William Lane Craig and Robert Price debate the resurrection

manicstreetpreacher urges you to listen to the most hilarious opening speech he has ever heard!

On a previous post about William Lane Craig’s attempted slur on Richard Dawkins’ views of religious child abuse, I linked to a YouTube video that quoted former evangelical turned atheist writer Robert M Price‘s slating of Craig.  I duly linked to Price’s article below the video.  A commenter (who I have now banned from my blog and deleted all his comments for rudeness, nitpicking and generally being an annoying troll!) called Price a “crank who couldn’t even get anyone at the Jesus Seminar to accept his ideas”.  He suggested that I listen to the debate between Price and Craig held at Ohio State University in 1999 on whether Jesus rose from the dead.

I have listened to the debate, and while Craig of course doesn’t say anything new whatsoever and the debate runs out of steam by the Q & A, Price delivers an absolutely extraordinary opening statement (starting at 22 minutes on the tape) by lambasting Craig and everything he stands for.

Price quotes Craig’s book Reasonable Faith at length to show that Craig’s apologetics is founded on the presupposition that Christian faith is supported not by reasoned argument, but from God’s assurance to the reader that it is true.  If the reader does not accept the book’s arguments, all that means is that Craig is a poor apologist not that there’s anything wrong with the Gospel.  As Price summarises:

Dr Craig then freely admits that his conviction arises from purely subjective factors.  To me it sounds no different in principle from the teenage Mormon door-knocker: he tells you that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient Americans because he has a warm swelling feeling inside when he asks God if it’s true.

Only towards the end does Price spend about two and a half minutes actually discussing whether or not Jesus rose from the dead.


See also Price’s appearance in Brian Flemming’s 2005 documentary film The God Who Wasn’t There discussing dying and rising gods in ancient mythology.


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28 Responses to “William Lane Craig and Robert Price debate the resurrection”

  1. Fergus Gallagher Says:

    Pretty Please! Turn off the impossibly annoying “shapshot” previews. Pleeeeze 🙂

    • Fergus Gallagher Says:

      Oh – it seems I can do it myself.

      Sanity restored.

      Is there a similar option for WLC?

  2. PaulJ Says:

    Just been listening to this loooooooong debate, but my patience was amply rewarded by this truly amazing contention right near the end.

    William Lane Craig attempts to refute the idea that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. I laughed out loud when he said that the resurrection of Jesus by natural means would indeed be extraordinary, but his resurrection by God is not extraordinary at all — and therefore we can accept any old evidence in support of it. (I paraphrase, but to forestall accusations of misrepresentation, here’s the direct quote: “The hypothesis is that God raised Jesus from the dead, and I don’t see anything improbable about that…”)

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      You only have to replace “God raised Jesus from the dead” with “the Flying Spaghetti Monster raised Jesus from the dead” to see the risible absurdity in Craig’s ahem, “reasoning”.

      My piece on Dawkins’ public refusal to debate Craig links to Bart Ehrman’s debate against Craig on the resurrection. On that occasion, Craig used Bayes Theorem to prove the probability of miracles.

      Apparently Richard Swinburne has calculated that the Christian doctrine has a 0.97 probability of being true.

      Let me sink to my knees and accept Christ in reply to this devastating logic. NOT!


  3. Martin Says:

    Only towards the end does Price spend about two and a half minutes actually discussing whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. Stupendous!

    How is it stupendous to not debate the topic of the debate?

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Have you heard the speech for yourself?

      I’m not a great fan of William Lane Craig in case you couldn’t tell and I just loved the sheer insanity of Price to ignore completely the debate topic and attack the real reason why Craig believes so firmly in the resurrection.

      I suggest you read this post over at Common Sense Atheism for further details about how Craig has reached his conclusion before he has even started his search for evidence.

      Craig has admitted in his own words that reason and evidence can be used to support the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, they cannot be used to overthrown them.

      Reasonable faith? I think not. More like blind, stupid credulity!


      • Martin Says:

        Yes, I’ve read that post and I must say I was quite taken aback at actually seeing the Christians to be correct and the atheists wrong, for a change. The first comment with the Youtube link shows why.

        Within the thread, most of the atheists try to respond by criticizing Craig’s personal experience itself; but that’s not the argument. The argument is not “was Craig’s personal experience veridical,” but it is “can a personal experience trump external evidence.”

