Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? – Debate – Mike Licona vs Richard Carrier – YouTube

Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? – Debate – Mike Licona vs Richard Carrier – YouTube (2:01:12)

This debate was conducted on February 11, 2010 at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.  It is not a typical debate in that while there were opening and closing statements by each party, the body of the presentation was a sit-down discussion and interaction between the two – with lots of meandering.

After viewing the entire two hours, here are some of my thoughts:

– The debate did not stay focused on the stated topic.  Much of the time was used to discuss current-day supernatural experiences and whether or not they are credible.

– It’s always easier to tear down something than to build it.  When Carrier did address the stated topic, he was usually attempting to cast doubt on Licona’s explanation rather than build his own.

– Licona stated his hypothesis clearly and cogently in his opening statement, but did not stick to it when Carrier took the conversation various different directions.  Licona wound up chasing Carrier’s various objections and defending, for example, current-day miracles instead of the resurrection.  Whether current-day miracles occur or not, and with what frequency, is irrelevant to whether Jesus rose from the dead.

– Carrier constantly referred to probabilities, which is a red herring in this discussion.  Of course resurrection is improbable.  That’s why the resurrection of Christ is such a big deal!

– Carrier essentially seeks naturalistic explanations for what is written in the New Testament.  At those points where such explanations are irreconcilable with the text, he says the text is unreliable.  For example, he says that Acts 1:3 is not true – implicitly acknowledging that it does not support his theory that Christ’s resurrection appearances were group hallucinations induced by the original hallucinations of Christian leaders such as Peter.  Carrier gave no basis for deciding which texts were reliable and which weren’t, other than this distinction.  Thus, it appears he’s merely imposing his naturalistic worldview on the New Testament documents and disregarding those passages that cannot be re-interpreted in that light.

– Carrier often professes openness to a non-naturalistic worldview.  However, he makes the hurdle for evidence so high that it can never be attained in this life.  (He wants Jesus to appear to Him, in the style of Thomas.  Yet it’s clear even Thomas wishes he could retract that demand.)

– Carrier keeps the burden of proof on his opponent and continually stakes his position agnostically.  That is, he seeks merely to cast doubt on the opposing argument as opposed to firmly establishing and defending his own.

– Carrier repeatedly argues that if Jesus really had risen from the dead, God would have presented the evidence for it differently.  To be specific, Carrier argues that Jesus should appear to every person if that’s what He wants every person to believe.  Of course, this doesn’t disprove that Jesus rose from the dead – just that Carrier thinks he knows better how to be God than God does.

– Carrier argues that since most missing bodies are not evidence that they have been resurrected that it is improbable that Christ’s body was actually resurrected.  That’s like arguing that since most Jews who claimed to be the Israel’s messiah have been proven false that it is improbable that Jesus is the Messiah.  Or that since most of the possible answers to the question “What is two plus two?” are wrong, it is improbable that two plus two equals four.

– Carrier says in his closing statement, “When the evidence is vague, we can only rely on what happens most often.”  He thus sets the bar very low for himself, casts whatever doubt he can on the biblical account, and then declares essentially that improbable things probably didn’t happen.  It’s a point of view that sounds erudite but is hollow.  He is in effect stating nothing more than a tautology:  Improbable events are improbable.

– Carrier employs psychological terms to give naturalistic explanations for supernatural events:  schizotypal personality disorder, cognitive dissonance, hallucination, and so on.  It’s as if he’s Freud and he’s putting Peter, Paul, and the others on the couch – some two thousand years and thousands of miles removed from the scene!  I thought psychologists at least needed a living patient to interview.  And Carrier’s supposed to be an historian and not a psychologist!

– One of Carrier’s most notable historical errors was to say that people in that time were steeped in resurrection motifs and this provided the breeding ground for their hallucinations.  In saying this, he completely ignores the New Testament documents which show that no one in Israel – friend or foe – saw the resurrection coming.  Yes, the resurrection of the Messiah after suffering was prophesied in the Old Testament, but no one recognized these prophecies until Jesus was raised from the dead and pointed them out to His disciples, who then pointed them out to others.

– This was not a good debate because it did not stay focused on the stated topic.  When it comes to this topic, however, even good debates are not fully objective exchanges of facts and opinions.  This is because only God is truly objective.  Each of us is subjective – that is, subject to our own desires.  A man arguing against the resurrection is in effect arguing to retain his autonomy from Jesus.  No one can be objective about that idea.  He either relishes the idea or shuns it.  His mind hastens to support his will.

