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Jesus' Resurrection: Fact or Figment?: A Debate Between William Lane Craig & Gerd Ludemann Paperback – November 24, 2000
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About the Author
Paul Copan (PhD, Marquette University) is the Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics at Palm Beach Atlantic University. His books include The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics, Creation Out of Nothing, Did God Really Command Genocide? and Holy War in the Bible. He previously served with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and taught at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.
Ronald K. Tacelli, S.J., is associate professor of philosphy at Boston College and has published articles in the Public Affairs Quarterly and Downside Review.
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Top Customer Reviews
Craig bases his belief in the resurrection on what he sees as four incontrovertible facts: (1) Jesus was buried, (2) Jesus' tomb was discovered empty, (3) Some people report having seen Jesus after his death, and (4) Jesus' followers preached the resurrection when they had every reason not to. Craig argues that the best explanation for these facts is that God did indeed raise Jesus from the dead. Ludeman argues instead that Jesus' followers had visions of the risen Jesus for psychological reasons.
Craig certainly comes off better in the debate. Craig is a brilliant debater (even though he tends to blithely appeal to scholarly consensus, and is by no means above declaring his opponents irrational or prejudiced against him), and Ludeman is not. Not surprising--one would expect a philosopher to be a better debater than a historian. Because of this, many will conclude that Craig comes away the victor, as having demonstrated his case.
However, when one gets to the responses to the debate by four excellent scholars that one gets to see the gaps in Craig's arguments. (Craig himself does an excellent job of making the gaps in Ludeman's arguments apparent.) In particular, Michael Goulder's piece develops an idea similar to Ludeman's in a way that is far more sophisticated than Ludeman's view.
In the end, as with most debates, the issue ends unresolved. Craig is surely right that Ludeman's theory does not explain (or explain away) facts (1) and (2), and does not do especially well at explaining facts (3) and (4). But Ludeman's hypothesis is not the only, and I doubt even the most plausible, naturalist alternative. And Craig never really considers the possibility that (1)-(4) are not well-established facts at all. Only for Jesus' crucifixion do we have any references from non-interested sources. In his debate with Crossan, who denies that (1) and (2) are facts at all, Craig's only response is to claim that Crossan's position is not that of most Bible scholars, as if mere consensus determined truth. It is too bad that Crossan did not take Craig to task when he had the chance.
In short, while Craig does a good job of confounding Ludeman's arguments, he does not do so admirably when his own views are called into question, generally responding with blatant appeals to consensus and personal attacks. (As an aside, I take especial offense at the claim he makes in nearly all his apologetic works that his opponents deny his view because their philosophical commitments prejudice their evaluation of the evidence, while refusing to acknowledge the possibility that his belief in miracles has prejudiced HIS reading of the evidence. Sometimes I feel that Criag doth protest too much.) Yet for all that, Craig is undoubtedly a brilliant thinker who takes his task seriously and approaches it accordingly. His arguments cannot be ignored. And neither can the arguments of his opponents, which in their own writings (not in the context of a debate) are presented with much more force.
*Jesus' Resurrection* will not resolve the issues, but it does an excellent job of showing what the issues are. This is certainly not the place to finish an examination into the (alleged) resurrection, but it is a great place to start. With patience and care, one can get a lot out of this book, whatever one's religious persuasion happens to be.
Dr. William Lane Craig
Position: Research professor at Talbot School of Theology
Ph. D - University of Birmingham, England (Philosophy)
Th. D - Universität München (University of Munich), Germany (Theology)
Dr. Craig defends the traditional Christian position that Jesus Christ was physically resurrected on Easter morning.
Dr. Gerd Lüdemann
Position: Professor of New Testament at Georg-August-University, University of Göttingen, Germany
D.Theol. - University of Göttingen
D. Habil. - University of Göttingen
Dr. Lüdemann defends what he calls the "vision" hypothesis in which the disciple's experience Jesus as being risen but not in a veridically objective sense. Note: Dr. Lüdemann is a Fellow of the infamous, (what I would describe as "ultra-liberal") Jesus Seminar.
