Live in Downtown DallasApril 19, 2015 Time: 34:12
Dr. Craig is invited to give evidence for the resurrection of Christ in a pub in downtown Dallas! Here is the Q&A that followed.
Live in Downtown Dallas
[Some introductory remarks begin the audio. The transcript picks up at the main question and answer session at the 2 minute 20 second mark.]
Question: Thank you very much for your work, Dr. Craig. I was wondering if there was absolutely no expectation of a resurrection of a first century Jew, why did the Pharisees put a guard at the tomb to keep the disciples out?
Dr. Craig: That is one of the main objections to the historicity of Matthew’s story. You will notice that that story didn’t play any part in the case that I’ve built tonight. Most scholars don’t accept the historicity of the guard story. But what is important about the guard story, I think for our purposes, is that closing comment that Matthew makes: “This has been spread among the Jews to this day.” It shows that Matthew is telling this guard story in order to refute this widespread Jewish allegation that the disciples had come and stolen away the body of Jesus. That is why the tomb was empty. It wasn’t the resurrection. It was body snatching. That is the really important historical nugget to take out of the guard story, and why nothing in the case that I presented tonight presupposes the historicity of the guard story.
If you were to try to defend the historicity of the guard story, I think you would probably say of course the Jewish leaders themselves didn’t believe that Jesus was going to rise from the dead but they may have heard that he predicted such a thing from Judas who betrayed Jesus and whom they have hired to hand him over. They may have feared that there would be some sort of an event there so they wanted a guard placed to prevent anything like that. We don’t know. But the important thing is that it plays no role in the case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus.
Question: Since Christ indicated in the story of Doubting Thomas that he didn’t expect that there was any evidence other than his letting Thomas perhaps probe his wounds in his hand and/or shove his hand (depending on whether you are a Protestant or Catholic) into the side of his mortal wound that there was any more evidence that Christians would be blessed based on their ability to believe based on nothing. Why are you providing evidence of his resurrection?
Dr. Craig: Alright. Let’s try to understand this question. This is actually a theological question. It doesn’t call into question any of the historical facts that I presented tonight: the burial, the empty tomb, the appearances, and so forth. Nor does it attempt to show that the resurrection of Jesus is not the best explanation of these facts based on criteria like explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, and so forth. Rather this is a theological objection that is saying if Jesus and John (who records the Doubting Thomas story) thought that evidence isn’t important for belief in Jesus’ resurrection then why do something like what I’ve done tonight? Well, I think that this is based upon a misunderstanding of the Thomas story. Let me just read that account to you.
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came [So Thomas wasn’t with the others when Jesus appeared to them in the upper room]. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed” (John 20:24-29 NASB).
Now, the questioner is suggesting what this is saying is that it is more blessed to just believe in the resurrection of Jesus on faith or something without seeing than to require evidence. But is that the correct interpretation of this story? No - this gentleman is shaking his head no. What Thomas refused to do was to believe the apostolic testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples had seen the Lord and they bore testimony to what they had seen and experienced. Thomas was refusing to believe the eyewitness testimony to the resurrection of Jesus. And John is saying to the readers of his day, Don’t be skeptical. You yourself haven’t seen an appearance of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t appear to every person in every age. You haven’t seen him. But you have the apostolic eyewitness testimony to this event, and you should believe on that basis. So right after this story he goes on to say, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31 NIV). So John is saying these signs are recorded. We have the eyewitness apostolic testimony to these miraculous signs, and therefore you are blessed if you believe this apostolic testimony to these signs even if you yourself have not personally seen the empty tomb or witnessed a resurrection appearance of Jesus.
So far from undermining the historical evidence for the resurrection, I think this story actually augments the importance of examining the apostolic testimony to the resurrection, and if it is trustworthy and believable, believing on that basis rather than saying, “Why doesn’t he appear to me in my bedroom?” That, John says, is an unreasonable demand.
Question: Why does Dr. Craig feel that the resurrection is the only possible option to explain the emergence of Christianity? Should we consider that Joseph Smith must have been visited by an angel and found golden plates to explain the emergence of Mormonism?
Dr. Craig: The comparison is with the origin of the movement of Latter Day Saints and Joseph Smith and Mormonism. To answer the first question, I would say certainly not! I would certainly not say that the resurrection of Jesus is the only explanation of these four facts. Quite the contrary, there are numerous explanations, and what you need to do is to weigh them in terms of their explanatory power, explanatory scope, plausibility, degree of ad-hocness. What I am arguing is that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation. It doesn’t need to be the only one. It is the best one when assessed by these criteria. By contrast, when you assess Joseph Smith’s claims, I think it is very likely that Smith was a religious charlatan and that much of this was just made up.
