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Summary and Assessment of Craig-Jesseph Debate


This debate took place in 1997 at Arizona State University. The debate was the second forensic encounter between William Lane Craig and Doug Jesseph on the existence of God. Their first encounter, which I call the “Jesseph-Craig Debate” because Jesseph spoke first in that forum, took place at North Carolina State University (Jesseph’s employer) and is available on the Secular Web at https://infidels.org/library/modern/doug_jesseph/jesseph-craig/.

I do not know of any way for the general public to purchase tapes of the debate; the only way I was able to view the debate was because a Christian philosopher (who I shall not name so that he is not inundated with requests for copies) was kind enough to send me a copy. I wish to state that I have immensely enjoyed my conversations with this philosopher and hope that they will continue in the future.

Summary of the Debate

The following summary of the debate is correct to the best of my knowledge; however, it has not been reviewed by either debater. Also, the following debate summary does not include the Question & Answer period.

Craig’s Opening Statement

I.  No good reason to think atheism is true
II. Good reason to think theism is true
A.  Kalam cosmological argument
(1) Anything which begins to exist must have a cause
(2) The universe began to exist
(3) Therefore, the universe must have a cause
- cause of the Big Bang must be uncaused, changeless,
timeless, immaterial, and personal
-- the cause of the Big Bang must be uncaused because
there cannot be an infinite regress of causes
-- the cause of the Big Bang must be changeless and
timeless because it created time
-- the cause of the Big Bang must be immaterial because
it created space
-- the cause of the Big Bang must be personal because how
else could a timeless cause give rise to a temporal

B.  The Fine-Tuning Argument
- Life-permitting universes are vastly more improbable than
life-permitting universes.  The odds of a life-permitting
universe like ours coming into existence by chance are so
remote that our universe must be the result of intelligent
- the complexity of our universe and the conditions which
allow life are analogous to finding a skyscraper in the
Sahara desert.  No one would ever claim that a skyscraper
in the middle of the Sahara desert arose by chance.  Nor
would anyone claim that the skyscraper is the result of a
random arrangement of sand -- just one improbable arrangement
out of many improbable arrangements.  The skyscraper has a
certain complexity to it and must have been designed.  By
the same reasoning, then, the universe must also have been
- Thus the atheist must not only believe the universe popped
into existence, uncaused, out of nothing.  The atheist must
believe that when the universe popped into existence,
uncaused, out of nothing it just happened to be fine-tuned
to allow life

C.  The Moral Argument
(1) If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
(2) But objective moral values exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

D.  The Resurrection
- The Resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation for 3
historical facts:
(1) The empty tomb
(2) The post-resurrection appearances
(3) The very origin of the Christian faith
- This entails a divine miracle and the existence of God.

E.  Religious Experience
- this isn't an argument for God's existence;  rather, it's
the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from

Jesseph’s Opening Statement

“atheism” is defined as the belief that the evidence does not support God. Someone who simply lacks theistic belief, a small child who has never been taught about God, or someone who simply rejects God as an act of rebellion does not count as an atheist.

I.  Arguments for Atheism
A.  Argument from Conservatism
- We should apply Ockham's Razor.

B.  Argument from Asymmetry
- Believers in one god tend to deny the existence of other gods
by using naturalistic explanations.  We should be consistent
and apply naturalistic explanations to all gods.

C.  Evidential Argument from Evil

II.  Craig's Theistic Arguments
A.  Kalam cosmological argument
1.  No reason to think cause is personal, benevolent, etc.
Persons are physical things.
2.  Causation is a relation between physical events.  The
striking of a match causes the ignition of the match.  But
there is no event outside the universe to interact causally
with the Big Bang.  Craig seems to think God is a sort of
cosmological spark plug.
3.  Craig seems to assume there is a time before the Big Bang
(quotes Ehrman [sp?]).  The Big Bang model offers no special
advantage to theists.

