I want to thank Tim for accepting the challenge to debate this very important question. He was easy going through the whole process and very nice to work with. The reason I asked him to do this was because an atheist on a message board was ridiculing the resurrection. I challenged him to a debate on the topic and never heard back from him, but Tim did respond and I am glad he did.
Even though I’m not sure if I can always do this, lately I’ve made a resolution to myself to challenge any naysayer on the Internet to a moderated debate. I think this will help people be held accountable for what they say more. In fact, I would say more Christians should do this more often – in a nice and friendly way, of course. I Peter 3:15 tells us, "but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense (apologia) to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect." I pray this debate was a model of sorts for that kind of dialogue. If not, chalk it up to my immaturity, for I am still learning and working on developing a more God-honoring character.
I also want to thank Sean ‘Kazz’ Esplin for being willing to host this debate at Better Than Faith.com. I am so glad to see him being willing to give the other side a voice. I honestly hope this discussion drives up their traffic. I also hope that the comments on the posts are very insightful and lead to new learning on this topic. That way, we all can benefit and maybe BTF will do something like this again in the future? Anyway, here’s to hoping!
I also want to thank Shawn White (please do not ask if he is a snow boarder =) of the blog ‘Living Dead Man‘. He did so much work in formatting our responses so they looked more presentable and fixed a lot of potentially embarrassing spelling errors (mainly on my end). He did so much to make this happen and put in a lot of work – we honestly could not have pulled this off without his commitment and dedication to this mini-project.
At this point people may be asking why I am doing a bunch of shout outs instead of doing what folks traditionally do here, which is rehash their arguments in summary fashion? Well, I figure people can read the debate if they want that! Maybe next time I do a debate I will go the more traditional route but all I ask this time around is for people to read the Opening Statements and Rebuttals and draw their own conclusions. I especially want people to read the Cross Examinations, as I feel they may be the most telling part of the whole back and forth. The comments attached to the Cross Examinations are also very significant; I sincerely hope people can read them and follow along and even chime in.
I promise I do not think I am a "Superman debater" or anything but I do think the resurrection of Jesus has been shown to be a valid historical consideration. In fact, it is really the only plausible explanation to the known facts. On this, let me share two brief frustrations I have: one is dealing with those who reject the resurrection outright due to their philosophical bias against the supernatural. I don’t just mean Tim, for many people I run into share this bias and many of the comments belie it as well. Perhaps we can do another debate on the philosophical possibility of miracles sometime soon to look at this?
A second frustration I have is sometimes it seems as if some of the people making comments on these debates and sometimes the debaters themselves seem ill equipped to discuss first century Palestine. This context is absolutely essential to understanding the historical Jesus. Not so much with Tim but sometimes I get the feeling that some folks have never read any scholarly level works on the historical Jesus. It sure would help if people became familiar with the work of NT Wright, Craig A. Evans, Darrel Bock or Richard Bauckham – maybe even John P. Meier, James Charlesworth, EP Sanders or Burton Mack. But if they can’t do that, then even guys like Jon Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, Robert Funk or Bart Ehrman will suffice. But it seems as if more and more atheists have only read Richard Carrier, GA Wells, Robert Price or Earl Doherty. It’s just hard to have an on-the-level serious discussion with those kind of dudes floating in the background because their work is so far afield and speculative. But alas, I digress …
Before I finish, I want to briefly address a few things Tim said in his final statement, such as: “It would be proven if Jesus appeared to each of us daily and had a little chat.” This kind of statement is an illustration of the creature wanting to tell the Creator what to do. It also shows how insanely high Tim wants to set the bar in his state of denial. Tim prophesies in his final remarks that I’ll respond by saying that we have to “access God through faith.” Wrong – we can have access to God’s working by opening our eyes and viewing history. This can bring us to a place where he place our trust in God because of who he is and what he has already done. This is the biblical view of faith – it means a TRUST based upon verifiable evidence, not a blind hoping in the darkness.
Tim made another misstatement about the nature of Christianity when he said,
Religions have always been with us, and the idea of divine men bending the harsh rules of nature, and promising us the benefits of these powers, have always been in the cultural landscape of religions. Many religions have converted great numbers of people with their basic appeal to the wonderful notion that the converts can, though actions or confessions, be saved from the hardship of daily life and be part of a grander scheme, protected by an all-powerful God.
Christians believe Jesus is the one and only God-Man (not merely ‘divine’) who does not just “bend the rules of nature” but rather holds all of creation together by the sheer power of his will (Colossians 1:17). In fact, Mark talks about Jesus calming a storm and the disciples respond in Mark 4:41: “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’”
Christianity does not promise that people can be saved “through actions or confessions” but rather by admitting their sin, turning from it and trusting in Christ alone for salvation. This is not a works-based system, unlike every other belief system on the planet, but instead it is a grace-based system – major difference. Also, Christianity does not promise us we will be saved from the hardship of daily life – on the contrary, Jesus constantly spoke of counting the cost of following him and how his disciples had to pick up their cross!
While we’re doing theology, let me mention the awesome beauty of the resurrection of Jesus. It shows us that our Creator God stepped into the time and space continuum to demonstrate his glory and love. The resurrection tells us death is not the final stop but that we can live with God – forever – in a new and glorified body. No more sickness and no more sorrow and we will eternally be giving God all the praise for what he has done via the resurrection. I am so glad it is fact and not fantasy!
Now let me briefly be the evangelical Christian that I am. In these kinds of discussions, we sometimes act as if Jesus – his credentials and the like – is on trial. I just want to remind everyone that if Jesus really did rise from the dead – and we can know that he did – then he is not really the one on trial, so to speak, but rather, we are (John 5:22, 27). Why? Because Jesus executed judgment against the forces of evil through his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection and Acts 10:42 and 2 Timothy 4:1 tell us that Jesus will judge both the living and the dead. Paul informed the Athenians that God "has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:31). And Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10).
Some may say this seems out of place to bring this up (and I understand their concerns) but what really is this debate about if not the implications of a risen Jesus? I pray we all honestly consider these implications as we go about our days.
Phoenix, Arizona, USA