        The answer, clearly, is “yes.” A person innocent of a crime where the evidence stands against him (through coincidence or framing, for example). By your rationale he is blind and stupid for continuing to believe that he is innocent.

  4. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    I haven’t read the comments on the YouTube vid of Price. By posting something I’m not necessarily implying absolute agreement to it. I just thought that it would be useful for readers to watch and read a bit more of Price.

    If external evidence and reasoned argument can only be used to support Craig’s inner feelings that Christianity is true but cannot be used to disprove it, then Craig is trying to have his cake and eat it.

    A proposition must be capable of being falsified, otherwise it is a very poor theory indeed.

    Let’s say that the accused in your thought experiment is mentally ill and cannot remember committing their crime and genuinely believes that they are innocent. Objective evidence like CCTV footage and DNA samples found at the scene of the crime must trump their inner feelings.

  5. Martin Says:

    I recommend reading the thread, especially the posts by Ayer. Luke even admits that he raises good points.

    You’re right, there can be a certain level of evidence that can override the personal experience. But with religion it can be controversial because the evidence is so thin to begin with and isn’t rationally coercive in either direction. Craig even says on his website that he defends what he calls “weak theism.”

    I think the point of departure between us and Craig is at the personal experience part; what Craig thinks was personal experience was probably just a burst of seratonin or something. However his actual reasoning is correct on this point. Which is why I think Price comes off as a buffoon; the audience claps when Craig says he was relieved that he finally got to the evidence for the resurrection.

    Ultimately, I think atheists have been dealing with idiotic Christians for so long that they’ve become complacent.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      I’ve read some of the comments on the CSA post now.

      Craig’s inner witness of the Holy Spirit could well be correct, but without any independent corroborating evidence in support, it remains an empty assertion that sceptics are more than entitled to reject.

      No one ever returns from religious/ out of body/ near death/ demonic possession/ alien abduction experience with anything new or interesting in their heads that has been verified by independent observation.

      The late astronomer Carl Sagan used to get people writing to him claiming there were taken up into a spaceship, laid out on a table and had experiments performed on them by little green men. Sagan’s litmus test was whether the person “abducted” had been told some incredible scientific knowledge unknown to human science. Of course, the “victim” had only been told by the little green men that humans needed to be nice to each other.

      Perhaps if the Holy Spirit had told Craig the precise outcome of all the US elections until his death, or that US forces would find no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, then we would have something worth talking about.

    • AgeOfReasonXXI Says:

      “I think Price comes off as a buffoon” — actually you’re the baffoon here. Price did an excellent job at exposing the dishonesty, cynicism (and, in my opinion, sheer madness) of Craig’s position, to which Craig had no answer of course because he knows perfectly well that he’s a hypocrite (though I gues it’s too late for him to turn around and admit it). In fact ALL Price had to do is just expose Craig for what he is, and then simply watch him squirm trying to convince the audience (if they were not evangelists like Craig of course) that he can be trusted as a serious scholar who’s doing an objective historical evaluation of his sources. Craig is a disgrace to any intellectually honest person

  6. Martin Says:

    All true of course, but Craig doesn’t use his personal experience as actual evidence and he says as much.

    It’s more like: “I know for a fact I was abducted by aliens because I experienced it; I can’t prove it because you can’t share my personal experience, however, here is some evidence that supports my contention and makes it more likely than not.”

    And of course, most debates are about that very evidence. I’ve listened to half a dozen of his debates, and so far no atheist has been able to provide a tight, cogent, well organized rebuttal to any of it, much less a good argument for atheism. It’s not conclusive evidence, like you ask for, but it’s not bad and there is nothing fallacious about it.

    This supports my contention that atheists are getting sloppy because they’ve been dealing with such weak theist arguments for so long that they just assume atheism is true without having to actually back it up. Keep it up, and they’ll actually begin to fall behind in the intellectual sphere. Never thought I’d live to see this happening.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Well, if Craig asserts his personal experience of God without proof, I am equally entitled to dismiss it without proof.

      I don’t think that Craig presents any evidence at all that makes his argument more likely than not.

      Craig wins his debates because he an expert debater, not because his arguments are any good. He is an incredibly slippery character with a host of dirty tricks up his sleeve. One of them is to put the burden of proof on his opponent’s shoulders when he is the one advancing the positive claim.

      Witness the debate against Hitchens when he excused himself from the high standard of proof required for extraordinary claims while chiding Hitchens for not providing any evidence that atheism was true.

