitness can write accurate history and that just evinces historiographical naïveté! It’s positively medieval, literally, in its understanding of history. It would mean that today nobody could write a history of the American Civil War, for example. So just because some of the Gospel writers aren’t eyewitnesses you can’t throw them out as unreliable.
Secondly, he falsely assumes that a historically reliable document must be inerrant. He has this sort of all or nothing mentality. If there are any errors then the whole document is worthless as a historical source. And again that would just destroy the whole study of history. The task of the critical scholar is to sort out the historical from the unhistorical elements. One could admit all of the discrepancies Mr. Zindler mentions and still hold that the Gospels warrant the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead and are fundamentally reliable sources for a life of Jesus. In fact, this is precisely the position that many biblical critics do hold. Remember, this isn’t a debate over biblical inerrancy. It’s a debate over ‘Who was Jesus and his resurrection?’
I would maintain number three, that the Gospels are fundamentally reliable. I can only look at one example, Luke. Luke was not an eyewitness but he was a traveling companion of Paul and as such he traveled to Jerusalem where he interviewed people who were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. His accuracy in the book of Acts in indisputable. A best demonstration of this is a recent book by Collin Hemer called The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Hemer combs the book of Acts sorting out incredible historical detail that is confirmed by papyrological and epigraphical evidence from the first century. Sir William Ramsey’s judgment still stands, “Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . . This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”
Now, let me contrast with that Mr. Zindler’s view on the origin of Christianity. He believes Jesus never existed. He says, “The character now known as Christ was the product of an unstably rotating earth.” Right. He thinks that the Earth rotated in such a way that the Zodiacal sign shifted around the time of the birth of Christ and this caused wise men to come from the east seeking a new god, and their visit prompted the Jews to believe their Messianic expectations had already been fulfilled. Let me just mention three points about this.
Number 1: It’s astronomically impossible. The ancients could not have observed the change in the equinox from Aries to Pisces, as Mr. Zindler says. Knowles Wardlow [sp?], who is Professor of Astronomy at the University of Chicago, made this point. He said,
To think that people in antiquity could distinguish between the different signs is ludicrous because only later did people place borders around the stars. This was done for modern cataloging purposes in 1900 at the Astronomical Union. This line of thinking [that is, Mr. Zindler’s] is clearly invented and not at all representative of what the people in that time saw. What he has written has absolutely no historical value whatsoever.
Secondly, it’s even worse. He gratuitously accepts the visit of the wise men as historical while rejecting better established and universally accepted facts about the historical Jesus. He rejects the crucifixion. He rejects the existence of Jesus. But he accepts the visit of the wise men. What makes this ironic is that the wise men story is one of those that is usually rejected by critical biblical scholars today. So this is just intellectual hypocrisy. It’s sort of picking and choosing what you want to believe.
Thirdly, the Jews couldn’t possibly have believed that the Messiah could have come and done what was prophesied of him because they expected a temporal political Messiah. So long as they still labored under the Roman yolk, they couldn’t possibly have believed their Messianic expectations were fulfilled. In fact, that leads to another question: why is the Jesus of the Gospels so different from the Jewish Messianic expectations if he was supposedly the imaginary product of those expectations? In particular, there was no expectation of a dying and rising Messiah. You can’t explain the origin of Christianity through these influences because there was no expectation of it.
What about pagan influences on the disciples? Well, the fact is that according Gerhardt Kittel there is virtually no trace in Palestine in the first century of these pagan myths of dying and rising gods. So that their influence upon the disciples is, I think, simply unthinkable.
So we’ve yet to see any explanation for the consensus of scholarship today that the tomb was empty, they saw appearances of Jesus alive, and they originated this belief in his resurrection without any prior sort of pagan, Christian, or Jewish influences. Again, then it seems to me that it’s pretty obvious that the evidence points toward Christianity as the more plausible worldview.
 William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1915), p. 222.
I’m glad to see that he has read my article on how Jesus [got a life], but I must say that I did not assert for sure that the magi were real. I just thought that would be a useful thing. If it were true it could explain some things. But we don’t need to believe the magi in the sense of the Bible story were historical. But there were, of course, magi; these were Mithraic astrologers who did travel around. One of their centers was Tarsus—you may have heard of somebody else from Tarsus.
