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Monday, November 06, 2006

Carrier, Habermas, et al: some thoughts on dialogue criticism

Richard Carrier appeared recently with Reggie on the Infidel Guy show to interview Dr. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona about the resurrection of Jesus. There has been a flurry of criticism about that appearance, with both James Lazarus and David Wood offering lengthy criticisms of Carrier, prompting Carrier himself to provide some explanation on his own blog. Since I came to these reviews naive of the show, I thought that I would read each review, then listen to the show, and give my thoughts.

It is clear to me that Habermas and Licona came to the table anticipating a very different discussion than Carrier had planned to pursue. I'll also say, right off the bat, that both discussions would be fascinating. As it turned out, there was about half of one, and half of the other- and though it wasn't terribly hard for me to follow along with both, I could tell that the disconnect was apparent enough in the participants to cause some genuine frustration.

In all honesty, I think I would have preferred the show that Carrier planned. Although a strict analysis of the pros and cons of the evidential arguments for the historicity of the resurrection would also have been fruitful, I think the keenly philosophical and theological questions that Carrier had planned were much more interesting, and ultimately, probably would have been more productive in the long run.

Unfortunately, Habermas and Licona used just about every opportunity to sidestep the philosophical and theological questions and submit more of their well-worn evidential arguments. I hesitate to say that this was a failing of their position- I think it's clear from listening to the discussion that neither of them had really comprehended the line of questioning that Carrier was trying to follow. If they had been, I think that the discussion would have been much smoother.

I can get a sense of the discussion that Carrier was hoping to have by reading his explanation, and I agree with him that his questions were not irrelevant at all, and I'm sorry that they weren't able to be explored in more depth. Laz's comments are also understandable- it's clear that he was expecting Carrier to use his more conventional arguments, an assumption that is not unreasonable. The one position that I feel is almost completely unwarranted is that of David Wood- Carrier's approach did not appear to me to be in the least bit disingenuous nor frivolous, nor was he making any concessions about the historical evidence by appealing to philosophical questions. Hopefully Carrier's own explanation of his motives sheds some light for these and other critics.

I, for one, would very much like to see Carrier's questions explored in more depth, and perhaps if given another chance, he'll take the extra precaution to ensure that his fellow discussants are more comprehensively aware of his approach.

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20 Comments:

At 11/07/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Jim Lazarus declaimed...

Hi Zach,

I posted some thoughts about what you said, here:

http://consolatione.blogspot.com/2006/11/zachary-moore-on-carrier-habermas.html

Also, I posted a second response to Carrier, explaining that he interpreted my review in entirely the wrong way, here:

http://consolatione.blogspot.com/2006/11/carriers-reply-to-my-review_07.html

Thanks.

- Jim

 
At 11/07/2006 4:03 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Laz-

As this issue is being played out in so many postings, I'll just keep my comments here.

Laz: I think Zach, while reading Carrier's response, felt that Carrier was genuinely addressing the issues that I had raised.

Not at all. Carrier's explanation doesn't so much as address the issues you raised, as much as it provides a justification to why he wanted to talk about something slightly different. Not that I think that he doesn't care about presenting "The Evidence," I just think that he thought he had hit upon something more interesting.

Laz: Zach writes that, "Laz's comments are also understandable- it's clear that he was expecting Carrier to use his more conventional arguments, an assumption that is not unreasonable." In fact, I wasn't expecting Richard to use any arguments at all. I explicitly said to Richard, Gary, and Michael that there ought to be no arguing back and forth - this was supposed to be an interview with probing questions, not a debate.

Right- I didn't mean to imply that by using "arguments" that it would necessarily be a debate. But surely you would agree that over the course of a conversation, even a friendly one, where opposite points of view are being referenced, certain "arguments" will at least be brought up, if not for rhetorical benefit. That's all I meant. If Carrier had pursued the interview in the way that you had intended for it, we would certainly be able to tick off the various arguments that he's made in The Empty Tomb, etc. as he mentioned them.