Question: I had a question about the resurrection body as it might relate to the mind-body problem. I am a reluctant dualist. The resurrection ontology has always tripped me up. My question is: does a Christian - be he a dualist or materialist - need to affirm a physical continuity between the crucified corpse of Jesus and the resurrection body of Jesus? Or is there room in orthodoxy for physical discontinuity?
Dr. Craig: I wouldn’t want to say that it is heretical, but I do think that when you examine what Paul teaches about the resurrection body in 1 Corinthians 15 it is very clear that he thinks that the resurrection body is a transformation of the earthly body. So there is historical continuity. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44a he says,
. . . It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
Then he goes on to say in verse 53,
For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
So the verbs and the pronouns that Paul is using there have reference to the earthly body which is transformed into this powerful, spiritual resurrection body. I think that it is pretty convincing that Paul teaches and believes in the historical continuity of the earthly body with the resurrection body insofar as there are any remains as there were in Jesus’ case of course.
In the case of someone whose remains have been utterly vaporized and destroyed, the early rabbis dealt with questions like that. Because belief in the resurrection is, of course, a Jewish belief as well. What they said would be in cases like that God had the ability to create new material ex nihilo, and that could be the stuff of the resurrection body. So it is not as though the historical continuity from the earthly to the resurrection body is essential for the identity of the person who is raised. On the contrary, I would say that that personal identity is ensured by precisely the soul which goes through an intermediate disembodied condition that Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 5 until it receives the new resurrection body. If there are remains (say skeletal remains of the earthly body), I think Paul believes these will be the stuff out of which the resurrection body is made. But if there are no remains left then new matter can be created, and it will nevertheless still be the person who was raised who died because of the continuity of the soul through the disembodied condition into a newly embodied state. I think your dualism solves any problem that you might have about identity.
Question: I would like to have this question answered in the framework of the minimal facts argument that Gary Habermas puts forward. Visions are ambiguous historically – what exactly they were. I’ve done some casual research into sociology of religious movements. T. M. Luhrmann, a sociological anthropologist, has done some studies of charismatic Christians and modern witches in the modern world. She made a couple of interesting observations. She details the kinds of visions that people can have (just normal people that participate in these kind of ritualistic activities) that are very exciting and what have you.
Dr. Craig: I am really almost astonished that you could think that those kinds of examples are analogous to the resurrection appearance accounts in the New Testament. I would think that those would be paradigm examples of disanalogies! These are examples of people who already have prior beliefs about certain things - like witches or charismatic gifts - who then put themselves in situations of self-induced imagination and visionary experiences and so forth. That is so completely different from what we have in the resurrection accounts where if a Jewish person were to have a hallucination or a vision of a departed person like Jesus he would see a vision of Jesus in heaven where the Jews believed the righteous dead went until the eschatological resurrection. They wouldn’t have resurrection visions of Jesus risen from the dead in the earthly world. They would proclaim that God has assumed Jesus into heaven and that is where they saw him - in Abraham’s bosom. The disanalogies between the Jewish situation of a first century Jewish believer coming to have these resurrection appearances of Jesus is totally unlike these examples of people who are already devoted believers in a practice and then try to inculcate those kinds of things in them.
Let me just say in general that when you look at the psychological case books on visions, there is nothing in the case books that is parallel to the resurrection appearances of Jesus. What you have to do is to cobble together multiple different cases to try to form a kind of composite that would try to be analogous to the series of resurrection appearances you have in the New Testament. But there is nothing in the psychological case books that would be parallel to the resurrection appearances of Jesus.
Question: Is it surprising that we don’t have contemporary extra-biblical sources mentioning Jesus’ execution, empty tomb, and reports of resurrections?
Dr. Craig: By contemporary he doesn’t mean contemporary with us. He means contemporary with Jesus. And it is not surprising because Jesus was such a relatively obscure figure that it is not at all surprising. I would ask this person who says this - what places are there, what ancient writers, are you thinking of that ought to be talking about this that aren’t? Josephus mentions Jesus. He says he was a wonder-worker. He mentions his crucifixion under Pilate. He says that the movement that followed him still continues to exist to this day. What first century sources are there that you would expect to find these references in? There just aren’t any. The fact is that we don’t have a very full and rich literature coming down out of the first century. But what we do have is these multiple biographies of Jesus. We have these multiple letters by separate authors that were gathered into the New Testament. There is more by way of historical testimony to the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than there are for most major figures of antiquity. The fact is they were so early, they were out of the circle of the early church, that they were then assembled into the New Testament, put under one cover, and called The New Testament. So by the very nature of the case, the earliest, the best, primary sources about the life and teachings of Jesus were the letters and the biographies that eventually got assembled and put into the New Testament.