We’re told that the verification principle is passé, but curiously he did not do anything to try to refute the simple truth “I am God and created you all three minutes ago.” The only way you can get out of that dilemma is if this verificationist principle, or something very similar to it, is correct. It is not indeed a meta-statement that that statement itself is unverifiable; it is simply an observation. This is how we do in fact determine whether we can make sense out of anything – if we can imagine a way, at least in principle, that we could test it. And those things that we can’t even imagine a way to test we just shrug off and go on to something else.
Again, the problem of universal negative – there are many, many, many gods that have been claimed and how to disprove all of them I wouldn’t imagine to know. With regard to polka dotted geese, that is also a universal negative to try to disprove that somewhere in the universe at sometime there never was purple or polka dotted goose. I’m not paid to try disprove that one either. Purple and polka dotted geese and gods are both a little bit tough to handle in this sense.
Now, he keeps coming back to the circumstantial species of the ad hominem, and there are two species of ad hominem. There is the abusive species where you just simply call somebody a name, and the circumstantial species where you appeal to the special circumstances either of your opponent or to the audience and hope that that will sway them. For example, if somebody is on trial for abusing animals and you give an impassioned speech that abusing animals is awful and animals shouldn’t have to suffer, that’s all well and good but that does nothing to prove the guilt of the person being tried. This idea of a moral vacuum if the Christian God does not exist is irrelevant, but certainly it is emotionally relevant to all of us. I have written on the principle of enlightened self-interest, which shows that if we are sensible about it, about finding gratification for our needs, maximizing them in duration, as well as in intensity and the number of occurrences, then we will cooperate with our fellow human beings because we can have symphonies with cooperation; without them we cannot even have a song.
I showed also that with this principle of enlightened self interest this leads to a desire for justice. Because if somebody does try to grab more than is his or her fair share this will hurt you sooner or later. So, it is to your advantage, there again, to pass up this opportunity to grab something which is not yours and suffer the consequences along with everyone else. When everything is just, you stand to gain all the more. And so, it is an enlightened type of selfishness, and I submit it is certainly a better system than the Christian God has displayed. Keep in mind, the God of the Bible commanded genocide, which makes Hitler look like a piker. “Kill all the Jebusites, the Middeonites, the Hibbites. Kill all.” We have the story of Jesus saying, “Unless you hate your father and you mother you cannot be my disciple.” That doesn’t seem very nice. We have the fundamental injustice and immorality of the Christian moral system itself. We have supposedly the story of Adam and Eve who before they knew the difference between good and evil were told, “Don’t eat from this tree.” Now what a silly thing, but anyway. “Don’t eat from this tree.” And so they went ahead and did this. And then they were condemned because only until they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil did they know the meaning of disobedience. They didn’t know they were being disobedient until they ate the apple. And so, that’s bad enough that God would punish them for an act which was morally meaningless to them until it was committed, but then he supposedly punished all of humankind from then on. How unjust! How horrible! And then it demanded human sacrifice, human sacrifice. The book of Leviticus tells you the circumstances under which you should sacrifice human beings and we have the case of the sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter in which this allegedly was carried out. But then we have to sacrifice a human being who also at the same time supposedly was a god. Now how a god could die, I’d like to know. If it dies it’s not a god. It’s as simple as that. But supposedly this Jesus was a god and he did die. Because he was totally innocent, this somehow wipes out this inherited sin, which wasn’t a just thing in the first place.
Now, that system of ethics, I submit, is monstrous. It is colossally unjust. Any person in the audience here, if he or she thought just a little while, could come up with an ethical system far better than that. We have a problem from ethics then to God himself. This goes back to the philosopher Epicurus. He says, “Either God wants to abolish evil and cannot, or he can but does not want to, or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to but cannot he is impotent. If he can but does not want to then he is wicked. If he neither can nor wants to, he is both powerless and wicked.” But, as they say, God can abolish evil. If God really wants to do it, then why is there evil in the world? This points out the idea that the concept of an infinite God who is perfectly good, all-powerful, omniscient, and so on, is incoherent; it is a contradiction in terms. The pieces do not fit together.
If there is a God and he is all-powerful and all-good, there should be no evil in the world. There should be neither natural evil – the suffering that has taken place in these billions of years of evolution should not have occurred. God could have had a much better way to create a universe than evolution. And the moral evils that we see around us also would not exist.
