Ross Clifford’s Response to Κέλσος

Recently a Christian apologist named Ross Clifford (principal of Morling College, Australia) has written a response to an article here on Κέλσος. Clifford’s response is to my article “Objection! The Resurrection of Jesus Is Not a Court Case,” which is a critical rebuttal to the arguments used by juridical apologist John Warwick Montgomery. Montgomery became famous in apologetic circles way back in the 1970’s for popularizing the argument that legal reasoning and the laws of evidence can be applied to documents of the New Testament in order to affirm the core claims of the Christian faith.

Clifford’s article is titled “Objection Overruled! Let’s Hear the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” and was published in Vol. 12, No. 1 of Montgomery’s online journal, Global Journal of Classic Theology.

Now, as everyone who reads this blog should know, I do not even think that ancient historical methodology can be used to prove the miraculous claims found in ancient Christian scriptures (which is a far more relevant standard for evaluating ancient texts), let alone modern juridical reasoning. Ancient literature was not produced in a context or style that makes it useful for legal testimony or courtroom investigation, nor would any of the NT documents even be admissible as evidence in court. Montgomery and other juridical apologists are only using a pretense of legal reasoning in order to (like many other apologists) exaggerate the evidence for Jesus. The purpose of juridical apologetics is, in Montgomery’s own words (Faith Founded on Fact, pg. 42): “We must make clear to them [unbelievers] beyond a shadow of a doubt that if they reject the Lord of Glory, it will be by willful refusal to accept his Grace, not because His Word is incapable of withstanding the most searching intellectual examination.”

Despite such brash assertions, however, the reality is that none of Montgomery’s arguments are accepted in mainstream New Testament Studies, nor are they even widely accepted in legal circles. Instead, the notion of “juridical” apologetics mostly became popular back in the 1970’s and 80’s, when popular apologists like Josh McDowell were publishing lay apologetics books like Evidence That Demands a Verdict. Since then, even more serious resurrection apologists, such as William Craig and Gary Habermas, have not used the juridical approach, but instead fallen back on “minimal facts” arguments for the resurrection. Montgomery’s arguments are thus rather dated these days, even in apologetic circles.

Regardless, I was glad to see that Clifford’s response was not as overtly polemical as I had expected (to be sure, there were a decent number of jabs against myself, but nothing as excessive as I had expected). I had expected this response, because when legal expert Richard Packham wrote a critical rebuttal to Montgomery’s arguments back in 1998 (available here), a writer named Boyd Pehrson wrote a highly polemical response to Packham in Montgomery’s journal (available here). In Pehrson’s response he made a number of ad hominem attacks and false statements about Packham allegedly not having legal training, which Packham refutes in his response to Pehrson. Furthermore, Packham discusses how when he searched to find Pehrson’s legal credentials, he could not find the name “Boyd Pehrson” on any list of attorneys in England or the United States. When Packham asked Montgomery in an email for more information about Pehrson’s legal background, Montgomery literally accused Packham of having Alzheimer’s disease (you can read the email for yourself here).

Given this track record, I was expecting Clifford’s response to me to be full of personal attacks. As such, I posted an announcement here on Κέλσος a couple months back, in which I summarized Montgomery’s previous vitriolic behavior in dealing with Richard Packham, in order to anticipate any similar attacks against ΚέλσοςAfter reading Clifford’s article, however, I have decided that this preemption was not necessary. Accordingly, I have taken down my previous announcement (which, for the sake of record, can still be read here).

Part of the reason for why I think there is no need to preempt Clifford or Montgomery is because I am not sure that their article is even worth responding to at all. I had expected a large number of personal attacks against myself, but after reading Clifford’s response, I am not sure whether people who have not read my article previously will even be able to understand Clifford’s rebuttals to my arguments. Clifford seldom summarizes my positions with anything more than quoting a few words of text, so that my main points are not even really addressed in his response. Where Clifford does respond to crucial points, he is not persuasive. For example, one of the major points in the article is that it is a huge stretch to try to apply the “ancient documents rule” of legal documentary evidence to the New Testament scriptures, since the rule is normally applied to documents that are in the range of being over 30 years old, but not thousands of years old. Clifford (pg. 7) responds to this argument with the example of a newspaper that was admitted in Dallas County v Commercial Union Assurance Co., which was more than 50 years old. I think that exposing Clifford’s hyperbole in comparing a 50 year old newspaper to millennia-old religious scriptures, as allegedly being comparable in terms of legal evidence, requires no further elaboration on my part.

