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Thread: Debate on the Resurrection of Jesus - Apologiaphoenix vs. Gary

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    Debate on the Resurrection of Jesus - Apologiaphoenix vs. Gary

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    This is the Formal Debate thread for Apologiaphoenix and Gary. Any posts from anyone other Apologiaphoenix or Gary will be deleted summarily without notice. The debate is proposed for Five Rounds. You may start when ready

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    Last edited by Littlejoe; 07-20-2015 at 08:20 PM.
    "What has the Church gained if it is popular, but there is no conviction, no repentance, no power?" - A.W. Tozer

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    I first off want to thank Gary for agreeing to come here and debate this topic which I think should be agreed by all to be an immensely important topic. If Jesus rose from the dead, then that has great ramifications for everyone in all facets of life. If He didn’t, then I agree with the apostle Paul that we are above all men to be most pitied.

    This is also not a debate about inerrancy. Christianity is not disproven if we don’t know how many angels were at the tomb or even if we can have a hard time reconciling some secondary details. For instance, there is much debate over practically every aspect of the Gettysburg Address that Lincoln gave, but there is not debate over the fact that he did in fact give one and we have a good idea of what he said.
    My case rests on a number of points. First off, Jesus died by crucifixion. The whole of the article is available for purchase, but the Journal of the American Medical Association has the following here.

    Jesus of Nazareth underwent Jewish and Roman trials, was flogged, and was sentenced to death by crucifixion. The scourging produced deep stripelike lacerations and appreciable blood loss, and it probably set the stage for hypovolemic shock, as evidenced by the fact that Jesus was too weakened to carry the crossbar (patibulum) to Golgotha. At the site of crucifixion, his wrists were nailed to the patibulum and, after the patibulum was lifted onto the upright post (stipes), his feet were nailed to the stipes. The major pathophysiologic effect of crucifixion was an interference with normal respirations. Accordingly, death resulted primarily from hypovolemic shock and exhaustion asphyxia. Jesus' death was ensured by the thrust of a soldier's spear into his side. Modern medical interpretation of the historical evidence indicates that Jesus was dead when taken down from the cross.

    So let’s be clear. Jesus was dead. If Gary wishes to try the swoon theory, he is free to go that route, though I think that theory died centuries ago at the hands of even liberal scholars. Unless Gary raises any significant challenge to this, I will take it as a given.

    The next point I wish to make is that Jesus was buried and the tomb was found empty. The start of this is that Byron McCane has written a wonderful article showing that Jesus’s burial was a shameful burial. Those interested can read that here.

    Shameful aspects include that Jesus’s family did not perform the burial and that we have no indication of any mourning going on at the time of burial. While the accounts say the women wanted to go anoint the body afterwards and perhaps to mourn, they had no guarantee they would get their wish and a guard placed could have also included a placement to avoid people going to mourn.

    Further, all four Gospels do refer to the empty tomb. This meets the criteria of multiple attestation then. Add in that not only do you have a shameful burial but women being the first witnesses to the empty tomb in the Gospels and you have the criterion of embarrassment. An account that was made up would not have this. It is difficult to imagine how Christianity could get off the ground anyway as long as Jesus’s body had been in the tomb and anyone could have known that.

    But what about Paul? Paul says, death, burial, and resurrection. Paul says nothing about an empty tomb. Nor does he really need to. Paul was a Pharisee and believed in bodily resurrection as is shown in passages like Romans 8 and others. Now it could be said by Gary and others that Paul was wrong in that belief. You can say that, but it cannot be said that Paul believed in a bodily resurrection when he talked about resurrection, but somehow made an exception for Jesus. Jesus was to be the first fruits of what happened to Christians. Robert Gundry in his classical work Soma In Biblical Greek has made a convincing case that speaking of a body would aside from perhaps metaphorical usage refer to something physical.

    Finally, The appearances, and this is quite essential when tied in with the empty tomb. An empty tomb by itself would not show Jesus was alive. Any number of strange events could explain that. Of course, it would need an explanation, but the explanation first thought of would not be “resurrection.” The appearances by themselves would also not be enough. That would just mean hallucination and the ancients knew about hallucinations and if they saw someone after their death that would most often tell them one thing. The person was dead. Let us not be so naïve as to think these people were not familiar with death. Most of them would have seen it on a more day to day basis than we do in our modern times.

    Do we have good testimony of these? Again, it’s right there in Paul. Scholars across the board agree that 1 Cor. 15 contains within it an early Christian creed. Paul speaks of passing on what he received, which is the language of oral tradition, and he uses terminology that is normally not Pauline in the universally accepted letters. This is not an isolated incidence of course as scholars think Christian creeds show up throughout the epistles, such as a baptismal confession in Romans 10 or a Christian hymn in Colossians 1 and Philippians 2.

    This is also accepted by scholars in the field.

    “The only thing that we can certainly say to be historical is that there were resurrection appearances in Galilee (and in Jerusalem) soon after Jesus’s death. These appearances cannot be denied” (Gerd Ludemann. .”What Really Happened To Jesus?” p. 81)
    “We can say with complete certainty that some of his disciples at some later time insisted that . . . he soon appeared to them, convincing them that he had been raised from the dead.” (Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, pg 230).

    “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.” (E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, pg 280)

    Please keep in mind also that these are non-Christian scholars. These are not scholars trying to argue for the resurrection of Jesus. They are simply looking at the data and realize that the data does show this.

    Also something noteworthy that we get from the creed is the “conversion” (A term I hesitate to use, but I do not know of a much better one) of James and Paul. Both of these were skeptics prior to the Easter event. (I use this term because something happened that day and I do not want to beg a question and say resurrection.) Neither one of them would have anything to gain by coming to Christianity. James was the brother of Jesus and it would take some strong evidence to think your brother was the Messiah (And based on early Christian testimony, I would add God in the sense of a person in the divine identity) and Paul already was an up and coming scholar in Judaism by his own testimony in Galatians 1 and had a faultless resume according to Philippians 3.

    Finally, with regard to the appearances, it’s noteworthy that many of these were group appearances. Hallucinations however are not shared events. Seeing things wrongly can be shared, such as when a magician on a stage performs a trick. Some might point to the Dancing Sun routine, but it has been pointed out that people will experience eye damage with prolonged direct staring at the sun. (I am taking this on claims I have heard. I have no desire to test this by going out and staring at the sun. Sorry. I’m married to a beautiful woman and I want to be able to look at her.)

    I also want to add in that there were a number of shameful aspects about Christianity. These were so shameful that Christianity should have never got off the ground in an honor-shame culture.

    For instance, Jesus was crucified. This would make Jesus someone you would not want to talk about over the dinner table any more than you talk about convicted pedophiles at the dinner table. In fact, to quote Bart Ehrman:
    Christians who wanted to proclaim Jesus as messiah would not have invented the notion that he was crucified because his crucifixion created such a scandal. Indeed, the apostle Paul calls it the chief "stumbling block" for Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). Where did the tradition come from? It must have actually happened. (Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Third Edition. pages 221-222)

    Christianity was also a new belief system. In a modern individualistic society, new is good. We like novelty. We like people thinking outside the box. Not so back then. Again, Ehrman on page 312 of the above work says to recall that in the ancient world, if something was old, it was venerable. Robert Louis Wilken points out the same in The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. Older was better because the older people were closer to the gods and their wisdom survived the test of time so surely we should allow it.

    In fact, this is why the Roman Empire granted toleration to the Jews and allowed them to not sacrifice to or worship the emperor, provided they did both of those things for him. When the early church began doing its evangelism, they tried to show that their belief was neither new nor strange and often wanted to argue that they were teaching the religion of Moses. After all, the new was viewed with suspicion.

    Christianity also taught a bodily resurrection. This sounds really nice to a lot of us today, but not so back then. Crossan and Reed in In Search of Paul point out that resurrection would be like returning to the shackles of prison again. At the end of Phaedo, Socrates asks that a cock be sent to the god of healing at his death. Why? Because he is being released from the prison of the body. Were Christianity changing the story to be more legendary as it went out into the pagan world, it would have dropped this belief and gone with more of a spiritual resurrection, which would have been just fine with Gnosticism.

    Christianity had a high ethical system as well. Question. Before examining the evidences for the belief system, which one sounds better to you? Is it one that calls you to die to yourself, to not be attached to worldly wealth, to forgive those who wrong you and to not seek to do harm by your own means and to keep sexual activity only between husband and wife in a marital union, or one that allows you to live life as you see fit provided you follow a through rituals from time to time?

    Also, more shameful aspects of Jesus could easily be lined up. He was a Jew. He was from Galilee. Make it worse, he was from Nazareth. He did not have a job that ranked social approval and was not a politican or a war hero or anything like that. He was so unremarkable to the world that we could say that the Roman army put him down quite quickly after his entrance into Jerusalem. Without the belief in the resurrection, it’s doubtful anyone would have said anything about Him.

    Despite all of this, people came to Christianity. This included also the middle and upper class. These were the people who had the means to check and verify the claims. They had the most honor to lose if they made their bets wrong. We know there were wealthy people also because of how much writing the early church did and it cost money to write the epistles even. E. Randolph Richards in Rediscovering Paul argues that 1 Corinthians would cost in today’s prices about $2,100 to prepare, Galatians $700, and 1 Thessalonians $500. Paul wasn’t loaded. That money had to come from somewhere.

    Early Christians then were being asked to identify themselves with someone who was seen by the Gentiles as a traitor to the Roman Empire and by the Jews as a blasphemer to YHWH. If you were a middle and upper class person, this was a hefty sacrifice to make as you would be a deviant to the world around you, and yet they made it. Why? What convinced them?

    Now what are some possible explanations of this data?

    Hallucinations are a common one, but hallucinations do not explain the group appearances. They also do not explain the empty tomb. Ultimately this has to be combined with some other theory. It would not explain as well the conversion of the rich and middle class to Christianity as these people did not have the hallucinations and would have simply been using fact-checkers.

