The Instigator
Con (against)
2 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
23 Points


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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/8/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,448 times Debate No: 16355
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (50)
Votes (5)




Hello, here is what i would like to have happen.

My opponent will take the Pro side for christianity. I would like for them to bring forward any evidence, and any kind of argument, to prove that christianity is true, while I will ask various questions, and attempt to poke holes in their arguments.

By true I mean this. Jesus Christ was real and he was divine. I don't particularly care if Pro argues for sonship or not.

In the first round I would like Pro to accept and then to outline briefly what it is they believe, seeing as how christianity has so many different denominations.

Thank You!


Note: I gladly accept the challenge and will forgo my rebuttal in the final round so that there are an even number of exchanges between Pro and Con. Also, I am indebted to the work of William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, N.T. Wright, and Mike Licona for their approach and research on this issue.

Opening Argument:

Karl Jaspers described Jesus Christ as one of the four “paradigmatic individuals” (along with Socrates, Confucius, and Buddha), who radically changed civilization. But the teachings of Jesus stand in stark contrast to these other sages. For example, Buddha said, “Therefore, be ye lamps unto yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves. Hold fast to Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the truth as a refuge.” (1) Christ makes the much grander claim when he says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” and “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (2) I believe that these grand claims would have been consigned to an obscure section of Wikipedia if Christ had not vindicated his claims by walking out of his own tomb.

Con asked me to describe the type of Christianity I hold since there are so many different denominations. I am a Roman Catholic, but I acknowledge truths that are contained in other Christian denominations, and even truths found in other religions (such as the truth of monotheism found in Islam). However, in this debate I will defend the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Christ because this is one belief that all genuine Christians share in common.

My main argument is this: “If Christ has risen from the dead, then Christianity is true.” I believe that the resurrection hypothesis explains five facts that are relatively undisputed by New Testament scholars. If Con wishes to dispute the resolution, he must show why my hypothesis is not supported by the evidence and provide his own naturalistic explanation for the following facts.

Fact 1: Jesus’ Death by Crucifixion
1. The ancient roman historian Tacitus writes in the first century after Jesus’ death why the Roman emperor Nero persecuted Christians. He writes, “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus . . . ” (3)

2. In addition, skeptical critic John Dominic Crossan denies that Jesus rose from the dead, but even he admits, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.” (4)

Fact 2: Jesus’ Honorable Burial and Empty Tomb
1. The account of the empty tomb in Mark’s gospel is unlike later fanciful legends of Jesus. The account simply describes some of Jesus’ women followers discovering his tomb being empty, meeting a young man who tells them what has happened to Jesus, and then the women fleeing in fear. Mark’s source comes from an earlier “pre-passion narrative” that has been dated to within 7 years of the crucifixion event and is fairly protected from legendary corruption. (5)

2. It is extremely unlikely that early Christians would have fabricated the story of Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea because Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin that condemned Jesus. According to moderate critic Raymond Brown, “Joseph’s being responsible for burying Jesus is ‘very probable,’ since a Christian fictional creation of a Jewish Sanhedrist doing what is right for Jesus is ‘almost inexplicable,” (6)

3. In 1st century Palestine, the testimony of women was considered worthless and was even prohibited in courts of law. Therefore, if the empty tomb was a fabrication, then it is more likely that Mark would have described men discovering the tomb instead of women.

4. Early creeds (7) describe Jesus as being raised “on the third day,” which refers to the day that the women discovered the empty tomb (otherwise why not say he was raised on the seventh day, or the tenth day?). In addition, the Book of Acts records the speeches early Christians gave that contrast how King David decomposes in his tomb, but Christ suffers no such humiliation. (8)

5. Finally, since the Apostles preached Jesus in the city of Jerusalem where he was buried, then the Apostles, the Jewish authorities, or the Roman authorities could have falsified the belief of Jesus’ resurrection by producing his decaying corpse.

Fact 3: The Post-Resurrection Appearances
1. The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Corinthians in the early 50’s. In Chapter 15, verses 3-7, he writes about Jesus appearing to the Apostles, other Christians, and last of all, to himself. The language of “delivering” and “receiving” these accounts indicates that this section in 1 Corinthians is an ancient creed that Paul received, probably when he met with the Apostles in Jerusalem in the early 40’s. Paul would have personally met with those who claimed to have seen Jesus (like Peter or James) and verified his report as being historical, not legendary.

2. Gerd Ludemann, a scholar who denies the resurrection, affirms that the Apostles had some sort of experience of the risen Christ. He writes, “It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.” The question we must ask is, “What explains these appearances?" (9)

Fact 4: The Origin of the Disciple’s Beliefs
1. In 1st century Palestine, the Jewish people eagerly awaited the return of the messiah who would conquer their oppressors. Why did Jesus’ disciples continue to follow him even in the presence of a crushing defeat that made him appear to be a blasphemer who was abandoned by God and a failed messiah?