Nevertheless, I do want all of my readers on Κέλσος to be able to read Clifford’s response, if they are interested. So, here is the link to Clifford’s article. I am happy to answer any questions in the comments. I’m also interested in hearing whether readers think I should or should not respond to Clifford’s article. So, feel free to also indicate in the comments below whether you think that Clifford’s response deserves any rebuttal here on Κέλσος.

-Matthew Ferguson

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17 Responses to Ross Clifford’s Response to Κέλσος

  1. Son of Sharecroppers says:

    I’m a practicing attorney: J.D. ’97. I’m admitted to the Washington state courts, the U.S. district courts in Washington, the Ninth Circuit, and the Eighth Circuit. I’ve been admitted pro had vice in many other jurisdictions. I also clerked for a Ninth Circuit judge (the Honorable Robert Beezer).

    There are no percipient witnesses to Jesus’ alleged resurrection. The only potential evidence is set out in the Bible. But it is absurd to think that any U.S. court would admit the Bible under the ancient documents rule–for essentially the reasons you identify above. It is hearsay, and the “ancient documents” exception would not apply because the Bible cannot be properly authenticated.

    Given that the Bible itself is not admissible, there would be no evidence from which a trier of fact could conclude, under any standard, that Jesus was resurrected.

    Apologists may offer arguments to support their claims. But they cannot rationally claim that, using the rules of evidence applicable in U.S. courts, they can establish the resurrection of Jesus.

  2. Robert says:

    I think the apologist argument would fail at the first hurdle. Habeas Corpus translates to “I have a body”. The recent works of Earl Doherty and Richard Carrier have shown Jesus to be a mythical character beyond reasonable doubt. (Richard Carrier calculates odds of about 1 in 1200 that there was a historical Jesus.)

    Paul – who Clifford quotes to maintain his argument of eyewitnesses – is the main witness for the prosecution; clearly referring to a spiritual death & Resurrection, with no earthly correspondence.

    So – no body; no eyewitnesses; documents written (the Gospels) 40 plus years after the events purportedly described but that borrow heavily from the old testament and from the Odyssey, the earliest extant copy being a century after that. A history of changes in the documents (read Ehrman for details). Fortunately we do not have a court case on this subject, or Clifford would be facing charges of Perjury.

    As to Clifford’s assertion that “The resurrection of Jesus is truly a dangerous idea”, in the week of the 70th anniversary of the relief of Auschwitz, I can only agree, but this has zero relevance to the assertions of the religion.

  3. I think anyone disgruntled by your original article will be satisfied by Clifford’s response. Anyone who agreed with your writing will similarly reject Clifford’s arguments. Clifford is not arguing before a judge; his audience is people who are Christian believers, and want to worship under the idea that history supports their practice.

  4. Jeremy Ledger says:

    Matthew,
    Does this article merit a response from you? Well, yes and no. It contains so many nonsensical comments that it’s tempting to dismiss it without bothering to refute it. So it doesn’t merit a response, as such. But what I DO think you could do is write a post explaining why the evidence for the resurrection (and pretty much everything else in the gospels) doesn’t even come close to meeting the standards required by the law. In which case Clifford’s article would be the trigger or catalyst for you writing something, rather than being something that you respond to.
    This is important, since I’ve heard this line of argument a lot recently. Indeed, there are entire bodies that exist to promote it (e.g. https://lawcf.org/resources/app/resource/98/title/Christianity-on-trial). And this seems to be a close cousin of the 10/42 apologetic – just swap “the evidence for Jesus surpasses that of Tiberius” with “the evidence for Jesus would stand up in a court of law”. It would be extremely valuable to have someone map out what standards the law requires, and how this compares to the testimony for Jesus (be it for the resurrection, or any other miracles, or whatever).
    That the verdict would be “Guilty of Having Insufficient Evidence” is already clear. And that you are well placed to research and write this is equally clear (notwithstanding minor constraints like Ph.D. graduate work 🙂 ).

