A Youtube Response to the Resurrection
An atheist YouTuber critiques Reasonable Faith's animated video on The Resurrection with his own animation!
KEVIN HARRIS: Dr. Craig, we’ve just put out the new animated series on the resurrection of Jesus, and already there is an atheist response on YouTube that is coming up on over 14,000 views. It has been on just over 24-hours. So it is already garnering some response.
DR. CRAIG: Good! That’s wonderful!
KEVIN HARRIS: The man who has responded goes by Paulogia. Apparently his name is Paul. I think he's from Canada when we look at his YouTube channel. He claims to be a former Christian who was even involved in youth ministry and went to Bible school but who began to research the age of dinosaurs – how long ago they were on the Earth – and that led to an unraveling of his faith. He began to read atheist material and look at some people that we're familiar with online, and then looked at Young Earth Creationism sites. The atheist material made them look silly. This caused him to join the ranks apparently of the atheists and is now debating against Christianity. Mostly he deals with Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, Kent Hovind, Eric Hovind, and Young Earth. That's his main interest.
DR. CRAIG: Yes. I thought it was remarkable that apparently as an adult Christian he first became familiar with the fact that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago, and that this was news to him! That shocked me because as a boy I loved dinosaurs and obviously knew that they had lived millions and millions of years ago. It says something about this gentleman's education that he was never exposed to that fact until he was an adult Christian. He says he'd been a Christian for thirty years and never heard that dinosaurs lived millions of years ago so that when he learned that this really shook him to the core in his faith. I just can't imagine what sort of high school this fellow must have gone to to be innocent of that fact. At least to have heard of it.
KEVIN HARRIS: He further says, if you listen to clips of his testimony, that he said, I was too busy to ever investigate any of this for myself. I just believed it. I believe that those who were over me in leadership [I guess pastors, teachers] I took their word for it. Apparently they had investigated it. I could trust them. But he said, I was just too busy with family and in ministry and church responsibilities to ever investigate it for myself.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, incredible.
KEVIN HARRIS: That’s one of the things that we want to prevent through Reasonable Faith – encourage young people to investigate these things, particularly before they go to college or university or when they run into Internet infidel-type material on the Internet. Did that strike you as that's what he was saying?
DR. CRAIG: Oh, absolutely. I was stunned to think that he was so involved in church work and other responsibilities that he had no time for personal study. That's an indictment of the church as well as of him – that the intellectual life of this person was just allowed . . . well, it was stagnant. He had a brain-dead Christian faith, and that is an inherently unstable and precarious faith.
KEVIN HARRIS: We can play some clips from this. He does his own animation.
DR. CRAIG: Yes, and I thought it was very interesting that in the animation he doesn't appear on screen himself. Rather, he does a voice-over for a rather millennial-looking young fellow who speaks for him when in fact we're dealing here with a man who is a middle-aged fellow, was a Christian 30 years and walked away from the faith. So we're talking about a Christian layperson that's in his middle age and not this young millennial-type that is portrayed on the screen. But this is an effective way of reaching out to the younger generation.
KEVIN HARRIS: I have to say that this is the second person that I've run into (just looking at things online) who didn't discover Christian philosophy and apologetics until after they de-converted, for the most part, and now find themselves in this new commitment and in this new worldview joining the ranks of those who are critiquing and opposing Christianity, and now are looking at all the material that gives evidence for Christ. So he seems to fit in that category. What we can do is you just tell me when to pause this video, and we'll take a look at what he has to say. This video is too long for the podcast, so let's just deal with his critique of the empty tomb at the beginning of the Reasonable Faith video.
Dr. William Lane Craig is well-known among modern Christian apologist circles and has debated many high-profile skeptics like Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Sean Carroll, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens. With such credentials when his Reasonable Faith ministry posted a video series called “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” my hopes were high for some quality scholarship and arguments.
Did Jesus rise from the dead? As we explore this question, we need to address two further questions. What are the facts that require explanation, and which explanation best accounts for these facts?
That's one way to look at it.
There are three main facts that need to be explained. Fact number one: the discovery that Jesus's tomb was empty is reported in no less than six independent sources.