    Cognitive Dissonance is another favorite technique to use, but this is not only problematic psycho-history, but really goes against the cases that we know of. CD explains why some people hold on to a belief, but it does not explain why new people come to the belief. It also assumes that the people at the time would have had internal feelings of guilt and such to deal with, but we have no evidence that such a thing happened. I agree with N.T. Wright that when your Messiah died back then, you had two choices. Go home or get a new Messiah. The Christian movement is the only one that lasted after the death of their Messiah.

    Gary could try legendary development, but the story containing embarrassing details does not fit with this. We also have the church all saying consistently the same story that Jesus was raised from the dead. It is when we get closer to the second century that we start seeing Gnosticism and Docetism rise up. In fact, both of these could be seen as a roundabout way of demonstrating the claim. It would be unthinkable that a deity would take on a body or allow himself to die on a cross. Surely it must have been a trick somehow! Were the Christians making legends, this is where they would go, but they instead saw these people as heretics.

    There are more, but my post is getting lengthy, so let me state what we have so far. These claims themselves are not controversial.

    Jesus died by crucifixion.

    Jesus was buried and the tomb was found empty. (To be fair, some dispute the empty tomb, but I find it to be quite solid)

    Jesus’s closest followers claimed to see Him alive after His death.

    Skeptics like James and Paul joined the movement.

    The movement was utterly shameful and would have been rejected by most everyone in the culture back then.

    I find the best explanation of all of this data is the one that the church itself gave. They were convinced that God raised Jesus from the dead. Why were they? Probably because that was in fact what happened. The only belief I really have to add to this is that there is a god, and if we’re even coming at this as neutral and not assuming atheism or even theism, then we could in fact consider this as possible evidence for theism, or something that could at least give us pause before going with atheism. (I do of course argue for theism elsewhere on independent grounds, but that is not the subject of this debate.)

    For Gary’s case, he is going to have to work to show the claims that I have wrong if he thinks there are any and he is going to have to provide a better historical explanation that explains more of the data better than my theory does.
    I look forward to seeing what that is.

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    Thanks to Nick and the moderators of this blog for hosting this debate.

    There are approximately 20 major religions in the world, each with numerous “miracle” claims. And within many of these major world religions, there are multiple sects and divisions, each with additional miracle claims. For example, in Christianity, in addition to the miracle claims contained in the Bible, Roman Catholics believe that the mother of Jesus makes appearances to faithful Catholics here on earth. Some Protestant groups believe that a holy spirit gives certain members of their group the power to heal sickness, cast out demons, and speak in unknown tongues. One Protestant group in the United States teaches that devout believers can handle poisonous snakes without any danger of being made sick or dying. Add all these miracle claims together and they number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

    But there are many smaller religious groups in the world, from native folk religions in Africa to the religious beliefs of remote, small, isolated, Indian tribes in the Amazon jungle. Therefore there are thousands if not tens of thousands of religious beliefs, a large percentage of which involve miracle claims.

    So how should we view these thousands of miracle claims? Should we believe them all? We could, but the problem is that some of them are in direct contradiction to others. For instance, fundamentalist Islam says that Allah and the Koran are the only way to God and that all non-Muslims will spend eternity being burned alive in the Muslim Hell. But fundamentalist Christianity makes a similar claim: You must believe in Jesus as the one and only god; worship and obey him, or suffer an eternity burning in the Christian Hell. So it is impossible to be both a good Muslim and a good Christian at the same time. You are forced to choose, and these two religions are not the only exclusivist religions on the planet. There are many.

    Bottom line: You can’t cover your bases and believe and adhere to every religious belief system in the world, each with multiple miracle claims, due to the existence of many exclusivist religions. The existence of multiple exclusivist religions invalidates the famous “Pascal’s Wager”: There is no way to play it safe and simply believe in “God” to keep you from facing divine judgement. You are forced to choose the correct “God” and the correct belief system about this “God”. So how can you determine which if any of these thousands of miracle-based belief systems is correct?

    Some faiths, in particular Islam, Mormonism, and Christianity, will tell you to read their holy book and that “God” will speak to you in your heart and will show you the truth as you read, if, you read “with an open heart”. But in reality, a strange phenomenon seems to occur when trying to discover truth by reading a holy book with an “open heart”: people living in Muslim countries almost always choose Islam; people living in Christian countries usually choose Christianity, and people who live in Hindu countries almost always choose Hinduism. So this doesn’t seem like a very good method to determine which world religion is the one, true belief system.

    What other option is there: Well, you could investigate each religious belief system, all several thousands of them, investigating in detail every miracle claim, to rule out all the false belief systems until you finally arrive at the one true belief system, if it exists. How long do you think it would take you to do this detective work? I would bet to do a thorough job, it would take you several life times.

    Isn’t there an easier method??

    Yes. Here it is: Accept the scientific method and reason as the basis of reality. Then…reject ALL miracle claims. Reject them NOT because they are impossible. Reject them because they are so very, very improbable. Think about this: if we were each to try to live our lives by following every superstition (miracle) based belief system that exists our lives would be chaos. Life would be impossible.

    It is my assertion that it would make for a better, more peaceful world, if human beings would only believe claims of truth that can be backed up with solid evidence, using the tools of the scientific method and reason. If a truth claim lacks good evidence, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily false, it just means that there is no good reason to believe it is true. Place this claim in the “possible, but not probable” category, and don’t worry about it until the proponents of this truth claim can provide better evidence. When better evidence is presented, then you can decide whether to move a “possible, but not probable” claim a little higher on your believability scale.

    But, we should never accept a “possible, but not probable” truth claim as “fact” simply because the proponents of this claim threaten us with terrible consequences for not believing their claim. Remember, at the same time that the conservative Christian is threatening you with eternal punishment for not believing in Jesus, the conservative Muslim is threatening you with eternal punishment for not believing in Allah, and the voodoo witch doctor in the jungle is threatening you with some other terrible fate for not following his superstition-based dictates.

    Finally, how do we answer the question: How did the universe come into existence? Some atheists state that there is no Creator. There is no God. How can they know this? I freely admit that there seems to be good evidence for a Creator…or Creators. The fine tuning of the universe is certainly strong evidence for some type of Creator. However, I believe that it is a very faulty assumption to assume that the evidence for a Creator somehow confirms the Christian belief that Jesus is that Creator!

    When this point is brought to the attention of Christians, they usually respond with, “The Resurrection proves that Jesus is the Creator, Ruler of Heaven and Earth”.

    And that is what brings us here today in my debate with Nick. Does Nick have sufficient evidence to convince us that his god and his miracle-based belief system is the one and only truth? I suggest we listen respectfully to Nick’s evidence, but I ask readers to watch for the following:

    1. Appeals to the opinion of biased authorities. How many Christians would believe that Mohammad flew to heaven on a winged horse just because the overwhelming majority of Koran scholars believe it really did happen?

    2. Appeals such as, “No Jew/pagan/Roman/Martian in the first century would believe such and such unless they had seen such and such with their own eyes”. Although it might be possible to make generalizations of what “most” people would have done or believed twenty centuries ago, it is impossible to say with certainty that NO ONE would have done or believed something.

    3. Lastly, I have no intention of trying to prove that the Resurrection did not happen. In my view, that would be like trying to prove that the Tooth Fairy, leprechauns, and fairies do not exist. It would be impossible. What I will attempt to demonstrate is that the evidence for the Christian claim of a resurrection---the reanimation of the dead flesh of a first century Jewish prophet---is so poor, that none of us needs to believe it was an actual historical event. If Christians want to believe in this event because it gives them internal comfort and peace, or they think it is a nice tradition, that’s fine. But I believe that Christians should stop trying to convince the rest of us that their miracle-based belief system is the one and only world truth, based on this highly improbable miracle claim.
    Last edited by Gary; 07-21-2015 at 04:36 PM.

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    I must say I am surprised by just how lacking Gary's response is. I was expecting some interaction on the points that I presented and the data from valid NT scholars. Unfortunately, none of that took place. While Gary had said elsewhere he does not want to debate metaphysics with me, it looks like in reality he does because pretty much all we have here is metaphysics.

    There are approximately 20 major religions in the world, each with numerous “miracle” claims. And within many of these major world religions, there are multiple sects and divisions, each with additional miracle claims. For example, in Christianity, in addition to the miracle claims contained in the Bible, Roman Catholics believe that the mother of Jesus makes appearances to faithful Catholics here on earth. Some Protestant groups believe that a holy spirit gives certain members of their group the power to heal sickness, cast out demons, and speak in unknown tongues. One Protestant group in the United States teaches that devout believers can handle poisonous snakes without any danger of being made sick or dying. Add all these miracle claims together and they number in the hundreds, if not thousands.
    This is all very interesting if true, and in fact, irrelevant regardless. I am not here to debate for a particular sect of Christianity. A Roman Catholic, A Protestant, and an Eastern Orthodox could all affirm what I'm saying here for the most part. (Some might be questionable about James being the brother of Jesus.)

    But there are many smaller religious groups in the world, from native folk religions in Africa to the religious beliefs of remote, small, isolated, Indian tribes in the Amazon jungle. Therefore there are thousands if not tens of thousands of religious beliefs, a large percentage of which involve miracle claims.
    Again, irrelevant.

    So how should we view these thousands of miracle claims? Should we believe them all? We could, but the problem is that some of them are in direct contradiction to others. For instance, fundamentalist Islam says that Allah and the Koran are the only way to God and that all non-Muslims will spend eternity being burned alive in the Muslim Hell. But fundamentalist Christianity makes a similar claim: You must believe in Jesus as the one and only god; worship and obey him, or suffer an eternity burning in the Christian Hell. So it is impossible to be both a good Muslim and a good Christian at the same time. You are forced to choose, and these two religions are not the only exclusivist religions on the planet. There are many.
    Now we're getting into more of Gary's problem. It's a way of saying "There are many theories and they all contradict one another, so all of them must be false. That has to be the case for Gary's argument, but how does that follow. Suppose I said the following.

    There are many naturalistic theories in evolutionary biology on abiogenesis, the coming of life from non-life. These theories all contradict each other and if one is true, the other is false. How could we investigate all these claims? Therefore, all of these claims must be false.