    • Hey Jeremy,

      Thanks for your suggestion! I agree that, while Clifford’s article does not really deserve a direct response, it would be great to use as a catalyst for expanding the discussion of this issue further.

      The angle that I would take would be to make an a fortiori argument that even the legal orations of Lysias and Cicero would not be admissible in a court of law, for the same reason of not having genuine original documents. Likewise, these orations would not be very probative as legal documents, even if they were admitted. A lot of the discussion so far has been simply over whether the NT books would be admissible or probative (primarily because apologists only think of using juridical methodology to confirm their religion, and do not apply their methodology to other ancient texts and historical issues). However, I think that focusing on the NT creates the false impression that any ancient texts, reconstructed from manuscripts written centuries after their composition, could be admissible in a court of law. They wouldn’t be, because there are no true copies of these texts with a known trail of custody, which is why one doesn’t even have to make a special argument against the NT in order to refute Montgomery’s arguments.

      So, I think that writing a second article showing how Montgomery’s arguments would not even work for ancient legal texts, such as the orations of Lysias and Cicero, will put this issue to rest once and for all. Moreover, it will demonstrate how doubting the arguments of juridical apologists has nothing to do with a special bias against Christianity, but is simply the logic that would be used for any set of ancient texts with the same documentary background.

      Likewise, while Montgomery himself is rather dated these days, there are still other apologists who abuse legal analogies. You’ve noted Mark Lanier, and there is also J. Warner Wallace in Cold Case Christianity. These lay authors, who do not have actual training in ancient history or philology, are simply spreading misconceptions about how disciplines like Classics and NT Studies work, normally by assuming a highly conservative understanding of the NT books (for example, thinking that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses, when the large majority of critical scholars disagree) and then applying really bad legal analogies that would be laughed out of the room at any SBL/AAR conference.

      So, this issue is worth writing on further. I’m not sure when I will get around to it, since I am studying for my Greek translation Ph.D. exam currently. However, I’ll note it as a future blog post to write.

  5. Jeremy Ledger says:

    Matthew,
    That sounds great, and if and when you do find time to do it I’m sure it will become a valuable and widely used resource, as are other articles such as 10/42 and Griffin Beak. In addition to the a fortiori point you mentioned, it would be worth covering off some of the more egregious mistakes in Clifford’s article even if you don’t write this as a reply to him, e.g. “eyewitness testimony”, “The large number of manuscripts is important”, and the over-arching claim that “The New Testament Gospels are simply good evidence”.
    Anyway, keep up the good work, and good luck for your exams!

  6. I’m late to the party here, but i have a couple of things to add. Whether they’re worthwhile or not is an open question.

    First, let me say that I’m trained in history, but my day job is a numbers cruncher. So I have a good sense of probability, and I try to use this in historical enquiry. Second, while I’m a practicing Episcopalian and a cradle Catholic, I went through a period of devout atheism. Now, after reading Joseph Campbell’s “Masks of God” series, I’ve come (I believe) to understand where Christianity (and Judaism and Islam) have gone wrong. They have confused symbols, which refer to a greater Truth, for signs, which refer to concrete things. IOW, the J/C/I continuum went wrong when it took itself literally. As myth, Christianity works very well. So the upshot is that I’m a pantheist: the whole of nature is “sacred” in the sense of being worthy of reverence and respect. But not worship.

    But even in my most ferociously atheistic phase, I never really doubted that the man Jesus lived. No, there is no proof, in the sense of a smoking gun. However, the analogy I use is that Jesus is like a distant planet; it cannot be seen, but it can be deduced by the gravitational field it exercises. Jesus has a very strong gravitational field. Now, yes, it’s possible that this stuff about Jesus was made up by his later followers (and much of the NT consists of stuff made up by his later followers), but the simpler solution (Occam’s razor) is that Jesus lived, and was later deified by his followers. The best analogy is Arthur. From a warlord who tried to unite the Britons against the Saxons, his legend grew into the whole Knights of the Round Table thing, with elaborate tales, invented characters (basically all of them, with the exceptions, perhaps of Merlyn and Guinevere. But that’s another story).

    So Jesus most likely lived. Whether anything said about him is factually accurate is another story.

