A Look at William Lane Craig and James Crossley Debating the Resurrection of Jesus

Recently, my friend Wintery Knight (who is the king of writing debate reviews) posted a somewhat older debate between William Lane Craig and James Crossley on the resurrection of Jesus. I have been familiar with Crossley’s work because of the book  How Did Christianity Begin?: A Believer and Non-Believer Examine the Evidence.

Anyway, I was reading a chapter in the book called Debating Christian Theism. This is a more recent work and came out well after the debate with Craig and Crossley. In it, there is a chapter between Gary Habemas and Crossley on the resurrection. In this chapter, Habermas points out that Crossley agrees with the minimal facts about the resurrection of Jesus which are the following:

1. Jesus’ death by crucifixion

2. Very Shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them.

3. Within a few years after Jesus death, Paul came to faith after a personal experience that he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.

However, just like Bart Ehrman and many others (such as members of the Jesus Seminar), Crossley thinks the resurrection appearances can be explained away as subjective visions. For example, Ehrman says:

It is undisputable that some of the followers of Jesus came to think that he had been raised from the dead, and that something had to have happened to make them think so. Our earliest records are consistent on this point, and I think they provide us with the historically reliable information in one key aspect: the disciples’ belief in the resurrection was based on visionary experiences. I should stress it was visions, and nothing else, that led to the first disciples to believe in the resurrection. -Bart D. Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York: Harper One, 2014),  183-184.

You can see my entire post  called Bart Ehrman, The Resurrection of Jesus, and the Vision Hypothesis. So in the end, why go back and forth on all these other points of the Crossley debate when he is not saying anything that is much different from what has been said by Ehrman and others?

Just like Ehrman, Crossley agrees with the minimal facts. So we are back to what is the best explanation for those facts. I think Habermas did a fine job of showing why Crossley’s vision hypothesis won’t work. Even if you cant get the book, I  have discussed it in my post here.

Grace and Peace!


2 thoughts on “A Look at William Lane Craig and James Crossley Debating the Resurrection of Jesus

  1. Mike Gantt October 4, 2015 / 1:41 pm

    Eric, glad to hear you and WK are close. You both write terrific blogs.

    I watched this debate at the recommendation of WK. My only other experience with Crossley was a “debate” he had with Gary Habermas a few weeks ago on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable. With Habermas, Crossley came across as a “kinder, gentler” Ehrman, and a more reasonable one at that. However, in the debate with Craig I wondered if he was on something as he seemed erratic, distracted, and flippant at times (though still far more palatable than Ehrman). Which is the true Crossley?

    My other question for you is this: In all these debates about the resurrection of Jesus, who, in your mind, has put forth the best argument against it? (When I reject an argument I want to know that I’m rejecting the very best version of it.)

  2. chab123 October 5, 2015 / 1:50 am

    Mike, I think Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road is a little challenging to sift through. He says he sees the light and hears the voice, etc. It really sounds not much different than Joseph Smith and Mohammed having ‘individual’, or ‘personal’ revelations. I don’t like the individual thing. Granted, he says the resurrection appearance was the same as the others in 1 Cor 15. But for me, it seems a little hard to work through.It seems like Crossley and Ehrman and others all say the same thing- they had visions. I think that is lame cause it really is the same as saying there is a psychological explanation to the appearances. I think we can only make the case for the resurrection in light of the entire ministry of Jesus. And to be honest, you can’t make any sense of the ministry of Jesus apart from the O.T. God has always wanted to dwell with man. The resurrection makes that a reality.

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