    Or

    There are many ideas about there about who murdered Smith and they all contradict one another as they all point to different suspects (And since there are billions of people in the world, there are billions of suspects.). Since we can't investigate all of the claims, we should reject all of them and say no one murdered Smith.

    Or

    There were many billions of women out there in the world. How could I say I was informed on my decision to marry Allie since by marrying her, I said I would not marry anyone else? Therefore, the wise decision would have been to never marry at all.

    If Gary followed his thinking consistently, he'd starve to death since he could never eat or he'd die of sickness since there are many different medications, etc.

    Bottom line: You can’t cover your bases and believe and adhere to every religious belief system in the world, each with multiple miracle claims, due to the existence of many exclusivist religions. The existence of multiple exclusivist religions invalidates the famous “Pascal’s Wager”: There is no way to play it safe and simply believe in “God” to keep you from facing divine judgement. You are forced to choose the correct “God” and the correct belief system about this “God”. So how can you determine which if any of these thousands of miracle-based belief systems is correct?
    This would be relevant if I was arguing Pascal's Wager. In fact, the only statement I recall making about God's existence is that if my position is true, it could lead one to being more open to the existence of a deity, and in fact in this case, the deity of Jesus Christ.

    Some faiths, in particular Islam, Mormonism, and Christianity, will tell you to read their holy book and that “God” will speak to you in your heart and will show you the truth as you read, if, you read “with an open heart”. But in reality, a strange phenomenon seems to occur when trying to discover truth by reading a holy book with an “open heart”: people living in Muslim countries almost always choose Islam; people living in Christian countries usually choose Christianity, and people who live in Hindu countries almost always choose Hinduism. So this doesn’t seem like a very good method to determine which world religion is the one, true belief system.
    And I agree, which is why I do not argue this method. In fact, years ago I argued against it. Some aspects from there have changed, such as I'd use the ways of Aquinas now to argue for God and I have in fact met Craig since then.

    But also, the point is false anyway. Gary lives in an American culture where Christianity is the normative position, and yet he himself is not a Christian. I have known many atheists who say reading the Bible is the best way to become an atheist. My friend Nabeel Qureshi was a Muslim who is now a Christian apologist working for RZIM and wrote the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. My friend David Wood was an atheist when he was in prison and through study came to Jesus. My method is the same. Look at the evidence.

    What other option is there: Well, you could investigate each religious belief system, all several thousands of them, investigating in detail every miracle claim, to rule out all the false belief systems until you finally arrive at the one true belief system, if it exists. How long do you think it would take you to do this detective work? I would bet to do a thorough job, it would take you several life times.
    Gary isn't being asked to investigate all those claims here. He's being asked to investigate one.

    Isn’t there an easier method??
    Well you know what they say about the path of least resistance....

    Yes. Here it is: Accept the scientific method and reason as the basis of reality. Then…reject ALL miracle claims. Reject them NOT because they are impossible. Reject them because they are so very, very improbable. Think about this: if we were each to try to live our lives by following every superstition (miracle) based belief system that exists our lives would be chaos. Life would be impossible.
    There are many methods of trying to understand reality. How is that Gary chose the scientific method? Did he thoroughly study all other ways of knowing? Does he not know that these many ways contradict one another? What makes him so certain that he has chosen the right way? I bet it would take many lifetimes to find that one method is the way. You would in fact have to know a great deal about how reality works prior to know that this is the best way to understand that reality. I suspect Gary does not know the epistemological dilemma he has put himself in.

    Gary says to not reject miracle claims because they are impossible but because they are improbable, but we all accept improbable claims. On the face of it, it would have been improbable that I married the one person I did because there were so many billions to choose from, but when you look at the evidence for what happened in our lives and how we met and the fact we have a signed marriage license and a wedding video and live together and have numerous witnesses who saw our wedding, it becomes quite probable that we did marry. It is improbable that a random person would win the lottery, but when you see them on the evening news and living in a new mansion and driving a ferrari, you begin to think that they did.

    Examine each claim based on the evidence. I'm asking Gary to examine one. If he has another such claim he wants to investigate, let him see and bring it forward. The problem is that Gary thinks all claims are equally improbable and also have equal evidence, but this is false. Different claims have different degrees of evidence.

    Ultimately, Gary's position is scientism. An excellent critique of that is on pages 247-248 of Nicholas Rescher's The Limits of Science.

    The theorist who maintains that science is the be-all and end-all---that what is not in science textbooks is not worth knowing---is an ideologist with a peculiar and distorted doctrine of his own. For him, science is no longer a sector of the cognitive enterprise but an all-inclusive worldview. This is the doctrine not of science but of scientism. To take this stance is not to celebrate science but to distort it by casting the mantle of its authority over issues it was never meant to address.

    Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote that "We feel that even if all possible scientific questions be answered, the problems of life have still not been touched at all. Of course there is then no question left, and just this is the answer." This austere perspective pivots on the view that scientific issues are the only ones there are---that where no scientific question is at issue, nothing remains to be said, and that factual information is the end of the cognitive line. If this position is adopted, then questions relating to normative and evaluative issues of significance, meaning, and validity---questions relative to beauty or duty or justice, for example---can all be set at naught. Such a response does indeed resolve the problems of life, but only by casting them away into the outer darkness. This scientific positivism is indeed antipathetic to human values as one acute writer has observed:

    [Such a doctrine] is an attempt to consolidate science as a self-sufficient activity which exhausts all possible ways of appropriating the world intellectually. In this radical positivist view the realities of the world---which can, of course, be interpreted by natural science, but which are in addition an object of man's extreme curiosity, a source of fear or disgust, an occasion for commitment or rejection---if they are to be encompassed by reflection and expressed in words, can be reduced to their empirical properties. SUffering, death, ideological conflict, social classes, antithetical values of any kind---all are declared out of bounds, matters we can only be silent about, in obedience to the principle of verifiability. Positivism so understood is an act of escape from commitments, an escape masked as a definition of knowledge.
    Nothing within or about science demands such a dehumanization of our sensibilities. To take this stance is not to celebrate science, but to distort it.


    There are people out there, and I have in fact put on an atheist hat before and debated them, who stand on the street corners and wave their Bibles and say that answers all the questions. Gary does the same except he serves the priesthood of science. Both positions are wrong and both of them end up ignoring the data.

    For the last part, consider if the Bible taught YEC and that YEC was in fact true. (I do not hold to either position.) Does that mean the sincere believer in YEC can look at the data evolutionary scientists present and say "Well you need to deal with what the Bible says!" Of course, they should, but the believer needs to deal with the macroevolutionary data. If his position is true, he can find an explanation of it. If not, then it will be much harder. Gary waving science like a magic wand will not deal with the historical data.

    It is my assertion that it would make for a better, more peaceful world, if human beings would only believe claims of truth that can be backed up with solid evidence, using the tools of the scientific method and reason. If a truth claim lacks good evidence, it doesn’t mean it is necessarily false, it just means that there is no good reason to believe it is true. Place this claim in the “possible, but not probable” category, and don’t worry about it until the proponents of this truth claim can provide better evidence. When better evidence is presented, then you can decide whether to move a “possible, but not probable” claim a little higher on your believability scale.
    And in this case evidence has been presented, but if Gary thinks this would make a better world, I wonder what he thinks about Communists in Russia who imprisoned priests and dynamited churches. Is this all part of a better world? Even if science and reason alone led to a better world and Christianity was false, saying science and reason would lead to a better world does not mean that science and reason are true. I can say following the teachings of Jesus would lead to a better world, and in fact a number of atheists might agree with the teachings of Jesus, but that does not mean Jesus is Lord.

    But, we should never accept a “possible, but not probable” truth claim as “fact” simply because the proponents of this claim threaten us with terrible consequences for not believing their claim. Remember, at the same time that the conservative Christian is threatening you with eternal punishment for not believing in Jesus, the conservative Muslim is threatening you with eternal punishment for not believing in Allah, and the voodoo witch doctor in the jungle is threatening you with some other terrible fate for not following his superstition-based dictates.
    This would be relevant if I had made such a claim. I did say the question was important and the stakes were high, but I made no threats. In fact, this works against Gary as the early church was threatened numerous times to deny Christ.

    Finally, how do we answer the question: How did the universe come into existence? Some atheists state that there is no Creator. There is no God. How can they know this? I freely admit that there seems to be good evidence for a Creator…or Creators. The fine tuning of the universe is certainly strong evidence for some type of Creator. However, I believe that it is a very faulty assumption to assume that the evidence for a Creator somehow confirms the Christian belief that Jesus is that Creator!
    I would agree with this entirely. You could study fine-tuning all day if it is true and never fall down and say "Jesus is Lord!" I don't even accept the fine-tuning argument as I prefer the metaphysical arguments, but you could study the five ways of Aquinas all day and be convinced of them and they will not tell you Jesus is Lord. That is because Christianity is a historical faith. It is not a philosophy. The five ways and fine-tuning can get you to a general theism consistent with Christian theism, but you need to study the resurrection to answer the question on Christian theism.

    When this point is brought to the attention of Christians, they usually respond with, “The Resurrection proves that Jesus is the Creator, Ruler of Heaven and Earth”.
    And I would argue that it does, based on it being God's vindication of Jesus's claims. That is not the subject though. The subject is if Jesus did rise. Someone like Pinchas Lapide, a Jew with a Ph.D. in New Testament affirms that Jesus rose from the dead but denies that Jesus is the Messiah. He ends his book that saying once with regards to the resurrection, he was a Sadducee. Today, he is a Pharisee.

    And that is what brings us here today in my debate with Nick. Does Nick have sufficient evidence to convince us that his god and his miracle-based belief system is the one and only truth? I suggest we listen respectfully to Nick’s evidence, but I ask readers to watch for the following:
    It would be good for Gary to not just listen, but to interact with it.

