4 Minute Interview on Why I Believe Christianity is True & Atheism is False.


The way this interview came about was quite interesting. In class this morning I was preparing for an up coming debate I have with The Dutch Atheist on the 24th. Class was relatively boring so I used the time constructively. During our 15 minute break my peer and friend Emmanuel (“Manni” for short) inquired what I was writing about. So I told him and he thought it would be good to whip out his phone to do a mini interview. However, I decided to put it into writing since for some unknown reason the phone recorder chopped words every two or so seconds. So it was quite unintelligible.

Italicized words in my responses is information that I’ve added in, usually in brackets to provide context. Any other editing was limited to excluding “uhms” and “ahs” etc. and sentence structure.

EM: So what is your argument for the resurrection of Jesus?

James: I would say that we would have to look at the historical evidence and come to a conclusion, or a best explanation, of that evidence. I think I would definitely bring up Gary Habermas’ minimal facts approach (MFA) and argue from that about what we can know from history about Jesus and the facts surrounding him.

EM: Could you quickly summarize what the MFA is?

James: The MFA is a set of persuasive historical data that no historian doubts about Jesus. It’s the effort of scholar Gary Habermas who has analyzed over 3000 peer reviewed articles written by scholars. Basically he found that one can present at least three facts surrounding Jesus’ passion that all historians accept, even the most radical and “out there” ones (the third fact is more controversial). These are namely that (1) Jesus was crucified, (2) buried in a tomb, (3) that the tomb was found empty by his women followers, and that (4) his followers had post-mortem resurrection appearances. The only exception is fact three which commands two-thirds of consensus whereas none of the rest are by any means in doubt. I would agree with the consensus because we have persuasive arguments and sufficient evidence for it. I’ve outlined eight before whereas Habermas has outlined two dozen of them.

EM: You refer to the Bible but is there no evidence outside of the Bible for Jesus and his resurrection?

James: For Jesus’ basic existence as a historical figure there is quite a lot of extra-biblical evidence. Scholars would emphasize 1st century historian Josephus Flavius and early 2nd century Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus. Both historians write on Jesus. Beyond them we have the testimony of the early church fathers such as Ignatius and Clement who are significant. There are other 2nd century mentions by Pliny the Younger, Serapion, Lucian and so on. Within 150 years there are a good few dozen extra-biblical references to Jesus.

Regarding the evidence for the resurrection outside of the Bible the answer would be no. But we must remember that the Bible is not one book as opposed to 66. Basically “the Bible” is a library of historical information of events, people, movements, etc that we recorded and written down by authors. So, when the historian wants to learn about Jesus the New Testament (a library of 27 books) is considered over other extra-biblical sources. That is where I would say we need to look first and I think most historians would agree with that.

Lastly, when we do this we can get some well-established facts about Jesus. Historians test the gospel accounts as well as Paul and the other New Testament letters by the same standard they do other historical books. When they do this they do no assume that the New Testament documents are divinely inspired; they simply approach them as they do any historical text. Basically we have an entire body of literature on Jesus to consider and that makes us quite lucky.

EM: If I was an atheist what kind of argument would you use to defeat me?

James: Well, I’ve got a few good arguments I’d use but I think the argument from miracles is very convincing for me. Basically we have solid documented evidence on video, via testimony, and so forth. I’ve seen some radical cases through my considering of the evidence. Rugby player Jaco van der Westhuyzen is particularly interesting. He basically damaged his leg quite severely (Jaco: “ruptured my posterior cruciate ligament”) and was ruled out of rugby. However, he went to a pastor in Nigeria known for healing (TB Joshua). We have this radical case documented in the media, newspapers, on video, in doctor reports, and through his own testimony. This is a radical case, probably more so than most I’ve considered (for example, I’ve done many interviews, read studies, and so forth – I actually have plans to do a documentary this holiday with three friends). I would highly recommend readers to get their hands on Professor Keener’s book “Miracles” as well as watch Darren Wilson’s four part series. The human testimony for miracles is quite overwhelming. I’ve seen reports of entire villages converting overnight, for example, after seeing these things. Keener documents some awesome cases where atheists convert (an atheist family converted in China after a family member was healed form cancer following prayer. An atheist university professor, Luis, in Colombia converted and planted a church after his wife was dramatically healed).

What I’m saying is that all this is hard to swallow for the atheist. The atheist believes in a sort of closed system that no external agent can get in to do these kinds of things. Basically miracles can’t happen because no supernatural being exists to make them happen. The point is that if just one miracle really happened then the entire atheistic worldview system implodes. This would happen because a miracle would be excellent evidence for the supernatural but the supernatural can’t exist on atheism since most atheists (most atheists are naturalists) believe that the material, natural world is all that there is. That’s why they have to resort to all sorts of highly unlikely, often irrational, explanations. And since we have good evidence for this I think atheism is false.

7 responses to “4 Minute Interview on Why I Believe Christianity is True & Atheism is False.