2. Furthermore, what motivated these people to be transformed from dejected cowards into bold Apostles willing to die for the falsifiable belief of Jesus’ resurrection? Gerd Ludemann writes, “ . . . it is certain that something must have happened after Jesus’ death which led his followers to speak of him as the risen Christ.” (10) I contend that the reality of a literal, resurrected Christ was the probable cause of their courage in the face of martyrdom.

Fact 5: The Conversion of Skeptics like Paul and James
1. Saul of Tarsus (Paul the Apostle) was a Pharisee who persecuted the ancient Church while James the “brother” of Jesus, is repeatedly depicted as rejecting Jesus’s claims. However, Saul completely reversed his beliefs and joined the Jewish heresy he had been persecuting, and the Jewish historian Josephus records how James was put to death for his beliefs about Christ (11). I contend that the best explanation for the conversion of these skeptics was an encounter with the risen Christ himself.

I argue that Christianity is true because it is the most plausible explanation of these five facts. If Con is to win this debate, he must show why my explanation is the not the most plausible and provide an alternative, naturalistic explanation of these five facts.

Copyright Trent Horn 2011 - All Rights Reserved


1. “The Buddha’s Farewell Address” in The Gospel of Buddha. Compiled from Ancient Records by Paul Carus. (Chicago and London: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1915).

2. John 8:12 and John 14:6


4. John Dominic Crossan. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, (San Freancisco: Harper Collins, 2009) 163.

5. Rudolf Pesch, Das Markusevangelium, 2 vols., Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament 2 (Freiburg: Herder, 1976-77), 2: 519-20.

6. Raymond E. Brown, Death of the Messiah, vol. 2 (New York: Doubleday, 1994), 1240.

7. 1 Corinthians 15:4

8. Acts 2:29-32

9. Gerd Ludemann. What Really Happened to Jesus? A Historical Approach to the Ressurection (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1995) 80.

10. Ludemann, 26.

Debate Round No. 1


Pro has written a really good argument and sourced it very efficiently.

"Karl Jaspers described Jesus Christ as one of the four "paradigmatic individuals" (along with Socrates, Confucius, and Buddha), who radically changed civilization. But the teachings of Jesus stand in stark contrast to these other sages. For example, Buddha said, "Therefore, be ye lamps unto yourselves, be a refuge to yourselves. Hold fast to Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the truth as a refuge." (1) Christ makes the much grander claim when he says "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

I don't see as big a difference between the two sayings as Pro does. With the exception that jesus is much more self centered than the Buddha. I think that is the biggest difference between jesus and the others. Jesus claims that he is the only one who can get you into heaven, whereas the Buddha and others claim that it is yourself that is important and the key to happiness.

Fact 1: Jesus' Death by Crucifixion

Pro has brought up Tacitus as proof that a real person named Christ was crucified. I am not going to entirely disagree with that assumption but I think we should look closer at what Tacitus wrote.

But all human efforts, all the lavish
gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not
banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an
order. Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt
and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their
abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom
the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign
of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,
and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment,
again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil,
but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every
part of the world find their centre and become popular.

Prior to this segment Tacitus details the great fire that tore through Rome, and after this passage he goes into detail how the Christians were tortured and killed. At the opening of this paragraph, Tacitus explicitly tells us that Nero blamed a class of people who were "hated for their abominations', in order to shift the focus of the people of Rome's suspicions off of him.

Tacitus tells us that this "class" was "called Christians by the populace". So who were the populace? I think it is a fair assumption that Tacitus was not referring to the "hated class" of Christians. Again, I think it is a fair assumption that Tacitus was referring to the general roman populace. So why is that important? I'll explain in a moment just keep it in mind.

Tacitus then tells us that someone, named Christus "suffered an extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus…".
Tacitus then goes on to tell us that this "mischievous superstition…" was then "checked for the moment…" but then broke out again, first in Judea and then spreading to Rome.

I would first like to point out that Tacitus made a forgivable, but important mistake. He calls Pilate a "procurator" when in fact He was not. Pilate was a "prefect". There is next to no difference in the title other than they were used at different times. So why is this important? It shows that Tacitus is a human being and is capable of making mistakes when writing about something that happened almost a century before. Tacitus wrote this in roughly 115 to 116 CE while the fire happened in 64 CE and Pilate would have executed Christ during his tenure sometime between 26 CE and 36 CE.

Next I want to point nowhere in Tacitus writing does he state that Christ was crucified. He only tells us that someone named Christ "suffered an extreme penalty". Now I am not saying that this proves he wasn't crucified, nor am I arguing that the man Tacitus is talking about wasn't crucified, I am merely pointing out that Tacitus does not specifically say what happened to the man. He is not entirely vague either, it can be assumed that the man was tortured and killed, as that you could include that in the definition of "an extreme penalty". However you could also include the slaying of his family in the above, as well as a myriad of other executions besides crucifixion. Am I saying jesus wasn't crucified? No. I am only saying that the above no more proves he was crucified than it proves he was beheaded.