    1. Appeals to the opinion of biased authorities. How many Christians would believe that Mohammad flew to heaven on a winged horse just because the overwhelming majority of Koran scholars believe it really did happen?
    I have to agree that my authorities are all biased authorities. Bart Ehrman is biased. He's a non-Christian who writes popular books arguing against Christian doctrine. E.P. Sanders in his book The Historical Figure of Jesus on page 143 quotes Cicero saying "For nothing can happen without cause; nothing happens that cannot happen, and when what was capable of happening has happened, it may not be interpreted as a miracle. Consequently, there are no miracles...We therefore draw this conclusion; what was incapable of happening never happened, and what was capable of happening is not a miracle." Sanders follows this saying "The view espoused by Cicero has become dominant in the modern world, and I fully share it." Therefore, Sanders is biased. He does not believe miracles can happen. Gerd Ludemann wrote What Really Happened To Jesus? and in that book argues against the resurrection. He is not a Christian scholar. Dale Martin is not a Christian scholar and has even had a dialogue with Mike Licona on the resurrection where Martin took the negative position. John Dominic Crossan thinks Jesus's body was thrown into a common pit and eaten by dogs. That's not a Christian position. Granted, there are some I am not sure of their religious status, like Wilken and Magness, and frankly, I do not care. I care about the data. The data I am giving can be freely accepted by non-Christian scholars. To be suspicious would be like saying you don't think the data for evolution can be used when presented by Richard Dawkins, but when Francis Collins says so it's okay.

    2. Appeals such as, “No Jew/pagan/Roman/Martian in the first century would believe such and such unless they had seen such and such with their own eyes”. Although it might be possible to make generalizations of what “most” people would have done or believed twenty centuries ago, it is impossible to say with certainty that NO ONE would have done or believed something.
    Which would have worked if I had said that. I in fact pointed to the people beyond the first witnesses of Christianity who would have had to send fact-checkers to interview the purported eyewitnesses and check and see what they said. We also do know what people would believe back then because of the writings that we have and interaction of scholars today in other honor-shame cultures.

    3. Lastly, I have no intention of trying to prove that the Resurrection did not happen. In my view, that would be like trying to prove that the Tooth Fairy, leprechauns, and fairies do not exist. It would be impossible. What I will attempt to demonstrate is that the evidence for the Christian claim of a resurrection---the reanimation of the dead flesh of a first century Jewish prophet---is so poor, that none of us needs to believe it was an actual historical event. If Christians want to believe in this event because it gives them internal comfort and peace, or they think it is a nice tradition, that’s fine. But I believe that Christians should stop trying to convince the rest of us that their miracle-based belief system is the one and only world truth, based on this highly improbable miracle claim.
    Gary has said the evidence is poor. In fact, apparently it is so poor, that he does not have a response to it. Not a single claim that I made has been refuted. Gary has not cited a single scholar in the field. For someone who says it only takes a high school education to see this is false, this does not look good on his part. Gary might say that we know dead people don't rise and point to other miracle claims we know better about. Reality check. People knew those back then too. They knew there was a connection between sex and babies. They knew that people don't walk on water. They knew that diseases don't get immediately healed. They knew that dead people stay dead. If Gary wishes to argue that modern science has disproven these, I would like to know very much which science did it and when and how conclusive was it? I would certainly agree that if no one interferes with the events that these don't happen, but the question is did someone interfere?

    I also want to add you can be an atheist and investigate these claims. All you have to do is avoid a non-dogmatic stance against miracles. You can say "I am skeptical of all miracle claims, but I will see if there is sufficient reason to believe this one." At this point, I can't help but wonder what would be sufficient reason to convince Gary that Jesus rose. I have said that what I would like to see is simply a better explanation. I have not said anywhere here something like "Show me the bones of Jesus."

    If Gary does not have a reasonable piece of evidence that would cause him to change his mind, then we can safely say his position is not formed on the basis of evidence, but on the basis of dogma. Gary has changed his mind on religious matters, but he has not changed his mindset and simply needs to try to read some of the best scholarship out there.

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    My previous post was my opening statement. I was not aware that I was required to refute Nick’s opening statement in my opening statement. I apologize for the faux pas. Regarding scholars, it is my contention that the average person, even someone with only a high school education, can make a reasonable decision about the historicity of the Resurrection claim without immersing him or herself in the books of scholars, and, can be fully confident that his or her conclusion regarding this claim rests on solid evidence.

    There is a story in Buddhism that one day the Buddha was walking through the countryside and came upon some farmers using a water buffalo to work their fields. For some reason or another, the Buddha caused the water buffalo to start speaking to the farmers in a human language for an extended period of time.

    I’m not sure how strongly Buddhists believe that this event was historical, but for the sake of my argument, let’s assume that at least some Buddhists consider this event to have really happened. How could we know whether it did or didn’t? Could we interview the farmers? No. The Buddha lived thousands of years ago. The farmers are dead. Can we examine the talking water buffalo? No. The water buffalo is dead. So what other evidence could we examine?

    Are there any contemporary documents that describe this event, and if so, can we compare them to see if they corroborate one another’s story? In our imaginary investigation of this ancient claim, this is what we find:

    1. Four anonymously written manuscripts, each describing the event with many minor and a couple major discrepancies. We are able to date these manuscripts to have been written at least three, probably four decades after the alleged event. We are also told by writing experts that two, and possible three, of the manuscript authors borrowed heavily from the first manuscript in writing their stories.

    2. The writings of a non-Buddhist man, living during the same time period, who converted to Buddhism because he claimed that the water buffalo appeared to him in a “heavenly vision” on a desert highway and spoke to him in a human language, also.

    3. The writings of one Buddhist man living 90-100 years after the alleged event who stated that undisclosed sources told him that at least two of the four anonymous manuscripts were most likely written by the original farmers who heard the water buffalo talk.

    You chuckle to yourself when you read this and say to yourself, “Water buffalo cannot talk! This is a superstition!”

    However, you know that your cardiologist is a Buddhist. So you ask him about this story and the evidence to support it. “Doctor Z, you don’t really believe that water buffalo can talk, do you?” with a grin on your face.

    You are taken back by the look on your cardiologist’s face. You have obviously offended him.

    “Yes I believe that the water buffalo talked. Look at all the evidence that says it did. Do you think all these people were lying?” he snaps.

    “But why don’t we hear of water buffalo talking in human languages today?” You ask.

    “That was a special era. The gods don’t perform such miracles anymore,” he says.

    “That’s convenient,” you think to yourself.

    Your Buddhist cardiologist then goes on to explain that people in that culture, in that time period, did not believe, and had never believed, that water buffalo could talk, so the fact that people in that culture came to believe that at least one water buffalo talked, is strong evidence that the water buffalo in the story really did speak, to a group of farmers, in a human language, for over a half an hour, several thousand years ago! He also states that many water buffalo believers were killed for their talking-water-buffalo beliefs and that this too is evidence that the water buffalo must surely have talked.

    As you leave your cardiologist’s office, you shake your head, and ask yourself how such an intelligent, educated man could believe that water buffalo can talk. “Aren’t there many more probable, more naturalistic, explanations for why this ancient belief developed other than that a real live water buffalo was speaking perfect Hindi to a group of farmers several thousand years ago??”

    Now, Reader, take this same level of skepticism and apply it to every one of Nick’s claims of evidence for the reanimation of the dead, decomposing body of a man who died two thousand years ago, named Jesus of Nazareth. Is the evidence for Nick’s claims any better than the claims for the talking water buffalo? I say they are not. I say that Nick’s evidence is based on the assumption that a very, very improbable, never-heard-of-before-or-since event is the more likely cause for why early Christians came to believe in the reanimation of a dead corpse, than that their belief came about due to any one of a long list of much more probable, and much more naturalistic, events.

    Again, I can’t disprove the Resurrection, but I believe I can demonstrate that the probability of the reanimation of a dead human corpse is just as unlikely as a water buffalo speaking fluent Hindi or English.

    Now to address Nick’s points:

    Let me first say that I believe that it is reasonable to believe that Jesus was a real person, who lived in first century Palestine, who did something to upset Jewish authorities, who asked the Romans to crucify him, which they did. Beyond that, I think the evidence is very sketchy. Although I tend to believe that Jesus was a real historical figure, it is odd that this man allegedly created such a huge ruckus in the most rebellious province of the Roman Empire but yet not one of his contemporaries, such as Philo, said one word about him. “A conspiracy of the Jews and Romans to hush this embarrassing story.” Some Christians say. Possible. But not probable. I don’t question Jesus’ historicity. I question his importance in the Palestine of his day as described in the Gospels, and, I question the miracle claims about him. Three hours of complete darkness covers the entire world and no one in Athens, Alexandria, Rome, China, or the lands of the Mayans says one word about this unprecedented solar phenomenon?? Come on.

    Nick believes that the empty tomb is historical fact. Again, reader, I ask you to ask yourself this question: Are there any more probable, more naturalistic explanations for an empty tomb other than that an ancient middle-eastern god reanimated the body of a dead and decomposing Jewish prophet? For instance this one: What if Arimathea moved the body on Saturday night, after Passover, in the cover of darkness, with Pilate’s permission, and tossed the body into an unmarked hole in the ground in another section of the garden. He had only put Jesus body in the tomb to prevent it being up on the cross at the start of Passover. The women show up the next morning, find an empty tomb, and, voila, the “empty tomb/resurrection” story takes off like wild fire. This is a much more probable explanation for an empty tomb. In addition, maybe there was no empty tomb. Paul says in I Corinthians that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again. Early Christians could have based this belief simply upon false sightings of a risen Jesus. “Buried and risen” does not imply the existence of a known, hand-hewn tomb. The empty tomb detail appears nowhere in Paul’s writings. Nowhere. It first appears in Christian writings with the Gospel of Mark, written circa 70 AD, four decades after the alleged event! That is plenty of time for a legend to develop, regardless of Christian denials that it is impossible for a legend to develop in that time period. Dear Christians, prove to us that it is impossible for a legend to have developed with in forty years among uneducated, Galilean peasants, two thousand years ago. You can’t. No matter how improbable you say it is, you cannot say “impossible”. And a very unlikely, very improbable naturalistic explanation is much more probable in our collective human experience to be the explanation for this early Christian belief than a never-heard-of-before-or-since miracle explanation of the reanimation of dead human flesh.

