Introductory Remarks (Jeff Lowder, Debate organizer)
Our moderator for this evening is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of California at Davis, where he double-majored in both Greek and Latin.
Although his journalism career started in broadcast news at KQED-TV in San Francisco, he quickly found his niche with newspaper journalism, and he has not returned to television since. Since 1975, he has worked for his present employer, The Seattle Times, in various capacities including: High-technology Reporter; Social Issues Reporter; High School Sports Reporter; Energy and Natural Resources Reporter; Acting Assistant City Editor for Urban Affairs; Saturday Editor; Higher Education Reporter; the Seattle Times South Bureau Editor; and his current position, the Seattle Times Religion Reporter.
He has received numerous honors throughout his prestigious career including: The Higher Education Writers Award, four C. B. Blethin awards, first place Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists Award, and even a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. A member of Plymouth Congregational Church in Seattle, I’m told our moderator is also an avid, amateur, bass trombone musician.
Will you please join me in welcoming Mr. Lee Moriwaki.
Opening remarks (Lee Moriwaki, Debate moderator)
Well, thank you very much. That was a marvelous introduction.
What Jeff probably didn’t say was that the religion beat is the most challenging assignment that I’ve had in my twenty-five year career so far, and I think maybe moderating this debate tonight will be the greatest challenge. It’s not something I’ve done in the past, so if you can bear with me while I make some introductions.
It’s a pleasure to be invited to be the moderator for this debate this evening and I’ve been looking forward to the event with a great amount of relish. I have to admit that I was intimidated when Jeff Lowder called some weeks ago and asked if I would serve as the moderator. The Resurrection is really pretty heavy stuff. At the same time I was impressed that the debate would take place at a Christian school like Seattle Pacific University. I think the organizers of the event and all of you here this evening should be commended for being willing to engage in this type of dialogue.
A few years ago, actually more than forty years ago when I was still a small child, I wouldn’t have imagined that this evening would have been possible. I wouldn’t have imagined that the Resurrection was debatable. When I opened my Bible, there was Christ rising to heaven on a cloud. What more proof did I need? There it was. Then someone, one of my childhood friends, told me, well that was just a painting; it was an artist’s conception; it didn’t prove anything.
As I got older, I started reading the Bible for myself and, once again, my faith in the Resurrection was reconfirmed. There it was in black and white in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I quote from Matthew:
And the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here; for he has risen, just as he said. Come, see the place where he was lying."
And, of course, there were Jesus’ words to doubting Thomas after he showed them the holes in his hands and in his side: "Because you have seen me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." And, again, that was good enough for me. It wasn’t until I got into my teen years that I began to hear people saying things like: "You really can’t take everything in the Bible literally; some of it is metaphorical."
Well, was the Resurrection literal or was it metaphorical? I began to become confused. And I have to confess, I still get confused. Just this past Easter, I did a story on the meaning of Easter. The Rev. Pete Battjes, who some of you may know as the Northwest Coordinator of the March for Jesus that took place just this past weekend, told me what I had been brought up to believe. He quoted the Apostle Paul in first Corinthians 15:14: "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith. You are still in your sins." The Rev. Steven Tsichlis who, is the pastor of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Seattle, told me that the Resurrection, in his words, are the heart of the Gospels. We give a lot of hoopla and attention to Christmas, but Father Tsichlis pointed out that the story of Jesus’ birth is told in only two of the Gospels, Matthew and Luke, while Christ’s death and resurrection are in all four.
Then a short time later, I happened to being going through Christianity Today and came across a short article in the magazine’s news section. It was titled "Liberals Pooh-pooh Jesus’ Resurrection." It was an article about the conclusion of the Jesus Seminar, the Sonoma, California based religious-study group, that Christ probably did not rise bodily from the dead, but that the Resurrection tradition that developed in the first century Church was an effort to promote the vitality of Jesus’ message. Christianity Today said that among the various theories advanced at the Jesus Seminar meeting, in March, were that Jesus’ followers went to the wrong tomb and mistakenly thought he had risen, that the women disciples mistook their own grief experiences for actual post-death appearances, and that people like Peter and Paul spread stories of the Resurrection to counteract their own guilt — Peter for having denied knowing Jesus, and Paul for persecuting the early Christians.
As a postscript on my note that Religious News Service, which is based in Washington, D.C., reported that the forty-five Jesus Seminar scholars actually took two votes: the first was that the Resurrection never happened in any physical sense; the second vote appeared to be a somewhat more modified position saying that, quote, "Belief in Jesus’ resurrection does not depend on what happened to his corpse," end of quote.
The Rev. Rodney Romney, who is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Seattle, recently wrote in a church newsletter his thoughts on the Resurrection and while there I’m sure will be a disagreement here tonight about what Rod had to say, since this is a debate I thought I’d share some of his views for contemplation tonight. Reverend Romney said, quote, "In the face of what modern scholarship claims, the average Christian may feel stranded. If the Resurrection stories are myths, what does this do to our faith?" Reverend Romney said, "We must always base our faith on experience, not tradition or dogma. Who Jesus is to us personally should not depend on any particular doctrine. No idea or story about Jesus, including the Resurrection, should ever be a litmus test for faith." He went on, "Even if the Resurrection stories prove to be legends developed by the Christian community forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus, it does not change the core of Jesus’ message of forgiveness and grace, of God’s liberating presence among all women and men."
The title of Reverend Romney’s newsletter article was, quote, "Resurrection, Fact or Fancy?" — which would be a good subtitle for tonight’s debate, "Did Jesus of Nazareth Bodily Rise from the Dead?"
Speaking in the affirmative will be Michael Horner, a well-known lecturer and debater for Campus Crusade for Christ of Canada. Mr. Horner has addressed thousands of students and faculty on university campuses across Canada, the united States, and other countries around the world. Mr. Horner graduated from the University of Calgary with a degree in Mathematics and Psychology, and received a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from the University of Toronto. He is a member of The Society of Christian Philosophers, and author of the popular campus series, "Answers." He lives in the Vancouver, British Columbia area.
Speaking against the proposition will be Farrell Till, publisher of "The Skeptical Review," a bi-monthly journal that is devoted to examining the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. Mr. Till graduated from Harding University, a Church of Christ college in Searcy, Arkansas. He served as both a preacher and missionary for the Church of Christ. But while a minister he began to discover both discrepancies and inconsistencies in the Bible which led him to conclude that the Bible is not the inerrant word of God. He left the ministry, founded "Skeptical Review," and is a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism, among other organizations. He lives in Canton, Illinois.
The format will be, briefly, as follows. Opening arguments by Mr. Horner and Mr. Till, with cross-examination by both. First rebuttal, with cross-examination. And then a second round of rebuttal. There will be a ten-minute intermission. That will be followed by a question and answer session for you, and then closing comments by Mr. Till and Mr. Horner.