Two more things I want to point out. The first being that the "extreme penalty" suffered by christus was enough to stop the "mischievous superstition" for "a moment". The death of christus, according to Tacitus, stopped the movement, but then it broke out again in Judea and the spread to Rome. Tacitus is saying that there was a lull in the growth of Christianity when jesus died. It was, an unspecified time later, that the church began to grow again. What happened in that time period?

The last thing I want to talk about with Tacitus is that he calls Christianity a "mischievous superstition". This infers that even at 115 CE Romans still looked down on Christianity as some sort of cult.

Fact 2: Jesus' Honorable Burial and Empty Tomb

Pro seems to be saying that the earlier the document the more accurate it is. By earlier I mean closer to the actual events. I agree with this, assuming that is what he means. But now I have to ask this. What "source" for mark is Pro referring to? The Q document? The common saying traditions? Neither of those say anything about the resurrection, they are a collection of sayings of jesus. So again I ask, what markan source is pro referring to?

2. Joseph of aramathea.

I am not sure what Pro is attempting to convey here.

3. Women

I have to ask, what was jesus's position on women? There are only two possible answers. 1. He regarded them in the same light as the rest of society, eg worthless, or as equal to men. I (and I imagine quite a few Christian women) would argue that it is the second case. In Pliny the younger's Epistulae number 10 he says "…from two female slaves who were styled deaconesses but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition." (Pliny, letters 10.96) also hear is the Wikipedia page on deaconesses. clearly, women played an important role in early Christianity. That being the case, it makes perfect sense for early christians would write that a woman found him, especially if they agreed with jesus that women should be equals.

4. Third Day.

Again, I'm not sure what Pro is trying to say here.

5. No body.

I agree that this helps prove that the authorities did not possess the body, but it proves little else.

Fact 3: The Post-Resurrection Appearances

This fact proves nothing. People see dead loved ones frequently, especially shortly after said loved one has passed. It is generally considered part of the grieving process rather than something miraculous. So I ask, what is more likely, that some of jesus' close followers had normal, grief visions of him, or that he rose from the dead.

Fact 4: The Origin of the Disciple's Beliefs

Fact 5: The Conversion of Skeptics like Paul and James

Fact four and five are almost identical, both use someone's belief that something happened as proof that it did. If that were the case, then alien abduction, and every cryptid is real, simply because several, reliable, eye witnesses claim to have seen it. Many skeptics of Scientology are eventually won over; this does not prove that scientology is true.


First Rebuttal

I’d like to thank Con for affirming my argument and my use of sources. I contend that the resurrection of Jesus is the best explanation of the five facts I presented in my opening argument. If Con rejects the resurrection hypothesis, then he must demonstrate why it is not plausible and provide a naturalistic explanation of these facts. Con has challenged the validity of some of my facts which I will address in this rebuttal:

Fact #1: Jesus’ Death by Crucifixion

My primary ancient source for this fact is the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus. Con attempted to cast doubt on Tacitus’ account by claiming that Tacitus mistakenly referred to Pilate as a “procurator” (a financial official) when he was actually a “prefect” (a military official). However, the Jewish historian Josephus also refers to Pilate as a procurator, so it’s possible that in a small district like Judea he simply held both titles.[i] Even Richard Carrier, one of the web’s fiercest critics of the resurrection, sees no conflict here. He writes,

“It seems evident from all the source material available that the post was always a prefecture, and also a procuratorship. Pilate was almost certainly holding both posts simultaneously, a practice that was likely established from the start when Judaea was annexed in 6 A.D. And since it is more insulting (to an elitist like Tacitus and his readers) to be a procurator, and even more insulting to be executed by one, it is likely Tacitus chose that office out of his well-known sense of malicious wit.”[ii]

Second, Con claims that Tacitus never says that the Christus was crucified, but only that he suffered an “extreme penalty,” like beheading. But this ignores the understanding in Roman society that crucifixion was generally understood as the “extreme penalty” one could suffer. For example, the Roman orator Cicero describes crucifixion as “the extreme penalty” (or in Latin the summo supplicio)[iii] and the Roman jurist Paulus listed crucifixion as the most severe punishment, even worse than burning or beheading.[iv]

Con claims Tacitus’ writing about the crucifixion 80 years later makes the testimony susceptible to error. But in comparison to other ancient histories, this account fares much better. For example, historians generally consider the biographies of Alexander the Great to be reliable even though they were written nearly 400 years after Alexander’s death. I will reaffirm the uncontested fact that only the radical fringes of New Testament scholarship challenge the authenticity of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Fact #2: Jesus' Honorable Burial and Empty Tomb

Con asks what source the empty tomb tradition is derived from in Mark’s gospel. Commentators generally observe that Mark is a loose collection of sayings and stories about Jesus’ life. However, Mark’s passion event is a continuous narrative that appears to be drawn from an earlier source that is distinct from the “sayings traditions” used earlier in the Gospel. Gerd Theissen has undertaken a lengthy study of this in his book The Gospels in Context. He writes, “We can demonstrate tensions between tradition and redaction, agreements with the Johannine passion account, and a consistent narrative motif. All of this points to a precanonical passion story . . .”[v] Furthermore, I cited Rudolf Pesch’s work describing Mark’s present tense references to “the high priest,” “the rebels” and other events that occurred before 45 A.D as evidence of the close proximity of his source to the events it describes. In regards to Joseph of Arimathea, I was noting that the description of his involvement makes it unlikely that the empty tomb was a fictional addition to Mark’s gospel, but rather an unusual, almost despised event, that was preserved in the pre-Markan source I described above.