    What about the claims of multiple people seeing the reanimated body of Jesus at the same time? Would five hundred people lie? Think about this, folks. THOUSANDS of Roman Catholics, all in the same place, all at the same time, believe that the Virgin Mary has appeared to them. Why couldn’t the “five hundred” mentioned by Paul have had a similar miracle experience??

    “All four gospels mention an empty tomb so we have multiple attestation.” No. You have two sources, and more probably, just one. Everyone by now knows that the authors of Matthew and Luke borrowed (plagiarized??) heavily from Mark, and it is conceivable that the author of John borrowed the boiler plate story from the Synoptics to which he added his high Christological, never-mentioned-once-in-Matthew-Mark-or-Luke sermons. Bottom line: we have zero evidence from the first 35-45 years of Christianity that proves that even one Christian believed in an empty tomb until the appearance of Mark’s gospel. And here is another important point: Just because the earliest Christians believed there had been a resurrection, does not mean that they believed the resurrection occurred as described in books (the four gospels) written 40-70 years later! I will agree with Nick that early Christians believed that Jesus had been resurrected, but there is no proof they believed in an empty tomb.

    Nick frequently mentions that Christianity was a shameful belief system and that people would not join a shameful belief system unless something really phenomenal had convinced them of its veracity. One only has to look at recent history to see numerous new cults formed based on very embarrassing, shameful beliefs, ie, the Jim Jones cult, Heaven’s Gate, etc.. Gullible people fall for some of the dumbest and most shameful claims imaginable. Why should we believe it was any different two thousand years ago??

    Christians seem to believe in a false dichotomy: Either the Bible is 100% true, or it is all a lie. This is black and white thinking and I believe very erroneous. I don’t believe that the early Christians fabricated these stories. I believe that the early Christians sincerely believed that their dead prophet and leader had risen from the dead and would soon (in their lifetimes) return to re-establish the New Kingdom on earth. But as we see today, people who have experienced the sudden death of someone they love, someone whose existence forms the basis for their very happiness, are very prone to “see” and believe things that are not true.

    Regarding Paul: I believe that Paul truly believed that he had seen Jesus. But many, many people down through history have believed that Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, or dead Uncle Billy have appeared to them. That doesn’t mean they really did. And, yes, Paul’s conversion from a devout Jew to Christianity is odd, but there is a Muslim mullah in Israel today who only a few years ago was an ultra-orthodox Jewish settler and rabbi!! That is an odd conversion! Strange conversions do happen. You don’t need to see a ghost for it to occur.

    As for James: Are there any more probable, more naturalistic explanations for why the brother of Jesus would join “the Way”? Christians won’t like it, but here is one possibility: Since James was Jesus’ brother, he could claim that Jesus had appointed him his successor. The church in Jerusalem was telling its new converts to sell all their possessions and put the money in a community fund, a fund for which the Church leaders would have control. “Hmmm? Working all day in a small carpenter’s shop in Nazareth or leader of a movement with access to a lot of money and power.” But what about James martyrdom, Christians will ask. We have no idea why the Jewish high priest killed James. Maybe he just didn’t like Christians. We have no proof that James was given a chance to live if he would only deny the Resurrection.

    “Several non-Christian scholars believe that the early Christians had resurrection EXPERIENCES.” So what? Believing a miracle happened and evidence that the miracle really did happen are two very, very different things. EP Sanders did not say that he believed the disciples really did see a walking, talking dead corpse.

    And I love it when Christians quote Lapide. One Jewish scholar---out of hundreds, if not thousands, of Jewish scholars, sages, and rabbis, who have existed for the last 2,000 years, who all believe the Resurrection claim is preposterous and ridiculous---believes that the Resurrection was an historical event, and we are expected to brush aside the views of every other Jewish scholar who has ever existed? My goodness.

    The truth is that the overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars reject the Resurrection claim. The overwhelming majority of Muslim scholars reject the resurrection claim. Therefore a very sizable percentage of the world’s monotheists believe that the Christian claim of the reanimation of the dead corpse of Jesus of Galilee is a superstitious legend or a ridiculous fabrication. These very educated, very intelligent scholars do not buy Nick’s evidence. These many thousands of very educated, very intelligent scholars think Nick’s (Christianity’s) evidence is pathetically weak and unconvincing. The improbability of this miracle event having been historical is therefore not based on the rants of a bunch of God-hating atheists. It is based on the lack of good evidence, a lack of good evidence that any reasonable person with a high school education should be able to easily see.

    In my humble opinion, Nick has presented no better evidence for us to believe in the reanimation of the dead flesh of a first century Jewish prophet than the claim that an ancient water buffalo spoke fluent Hindi for half an hour to a group of dumbfounded farmers.

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    I am abbreviating many of Gary's comments due to post restrictions.

    Gary has come in again and really I find myself wondering again what information he has. I don't see any scholars cited whatsoever and while I had thought a post a day would be sufficient, the posts are lacking enough that I'm really not finding it too much of an investment. Thus far, I have presented plenty of material. Let's see how any of it has been refuted.

    My previous post...solid evidence.
    What if I said this about any other field? "The average person with only a high school education can make a reasonable decision about evolutionary theory without immersing him or herself in the books of scientists and be fully confident that his or her conclusion regarding this claim rests on solid evidence." I could say the same with medical practice or psychology or study of Shakespeare or anything else. Gary would object I am sure. Good. I would want him to. These areas of learning are complex, as is the study of the NT.

    There is a story in Buddhism...could we examine?
    Gary makes a fundamental mistake here of saying "Well we can't really examine this miracle claim this well, so how about the other miracle claims out there? They must all be equally false." I would freely agree that there are many claims in ancient history we cannot possibly test, including some miracle claims. We have to go on a general reliability of the author for these. Is it possible Jesus turned water into wine at Cana. I believe that because I believe John is a reliable author, but I could not demonstrate that through historiography entirely because we only have one account and no social settings we can test. I have shown that this is not the case for the resurrection.

    Are there any contemporary documents that describe this event, and if so, can we compare them to see if they corroborate one another’s story? In our imaginary investigation of this ancient claim, this is what we find:
    Gary unfortunately uses a standard of history that would not work at all. There are many events we accept without contemporary attestation. For instance, Carrier has responded to a claim comparing the crossing of the Rubicon to the resurrection saying the evidence for the resurrection is just as good. Carrier tells his audiences that every major historian of the age mentions Caesar crossing the Rubicon such as Cassius and Plutarch. What does he not tell you? That if we took the earliest of these being Plutarch and had them start writing at the age of 30 about the event, which is still generous, that that's a distance of 125 years. More on that here.

    In 79 A.D. Vesuvius erupted killing a quarter of a million people. Surely this would be an event worth mentioning! Well, no. While we have allusions to it elsewhere, the only historical record comes in a letter Pliny sent to Tacitus and this is just an off-the-cuff remark. Pliny's uncle had died in the eruption and Tacitus just wanted some details. Pliny only tells us about Pompeii. It's not until Cassius that we read about Herculaneum being destroyed in the blast as well. Other historians did not mention this massive event.

    If we want to know about Hannibal, the great Carthaginian general who nearly conquered the Roman Empire, we will search in vain through contemporary records. Hannibal is only referred to decades later and even still no one disputes the general thrust of the account that I know of. A similar story could be said of Queen Boudica.

    If we want to know about Messianic figures in the time of Jesus, we go to Josephus. They aren't talked about elsewhere, despite what David Fitzgerald might lead you to believe. These often involved Roman armies going out to squelch uprisings. Despite the Roman armies being sent out, Roman sources do not mention these events.

    But what was to be mentioned? A no name Jewish preacher who never went to school, led an army, ran for office, etc. and who was crucified on a cross and this only after a small mob was needed to arrest him. These events were not talked about but that one, that should be talked about.

    "But Jesus did miracles and was the Son of God!"

    Or so it was claimed. I can show you several figures today claiming to be God. How many of them are you going to investigate? I can show you several figures who claim to do miracles. How many of them do you investigate? Roman writers would have taken the exact same approach to Jesus, especially knowing He was crucified. What amazes me is not how few non-Christian sources of the time talked about Jesus. What amazes me is that any at all did.

    Four anonymously written manuscripts, each describing the event with many minor and a couple major discrepancies. We are able to date these manuscripts to have been written at least three, probably four decades after the alleged event. We are also told by writing experts that two, and possible three, of the manuscript authors borrowed heavily from the first manuscript in writing their stories.
    I previously pointed out to Gary what E.P. Sanders said about the idea of being anonymous. It looks like Gary didn't learn from it. To return to Sanders,

    The authors probably wanted to eliminate interest in who wrote the story and to focus the reader on the subject. More important, the claim of an anonymous history was higher than that of a named work. In the ancient world an anonymous book, rather like an encyclopedia article today, implicitly claimed complete knowledge and reliability. It would have reduced the impact of the Gospel of Matthew had the author written 'this is my version' instead of 'this is what Jesus said and did.' - The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders page 66.


    Furthermore, these writings would not be delivered to their recipient and be told "Well I don't know who wrote them. It's a mystery." The writer would have been known and could have even had his name on the scroll. Church tradition itself is practically unanimous with the authorship, save that John is thought to be by a John but disputed on which John it was. They were also attributed to figures who were not necessarily as well known in the accounts, save for John.

    As for decades later, I also pointed out to Gary that this isn't a problem and as I showed above, applies to much ancient history. Suppose you live in this time. You have a message to get out. There are two ways. You can tell other people and let oral tradition do its work. Oral tradition is reliable (As people have much better memories), costs nothing, and gets the word out to people who can't read. Or you can write. Writing is timely, expensive, and reaches people who can read only. Which will you choose? Gary lives in a time of what is called the Gutenberg Galaxy where it is thought "Well surely if you want to spread a story you write it down." That is projecting his time onto the social context. It doesn't work. The person interested in more can consult Walton and Sandy's The Lost World of Scripture. Much of this is moot anyway since my argument relied on the creed found in 1 Cor. 15.