Laz: I think this is unfair. The whole point of the show was to discuss the historical evidence for the Resurrection, not to discuss alternative theological questions.

This seems to be the crux of your complaint. I'm not privy to the logistical or communicative details prior to the show, although if what Carrier reports is accurate, it's clear that he didn't think himself quite as restricted as you had intended within the topic. From an armchair perspective, I think this is the burr under your saddle, because it was your responsibility as producer to set the stage for the show, and Carrier entered stage right instead of stage left. What I'm saying is- I can understand your frustration, but I still think he put on a hell of a show.

Laz: To give an illustration, if Zach appeared on Reggie's show to discuss his studies in molecular biology, and a Christian co-host kept asking Zach to account for morality in a world without God, would he think it fair if someone said that, "Unfortunately, Zach used just about every opportunity to sidestep the philosophical and theological questions and submit more of his well-worn scientific hodgepodge"?

Actually, when I appeared on the Narrow Mind show and the Biota podcast to talk about evolution, the questions ranged far afield from evolution and into morality, so I personally wouldn't hesitate to stray from my prepared remarks if necessary. But that's a trivial matter of which you wouldn't have been aware- the question comes back to what the hypothetical difference would be between what I expected, and what the host expected the show topic to be. I think it's very reasonable for there to be a fair amount of confusion if that difference is wide, but I would also hope that I could be as accommodating as possible. And I have no doubt that Habermas and Licona would have been more accommodating, if they had really grasped the line of questioning that Carrier had intended. I don't hold them to task at all for their confusion- what I lament, if anything, is the fact that the disconnect persisted despite Habermas' best efforts to understand where Carrier was going.

 
At 11/07/2006 4:25 PM, Blogger David Wood declaimed...

Zach,

Notice what you said. You said that you would have preferred the theological/philosophical discussion to the historical one. That's great. But the actual topic was the historical evidence.

So, you seem to have the same mentality as Carrier: "Yes, the topic is X, but since I find Y more interesting, we're going to talk about Y, whether or not that's what anyone else wants to talk about. And if people resist talking about Y, it's because they're side-stepping."

I think Jim addressed your points quite well, and I have nothing more to add to them.

 
At 11/07/2006 4:49 PM, Blogger Jim Lazarus declaimed...

Zach,

Actually, I had made the scope of the show quite clear to everyone before it happened. So there's simply no reason why Carrier had to have entered "stage left".

- Jim

 
At 11/07/2006 5:22 PM, Blogger David Wood declaimed...

I might add a quick review, however, for those who don’t have time to do all the reading:

(1) Gary and Mike claim that there is extraordinary evidence for the resurrection, and they begin laying out their case.

(2) Richard asks why there were dreams and visions all over the ancient world, but none today.

(3) Gary shows that the resurrection appearances were neither dreams nor visions, and that they are therefore irrelevant to the topic.

(4) Richard asks why there were dreams and visions all over the ancient world, but none today.

(5) Gary again shows that the resurrection appearances were neither dreams nor visions, and therefore irrelevant to the topic.

(6) Richard asks why there were dreams and visions all over the ancient world, but none today.

(7) Reginald modifies the question, so that Gary is asked to address why there are no miraculous phenomena occurring today.

(8) Gary gives three arguments, claiming that there are miraculous phenomena today.

(9) Richard gives objections that don’t affect Gary’s claims at all, then changes the subject, asking why God doesn’t give him more evidence for the resurrection.

(10) The rest of the discussion consists of Richard and Reginald asking why God hasn’t given them more evidence.

(11) Jim Lazarus writes a review, arguing that Richard’s questions were irrelevant because they didn’t relate to the topic.

(12) David Wood writes a review, arguing that Richard’s questions were irrelevant because they didn’t relate to the topic.