Con argues that because early Christianity held women in high regard, the detail of women discovering the empty tomb is not unusual. However, the New Testament also records Paul capitulating to the local custom of not allowing women to speak in the assembly.[vi] So even though Christianity originated with radical views of equality, it still had societal obstacles of gender prejudice to overcome, which would have discouraged a fabricated story of women discovering the empty tomb.

Finally, Con seems willing to admit that the tomb was empty but writes, “No body. I agree that this helps prove that the authorities did not possess the body, but it proves little else.” I disagree, this fact proves that Jesus’ body was missing from the tomb and any naturalistic claim must account for this fact. Gary Habermas, a long-time researcher of the resurrection, has surveyed 2,200 articles related to Jesus’ empty tomb. 75% of these scholars are either open to the empty tomb, or accept this fact entirely.[vii]

Fact #3: The Post-Resurrection Appearances

Con admits this fact but attempts to explain it away by appealing to grief-induced hallucinations. I will address the issue of hallucinations in my next rebuttal, but remember that hallucinations cannot explain the empty tomb. If you continually saw a dead friend, and did not think you had lost your mind, you would probably check their tomb to see if they were still there. If the apostles were seeing visions of Jesus, then they could have regained their sanity by checking if he was either rotting in his tomb or if he had been raised from the dead.

Fact #4: The Origin of the Disciples’ Beliefs

Fact #5: The Conversion of Skeptics like James and Paul

In challenging facts 4 and 5, Con has confused the truthfulness of these people’s testimony with the cause of their testimony. Facts 4 and 5 merely show that a radical change took place in the disciples. Con thinks I am saying that eyewitnesses can always be trusted and tries to overturn that argument with counterexamples of untrustworthy eyewitnesses (like people who claim to be abducted by aliens). But what I argued is that it would take something extraordinary (like the resurrection) to motivate these Jews to worship a dead man who had claimed to be the messiah but was ultimately executed and considered to be a failure.

Con also claims that skeptics do convert, but we must ask, “Why did Paul convert?” Paul was not just a skeptic, but an enemy who killed Christians. I challenge Con to provide an example of a formidable critic of Scientology (his example), like Andreas Heldal-Lund, who openly converted to the religion he formerly opposed. The resurrection hypothesis provides a plausible explanation for Paul’s conversion -- that Paul saw the error of his ways when he encountered the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus.

In conclusion, Con has either explicitly or implicitly affirmed the truth of Jesus’ crucifixion, his empty tomb, the post-resurrection appearances, the radical change in the disciple’s behaviors, and the conversion of skeptics like Paul and James. I have provided a singular theory (Jesus’ resurrection) that explains all five facts without appealing to “ad-hoc” or unlikely contrivances to shore up the theory’s deficits. If Con affirms the truth of these five facts (or related versions of the facts) then he must show why the resurrection hypothesis does not adequately explain them. Then, I would ask that he propose a rival naturalistic hypothesis for us to consider. Until then, I think I have shouldered the burden of proof in providing evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.

[i] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18.6.5.

[iii] Cicero, In Verrem, 2.5.168.

[iv] Paulus. Sententiae 5.17.2

[v] Gerd Theissen, The Gospels in Context. (T&T Clark Publishers, London, 1999) 168.

[vi]1 Corinthians 14:34-35

[vii] Gary Habermas, “Experience of the Risen Jesus: The Foundational Historical Issue in the Early Proclamation of the Resurrection,” Dialog 45 (2006): 288–97)

Debate Round No. 2


Pro has set up his argument with five "facts." I use quotations because they can only be considered facts, if the canon gospels are taken as accurate histories of events that transpired decades prior to them being written. I would ask what is Pro's position on extra-canonical gospels? Does he find them as valid as the four canon? I would argue that he has to. Why? Because he has already used multiple sources that are not canon to "prove" his case.

A couple of points.

1. Tacitus never used the word "crucifixion." That is a fact. Can we assume he meant crucifixion? Probably, but an assumption is not proof.

2. At the time Tacitus wrote, jesus was not an important figure. Jesus was not a great ruler, he did not conquer the known world almost in its entirety. Was he gaining popularity? Yes. But remember that Tacitus himself referred to christianity as a superstition. How accurate would you be able to be if you had to write about scientology, without the internet.

3. I am not challenging the authenticity of the crucifixion. What I am challenging, is Pro's so called proof.

4. Pro admits that the canon gospels are based on earlier sources. This means that they are not eye witness accounts. If they are not eye witness accounts then they can only be one, or both, of two things. A re-telling of a story, or a copy of a document. Either way, they are susceptible to error.

Pro has often stated that I need to offer a naturalistic version to account for these facts. I can and will, but first lets make sure we remember what Pro is asserting.