B.  Fine-Tuning Argument
1.  'improbable' does not equal 'designed'
2.  Craig's argument is like asking the question, "What are your
chances of landing in a universe hospitable to life, assuming
you were tossed into any old universe whatever."  That is
precisely not the point.  It's presupposed in the question that
you're already in a universe which favors life.  Confuses
conditional probability with unconditional probability.
3.  Odds are based on extremely questionable principles of
4.  Other theories do not support Craig's claim that
life-permitting universes are improbable:
4.1.  Alan Guth's inflationary model
4.2.  Sidney [unintelligible]'s worm-hole theory
4.3.  [unintelligible]'s virtual particle model

C.  Moral Argument
1.  objective = independent of the observer
2.  objective moral values are compatible with the nonexistence of God
3.  Euthyphro dilemma

D.  Resurrection
1.  The credibility of the New Testament is in question.  The New
Testament accounts need independent confirmation.  But there
is no confirmation independent of the New Testament for the
2.  The evidence for the Resurrection would have to be extremely

E.  Religious Experience
1.  Jesseph doesn't deny that people have experiences.  Jesseph
denies their veridicality.
2.  Reports of religious experiences are varied.

Craig’s First Rebuttal

I.  No good reasons to think atheism is true
A.  Argument from conservatism
1.  Grants the principle of conservatism
2.  The issue is whether atheism can provide naturalistic
explanations for the five facts outlined in Craig's
opening statement
3.  Not an argument for atheism

B.  Argument from asymmetry
1.  Double-edged sword.  Atheists think ALL theists are wrong.
2.  Not an argument for atheism.

C.  Evidential argument from evil
1.  No contradiction between God and evil
2.  Free Will Defense
3.  The Suffering Brings about Acceptance Defense:
god wants the best, but that doesn't mean he wants to make
us happy.  God's purpose is for people to come to know God.
Evil may be pointless with respect to happiness, but not
with respect to knowledge of God.  In areas of intense
suffering, people are coming to know God.
4.  Logical problem of evil has been widely abandoned.

II.  Good reason to think theism is true
A.  Kalam cosmological argument
1.1  God must be personal because only a being with free will could
create a temporal effect from a timeless state.
1.2  God's benevolence was addressed by the moral argument
1.3  The cause of the Big Bang must be the Christian god on the
basis of the argument from miracles (the Resurrection)
1.4  Jesseph grants that the universe began to exist
2.  The claim that causation is a relation between physical events
begs the question by assuming naturalism
3.  Kalam cosmological argument does not assume a time before the
big bang.  Cause and effect can be simultaneous, like a
bowling ball depressing a cushion

B.  The fine-tuning argument
1.1.  Agree
1.2.  Skyscraper analogy
2.  Trained marksmen analogy
3.  No theory of everything that would explain physical
4.1.  inflationary models require fine-tuning
4.2.  Vacuum fluctuation models outmoded.  Quotes Christopher

C.  The moral argument
1.  Jesseph's view leads to moral relativism.
3.  Moral values are rooted in God's nature.

D.  The Resurrection
1.  Independent confirmation is not necessary.

Jesseph’s First Rebuttal

I.  Arguments for Atheism
A.  Argument from Conservativism
- atheism can easily provide naturalistic explanations
B.  Argument from Asymmetry
1.1.  Atheism is symmetrical.  Atheists use naturalistic explanations
to explain all religions.
1.2.  Theism is asymmetrical.  Theists apply naturalistic explanations
to all religions except their own.

C.  Evidential Argument from Evil
1.1.  Anticipated this in opening statement.
1.2.  Logically possible does not mean probable.  It is logically
possible that OJ Simpson didn't really do it.
2.1.  Craig denies major theological doctrine held from Augustine to
Calvin (deterministic theism).
2.2.  God could have intervened to stop evils.  God could have prevented
Hitler's rise to power.
4.  Evidential argument from evil was presented.

II.  Craig's Theistic Arguments
A.  Kalam cosmological arguments
1.1.  Persons are physical things.
1.2.  What would 'nonphysical person' mean?
4.  Stephen Hawking: the universe did not come from nothing;
there's no place the universe came from.  That's a subtle
yet very important distinction.