And so, I think this whole thing about ethics can be laid to rest and I think with this, the concept of an all-powerful God who is omniscient and perfectly good, also can be laid to rest.
In my final speech I’d like to look at those two contentions that I began this evening with and see how they fared in the course of the debate. First, I alleged that there is no good evidence that atheism is true. I think that has certainly been abundantly evidenced in tonight’s debate. We’ve not heard a single argument to show that God does not exist.
Now, Mr. Zindler says that you don’t need to do this because the proposition that God exists or that God does not exist is meaningless. Atheism is just as meaningless as theism on this view. And I said, but that’s self-refuting. He said, “No, that’s just how we use language.” That’s not the case. Remember, I said if you use this verification principle of meaning you cut out ethics, you cut out aesthetics, you cut out metaphysics, you cut out many realms of theoretical science. The verification principle of meaning is simply false and that’s why it’s universally rejected today. He says, “But what if I say that I am God and created you.” The problem with that assertion is not that it’s meaningless; the problem is that it is false! It is meaningful and it’s false! That’s the point. The question is what evidence do we have to show that there is no God at all? He hasn’t given us any. Well, now he has. He says we have the problem of evil. He says this shows that God doesn’t exist. Let me make two comments here.
Number 1: There is no logical inconsistency ever been demonstrated between the two statements: God exists and evil exists. If you are to show a contradiction there must be some hidden premises that would bring this out but no atheist has ever been able to find those hidden premises. Peter van Inwagen, a philosopher at the University of Syracuse says, “It used to be widely held that evil . . . was incompatible with the existence of God: that no possible world contained both God and evil. So far as I am able to tell, this thesis is no longer defended.” The logical problem of evil has been solved.
Secondly, I would argue that evil is actually an indirect proof that God exists. Here’s the proof.
1. If God does not exist then objective moral values do not exist. Atheists and theists concur on this.
2. Evil exists.
3. Therefore, objective values do exist. Some things are really evil.
4. Therefore, God exists.
So paradoxically, even though evil in one sense calls into question God’s existence, in a deeper sense it actually demonstrates God’s existence because without God there wouldn’t be any foundation for calling anything evil.
So, in addition to the five arguments I’ve given, we’ve now got the argument from evolution and the argument from evil for the existence of God. Thank you, Mr. Zindler.
Now, in review of the other points that I have made, we have yet to see any answer to the argument for a Creator of the universe based on the big bang or the scientific evidence. He’s yet to explain where the universe came from on the atheistic worldview. Secondly, he’s unable to explain the incredible complexity of the universe. Remember that figure from Donald Page I gave.
Thirdly, what about objective moral values? He said, “But look, we can have enlightened self-interest, we can cooperate with each other.” My point is that the decision to cooperate on this view is arbitrary. There is no objective reason to cooperate except for pure self-interest. And what that means is that there literally are no objective moral values. I think this is one of the most drastic shortcomings of atheism. He says, “Look at all the unethical things commanded in Scripture!” That actually supports my point. You see, you couldn’t judge those things to be unethical or wrong without an absolute standard of right and wrong by which to say those things are unworthy of God or whatever. On the atheistic view, whatever is is right because there is no source of objective moral value. They’re just the biological-sociological product of evolution. It’s complete relativism and nihilism just as Nietzsche saw.
Finally, what about the evidence pointing to God’s revealing himself in Jesus? All we had here was the question, “Well, how can God die?” Well, very simply, Christ died in his human nature, not in his divine nature.
Finally, God can be immediately known and experienced. You know, Mr. Zindler has never denied this and I want to close by mentioning that point. There are probably a lot people here tonight who are seeking for the meaning to their life and existence. I want to encourage you to think about what we’ve had to say and ask yourself, “Could it really be true? Could there really exist a God who loves me and cares enough about me that he would take on human form in Christ and die for me and bring me into fellowship with him?”
I wasn’t raised in a church going family but as a teenager I heard this message for the first time and it revolutionized my life. I would just encourage you that if you feel that this could be something that might be true, that you would also make this exploration yourself. Begin to read the New Testament and ask yourself, “Could this message be true?” I think you’ll find that it will change your life just as it changed mine.
 Peter van Inwagen, “The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence,” Philosophical Perspectives 5 (1991), p. 135.