  1. The historians you reference lived long after Jesus is reported to have died. And to compound that, the quotes from Josephus are widely agreed (even among most Christian scholars) to be forgeries added to his writings by later Christians. The fact that later Christians and historians write of Jesus, is only proof that there was a strong and thriving Jesus cult in the latter part of the 1st century and continuing into the 2nd century.

    You have frequently written against the concept of Biblical Inerrancy, noting that the stories in the OT were oral traditions, and that they were attempts by the people to understand their world as best they could. Given that the gospels themselves were oral traditions before being documented, why would you give them more inherent credence than they deserve? Why are they any different today from documented sightings of Elvis that happened decades ago? The gospels are not even consistent with each other, in describing the events – even those related to Jesus’ death and resurrection (e.g. what were Jesus’ last words – “It is finished”, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me”, or “Into thy hands I commit my spirit”?) An explanation that is AT LEAST as likely as yours (actually moreso, since it doesn’t depend on the supernatural), is that some small group of Jesus cultists (not unlike modern religious cults) grew in the years following Jesus’ death, with stories of miracles and Jesus sightings growing both in their numbers and in the extravagance of the claims, eventually being documented in the gospels, by people who had no first-hand knowledge of the events.

    As for the modern miracles, I have yet to see any well documented evidence of any such miracles. That includes the case of Jaco van der Westhuyzen you noted, and any number of miracles purportedly performed by Benny Hinn on a weekly basis. Invariably, either there’s an utter absence of any medical validation of the ailment before the “cure” or of validation of the cure itself. Or the “miracle cure” is one that can routinely be explained by natural means (For example, Jaco was reported to have worn a brace prior to the cure, though I haven’t seen any documentation of how long he wore it, or how severe his tear was, etc.) But in any case, ligament tears CAN and DO heal naturally, if the joint is properly immobilized. So any rational person should be skeptical without a lot more objective evidence.

    The world is full of charlatans, and Christians have been taken in by them for two-thousand years.

  2. I dont know what Richard is on about. There are two mentions of Jesus and one is authentic (incidentally the one mentioning his brother James, the one Paul gives eye witness testimony to meeting a few years after the crucifixion. Hard to squeeze out of that one for mythers). Even the first one is considered a perfectly valid mention of Jesus by Josephus. Thats because it is largely thought that the few words at the end were added by later Christian scribes. This does nothing to discount Jospehus.

    Even the point about a ‘jesus cult’ only evidenced as early as ‘late first century’ is misguided. We have good evidence from Tacitus that the Christian movement had not only spread from Jerusalem to Rome by AD 64, but was large enough to be noticed by the emperor and used as a scapegoat for the recent fire. That raises questions about how long Christians had already been in Rome before 64, and how long it took to spread from Jerusalem.

    Regarding the minimal facts approach, Bishop does cite the appearances and empty tomb etc as facts. They are considered facts by the majority of New Testament scholars. Im not quite sure if you are doubting them..

    • Right – so the only mention of Jesus by Josephus that is considered to be authentic is in relative passing. “Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others”. So while it states that Jesus was called Christ, it makes no mention of any of the many marvelous works attributed to Jesus.

      The use of the word “cult” is appropriate, and the relative spread of it in those early centuries doesn’t change that. They were still (at that time) far from a mainstream religion. In AD 100, it represented just 0.6 % of the Roman Empire population. If you read about the views of non-Christians toward Christians, there can be little doubt that they were viewed as a cult at that time.


      Re: “Bishop does cite the appearances and empty tomb etc as facts. They are considered facts by the majority of New Testament scholars” – There’s a difference between being”considered facts” and BEING facts. The tomb may or may not have been empty. Or it may have been empty as a result of Jesus’ body being removed from the tomb by his followers or others. Since the stories weren’t written for many decades, opportunities for corroboration would have been limited, and there IS none, other than within these small set of writings by members of the cult.

      One other point – the story of the women going to the tomb to anoint Jesus body doesn’t add up for multiple reasons. Among other things – they purportedly knew that the tomb was covered by a large stone, which they couldn’t possibly have expected to move.

      • No both of Josephus’ mentions of Jesus are considered authentic, but one is not fully authentic in that a portion has been added on. Both are acceptable sources for the existence of Jesus, which, by the way us why its lack of detail in regards to His miracles ia beside the point as Robert only cites these sources as evidence that he existed. (Of course theres no reason to think Jospehus would stop and mention miracles of Jesus in this particular passage, as Jesus is only mentioned briefly and in passing).

        As to whether we should call Christianity a cult and not a ‘mainstream’ religion by the end of the first century, im not that fussed by such labels. Whats is clear is that halfway through the first century the movement had spread as far as Rome and was significantly big enough to be both noticed by the emperor and considered a good enough scapegoat. By the end of the first century, we have reports (either by Tacitus or Pliny, i forget) of widespread conversion to Christianity in the local countryside (which makes me think Pliny). The cultic view it hard by Pagan’s neither surprises or interests me as anything noteworthy. The fact that it was as widespread as it was is.

