Last Night's Debate
Here are just some thoughts on the debate with Craig last night....
Craig seemed to me to be nice man. The debate wasn't dirty and there was nothing below the belt. There was the usual rhetoric and criticisms and all that but I don't mind that and I imagine Craig is long used to that side of things. I know some people are reluctant to do such things because they feel they'd lose their temper but I'm not sure if these things ought to be taken wholly seriously: it is the debating style format after all.
As for content, well there were no surpises on both sides assuming you've read stuff by either or us. I went for the argument based on visions interpreted as a bodily raised figure which would require the assumption that Jesus' tomb must have been empty so it is no surprise that stories of an empty tomb emerged. My guess is that the Markan empty tomb story is largely a work of fiction designed to explain why no one knew about the empty tomb. But even if the empty tomb was a historical fact, we do not have to resort to underlying supernatural explanations, because, like any story of the supernatural, there are usually enough alternative explanations. I also repeated my point that Paul has no eyewitness accounts of the empty tomb in contrast to eyewitness accounts of visions and Mark has the women telling no one. In historical terms these two earliest pieces of evidence are not strong pieces of evidence at all. I did add that I had no intention of persuading people that the literal bodily resurrection is false but inn historical terms it cannot really be treated as a serious argument, other than in the sense the earliest Christians believed they had seen a bodily raised Jesus.
Craig used some criticisms previously aimed at my views. He cited Dale Allison's intro in the JSHJ resurrection issue. But what was particularly interesting was that I don't think he cited Wright's criticisms of me in that issue. While Allison's criticisms can (and will) be answered, I think they were measured and non-polemical, and probably the criticisms anyone should have turned to if debating me on the resurrection. But I thought Wright's were very weak and too polemical in the sense they were often lacking substance and misreading what I said. Wright often just ignored key criticisms (the resurrection of the saints really does need to be answered properly by Wright, esp. when compared with Wright's comments on the 'obviously fictitious' in non-Christian traditions). I think is obvious when reading the response in conjuntion with my article but I always wonder if others think the same way. What was interesting in terms of last night's debate was the Craig did go for me on dates and haggadic stories but if I remember rightly he did not mention Wright's criticisms. Wright said that I was using stories that refer to supposed events centuries before (e.g. Exodus) whereas I explicitly mentioned fictitious storytelling much closer to the time of the individual or events in my article. I can't imagine Craig did not notice Wright's argument so I wonder if he noticed this too?
Anyway, there are some thoughts. I enjoyed the evening, others seemed to enjoy it too (well, that's what they told me anyway) and the Sheffield students seemed to be well into it. So that's no bad thing, is it?
UPDATE: Philip Davies has some thoughts on the debate on Jim West's blog.