(13) Richard Carrier writes a review, implying (a) that the discussion was for his benefit, (b) that he had the right to take the discussion in whatever direction he chose, (c) that Gary and Mike, in attempting to actually focus on the topic, were side-stepping his points, (d) that anyone who thinks his questions were off-topic just doesn’t understand him, and (e) that the problems were everyone else’s fault.

(14) Zach Moore writes a review, implying (a) that the discussion was for Richard’s benefit, (b) that Richard had the right to take the discussion in whatever direction he chose, (c) that Gary and Mike, in attempting to actually focus on the topic, were side-stepping Richard’s points, (d) that anyone who thinks Richard’s questions were off-topic just doesn’t understand him, and (e) that the problems were everyone else’s fault.

 
At 11/07/2006 5:56 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Laz-

I just want to clarify- Carrier was intended to be the co-host, correct? And you characterized the show by saying that "this was supposed to be an interview with probing questions."

I also recognize that you had intended for the "point of the show was to discuss the historical evidence for the Resurrection."

What I am suggesting is that I think Carrier was trying to conduct an interview by asking very probing questions about the historical evidence for the Resurrection. The distinction, and it is subtle, is that his line of questioning was meta-historical, rather than just historical. I don't know if Carrier considered that distinction relevant to the show, or whether he considered it at all. But I think that this explains why everyone involved thought that they were doing the right thing, and yet nobody could seem to communicate precisely.

 
At 11/07/2006 6:10 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

David-

Allow me to address some of the points which you say that I implied:

that the discussion was for Richard’s benefit

Certainly not- the discussion was for the benefit of all involved, as well as any audience members.

that Richard had the right to take the discussion in whatever direction he chose

I think that, as an invited co-host who was directed to ask "probing questions," that Carrier felt that it was appropriate for him to lead the conversation. Unless I am mistaken, that is part of the job description for a show's host.

that Gary and Mike, in attempting to actually focus on the topic, were side-stepping Richard’s points

Yes, but not dishonestly. I just don't think that they quite understood why he was asking the questions that he chose, and so kept trying to return to familiar territory.

that anyone who thinks Richard’s questions were off-topic just doesn’t understand him

I'm not suggesting that one must be Carrier's wife or psychologist to appreciate his questions, but I think that the explanation on his blog was enough for me. In fact (although I can't be certain of this), I would guess that even if I had heard the show without reading his explanation I would have understood where he was going with his questions, although I wouldn't expect the same for the average listener.

that the problems were everyone else’s fault.

Not at all. I'm suggesting that the problems were nobody's fault. In fact, I'm a little hesitant to even call them "problems." The only problem, as I see it, is that there were two very excellent discussions being conducted somewhat simultaneously, and neither one got the treatment it deserved. However, if I could suggest a single logistical addition to the show production, it would be to make interview questions available to all participants beforehand.

 
At 11/07/2006 6:12 PM, Blogger Jim Lazarus declaimed...

Zach,

Since the questions that Carrier asked were general theological ones, by "meta-historical" you can only sensibly mean theological views investigated by history. Clearly that is not really what can be meant by the term "meta-historical", however. If you don't mean this, you'll have to clarify much more what you mean by "meta-historical", or at least exactly how Carrier's questions can sensibly be called "meta-historical", when clearly they are questions that most concerns theology.

But, what about Carrier's questions as theological views investigated by history? The point, again, is that they are irrelevant. They are interesting questions, but they simply do not fall within the scope of the program -- the scope that I made clear to everyone prior to the show. Gary and Michael obviously came prepared to discuss that subject, which accounts for the way that they acted throughout the entire show. Carrier, however, entered "stage left", as you put it, for no good reason at all, and felt, as he implicitly emphasized in his response, that this show was actually for his benefit, and not for the benefit of the listeners. Thus, Carrier had his priorities backwards.