B.  Fine-Tuning Argument
3.  Hoyle, Davies, et al pull these numbers out of thin air.
4.1.  vacuum fluctuation models are not outmoded and have made
a comeback in the 1990s
4.2.  cosmology is a speculative science
4.3.  Important to avoid error just as much as it is important
to find truth.  The atheist must be able to show that
theistic cosmology is false, but the atheist does not
need to be able to say what is true in order to accomplish

C.  Moral Argument
1.1.  Objective does not mean popular.  Craig misunderstood the
1.2.  A lot of things are special about human beings.  For example,
they can experience pain.

D.  The Resurrection
1.  Can't prove the Bible by quoting the Bible

E.  Religious Experience
1.  Craig hasn't said anything yet about my counterarguments to
the argument from religious experience

Craig’s Second Rebuttal

I.  No good reason to think atheism is true.
B.  Argument from asymmetry
1.  Why prefer naturalistic explanations?
2.  My arguments for theism are good naturalistic explanations

C.  Argument from Evil
1.  The evidential argument from evil is subjective because
probabilities are relative to background information.  Quotes
Daniel Howard-Snyder's Evidential Argument from Evil.
2.  Jesseph needs to show that it is probable that God would want
less evil.
3.  Suffering Brings about Acceptance Defense (SBAD)

II.  Good reason to think theism is true.
A.  Kalam cosmological argument
1.2.  Consciousness is immaterial.  Materialism = determinism.  But
determinism is self-refuting.
4.  Hawking's model is flawed because of its reliance on imaginary time.
Everyone believes the universe has a beginning.  Where did the
universe come from?

B.  Fine-tuning argument
3.  No theory of everything.  Appeal to faith in naturalism.
The values of the physical constants are contingent.
4.  No evidence that vacuum fluctuation models are true.

C.  Moral Argument
1.2.  Why is wrong to cause humans pain?
2.  Atheism means that we are animals and not subject to ethics.

D.  Resurrection
1.  Historians consider the New Testament as historical books,
not holy books.

Jesseph’s Second Rebuttal

I.  Arguments for Atheism
B.  Argument from Asymmetry.
1.  Naturalism works.  Supernatural explanations don't.

C.  Evidential Argument from Evil.
1.1.  Mystery maneuver.
1.2.  Evils are gratuitous.
3.1.  Better ways to accomplish that purpose.  For example, God
could turn the podium into purple smoke, and I would become
a theist right now.

II.  Arguments for Theism
A.  Kalam cosmological argument
4.  There is no 'where the universe came from'.  There's no
garage in Pittsburgh, "Home of the universe."

B.  Fine-tuning argument
3.  If the naturalist has faith at all, it is a grounded faith.
If we have faith in naturalism, then it is like having faith
in using an elevator.  We take the elevator up.  We don't leap
down the elevator shaft.  Similarly, "faith" in naturalism, is
not a Kirkegaardian leap of faith.  Naturalism works.

C.  Moral argument
1.2.  It's wrong to cause humans pain because pain hurts.
2.  Can get objectivity without God by appealing to any of the
standard ethical theories taught in introductory ethics

D.  Resurrection
1.  The New Testament is so poorly confirmed we should not
believe it.

Craig’s Third Rebuttal

I.  No good reason to think atheism is true.
B.  Argument from asymmetry
1.  Inconclusive.
C.  Evidential argument from evil
1.1.  God's existence is NOT improbable on ALL of the background
evidence (e.g., the evidence Craig presented in his opening
1.2.  Not at all a mystery maneuver.
1.3.  Prove that evils are gratuitous
3.1.  God has provided evidence sufficiently clear to those with
an open heart and an open mind.
3.2.  The Old Testament records that when God performed public
miracles, it did not produce trust in God.  It may have
produced intellectual assent to theism, but it did not
change lives.

II.  Good reason to think theism is true.
A.  Kalam cosmological argument
4.  Granted, there is no 'where'.  But something cannot come
out of nothing.