Question: Dr. Craig, I just thank you so much for coming out here. I think you can see by the full room here that a lot of people have been blessed by your ministry. I just had a quick practical question. I think the most common skeptic that [unintelligible] people will hear is Bart Ehrman. I think I’ve heard you in a debate say that he would affirm the points that you have spoken about tonight.
Dr. Craig: He did originally. Yes.
Followup: Has he backed off from that?
Dr. Craig: Yes. That is very interesting to me. In his lectures with The Teaching Company he affirmed the burial by Joseph of Arimathea on the basis of multiple, independent attestation. He affirmed the empty tomb being discovered by women. The same sort of points that I was making. But now in his most recent work, he backs away from that. I think it is because he saw where it was leading. Once you grant those facts it is very difficult to deny that the best explanation of them is that Jesus rose from the dead. So what he now tries to do is say, despite the multiple independent attestation, despite the criterion of embarrassment that he himself accepts, he is skeptical about these facts.
Followup: My question actually was: for someone who assumes Bart Ehrman - since he is the primary skeptic - he doubts the historicity as a whole of the Gospels, how would you minister to someone who would say . . .
Dr. Craig: He is far from skeptical about the whole of the Gospels, if I understood you correctly. He is skeptical about the empty tomb and the burial of Jesus now. If I were to be talking to him I would present these same sorts of arguments that have convinced most scholars. He is in a minority among New Testament scholars in denying these facts. The reasons that he gives - the arguments that he gives - for denying them are not very good. I think that one would simply look hard at the evidence and try to follow the evidence where it leads.
Question: Hey, Dr. Craig. I just want to start off by saying that I am a big fan of yours even though I am an atheist. I have listened to you and Kevin Harris’ podcasts and all that. Here is my question. Let’s pretend that I came here straight out of History Channel and I told you that I, as an atheist, I believe that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and all that, he was taken up to heaven but he was raised by the same people who taught the ancient Egyptians and all these other civilizations how to build pyramids, alien beings from outer space. I just want to know what your response is to the ancient astronaut hypothesis.
Dr. Craig: Let me ask you a question. I assume you don’t believe what Erich von Daniken and others say in the Chariots of the Gods. Why don’t you believe that the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids with the help of alien outer space beings and technology?
Followup: First off, I have read the books. I’ve kept up with the shows. I’ve seen the documentaries. I am not convinced by their arguments. I do find the hypothesis that Jesus Christ was taken up into heaven by aliens to be as plausible as the resurrection. I think one is absurd but so is the other one. What makes one more plausible than the other?
Dr. Craig: I guess I would want to know why you think that the resurrection hypothesis is as absurd as the alien hypothesis for which there is just no evidence whatsoever. It is completely ad hoc and, I think, implausible. You would probably recognize that yourself. I don’t know of any contemporary historian or biblical critic who believes in the alien extraterrestrial being hypothesis. Why not? Because it is so ad-hoc and implausible. There is no evidence for it.
Followup: They are both other-worldly explanations.
Dr. Craig: Yes.
Followup: One of them involves a supernatural being - a supernatural mind without a body - raising some guy from the dead. And the other one just involves another improbable event - aliens being from another world coming here and raising some guy from the dead.
Dr. Craig: Well, you see, I guess I think that the God hypothesis is a lot more plausible than the other. I don’t see any absurdities in the God hypothesis. In fact, I think, given the religio-historical context of Jesus’ life and teachings, the hypothesis that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead fits like a hand-in-glove whereas the alien abduction hypothesis is, as I say, completely ad hoc and out of left field and doesn’t do anything to illuminate the religio-historical context. I think this is especially true if, as I say, you’ve got independent reasons for believing in the existence of God. I only present the resurrection of Jesus in my work Reasonable Faith after a long discussion of arguments for the existence of God. So we’ve already got the existence of a supernatural being in place when we come to the evidence for the resurrection. What would be analogous would be if before you came to the evidence for the resurrection you already had good evidence that there are these extraterrestrial aliens who have come to Earth and helped the Egyptians build the pyramids and things like that. That would make that more plausible if there was some evidence for that. But there just isn’t. So I think the God hypothesis is much more plausible than that.