        I’ll quickly point out that the appearances of Jesus to the disciples and His crucifixion ARE historical facts. Loosely speaking ofcourse, you may prefer to discard talk of historical facts altogether and simply focus on historical probabilities in which they are almost certain. The empty tomb is not considered on the same level but that doesnt mean it has no historical evidence. I take tje burial to be highly likely, considering its place in the early Pauline creed. Anyway, that was just a comment on how a minimal facts argument normally goes. Arguing against accepted facts and providing natural explanations attempt to adress different parts of the argument. Im not interested in laying out the historical evidence for the likelihood of the empty tomb in a combox, or straightening out different lines or argument either. Perhaps Robert will reply to your points against the empty tomb and the general appeal to late, embellished story telling.

        Anyway this typing is stressing my phone.

        • I don’t see how you can argue that lack of mention of Jesus’ miracles is insignificant. The lack of any corroboration from independent reputable sources speaks volumes.

          As for your claim that “the appearances of Jesus to the disciples and His crucifixion ARE historical facts”, that statement is unequivocally false. We have stories documenting claimed appearances, written decades after their supposed occurrences, and uncorroborated by any reliable independent source.

          • That Jesus’ miracles weren’t noted by Josephus in that particular mention? Of course its not surprising. He’s mentioning James and simply noting that he’s Jesus’ brother as an off-the-cuff comment. However, Josephus also reports that Jesus was a worker of ‘paradoxa’. It’s the same word, and this is again often pointed out by scholars, including the Jewish scholar at Oxford, Géza Vermes, the same term that Josephus uses for Elisha’s miracles, so most scholars think that he describes Jesus as a miracle-working sage. Elsewhere, Robert has also pointed out that no other sage or prophet has the same large number of miracles attributed to him; ‘This leaves Jesus as unique in the surviving Jewish literature of his time in being portrayed as performing a large number of healings and exorcisms’ (Eric Eves). He also quotes non Christian Marcus Borg; “Indeed, more healing stories are told about him than about any other figure in the Jewish tradition”. Anyway, we do have extra biblical, non Christian sources which note that Jesus was known to have produced miracles, namley Josephus.

            The appearances of Jesus to the disciples and the crucifixion are essentially uncontested across the board by atheists and agnostics, largely due to the Corinthians creed (though i think more can be said for the Gospel narratives). I think you’ve probably heard of it, its nothing like decades after the facts; at most a couple of years with some suggestions of as early as a few weeks. Regardless, it is very very early indeed. Gold dust, as James Crossley would say. It also includes first hand eye witness testimony, along with second hand eye witness testimony arguably from Peter and James. I personally dont think the Creed is the end of the story, but for the overly skeptical historians it is persuasive across the board and is well evidenced an event as any other in ancient history.

            As for the crucifixion, well THAT is unequivocal. It is a certain historical fact. It is attested to by Paul and given in the early Creed. It is attested to by multiple extra biblical sources. The criterion to embarrassment is overused often, but in the case of the crucifixion its telling. There were a few ideas for a Messiah, the main one being a Davidic warrior that put Israel in it’s rightful place and defeated the romans, a crucified nominee for the messiah would have been unthinkable. Literally, unthinkable. Add to this the notion that to be hung on a tree was to be cursed by God, disagreeing with the crucifixion not only ignores early attestation by Paul, (who knew and met with the disciples Peter and John, as well as his brother James more than once) the second testimony of the those disciples in the creed, the corroboration with extra biblical sources but also to go against the known cultural context of the period with regards to what a messiah was and certainly was not.

            • As I already noted, Josephus’ mentions of Jesus miracles is viewed by most scholars (including most Christian scholars) as a forgery, added by later Christians.

              The fact that Jesus has lots of miracles attributed to him is also irrelevant. I could write a book tomorrow attributing countless miracles to my grandfather. In the absence of any reliable independent corroboration, they’re just stories. And as I noted above, there IS NO reliable extra-biblical corroboration.

              Your claim that “The appearances of Jesus to the disciples and the crucifixion are essentially uncontested across the board by atheists and agnostics” is patently false. Atheists, agnostics, and those of nearly every non-Christian faith DO contest it.

              Likewise, your claim that the Crucifixion is a certain historical fact, even that is not true. There certainly is some evidence for it. Secular scholars still debate whether Jesus actually existed, and if so – when he lived, how he died, and whether the persona is really that of one man, or some amalgamation of multiple historical and mythical people (given, for instance, the significant striking similarities to a variety of earlier men and myths.


              What “first-hand evidence” are you referring to? As for second-had evidence – that’s known as hear-say. We have first, second, and third-hand evidence that an angel gave the words of the Quran to Muhammad. Do you believe that it must therefore be true?

              The only thing that’s correct in your last paragraph is your statement that “The criterion to embarrassment is overused often”. Christian apologists routinely vacillate between arguing that something is almost certainly true because it’s so very likely, and that something else is almost certainly true because it’s so very unlikely. It should take no imagination to realize that these same arguments can be made in favor of every religion, no matter how outrageous their claims may be.

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