Jesus was both man and god. He was crucified. His body was sealed in a tomb. He was dead for three days. On the third day his tomb was empty. Following that many people saw jesus. As a result they either converted or reaffirmed themselves to their religion.

So, lets ask a few questions about the above hypothesis. How can someone be both man and god? How can god die? how can someone come back from the dead?

A simple naturalistic explanation would be as follows.

Jesus was a wise man who spoke about loving each other and warned people of a coming justice. He was crucified for political reasons. His body was placed in a tomb. On the third day after his burial his tomb was found empty. Following that many of jesus close friends had grief visions of their dead savior. As a result they either converted or reaffirmed their religion.

The difference between the two stories is that one relies on supernatural constructs while the other does not. But what about the empty tomb? I ask, what is more apt to be true? A man who is also god rises from the dead? Or, the body was A) stolen? B) eaten by animals? C) never buried? or D) any one of the nearly infinite possibilities that does not rely on a supernatural explanation.

Again I want to point out that because someone believes something is real or was converted to a religion does not constitute proof that that something is real.


First I would like to thank my opponent for his insightful questions and overall conduct in this debate. In response to his points, I have a couple of points as well:

Tacitus and the Crucifixion

I think I have provided more than enough evidence to justify the belief that Jesus was executed by crucifixion, a fact with which even most liberal New Testament scholars agree. Con doesn’t really deny this point, but he says I haven’t offered “proof” that this is true. True proof can only be found in logic and mathematics, in the real world we assess the validity of facts with probabilities. For example, Tacitus’s contempt for Christians (a fact Con thinks supports his position) makes it unlikely Tacitus would consult them as a source for his writings and more likely that he used a Roman or Jewish source. This provides independent, unfavored, confirmation of Jesus’ existence and basic historicity. I have provided evidence for the crucifixion and my opponent, rather than provide evidence for an alternative account (another Gospel tradition, ancient secular historians, evidence from Paul’s letters, etc.) merely speculates that “it could have been different.” Yes it could, but we must go where the evidence leads.

The Accuracy of the Gospels

Con claims that my facts rely on the Gospels being accurate documents, but this is not true. They only rely on the New Testament documents being as reliable as any other ancient text, such as Plutarch’s Parallel Lives.[i] Plutarch’s writing is full of miracles and his account was written centuries after the events it describes, but historians do not dismiss the core historical truths that can be mined from it.

Con asks why I accept sources like Tacitus but not the extra-canonical Gospels. The answer is that the extra-canonical Gospels, like the so-called Gospel of Peter, were written in the second and third centuries well after the events they describe. In contrast, the canonical Gospels were written within the first century. Mark comes from within one generation of the crucifixion and his source for the Passion has been dated to within 7 years of that event. Likewise, I showed that the creed that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 can be dated to within 5-10 years of the crucifixion. This is just not enough time for legend to develop and wipe out the core historical facts that are described in these accounts. Greco-Roman historian A.N. Sherwin White, after conducting a textual study of Herodotus for comparison, says that the rate of legendary accumulation in the Gospels would have to occur at an “unbelievable” rate for them to be simply myth that formed in such a short time after the events they describe.[ii]

While it is true that Tacitus and Josephus are written later than the Gospels (but earlier than most extracanonical Gospels) they both have a proven track record in the ancient world as being reliable historians, so I consider their sources trustworthy. This is also the reason I trust the accounts in Acts and Luke. Luke, the author of both documents, proves himself to be a historian of the first rate. Richard Carrier, whom I cited before as probably the chief critic of the resurrection, remarked in a radio interview that while Luke was not a “critical” historian (or a naturalist), he was a “careful” historian.[iii]

Questions that Con Posed:

1. How can someone be both man and god?

To follow C.S. Lewis’s approach, the same way an author could insert himself into his own novel. The character in the novel would have all the attributes of the author and would transcend the characters, but he could also act immediately with the characters and share their attributes as well. Likewise, God the Son became man but he “emptied himself” of the independent use of his God-like abilities so that he could share our human nature.[iv]

2. How can god die?

God cannot die, but if God assumed a human nature to compliment his divine nature, then he could experience death by allowing his human nature to be killed while the divine nature remains.

3. How can someone come back from the dead?

I agree that a natural resurrection from the dead would be highly improbable. However, if God resurrected someone from the dead, then for a being that is capable of creating an entire universe, such a feat would be well-within his abilities. Furthermore, if Jesus claimed to be identical to this being, then his resurrection would vindicate those divine claims and give us a plausible explanation for such an unusual event.

One last point, even if these theological questions cannot be resolved, they only count against the way that Christ was resurrected, not the fact that he was resurrected, which was the main point I was arguing.

The Natural Explanation

Con offers the following:

“Jesus was a wise man who spoke about loving each other and warned people of a coming justice. He was crucified for political reasons. His body was placed in a tomb. On the third day after his burial his tomb was found empty. Following that many of jesus close friends had grief visions of their dead savior. As a result they either converted or reaffirmed their religion.”