Let's take a look at the first one Craig put on screen: 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. It says, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” Forgive me, but where did these verses attest to an empty tomb? The word “tomb” doesn't appear at all. It says Jesus was buried, but that phrasing can apply equally to burial in a marked grave, an unmarked grave, or even a mass grave – the kind that nearly all Roman crucifixion victims are thrown into as it can any kind of tomb. The passage is entirely silent on the kind of burial. This passage attests to the resurrection, but it absolutely does not attest to a tomb of any kind – full or empty. So we're down to five alleged independent sources. Now let's look at the Acts passage.
DR. CRAIG: The critique here shows that he is unfamiliar with my published work which undergirds the video and which this video presents in a summary fashion. The point here is that Paul is quoting from an extremely early tradition that goes back to within the first five years after Jesus’ death. The two lines of the formula that “he was buried and he was raised” could only have been understood by a first century Jew to imply that the physical body that was in the grave was no longer there. It was now an empty grave. For first century Jews, the resurrection is not some sort of spiritual event; it is the raising up of the corpse that was laid in the grave. Now, the question arises then: Is this the same event that is described in the Gospels as the discovery of the empty tomb? The way in which we can see that that is the case is by comparing Paul's four-line formula to the Gospel accounts on the one hand (the passion story of Jesus), and then to the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts (the early apostolic preaching). What you discover is that what Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 15 in this formula is a summary point-for-point of the Gospel narratives on the one hand and the apostolic preaching on the other. That Christ died, that he was buried, that he was raised, and that he appeared to various individuals and groups. What corresponds to the second line is the burial by Joseph of Arimathea in the tomb. What corresponds to the third line (“and he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures”) is the story of the woman's discovery of the empty tomb. So what we have here is extremely early evidence for the burial and the empty tomb of Jesus. It is a summary of the early Christian proclamation of the resurrection, and the third line of the formula corresponds to the story of the discovery of the empty tomb. So I think it is highly probable that what we have here is a summary in outline form of the principal events of Jesus’ passion – his death, his burial by Joseph in the tomb, the discovery of his empty tomb, and then his postmortem appearances.
K; OK. Continuing the video.
Now let's look at the Acts passage. Well, at least this one has the word “tomb” in it, but it speaks only of David's tomb. That's from a thousand or so years before Jesus. It says Jesus didn't decay, and again affirms a resurrection, but again literally nothing at all about a tomb for Jesus – full or empty. And even if it had mentioned an empty tomb, the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts were supposed to have been written by the same author – one the sequel of the other as a matched set. They certainly wouldn't be considered independent sources.
DR. CRAIG: There are two points to be made here. First, in the apostolic preaching, I think it's very clear that there is a contrast drawn by Peter between the tomb of David and the tomb of Jesus. He says, David died, he was buried, and “his tomb is with us to this day but this Jesus God raised up.” I think that that is an indication of the empty tomb. In contrast to the tomb of David which remains to this day, Jesus’ body is not to be found. He was raised up. As I say, any first century Jew would have understood that to mean that that tomb would have been empty. Now, is this an independent source from the traditions in the Gospel of Luke? Yes. And the argument here is not that the book of Acts is independent from the Gospel of Luke, but rather that in writing the book of Acts Luke drew upon the traditions of the early apostolic preaching. And so what we have here is a pre-Lukan source, namely the early apostolic preaching upon which Luke drew in writing the book of Acts. Therefore it is an independent source. It's one of Luke's sources, and this apostolic preaching is arguably extremely early. That's important because it mitigates against the notion that these are later legends that built up over the decades and eventually got written down in the New Testament. With the apostolic preaching we're in touch with what these earliest preachers of the Gospel had to say.
KEVIN HARRIS: When it comes to the ancient world, this is the kind of things that historians look for as far as sources. Is that what you would say?
DR. CRAIG: Not only the ancient world, but this is the way historians operate. You try to see if you have independent sources of some event because, as explained later, when you have two independent accounts that tell the same event that increases the probability that this is actually historical rather than just independently made-up.
KEVIN HARRIS: Continuing.
Speaking of independent sources, it is near universally acknowledged that Mark was a source of Matthew and Luke. Over 90% of Mark appears in these other books – very often word-for-word copying if you examine the original Greek. They are so similar that they're collectively called the Synoptic Gospels. These can no more be considered independent sources than a Harry Potter book, Harry Potter movie, and Harry Potter video game could be considered independent sources for the existence of Hogwarts School of Magic. The movie and the video game are obviously adaptations of the original book so are useless to corroborate it. Matthew, Mark, and Luke aren't independent sources by any reasonable definition.