I understand the points that you're emphasizing here. You feel that Carrier came up with interesting questions that made for a good show. I agree that they were interesting questions and that the show was interesting. But what needs to be understood is that this is entirely beside the point. Straightforwardly, the scope of this program was intended to focus on the historical evidence directly, not on theological mysteries. Everyone was made aware of this prior to the show. So there's simply no excuse for how it turned out.

At any rate, I'd like to thank you for providing your own thoughts on this. I'm surprised that the review I wrote has provoked this much discussion.

Cheers,

- Jim

 
At 11/07/2006 6:13 PM, Blogger Jim Lazarus declaimed...

Zach,

You wrote, "I think that, as an invited co-host who was directed to ask "probing questions," that Carrier felt that it was appropriate for him to lead the conversation. Unless I am mistaken, that is part of the job description for a show's host."

He is certainly within his rights to lead the conversation, but not wherever he personally feels like. He should have lead the conversation with "probing questions" within the scope of the program, which was, again, made clear to him prior to the show.

- Jim

 
At 11/07/2006 8:07 PM, Blogger David Wood declaimed...

Zach,

I agree with Jim that it’s about time to end this discussion. However, it’s not about Carrier anymore. I’m more interested in why people side with Carrier, even when there’s absolutely no reason to side with him.

For instance, Richard once made the following claim: “Wood cannot argue against the fact that I am no less a philosopher than Aristotle or Hume. My knowledge, education, and qualifications certainly match theirs in every relevant respect.” I was shocked when I read it, and I wrote a response titled “Richard Carrier—Equal to Aristotle?” Now, I granted in the article that the first sentence is open to more than one interpretation. Richard could be saying (1) that he is in the same league with Aristotle or Hume (i.e. just as good as they are), or (2) that he is in the same genus (i.e. he’s a philosopher just as they are). But it’s the second sentence that concerned me. Richard said that his knowledge, education, and qualifications match theirs in every relevant respect. This, I thought, was perfectly clear, and open to only one interpretation. So I wrote my response, arguing that Richard’s qualifications don’t match those of Aristotle.

I received several responses, some coming from Richard’s fans, who argued that Richard is even greater than Aristotle. This really shocked me. However, it was more common for people to say that I was simply misinterpreting Richard. I ended up dialoguing with several of them, and everyone argued the same thing: Richard simply meant that he’s a philosopher, just as Aristotle and Hume were philosophers. Yet, when I asked them about the second sentence, where Richard claims that his qualifications, abilities, and education match theirs, no one had a response. Richard himself eventually replied, saying that he wasn’t claiming to be equal to Aristotle.

Throughout the exchanges, I found it simply amazing that no one could see what Richard had said. If Richard had only meant to say that he’s in the same genus with Aristotle and Hume, why would he say that he matches their qualifications “in every relevant respect”? I couldn’t figure this out, yet people kept telling me that Richard’s meaning was perfectly clear, and that I simply didn’t understand him. That’s how it ended, and I still have no clue how they could interpret Richard’s claim as anything but what it so obviously was.

Moving on to our present discussion, Richard agreed to take part in a program in which two Christian historians would lay out the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, and Richard would contribute probing questions. His first “probing question” was something like this: “In the ancient world, all sorts of people, Christian and non-Christian, were supposedly having dreams and visions from God. But this isn’t happening today at all. So why isn’t this happening today?” The most obvious problem with this question is that it’s totally false. People today are having the same experiences they were having two thousand years ago. We can say that these experiences are from God, or that they’re entirely psychological. But it’s simply false to say that people don’t experience these things today.

But a deeper problem is that it simply doesn’t relate to the resurrection. It would be relevant, of course, if Richard were able to show that the resurrection appearances were like dreams and visions, but he never showed this. In his response, he said that he couldn’t show this until Gary and Mike first explained what dreams and visions were. But this is false. If he had an argument showing that there’s a distinction between resurrection appearances and dreams/visions, he could have used it, regardless of what Gary and Mike think about dreams/visions. He tried to object to what Gary said about the distinction between resurrection appearances and visions, but Gary crushed him.

