Monday, September 01, 2008

BW3 on Lee Strobel's Faith under Fire


Fr. Kevin+ said...

Heh. I love revisionist "scholars." Shermer does not refute one iota of BW3's commentary in this snippet. Why is that?

BW3:1, MS: 0.

James Pate said...

I remember that! My dad was impressed with your performance.

Joe said...

Great stuff. I wish I could hear the whole exchange. How long was the actual discussion?

Debbie Kaufman said...

I was impressed with both the Spirit of debate, and the knowledgeable, concise way you dealt with the assertions. I think you should do and post more of these. It's a long way of saying... You were good!

david said...

Excellent responses! I hope to have that level of preparation some day.

Liam Thatcher said...

Brilliant! Some excellent responses!

I really appreciate your clarity and unwillingness to skirt around the issues! You highlighted the errors in Dr Shermer's arguments brilliantly and I especially found the discussion about the use of Christos in the extra-Biblical sources enlightening...

Keep up the good work!

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks for this. The reason Shermer is not able to hold up his end of the bargain, is because he comes from the Zeitgeist school of thinking about early Christianity and he simply doesn't know his history very well at all, and especially he doesn't understand the whole issue of how early Jewshandled their sacred traditions.


phil said...

Dr. Witherington,

Have you had similar debates, discussions, or perhaps book reviews on any of Marcus Borg’s writings?

Ben Witherington said...

I have done debates with Marcus Borg. If you do a little searching you will likely find the one I did in the National Cathedral with him from 5 years ago, on Is the Bible the Word of God? Go to the National Cathedral website.


Brett R said...

Very well done.

normajean said...

That was smashing! Do you enjoy these kinds of debates? I'd say a dream panel for a debate against naturalism would include you, Wright, Craig, and Plantinga. Any chance of taking a crew like that on the road? hehe

Ben Witherington said...

Bill Craig and I have done some things together, and Tom Wright and I as well. Not with Alvin though. Another one who is really good at apologetics however is Alister McGrath, another good friend, especially on the Dawkins kind of nonsense.

phil said...

Dr. Witherington,

Excuse the irrelevancy of this question to your current posting; but as I was reading Matthew 19 this morning, a question struck me that I, because of my unfamiliarity with Greek, was unable to figure out.
When Jesus says “The kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these” do you know if he is referring to the children or the parents who brought them there? In other words, is Jesus saying the kingdom belongs to those who possess “child-like” values or is he saying the kingdom belongs to those who believe Christ is who he says he is and encourages their families to come to him?

Rhology said...


If you're interested in stuff like that, you might check out James White's recent debate with John Dominic Crossan.

LGM#3 said...

Dr. Witherington,

I remember watching this awhile back, and the "Let's start with Luke's Gospel" followed by direct quotation of Luke 1.1-4 was quite the quick way to put Shermer in his place. Shermer is the perfect pawn for the "Skeptic" game: he's the ultimate "jack of all trades; master of none." He was on the show 'Bullshit' by Penn and Teller deprecating the Bible stories as so fanciful and fantastic, was on *Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed* claiming that proponents of ID aren't persecuted or marginalized; to top it off, Shermer was even on one of the programs "debunking" the 9/11-America-blew-up-the towers-fools.

In short, Shermer is a "scholar" of nothing, but a "skeptic" of everything; hence, I doubt the existence of a Michael Shermer, for all I can see is a "babbling" body: where's the soul? I don't know. :)

LGM#3 said...

P.S. Ben, things are going quite swell at Emory. I really like L. T. Johnson, or at least the first day of class with him!

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Phil: In fact he is saying that the kingdom belongs to children who are brought to him, and those who are like them. Toioutoi can never be a comparison with a third party that does not include the original referents--- namely children. So, interestingly enough Jesus is saying the kingdom belongs to children and those who are like them.


Josh McManaway said...

I had no idea that the 1st Century Christians decided to create two books - the Old and New Testaments. Who knew?!

I think he could've come off more respectable had he atleast done some preliminary research concerning 1st Century Christianity (and particularly the actual dates of canonization of both the OT and NT).

At any rate, I don't think anyone imagined that Mr. Shermer was going to get one over on you, but well done for your charitable tone throughout the whole discussion.

Steve said...


I think Jesus was telling us that He is looking for trust.

And children are capable, indeed more likely to trust because they are not encrusted with the cares of this world.

"Become as these little ones."


- Steve Martin

normajean said...

Many thanks, Ben, for encouraging me (us) to be thoughtful. More, thank you also for showing love (as Josh said above). It's easy to assume the steamroller position in these kinds of settings. Blessings.

Levi said...


Shermer, didn't seem to have a remote chance at the upper-hand in that argument, but what impressed me the most was your graceful manner of making clear that his skepticism had little merit, while still continuing the conversation in a respectable manner.

It's refreshing to see apologetic discourse presented in such a graceful way.