    The problem is that the people you are arguing with are simply not amenable to any sort of rational argument. There is, literally, nothing you can say that will convince them otherwise. Present fact after fact, rebuttal after rebuttal, scream, yell, jump up and down, and the result will be the same: nothing, So I admire what you tried to do here; it’s very well written. But even a cursory glance through the response should be enough to show that none of it matters. None of it can matter. These people have a deeply seated need to believe, so they will. End of story.

    I do want to make one last point. About a year ago, I had a debate on the topic of whether Jesus lived on the site of an atheist. I was very disappointed in her. She proved herself to be as impervious to argument as the people she was desperately trying to refute. So I just gave up. I hear some of that in Robert’s comment above. There is a strain of atheism that truly wants to deny that Jesus existed. I find this about as…exaggerated as the Christian insistence that the Resurrection really–honestly and truly–happened, and that the “evidence” we have “proves” it. Both positions back themselves into an intellectual corner from which they can’t escape. I understand the reasons why it would be comforting to believe that Jesus didn’t exist; they’re about the same as the reasons it’s comforting to believe that he was raised from the dead.

    I run a blog which might or might not be of interest. As for the name, don’t be taken in. It was meant ironically, and was sort of a bad in-joke. I regret it in some ways, but there it is.

    https://commentingonthebible.wordpress.com/

    Anyway, I enjoyed the writing so I’m following. And my Liddell and Scott doesn’t have an entry for “kelsos”. What am I missing? Apologies for being so obtuse. Is it meant as the Greek form of Celsus”? That works. I just realized that I’m not sure if he who is usually called Celsus wrote in Latin or Greek. I’ve only read his stuff in translation.

    Cheers!

    • Hey James,

      On the topic of mythicism, you may be interested in my previous post, where I discuss the sources for Jesus and the minimal historical details that I think we can say about his life:

      https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/when-do-contemporary-sources-matter/

      I’m not a mythicist and I agree that a good minimal case can be made for Jesus’ historical existence, based on the sources and analysis discussed in the article.

      I agree that most mythicist arguments are unscholarly, though I do consider Richard Carrier and Robert Price to be (among a minority of) qualified scholars who are mythicists. I disagree with their views, but I think that their arguments are up to academic standards and qualify as genuine scholarship.

      “The problem is that the people you are arguing with are simply not amenable to any sort of rational argument. There is, literally, nothing you can say that will convince them otherwise. Present fact after fact, rebuttal after rebuttal, scream, yell, jump up and down, and the result will be the same: nothing, So I admire what you tried to do here; it’s very well written. But even a cursory glance through the response should be enough to show that none of it matters. None of it can matter. These people have a deeply seated need to believe, so they will. End of story.”

      I agree, that is very often the case. I do not post here on Κέλσος with the hope of changing the minds of many ardent apologists. However, I do hope to provide a resource not only for equipping atheists with the counter-arguments to many apologetic attacks against atheism, but also for presenting an alternative view to lurkers, moderate Christians, people questioning their faith, and agnostics, who have not heard the other side of these arguments before.

      There is a huge volume of apologetic literature that gets published targeting lay audiences (e.g. Lee Strobel’s and Josh McDowell’s books), and not many people outside of academic circles know where to find scholarly resources offering alternative viewpoints. Apologists thus rely on people’s inability to access counter-resources as a way of intimidating them with a barrage of arguments and talking that they cannot fact check (see my discussion of apologist Cliffe Knechtle doing this with the 10/42 apologetic). Likewise, many skeptics looking for counter-arguments can be drawn towards less reliable atheist resources, such as the arguments of unprofessional mythicists, which doesn’t help people understand these issues either.

      Considering that there is so much confusion that surrounds scientific, historical, and philosophical issues pertaining to religion, and considering that apologists exploit this confusion to make specious arguments trying to convert people to their religion, I work on this blog to help clear up the confusion and to direct people to reliable scholarly and secular resources. In the case of NT Studies, I think that Bart Ehrman’s work has been invaluable for educating a common audience on what real biblical scholars have to say about the Bible and Christian origins, in the face of so many apologists like Strobel, McDowell, and Knechtle spreading overt misinformation about NT scholarship.