I find this explanation much more improbable than the claim that Jesus validated his claims to divinity by rising from his own grave. First, why was Jesus killed by the Romans for “political reasons” when he was merely a wise man who taught people how to love? That would be like the President executing Mr. Rogers in order to maintain stability in the country. Second, why was the tomb empty? Con says that there are “near infinite” other explanations, but I don’t find them convincing.

  • Stolen – By whom, and for what reason? If the apostles stole it, then why die for the obvious lie of the resurrection? If the Romans or Jews did it, then why not present the body and crush the Christian proclamation? Who else would have the motive to steal the body?
  • Eaten by Animals – A dingo took my savior! Wouldn’t the apostles have noticed the torn burial clothes, bloodstains, and leftover parts of Jesus the animals had not eaten?
  • Never Buried – Con must overcome the evidence I presented in favor of the burial account in order to make this claim. This is especially the case since no competing burial/death account exists in the ancient sources.

As for grief-induced hallucinations, this is improbable because a hallucination is an individual occurrence. A group of people sharing a hallucination is as improbable as a group of people sharing a dream (inception not withstanding). If the Apostle’s had hallucinated, then why do they see Jesus acting the same way in the same place when each person is producing their own hallucination? Wouldn’t they describe his resurrected body and actions in radically different ways when they saw him as a group? Furthermore, Con says these grief induced hallucinations caused reaffirmation AND conversion. But Paul wasn’t suffering from grief as he even describes in his letters about how he, “used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.”[v] Grief induced hallucinations cannot explain his conversion.

Finally, I think that Con finds supernatural explanations to be intrinsically more improbable than naturalistic explanations, but why should we believe that? I will discuss this more in my conclusion, but if Jesus’ resurrection adequately explains all five facts and doesn’t contort the data to do so, then why not accept it as, maybe not a 100% proof (since we can’t attain that in history), but a rational inference to the best explanation?

[ii] A. N. Sherwin-White. Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963) 188-91.

[iv] Philippians 2:7

[v] Galatians 1:13

Debate Round No. 3


Pro continues to assert Tacitus brief paragraph as evidence that christ was crucified. There may be other supporting evidence of this, but Tacitus is not one of them. Tacitus, only tells us that the christians believed a man named christ suffered an extreme penalty under Pilate. That is all it tells us, and anything more can only be extrapolation at best or conjecture at worst.

Pro believes that Tacitus contempt for christians would lead him to consult a roman or Jewish source, thus providing an "independent, unfavored confirmation of jesus' existence and basic historicity." That's just a false assumption. I hold scientology and mormonism in contempt. However that does not mean I would go to another source for information about what they believe. Obviously the best place to find out what a religious zealot believes is from their own mouths. And in fact I have done this, even inviting the mormons in to talk when they do their witnessing. The whole point of showing Tacitus' contempt for the christians, is to show that they were viewed in much the same light as many view scientology today. A cult. So why is that important? Because it proves that just because a religion gains converts does not imply, let alone prove, in any way the veracity of its dogma.

Pro attempts to place the gospels on the same shelf as every other historical work from antiquity. I hate being so blunt, but that is just wishful thinking. Pro gives Plutarch's Parallel Lives as an example. A semi historical work. Why semi? Because it is full of miracles just like Pro Points out. He then says that historians do not dismiss the core historical truths. That does not help Pro's case in any way. Based on that statement, if we want to place the gospels in the same category as Plutarch's lives, or homers Iliad, we should completely discount all of the miracles performed in the gospels, including the resurrection.

I do not see how being a "careful" historian is better, or more accurate, than a "critical" one.

We have no original canonical documents from before the second century. Therefore, the only thing that we can know for certain is that the gospels were written down in the second century. Any other time placed on their them moves us into the land of assumption. That is why there is a debate over when these books were written, because different scholars interpret the remaining, inherent evidence, ie, style of writing, sacred abbreviations, and various other clues, differently.

Pro had said earlier that Mark was seen by many as a collection of sayings, yet the passion narrative is just that, a linear story. I am not a paleo anything, but that to me would suggest that the narrative was added on later, especially considering it is impossible for us to know with complete certainty what mark originally contained, if our only source is a document from the second century.

Legend. How many people believe JFK was assassinated by multiple shooters involved in a nearly global conspiracy? Mind you that Jim Garrison began his investigation in 1966, three years after the event and went to trial in 69. That is an incredible short time for a legend to develop, yet one did.

Writing about yourself does not create a new person. That character would not be you, it would be a projection of you. If god divests himself of his power, then who was running the universe for the thirty some years he was jesus? I realize that this is facetious but it just really grinds my gears.

If god had become man, then his sacrifice would be meaningless. Allowing your human nature to die but remaining divine is not the same as a man dying. A man knows he will not come back, but a divine creature knows that it is only temporary. That's a big difference. Reminds me of the question, can an all powerful being create a rock he cannot move?

I realize the above two points aren't really about the historicity of chrisitanity, but I do believe they play an important part in the overall idea of an omnipotent being.