B.  Fine-tuning argument
3.  Jesseph dropped the argument.  Jesseph never responded to
Craig's claim that the values of the physical constants
are contingent.

C.  Moral argument
- What is the foundation for our moral intuitions?  If atheism
is true, our moral intuitions are foundationless.

D.  Resurrection
1.  Quotes Robert Grant: gospels must be regarded as reliable

E.  Religious Experience
1.  God can change your life just as he has changed mine

Jesseph’s Third Rebuttal

I.  Arguments for Atheism
B.  Argument from Asymmetry
1.  Conclusive argument.  We have good reasons to believe
naturalistic explanations.  Theists have no reason to believe
supernatural explanations.

C.  Argument from Evil
1.  Craig seems to be a moral skeptic.  He can't tell if evil is
really evil.
2.  Craig granted compatibilism;  therefore the FWD fails

II.  Arguments for Theism
A.  Kalam cosmological argument
4.1.  Big Bang cosmology is strange stuff.
4.2.  Asking "where did the universe come from?" is like asking
"what is north of the number 7?"
4.3.  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Consider the
odds.  There's only one way for there to be nothing, but
there are many ways for there to be something.

B.  The fine-tuning argument
3.1.  Craig's wild improbability calculations are based upon
insufficient evidence.  If we had a complete theory of
everything, there would be nothing surprising about our
universe's life-permitting conditions.
3.2.  On Craig's logic, rainstorms are miraculous.  There are
lots of possible raindrops, but the fact that we get
certain raindrops (and not others) is NOT miraculous.
The raindrops are determined by the conditions.  Similarly
with the Big Bang.

D.  Resurrection
1.  Contradictions in the gospels.
2.  No independent confirmation.

Assessment of the Debate

I.  Jesseph's Atheistic Arguments
A.  Argument from Conservativism.  (Craig)
Both Craig and Jesseph agree with the principle of conservativism
(e.g., Ockham's razor).  The question is whether this can be
extended into an argument for the nonexistence of God.  I agree
with Craig that this does not constitute an atheological argument.
Jesseph dropped the argument after Craig's first rebuttal, causing
me to wonder if *Jesseph* really believes this is an argument
for atheism.

B.  Argument from Asymmetry. (Jesseph)
Craig seemed to think the asymmetry had to do with the fact that
each group thinks it is right and the others are all wrong, but
the asymmetry in the argument refers to the application of
naturalistic and supernatural explanations within each group.  I
think Jesseph won on this argument.

C.  Evidential Argument from Evil.  (Jesseph)
Craig initially misunderstood Jesseph to be presenting a logical
problem of evil;  when Craig finally addressed the evidential
version, I think he was unsuccessful.  I agree with Jesseph that
there is no reason to deny the existence of actually gratuitous
evils in the world, that the Free Will Defense is a failure, and
that the Suffering Brings about Acceptance Defense is a failure.

Following Pascal, Craig claimed that "God has provided evidence
sufficiently clear to those with an open heart and an open mind"
(and presumably, sufficiently vague for those with a "hardened
heart" or a closed mind).  But is this really true?  Is it actually
the case that all nonbelievers have hardened their hearts or
closed their minds?  Here I think Jesseph would have done well to
present J.L. Schellenberg's Argument from Divine Hiddenness or
Ted Drange's Argument from Nonbelief.  Even if we grant that some
atheists have engaged in self-deception, there is no reason to
believe that all atheists have done so.  Moreover, there
are good reasons to believe that at least some atheists have not
engaged in self-deception and thus their nonbelief is reasonable.

II.  Craig's Theistic Arguments
A.  Kalam cosmological argument (Craig)
Craig claimed that an atheist who accepts Big Bang cosmology
must believe that the universe came from nothing and by
nothing; I think this is patently false.  The atheist Adolf
Grünbaum, who Craig has called "the greatest living
philosopher of space and time", has noted:

But in what sense could an uncaused Big Bang universe
be thought to have "come out of absolutely nothing"?  Surely
NOT in the sense that there existed moments of time before
the Big Bang at which the physical universe did not yet exist
but only nothing. As I argued above, despite the metrically
finite past duration of the Big Bang world, there was no such
prior time. Thus, the finitude of that past does not warrant
the conclusion that if this universe is uncaused, it must
have "come out of" a prior state of nothing.

