As the last part of this blog article’s title suggests, this is the second part in a two part series in which I respond to Dr. Lydia McGrew’s criticisms of The Minimal Facts Approach as a method of justifiably inferring the resurrection of Jesus. I have to say that I am even more disappointed with the level of argumentation in this one than I was in the previous one. The article I’ll be responding to is titled “When Minimal Is Minimalizing”. And I have hyperlinked it so the reader can read it for himself. Now I shall move on to offering my responses.
William Lane Craig Says The Gospels Are Both Reliable and Unreliable, and Conflates Inerrancy With Reliability?
Like the previous article, Dr. McGrew references a Question Of The Week article from ReasonableFaith.org. “#454 Scriptural Inerrancy and the Apologetic Task”, William Lane Craig, December 27, 2015 — https://www. reasonablefaith.org/question-answer/P110/scriptural-inerrancy-and-the-apologetic-task
This is part of an ongoing series of articles from Dr. Craig in which he writes reponses to questions and objections about and to Christianity sent to him over e-mail. Some of them go into quite a bit of depth and others are somewhat short, but this is one of my favorite features of Dr. Craig’s website. Dr. Craig received a question from a person named Joe who basically asked in a nutshell “Shouldn’t we argue for the reliability of the gospels?” Dr. McGrew cites this part of Dr. Craig’s response;
“The task of apologetics is to lay out a rational justification for the truth of the Christian worldview. By “the Christian worldview” I do not mean the entire body of Christian doctrine. I mean the broad outlines of a view that would merit appending the label “Christian” to that view. More simply, it is what is necessary and sufficient to believe for becoming a Christian. This sort of minimalist understanding of the Christian worldview is what C. S. Lewis called “mere Christianity.” The central pillars of the Christian worldview, it seems to me, are the existence of God and His decisive self-revelation in Jesus, as shown by His raising him from the dead. If one comes to believe those two things, then one ought to become a Christian, and the rest is working out details.
Now, as you point out, in order to provide justification for those two beliefs, one needn’t affirm biblical inspiration, much less inerrancy. The arguments of natural theology for God’s existence don’t depend upon biblical inerrancy, nor does demonstrating the crucial facts about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, including his radical personal claims, whereby he put himself in God’s place, and the key events undergirding the inference to his resurrection from the dead.
Popular Christian apologists have long given lip service to this point but did not really take it seriously, as revealed by their resorting to implausible harmonizations in order to defend the Gospel accounts against any allegation of error. Such measures are unnecessary. The fact is that the central facts undergirding the inference to Jesus’ resurrection are granted by the wide majority of New Testament scholars today, even those who think that the Gospels are rife with errors and inconsistencies. For example, my Doktorvater Wolfhart Pannenberg argued for the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection and empty tomb, even though he thought that the empty tomb stories in the Gospels are so legendary that they have “scarcely a historical kernel” in them. I think that Pannenberg seriously underestimated the historical credibility of the empty tomb accounts, principally due to the work of the German critic Hans Grass; but never mind: the point is that he well illustrates how someone can have a historically justified belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection without a commitment to the inerrancy of the texts.