      “There is a strain of atheism that truly wants to deny that Jesus existed. I find this about as…exaggerated as the Christian insistence that the Resurrection really–honestly and truly–happened, and that the “evidence” we have “proves” it. Both positions back themselves into an intellectual corner from which they can’t escape.”

      I agree, there are some atheists who find it very important to prove that Jesus did not exist exist. I’ve never understood this group. I can believe that both Muhammad and Joseph Smith existed as historical persons, and yet still doubt the core claims of Islam and Mormonism. I think that atheists trying to focus on proving Jesus’ non-existence is ultimately detrimental to counter-apologetics, because it frames the issue as if it were about Jesus’ historicity, rather than about whether the core claims of Christianity can be affirmed using ancient texts (as apologists claim). Apologists also exploit this framing by making it seem that Jesus’ mere historical existence rebuts all atheist arguments against Christianity (see also apologist Cliffe Knechtle refusing to grasp that my arguments against his historical apologetics had nothing to do with denying the existence of Jesus as a historical person).

      “Anyway, I enjoyed the writing so I’m following. And my Liddell and Scott doesn’t have an entry for “kelsos”. What am I missing? Apologies for being so obtuse. Is it meant as the Greek form of Celsus”? That works. I just realized that I’m not sure if he who is usually called Celsus wrote in Latin or Greek. I’ve only read his stuff in translation.”

      The name comes from the Greek form of “Celsus,” which in Latin means “high” or “lofty.” I chose the name as an allusion to the Greek philosopher Celsus, who wrote the first known comprehensive critique of Christianity. Both Celsus and Origen (who preserves portions of Celsus’ works) wrote in Greek.

  7. David Austin says:

    Hi Matthew,
    Here in Perth, Western Australia, the local branch of the “City Bible Forum” is holding a “mock trial” event called “Jesus on Trial” where they investigate the historical claim of the Resurrection.

    The “Prosecution” (who are arguing the “pro” case) have a barrister by the name of Ian Davidson SC who will call a historian by the name of Professor Edwin Judge. Martin Hadley (a barrister of Treasurer of Australian Skeptics Inc) will lead the other case who will cross-examine the Professor & also call his own witness (as yet un-named). A judge will preside and direct a “jury”.

    My question is, whether you are familiar with Professor Edwin Judge, and whether he is a crdible historian. According to my searches he is Emeritus Professor in the Dept of Ancient History at Macquarie University and holds a MA (NZ & Cambridge) and D.Litt. (Canterbury).. Here is his link :-
    https://www.mq.edu.au/about_us/faculties_and_departments/faculty_of_arts/department_of_ancient_history/staff/emeritus_professor_edwin_judge/

    As you have stated before, these “mock trials” are basically pretty pointless as .Biblical documents would never stand scrutiny in a court of law, but I would be interested in your views and/or comments.
    Regards
    David Austin
    Perth., Western Australia
    ps I think any book you wrote on counter-apologetics would be an amazing resource for anyone in discussion with a Christian Apologist.

    • Hey David,

      I am not familiar with Edwin Judge, so I cannot comment. I will say that a lot of these debates with apologists are often designed around poorly formulated debate prompts and underlying epistemic assumptions.

      The debate should not be over whether a jury can affirm the resurrection of Jesus on the basis of a courtroom formulation of evidence. Rather, the debate should be over whether *any* ancient texts (including secular Pagan texts), reconstructed from medieval manuscripts dating to centuries after the composition, would even be admissible as documentary evidence in a court of law, and further over whether such texts would be even remotely as legally probative as modern forms of courtroom evidence, even if admitted.

      By framing this “mock trial” in terms of the resurrection, the apologists have already sneaked a huge amount of unwarranted assumptions beneath the table. It’s a common strategy that they use. They frame the debate 10 steps in advance, so that the non-apologist has to spend a huge amount of time backtracking and unpacking all of their hidden and unwarranted assumptions. It’s kind of like playing a chess game where the other player gets to make several moves before you can move a single piece.

      For this reason, I have tried in past debates, and will do the same for future debates, to always make sure that there is a good debate prompt and an appropriate format for evaluating the actual issues at stake. You can’t easily expose a lot of the fallacies/inaccuracies in apologetic arguments unless you have the debate centered around the correct methodological/evidentiary issues.