 Critical notice of Peter Haas, Morality after Auschwitz: The Radical Challenge of the Nazi Ethic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), by R. L.Rubenstein, Journal of the American Academy of Religion 60 (1992): p. 158.
I would say, listening to Dr. Craig repeat my evolution argument and my evil argument and try to convert those to a proof of God, that what he has unwittingly done is proven the existence of a devil. Because those things I’m talking about are describing an evil being and not a perfectly good being. A being that creates us over all these billions of years, with all the living and dying and blood shed of nature, red in tooth and claw, that is the description of a devil if this is indeed the result of a conscious agent. In fact, of course, we know evolution proceeds unconsciously, there is no motivator of it. It is completely without intelligence.
But if it were the result of intelligence, how would we have to indict that deity? What wickedness would we have to ascribe to it for the evils that we see in nature, to say nothing of the evils that we see within our own kind?
He asks for a cause of the universe, and thinks that he has given one. He thinks that by saying, “In the beginning God…” we have answered something. Actually, we’ve only created another question. We have asked, “How did God get there?” If God can exist for eternity, then why not the universe? At least we can detect the universe; we cannot detect God. Although he does say we can detect God, we can feel God internally. Now, I have to resist mightily the temptation to go to the ad hominem abusive species here. But I have to tell you quite candidly that the mental hospitals of the world are filled with people to whom God speaks daily and sometimes all night long.
We have to question the sanity of a person who quite sincerely, not speaking metaphorically, says that God has spoken to him or her. This is not usually considered a sign of mental health. And so this internal speaking from God is something that we must be very suspicious about. We cannot a priori rule it out, in some cases that might be so. But certainly the general effect of our observations, and those of us who have worked in mental hospitals at one time or another have seen this, we must be very careful about that argument.
With regard to God causing the universe, we have a problem. The universe is everything that exists. If God is the cause of it, God is outside of the universe, and that is contradiction. There cannot be anything outside the universe. The universe is all there is. Where did it all come from? Well, the evidence is not all in. The physicists had a very serious blow struck to them last week with the demise of the super-collider, which might have been able to answer some of the fundamental questions in cosmology. On the other hand there was some interesting information from the astronomers, the discovery that our galaxy is much heavier than it was thought to be. There seems to be at least ten times as much mass in our galaxy and it’s swallowing up the large Magellanic Cloud. This has some very important implications in cosmology, namely it might mean that the universe is closed. The idea is that since the big bang the universe has been expanding, and we have generally thought that it was just going to go on expanding forever until we die in the heat death. On the other hand some people have thought it might collapse back on itself and disappear. Some thought it might collapse back on itself and bounce back. We don’t have enough information to know one way or another.
An interesting thing is that in quantum physics there is a principle where things can come out of nothing. So-called, virtual particle pairs do continuously come into existence only to annihilate each other. The idea is being seriously developed by astronomers and cosmologists that the universe itself originated as a quantum fluctuation out of literally nothing and will exist for a while and go back into nothingness at some time, just like the virtual particles.
I would like to end with a quotation from the Gospel of John, the appended last chapter, 21 verse 25.
And there are also many other errors which Christians have believed. Though which if they should be written, every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
[At this point, Lee Strobel re-introduces Rob Sherman and Mark Mittelberg and those two present some additional comments of their own. Mr. Strobel then begins the Q&A session at roughly the two hour mark.]
QUESTION 1: Dr. Craig, if you were Mr. Zindler, how would you reply to the following? Would you agree with a statement such as “child pornography is immoral” even though morality cannot be proven scientifically in a laboratory experiment. And if so, what is the genetic source of morality if we humans have descended from apes?
RESPONSE (CRAIG): Once of the things that has disturbed me most about the debate this evening is the allegation that what I’m arguing here in this third argument is some sort of ad hominem fallacy. On the contrary, I think this is one of the most fundamentally important ethical questions that we can ask. Namely, what is the basis for the common values we both believe in? The problem isn’t that the atheist has the wrong values. The problem is that his worldview provides no foundation for those values. On the atheist view, moral values are simply the byproduct of socio-biological evolution. There is no objective basis for affirming them. So, I think the gentleman is absolutely correct. There isn’t any grounds for saying child pornography is wrong or that it’s good. These are morally neutral questions. The horror of this view, I think, was brought out in a recent book by Peter Haas called Morality After Auschwitz. He asks the question, “How could an entire society have willingly participated in a state-sponsored program of mass torture and extermination of Jews?” Listen to his answer. He says,
Far from being contemptuous of ethics, the perpetrators acted in strict conformity with an ethic which held that, however difficult and unpleasant the task might have been, mass extermination of the Jews and Gypsies was entirely justified. . . . the Holocaust as a sustained effort was possible only because a new ethic was in place that did not define the arrest and deportation of Jews as wrong and in fact defined it as ethically tolerable and ever good.