So I almost never argue with an unbeliever about biblical inerrancy. I’ll concede for the sake of argument virtually all the errors and inconsistencies in the Old and New Testaments that he wants to bring up, while insisting that the documents collected into what was later called the New Testament are fundamentally reliable when it comes to the central facts undergirding the claims and fate of Jesus of Nazareth. For the apologetic task it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which day of the week he was crucified, how many angels were at the tomb, and so on. So long as the central facts are secure, the unbeliever ought to become a Christian.” “#454 Scriptural Inerrancy and the Apologetic Task”, William Lane Craig, December 27, 2015 — https://www. … Continue reading
McGrew takes Dr. Craig to task for bringing up issues like inspiration and inerrancy. But this seems odd to me. The questioner himself said “It does not matter if the New Testament is inerrant or even inspired – it only matters if it is true!” and Dr. Craig’s response was an affirmation of what this person said, followed by some reasons why. But Dr. Craig goes on to say, in effect, that not even historical reliability of the New Testament is needed to get to the central truth claims about Jesus. Just applying the criteria of authenticity will, even if the gospels are generally unreliable, some kernels of historical truths on which you can base an inference to several facts. That Jesus died by crucifixion, that His tomb was empty, that The 12 Disciples experienced something they perceived to be the risen Jesus, that a church persecutor named Saul Of Tarsus became a Christian on the basis of what he believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus, just to name a few. Almost all New Testament Scholars – even skeptical ones – will grant these. though the Empty Tomb is more hotly debated, with only 75% of scholars affirming it according to Gary Habermas’ reckoning. From there, you can argue over which explanation best accounts for all the data. So whether The New Testament is reliable or not, Jesus’ crucixion is still multiply attested by Josephus, Tacitus, Mara Bar Sarapian, Lucian Of Samosata, The Synoptic Gospels, John, and Paul. And therefore by the criterion of multiple attestation, it is likely to be historical. It’s just ridiculous to think that 7 independent writers could all make up a fictional event and treat it as history. Regardless of whether the gospels are reliable, it is still highly embarassing for the gospels to report women as being the chief witnesses to the empty tomb given the low view of women and their credibility of that day and age. Josephus said a woman’s testimony was so non-credible that they weren’t even allowed to witness in a court of law. Josephus wrote: “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility … Continue reading In light of these facts, how remarkable that it is women who are said to be the discoverers of the empty tomb. If the gospel authors were making up a story wholecloth, they would have made male disciples (like Peter or John) be the discoverers of the empty tomb. The fact that it is women rather than men who are said to have discovered the empty tomb is best explained by the fact that this is actually what happened, as akward as it was for the gospel authors to admit such a thing. Whatever else actually happened according to the gospel authors, we can at least be sure by the criterion of embarrassment that this actually took place. Women discovered the tomb empty.
William Lane Craig is then quoted as saying “With unbelievers we should simply make the case that the documents collected into the New Testament are reliable enough to warrant the beliefs that Jesus understood himself to be the Messiah, the unique Son of God, and the Danielic Son of Man, and that his crucifixion, burial, empty tomb, post-mortem appearances, and the origin of his disciples’ belief in his resurrection are historically well-founded.” “#454 Scriptural Inerrancy and the Apologetic Task”, William Lane Craig, December 27, 2015 — https://www. … Continue reading To which McGrew responds “So the Gospels should be deemed ‘reliable‘ on the grounds that they were right about these few things, even if we concede virtually everything else negative that a skeptical interlocutor says about them. But this is just a strange use of the term ‘reliable.’ There is a huge difference between saying that a document, though riddled with errors and contradictions with other accounts, happens to get a few extremely minimal claims right and saying that the document is reliable! Craig here seems to confuse ‘getting a few big, minimal things right’ with ‘being reliable’ in a meaningful sense.” Lydia McGrew, “When Minimalism Is Minimalizing”, March 1st 2018 http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2018/03/when_minimal_is_minimizing.html To me this seems like an uncharitable characterization of what Dr. Craig said. He explicitly used the term “Reliable Enough”. He’s clearly setting a minimal bar of reliability that must be met in order for us to use the New Testament documents in our case. For example, if the gospels were written 500 years after the life of Jesus, they would be far too late to be useful, and legend theories would be extremely plausible. This is one of the problems that plague many of the apocryphal gospels such as the Gospel Of Thomas, The Gospel Of Peter. et. al. They’re far too removed from the events to be considered anything other than mythical embellishments meant to propagate ideology (e.g gnosticism, docetism).
I think Dr. Craig would agree that if we can establish that the gospels were written within the first century, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses, and that the authorial intent of the text was to record history, that is all we need for a minimal facts approach to go forward. Of course, as William Lane Craig said on The Reasonable Faith Podcast, “Objection To The Minimal Facts”, May 6th 2018 — … Continue reading It would be silly to apply the criteria of authenticity to a work clearly intended to be fiction. Thus, all you really need to do is establish that the gospel authors were recording history. That isn’t terribly hard to do, and most skeptical scholars interested in historical Jesus studies or New Testament will grant you that. They don’t think the gospels are reliable in the sense that they get a ton of things right, but they will grant that recording what happened was their intent. They might say some legend got mixed in with fact. Because it’s generally agreed that the genre of the gospels are Greco-Roman Biographies.
Minimal Facts Approach Cannot Get You To “Jesus’ Radical Claims”?