I would like for Pro to present the bible verse where jesus explicitly claimed to be god. not in some vague "son of man" but, "I am god."

I have to ask, why is a supernatural explanation more likely than a natural one? Wouldn't it make sense to completely eliminate any possible natural explanation before turning towards the supernatural one?

Pro asked why, if the apostles stole the body, would they die for a lie they had created? People are willing to die for reasons much less significant than a religion.

Never buried? I present to you John Domminic Crossan's work, The Historical Jesus. Crossan contends that there was no trial before Pilate or Herod and that christ's burial place was unknown and he may not have even been buried at all. This is a competing burial/death account that Pro has ignored.

Pro called using a supernatural explanation a "rational inference." The mere fact that something is supernatural means that it defies rationality.


In my closing argument, I would like to summarize the case I made for Christianity and answer a few final questions.

Con posed the challenge that someone prove Christianity is true. Because Christianity is rooted in the historical events of the life of Jesus, I have taken on the challenge of providing historical evidence for his chief miracle, the Resurrection. While I can’t provide absolute proof (that kind of proof is only possible in mathematics) I think I can provide evidence to make Christian belief rational, or warranted by evidence. In the religio-social context of first century Palestine, Jesus’ resurrection vindicated his claims to being divine and showed Christianity is true. Con wondered where in Scripture Jesus claims to be God. That would be a topic for another debate, but one example I can offer would be that after Jesus’ resurrection he allows the apostle Thomas to call him “My Lord and My God” and doesn’t bother to correct him on the point (John 20:28).

I have used what many apologists consider to be a “minimal facts approach” to the Resurrection. I propose that Christ rising from the dead explains the existence of facts that themselves are fairly uncontroversial, but still require an explanation. I am NOT claiming that the Bible is the Word of God, and therefore the Resurrection happened because it is in the Bible. Even people who are skeptical of the miracle claims in the New Testament, just as they are skeptical for miracles in other ancient works, can weigh the strength of the Resurrection hypothesis in light of these five facts that I think are best explained by it. I don’t see how it’s fair to say at the outset, “miracles are impossible” because how could someone know they are in fact impossible?

Fact 1: Death by Crucifixion. Con has consistently denied the testimony of Tacitus but I feel that I provided adequate justification for the veracity of this ancient history. Furthermore, I cited radical critic John Dominic Crossan, someone who denies the Resurrection, but says we have very good grounds in believing that Jesus was crucified. If Con trusts Crossan’s theories on the burial (which he cites in his last rebuttal), then why not trust Crossan on the crucifixion? This does not mean that I agree with Crossan’s account of the burial of Jesus, but that at least Con has no firm grounds for denying the crucifixion itself.

Fact 2: Jesus’ Honorable Burial and Empty Tomb: I showed that the burial by Joseph of Arimathea comes from early material in Mark’s Gospel that is unlikely to be totally corrupted by legend. Further, if Jesus’ tomb was not empty, then the apostles or the Roman/Jewish authorities could have falsified Christianity by producing Jesus’ body. Con claims that Crossan provides another account of Jesus’ burial, but what I meant was another ancient account. Given that no other Gospel, speech in Acts, or Pauline letter, refers to Jesus being thrown into a common grave, and that it would be unlikely that Mark would invent a fictional member of the Sanhedrin helping Jesus (on par with writing about a fictional member of George Bush’s cabinet burying Sadaam Hussein), I see no reason to accept Crossan’s account over the standard account of Jesus’ honorable burial and empty tomb.

On the point of legends and JFK – yes rumors can grow quickly, but in just a few years the historical core of an event cannot be wiped out. For example, legends about JFK involve unfalsifiable details about conspiracies and multiple shooters. Jesus’ burial and empty tomb is simple and was the first standard account of the end of his life that could be checked by the Apostles and other people. Further, the legends that grew from the event (like the accusations from Jewish authorities that the body was stolen) presuppose the earlier account that the body was no longer there.

Fact 3: The post –Resurrection Appearances: Almost all critics agree that the Disciple’s saw something that made them believe Jesus was alive again. While many people do have grief-induced hallucinations, very few actually go to the cemetery to see if their loved one has risen from the dead. They simply admit that they are having visions that aren’t real. Furthermore, the corpse in the tomb would quickly bring them back to reality. But Jesus’ missing body validates the authenticity of these appearances which are hard to explain away as “group hallucinations” (remember my earlier point on the unlikeliness of “group dreams” being similar to group “hallucinations”).

Fact 4: The Origin of the Disciple’s Belief: Even if the disciple’s believed Jesus was “raised,” the traditional Jewish belief was that the resurrection would not occur until the end of time, and that dead Jewish heroes lived in the afterlife until that time. For Christians to reject this core Jewish belief and change their worship from the Saturday Sabbath to Sunday, would take a life-altering event. I pointed out there were many other failed messiah’s in Jesus’ day, but their followers did not preach that they had risen from the dead. Something must be different in the case of Jesus.