Dr. Craig begins the debate with five points of agreement with Dr. Lüdemann; one is especially important to highlight here, "the resurrection of Jesus us the central point of the Christian religion." Dr. Craig then proceeds to offer four basic facts which must be explained (and yes, Dr. Craig offers much evidence to prove his major points):
i) Jesus' honourable burial.
ii) The discovery of Jesus' empty tomb on Easter morning.
iii) Jesus' postmortem appearances
iv) The origin of the disciples' belief in Jesus' resurrection.
Furthermore, Dr. Craig offers four criteria by which any hypothesis (commonly used criteria) explaining the above four facts must explain namely:
i) Significant explanatory scope and power
iii) Not being ad hoc.
iv) Being in accord with accepted beliefs
v) Outstripping all rival theories
Dr. Craig's basic structure takes command of the debate; my only disappointment was that though I disagree with Dr. Lüdemann, I would like to have heard his hypothesis.
Dr. Lüdemann primarily argues in a reactionary manner to Dr. Craig's statements and rebuttals. Dr. Lüdemann does make some argumentation to dispute Dr. Craig's four established facts; at some points there is very detailed argumentation over the text of certain New Testament passages. Much of Dr. Lüdemann's arguments seem to reduce to, "This is a miracle! Come one, we enlightened, scientific-minded, modern people are beyond that sort of primitive thinking." However, Dr. Lüdemann offers little to defend this assertion however it illustrates one of the major background issues of the debate. It comes down to two questions: 1) Does the Christian God exist? 2) Does the Christian God act in history?
Indeed, these questions are logically prior to the details of the resurrection.
Several contributors submit papers to give their views on the debate. Two scholars argue "for" Dr. Craig and two argue "for" Dr. Lüdemann. I would like to note, (I do not intend to make an ad hominem here) that Roy W. Hoover is also a Fellow of the Jesus Seminar. One essay that helped to forward Dr. Lüdemann's hypothesis named, "The explanatory power of conversion-visions," by Michael Goulder; here one can see how *potentially* Dr. Lüdemann's hypothesis could work. The most challenging, one might say controversial essay, was entitled, "The Contest between Orthodoxy and Veracity," by Roy W. Hoover. In this essay, Hoover says that, basically, Dr. Lüdemann is in search of the truth (i.e. veracity) whereas Dr. Craig is only interested in defending the out-moded tradition of Christianity (i.e. orthodoxy). Hoover even claims that Christianity could survive without the Resurrection; that life could have some sort of existential meaning any way. Hoover also claims (by citing Paul Tillich, a Christian liberal theologian interested in integrating existentialism and Christianity), that the Crucifixion was an actual event that came to be a religious symbol whereas the Resurrection was a religious symbol that "became" to spoken of as it were an actual event. This sort of Kierkegaardian "believe it, even if the facts are against you," and the idea, that a basically fictional (a.k.a. vision or hallucination) "event" can lead significance to one's life is very annoying to me. However, this perception that Christians basically believe false propositions is the common understanding in the media.
However, Dr. Craig finishes the book with his masterful 44-page response. He answers every major objection to his four facts, submits both his and Lüdemann's hypothesis to the criteria he offered earlier (from a third-party; Craig didn't just conjure up this criteria) and shows the woeful inadequacy of the vision/hallucination hypothesis and the superiority of the Resurrection hypothesis, "That God raised Jesus from the dead."
On a closing note, I would have liked to see more rebuttal of Hoover's essay by Dr. Craig, nonetheless, Dr. Craig shows that Christianity can be defended on historical and philosophical grounds and that it is a faith that makes sense.
Also, I would recommend Dr. Craig's excellcent book, "Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth & Apologetics," where he offers numerous arguments for God's existence and dismantles the objections of David Hume and Immanuel Kant. I would warn that Dr. Craig writes at sophisticated academic level; attention and study is required (for those interested in learning how to defend the Christian faith, I would highly recommend Lee Strobel's two books, "The Case for Christ," and, "The Case for Faith.")