Most of the time, William Lane Craig strikes me as a fairly smart man. He avoids saying anything obviously false, and mostly seems aware of the arguments that can be given in favor of views that aren’t Evangelical Christianity. But then he says something like this:
In a bibliographical survey of over 2,200 publications on the resurrection in English, French, and German since 1975, Gary Habermas found that 75% of scholars accept the historicity of the discovery of Jesus’ empty tomb and that there is near universal agreement on the post-mortem appearances.
Since New Testament critics do not simply confess these facts but rather acknowledge them on the strength of the historical evidence (which I detail in my published work), I think it is fair to speak of them as established facts about Jesus that need to be explained. That doesn’t mean that they are certain or indubitable (though N. T. Wright at the end of his voluminous study on Jesus’ resurrection opines that the empty tomb and post-mortem appearances of Jesus have a historical probability so high as to be “virtually certain,” like the death of Augustus Caesar in A.D. 14 or the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70!2), but merely that they have a degree of credibility comparable to other commonly accepted facts of ancient history.
So if your friends maintain that these are not historical facts, you should ask them what source of information they have that leads them to disagree with over 75% of the trained scholars who have studied this question. How did they come by such insight? How would they refute the evidence which has led so many scholars to the contrary conclusion? I’d be interested to learn what they say.
Assume for the sake of argument Habermas is right. In the case of the empty tomb Habermas found 25% of scholars reject its historicity. If I found out that 25% of historians doubted that Jerusalem really fell in 70 A.D., that would make me a lot less certain that it really happened, and I would want to know what the controversy was about. I don’t know what to do except laugh at Craig’s rhetoric here.
I suppose Craig’s response here is “well, maybe not a certain the fall of Jerusalem, but as certain as other accepted facts.” But what facts does he have in mind? What facts worthy of the name are doubted by a full quarter of the experts? And if Craig realizes Wright is being silly, why does he bother quoting him?
The questions Craig recommends asking in the last paragraph are also pretty funny, because they have me imagining Craig going around a conference for Biblical scholars, bugging a full quarter of the attendees with his questions. And the final sentence is obviously insincere. If Craig is interested in why anyone would disagree with the majority view, he should just go read what all the scholars advocating the minority position have to say. Apparently he prefers to sneer at them.
Seriously, who thinks this is smart even as rhetoric? What am I missing here?