In addition, If Christ had physically risen then that would inspire them to endure horrendous martyrdom (such as being eaten alive by lions). Yes, Con is right people die for many things, but the Apostles were in a position (unlike the 9/11 hijackers or other such martyrs) to know that what they believed was a lie. So the proverbial question remains, “Who would painfully die for a lie?”

Fact 5: The Conversion of Skeptics: Con claims that people convert to religions all the time, but I am talking about full-blown enemies of the religions converting. I’m also not talking about converting to a different philosophy or way of thinking, but of accepting the belief that a dead man had risen and that you talked to him. Grief induced hallucinations could help Con explain away the disciple’s beliefs (though I showed even that’s unlikely), but what explains the “hallucinations” of Paul and James? Even if they did eat some “bad mushrooms,” wouldn’t it be more plausible that they thought they were simply crazy, and not that a man (from their perspective) who had been cursed by God had risen from the dead? However, if Jesus really did physically appear these skeptics, then that would naturally explain their sudden and unexpected change of beliefs and attitude.

Con said in his last rebuttal that the supernatural “defies rationality.” But in a world where we boldly explore esoteric concepts like M-Theory, String theory, Brane Theory, Up and Down Quarks, and other unobservable fantastic concepts, what is so irrational about the existence of a mind that simply created those things and everything else? And if a being had the power to create all of that, wouldn’t it be child’s play for him to bring someone back from the dead?

In closing, I’d like to thank my opponent for an engaging debate on an important issue. While many Christians have done the cause of Christ a disservice when arguing for him, I hope that I have simply submitted good reasons for those who are open to truth to consider and evaluate. For those of you who think Christians take everything on blind faith, I close with this verse from the First letter of Peter, “Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you, but do so with gentleness and reverence.” (1 Peter 3:15-16)

Debate Round No. 4


HandsofManos forfeited this round.


As promised in my opening statement, I will forgo this round so that there are an even number of rounds between Con and myself.
Debate Round No. 5
50 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by medic0506 5 years ago
oops, that was for liab.
Posted by medic0506 5 years ago
""Chirstians are not followers there fans" - You cant follow a "religion" and filter its rules. Lol."

If we were perfect beings we wouldn't have needed Christ, to begin with. How do you know that you're interpreting the rules correctly??
Posted by HandsofManos 5 years ago
sorry i missed the deadline. i was only going to write a conclusion and wrap up what i had already argued.
Posted by Amveller 5 years ago
great debate!!
Posted by BangBang-Coconut 5 years ago
Awesome round so far guys~
Posted by Trent_H 5 years ago

It's hard to tell I'm more of a classical apologist because I'm arguing the resurrection, which tends to rely on historical evidences. But I agree with WLC that if God exists, then he could reveal himself to people in subjective was that would be convincing to them, but simply not be objective evidence for God.

It's not one of my main arguments for him, but I don't think all believes need empirical or objective evidence for them to be rationally held. Even though I'm not Reformed, I like some of Alvin Plantinga's work on this subject.
Posted by HandsofManos 5 years ago
i think yurock has missed the point of debating
Posted by yurock 5 years ago
The truth is that it really depends on what religion you are. If you're Christian, Jesus was our Messiah because that's what the bible told us. If your Jewish, you would believe that Jesus was just a regular Joe and Jane. If you don't believe in Jesus, I don't give a ****. It doesn't matter to me if you don't believe in him because I do. End of discussion.
Posted by Meatros 5 years ago
Trent - I find that interesting (the classical part), considering your debate here.

While I agree that presuppositionalism seems like one big act of begging the question, I find it interesting. Especially considering various epistemological theories.

I guess I appreciate anything that makes me think, you know? Whether I ultimately agree with it or not. That's why I appreciate your debate here (and the other one). I don't agree, but it makes me think. :-)

Job well done.
Posted by liab 5 years ago
"Chirstians are not followers there fans" - You cant follow a "religion" and filter its rules. Lol.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by medic0506 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro laid out a very good case, supported by good sources. Con's case got weaker with each round, and he seemed to resort to attempts to rationalize, based on his understanding, as a way of refuting pro's arguments. Good attempt by con but he just didn't have as much to work with as did pro, ultimately he forfeited the last round. Overall an excellent job by pro.
Vote Placed by KeytarHero 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's arguments were just better. Con failed to adequately respond and cast doubt on Pro's arguments. Also, Con forfeited his last round.
Vote Placed by JoshBrahm 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This didn't turn out to be as strong of a debate as I thought it would in the beginning. Pro provided strong arguments, and Con seemed to haphazardly throw skeptical counter-explanations at him, but it never got much farther than that. Even so, Pro patiently responded to each argument Con offered, and is clearly the winner of this debate.
Vote Placed by vardas0antras 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Conduct: Forfeit. Spelling and Grammar: Pro has obviously invested more time in this category. (Arguments) I dislike total victory and so I'll refrain from voting on this one.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:24 
Reasons for voting decision: This was not close, but could have been. It seemed like Con rushed in spite of a powerful presentation by Trent and while raising valid points, did so very tersely. This could have been a tie if Con committed fully with the same effort as Trent. 4:2 Pro