I’m not going to comment on the entire debate. Instead, I will limit my comments to the historical resurrection of Jesus and related issues.
In my debate on the rationality of Christian belief, David C. Smalley asked for historical evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. I provided evidence. I noted that there is no debate among scholars about the basic claims to which I appealed including that Paul the Apostle existed, that he was initially a persecutor of Christianity, that he then became a devout disciple, that the catalyst for his conversion was an experience in which he believed Jesus appeared to him, and that the Apostle Peter and the brother of Jesus (James) underwent similar experiences, that they believed that Jesus was resurrected, a belief that entailed an empty tomb, and that all this occurred within months or a few years of the death of Jesus and radiated out from Ground Zero (Jerusalem).
Additionally, this change in thinking involved a revolution in the concept of messiah that included both a shocking concept of effacement (the messiah would be crucified) and an equally shocking glorification (the messiah should be worshipped and included in the Shema). This is a truly extraordinary fact pattern which demands a sufficient historical explanation.
Smalley did not respond to that evidence. Instead, he then expressed general skepticism that we can know anything about the authors of the New Testament or their motivations. Additionally, he repeatedly strawmanned my argument by claiming that my entire argument consisted of the claim that a lot of people believed it so it must be true.
Thus, Smalley faces a dilemma: if he is to be consistent in claiming that we cannot have any reliable belief about the authorship of the Pauline epistles like Galatians or 1 Corinthians (the two texts to which I appealed) or the beliefs and intentions of that author, this would entail a radical skepticism about historical texts. The alternative is to limit his skepticism to texts that are included within the New Testament, a delimitation which, of course, is arbitrary and evinces a question-begging hyper-skepticism about a specific set of texts.
Incredibly, Smalley then went on to suggest that there is a good reason to believe Jesus never existed at all. His reason? Jesus mythicists. Keep in mind that one could count the number of mythicists who have terminal degrees in the relevant disciplines on one hand. Oh, and I also noted that the mythicists are all high profile atheist activist-apologists.
When I pointed out the absurdity of Smalley rejecting a consensus of biblical scholars in favor of a handful of vocal fringe atheist activists, he said many of those thousands of scholars who teach at public universities are forced to sign confessional statements. This is simply ignorant: research universities do not require confessional statements from their faculty. Smalley is, at this point, no different from Ken Ham who rejects the consensus of evolutionary biology by attributing nefarious and inept motivations to the consensus of scholarship.
To sum up, Smalley refused to engage my arguments, he strawmanned my arguments, he exhibited an arbitrary and inconsistent hyper-skepticism toward historical scholarship whilst embracing radical atheistic mythicists in a bald case of confirmation bias and motivated reasoning, and all this to the end of arguing that I’m the irrational one qua my Christian belief.
To watch the debate, click here.