Moreover, I have privately corresponded with three additional
secular philosophers of religion, one agnostic (Graham Oppy)
and two atheists (Quentin Smith and Robin Le Poidevin), who
all agree that atheists who accept Big Bang cosmology do NOT
have to believe the universe came from nothing and by nothing.
(Oppy and Smith consider Craig's claim a rhetorical slogan
rather than a serious philosophical argument.)  As Jesseph
pointed out, Big Bang cosmology does not entail that the
universe came from nothing;  rather, what Big Bang cosmology
entails is that there is no place the universe came from.  As
Jesseph said in the debate, "That's a subtle yet very
important distinction," and one which I don't think Craig
adequately addressed.  The point is that, on Big Bang
cosmology, time itself came into existence with the Big Bang,
in which case it makes no sense to speak of the Big Bang
"coming out of" anything.  There was no time at which the
universe did not exist, and there is no place the universe came
from.  The universe just is.

Jesseph initially stated three objections to the kalam argument.
His first was that there is no reason to think the cause is a
person.  As Jim Lippard wrote, "Jesseph maintained that he
could make no sense of non-temporal, changeless causes, let
alone non-temporal, noncorporeal, changeless persons. I agree.
A person is an entity with a mind and a will that engages in
temporal processes like thinking and acting. A non-temporal
creature can't change, and thus can't think or act."
Unfortunately, Jesseph dropped the point but Craig did not,
so I must flow that objection to Craig.

Jesseph's second objection was that causation is a relation between
physical events.  Again I agree with this, but Jesseph dropped
the point allowing Craig to have the last word, and so I must
flow that objection as well to Craig.

As for Jesseph's third objection, that Craig seems to assume
there was a time before the Big Bang, Craig responded with his
simultaneous causation defense.  Craig asserted that cause and
effect can be simultaneous, like a bowling ball depressing a
cushion, and Jesseph never responded to this objection.

This is unfortunate, for I don't think that Craig's simultaneous
causation defense gets him where he wants to go.  In the first
place, it's not clear that causes are ever actually simultaneous
with their effects.  To be sure, a bowling ball depressing a
cushion *appears* simultaneous, but I see no reason to think that
it actually is.  But secondly, even if there really is
simultaneous causation, that would only solve half of the problem.
Simultaneous causation would explain how the BEGINNING OF TIME
could be caused even though there is no moment of time prior
to it.  But simultaneous causation does NOT explain how an
effect in time could be caused by a timeless object.  Indeed,
it seems to me that Craig's simultaneous causation defense is
equivalent to the following:

(1) "God's timelessly willing the universe to exist was
simultaneous with the beginning of the universe's

But that in turn seems to be equivalent to the following:

(2) At the beginning of the universe, there both was and
was not time.

This is because, on big bang cosmology, time itself came into
existence with the Big Bang.  Thus, (1) implies that at a
certain point in time (the beginning of time), there was
no time!  And that is logically contradictory.  The upshot is
that even if we allow the possibility of simultaneous causation,
there does not seem to be any way for a TIMELESS BEING TO CAUSE
ANYTHING.  See Part II of the excellent paper by Christian
philosopher Wes Morriston, "Is God in Time Prior to Creation?:
A Critique of the Kalam Argument" at

I therefore think Craig won the kalam cosmological argument,
but not because I think the argument is sound.  Craig was able
to exploit the features of an oral debate setting masterfully

Moreover, I don't think Jesseph did an adequate job of refuting
the claim that materialism / physical determinism is self-refuting.
Jim Lippard in correspondence has pointed out that (1) there is
indeterminism in nature, and (2) whether thoughts are determined
is irrelevant to their accuracy and reliability.  "Craig maintained
that if natural processes produce brains, then we have no grounds
for thinking that our brains engage in rational processes and
thus well-founded conclusions. This argument simply doesn't
work--an instantiation of a reliable algorithm produces reliable
results no matter how it came to be instantiated, whether by
randomness plus selection or by conscious design. Craig's argument
commits the genetic fallacy."