      I plan to write more in my book about the hidden premises that apologists sneak into debates, the false dilemmas that they construct, the ways that they oversimplify and confuse nuance, etc. To study apologetics is to study a web of motivated reasoning designed to construct defense mechanisms to protect belief in magic and outdated religious dogmas in the modern age. That is a pretty hard task to do with an honest debate format, so apologists have to confuse people about methodology, frame issues with hidden methodological assumptions, and create false dilemmas for people who don’t buy their arguments. To refute apologetics, therefore, is often not even about the “evidence,” but about clarification and helping people to see through their smoke to the actual issues which are at stake.

      • David Austin says:

        Hi Matthew,
        Thanks for your response.
        I have since found out that the “expert” called by the “defence” will be Peter Slezak who is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of NSW. He is, I guess, not a historian and I’m not sure if he would be the ideal person to call as a “witness”.

        I am currently watching a video of Peter in a sort-of debate with William Lane Craig whilst WLC was in Australia. He doesn’t try to rebut any of the “historical evidence” presented by WLC, but seems to be using Hume’s arguments about the near impossibility of miracles. Whilst, this argument is valid, I don’t think it really addresses the issues brought up by WLC and ,to me, seems quite a weak response. If I were a fairly neutral observer, I would think that WLC presented a stronger case as his “evidence” was basically unchallenged and was just rebutted on the basis of an unverified miracle.

        To take on an accomplished debater & apologist like WLC, I think you would need some-one with more credentials in Historical methodology to counter his “evidential” premises.

        Regards
        David Austin

        • Hey David,

          Sorry about the delay. I had a lot of graduate work between answering your last comment and this one.

          The problem with most debates over the resurrection is that the debate prompt is usually stated vaguely enough that an apologist like WLC can shift his arguments to hit the weak spots of whatever opponent he is dealing with.

          Remember that Bart Ehrman, who has New Testament training, also debated Craig on this topic. Since Craig knew that Ehrman had more historical background than him, he instead tried to hit Ehrman with philosophy by bringing up Bayes’ Theorem. If Slezak is more experienced in philosophy, then I wouldn’t be surprised if Craig focused on the historical arguments.

          The problem lies with the fact that a prompt like “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” is already loaded with implicit methodological assumptions. It can be broken into smaller questions that address the more specific nuances:

          “What is the nature of Jesus’ resurrection and how does it apply to metaphysics and epistemology?”

          “Can ancient texts, reconstructed from textual transmission, be used to prove paranormal claims about the past, such as immortal resurrections?”

          “Is there actual scholarly agreement for the ‘minimal facts’ that apologists claim surround the resurrection?”

          You would have to address each of these issues individually before answering “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”, but that usually takes too much time for anyone to get through it all in a timed oral debate. Meanwhile, the structure behind Craig’s arguments normally just assumes that Jesus’ resurrection can of course be proven just like any old historical question about the past, that of course ancient texts can be used to prove it, and of course there is scholarly agreement about these ‘facts.’ He basically sweeps all of these assumptions under the table through how he frames the debate.

          His opponents can backtrack and unpack all of Craig’s unwarranted assumption, but then they run out of time to speak on their own topic. They can speak on their own topic, but then they haven’t unpacked all of Craig’s talking points. I was the debate captain of my high school speech and debate team, so I can see the rhetorical strategy behind what Craig is doing. His strategy is both rhetorically persuasive and entirely misleading and oversimplified.

          The thing to understand about Craig’s debating style is that he usually goes first in most debates, which allows him not only to frame the discussion the way he wants to, but also to (frequently) straw man and poison the well against his opponents, before they even go up to speak. But likewise, he also tends to enter into debates that have vaguely stated prompts, which allows him to Gish Gallop a bunch of different arguments on a wide range of different topics.

          Take, for example, a debate prompt like “Does God Exist?”

          Craig will often respond to this prompt by offering 1) the cosmological argument, 2) the moral argument, and 3) the resurrection argument.

          The problem is that, first, simply addressing any one of these arguments is already enough for one debate. That is why I would never agree to debate a prompt like “Does God Exist?,” but would only agree to debate cosmology, morality, and the resurrection as individual topics (addressing all of the methodological issues behind the resurrection actually needs more than even one topic, honestly).