Dr. Lydia McGrew wrote \\“I note as well the rather careful statement of Jesus’ ‘radical personal claims.’ One would normally have expected these to include the fairly direct claims to deity in the Gospel of John, such as, ‘I and the Father are one,’ but it’s pretty clear that Dr. Craig is wording the claims in a more restrained fashion so as not to depend upon those passages in John and so as to depend instead on the synoptics alone–‘the Danielic Son of Man,‘ ‘the unique Son of God,’ etc. This is (I would strongly guess) because unfortunately even some evangelical scholars are prepared to doubt the historicity of the unique statements in John. So the Gospels must be granted to be so unreliable that even our statement of Jesus’ ‘radical personal claims’ has to be minimal.”\\ — Lydia McGrew, “When Minimalism Is Minimalizing”, March 1st 2018 http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2018/03/when_minimal_is_minimizing.html
Yes, we minimal guys don’t use Jesus’ high christological statements in John as evidence that Jesus claimed to be God. Although I should add the caveat that it isn’t because a minimal facts approach prohibits use of the gospels, but because none of the criteria of authenticity can be used on verses such as John 10:30 and John 8:58. McGrew doesn’t expliclty say this, but from her wording, it’s implied that focusing on titles such as “Son Of Man”, “Son Of God”, and “Messiah” means that we can’t use the most blatant claims to deity Jesus made.
However, as I have pointed out repeatedly on my web show, Cerebral Faith Live, Jesus’ response to Caiaphas during his trial in Mark 14 is probably THE most blatant claim to deity that there is. In fact, I think it’s probably BETTER than those two verses in John’s gospel. I don’t want to rehearse all of it here to avoid making this article longer than it needs to be, so I’ll defer the reader to the episode titled “The High Christology Of Mark’s Gospel”. The part about Jesus’ response to Caiaphas is covered from 57:00 – 1:04:04. I hope you take the time to watch that clip in this time stamp. In the earliest gospel, we have the most radical claim of Jesus! In fact, as I point out in the above stream, Jesus as God is presented repeatedly throughout Mark’s gospel. If you can make a case that this is what the historical Jesus said, this would be enough by itself. Can this be done? What criteria of authentity apply here? I’ll mention just one. In William Lane Craig’s book “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision”, he writes;
“It’s very likely that Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man. This was Jesus’ favorite self-description and is the title found most frequently in the gospels (over eighty times). Yet remarkably, this title is found only once outside the gospels in the rest of the New Testament (Acts 7:56). That shows that the designation of Jesus as ‘the Son of Man’ was not a title that arose in later Christianity and was then written back into the traditions about Jesus. On the basis of the criteria of independent sources and of dissimilarity, we can say with confidence that Jesus called Himself ‘the Son of Man.'” Craig, William Lane. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (pp. 206-207). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
The criterion that Dr. Craig applies to the Son Of Man sayings in the above quote is called the criterion of double dissimilarity.
Dr. McGrew then wrote \\”It is also questionable whether, once the minimal facts are watered down this much, they provide a strong case for the resurrection. I have argued that in the earlier post and won’t restate the argument right now.”\\ – I likewise have responded to her concerns and showed them why they are misguided. You can click here to read that blog post.
Does Wolfheart Pannenburg Affirm The Bodily Resurrection Of Jesus?
Dr. Lydia Mcgrew then wrote \\“Now, back to Pannenberg. Dr. Craig has been absolutely explicit elsewhere that Pannenberg denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus.”\\ and the quoted Craig
“Therefore [according to Pannenberg], the Gospel appearance stories are late legendary developments that represent a kind of materializing of the original, primitive, spiritual experiences. The original experiences were just these visions of Jesus. It would be similar to Stephen’s vision of Jesus in Acts 73. When Stephen is being stoned, he sees the heavens open and he says, “I see the Son of Man in the heavens.” Nobody else saw anything, but Stephen saw this vision of Jesus. And I think that Pannenberg would say that that is similar to what the original resurrection appearances were. They were these visionary events and then they got corrupted and materialized and turned into the Gospel appearance stories, which are very, very physicalistic.”
