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Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?: A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan Paperback – February 1, 1999
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Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"Genuine dialogue between evangelicals and members of the Jesus Seminar is very rare. This book is notable for the fairness of its format, and the forthright nature of the exchange, which is candid yet always civil in character. One could hardly find a better representative of the Jesus Seminar than John Dominic Crossan, and William Craig may be the best apologist for orthodox Christian faith at work today. The additional commentators and the final summaries of Craig and Crossan are extremely helpful. What the debate format may cost in clarity and precision is more than made up for by the liveliness of the exchange. An exciting, helpful book." -- C. Stephen Evans, Professor of Philosophy and Dean for Research and Scholarship, Calvin College; author of The Historical Christ and the Jesus of Faith
"Much current discussion of Jesus seems to be a dialogue of the deaf. In this book the different positions start listening to each other, probing, challenging, explaining, exploring. The informal setting of the dialogue is far more revealing, and truly interesting than the average scholarly monograph. This book will help people to get to grips with what is really going on, and what is really at stake, in the contemporary debate." -- N. T. Wright, Dean of Lichfield, author of Jesus and the Victory of God
"The debate by William Lane Craig, a leading evangelical apologist, and John Dominic Crossan, a founder of the Jesus Seminar, found in Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? provides a helpful introduction to the issues involved in the modern discussion of the historical Jesus. The additional articles by four representative scholars responding to the debate help raise the key issue of whether 'the resurrection of Jesus' refers to something that happened to Jesus (Craig) or to his followers (Crossan)." -- Robert H. Stein, Ernest and Mildred Hogan Professor of N.T. Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author of Jesus the Messiah
"Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? offers readers a clarifying and insightful comparison and contrast between the Jesus Seminar, on the one hand, and evangelical theologians, on the other. This book brings into sharp relief the contours of the debate and should serve well the Christian community-conservative and non conservative alike." -- Craig A. Evans, Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in Biblical Studies, Trinity Western University, British Columbia, Canada; author of Jesus, Studying the Historical Jesus, and Jesus in Context
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Not all of the complaints below need to be taken seriously. "Buckley was biased. He called Crossan a puff of smoke." Who were you expecting, Barbara Walters? The man calls his show Firing Line: where there's fire, there's bound to be smoke. Crossan is a big scholar; he can take care of himself. "Craig got to go first, and last, too." Life is indeed unfair. Still, what you get here is three top scholars on both sides, each given time to develop their ideas. Not exactly a kangaroo court. "They spoke past each other. Crossan said the Gospels are metaphor, and Craig failed to reply." Not so. Crossan advanced his argument explicitly, and Craig even more explicitly refuted it. Not that it took much refuting. With the Gospels, it is obvious we're not dealing with Homer or Bunyan: precisely why they continue to cause such a fuss.
Miller wrote an interesting essay on how different an apologetic appears to those "inside" a group as opposed to those "outside." I did not find the particular example he gave, of Islamic apologetics, that strong, for the simple reason that from earliest times Islam has held that conversion "out" ws deserving of death. (The day before I first wrote this, I got an e-mail from a friend in Nigeria about a student of his whose uncle tried to knife him for converting to Christianity.) In a closed society, your apologetic doesn't have to carry all the weight of persuasion. (Can you imagine publicly debating the credibility of Muhammed in a Muslim country?) But even in the case of Humanism, it is striking to me that this debate, in which top scholars attacked a core belief of Christianity, was held in a church, and published by a Christian publisher. It is also striking that, as Blomberg points out, Crossan shows little or not familiarity with "evangelical" scholarship. (Unlike, to his credit, Lowder and his Internet Infidel friends.) Yet the secular media and academic worlds go to the likes of Crossan for expertise, or reassurance, as the case may be. In which direction, then, should the force of Miller's argument about tunnel vision and self-referential apologetics be turned?
In these discussions, comparative religion is usually brought in as an ally by the skeptical side, as here by Borg and Miller. But I think it actually offers powerful arguments for the truth of the Gospel. Those interested in the relationship between Christianity and other religions, and its implications for this discussion, might take a look at my recent book, Jesus and the Religions of Man.
There are some illuminating thoughts here, especially from the responses and Craig's concluding reflections -- thus, three stars. But those looking for "meat" should look elsewhere. I liken this book to an "all-star game" -- neat concept, but not to be taken too seriously.
One concluding note: even to this "conservative" reader Buckley's partisan "mediating" was inappropriate and distracting. His smug comments about Jesus making Crossan disappear "in a puff of smoke" and his attack-dog questioning of Crossan made the "debate" look like a 2-on-1 mugging. Craig would have done just fine by himself.
I agreee with other reviews that it was fairly one-sided but that is largely due to the fact that Crossan didn't seem to take the debate serious. It was obvious that Craig had read up and studied Crossan's works and came prepared. Crossan on the otherhand was woefully unequiped. (I'm told that it is common in bebates between liberals and conservatives that the liberal won't have read up on the conservative, but the conservative will do his/her homework on the liberal's position.) In his after-debate interview, Crossan claimed that he wasn't their to debate but just to present his case, but personally I think that was damage control after a sound beating.
Crossan made many dogmatic statements, but when questioned on them, was unable/unwilling to defend them. All he was say is that "credible scholars" back his statements. When pressed he didn't give any names. (It seems the "'credible' scholars" he is refering to are his fellows on the "Jesus Seminar".) He never did adequately address Craig's challenge of his bias towards Naturalism. He responce seemed to me merely playing with terms. Eccentually "I'm not a Naturalist, though I believe that the supernatural only ever works through the natural." (Not a direct quote, but the idea of his response.)
Craig, on the other hand, came ready to debate. He set up his arguement well and stated his case clearly. Also, he soundly challenged Crossan's points (though seldom if ever answered by Crossan). Craig definately did his research into Crossan's ideas and came prepared. Craig, I think, was wanting an intelectual debate and was not ready to engage in the exchange of dogmatic statements that characterizes the "Jesus Seminar"'s fellows. However, he did soundly demolish the basic foundations of most of Crossan's arguement. At times I almost pitied Crossan as some of Craig's refutations of Crossan's points would have been brutal had they not be given in such a "winsom" way. He very politely tore apart Crossan's ideas without touching him personally. I was a little dissappointed when Craig didn't answer a few of Crossan's minor points though. I thought that his comparison of Crossan's idea of believing in Christ even if he's just a metaphore and Peter Pan's philosophy was particuarly crushing.
At times Buckley does come off a little un-biased. He is a known conservative so it shouldn't have been surprising to Crossan. However, in this case (because of his after-debate comments) I believe that he wasn't trying to side against Crossan, but instead was challenging him to engage in an intelectual debate instead of just making dogmatic statement with little or no factual evidence.
Over all, I enjoyed it (though I'm not as conservative as Craig). I thought it was a good example of many modern liberal scholars who like to make statements with or without evidence. One particular example (taken from Crossan's works) is the idea of the teachings of James that SUPPOSEDLY contradict Paul's writtings. He supports these ideas but eventually has to admit that they no longer exist nor is there any evidence of them left. My question is if there is no evidence that they existed, how can he (Crossan) tell us what they said or even show that they existed?! Must be nice to get paid to make up stuff and claim it as authoritative