Jim Lippard (again in correspondence) has also suggested an
objection to Craig's claim that an actual infinite cannot exist.
If Craig's claim is true, then omniscience is impossible.
"Craig also made his standard kalam cosmological argument, which
has as a premise that there are no actual infinities because
they result in contradictions. It is a consequence of his argument
(though Jesseph didn't point this out) that omniscience is
impossible. There is an infinite number of propositions (just
taking knowledge of mathematics alone); if God is omniscient and
changeless he must be simultaneously entertaining all of these
propositions. But to do so requires an actual infinity of
thoughts and beliefs, which Craig said is impossible. Q.E.D."

B.  Fine-tuning argument (Jesseph)
I think Jesseph won this argument hands-down.  Craig's
probability estimates of a life-permitting universe are pulled
out of thin air.  The fact of the matter is that, given our
current knowledge about the origins of the universe, nobody
has the slightest idea how likely or unlikely the universe is.
Perhaps, as Jesseph suggested, if we had a complete "theory of
everything", there would be nothing surprising about our
universe's life-permitting conditions.  But even without a
theory of everything, the burden of proof lies squarely on
Craig to justify his probability estimates for the
life-permitting conditions of our universe.  As Jesseph said in
his first rebuttal, the atheist need only demonstrate the flaws
of the fine-tuning argument; the atheist has no burden of
proof to provide an alternative explanation.

Moreover, Craig's two analogies -- skyscrapers in the desert
and trained marksmen in a firing squad -- beg the question.
Clearly, if we found a skyscraper in the Sahara desert, we
would not assume it was the result of the random arrangement
of sand particles.  Similarly, if a team of 100 trained marksmen
all failed to hit their target, we would not believe this
was a random outcome.  But what does this have to do with the
life-permitting physical constants of our universe?  Nothing.
We don't know the possible values of the physical constants or
how they could be assigned.  To be sure, as Craig pointed out
in his third rebuttal, the values of the physical constants are
logically contingent.  But that does nothing to show that the
values of the physical constants are physically contingent.
Craig has the burden of proof to show that it is even physically
possible for the physical constants to have different values
from the ones they do, and Craig hasn't done that.

As Michael Hurben points out in his excellent Secular Web essay,
"On Universes and Firing Squads", if proponents of the
fine-tuning argument

want to keep their firing squad analogy, I suggest they
employ a more honest version, one which is more in accord
with what we really know (or rather, don't know) about the
origin of our universe:

You wake up one morning to find yourself blindfolded. You
are led somewhere outside, but you are not sure where.
Suddenly, you hear a deafening roar. What was it? It
sounded like it could have been a number of rifles firing,
but some of them may have been quite distant. Perhaps it
was just a single shot. You don't know for sure, you are
not certain what happened. All you know is that you are
alive. There are many explanations for this rather
singular experience, but because you were blindfolded, you
can't say which was more likely. Was someone shooting at
you? Were they near or far away? And what kind of firearm
was used? Were there also other shots fired off in the
distance? Were there other people blindfolded and who had
a similar experience? Did they survive? Or was it a
firing squad of ace sharpshooters aiming at you only, and
they all missed? Are any of these explanations inherently
better than any of the others? If so, why? And if not,
then why should one advocate one theory in favor of the

C.  Moral argument (Craig)
In Jesseph's last rebuttal, it was obvious that he ran out of time.
He skipped this argument entirely, so I am forced to flow the
argument to Craig.  Also, Jesseph never responded to Craig's
rebuttal to the Euthyphro dilemma, that "the good is the very
nature of God and that the commands of God flow necessarily out
of His moral nature."  Craig thinks he's answering the objection,
but actually he's only pushing the problem one step further back.
Is God good because His nature fulfills a standard independent
of His will, or is the fact that God approves of a certain kind
of character itself the standard of goodness?  Craig might reply
that God is good because He is benevolent, merciful, and just.
The question then arises: Are benevolence, mercy, and justice
valid grounds for judging a being to be good, and if so, are
they not standards by which we human beings are judging good?