McGrew wrote \\”It’s therefore very interesting that, in the 2015 answer to the question from Joe, Dr. Craig should have made an error on this very point, for he says, ‘[Pannenberg] well illustrates how someone can have a historically justified belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection without a commitment to the inerrancy of the texts.‘ No, not bodily resurrection. I’m assuming that was a mere slip in writing, but it’s a rather revealing one. It’s become unfortunately common for Dr. Craig and others to refer to those who take a view like Pannenberg’s as ‘affirming the resurrection,‘ which in my opinion they should not do. ‘The resurrection’ should mean the bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus, not a vision sent from God. But apparently this habit of saying that this ‘objective vision’ view involves ‘affirming the resurrection’ can occasionally result in a slip whereby one literally slides over into saying that it involves affirming the bodily resurrection even though it is just the opposite–a denial of the bodily resurrection. When one gets into the bad habit of calling something an affirmation of the resurrection when it isn’t, it may beget a great deal of confusion.”\\ Lydia McGrew, “When Minimalism Is Minimalizing”, March 1st 2018 http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2018/03/when_minimal_is_minimizing.html
I honestly agree with McGrew here. Craig shouldn’t be saying that Pannenburg affirms the resurrection of Jesus if by resurrection, Pannenberg means that Jesus sort of appeared to the disciples like Obi Wan did to Luke Skywalker in the swamp! However, I really want to know what this has to do with the legitimacy or lack thereof of The Minimal Facts Approach. Maybe we’re supposed to connect this with what McGrew argued in the previous article; that a minimal method cannot rule out subjective and objection vision theories. If so, I defer the reader to my previous article in which I responded to her on this point.
Minimal Facts Doesn’t Let You Argue Against Arianism and The Trinity
Dr. McGrew \\”Another problem here concerns doctrine. While Dr. Craig refers to C.S. Lewis and ‘Mere Christianity,’ it is questionable whether the extremely minimal facts he names can give us even that. What about the deity of Christ, for example? If you had to argue that Jesus was really God, God in the flesh, against Arianism, could you do a convincing job if you were to acknowledge that the Gospels are riddled with error and contradiction and if you deliberately refrained from using the unique passages in the Gospel of John? In essence, this involves acknowledging (at least ‘for the sake of argument’) that the Gospels don’t do a very good job reporting Jesus’ statements. I’m probably a bit conceited about my own argumentative prowess, but even I wouldn’t want to be tasked with arguing under those handicaps that Jesus really is God! What about the Trinity? I would think it highly unlikely that one would be ‘allowed’ to use the Trinitarian formula for baptism in Matthew 28:19 as an historical utterance of Jesus after granting ‘for the sake of argument’‘ that the Gospels are riddled with error and contradiction and contain legendary elements. Why think that Jesus said that, if the Gospels are that unreliable? In fact, something so obviously doctrinal and formulaic-sounding is precisely the sort of thing that higher critics are likely to say, and concessive apologists likely to concede, might well have been added to the story later to reflect the Church’s practice and was never historically said by Jesus. And the same for the unique discourses on the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, in the Gospel of John.”\\ ibid
I was stunned to read this paragraph! For one thing, I think she’s right that you can’t argue for the Trinity under the assumption that the New Testament is unreliable. One might be able to employ criteria of authenticity to certain events in Jesus’ ministry which depict him various ways. Or, as I argued in my response against Dr. McGrew’s first article, you can just show why Ghost Jesus is a bad explanation by point out that everyone understood resurrection to be bodily in that day and age and culture, and that they distinguished them from ghost stories (cf. N.T Wright’s “The Resurrection Of The Son Of God”, 2003), that 1 Corinthians 15 says Christ “Died, was buried, was raised” heavily implying that the body that went down in burial came up in resurrection, right before that same Pauline creed lists a whole bunch of group and individual appearances, and then argue that “Since they knew of ghost stories and considered what happened to Jesus to be physical, then the nature of the appearances – whatever they were – must have lent themselves to such a conclusion.” Furthermore, one can also argue for the historicity of the Empty Tomb and therefore rightly point out that the objection vision/Ghost Jesus hypothesis fails on grounds of inadequate explanatory scope. If Jesus physically rose, he must have physically died. If he physically died, he must have physically lived. If he physically lived, docetism is false.