      This last point is of course impossible. Atheism is not an ideology or a world view. It is a term created by the religious to label people who do not share their view.

      It is the atheist case that arguments from cosmology and design are better explained with recourse to naturalistic explanations. We would rather admit that we don’t know something than attempt to explain it away by positing an invisible sky fairy that explains nothing.

      Arguments from divine revelation are rebutted on the grounds that there is no more substance to the Bible and the Koran than the works of Homer and Ovid and all the other thousands of religions which we now call mythology.

      That’s it. Sometimes I find it frustrating that atheism is a negative viewpoint and atheists cannot advance a more positive case, but there you have it.

      Dawkins was right to refuse publically a debate against Craig on the grounds that he is a “professional debater” and not a proper academic worth taking seriously.

      Having said that, I suggest you check out physicist Victor Stenger’s first debate against Craig from 2003 to see a proper deconstruction of Craig’s case for God as well as better reasons for non-belief than belief.

  7. Martin Says:

    He is an incredibly slippery character with a host of dirty tricks up his sleeve. One of them is to put the burden of proof on his opponent’s shoulders when he is the one advancing the positive claim.

    And this type of thing just proves my point all that much more; atheists desperately need to catch up on basic philosophy and reasoning skills. I think I’m going to write an open letter to atheists begging them to improve their clarity of reasoning.

    Anyone making a knowledge claim bears a burden of proof. If in answer to the question: does God exist? you answer “No, it’s very unlikely” you are making a knowledge claim and you have to back that up with evidence or argumentation. To say (as many atheists seem to today) that they don’t believe in God because all the arguments for theism fail would be to commit the fallacy of argument from ignorance. I also hear argument from fallacy quite a bit from atheists as well.

    You have to have positive arguments against the existence of God if you want to claim (even weakly) that God is unlikely to exist. Craig in his debates says that his opponent must show where Craig’s arguments fail, and then construct arguments that show that God does not exist. This is absolutely proper reasoning on his part and is the way atheist philosophers conduct debates. And you are calling this a dirty trick?!

    not a proper academic worth taking seriously.

    Craig is an academic philosopher with tons of peer-reviewed articles in philosophy journals. I think Dawkins is sort of a creationist-in-reverse when he waves away philosophy because he clearly has no idea what he is talking about. Read Craig’s analysis of Dawkin’s central atheist argument; the thing isn’t even logically valid.

    Don’t get me wrong; ultimately I disagree with Craig because I’ve never had the personal experience so like you, I appeal to that and I lean atheist slightly. But it’s time atheists take a long hard look at themselves from a critical perspective.

    • manicstreetpreacher Says:

      Atheism is a negative proposition in respect to God. You cannot proof a negative. All you can say is that it is so unlikely as to be false. We don’t count Santa Claus as part of our natural day-to-day experience because we see no evidence for a fat guy in a red suit delivering presents to all the world’s children on a flying sleigh hauled by reindeer on Christmas Eve.

      Similarly, great sways of enslaved people being lead out of captivity by a man who can part the waves at the shake of his staff or a dead man walking out of his grave hasn’t happened for a while, if it happened at all, so we put them in the same category.

      I am now very reluctant to give positive arguments or evidence that I would accept for God, because theists can reinvent their God like a Rubik’s Cube and say that God doesn’t work like that and I am only providing reasons not to believe.

      For example, I would consider a God worthy of worshipping if he prevented the Holocaust by sending fire and brimstone on one of Hitler’s rallies and the death camps. Craig would just turn round and say that is not evidence against God because I haven’t shown that he has morally insufficient reasons for permitting such suffering to occur.

      It’s a no-win situation, so yes it is very much a dirty trick on Craig’s part.

      I’ve read Craig’s reply to Dawkins before and I think his reasoning is logically invalid. He fails to address Dawkins’ key contention that God must be even more powerful and complex if he is supposed do all the things with which he is credited. A “simple, disembodied mind” does not sound very much like the “being of immense power” that Craig posits for his cosmological argument.

      However, that is somewhat off-topic for this thread and I don’t want to pursue it any further.

  8. Martin Says:

    Well, this could go back and forth indefinitely. But I implore you and other “lay” atheists to read professional atheist philosophers instead of Dawkins. There’s quite a difference between the two. Start with Graham Oppy on Infidels; even Craig refers to Oppy as “brilliant.”

  9. manicstreetpreacher Says:

    Thank you for comments, Martin and I will certainly look out for Graham Oppy in future.