2 Replies to “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? – Debate – Mike Licona vs Richard Carrier – YouTube”

  1. Lots of issues here. It seems as if you watched Licona’s portion, and skipped most of Carrier’s.

    Just briefly: “It’s as if he’s Freud and he’s putting Peter, Paul, and the others on the couch – some two thousand years and thousands of miles removed from the scene! I thought psychologists at least needed a living patient to interview. And Carrier’s supposed to be an historian and not a psychologist!”

    He responded to this immediately after Licona raised the same objection. Did you miss his response? (“I’m not doing that, I’m simply proposing it as a hypothesis, which when tested against the evidence, it fits. It doesn’t presuppose any un-established facts” about human psychology).

    “Carrier often professes openness to a non-naturalistic worldview. However, he makes the hurdle for evidence so high that it can never be attained in this life. (He wants Jesus to appear to Him, in the style of Thomas. Yet it’s clear even Thomas wishes he could retract that demand.)”

    Talk about red herrings. He said there is no good reason why he shouldn’t get the same evidence that Thomas got. Licona felt he either HAS gotten this evidence, in the form of arguments for God’s existence (which is not what Thomas got), or that God would not do that because he’s not that kinda guy (which is very ad hoc as Carrier pointed out in his closing). In addition, why is the evidence that Thomas got “never [to] be attained in this life”? Surely this would be possible for Carrier if it were possible for Thomas!

    I suggest you watch it again, and do so with this blog post open. Keep your ears open for Carrier’s responses to your points and write them down. This may help clear up what appears to be selective reception on your part.

    Alternatively, since you felt Carrier’s treatment of some of Licona’s points, or support for his own, was lacking, I recommend picking up his more detailed accounts of these issues in one of the many books he has published on this topic. Some of what you outline is covered here (http://www.richardcarrier.info/Carrier–ReplyToDavis.html#27) and here (http://www.richardcarrier.info/faqs.html). Yes, it’s long, detailed, grueling reading, but the poor substitute for scholarship that any debate represents can only give you a taste for the depth and breadth of argument in support or against any particular position.

    Lee.

  2. Lee,

    Your hope that my dim view of Carrier’s arguments was based on paying insufficient attention to him is ill-founded. I listened to every minute of the two-hour presentation, stopping at various points along the way, and taking a page and a half of notes in the process. My dim view of his points is thus a function of listening carefully to him, not of paying insufficient attention to him.

    I did hear his response to Licona’s challenge about the psychoanalyzing, but that response was a dodge more than a defense. That’s the kind of response I was referring to when I said elsewhere in my critique, “Carrier keeps the burden of proof on his opponent and continually stakes out his position agnostically. That is, he seeks merely to cast doubt on the opposing argument as opposed to firmly establishing and defending his own.” When challenged Carrier immediately retreated into agnosticism on the topic, not offering any defense (not that he could have offered one since his “counseling-session” hypothesis was preposterous on its face for a non-psychologist debating with and presenting to a room full of non-psychologists).

    Licona was clearly rattled by Carrier’s many rapid-fire assertions, and allowed himself to be sidetracked. William Lane Craig would not have been so easily thrown off the case at hand. Licona is a bright guy, and does well when presenting a subject on his own. Because, however, he’s an extremely nice guy, probably not having a pugilistic bone in his body, he is ill-equipped to present his ideas well in a debate format. In any case, debates are at best a way for audiences to gain access to some facts and opinions. They are never a way to settle truth.

    As for Carrier, on more than one occasion, he asserted that Jesus ought to appear to everyone. This is not the kind of thing an historian says. Carrier may carry an historian’s credentials but he is every bit as much an apologist for unbelief (or anti-apologist, if you prefer) as Licona is an apologist for faith. I don’t think Carrier’s being an apologist ipso facto discredits him, but he errs if he suggests that he is an historian debating an apologist.

    As I said in my critique, Carrier’s characterization of the disciples’ faith in the risen Christ being hallucinated into existence because of their being “steeped in a culture of resurrected gods’ was either disingenuous or else the most deficient historical research imaginable. Anyone spending any time at all studying the history of that time knows that Jesus’ apostles were all Jews steeped in a culture suspicious of pagan beliefs.

    I gave your guy a fair hearing.

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