As for arianism, this can readily be refuted. As I argued in the Introduction to my own blog series on the resurrection,
“First of all, there is strong historical evidence that Jesus claimed to be God. If Jesus said that he was God but he wasn’t, then he was either a lying heretic or else he was crazy. If that were the case, there’s no way God The Father would resurrect Jesus from the dead knowing that that would vindicate his blasphemous claims and lead many people astray. God would never raise a heretic and a blasphemer. But if God did raise Jesus from the dead, then God implicitly put his stamp of approval on everything Jesus said and did. If Jesus rose from the dead, then that means God The Father agreed with Jesus’ claims for which his enemies killed him as a blasphemer. If God The Father raised Jesus from the dead then that means He agrees with Jesus’ claims to be divine.
If that’s the case, then whatever Jesus teaches carries a lot of weight. Well, what did Jesus teach? He taught (1) that the Old Testament was the divinely inspired Word of God. He believed and taught that every word in The Old Testament was true. (2) Since he handpicked the writers of the New Testament, this means the New Testament is divinely inspired given that Jesus is God, (3) He also seemed to believe that Adam and Eve were historical individuals, that (4) the flood story in Genesis 6-9 actually happened, that (5) angels and demons really do exist, and (6) that if you place your faith in him, you will have eternal life but that if you don’t place your faith in Him, you’ll end up in Hell (John 3:16-18, John 8:24).
So if Jesus rose from the dead after allegedly blaspheming the One who raised him, we can believe all of these things as well simply because Jesus believed them. This is why you’ll often hear Christian Apologists say “I don’t believe in Jesus because I believe The Bible. I believe The Bible because I believe in Jesus”. Evan Minton, “The Evidence For Jesus’ Resurrection – PART 1: Why This Matters”, March 24th 2015 — https://cerebralfaith net/the-evidence-for-jesus-resurrection-2/
Whether an approach that doesn’t assume the reliability of Jesus can actually establish that Jesus claimed to be God would take this article too far afield. I recommend you read chapter 8 of William Lane Craig’s book “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision” and chapter 2 of my book “My Redeemer Lives: Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus”. However, I’ve already tipped my hand above when I pointed out that one of Jesus’ most radical claims can be confirmed by the criterion of dissimilarity.
So, there are several heresies readily refuted via The Minimal Facts approach. But what about The Trinity? Honestly, I have never tried to defend the truth of the Trinity to people who don’t believe The Bible is even true. Now, I have defended the logical coherence of the Trinity such as in Episode 13 of Cerebral Faith Live titled “Is The Doctrine Of The Trinity Incoherent?” I will often use the arguments I used in that presentation when dialoguing with atheists and Muslims. But as far as evidence that establishes The Trinity is a bibical doctrine, as in Episode 10 of Cerebral Faith Live “Does The Bible Teach That Jesus Is God”, I do assume both the inerrancy AND reliability of The New Testament. But so does my opponents often times. Often the people I need to persuade of this are Mormons, Christadelphians, Jehovah’s Witnesses. These cultists and I share the presupposition that The Bible is God’s Word and, ergo, I can argue from passages like John 1, John 10, Hebrews 1, and pretty much any part of scripture I wish. It’s only with people not in these Christianity-derivitive heretical groups that I need to actually defend the historicity of any high claim of Jesus, either by arguing for the gospels’ reliability or by a simple criterion of authenticity, as I do in chapter 2 of my resurrection book, and as Dr. Craig does in his chapter 8 of “On Gaurd.”
Of course, even with atheists and Muslims who don’t accept the reliability of The New Testament, if they want to make the claim that The Bible doesn’t teach that Jesus is God or that God is not a Trinity, I can still point to many biblical passages to refute them. Of course, before any of that becomes any more relevant than them conceding “Yeah, I guess that doctrine is in your holy book after all”, I’ll need to go further.