So what do we have? Gary argued that resurrection appearances were qualitatively different from other phenomena, and Richard didn’t have a response. Now at this point, how is a discussion about dreams/visions relevant? It isn’t. Suppose Gary and Mike had said, “I believe these were visions from God, and that they were given by God, but that they only occurred in the person’s mind, not in public.” Would this have helped Richard in any way? Not at all. These would clearly be different from the resurrection appearances, which involved numerous people and therefore were not simply a subjective experience.

No matter what answer Gary and Mike could have given, it wouldn’t have made Richard’s question relevant. Further, in giving an answer to the question, Gary and Mike would have simply been stating their beliefs. But they didn’t come on the show to talk about their beliefs. They came to talk about evidence, and Richard wanted to talk about beliefs.

Let me put it differently. After Gary and Mike’s twenty minute introduction, hundreds of questions would have been relevant. Richard could have asked about Jesus’ death, or the empty tomb, or the resurrection appearances. But he didn’t ask about any of this. Instead, he wanted to talk about what Gary and Mike believed about dreams and visions, because this was supposedly going to help him raise a significant objection. But would anything significant have come from this? If Mike and Gary had immediately answered him, would this have somehow led to something important? No. Richard would have argued that the resurrection appearances were like these other phenomena, and he would have lost.

Gary and Mike were entirely correct in sticking to the evidence. If they’re on a show to talk about evidence, and you ask them for their opinion about some matter they can’t investigate, they’re naturally not going to want to go in that direction. Why? Because it’s going to hurt Christianity? Because they’re going to lose the argument? Because the resurrection will be refuted? No, it’s because their personal beliefs don’t play a role in what they can or can’t prove historically. Thus, Gary answered as a good historian/philosopher—Peter’s vision could have been a variety of things. It could have been a vision. It could have been a dream. It could have been from God or not from God. The historian, qua historian, can’t answer this question, and to state his beliefs adds nothing to the discussion.

Bu the historian, qua historian, can certainly investigate the death of Jesus, and the evidence for the empty tomb, and appearances witnessed by groups of people. These things are open to investigation, not merely to belief one way or another. So what should a discussion of the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection focus on? I’d agree with Gary, Mike, and Jim that it should focus on things that we can investigate. You agree that we have a point. But you seem to think that a discussion that focuses on what we believe about phenomena but can’t investigate is just as important, and I can’t figure out why anyone would think that.

My question would be this. Can you give me some scenario in which Richard’s question would have been relevant? Think carefully about his review, and think carefully about what he asked, and tell me whether it made sense at all. You see, I don't think that Richard really explained anything in his review. I think he said a bunch of things, and that people assume that his answers are good, without really thinking about whether they're good. I can't conceive of any state of affairs in which his question would have been a significant contribution to a discussion about the historical evidence for the resurrection. Since you think it was important, perhaps you could enlighten me.

P.S. You can even ignore everything else I've said. I'm only interested in this one issue.

 
At 11/07/2006 9:32 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Laz-

I'll clarify myself.

Laz: Since the questions that Carrier asked were general theological ones, by "meta-historical" you can only sensibly mean theological views investigated by history.

What I meant by "meta-historical" was a description of a question that asks, not about specific historical claims or evidences, but about the frameworks which result from a specific avenue of historical investigation. For example, Carrier's first question asked about supernatural communication as a meta-historical phenomenon- that is, how do historians who accept certain claims of supernatural communication appraise other similar claims? This is, of course, relevant to the discussion of the Resurrection, especially in the context of the evidence presented by Habermas regarding 1 Corinthians 15, in which Paul's knowledge claim of the risen Jesus is based on supernatural communication.

I agree that this probably isn't what you had intended by a discussion of the "historical evidence," but even though he entered stage left, he still ended up on the stage, and I can't fault him entirely for taking the approach that he did.

