The Empty Apologetic

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 9: “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”)

We come at last to the big question: did God raise Jesus from the dead? It’s chapter 9 out of 10 chapters, which is pretty strange if you think about it. Here’s a book whose goal, as stated on the front cover, is “defending your faith with precision and reason.” His tone throughout the book has been triumphalistic: the glorious truth of the gospel is driving back the dark clouds of doubt and criticism, and atheists are retreating, noisily but inevitably (at least to hear him tell it).

And yet he’s only just now tackling the problem of convincing us that Jesus really rose from the dead. Why? What better defense of the Gospel could there be than a Savior raised by God from the dead? If Jesus really rose, then there’s no point in appealing to superstitions about how the universe began, or whether it’s “fine tuned,” or where morals come from. And if he didn’t rise, well, all those superstitions and rationalizations aren’t going to help. Yet here we are, at the end of the book, reluctantly broaching the topic. It’s like he wanted to be sure we had to wade through 8 chapters of superstition and excuses before he dared expose the reasoning that permits him to conclude that Jesus really rose. Surely by now the skeptics will have gotten fed up and left, and only the truly gullib faithful will remain.

It’s safe, Jesus. You can come out now.

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Shameless faith

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 8: “Who Was Jesus?”)

We’re getting to the end of Chapter 8, and it’s been interesting to watch William Lane Craig grasping at straws to try and make his case that Jesus thought of himself as something special. Unfortunately, he’s drawing his evidence from a community of authors who were united and motivated by a common story they were all collaborating on: the Gospel. In the end, all he can really show us is that those authors, over decades of working together, agreed that Jesus ought to be remembered as someone who thought very highly of himself. Whether he really did or not (or whether he even ever existed) is another question entirely.

But there’s one other thing that Craig can show us, and that is the skill with which many believers absorb conflicting evidence without letting the inconsistencies disturb their faith. This is why I have a problem with using “embarrassment” as a criterion for determining historical authenticity: before embarrassment can influence a story, you must first have someone who is capable of being embarrassed! And when it comes to their faith, many Christians aren’t, as Craig will demonstrate for us today.

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The Theological Construction Kit

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 8: “Who Was Jesus?”)

When I was a kid, my favorite toy was my TinkerToy set. It was simple, it was fun, and with a bit of imagination, you could construct whatever you want just by putting the right pieces together. As an adult, I don’t play much with TinkerToys any more, but apparently you can achieve the same sort of effect with the Bible, and in some circles you even get to refer to the result as “history.” But I’m getting ahead of myself.

William Lane Craig is arguing for the historicity of three titles allegedly claimed by Jesus: Messiah, Son of God, and Son of Man. As it turns out, however, none of the passages Craig cites actually portray Jesus as making any explicit claim to be Messiah, and the “Son of God” claims have some historical problems. Moreover, despite dismissing extrabiblical documents as fraudulent (when used to dispute the historicity of Jesus), Craig turns around and cites them as reliable authorities when it suits his argument to do so. Will he continue the same pattern when it comes to the title “Son of Man”? Or will he add even more complications to his case?

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God’s bastard

(Book: On Guard, by William Lane Craig. Chapter 8: “Who Was Jesus?”)

Over the past couple weeks, we’ve seen that William Lane Craig wants Jesus to be the Messiah, to the point that he’s not too picky about what he’s willing to accept as an authentic claim to Messiahship.  In this week’s installment, we’ll see that he also wants Jesus to be the Son of God, with a similar bias. This week, however, the bias shows up not so much in what he accepts, but rather in what he omits.

A number of authors have written recently about the theory that Jesus never existed and that virtually all of the New Testament stories about him are fabrications, confabulations, and myths. If this theory is correct, then there’s really not much to say about this portion of Chapter 8. Craig presents his case under the assumption that there is a genuine history of Jesus that can be reliably recovered by studying the Gospels in their historical context. If that assumption is false, then both his reasoning and his conclusions are moot, since there was no “Jesus” to claim to be anything.

I’m not taking that path, however. For one thing I’m not too familiar with the evidence against the historical existence of Jesus, and since I haven’t seen enough to convince me, I’m not going to try and convince anyone else. But the other reason is that I’ve noticed something strange, even within the context of Craig’s assumptions. He wants to argue that Jesus saw himself as the unique son of God, or better yet, as a Trinitarian God the Son. He’s forgetting one very important element of the story however. According to the modern Christian canon, God somehow impregnated a woman (who was not His wife), and the offspring of this union was Jesus. That makes Jesus literally God’s bastard son, a relationship of mere biology rather than shared deity.

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