What Dr. Craig and myself very often do in our practice of apologetics is that we meet our opponents on their epistemological grounds. We meet them where they are. If my opponent shares the presupposition that the Bible is inerrant, or if The Bible is at least somewhat reliable, then I have no problem arguing on those grounds. I use arguments for God’s existence when witnessing to atheists rather than quoting Psalm 14:1 and Romans 1:20. I treat the gospels and epistles as just mere human documents claiming to tell us stuff about Jesus when defending the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
I think Dr. Craig speaks for me as well when he says;
“I think that Lydia fails to understand my evangelist’s heart in presenting the evidence for the resurrection. I want to bring people to a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ, and so I want to make it as easy as possible for a person to become a Christian. I don’t want to make them have to jump through the hoop of believing, say, that Jesus was born in Bethlehem or that there were two cleansings of the temple, or that Jesus was born of a virgin. I want to give them evidence which is adequate to justify the conclusion that Jesus made radical personal claims whereby he put himself in the place of God and that those radical claims were vindicated dramatically and publicly by God by raising him from the dead. If we can show that, then that is sufficient for a person to become a Christian. He can leave this other stuff until later to examine at his leisure. But we shouldn’t make a person come to believe in the reliability of the Gospels first in order to become a Christian.” The Reasonable Faith Podcast, “Objection To The Minimal Facts”, May 6th 2018 — https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/an-objection-to-the-minimal-facts-argument,
Of course, I also don’t mind defending the reliability of the gospels and getting to the resurrection by that means. I just think it would make evangelism cumbersome if that was the only method I could ever use.
Dr. MgGrew then wrote \\“This whole question of doctrine becomes rather urgent since Dr. Craig envisages a situation where we actually attempt to evangelize the skeptic we are debating, and in the course of this debate we grant a great deal to that skeptic and then tell him that he should “become a Christian” anyway on the basis of the extremely minimal material that we have left ourselves to work with. But what would it mean for this person to become a Christian? Note that here I am talking about what most of us think of as “mere Christianity.” I’m not talking about whether one’s potential new convert becomes a Calvinist, an Arminian, or a Molinist! Does he believe in the Trinity? Does he believe that Jesus is God? Does he believe that Jesus rose bodily from the dead rather than that Jesus merely appeared to his disciples in the form of a vision sent from God? Does he affirm the virgin birth? Such a person doesn’t have to have all the details of Calcedonian metaphysics held clearly in his head, but we need to get a whole lot further than, “Jesus made a radical personal claim to be the son of God and rose from the dead in some sense or other” in order to have even “mere Christianity”!”\\ — ibid
However, as I said, if you can show that The Bible teaches that God is a Trinity, then once you’ve gotten a skeptic to affirm the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus, then the rest of this will fall into place. He will “Believe The Bible because he believes in Jesus, not in Jesus because he believes The Bible” as the saying goes.
\\”At that point, if the skeptic is willing to listen, does one go back and say, “Okay, I granted for the sake of argument that the Gospels are a mess of contradictions and errors, but now I want to take that back and argue that we can see objectively that they are much more reliable than that, and therefore you should accept orthodox Christian doctrine”?
If you could do that, why did you grant so much for the sake of the argument in the first place? Wouldn’t it have been awfully useful to have more reliable Gospels to work with as part of convincing him of the resurrection? And isn’t the skeptic-on-the-verge-of-conversion going to feel like this was a bit of a bait and switch?”\\ — I don’t know. Maybe we believe in starting at the bottom and working our way up rather than expecting the skeptic to embrace a ton of propositions he finds disputable? What exactly is wrong with meeting the unbeliever where they are? I think Habermas, Licona, Craig, myself, and everyone who uses the minimal facts method has the goal of eventually getting the unbeliever to embrace the whole counsel of God, and not just leaving them with the minimal facts.
Did not God Himself reveal more and more about Himself over time? Adam and Eve weren’t given full Nicene Christianity complete with all nuanced facts. All they knew was that there was a God, He was good, and they were supposed to obey him (not that they chose to obey him). What’s wrong with starting small and working your way up? For some skeptics, even admitting the existence of a generic God is a huge step! Hence, why I use things like The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Cosmic Fine-Tuning Arguments. Giving up evolution is even worse in the eyes of atheists, hence why, even when I disbelieved it myself, I would only use arguments for God that didn’t require evolution to be false in order to be sound. I reasoned “I’ll get them to give up evolution after they become Christians. I’ll get them to be Theists first.” I suppose McGrew also has a problem with that; that I used a “Minimal Facts” approach to creation; only using scientific facts the skeptical scholars (scientists) allowed like Big Bang Cosmology and Nuclear Force being fine tuned to 1 in 10^30 for atoms to form.