Question: Is there a percentage of scholars you can provide for each of the facts you listed?
Dr. Craig: Gary Habermas has attempted to conduct such a survey. He did a survey between I think 1975 and then into the 2000s. In his survey he found that 75% of the scholars who had written on the subject accepted the historicity of the empty tomb. When it comes to things like the post-mortem appearances, there it is virtually universal. Similarly the fourth fact that the original disciples came to believe that Jesus was risen from the dead, again virtually universal. These are facts which command the wide majority of New Testament scholars whether they are Christian or non-Christian, evangelical or non-evangelical. But I wouldn’t place any great weight on exact percentages, but it is certainly heavy.
Question: Dr. Craig, as one who was formerly standing in that line over there just a few years ago, I have to say I am indebted to the work of you and other Christian philosophers. I would like to echo the sentiments that were shared with you at Rutgers University that your generation truly has made it very easy to share the Gospel.
Dr. Craig: Can I just share that with the crowd? Because that so astonished me. I recently spoke at Rutgers University, which is of course one of the top universities out on the eastern seaboard, a bastion of secularism, and one of the students got up in a meeting like this where I had spoken on the existence of God and he said, “I want to thank you for the work that you and other Christian philosophers have done which has made it easy for my generation to believe in God.” I was astonished. I said, “Do you really mean that? Easy?” And he said, “Yes!” I was so encouraged. The work of people like Alvin Plantinga, William Alston, Robert Adams, and on and on and on the list goes, is having a culturally transforming effect so that a student at a place like Rutgers can say it is easy for me to be a Christian today.
Followup: Absolutely. I would add to that that one of my friends over here and I are both aspiring philosophers. We are applying to grad programs. My question is involving perhaps an unfair critique from Bart Ehrman and others regarding those statistics you were speaking of. I’ve heard you be criticized on the grounds that this type of appeal to majority is not necessarily truth-conducive and, two, this might be a skewed sample because the majority of New Testament scholars are already committed to the truth of Christianity.
Dr. Craig: I think that that attitude, which is prevalent among students, just simply shows a naivety and unfamiliarity with New Testament scholarship. New Testament scholarship has tried out the most skeptical approaches to Jesus and the Gospels. At the end of the 19th century there was great skepticism among New Testament scholars. This went on into the 20th century. In the 1940s, a man like Rudolf Bultmann could claim that all that could be known about the historical Jesus could be written on a 4x6 card. It was widely thought that the stories of the empty tomb were legendary developments that arose decades after Jesus was gone and dead. The original disciples had perhaps had hallucinations of Jesus. The stories of Jesus’ miracles and divine claims were the result of the influence of pagan mythology. All of that is gone. There has been a sea change in the guild - in New Testament historical scholarship - because largely of what has been called the Jewish Reclamation of Jesus. The rediscovery of the Jewishness of Jesus. The proper interpretative context for understanding Jesus is not Greco-Roman mythology or pagan mythology; it is first century Palestinian Judaism. When you read it against that background, the historical veracity of the Gospels shines through very clearly. So this - I won’t call it a consensus - but this majority view that I described represents an enormous change in New Testament scholarship that was brought about by the reappreciation of the evidence. This isn’t a skewed sample. Look at the way New Testament scholarship was in the 40s and before that compared to today. In any case, that is why I don’t simply share, “This is a majority view.” I give the reasons - multiple independent attestation, embarrassment, dissimilarity, and so on and so forth. I give the reasons that have led most scholars to these opinions. In the end it is not about counting noses. It is about dealing with the evidence that I’ve shared that has convinced the majority of scholars today.
Question: I have a followup question actually to a question that I asked you about ten years ago.
Dr. Craig: I don’t remember. [laughter]
Followup: In Kevin Harris’ Sunday School class. I’ll catch you up. I asked you at the time to envision a hypothetical situation where we both go back in time and I can demonstrate to you a very clear contradictory evidence to the resurrection of Jesus. At the time you told me that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is a kind of an evidence that would tell you that that should not be trusted. I am asking you to maybe explore that hypothetical a little bit further. What if we also go back in time, we see the contradictory evidence, then also you lose that inner witness for some reason - it goes away - and you now don’t have that confirmation of the Holy Spirit. You have contradictory evidence. I am presuming that you would then disbelieve. I would ask you to imagine that we come back forward in time and we are standing right here. In that situation, what would you say to somebody like yourself? What would you say to people that are gathered here? What advice would you give to me if I were interested in talking to somebody like you about this?
