This debate ( audio | video | transcript | 1h54m56s ) between Craig and Historian Bart Ehrman took place in 2006 and concerned the topic of Jesus' Resurrection.
5 stars. BEST
APF review: 4/5
CSA reviews: bad*
Ed the MSP review: Ehrman won
Big White Ogre review/assessment 1 & 2
AXP kinda review
This is one of the best debates on the topic. It is also one where Craig clearly lost, imo. There is a lot to this debate so this will be a long post. It will also jump around a little, if you want a nice short review then I suggest you look at my Craig mini-reviews post here and my Where to Start page under this topic.
Craig gives his usual arguments for the resurrection (Jesus' burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances and the disciples coming to believe in Jesus which could only be due to the pm appearances) but condenses it to make more relevant comments on Ehrman. It definitely sounds like Craig saw his mission in this debate was to discredit Ehrman because of how popular his books like Misquoting Jesus have been with the general public. Craig was more subtle about doing this when compared to James White when the latter debated Ehrman a few years ago. I talk about that debate here and about how down-right whiny James White sounded when he kept complaining about how much popularity Ehrman's books were getting.
Craig's First Rebuttal:
Anyways, like I mentioned, Craig also addresses some stuff concerning Ehrman specifically. Craig does what some might see as being kind of underhanded and attributes concessions about his arguments to Ehrman that Ehrman later states are incorrect and/or out of context. Craig later goes on to talk about Bayes Theorem and probability and discusses a book called Hume's Abject Failure. Playing with this book's title he says that Ehrman is committing something called "Ehrman's Egregious Error" and then he further talks about another issue he takes with Ehrman's position which he labels "Bart's Blunder."
Now I've read a few people talking about how they saw this as poisoning the well and as being cheap, but I didn't. I thought it was Craig being fun and I think it was more good-natured ribbing than mean-spiritedness on Craig's part. You can find this part in the transcript.
Ehrman's Opening and First Rebuttal:
Bart gave a really good opening speech and did his usual schtick. He talked about how his arguments are not the same arguments against miracles used by Hume (which is what Craig claims) but are instead, arguments specific to doing history and the usage of probability. He also gives a plausible narrative that does not invoke the supernatural to account for the four arguments that Craig gave. For his first rebuttal, Bart comes out like a hurricane, calling out all the contradictions in the gospels, calling Craig out on only relying on Christian scholars when talking about what the consensus of scholars think about the resurrection, asks three questions of Craig and gives another scenario that could account for the four arguments Craig gave in his opening speech. And Ehrman brings up whether or not Craig thinks the stuff in the book of Matthew is historical, something brought up by Avalos in his debate with Craig. He does more but he ends with the following three questions: 1) Are the gospels free from errors; 2) What does Craig think about other contemporary miracle workers and messiahs wrt a historical perspective; and 3) roughly: "How is it that the faith that he adopted as a
teenager happens to be the only one that is historically credible?" These questions have more to them so I suggest you read them in full in the transcript.
The Second Rebuttals:
Craig addresses some of the points made by Ehrman but not the questions he asks and he also doesn't comment on the scenario Ehrman offered. This allowed Ehrman to note these things in his second rebuttal and to assert another plausible scenario that could account for the four arguments raised by Craig. Ehrman was also able to drive home the fact that the narratives he presented are still more realistic than a miracle. He also discussed how Craig couldn't just invoke god when talking about history though Craig asserts that the debate wasn't about what historians can and cannot do (I guess he forgot about his debate with Cavin in 1995 where he chided Cavin for relying on arguments that can't be used by historians but...you know...).
Craig ends by asserting that Ehrman didn't address his arguments and then preached about finding Jesus. This is where Ehrman really nails Craig down (bad pun?). Ehrman was able to summarize how he did address Craig's arguments and how Craig did not address both of his plausible narratives that would explain the 4 facts Craig presented AND he didn't answer the questions Ehrman asked. This is the most explicit time in all of Craig's debates where it was obvious that he avoided addressing some of the things brought up by his opponent and Ehrman was on the ball and called him on it. I mean, heck, Craig even said he didn't answer Ehrman's questions as his closing remark. Furthermore, Ehrman called out Craig for what his real motives are in this subject and that's to push his theological agenda. Price does this at length in his 1999 debate with Craig, but does it in his opening speech and spends too much time on it. Ehrman did it at the end and did so right when it was fresh in everyone's mind that Craig decided to tell his personal experiences with Jesus instead of addressing another narrative and three questions brought up by Ehrman. It was beautiful.
During the Q&A we get some good questions, Mike Licona asks the first one of Ehrman! Also, someone asked Craig about the three questions Ehrman asked to which Craig gave the weakest and cheapest response to: this is just Ehrman using a "debater's trick" that he won't deign to respond to. This is weak for several reasons:
a) It isn't, Craig's using the gospels to buttress his claims that a supernatural event occurred, Ehrman is allowed to call into question their accuracy.
b) Craig does address one of Ehrman's scenarios by talking about the clothes left in the empty tomb, but that is something mentioned in another gospel (Matt) that is later than the Markan gospel, which means that Craig is actually using both earlier and later sources, something he mentioned he didn't mess around with and...
c) A "debater's trick"?! Craig, that's your thing, that's totally weak to fall back on. You might have a better chance of getting away with saying your arguments for God's existence aren't dependent on biblical inerrancy, but this is a debate about the resurrection of Jesus, you need to address the fact that the bible reeks of man-made concepts and assertions.
Concerning the math:
I think Craig messed up in deciding to spend so much time on this argument in the debate. Craig spends too much time trying to discuss the probability calculus involved in Bayesian probabilities. He sets up the classic probability problem:
(look this stuff up on wikipedibutt)
Now I love math but suck at it (what a cruel world?) so I can't explain to you how this is wrong but others have and I suggest you look into what they say. What I'll talk about is how it is used in the debate. Basically, Craig wasted too much time talking about it. I don't think the audience appreciated it, and yeah, it might seem slick to bust out math in a history debate, but besides Craig taking too long to make it relevant, Ehrman also simply dismissed it (though I agree that he mischaracterized the point Craig was trying to make when he did so) and moved on without having to worry about Craig calling him out on it like he usually does when someone doesn't address all of his arguments.
Later on in the Q&A someone asked Craig to explain what the result would be if the stuff from the resurrection were plugged into the equation to which Craig responded that we would end up with an "estimate of 0.97 for the resurrection of Jesus..." Holy crap! That beats a 0.05 confidence interval, that is an estimate of there being a 97% chance that Jesus rose from the dead! Even Craig chuckles with the audience when he says this and declares that he doesn't use it. This lead to Ehrman getting pretty heated, however and I think he shoulda kept more calm at this point.
Technical: Very queit AQ, unfortunately. This is especially so for the Q&A portion too. The video is watchable.
A list of mini-reviews of Craig's debates can be found here!
*Luke Muehlhauser. is pretty critical, I think the only time he ever
officially says someone beat Craig is in his debate with Keith Parsons.
The way I see it is that on Luke's scale good means great and bad means
good...or they could just mean what the words actually mean. I also think he was one of the people impressed by Craig using math and thought it was a huge blunder on Ehrman's part to dismiss Craig's comments on Hume. It is weird because Luke praised Price for spending almost all of his opening speech attacking the dishonest agenda behind Craig's methodology yet completely glossed over the more timely and forceful way Ehrman does it in this debate.