As Mike Winger said in one of his videos, I don’t want to leave my interlocutors with a minimal Christianity. See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWYTTZVFCYIThe Minimal Facts Approach is a stepping stone. If I can get a skeptic to admit that God exists, that Jesus claimed to be God, died, and rose from the dead, we’re 80% of the way of making him a believer comitted to the authority of ALL of God’s Word. Lydia McGrew seems to have some problem with taking baby steps with the unbeliever, and I cannot for the life of me see why this is a problem. I mean, aside from the extremely fallacious reasons she’s given that I’ve taken time to refute.
In fact, William Lane Craig himself made this same statement in the same article McGrew repeatedly quoted from. Dr. Craig wrote “Lewis recognized that no one ought to simply remain with mere Christianity. Mere Christianity, he said, is like the entrance hall that leads into the various rooms. No one is content to remain in the entrance hall; it’s in the rooms where the fireplaces and the couches and the conversations are to be found. So after entering the hallway one will make his way into the rooms where Coptic or Catholic or Orthodox or Protestant Christians will be found. Eventually one will find a room where one feels most comfortable with the doctrines affirmed there.
So in my Defenders class surveying Christian doctrine the very first topic we treat is Doctrine of Revelation, that is to say, how God has revealed Himself to us, including doctrines about the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture. Belief that Scripture is not merely human teaching but God’s very Word to us will be important in living the Christian life. It will also provide an authoritative guide for developing the remainder of Christian doctrine.” “#454 Scriptural Inerrancy and the Apologetic Task”, William Lane Craig, December 27, 2015 — https://www. … Continue reading
William Lane Craig’s Commentary On Harmonizations
Unfortunately, there really isn’t much here by way of showing the Minimal Facts approach to be unsound. Dr. McGrew really just takes Dr. Craig to task for what he thinks he’s saying about the project of harmonizing alleged discrepencies in the gospel accounts. I think if you’re running a minimal facts or moderate facts approach, then any kind of harmonization attempts whatsoever are something you ought not be doing as discussing how many angels were at the to The Minimal Facts Approach to the resurrection of Jesus with the “Minimal Facts Approach” to creation, it would be like presenting the Kalam Cosmological Argument and actually taking the time to answer the skeptic’s arguments for Darwinian Evolution. Well, the universe began to exist and was brought into being by a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, powerful personal agent whether he directly intervened to create life later or not. Likewise, Jesus died, was buried, his tomb was empty, The Twelve, Paul, and Peter all had experiences of seeing him afterwards. These facts can be defended without having to presuppose gospel reliability, even if the contradictions were real, they’re all in the periphery of the story anyway, and these facts need an explanation.
I do think harmonization attempts are a perfectly legitimate endevour as McGrew does. Some are wild and strained, others are more plausible. And some harmonization attempts that I used to think were strained, I’ve now come around to actually finding plausible. For example; the idea that Jesus cleansed the temple twice, once early in His ministry, and later near the end. I used to think this was a really ad hoc manuever and that a more natural explanation was that John simply relocated the temple cleansing for theological purposes. But in his book The Historical Reliability Of The Gospel Of John: Issues and Commentary, Craig Blomberg actually makes a good case for this harmonization attempt. I won’t go into all the details but his argument consists mainly of two points; (1) There’s a lot of differences between John’s temple cleansing account and that of the synoptics. This makes it more likely these are different events at different points in time. And (2) Someone at Jesus’ trial in the synoptics accused Jesus of wanting to destroy the temple. This likely a garbled misremembering of what Jesus said in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it again in three days.” That this could be misremembered 3 years later is more plausible than a week or so later. Blomberg, “The Historical Reliability Of John’s Gospel: Issues and Commentary, Pages 87-91, IVP Academic
At the time of writing this, I haven’t come down on one side of the other on the debate between whether the gospel authors used “Literary Devices”, though I probably will have by the time this is published. I do have both McGrew’s and Licona’s books on this issue in my “study stack” of books I’m reading to prep for a blog series on the reliability of the gospels, but I have taken time away from such prep work to respond to McGrew’s relentless attacks on The Minimal Facts Method. But this debate is important to the issue of gospel reliability, and what side I come down on will determine how I deal with these differences in the gospel narratives.