Dr. Craig: What I would say first of all is that you are asking the wrong question. You are asking me a personal, autobiographical question about under what conditions I would lose my faith. What would I do? I think that that has only psychological interest. It is of no philosophical significance. I might lose my faith if my wife were in a horrible car accident, terribly disfigured, and I could no longer believe in God because of what he allowed to happen to her. Who knows what psychological factors might come into play? I, in no way, think that I am invulnerable to unbelief or that my psychology is so strong I can withstand anything such as the example you envision. Peter said, “Lord, I will never deny you. I will never desert you.” Jesus said, “Before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” Peter’s false presumptuousness was exposed. I don’t want to be presumptuous in that way. That is not really the relevant question. The question is not what would I do but what should I do in a case like this. I think in a case like this, if the witness of the Holy Spirit is eclipsed for some reason in my life, it is probable because of sin or some sort of lack of walking close to the Lord or something of that sort. What I need to do, I think, is to seek God’s face again with renewed energy and devotion and self-examination to make sure I am walking with him. Because I think there is a witness of the Holy Spirit and it exists independently of my psychological faithfulness or vulnerability, and that the evidence for the resurrection is very good and they are in harmony with each other. What the Spirit bears testimony to me is confirmed by the evidence and arguments of history. So I feel very comfortable in following both to where they point.
Followup: So you would retain your Christian faith in that situation?
Dr. Craig: But, I just explained to you, that is not the relevant question! You are posing an autobiographical question about what would Bill Craig do. That is not the relevant question. I don’t know what I would do because I’m not going to be presumptuous like Peter and say I wouldn’t do that. The question is epistemologically what should I do? What I should do is what I just explained to you what I should do. Given that Jesus is risen from the dead and that there is a witness of the Holy Spirit, if it is eclipsed in my heart I need to seek God again with renewed zeal and to look at the evidence again and try to see if there is an explanation of what appears to be conflicting. That is what I should do. Of course, if Jesus isn’t risen from the dead and there is no such thing as a Holy Spirit then of course I shouldn’t believe in it. But I think there is.
Followup: I am trying . . . in that situation, what should you do if there is?
Dr. Craig: You should do what I just said you should do. By the way, this kind of question is just meant to kind of try to trip me up; to put me in an awkward situation or something. Suppose you are an evidentialist who says Follow the evidence where it leads. If the evidence says Jesus is risen from the dead, then follow it and believe in him. If the evidence goes against the resurrection of Jesus then turn away, apostatize, and don’t believe. Well, so what? How does that affect the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? It doesn’t. We are talking here about differences in theology that have no impact upon whether or not the evidence that we have is sufficient enough to warrant rational belief in Jesus’ resurrection.
Question: How can we pray for you, your family, and your ministry?
Dr. Craig: Well, I would invite folks to simply pray for the ministry of Reasonable Faith, that its worldwide impact would continue to grow and increase and multiply throughout the world, that millions would come to these YouTube videos, that our articles and materials that we are translating to Spanish and Portuguese would be disseminated in Latin America and elsewhere. We are trying to have a worldwide impact for the Kingdom. I would just appreciate prayers on behalf of that ministry as it attempts to reach out and make the Word known.
Kevin Harris: Thank you very much for joining us for Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig. How often do you hear of events like this? Where the truth of Christ’s claims are discussed in an open forum in a downtown pub or bar? Probably not very often. But that is exactly what this organization does. That was Ezra Boggs emceeing the event. He is the Director of the Bible and Beer Consortium. Their mission statement is, “To take the truth of God as it is to people as they are.” You will find him going to where people, particularly those outside of the Christian faith, often gather. Dr. Craig was invited to speak at one of these events in downtown Dallas, Texas as you just heard. A big crowd showed up to hear him speak on the resurrection. We only included the question and answer session at the end of Bill’s talk because you can find his many presentations on the evidence for the resurrection on ReasonableFaith.org. I hope that you see that this was an opportunity for Reasonable Faith to take the message of Christ to the streets which is exactly what we want to do. The crowd at this event had a lot of fun with Dr. Craig, saying that he looked like rock star David Lee Roth and telling him he should grow his beard back. If you appreciate the work of Reasonable Faith then please join us with your prayer and financial support. You can donate online any time at ReasonableFaith.org. It will keep us moving forward, growing, and providing these much needed events and resources in today’s world. It would be a real blessing if you would donate. Do that at ReasonableFaith.org. I’m Kevin Harris. We will see you next time on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.