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.