I still think The Minimal Facts Approach works. It can withstand not only the plethora of objections from atheists and other non-Christians, but McGrew’s objections as well. I will continue to use it as my main approach for reasons stated in a previous article. Nevertheless, I will also make an effort to defend the reliability of the gospels on this blog and on my podcast. While I think The Minimal Facts Approach will always be my primary approach, the Reliability approach will be my second method. One may ask “If The Minimal Facts Approach is so great, why even bother with Maximalism?”
There are two reasons;
(1) It’s always better to have two arguments for your conclusion than just one.
(2) I want to reach as many people as I can. Let’s imagine that Lydia McGrew were not a Christian, but was an atheist instead. In this alternate reality, I would not be able to persuade McGrew that Jesus rose from the dead. Although her objections to The Minimal Facts Argument aren’t any good, and I would tell her as much in this other possible world as in this one, still, it might be more practical if I used an approach to the resurrection she did find persuasive. In the actual world, McGrew affirms the resurrection on the basis that the gospels are extremely reliable documents that are eyewitness accounts, and all the evidence points to them not being liars or deceivers, but correctly believing Jesus claimed to be God, died, and rose from the dead. I have the burning heart of an evangelist. In my mind, I don’t care whether you come to believe Jesus rose from The Minimal Facts Argument, The Maximal Facts Argument, or even the “Inner Witness Of The Holy Spirit”.
Of course, I don’t want people to believe on epistemologically suspect grounds, and McGrew would accuse The Minimal Facts Approach of being just that. After all, if you believe on bad grounds, then when those grounds are pulled out from under you, you’re going to have a crisis of faith. If you believe The Bible is inspired because it “Predicted Big Bang Cosmology thousands of years in advance”, you’re going to have your world turned upside down when you read an Old Testament Scholar like Ben Stanhope showing that The Bible reflects the same cosmology as their neighbors (just without multiple gods running everything). But hopefully the reader can see that The Minimal Facts Approach is not an illegitimate way to justify Jesus’ resurrection.
|↑1, ↑4, ↑15||“#454 Scriptural Inerrancy and the Apologetic Task”, William Lane Craig, December 27, 2015 — https://www. reasonablefaith.org/question-answer/P110/scriptural-inerrancy-and-the-apologetic-task|
|↑2||though the Empty Tomb is more hotly debated, with only 75% of scholars affirming it according to Gary Habermas’ reckoning.|
|↑3||Josephus wrote: “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment.” (Antiquities, 4.8.15). And Talmud Sotah 19a says “Sooner let the words of the law be burnt than delivered to women“! The Talmud also contains a rabbinic saying that goes like this: “Blessed is he whose children are male, but woe to him whose children are female”!|
|↑5, ↑7, ↑9||Lydia McGrew, “When Minimalism Is Minimalizing”, March 1st 2018 http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2018/03/when_minimal_is_minimizing.html|
|↑6||Of course, as William Lane Craig said on The Reasonable Faith Podcast, “Objection To The Minimal Facts”, May 6th 2018 — https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/an-objection-to-the-minimal-facts-argument, he doesn’t use The Minimal Facts method. Though given how similar his approach is to The Minimal Facts Method that Gary Habermas and Michael Licona employ, it’s an understandable mistake to make. Indeed, because it has been said by Licona and Habermas that The Empty Tomb doesn’t have enough scholarly support, you can’t really use it in a Minimal Facts Approach. Habermas prefers 90-99% support, but he says The Empty Tomb only has 75% support which “isn’t good enough for me”. Although sometimes they will use it with the caveat that it’s merely an add on to the set of minimal facts, such as in their 2004 book in which they characterize it as “The 4 + 1”.|
|↑8||Craig, William Lane. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (pp. 206-207). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.|
|↑11||Evan Minton, “The Evidence For Jesus’ Resurrection – PART 1: Why This Matters”, March 24th 2015 — https://cerebralfaith net/the-evidence-for-jesus-resurrection-2/|
|↑12||The Reasonable Faith Podcast, “Objection To The Minimal Facts”, May 6th 2018 — https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/an-objection-to-the-minimal-facts-argument,|
|↑16||Blomberg, “The Historical Reliability Of John’s Gospel: Issues and Commentary, Pages 87-91, IVP Academic|