Wednesday, October 7, 2009

James White v. Dan Barker

Copied from Last Words Radio.

Dr. James White debated Dan Barker on the “Jesus Myth” answering the question about Jesus being a mashup of pagan myths. Read their article here. Or, watch the full video here. Our own Josh Elsom had the privilege of interviewing James White before the debate and you can listen to it here.

Here are Josh’s thoughts after the interview and debate.

At the beginning of Dan Barker's opening statement I leaned over to Paul Kaiser and said,"Man this stuff just does not sound that convincing, I think I could argue against this." Then the knots he was tying progressively got more complicated. He gave a lot of quotes from historical texts that seem to present a pretty parallel story to Jesus. So at the surface it seemed rather convincing. At this point I leaned over to Paul and said that I was glad to be sitting down here and not in Dr. White's seat.

It was when Dr. White got to the cross examination that the claims of Dan came clear to me. Dan's position was this:

We have a lot of stories that are very similar to the Gospel account therefore the probability that the Jesus story was authentic,unique, and original goes way down. Dan admitted that this was not empirical proof that the Gospels were fabricated but the odds are really stacked against it being true.

This is what I gleaned from Dr. White's presentation:

That there are similarities in the story prove nothing and is not surprising. Every religion purposes to answer the BIG questions of Life. Where did I come from? What am I here for? and What will happen to me when I die? Therefore there is bound to be similarity in the stories. e.g. There is a creator that transcends what he/she created. There is some level of accountability/ethic that is owed to that creator. There is some version of Heaven, Nirvana, Valhalla, crossing the Styx or Hell, Hades, Tartaros, etc.

While some of the myths precede the time of Jesus, most often the close parallelism that Dan was suggesting did not happen until some time after the spread of Christianity.

The myths that seem to have parallel storylines are often not nearly as close as suggested upon deeper study. Unbelievers will find a theme, in the Bible, Jesus' resurrection for instance, then go to the myth and try and shoehorn that theme into it. Then they will clothe the myth with Christian terminology and say,"See, Mithra rose from the dead too."

The NT Gospels are not written in the same way as the alleged parallel myths. It is written as investigated historical fact, Luke and Acts in particular.

There is no way that Mark could have written and convinced a bunch of devout Jews that their Messiah was Jesus using a bunch of recycled pagan myths.

Here are some objections that I raised in my own head:

We have external confirmation that the Jesus story is true while the others do not. There were over 500 people that witnessed the resurrected Jesus. No one can provide any evidence to substantiate the life or existence of any of the other gods.

Jesus fulfilled hundreds of prophecies that were centuries older than the myths that have supposed parallels to Jesus' story. So Jesus' story was written far before He was born in Bethlehem.

This is a question that I wrote and which was selected and asked in the audience question segment of the debate:

We have thousands of Flood myths from all over the world from every conceivable people group; using your logic on probabilities wouldn't the parallelism of these myths increase the likelihood that a global flood actually occurred?

I found Dan Barker to be condescending, disrespectful and disingenuous. He made repeated insults against Jesus and the Faith, he violated the rules of the debate, and he made claims about Christianity that he absolutely must know are not true. Being that he grew up in church and studied the Bible there is no way he could honestly misrepresent what we believe in such a gross way. He did not seem interested in convincing any of us Christians that we were wrong, rather it appeared to me that he was far more interested in reaffirming the unbelief of the atheists that were present

Thanks, Josh, for a great contribution to the show!
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