          But furthermore, to address each point you have to be an expert on a wide range of areas. You would have to be an expert cosmologist, ethicist, and ancient historian all at once to address each of those points. Most of Craig’s opponents will only have training in one of those areas. Craig, on the other hand, just has to make sure that his opponent doesn’t get around to addressing all of his diverse points, and whatever makes it across the flow chart gets answered with “Goddidit.”

          I should note that the debates in which Craig has done the worst tend to be those that are formatted more correctly. For example, he debated ethicist Shelly Kagan on the moral argument. Just the moral argument, which is an area where Kagan is an expert. In my opinion, Kagan killed Craig in that debate. Like, literally dribbled circles around him, which is amazing because Kagan isn’t even an expert debater, he just knows way more about the subject than Craig does. Parts of the debate, such as when Kagan had to explain to Craig what “compatibilism” is, actually came of as if Kagan was lecturing and tutoring Craig moreso than debating him:

          I know that Craig has also done much worse in other debates where he debated the right opponent about the right issue. For example, he debated cosmologist Sean Carroll in a debate format that focused primarily on the cosmological argument. And, not surprisingly, Carroll did a lot better in that debate than many of Craig’s opponents do in other, more poorly structured debates.

          The lesson to take away is to never take any of Craig’s “debate victories” seriously, unless there was a good format and choice of opponent behind the debate. Debate victories that arise from poor formatting, or because Craig is debating the wrong person on the wrong issue, mean nothing academically. In fact, most timed oral debates never scratch the surface of the real academic issues at stake, anyways. Written debates are a far more effective medium for addressing such a wide range of issues, so I really don’t put much stock in oral debates to begin with.

          • David Austin says:

            Hi Matthew,

            Thanks very much for taking the time to respond to my comment.

            Yes, I think WLC is a “good” debater. but, of course, this doesn’t make any of his arguments “correct”.

            I will not be going to the mock trial “Did Jesus rise from the Dead”, as I have another commitment, and in any case, I think it is going to be just a “gab-fest”, as neither side will be able to conclusively prove their POV to an absolute certainty.

            I emailed the guy leading the “con” case and suggested he “attack” the “pro” case on three key points :-

            1. How the “evidence” from the gospels would never stand up in a true court-room scenario (much as you have expounded)

            2. Even if they were accepted, the multiple contradictions rule them out as reliable “history”
            .
            3. If you accept the evidence as stated in the gospels, then you would have to accept the evidence of many other religions especially Mormonism. Mormonism has “solid” evidence (Proof that Joseph Smith was an historic figure; Legal Depositions as to the existence of the Golden Plates [some even claiming to be shown by an angel], the faith flourishing from humble beginnings to now be considered “mainstream”, and Joseph Smith dying as a martyr for his faith). If you accept the flimsy evidence from 2,000 years ago, then you must also accept this strong evidence from a couple of hundred years ago which is far better attested. You would also have to accept that there were witches in Salem Mass in the 1600s.

            No need to reply, just my thoughts on this “farcical trial”.
            Regards
            David Austin

          • Another thing to note, which Richard Packham talks about in his original article, is that we actually *do have* Mormon documents that could be admissible in a court of law. We have a document written by Joseph Smith, for example, where he talks about Jesus visiting him personally. Needless to say, we have nothing like this for any of the early figures in Christianity (no original texts survive from that period, and texts reconstructed from textual transmission would not be admissible in a court of law).

            So, beyond the fact that there are no documents relevant to Jesus or his resurrection that would even be *admissible* in a court of law, we actually do possess evidence *for other religions* that would be admissible. I doubt, however, that juridicial apologists would find that to be very persuasive, hence their frequent double standards.

          • David Austin says:

            Hi Matthew,
            Just for your information, the “Jesus on Trial” mock courtroom event took place last Thursday 21sts May. The whole event was recorded and is available on Youtube via this link :-

            You may find it interesting.

            I don’t think the “pro” resurrection side provided any convincing evidence but that may be confirmation bias.

            Interested to hear if you have any comments.
            Regards
            David Austin

          • Hey David,

            I am too busy right now to watch videos like this, but maybe readers of this blog will find it interesting.

            Cheers,
            -MWF

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