Home » “Did Jesus rise from the dead”: a debate between Abdu Murray and John Loftus

“Did Jesus rise from the dead”: a debate between Abdu Murray and John Loftus

I recently listened to the debate between Abdu Murray (RZIM) and John Loftus and the topic was the following.  “Was Jesus raised from the dead?”  One may view it here in its entirety, https://youtu.be/66E-OykI9UY

Listening to the two gentlemen discuss the evidence for and against their specific chosen talking points was a lesson in attention to detail.  Mr. Murray went straight to the point and presented the evidence, he thought best suited the topic, while John Loftus by comparison merely repeated what he had already written in his book and only peripherally touched the topic of the resurrection.  Instead, Mr. Loftus entire arsenal of rhetoric was in making generalized statements about the nature of belief and the preconditioning of a person in the west to believe Christianity.  Mr. Loftus did not address the items that Mr. Murray presented such as the changed lives of the known early adversaries of Christ; one his flesh and blood, James and the other the persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus.

There were several points in Mr. Loftus presentation that I could not believe what I was hearing.  At one point Loftus said, “…seminaries don’t even teach apologetics.”  I happen to be working on a master’s degree in apologetics at Liberty University and will pursue a Ph.D. in the same field when I complete an MDiv.  Every one of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminaries teaches apologetics as a degree program. Dallas Theological Seminary teaches apologetics, Wheaton College does as well.  I am sure the list is too numerous to name exhaustively but the fact that Mr. Loftus made such a statement makes me question some of his other statements.  That was a general statement made either in ignorance or a complete disregard for the academic research and educational training in these universities.  In either case, it was incorrect at best and irresponsible.  I need to stop here and present Mr. Loftus background and education as he lists it on his blog site.

“John is a former Christian minister and apologist with M.A., M.Div., and Th.M. degrees in Philosophy, Theology, and the Philosophy of Religion from Lincoln Christian Seminary and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. While in school John majored under Dr. William Lane Craig, the infamous leading evangelical apologist/debater of our generation. John also studied in a Ph.D. program at Marquette University for a year and a half in the area of Theology and Ethics.” (Loftus 2012)

Mr. Loftus states that he studied under Dr. Craig yet makes the statement that seminaries do not teach apologetics?

Mr. Loftus set his sights firmly on the apologetic approach in the West declaring that we have so many different methods because no one method works.  He quotes different apologists who disagree with the different methodological approach to apologetics.  Again Mr. Loftus reaches for the sky and only grabs air.  Ask any two Baptists what they think about any theological or ecclesiastical topic and you will get three opinions!  There are many different ways to approach defending the legitimacy of the historical accounts of the Bible.  I prefer the empirical method. However, there are many other ways to reach people with the gospel and to defend the gospel.  Why is this so?  The reason for the different approaches is due to the differences in the individual mind of the hearer.  Some people will use logic and reason to come to faith, I did.  Some people will only accept what they personally experience, this would be the fideistic approach.  Loftus ridicules the fideistic method yet in some ways his own experience is exactly this.  He declares he will only believe what he can see or experience.  This is the very definition of the fideistic method.  The method is subjective and only person experiencing it can tell what is really happening.  This does not diminish the importance of the method, but it does limit the method to the individual experiencing it and not masses of people at one time.

Late in the debate, Mr. Loftus turns to the Jewish state of unbelief in the first century to support his lack of belief.  The unbelief of anyone else is not what one should base their belief system on.  In fact, the Bible is clear that even the Lord Jesus himself is astounded by the unbelief of the Jewish people.  The New American Standard version of the Bible has eight verses in the New Testament where Jesus or one of the apostles is directly discussing the unbelief of the Jews.  Jesus continues to try to reach and redeem them until the very end.  The Bible is also clear that the Jews will believe one day, and when that day comes they will experience unparalleled prominence.

The primary problem that Mr. Loftus has during the entire debate is that he cannot stay on topic, and he strays from the primary question, “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”  Instead, Loftus focuses on what he calls “confirmation bias.”    “Confirmation bias” is people from different perspectives tend to look at evidence differently.  People who want to believe will affirm some things and discount other things and vice versa for those that do not want to believe the evidence.  This definition was supplied by Murray at the beginning of the debate, and he is quoting Loftus.  This is Loftus reason and premise behind why people in the West, specifically America, will be more open to believing Jesus rose from the dead.  Later in the debate Loftus will make the comment that, “… he had freed himself from ‘confirmation bias’ and then realized there was no evidence for belief in the Bible.”

What Loftus has done is to denigrate and insult the intelligence of people who do look at the evidence and come to the conclusion that the Bible is true, and Jesus really did rise from the dead.  Without saying it specifically, Loftus has taken lengthy tomes like N.T. Wrights “The Resurrection of the Son of God” and Michael Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.” Included in this relegation by definition would be the many works of Dr. Habermas, these would also be tossed into the trash heap of confirmation bias.  Loftus commits a grave error in discounting research that both well documented and peer reviewed.

The conclusion I came to was that like Sam Harris in his book “The End of Faith”, Mr. Loftus make very general statements.  Loftus seemed very uncomfortable onstage, and his demeanor showed his nervousness, which to me conveyed a lack of certainty.  Abdu Murray seemed right at home and performed as one would expect a trial lawyer to perform.  Murray stayed on task and addressed the question then, in turn, cross-examined Loftus and rendered him incapable of defending his stated positions.

Christianity is a belief system that was founded on the highest moral principles.  Love your neighbor as yourself, do not lie, do not steal, do not commit adultery, do not covet, etc…  Yet for a man like Loftus to say it was founded on a lie and propagated by liars, see debate 1:09:05, is ludicrous.  How can Christianity be morally superior to any worldview and be founded by liars and why would liars knowing they are propagating a lie ascribe such high moral values which are the exact opposite of what they are doing to the faith they are trying to establish?  There is absolutely no evidence from history, secular or biblical for this assumption.

It is unfortunate that people look at the Bible and decide to turn away from the love God offers to man through his Son Jesus.  Loftus did thinking Christians a favor by doing this debate with Mr. Murray by showing them the irrationality of unbelief.  I pray Mr. Loftus will repent and find his faith and the Lord Jesus waiting to receive him back.

References

Loftus, John. Debunking Christianity. September 17, 2012. http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/2012/09/have-someone-different-at-your-campus.html (accessed July 26, 2016).

 

 

 

 

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