Better audio quality this time! In today’s episode, I interview Mike Licona, New Testament historian and Christian apologist. Among other things, we discuss:
- the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection
- “God of the gaps” vs. “naturalism of the gaps”
- comparisons to modern miracles claims that we know not to trust
The interview inevitably turned into a friendly debate. I think our differences are summed up in two points. The first:
Luke: “So, the background knowledge that people don’t generally rise from the dead is not useful in us determining whether or not Jesus rose from the dead?”
Mike: “No, it’s not helpful at all.”
Mike seems to argue that whether I say there is a Buick in my garage or an invisible dragon in my garage, we should require the same level of evidence for each (i.e. very little). Obviously, I disagree, as I think most people will if they consult their own common sense.
The second major difference in our views is that Mike thinks the question for the historian to answer is: “What best explains all the data?” But if so, well, visitation by the angel Gabriel can explain all the data for Joseph Smith! But that doesn’t mean this is what actually happened in history. I think a better question is: “What probably happened in history?” Under this question, it becomes clear that visitation by magical angels is not the most probable event experienced by Joseph Smith.
But decide for yourself! If Mike writes any comments about this interview, I’ll link to them.
Download CPBD episode 002 with Mike Licona. Total time is 2:29:44.
Mike Licona links:
- The Case of the Resurrection of Jesus
- Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate on the Resurrection
- Mike’s website
- Mike’s debate with Shabir Ally
- Mike’s debate with Richard Carrier (my favorite religion debate ever)
- Mike’s debate with Elaine Pagels
- Mike’s debate with Bart Ehrman
- A discussion between Mike, Richard Carrier, and Gary Habermas
Other links related to the interview:
- Articles skeptical of the Resurrection
- The True Furqan
- Life of Apollonius of Tyana by Philostratus
- The Riddle of Resurrection by Ronald Hendel
- Miracle of the sun
- Hindu milk miracle
- Justifying Historical Descriptions by C. Behan McCullagh
- Uncertain Belief by David Bartholomew
- Resurrecting Jesus by Dale Allison, Jr.
- The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright
- The Resurrection: History and Myth by Geza Vermes
- Assessing the New Testament Evidence for the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus by William Lane Craig
- The Risen Jesus and Future Hope by Gary Habermas
- The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective by Pinchas Lapide
Near the end of the interview, I said that “the vast majority of New Testament scholars are and always have been Christian,” and Mike replied, “That’s false… the majority of scholars are not Christians.” Mike could be right. I was only speaking from my own experience of researching the historical Jesus – most books I find on the subject are written by Christians. But I could be wrong. I tried to find somebody who has counted up New Testament scholars and cataloged their beliefs, but I couldn’t find any such list. So, I don’t know who is correct on that point.
Let me know what you think about the interview, and submit your own questions for me to answer on the show!
Update Jan. 25, 2009:
Mike read this post and responded:
1. I wouldn’t at all argue as you suggested that the evidence required for there being a Buick in your garage or an invisible dragon are the same. Neither would I argue that “very little” is required for either as you stated. In my opinion, extraordinary claims do not require “extraordinary evidence.” However, they may require “additional evidence” that undergird a particular worldview behind it. Thus, theist historians should be prepared to support theism.
2. The “second major difference” between our views that you [cite] is also not accurate in my opinion. Historians must always ask what best explains the known historical facts. The best explanation, however, consists of more than explanatory scope on which your example of the angel Gabriel focuses. It involves explanatory power, plausibility, and which hypothesis is less ad hoc. The best explanation excels in these 4 areas over competing hypotheses and is how one determines “what probably happened in history.” You have to have a method for determining what probably happened. So, our questions are not at all in conflict. There are good reasons why I reject the claim that Moroni (not Gabriel) appeared to Joseph Smith. Smith’s prophesies did not come true. There is no specific archaeological confirmation of the Book of Mormon, even in areas where artifacts should be turning up in abundance. Smith’s claim to have a divinely given gift for translating Egyptian has been largely disproved via modern translations of the Book of Abraham which show no resemblance whatsoever to Smith’s. And given the fact that 8 of the 11 witnesses to the golden tablets of the Book of Mormon left Mormonism (the 3 remaining being related to Smith), the few facts that may form the relevant historical bedrock related to the divine revelation of the Book of Mormon may be explained better by a naturalistic hypothesis such as deceit on the part of Smith. Accordingly, I don’t think the analogy of Mormonism you provided is a good one.
I have disagreements, but they are probably best saved for a large post on historical method. Actually, I would like to read Mike’s Ph.D. dissertation on that topic first, when it is published.