    The writings of a non-Buddhist man, living during the same time period, who converted to Buddhism because he claimed that the water buffalo appeared to him in a “heavenly vision” on a desert highway and spoke to him in a human language, also.
    Gary's analogy is simply a straw man. He has no parallel whereas Paul himself was a scholar's scholar. Anyone wanting to paint Paul as if he was some uneducated simpleton would have no idea what he was talking about. Even if Paul came to Christianity for false reasons, this would not undercut his passing on of the creed.

    The writings of one Buddhist man living 90-100 years after the alleged event who stated that undisclosed sources told him that at least two of the four anonymous manuscripts were most likely written by the original farmers who heard the water buffalo talk.
    It's unclear what Gary is referring to here since I made no such claims about the Gospels. Why is Gary so obsessed with them?

    You chuckle...a superstition!”
    No. I chuckle to myself because Gary thinks this is a valid analogy and he doesn't realize that I'm not even blinking in all of this. Gary is just doing a great job exposing he's a fundamentalist.

    However...miracles anymore,” he says.
    If Gary is trying to make an analogy to miracles, again, he knows that I have suggested that he read Craig Keener's Miracles on this topic. I am sure he will not. For me, the story of water buffalo talking would not really convince me of anything about the Buddha. It's a non-issue for me. It would be helpful for Gary to concentrate on the miracle in dispute and deal with the evidence presented for it.

    “That’s convenient,” you think to yourself.
    Would be if I had said such a thing, but let's suppose that miracles weren't happening today. Would this prove a miracle had not happened in the past? Not at all. The data still stands. The data must be explained.

    Your Buddhist...years ago??”
    To complete Gary's illustration, all he needs then is to give this more plausible naturalistic scenario that explains all the data. Gary made several attempts elsewhere to do this. I shot down every single one with about five or six reasons every time why it wasn't one that could stand up. Never were these charges answered and it appears we have more of the same. This does not mean there can be no naturalistic scenario, but until Gary presents it, then he's simply wanting us to take on faith his main claim despite evidence to the contrary. Isn't this an odd position for a "man of reason"?

    Now, Reader,...naturalistic, events.
    Gary says they are not. Well isn't that cute? Does he have more than his say so on this? Can he give an explanation of the event that would explain data accepted by even non-Christian NT scholars?

    Again, I...Hindi or English.

    Now to address Nick’s points:
    Well this is nice. It's about time.

    Let me...which they did.
    Well at least we don't have mythicism going on here, but even still Gary is quite lacking. Sanders on pages 10-11 of the book cited above lists several facts beyond dispute about Jesus. These include born around 4 B.C. (He says B.C.E.), grew up in Nazareth, baptized by John the Baptist, had disciples, taught in towns and villages in Galilee, preached the Kingdom of God, went to Jerusalem around the year 30 for Passover, caused a disturbance in the Temple, had the Last Supper, was arrested and interrogated by the Jews, and was executed by order of Pilate. He adds that equally secure facts about the aftermath of the life of Jesus are that his disciples fled at first, saw Him in some sense after his death, believed that He would return to found the Kingdom, and formed a community to await and tell others He was the Messiah. (And Jesus did not ask to be crucified)

    Beyond that,....about him.
    Why should Philo? Philo wasn't even in Jerusalem at the time and Jesus was a flash in the pan kind of figure. One can hardly say he caused a huge ruckus since Roman armies didn't even need to come down, and when the Roman armies did come down to deal with Messianic figures, Philo doesn't mention those either.

    “A conspiracy...probable.
    Not this one. Gary needs to really learn my position before he argues against it. I despise conspiracy theories.

    I don’t question...about him.
    Congratulations Gary. You take the exact same position as most anyone in the Roman Empire would have at the time of Jesus. They would have questioned his importance and his miracle claims, and yet you wonder why hardly anyone wrote about Him.

    Three hours...Come on.
    Assuming this was a historical event, though I think it could just as easily refer to the land, it is possible that Phlegon and Julius Africanus citing Thales does in fact refer to the eclipse. But suppose someone like Mike Licona is more right in this one and these are special effects that are not meant to be taken literally. Suppose the worst case scenario and this is simply an error. So what? My data still stands.

    Nick believes...empty tomb.
    Sure reader. Picture this. An orthodox Jewish member of the Sanhedrin is on Sabbath, the day you are supposed to do no work, go to a tomb that he had just spent time burying Jesus in and handle a dead body, unclean by Jewish standards, on the Sabbath day and toss it into an unmarked hole in the ground. The only reason Gary says this is that he has no clue how Jewish society works. If the women showed up and saw an empty tomb, they would not think Jesus was risen. That would be one of their last thoughts. Even if they had, why would the disciples believe women? Their testimony was unvalued in a court of Law.

    In addition,...Nowhere.
    And why should it? Dale Allison in fact suggests that the argument from silence can be turned on its head in his book Resurrection. Allison says that if the scoffers of resurrection in Corinth wanted to make an argument, they would say Jesus's body was still in the tomb and Paul would be compelled to answer. This Paul did not do. Still, Paul is a good Pharisee. For him, resurrection means bodily resurrection. I again recommend Gundry's Soma in Biblical Greek. The burial of Jesus was a shameful burial and was not worth mentioning. Why should he? If you have a resurrection, you don't spend all your time talking about the burial. The only reason the death is talked about is because that is part of the atonement.

    It first appears...You can’t.
    This would be relevant if I had said such a thing. I didn't. Legends can in fact pop up instantly. What does not happen is that legend destroys the whole historical core. Gary makes much of this showing up four decades later. (Though if Crossley is right, Mark can be dated to the 40's, but then again, Crossley is a born-again evangelical....wait. He isn't. He's a non-Christian who argued against Michael Bird on the resurrection and yet Crossley's dissertation was dating Mark to the 40's.) Gary is taking a "Prove that it's not a legend" claim. I have instead given the data that shows that it is accurate such as multiple attestation and the criterion of embarrassment. The burden is on Gary to show where it is wrong. If it is a legend because it shows up late, then maybe we should say Alexander the Great is a legend. His biographies are four centuries later and that's plenty of time!

    No matter...flesh.
    Not improbable based on the evidence that I've given. Again, the improbable only matters before the evidence has been given. As new evidence enters the picture, probability changes.

    What about...miracle experience??
    Okay Gary. Go ahead then.

    Prove they didn't see anything.

    You see, your claim here is that we know these accounts are false because they didn't see anything. We know they didn't see anything because these kinds of things don't happen. That's just begging the question. I would have no problem with these sightings. For me, they could be demonic appearances. Also, do we have record that everyone at these events saw them? There are cases where someone has suggested something and everyone goes along with it. Paul meanwhile encouraged people to go and talk to people who can give an eyewitness account.

    “All four gospels...empty tomb.
    Unfortunately, with this you can demonstrate anything. Most scholars think the accounts have a high degree of independence since they are so vastly different. It's amazing Gary starts off talking about how different the accounts are, and then when they're the same says they just copied one another. Could it be they all say the same general story because that is the general story that happened? Are we to believe Matthew, Luke, and John wrote their accounts without doing any research of their own into the subject matter? This is especially so in the case of Luke.

    Nick frequently...years ago??
    We should believe it was different for one reason. It was. THese people were living in an honor-shame society where novelty was shunned and tolerance was not the norm. Live and let live was not their way of thinking. Not so in modern individualistic societies where doing your own thing and not caring what other people is praised or where we do practice live and let live. You believe what you want as long as you don't hurt me. The ancient system was quite different. Gary is in fact imposing on the rest of the world and history his modern Western value system instead of studying their own value system.

    Christians seem...very erroneous.
    Does Gary even read? Observe what I said at the start.

    This is also not a debate about inerrancy. Christianity is not disproven if we don’t know how many angels were at the tomb or even if we can have a hard time reconciling some secondary details. For instance, there is much debate over practically every aspect of the Gettysburg Address that Lincoln gave, but there is not debate over the fact that he did in fact give one and we have a good idea of what he said.


    I am not asking that the Bible be accepted as the Word of God or an inspired document. I am pointing to the facts accepted by scholars in the field. I think Gary is telling us more about himself than about my argument.

    I don’t...on earth.
    Gary apparently didn't research me enough to know that I'm an orthodox Preterist so when I hear talk about their thinking Jesus would soon return, I just have to chuckle a bit.

    But as...not true.
    Again, does Gary not read? In my first post I said the following:

    Finally, The appearances, and this is quite essential when tied in with the empty tomb. An empty tomb by itself would not show Jesus was alive. Any number of strange events could explain that. Of course, it would need an explanation, but the explanation first thought of would not be “resurrection.” The appearances by themselves would also not be enough. That would just mean hallucination and the ancients knew about hallucinations and if they saw someone after their death that would most often tell them one thing. The person was dead. Let us not be so naïve as to think these people were not familiar with death. Most of them would have seen it on a more day to day basis than we do in our modern times.


    Yes. There are grief hallucinations, but that would have confirmed that Jesus was dead. These appearances did just the opposite. Something about them had to be powerful enough to convince skeptics. Something had to be powerful enough about them to get the disciples to start in Jerusalem itself challenging the people of the time to go see that Jesus was risen and his tomb was empty. If you were starting a false religion, the last place to do it would be where the evidence could most easily be turned against you.

    Regarding Paul...to occur.
    Strange things happen. Unfortunately, Gary hasn't even given us a name of this person that he points to and wants to say "Well it happened, so that's that!" Does Gary just believe claims like this this easily? What does Gary think would drive Paul to do this? Why would he stake his identity on a man who was seen as a traitor to the Roman Empire and a blasphemer to YHWH both? Look at the list in 2 Cor. 11. Think Paul gained anything out of this? One would think after the first flogging he would say "You know, maybe I got it wrong." Yet we see no indication of this. We see no indication of grief in Paul or guilt that he was wrestling with. (I am prepared to deal with Romans 7 if Gary thinks otherwise.) Besides, do we want to say "Strange things happen" just as an answer. How well would this work? "Yes honey, I know that's lipstick on my neck and you haven't kissed me, but strange things happen! Maybe it's a mark from the sun!" "Yes officer, I know your device said I was going 80 in a 55 MPH zone, but strange things happen. Can you prove it's not malfunctioning?" In the case of strange things, we want to know why they happened.