  10. AgeOfReasonXXI Says:

    atheism is simply the refusal to believe in god when there’s not a shred of evidence for god’s existence. atheists don’t have to prove anything, all they have to do is to show the holes in the theist’s arguments, and they’ve been quite successful in doing so :)) of course craig would say that the failure of his arguments doesn’t disprove god- well it doesn’t, it simply shows that you’re irrational to believe in god in the same way you’re irrational to believe in unicorns if there’s no supporting evidence (regardless of the fact that we can’t disprove their existence). craig realizes that and that’s why he fights with a vengeance the notion that atheists don’t have disprove god in order to expose his faith as irrational :)) and after seeing how desperately he tries to vindicate his faith no matter what it takes to do so, I don’t despise him any longer– despite of his pathological hypocrisy and dishonesty– I feel sorry for the mad spin doctor

  11. mojo.rhythm Says:

    For fucks sake, why does an atheist have to give arguments and evidence for his position? It is the religious nut who is saying that she has a timeless, spaceless, immaterial, all knowing, all powerful, all good, invisible friend who grants her wishes. It seems that some of the commentors on this friend are saying that even if there is no reason whatsoever to believe something as ridiculous as that, it doesnt matter. We still have no rights to call ourselves atheists because we havent DISPROVED it.

    Urgh. Well then technically I don’t believe Santa Claus isn’t real because I have no evidence AGAINST it. Technically I don’t believe bigfoot is a fairytale because I have no evidence to DISPROVE it. Technically I don’t believe that there are no little green men on mars because I have no evidence AGAINST it. Technically I don’t believe that the Bloop was not caused by extra-terrestrials because I cannot DISPROVE it. Technically I don’t believe that Barack Obama is not a frog in disguise because I have no evidence AGAINST it. Technically I don’t believe that AIDS is not a punishment from Yahweh for fornication because I cannot DISPROVE it. Technically I don’t believe that there are no people living in the center of the earth because I have no evidence AGAINST it. Technically I don’t believe that 911 was not caused by America because I cannot DISPROVE it. Technically I don’t believe that William Lane Craig is not gay because I cannot DISPROVE it.


  12. Brian Says:

    Martin, you see how ignorant the atheist generally is – this was my experience as well. Why are you an atheist? What arguments do you have, and why do the arguments of theists not work? Personally, I have been convinced of the philosophical arguments. I am still working on the validity of Christianity (specifically the historic and orthodox forms like Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy), but I think the philosophical arguments are strong.

  13. Travis Berzas Says:

    No evidence of early Christian communities which did not hold to the resurrection of Jesus? What about Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch in the second century, who never mentions Jesus throughout his entire Apologia to Autolycus? He devotes a chapter to repentance, and uses the Tanakh as his basis for Christian theology on the matter. He does the same in his chapter on righteousness and on the word of God. Even in his chapter on what it means to be a Christian, he explains that the meaning of the term Christian is “those who are anointed with the oil of God”, without ever mentioning Jesus at all, period…and he was the head of a Christian community in the second century! The entire Apologia can be found on the website Forerunner.com. The URL is http://www.forerunner.com/churchfathers/X0039_11._THEOPHILUS_OF_AN.html

  14. Travis Berzas Says:

    As far as the “Lord’s Supper” is concerned, consider the fact that the Didache, which is currently believed by “most scholars” to be a product of the late first or early second century. Its full title is The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and is an instruction manual on executing the observances of their specific religious sect. Now, within this document, there are reference to a Jesus, not the son of God, not God the Son, but Jesus, the servant of God, which is the same attribution given King David in the same document. This servant of God is mentioned in the prayers offered in the context of the sacrifice observed by this sect, that being the thanksgiving sacrifice, or Korban Todah of the Torah. There is no body and blood sacrifice mentioned, and there is most definitely no transubstantiation occuring. There is no reference to the sacrifice being offered in remembrance of anyone either. Given that the Didache was written in Greek, one would expect that its thanksgiving sacrifice would be referred to using the Greek word for thanksgiving, and, in fact, that is what occurs. The Greek word for thanksgiving, which Roman Catholic and other more traditional Christians might recognize as having eventually been adopted as the name of their Pauline body and blood sacrifice, and which was used in the Didache in its correct context, as a reference to the thanksgiving sacrifice is eucharistos.