 
At 11/07/2006 9:59 PM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

David-

You say:

David: I’m more interested in why people side with Carrier, even when there’s absolutely no reason to side with him.

I'm not sure you think why I'm "siding" with anyone. I haven't faulted anyone for the discussion- if anything, I'm simply arguing that Carrier wasn't out of line for asking the questions that he did. The problem was logistical, and independent of any person involved.

David: I couldn’t figure this out, yet people kept telling me that Richard’s meaning was perfectly clear, and that I simply didn’t understand him.

I think the problem may be that you're spending too much time talking to other people about Carrier than the man himself. I'm not claiming to speak for him, or to have special access to his thoughts, but that the explanation he posted on his blog about his motives is consistent with what I heard in the discussion.

David: The most obvious problem with this question is that it’s totally false. People today are having the same experiences they were having two thousand years ago.

Well, that's at least an answer. I don't want to side-track my comment by explaining why I disagree with you, but I think that's what Carrier was looking for.

David: It would be relevant, of course, if Richard were able to show that the resurrection appearances were like dreams and visions, but he never showed this.

I don't think he was ever able to get to that, because he spent so much time trying to get a clear answer to his initial question. The obvious relevance, of course, is apparent in 1 Corinthians 15, which was briefly discussed, in which Paul offers his knowledge claim of the risen Christ as precisely such a vision. Habermas claims this passage to be an essential piece of evidence to his argument, and as such, it is extremely relevant to Carrier's question.

David: But you seem to think that a discussion that focuses on what we believe about phenomena but can’t investigate is just as important, and I can’t figure out why anyone would think that.

As I've said, such a discussion is meta-historical, and you're inability to find interest in it is just a statement of prefernce.

David: Can you give me some scenario in which Richard’s question would have been relevant?

As I've said, the question was relevant to the existing discussion. The evidence Habermas submits from Paul's creed is based on supernatural communication through a vision. Therefore, Carrier's question was eminently relevant, and I would greatly have liked to see that answered more fully.

 
At 11/07/2006 10:56 PM, Blogger Sophia De Morgan declaimed...

Zach,

I have to say that part of why Wood and Lazarus disagree with you on Carrier's part in the Infidel Guy interview with Habermas and Licona is because you read the reviews before listening to the interview.

I listened to the show when it originally aired, and I was expecting some substantial and important contributions to come from Carrier. But taken at face value, his comments were as irrelevant as many others have already noted. When you listened to it, you had Carrier's rationalizations in the background (to which you are apparently sympathetic) and I think that skewed your interpretation of his "probing questions."

I agree that questioning underlying beliefs surrounding the Resurrection would be interesting, and I would like to see that happen on Infidel Guy in addition to a more focused discussion of what historical evidence Christians actually have to support their claims.

 
At 11/07/2006 11:52 PM, Blogger David Wood declaimed...

You refer to Paul's experience in 1 Corinthians 15 as a vision. But Paul places his experience alongside the experiences of the other Apostles, and these experiences were certainly bodily in nature. Habermas made two points regarding this. First, he explained that there was something different about the appearances listed by Paul, since mere visions didn't make one an Apostle. Second, Paul uses the term resurrection to refer to what happened to Jesus, and in Jewish thought, resurrection involved the body. We have no indication from the text that Paul thought he was seeing a vision. Yet atheists seem to take it for granted.

 
At 11/08/2006 10:34 AM, Blogger David Wood declaimed...

Here's the point, then I'm done. How would you answer my last post? Well, you'd have to defend it. You'd have to make the case that Paul's experience, and the experiences of the Apostles, were visions. That would take some work. (Note: I'm not putting this forward for a debate; it's to make a point.)

So if you wanted to get anywhere with the claim that Jesus' resurrection appearances were visions, you'd have to make one heck of a case, because the evidence seems to point in another direction.