    As for James...Resurrection.
    Again, the same problem arises. We are to believe that James, who from all of our accounts was an extremely devout man, would sell out his faith system because he wanted money and would gain this by claiming to be Jesus's successor? First off, we have zero record of James making such a claim. Second, we have no record of anyone else making such a claim which actually argues in my favor. Had Jesus been seen as a failed Messiah, it would be quite logical to look to his brother next. There is no indication that the followers of Jesus changed the plan after his crucifixion, contrary to all other Messianic movements. Third, in doing this, James would be putting himself on the outs with both YHWH and the Roman Empire not to mention his fellow Jews. Gary gives a "just-so" story, but unfortunately the just-so story has no evidence for it and all this to reject a story with evidence!

    “Several non-Christian...corpse.
    Right! He didn't say that, but it's not just several non-Christian scholars but that this is accepted across the board. I in fact clearly said Sanders does not accept the miracle, but he does accept the data still. Why? Because there's good evidence of the data.

    And I love it...My goodness.
    This would be relevant if I said such a thing. I didn't. I nowhere said scholars like Neusner and Vermes are to be rejected. Had I had such an attitude, why would I quote non-Christian scholars? My point was there must be some solid evidence to bring about such a conviction, and this especially since Lapide is a rare Jew with a Ph.D. in New Testament.

    The truth is...easily see.
    Nowhere did I say anything about God-hating atheists. It is amusing that Gary wants to point to God-hating atheists as a straw man, but refuses to accept claims of god-loving Christians as he would say because they're biased. If Gary wants to say the evidence is unconvincing, well he's free to make a better case that explains the data. He has not done so so far. His arguments are weak and lacking. I would recommend before his next response he go to a library and read some books. That he is responding so quick shows he is not interacting with the subject matter. If one wants to say the same for me, the difference is I have interacted with the material prior and know it well enough. I could just as well say there are thousands of educated people all over the world who don't believe in many claims. There are thousands of evolutionary biologists I am sure who believe in evolution but do not accept naturalistic evolution. There are thousands of people who don't accept moral absolutism, so is Gary going to reject that because there are noted philosophers who reject it? What matters is the data. Who does or doesn't accept it can be an interesting discussion, but it does not change the data.

    In my...farmers.
    In my opinion, Gary does not know the subject matter well at all. For one who claims about a high school education being enough, perhaps a reader could wonder about Gary's own studies at this point. This is unfortunately what happens when someone enters a field while not reading the best minds on both sides in that field. It becomes apparent they just don't know what they're talking about.

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    Why do I choose the scientific method and reason as my worldview for determining reality? Answer: Because that is the primary worldview in western culture for evaluating truth claims, including claims regarding ancient history. For example, we don't need to resort to philosophy to know if there is evidence for the biblical exodus story. We use science. We are able to study archeological evidence, genetic evidence, etc. to come to the conclusion that the biblical account of several million Hebrews living in Egypt for several hundred years as slaves is unsubstantiated and therefore almost certainly not true. We can also use the scientific method to study medicine (I am a physician, by the way) and learn that the reanimation of dead human tissue is NOT biologically possible.

    The scientific method has an excellent track record. Instead of believing that angry gods are responsible for droughts, floods, and lightning, we now know, due to the scientific method, that none of these events are caused by tempermental gods, but due to natural, scientifically testable, phenomena.

    Let me be clear. You don't have to agree with my worldview or use it...except maybe in your occupation...unless you are a priest, pastor, rabbi, or mullah. I can't say that my worldview is better than your supernatural-based worldview, but it is better for ME, and it seems better for most people in our society. I support your right to believe that the Tooth Fairy or some other invisible being controls our planet, just don't try to force this belief on society as a whole, pushing it into public school curricula and using your superstitions to discriminate against people who have the same rights as you do to the pursuit of happiness, ie., marriage. That's all I ask.

    All of Nick's evidence rests on what biased Christian "experts" believe, and that a few non-Christian experts believe that the early Christians had resurrection EXPERIENCES. I would like to see Nick explain why the overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars, experts in the Hebrew Bible, for two thousand years, have rejected any Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible that suggests ANY prophecy about Jesus, and, why these same scholars believe that the resurrection claim is ridiculous and preposterous.

    Let me close with the following story:

    There once was an emperor who was very vain.


    One day, two clever, very quick-witted fellows arrived in the imperial city announcing that they were professional tailors, and, that they had discovered the most luxurious, finest thread ever known to mankind; thread with which they could spin the finest, rarest clothing that only the most refined could appreciate...at a hefty price, of course. The town was a buzz with excitement.


    The vain emperor heard of the tailors' rare thread and summoned them to the palace. The tailors quickly convinced the emperor, using very complicated, sophisticated, tailor terminology, that no other tailor in the world could spin a finer suit of clothing for him than they.


    The tailors worked furiously in a closed-door room for days, making all kinds of impressive grunts and other sounds as they spun their spinning wheels and sliced and sliced with their specialized scissors. Finally, a week later, the royal suit was finished! The emperor was called to the dressing room to try on his new clothes. The two tailors handed the emperor a beautifully wrapped package and asked him to step into the fitting room while they dressed him in his new suit. The emperor removed his old clothing, and watched as the tailors opened the box. With great fan fare the two men pulled objects out of the box, one after another, asking the emperor to push his arm through here, and to stick his leg through there...but the emperor saw nothing coming out of the box! The tailors then asked the emperor to stand in front of the mirror and tell them what he thought of his new, rare, very luxurious clothing.


    The emperor stepped in front of the mirror...and gasped! He was completely naked. He could not see one stitch of clothing on him!


    "How dreadful!" he thought to himself. "If I say that I see nothing they will think me unrefined and lacking in the latest style and taste." "It's exquisite!" he proclaimed to the delight of our clever, slick-tongued tailors.


    The emperor ordered that all his court assemble in the Great Hall so that he could parade his new suit of clothing in front of everyone. However, when he stepped into the hall accompanied by the tailors, there was an audible gasp from the entire assembly.


    "My god! The emperor is buck naked! I can't see one stitch of clothing on him," thought each adult present. "But if I say that, everyone else will think that I am unrefined and lacking in good taste and knowledge of the latest styles."


    "Gorgeous!" "Splendid!" "Amazing!" they all cried.


    However, as the emperor reached the half way point in the great hall, one small child stepped out from behind his mother's dress and shrieked, "The Emperor is naked! He's not wearing any clothes!"


    "Why you stupid, silly child!" exclaimed the tailors. "You obviously have no training in the world of suit-making and fine thread! We have extensive training and very difficult to obtain degrees from the finest institutions of cloth making in the world. In addition, we have many, many famous scholars and experts whom we can quote who confirm our conclusions regarding the exquisite quality of our thread. Yes, it is invisible to the common man...or child, but to those who take the time to thoroughly study thread, and are willing to expand their minds with sophisticated, philosophical theories regarding the properties of thread, then and only then will one see that the Emperor's clothing is the finest in the world!"


    "There's no such thing as invisible thread!" said the child, as he ran off to the courtyard to play.

    Moral: You don't need a scholar to know that the bodies of dead Jewish prophets cannot be magically reanimated...except in science fiction flicks.
    Last edited by Gary; 07-22-2015 at 12:23 AM.

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    Well this will end quickly. Even though I'm wanting to finish my book. I might as well do round four to sooner put Gary out of his misery frankly.

    Quote Originally Posted by Gary View Post
    Why do I choose the scientific method and reason as my worldview for determining reality? Answer: Because that is the primary worldview in western culture for evaluating truth claims, including claims regarding ancient history.
    Ah. So you see, you choose this method, because you were born here. If you were born in an Aborigine culture, you would not be using the scientific method. If you were born in a Hindu culture, you would be using a different method and having a different worldview. You see, your choice is just a matter of where you were born. Did you take the time to properly examine all other methodologies for understanding reality? If not, then I suggest we have no reason to choose your method over others.

    For example, we don't need to resort to philosophy to know if there is evidence for the biblical exodus story. We use science. We are able to study archeological evidence, genetic evidence, etc. to come to the conclusion that the biblical account of several million Hebrews living in Egypt for several hundred years as slaves is unsubstantiated and therefore almost certainly not true. We can also use the scientific method to study medicine (I am a physician, by the way) and learn that the reanimation of dead human tissue is NOT biologically possible.
    Who said to use philosophy to study history? You can use philosophy of history, but you still need the historical detail. Now I've answered you elsewhere enough on the Exodus, which you seem to have some bizarre hang-up over, so I have no need to do so elsewhere. You say that you are a doctor, which I have no reason to doubt, and the reanimation of dead human tissue is NOT biologically possible.

    Are you aware that ancient people knew dead people didn't come back to life? They buried their dead.

    O monsters loathed of all, O scorn of gods,
    He that hath bound may loose: a cure there is.
    Yea, many a plan that can unbind the chain.
    But when the thirsty dust sucks up man's blood
    Once shed in death, he shall arise no more.
    No chant nor charm for this my Sire hath wrought.
    All else there is, he moulds and shifts at will,
    Not scant of strength nor breath, whate'er he do. – Apollo in Eumenides


    This isn't new knowledge. Every Christian and every atheist would agree with you here. Without outside interference, yes, dead people don't come back to life. The question is is there outside interference. You have ruled it out already. I have stated "Let's be open and see if there could be outside interference."

    The scientific method has an excellent track record. Instead of believing that angry gods are responsible for droughts, floods, and lightning, we now know, due to the scientific method, that none of these events are caused by tempermental gods, but due to natural, scientifically testable, phenomena.
    Ah yes. What a track record. Nothing like comparing ancient theology to modern science. That's a fair comparison. Perhaps I should compare modern theology to ancient science instead. At any rate, we can also say there are people who today will say that the love of a man for a woman is nothing more than a chemical process. How far will it go? Science can deliver the goods. Perhaps it can, but perhaps it can also deliver an atomic bomb to Hiroshima or produce biological warfare. Also, while science can answer many questions, and it is great at that, the most important questions about life will not be answered. I do not consider the knowledge of what causes a flood nearly as important as the knowledge of virtue or the knowledge of how to love my wife. Perhaps you should consider what Bertrand Russell said in "A Free Man's Worship."

    Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins -- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.


    Keep in mind I am not anti-science. I love science. I am anti-scientism. I am anti science being seen as the end all and the answer to every question and by the way, I hold religion and philosophy in the same regard.

    Let me be clear. You don't have to agree with my worldview or use it...except maybe in your occupation...unless you are a priest, pastor, rabbi, or mullah. I can't say that my worldview is better than your supernatural-based worldview, but it is better for ME, and it seems better for most people in our society. I support your right to believe that the Tooth Fairy or some other invisible being controls our planet, just don't try to force this belief on society as a whole, pushing it into public school curricula and using your superstitions to discriminate against people who have the same rights as you do to the pursuit of happiness, ie., marriage. That's all I ask.
    You know Gary, you're the one who said you didn't want to debate philosophy. All you've debated with me is philosophy. I would much rather debate history. Still, at this, you are just being absurd, as if a theistic reality who is the ground of being is somehow on par with the Tooth Fairy. This could also be turned the other way around "I support your right to believe in magic matter, but don't try to force it on society as a whole pushing it into public school curricula and using your secular agenda to silence the freedom of people of a religious persuasion.

    All of Nick's evidence rests on what biased Christian "experts" believe, and that a few non-Christian experts believe that the early Christians had resurrection EXPERIENCES.
    For the most part, my experts have been non-Christians. It's amazing in your last post you said we should not dismiss all the Jewish scholars, but you want to dismiss all the Christian scholars. I also did not back everything on the experiences, though they are an important part of the argument.

    I would like to see Nick explain why the overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars, experts in the Hebrew Bible, for two thousand years, have rejected any Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible that suggests ANY prophecy about Jesus, and, why these same scholars believe that the resurrection claim is ridiculous and preposterous.
    How far does this kind of thing go?

    I would like to see Gary explain why the majority of Christian scholars have rejected an evolutionary account of our origins. (Well they're biased.)

    I would like to see why a majority of Muslim scholars have rejected claims that the Koran is not an accurate recitation of what Muhammad was given. (Well they're biased.)

    We could go on and on. In every field you will find people who believe certain things and yes, not everyone will be persuaded by evidence for the resurrection for any number of reasons. Not everyone is persuaded the world exists outside of our mind. Not everyone is persuaded that truth exists. Not everyone is persuaded of absolute morality.

    Why other people believe other things is interesting, but if Gary followed this through, he'd destroy all belief entirely. What Gary is doing is just a lazy way to avoid dealing with the data.

    Let me close with the following story:

    There once was an emperor who was very vain.


    One day, two clever, very quick-witted fellows arrived in the imperial city announcing that they were professional tailors, and, that they had discovered the most luxurious, finest thread ever known to mankind; thread with which they could spin the finest, rarest clothing that only the most refined could appreciate...at a hefty price, of course. The town was a buzz with excitement.


    The vain emperor heard of the tailors' rare thread and summoned them to the palace. The tailors quickly convinced the emperor, using very complicated, sophisticated, tailor terminology, that no other tailor in the world could spin a finer suit of clothing for him than they.


    The tailors worked furiously in a closed-door room for days, making all kinds of impressive grunts and other sounds as they spun their spinning wheels and sliced and sliced with their specialized scissors. Finally, a week later, the royal suit was finished! The emperor was called to the dressing room to try on his new clothes. The two tailors handed the emperor a beautifully wrapped package and asked him to step into the fitting room while they dressed him in his new suit. The emperor removed his old clothing, and watched as the tailors opened the box. With great fan fare the two men pulled objects out of the box, one after another, asking the emperor to push his arm through here, and to stick his leg through there...but the emperor saw nothing coming out of the box! The tailors then asked the emperor to stand in front of the mirror and tell them what he thought of his new, rare, very luxurious clothing.


    The emperor stepped in front of the mirror...and gasped! He was completely naked. He could not see one stitch of clothing on him!


    "How dreadful!" he thought to himself. "If I say that I see nothing they will think me unrefined and lacking in the latest style and taste." "It's exquisite!" he proclaimed to the delight of our clever, slick-tongued tailors.


    The emperor ordered that all his court assemble in the Great Hall so that he could parade his new suit of clothing in front of everyone. However, when he stepped into the hall accompanied by the tailors, there was an audible gasp from the entire assembly.


    "My god! The emperor is buck naked! I can't see one stitch of clothing on him," thought each adult present. "But if I say that, everyone else will think that I am unrefined and lacking in good taste and knowledge of the latest styles."


    "Gorgeous!" "Splendid!" "Amazing!" they all cried.


    However, as the emperor reached the half way point in the great hall, one small child stepped out from behind his mother's dress and shrieked, "The Emperor is naked! He's not wearing any clothes!"


    "Why you stupid, silly child!" exclaimed the tailors. "You obviously have no training in the world of suit-making and fine thread! We have extensive training and very difficult to obtain degrees from the finest institutions of cloth making in the world. In addition, we have many, many famous scholars and experts whom we can quote who confirm our conclusions regarding the exquisite quality of our thread. Yes, it is invisible to the common man...or child, but to those who take the time to thoroughly study thread, and are willing to expand their minds with sophisticated, philosophical theories regarding the properties of thread, then and only then will one see that the Emperor's clothing is the finest in the world!"


    "There's no such thing as invisible thread!" said the child, as he ran off to the courtyard to play.

    Moral: You don't need a scholar to know that the bodies of dead Jewish prophets cannot be magically reanimated...except in science fiction flicks.
    And with this, Gary is just ultimately embarrassing himself. When confronted with evidence against his position, he does not go off and research the claims and study them. Instead, he just sticks with his worldview that he has presupposed and said "Nothing will convince me to the contrary." (In fact, I have asked what evidence would persuade him and received no reply, contrary to what I have stated for my own position.) Gary is much like the Christian creationist who says "If humans came from apes, then why are there still apes?" While to the Christian, this might seem like a powerful defeater, the evolutionary biologist, Christian or non, is rolling their eyes stunned at the ignorance. Now as a non-evolutionary biologist, do I know the answer to the question? No. I do not. But what I do know is that if my opposition that is informed does not consider an opposition a serious argument, I should probably go elsewhere.

    I can't help but remember that Churchill is said to have said that men often stumble over the truth, but pick themselves up and run off like nothing happened. Indeed, this has to be the shortest formal debate I have ever done here because my opponent has brought nothing to the table, has not responded to any refutations of his position other than repeating a mantra of science, and has refused to investigate any claims that have been brought forward or cited any scholars in the field.

    Conclusion: Gary is still a fundamentalist who places dogma before the evidence and will not change his mind based on the evidence. If a man will not change his mind based on evidence and cannot give evidence that would be presented that would lead to a mind change, I have to wonder if his beliefs really are based on evidence.

    Final round is next, though I could probably just start it now since nothing has been said.

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    No, Nick. You have not presented one thread (hee hee) of evidence. Not one. Not for the question at hand which is: Is there sufficient evidence for a reasonable, educated person living in the 21st century to believe that the body of a dead, first century Jewish prophet was reanimated by an invisible, Bronze-age, Canaanite god to walk out of his grave to eat a broiled fish sandwich with his former fishing buddies, to later levitate from a mountain into outer space, to never be seen or heard of again?

    No. No amount of conjecture, assumptions, and biased, Christian expert opinion is going to convince the majority of educated, 21st century, unbiased (non-Christian) people to believe this ancient, superstitious, childish, supernatural nonsense. That is why the membership numbers, worship attendance rates, and baptism numbers in all Christian denominations in the United States, Canada, and Europe are plunging. Educated people just don't buy this stuff anymore. Religion's last best hope is in the third world where much of the population is uneducated, poor, and desperate for hope...any hope...including a belief in a reanimated dead Jewish prophet who promises them a mansion in outer space, a jewel studded crown, and streets lined with gold.

    You don't have any evidence for your supernatural, two thousand year old claim, Nick. It's magic. It isn't real. Open your eyes, my friend, and see the real truth instead of insulating yourself in superstitions and philosophical theories that serve no purpose other than to make you think you are smarter than the average man...or child...who just so happens to know that there is no such thing as invisible thread, or, reanimated dead bodies...except in children's books and science fiction flicks.
    Last edited by Gary; 07-22-2015 at 01:23 AM.

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    I just noticed in the comment thread that the moderator, Little Joe, has stated that I have given my final statement. From what Nick said in his last statement, I thought I had one more. So if I don't, I want to add the following to my "final statement":

    Imagine that my debate with Nick had not been about the Christian magic claim of a reanimated dead Jewish prophet, but about a secular magic claim of a literal Tooth Fairy. And imagine that Nick had argued in favor of the proposition and I had argued against it. And imagine that Nick has quoted numerous eyewitnesses who claim to have seen the Tooth Fairy, to have felt the effects of the Tooth Fairy in their lives, and even some who claim that the Tooth Fairy has taken up residence inside their bodies in an invisible compartment.

    Nick has also presented numerous quotations from numerous, highly educated Tooth Fairy scholars, all of whom have come to the conclusion, after extensive Tooth Fairy research, as recorded in their many volumes of Tooth Fairy books, that the Tooth Fairy is not a figment of the imagination of children, but a real, literal, being with whom we adult humans can interact and converse.

    How many of you readers would expect me to comply with Nick's prodding to research the books and research papers of these Tooth Fairy scholars and experts before coming to the conclusion that Nick's position is false? I doubt many would expect me to spend even a half hour looking at this "evidence".

    Why?

    Answer: Because the claim itself is stupid.

    Dear Christians, I am not trying to be mean, but many, many educated people today are coming to the same conclusion about your reanimated dead Jewish prophet story: It just isn't believable. There is no need to research the "evidence". There is no need to research the evidence because the claim itself is nonsensical and silly.

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