The thing that Haas points out is that because of its coherence and internal consistency, the Nazi ethic could not be discredited from within. It was internally consistent. The only way you could criticize the Nazi ethic is by having a transcendent vantage point that transcends cultural, relative values and gives you an absolute standard of right and wrong. On the atheist view you are simply lost in socio-cultural relativism, and there is no basis for affirming these common values we all want to hold dear.
RESPONSE (ZINDLER): I would want to say, of course, there are no ethical values written in the stars. In that sense they are not absolute. Without human beings there is no good or bad, these are human constructions. Now, we did evolve as social species, not as solitary animals. And because we evolved as a social species our nervous systems are wired up in certain ways. This means that we are pre-wired to have sympathy with our fellow humans. It doesn’t always work but statistically it does and we stay a social species.
The person who is looking for ethics in nature must not make the error, however, of thinking that what is true in evolutionary history is necessarily desirable or necessarily true. Because genocide seems to have evolved with us that does not mean that it is true. My system of enlightened self-interest, I think, gets us beyond that.
QUESTION 2: I had a question. When you were talking about your friends that was hypnotized with you, you concluded that because you weren’t able to take a picture of what he saw that it was not in fact real. It seems to me that a lot of what you conclude to be fact or our imaginations is by something you can touch, see, or take a photograph of, that’s the words you used—to take a photograph. You couldn’t take a photograph of it so therefore it wasn’t real. That was your conclusion. I’d like to know, is that in fact what you’re saying? If you cannot take a photograph of something that it is not real?
RESPONSE (ZINDLER): Well, certainly not in general terms. I would not assert that because you cannot take a picture, certainly without magnification, of an atom, and so on, and certainly we accept that atoms and subatomic particles exist in some sense.
I brought that example up simply to show that people can have these very vivid psychological experiences without anyone supposing that there need be something external which is actually impinging upon the eyes and so on. That is to say, visual experience, just like auditory experience, is capable of being generated internally in the brain and, as a neurophysiologist, I’ve been very interested in that. Of course, one of the things we think about is the description of St. Paul’s visions. He doesn’t record them himself. We have this in the book of Acts, however. But this is a pretty good description of temporal lobe epilepsy as far as I can see where because of abnormal firing in the temporal lobe a person sees an aura of light, hears voices, sometimes coherent, sometimes not coherent. But we do not have to suppose that there really was something out there in the sense that I’m look at you right now. We can have visions. We can have very vivid and lucid visions and auditory things also without there being anything there. And I should confess that I once myself had an auditory hallucination. It lasted half an hour. I had been working as a dishwasher with loud rock music piped in for hours and the moment I got out and went into the parking lot to go to my car, a full symphony orchestra struck up playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Now, I understood why I was having that experience, fortunately, but it lasted almost half an hour. It was extremely vivid and it wasn’t a revelation.
RESPONSE (CRAIG): Number one, the hallucination hypothesis cannot explain the physical nature of the appearances. Remember, they were extra-mental in character; they were physically tangible. Secondly, the number and various circumstances of the appearances preclude hallucinations. Christ wasn’t seen just once but many times. Not just by individuals but by groups, as many as 500 people. He was seen not just by believers but by doubters, even enemies. Thirdly, hallucinations would not have led to belief in Jesus’ resurrection. Given the Jewish beliefs in the first century about the separation of the soul and body at death, if the disciples had hallucinated they would have simply seen visions of Jesus in Abraham’s Bosom or heaven. That would have led them merely to say Jesus had been translated or assumed into heaven, but not resurrected from the dead. Finally, hallucinations do nothing to explain the empty tomb, and therefore it fails as a full and convincing answer.
QUESTION 3: Dr. Craig, it is interesting that there are a number of religions and each claim to hold the secret of divinity. Why would a benevolent God reveal his glory to only a portion of the population and create other people whose only purpose is, basically, to burn in hell because they have very little chance of ever hearing the glories of Jesus Christ and they really will never have a chance to make it?