  15. Travis Berzas Says:

    William Lane Craig mentioned a resurrection account from one of the non-canonical gospels. He contrasts it with the account in the gospel of Mark. pointing out that Mark does not contain nearly as elaborate and incredible an account as the one within the non canonical book. I think his point strengthens my position: From Mark, the first canonical gospel, to John, there is an ever escalating level of grandioseness. The claims become more extravagant, and Jesus becomes progressively a more and more publically acknowledged figure in his own time. This seems to me to be roughly inversely proportional to the likelihood of those reading or hearing these stories having access to anyone who could either confirm their historicity or refute it.

  16. Travis Berzas Says:

    As happens with extraordinary frequency to me, I have had one of my deductions/theories strengthened while listening to an audio file on a different topic. Specifically, I have theorized that the historicized “Holy Roman and Apostolic Church” came about as a Roman plot to replicate in the realm of theology the result which had been achieved shortly beforehand in Rome’s socio political sphere. The idea is that the Romans created or sponsored the creation of Christianity, or many different Christianities more accurately, in order to replicate the chaos which resulted from its democratic republic. As in that case, an authoritative force would be sought, and be found fully prepared to take the reigns. As the Emperor had done so in the governmental sense, so would the “One True Church” claiming authority from the apostles themselves do so in the theological.

    During an interview he gave for The Case Against the Case for Christ, Dr. Price mentioned former innerantist Christians who were thrown into a state of theological limbo by their having found that innerancy is an untenable position. He states that many of these joined either the Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox Church. The reason given for this is that they no longer be made to face the burden of answering the questions which precipitated their uncertainities, and instead choosing to avail themselves of the assurance of authority in spiritual matters claimed by the aforementioned religious organizations.

  17. Travis Berzas Says:

    “The reason given for this is that they no longer be made to face the burden of answering the questions which precipitated their uncertainities, and instead choosing to avail themselves of the assurance of authority in spiritual matters claimed by the aforementioned religious organizations.”

    Correction: The reason given for this is avoidance of their being left to face the questions which precipitated the uncertainities, with their choosing instead to avail themselves of the assurance of authority in spiritual matters claimed by the aforementioned religious organizations.

  18. Travis Berzas Says:

    Another thing about the resurrection of “Jesus” which lends toward the idea of it never having occured, is the manner by which “Jesus” got around after being resurrected. He would manifest and demanifest, and only in the presence of his disciples. He also apparently didn’t look the same after his resurrection, given that multiple disciples are said not to have recognized him until certain key points in each such story This implies that the body that died was not the one reanimated. If the body that died is not reanimated, then one cannot be said to have resurrected. (On a side note, if the virginal conception stories are true, taht would mean that the divinity would be in “Jesus'” body, which did die according to the story. I don;t think that most Christians take into account the implications of this. The body, which was semi divine, died. Divinity died with the body of “Jesus” according to the story.) In addition, does it not make it incredibly convenient for the gospel authors to claim that, unlike Lazarus, whom “Jesus” resurrected, “Jesus” did not walk around in public openly, making it known that he’d been resurrected, but only appeared to his disciples? The aforementioned manifestation and demanifestation is employed toward this end, and I believe it is for this explicit purpose. Consider also that the verse so often quoted by Christians in support of the idea of Paul having confirmed the gospel accounts refers to Paul’s having “seen Jesus” with no distinction between Paul’s experience and those of Peter, John, and five hundred others. We know that Paul, according to the gospels and Acts, did not see a resurrected unascended Jesus. It seems as though something is amiss here, and that what Paul actually means is being covered up. Once the gospels/Acts have “Jesus” ascend, an “appearance” by “Jesus” no longer means what it would have beforehand..

  19. Anon Says:

    Price should’ve done a much better job. He should’ve argued that for Craig to know that it can only be God’s Spirit telling him that Christianity is true, he has to use reason. (reason is the very same thing which Craig says that Christians don’t need to use, in order to know that Christianity is true).

    Price should’ve also shown how the resurrection (assuming it happened and can be proven) doesn’t prove Craig’s concept of God (trinitarianism). All it would prove is that a supernatural agent exists that rose Jesus from the dead. It wouldn’t prove that this supernatural agent is a Trinune God (which is how Craig defines: ‘Christian theism’).

  20. The Hero Worship of Professor Robert M. Price | By Rao! Comics and Religion Says:

    […] Price has his detractors (e.g. Reverend John Rankin, William Lane Craig, Bart Ehrman), little has been said about his reflections on comics — far little than, say, […]

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