DR. CRAIG: Now here we see again his misunderstanding of New Testament scholarship as well as his unfamiliarity with the published material that the video summarizes. Matthew, Mark, and Luke are not independent of one another but there are sources upon which these evangelists drew in writing their Gospels that are independent of one another. Just to give one example. In addition to Mark's Gospel, Luke and Matthew seem to share an independent source that scholars refer to as Q, and this seems to have been a sayings source of Jesus’ teachings. It wasn't a record of historical events like the Gospels, but rather it was a record of Jesus’ teachings or sayings. This seems to have been employed by Matthew and Luke to supplement what they learned from Mark. Moreover, these authors had other independent sources. There is material in Luke which is unique to his Gospel which scholars designate the L material. There's material in Matthew, like his guard at the tomb story which is unique to Matthew and therefore cannot have been derived from Mark, which is part of the M material. And then Mark himself draws upon a pre-Markan passion story for his account of the final week of Jesus’ death. This pre-Markan passion story is one of the earliest sources behind the New Testament, comparable to the tradition that Paul hands on in 1 Corinthians 15. So our critic here is simply unfamiliar with the way New Testament criticism operates. We do indeed have independent sources in L, M, and the pre-Markan passion story for the empty tomb of Jesus. This is one of the most remarkable things about the empty tomb! It is so widely attested in these very early independent sources about the burial and empty tomb of Jesus.
KEVIN HARRIS: All that about Harry Potter – that's a meme. That gets passed around a lot. Somebody put that on a website somewhere and constantly in chat rooms and on Facebook that's thrown against the Christian faith saying that the Bible's no more evidence for Jesus than the Harry Potter series and video games are evidence for the School of Hogwarts.
DR. CRAIG: That's question-begging because he's chosen deliberately an example which everybody knows to be fiction. That's begging the question against the Gospels. Are the Gospels fiction? He needs to deal with the fact that in the Gospels we do have these independent historical sources attesting to certain facts which have led most scholars to think that these are indeed historical.
KEVIN HARRIS: They try to use it as an illustration, but they also try to use it as a fictional character and then beg the question.
DR. CRAIG: Yeah, it begs the question and assumes that Jesus is comparable to a fictional character or these are fictional stories.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK, let's continue with the video.
. . . which leaves the Gospel attributed to John. While some scholars make a compelling case that the author of John utilized a copy of Mark as a guide, for the sake of moving on let's grant this one under protest and call Craig’s six sources actually two sources.
DR. CRAIG: The wide majority of scholars think that John is independent of the Synoptics. I'm not aware of any compelling case that John knew Mark. It's certainly conceivable, and then one would need to appeal to the traditions behind John which are not drawn from Mark. There's a lot of material in John about the resurrection of Jesus that isn't drawn from Mark. So one would need to consider that as well.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK.
Two theological sources that obviously derive from familiar oral tradition. What we have here is the first of many details to be accepted entirely on the basis of “for the Bible tells me so.”
DR. CRAIG: Let's stop there. That's an assertion that shows a complete misunderstanding of what historical scholarship is about. When historical scholars investigate Jesus of Nazareth they are not treating the Bible as some inspired, inerrant document – “the Bible tells me so.” They are treating these documents that were later collected into the New Testament as they would treat any other sources for ancient history, for example sources concerning the life of Julius Caesar or the life of Alexander the Great. And they're asking the question of Jesus of Nazareth the very same question they would ask of Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great: Did Caesar really cross the Rubicon to attack Rome? Did Alexander actually carry out this and that campaign in his military excursions? These are not examples of “the Bible tells me so,” and the fact that this gentleman apparently thinks that's the way New Testament scholarship operates, it is evidence of his complete lack of understanding of how New Testament historians approach their subject.
KEVIN HARRIS: Throughout this video you are going to hear that little musical passage “for the Bible tells me so.”
DR. CRAIG: Very unfortunate.
KEVIN HARRIS: OK, let’s pick it up there next time. We want to remind everyone to go to ReasonableFaith.org and be sure that you are familiar with all the resources that are there. As well you can make a donation to this ministry. We certainly appreciate it when you do. Go to ReasonableFaith.org. We’ll continue this discussion next time on Reasonable Faith with Dr. William Lane Craig.
 Total Running Time: 19:56 (Copyright © 2019 William Lane Craig)