Sunday, February 01, 2009

What The Early Christians Suffered For

I recently watched Gary Habermas' 2008 debate on the resurrection with Arif Ahmed. Ahmed is an atheist, and he's a philosopher at the University of Cambridge.

Habermas isn't as good of a communicator as somebody like William Craig, and this debate might be the worst of Habermas' performances I've seen. Much of what he said was disorganized and probably would be difficult to understand for somebody who doesn't know much about the evidence surrounding Jesus' resurrection and Habermas' research on the subject. And he didn't make some of the points he could have made.

I think he won the debate anyway. Ahmed comes across as somebody who doesn't know much about the history of Christianity (he seems to expect Habermas to accept the authenticity of Mark 16:18, he confuses the Mormons with the Jehovah's Witnesses, he responds to an audience member's criticism of his understanding of 1 Corinthians 15 as if he hasn't studied the passage much, etc.). His arguments are of a more philosophical nature, as we might expect from a philosopher. But he doesn't seem to have done much research on the historical evidence for Jesus' resurrection, even though he was going up against one of the leading scholars in that field. Even his philosophical arguments are weak.

But he repeated a popular argument that I want to address again, since it comes up so frequently, and I think Christians often don't respond well to it. He asked why we should believe that men like Peter and Paul died for a belief in the resurrection of Christ. I addressed that issue in an article a few years ago. Habermas made some of the points that I make on this issue, but not all of them. Ahmed's appeal to a possibility that somebody like Paul or James died without faith in the resurrection doesn't establish probability, and he left some of Habermas' points on the subject untouched.


  1. "This debate might be the worst of Habermas' performances I've seen.
    I think he won the debate anyway."

    Pretty much what I would expect when his opponent was a philosopher.

  2. neat post. just curious, what is your opinion on the purpose of and reasoning beind apologetics for the resurrection? do you think it is to convince non-believers that the resurrection is a scientifically valid historical fact? like i said, just curious. i've never been able to prove christianity to anyone, but i have seen people come to believe simply by hearing the gospel with no proof given.

    thanks for your time

  3. Full MP3 Audio of the debate between Habermas and Ahmad can be found here at

    I agree - this was a very interesting debate.

  4. Mike Fox,

    I've answered your question in a new thread.