Thanks for the view.

LGM#3 said...


I agree. Ben was as gracious as one could be in talking with such a skeptic who really doesn't know anything about the milieu in which the NT originated, nor the process of the wrtings themselves. One can tell that Dr. Witherington was having a hard time dealing with someone who takes such radical position_s_ in the field which he has spent his whole life studying.
To paraphrase Ben, in short: "No, that's wrong, . . . that's wrong too. . . this is inaccurate. . . I agree with him on this minor, tangential point. . . [The reliability of the gospels survive this criticism.]"

Lawrence M.

Philip L. Hanna said...

Dr. Witherington,

I have discovered you through your blog, and this is my first time commenting on anything in any blog. Personally, I wish I knew how to send this message to you without it appearing in the “Comments” section. Would it be possible for you to reply directly to me at

I am a Christian layman (Southern Baptist), and I want more than anything to know more and more about the Lord Jesus Christ. I just finished reading and re-reading your August 31, 2008, post on “Relating the OT and NT Thought Worlds.” In it you wrote, “From the Christian point of view, Christ is the climax of all God’s revelation to humankind. . . .”

I want to focus my full attention on Him, to get an understanding of how He thought , how He viewed His mission, what He did and is doing for mankind. I know you have written many books. Is there one in particular that you could recommend to me that would be a help in my search?

May the Lord continue to bless your ministry.

Philip L. Hanna
116 Forest Creek Circle
Weatherford, TX 76088
(817) 594-2372

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Philip: Welcome to this blog. I would suggest you start with one of two little books I have written that could help. Read What Have They Done with Jesus? on his impact on his earliest followers, and for his own view of himself, my book the Christology of Jesus, which is a bit more technical. For a survey of the Christology of the NT see my The Many Faces of the Christ.

Blessings on your search,


Luken said...

Well done Mr Witherington. I especially liked how you pointed out that Mr. Shermer and his group employ mythical arguments/evidence when attempting to prove that the gospels are Myth. Again well done.

bobbym said...

Unfortunately, I am suspicious of any "interview" that appears to be edited, as this one obviously was. I realize that time constraints result in editing out dead spots, "umm"s and "uhh"s but this also reduces the effectiveness of using this interview with true skeptics.

For the most part, this clip is good mainly for encouraging the believer, which is an acceptable end in itself.

Wish I could see the whole thing...

LGM#3 said...


I respectfully diagree with you on the function of such an interview. The interview *should* be encouraging for the person who is a skeptic on rational grounds, hoping and wanted to be convinced that something is true, while not having the evidence to assent to it. Ben demonstrated, from pure memory, that Shermer's positions are based upon misunderstandings of both the issues and the ancient texts. I can't see how this isn't helpful for any seeking truth. Why doesn't the skeptic go and look at the ancient texts for themselves, read the *real* scholars in the fields, rather than listening to Keith Olbermann and the *Zeitgeist* crowd? The skeptic like this is usually just an "iteritative skeptic" who asks: Who do you know? Then, once an answer is given, How do you know? Etc. Such a position, if one is being genuine, isn't reasonable nor should be respected: someone saying this should just be ignored--period.

Best Wishes,


LGM#3 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LGM#3 said...

Here's a new link, for something must've gotten mixed up.

tobias innis said...

Hi there, just curious about this question:

Do Christians think apologetics can prove the existence of God?

If not, aren't you just debating history of some sorts?


J.T. Noels said...

Totally agree with Liam. You responded fast and well, and the grammatical use of "Christ" in Tacitus and the others was an interesting point. I wish it were a bit longer!

Scott Ferguson said...

For starters, I love the way Lee Strobel continues to pretend to be a journalist, sitting behind the "anchor desk."

I find it puzzling to imply certainty that the gospels were written in a purely Jewish context. Aren't they largely written in Greek? Does not the possiblity that they were written outside Jerusalem introduce the possibility that they reflect some alien mindsets as well? I for one would not consider Paul's theology as particularly reflecting a Jewish mindset.

On another point, mythological reinterpretation of events can arise within a single generation - see the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses. Additionally, the canard that eye-witnesses would go around straightening out bad theology assumes a very modern state of affairs. It also requires that the eye-witnesses be in close geographical proximity to the communities that created the Gospels. It's tough to challenge claims being made in a place like Alexadria or Syria when you are busy being "zealous for the law" in Jerusalem. If eye-witnesses were capable of stamping out inaccurate information once and for all, it should have been possible in the 50's even more so than in the later half of the first century. And yet Paul must warn against "other gospels" that had apparantly taken root inspite of

When all is said and done Dr Shermer is not the best man to argue first century Christian history and yet I don't think Dr Witherington especially mastered him. Color me unimpressed.

BTW: It is amusing (alarming?) that Strobel finds the fact that the different Gospels include some of the same facts as corroborative when the synoptics are so clearly copied from each other.