RESPONSE (CRAIG): I think this is an excellent question but I disagree with the premise that this represents the Christian view. I don’t think the Christian view is that these other people don’t have a chance to make it. The book of Romans, in the first two chapters, says that God will give eternal life to anyone who responds to his general revelation in nature and in conscience; and that all persons are responsible for knowing two facts: that there’s a Creator God who exists that’s evident in nature, and secondly, that they are morally accountable to this God. The Scripture says that if a person will respond in faith to those two truths that God will give him eternal life. Now, that doesn’t mean a person can be saved apart from Christ. I would be that the blood of Christ, or the sacrifice of Christ, was applied to that person even though he didn’t have any conscious knowledge of Christ. So the offer of salvation is there in general revelation.
Now, unfortunately, the sad testimony of Scripture is also that people do not respond to this; in their sinful proclivities they suppress this truth. They turn away from God. They turn to idols, gods of their own making, and so forth. But God doesn’t send anybody to hell because of a lack of information or because they’re born in a geographical or historical time in which the Gospel wasn’t available to them. The offer of salvation is universal for all people but the means of its proclamation may differ from place to place and time to time. And it’s up to us whether or not we appropriate God’s salvation, however that message comes to us. It’s not God who sends us to heaven or hell; it’s ourselves. It’s our own choice. So, I think this is entirely compatible with a loving and just God who wants you, wants you to know him and respond.
RESPONSE (ZINDLER): Well I want to just say that the other passages in Josephus are also interpolations, including the John the Baptist ones. But anyways, why did not God reveal himself to Neanderthal Man or Homo erectus? Why this particular point in obscure history? Why that particular point? This seems rather whimsical if not quixotic. Why was this revelation necessary in the first place? If God exists how could we be even asking the question about his existence? Why would this not be obvious to everyone? If God did his job correctly everyone should know that he, she, or it exists. Yet, God seems to be playing hide and seek with the people on this planet. So, people say, “I think I saw him.” It’s almost like the Elvis sightings. I think that this is a tremendous indictment against the Christian system because of this peculiarity at one place and time.
QUESTION 4: You stated, and I want to be sure I understand you statement, you don’t believe that a Jesus Christ, a man named Jesus Christ, lived on this Earth. Is that correct, sir?
RESPONSE (ZINDLER): Yes.
QUESTIONER 4: Okay, now can you help me understand how a respected ancient historian named Josephus, whom I’m sure you’re well of aware of, specifically named a man that lived that was named Jesus Christ in several parts of his chronicles I guess would be the word to use. How would you explain that, sir? And he did not believe in Christ.
RESPONSE (ZINDLER): That’s a good question. First of all, keep in mind that Josephus was born after Jesus was supposed to have died. So, he’s not writing as an eyewitness. Now, I did not claim that eyewitness accounts are the only way that history can be written, but I want to make it clear that Josephus was not an eyewitness. He wrote late enough, he wrote at a time when the Gospels as we know them, and a number of other Gospels that perhaps you don’t know about were being written or had already been written. If those passages in Josephus were indeed written by Josephus, it would reflect nothing more than the fact that he was familiar with Christian propaganda, which already at that time, by the end of the first century, was quite widespread. So, actually, we would not be too surprised. In fact we would expect a lot more historians to mention something at least just by report from the evangelists that were sent out. As a matter of fact, however, you perhaps are aware, the passages in Josephus have been very strongly disputed as being Christian interpolations. The Christians were looking very hard to try to find other documentation, other proof. It was embarrassing that the only proof we had was in the Christian writings themselves. And so a very large number of ancient writers were altered, their writings were altered. A number of things were actually created too, like the supposed correspondence between Seneca and Paul to give a Stoic philosopher’s blessing upon St. Paul.
It is quite clear to me that the famous Testamonium Flavianum that we all talk about is indeed a Christian interpolation. It intrudes in the text of Josephus and the idea that there was actually something written by Josephus about it which was then made more Christian won’t stand because the whole thing intrudes in the text.