Jim Lippard, in correspondence, has suggested that Jesseph could
have been much more forceful by pointing out "that theists are
faced with exactly the same metaethical dilemmas as atheists.
He [Jesseph] only alluded to, but should have spelled out more
explicitly, that theists who believe in the Bible are forced to
conclude that ethics are based on God's whim (since he can
command child sacrifice, genocide, etc. and thereby make those
things right--which Craig took great pains to say was a view
where there is no moral objectivity), or else there must be an
objective standard of morality independent of God.  Craig never
really addressed this argument--he simply suggested that somehow
morality flows from God's essence necessarily, but is not a
matter of God's whim.  He never bothered to address the fact
that God of the Bible commanded things which he explicitly
stated were evil."

D.  Resurrection (Craig)
Before he got cut off by the moderator, Jesseph got in two final
objections to this argument which should have been stated in his
first speech.  One of the final objections was the point about
independent confirmation.  Craig and Jesseph went back and forth
on that objection, which I consider a draw.  As for Jesseph's
second final objection, that was a "new" objection which would
be disallowed under debate rules.  However, suppose we ignore
debate rules and consider the objection on its own merit.  Without
much more explanation than Jesseph gave, his second objection does
not constitute a prima facie defeater to the historical argument
for the Resurrection.  I think the Contradictions Objection to
the Resurrection, at least as it was presented by Jesseph, is
not as damaging as he thinks it is.  We need much more
information about the alleged contradictions before we can
assess their evidential impact.  For starters, we need to know
precisely what Jesseph finds contradictory in the Resurrection
accounts.  Without that information, we are not even in the
position of being able to assess the significance of the alleged
contradictions, or the merit of supposed reconciliations of the
alleged contradictions.  What Jesseph should have emphasized
is the following:

* The empty tomb story is a legend.  Legends CAN develop in
a short amount of time, even in the presence of
* All of the appearance stories are either legends or were
not physical appearances.
* The origin of the Christian faith does not require
supernatural explanation.  Even if we grant Craig's
argument that the concept of resurrection was foreign to
the Jewish way of thinking, there is no reason to believe
that such a paradigm shift required supernatural

E.  Religious Experience (Jesseph)
Craig dropped this argument in two of his rebuttals, but then
tried to revive the argument in his closing statement.  Under
debate rules, this is disallowed and Craig therefore lost this
argument.  But let's consider the argument on its own merits.
As Jesseph pointed out, there is no doubt that many rational,
sincere individuals have religious experiences.  The issue is
whether these experiences are veridical.  Given the variations
in religious experiences, there just doesn't seem to be any
reason to believe that Christian experiences are veridical
while non-Christian experiences are not veridical.  Moreover,
Craig never really addressed Jesseph's counterarguments.  In
his third rebuttal, Craig gave his standard Campus Crusade-style
conclusion: "God can change your life just as he has changed
mine."  But the appeal to changed lives is weak.  As Christian
philosopher Norman Geisler wrote in Answering Islam: The
Crescent in the Light of the Cross:

"When one fervently believes something to be true he lives
by it.  ... Any set of ideas fervently believed and applied
will transform believers and their culture." (p. 201)

I would add that this is true, regardless of whether the "set
of ideas" includes God.  I therefore flow this argument to

I agree with Jim Lippard’s assessment of the debate: “I’d call the overall debate a draw; Craig won as far as effectiveness of presentation (as opposed to quality of argument).” The overall debate was a draw (in the sense that there was a 4-4 tie on individual arguments), but Jesseph spoke extremely fast and “he would occasionally drop terminology appropriate to a graduate philosophy seminar rather than a public debate” (Lippard). In contrast, Craig’s presentations always had an intuitive feel and he always spoke at the same unhurried pace.

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