Now Richard says he was intent on asking probing questions without debating. Let's pretend Gary and Mike had followed Richard down the rabbit hole and explained what they believed about dreams and visions. For Richard to have gone anywhere with this, he would have to say that the resurrection appearances were mere visions. Gary and Mike would both have objected and made the case that the appearances were bodily. The only way for Richard to disagree would be to present a case for his view, and defend it, in which case the discussion would have been a debate.

So if Richard wants us to believe him when he says he didn't want to debate, then we can't believe him when he says that his question was going somewhere. Similarly, if Richard wants us to believe him when he says that his question was relevant, we can't believe him when he says he didn't come there to debate.

There's something fishy about his whole defense. Think about it. He rules out the Gospels from the beginning. Gary and Mike aren't allowed to appeal to them. Yet Richard's third question was going to be about a passage in Matthew. Here's how that conversation would have gone:

RICHARD: What about the zombies in Matthew?

GARY: Our case for the resurrection isn't based on Matthew. What's your point?

RICHARD: I'm just sincerely interested in understanding why you believe what you believe.

MIKE: Well, Richard, a few minutes ago you ruled out the Gospels.

RICHARD: Yes, I did. But now I want to talk about them. I just want to understand you guys.

GARY: Well, since there's only one reference to this in the Bible, it's hard to say what it was. That's why we focus on things that are multiply attested.

RICHARD: You guys aren't being very good Christians. I'm sincerely trying to understand your position. This question is essential! Essential I say! And anyone who can't see that doesn't understand me. This is why I hate talking to Christians.

Zach, you seem to think that this also would have been a good line of questioning. But it seems to be based on a method I find quite common in Richard's writings: "Everything outside the writings of Paul are off limits, unless it's something I can use to argue against Christianity."

I could put this method differently: "Whatever helps me attack Christianity is fair game, even if I have to contradict myself." It's fine if that's Richard's method, but it makes me quite incapable of believing Richard when he says he's just out to understand people.

 
At 11/08/2006 10:57 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Sophia-

I think it's reasonable to suggest that my assessment of the discussion was colored by my exposure to the reviews of it. But consider, I faithfully read everyone's point of view on the matter- not just Carrier's but Laz and David's as well. As I listened, I tried to keep myself as dispassionate and objective as possible.

I think the same criticism of my objectivity can be leveled at you, however. You say that you were "expecting some substantial and important contributions to come from Carrier." I take that to mean that you had assumed that he wanted to address the standard arguments for and against the Resurrection. I can appreciate that- Laz had those same assumptions. But I think that you may have allowed your own assumptions to color your assessment of the discussion, i.e., since Carrier didn't raise the questions that you thought he was going to raise, you feel that he damaged the discussion.

Again, I'm not privy to the logistical details that were involved in the show's pre-production. Laz states emphatically that the scope was too narrow for Carrier's approach, and yet Carrier didn't seem to think so. Personally, I think that Carrier's own explanation of his questions reasonably justifies his question picks, but that's just my take on it.

 
At 11/08/2006 11:24 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

David-

Yes, it's interesting that Paul himself does not give any details in his own writings to explain the nature of his communication from the resurrected Christ, but he certainly does seem to equivocate it with the experiences of the other disciples.

And yet, in Acts we find an interesting narrative account of Paul experiencing the risen Christ, but in this account Jesus appears as a bright light and a voice (one of the two not experienced by Paul's companions, depending on which version of the account one is reading). We are told of no other direct communication between Jesus and Paul elsewhere in the Bible, and so we must face three possibilities.

1) Paul experienced Jesus only as a light/voice, and feels that this is equivalent to the experiences of the other disciples.

2) In addition to experiencing Jesus as a light/voice, Paul also saw the risen Christ in some form that he felt was equivalent to the experiences of the other disciples.

3) Paul did not experience Jesus as a light/voice, but saw the risen Christ in some other form that he felt was equivalent to the experiences of the other disciples.