RESPONSE (CRAIG): Jesus is mentioned twice by Josephus. This can’t be explained away as a result of Josephus knowing only Christian sources because in his Antiquities of the Jews Chapter 20, Section 200 he gives information about the New Testament Church not contained in the New Testament. He tells about the martyrdom of Jesus’ brother James. He couldn’t have gotten this out of the New Testament because James is still alive in the book of Acts, and therefore he’s obviously in contact with authentic historical information.
It’s not an interpolation either because it doesn’t intrude. The other passages connected with two incidences, which are confirmed by Suetonius and Tacitus; also, Josephus’ stylistic traits are present in that passage. There was definitely, I think, a Jesus passage in Josephus even if maybe it was subsequently dressed up a little bit by Christian copyist. R. T. France says that it seems safe to assume that Josephus spoke of Jesus’ wisdom and teaching and some people called him Messiah. I think this is a consensus of scholarship.
QUESTION 5: Yes, Dr. Craig, in making reference to Solomon and the Second Commandment, you asserted that God is not material, that his being is immense and universal. How then could such a being be embodied in a person of Jesus Christ?
RESPONSE (CRAIG): I think that the answer to the question is essentially the same way in which your immaterial self can be embodied in your physical body. I think of you as a combination of soul and body. I’m not a materialist and a determinist, as Mr. Zindler is. I believe that human beings are units that have immaterial and physical portions. In essence what the incarnation says is that the mind, or the soul, of Jesus of Nazareth was the second Person of the Trinity. Therefore, I don’t see any more difficulty in having an incarnation of a divine mind than I do in seeing an incarnation in our own case with a human finite mind. The degree of infinitude of the mind doesn’t have anything to do with physical size—you know, like trying to get a huge physical being into a little shape. Precisely because God is immaterial, precisely because he’s of the order of mind he can be conjoined to a finite individual so I don’t see that as a difficulty, I guess.
RESPONSE (ZINDLER): Well, of course, I would say two things at least. First of all, a number of other gods came into the bodies of a number of ancient people, at least we’re supposed to believe that if we read our mythology books, and so that was really not all that unusual with Jesus. But this other thing is the idea of a disembodied mind. From what we understand of neurophysiology, the process of the mind is exactly that. It is a process. It is not a thing. It’s a dynamic relationship which arises as a result of the electro-chemical changes within the brain. As long as the brain is operating in a certain way within certain limits we have consciousness, we have mentation, we have sensation. If you change that slightly with LSD molecules or alcohol molecules or low blood sugar, you lose the mind. To think that the mind can survive the wreck of the brain and become disembodied is like thinking 70mph can survive the wreck of a car.
QUESTION 6: Mr. Zindler, if reason and logic are just convention or custom or arise by evolutionary chance out of a material universe, what is your reason for using reason for testing truth and reality? In other words, do you have a reason for your reason or is it just your blind faith?
RESPONSE (ZINDLER): The ability to reason obviously was something that conferred selective advantage on various primate species. Indeed, the ability to reason and interpret sense data from the environment accurately has been part of the vertebrate evolutionary scheme itself. We find it perhaps most highly developed in the human species but it certainly exists in our primate cousins as well. We use it because it works. We survive because this nervous system, which functions according to what we call conventionally now the rules of logic, because it works. It’s a very pragmatic sort of thing. A species that evolved a logic or a nervous system that supported logic that was not valid would not survive. It would be weeded out and replaced by a species that had a logic that worked better.
Indeed, one of the famous philosophers of science, Karl Popper, has himself developed a theory of epistemology, a theory of knowledge, in which he accounts for these meta-theories themselves in terms of evolution. There is sort of a natural selection going on among logical systems, among philosophical systems. But actually my answer is a very simple pragmatic one, we use it because it works and allows us to survive.
RESPONSE (CRAIG): I think that the question points to a deep incoherence in the atheist point of view. Namely, if our beliefs are formed simply as a selective advantage, that means that our belief forming mechanisms don’t aim at truth, they aim at survival. So how do we know that everything we believe is not really true, it’s just something that helps you to survive? In other words, there’s no reason to think that the evolutionary story itself is true rather than just something that has survival value. Worst than that, Mr. Zindler is a determinist. Therefore, everything that he thinks is just like, say, having a toothache or a limb growing a leaf. There is no truth to it. It’s just all determined. So how do you know that the views that you hold to aren’t simply the result of physical stimuli rather than rationality? I think that atheism is ultimately destructive to rationality itself.