2) and 3) are problematic for the historian, because they postulate the existence of additional data for which there is no evidence. 3) is especially problematic for Christians because it directly contradicts the narrative account in Acts. 1) is the most reasonable to me, given the available evidence, and yet it begs the question of why Paul thought that his vision was equivalent to an experience of the risen Christ in bodily form. This comparison, I think, is what Carrier was trying to explore in his first question (at least, it is what I would try to explore were I in his place).

David: The only way for Richard to disagree would be to present a case for his view, and defend it, in which case the discussion would have been a debate.

This is not necessarily the case. Carrier could have brought up precisely the same points which I have, without becoming adversarial. One good way to investigate a person's views are to ask them questions which contradict them- this happens on Apologia all the time.

David: There's something fishy about his whole defense. Think about it. He rules out the Gospels from the beginning. Gary and Mike aren't allowed to appeal to them.

I don't think that Carrier "ruled out" the Gospels as a source of evidence. Quite the contrary, I think he wanted to grant the evidence from the Gospels for the sake of the discussion.

David: Yet Richard's third question was going to be about a passage in Matthew. Here's how that conversation would have gone:

I would be extremely hesitant about predicting someone else's behavior. Usually this opens a window exposing our own psychological projections. But I think that the Matthew question is also excellent, and I wonder at Christians who balk at addressing it. Clearly, if one grants the Gospel evidence as supremely historical, as Habermas does, then this claim is striking in its dramatic historical impact, contrasted by the hollow resonance of it being a singly-attested historical fact. What Carrier seemed to be curious about (and what I am assuredly curious about) is how Christians who accept the Gospels as historical documents which are filled with fantastical and supernatural claims, balk at just one more?

 
At 11/08/2006 2:50 PM, Blogger Steven Carr declaimed...

WOOD
'We have no indication from the text that Paul thought he was seeing a vision. '

CARR
Wood just loves trashing Christian arguments.

In Acts, there is no indication whatever that Paul saw a bodily Jesus.

Yet Wood just trashes Acts which says Paul did not see a bodily Jesus.

I don't even know what Wood means by Paul 'thought' he was seeing a vision.

Paul thought he saw real things in visions and trances, at least according to Acts. Acts says Peter saw real things while in a trance or in a vision.

If Acts is true, you could have asked Paul 'Did you see a real man from Macedonia?', and Paul would have said 'Yes, I saw a real man.'.

You could have asked Paul 'Did you really go to the third Heaven in a trance?', and Paul would have said 'Yes, I went to a real place.'.

Who knows, perhaps we could have asked Paul , 'Did you really have a vision of Jesus appearing to 500 people?', and Paul would have said 'Yes. those were real people that I saw.'

So Carrier's question was very relevant about why visions and dreams were much more widely accepted 2,000 years ago as a way of seeing real events and real people.

 
At 11/08/2006 2:55 PM, Blogger Steven Carr declaimed...

It is a good question.

Why did the resurrected saints appear to many in the city of Jerusalem, while the resurrected Messiah did not?

And this was Passover, with many people from all over the Empire visiting Jerusalem.

How could such an event not have become Empire wide news?

After all, Acts says all the residents of Jerusalem learned about the suicide of Judas, a rather private affair, yet dead people appearing to many in Jerusalem - not a word in history to support what would have been the most amazing thing to have happened.

Much more amazing than one suicide, which you can understand history forgetting about.

 
At 11/08/2006 3:01 PM, Blogger Steven Carr declaimed...

WOOD
But it seems to be based on a method I find quite common in Richard's writings: "Everything outside the writings of Paul are off limits, unless it's something I can use to argue against Christianity."

CARR
There speaks somebody who said that Muslim sources say Muhammad thought at first he was speaking to a demon.

Not that Wood has any double-standards, of course.

Just that he feels happy to point out problems in contradictory texts in Islam, yet denounces people in vicious terms when they point out problems in contradictory texts in the New Testament.

 

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