Monday, September 20, 2010

McCormick vs. DiSilvestro at CSUS (Debate #1)

Debate #1 – Salem vs. Jerusalem (Miracles and Historical Evidence)

McCormick leads off with one of the most impressive take-downs of the gospel narrative I've ever witnessed, and bear in mind that by now I've watched over a hundred debates covering this subject at least in part. He compares the alleged miracles at Jerusalem (empty tomb and other events on account of supernatural magic) with the alleged miracles at Salem (sundry persons claiming they were bewitched in various ways) and concludes that by using the standard historical criteria one can be far more confident of the veracity of magic in Salem than in Jerusalem. He makes his case thoughtfully and thoroughly, and challenges the audience either to accept the magical hypothesis in both case, reject it in both cases, or else demonstrate why the evidence for Jerusalem is somehow stronger than that of Salem.

DiSilvestro, for his part, makes the same case as in his earlier debate, based on four alleged facts from the NT sources:

1)Jesus was buried honorably in the Arimathean’s tomb
2)On the following Sunday this very same tomb was found empty
3)Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen Jesus after his death and burial
4)The original disciples believed that Jesus arose from the dead

DiSilvestro goes on to make a case that demons and witches are real. I could be wrong, but it looks to me like McCormick has him in the corner, on the ropes, biting the bullet at this point. He then makes an argument that one ought to take the miracles of Jerusalem more seriously than those of Salem, for three reasons:

1) Disciples suffered for their own beliefs, the witches suffered for other's beliefs
2) There were hundreds of eyewitnesses in Jerusalem (if you believe Paul)
3) The Salem community repented of their beliefs and injustices

DiSilvestro closes with bit of a homily and gospel preaching.

This may be one of the first debates in which I've seen the minimal facts argument thoroughly flattened even though it was effectively presented. It seems that the best way to counter such an argument is not with an appeal to gospel discrepancies (as Ehrman usually does) or historical methodology in theory (as many others do) but rather by illustrating how historical methodology works in practice by applying the loose criteria of Biblical scholarship to more recent and well-documented events.

This one is a must see. Great job by both debaters!

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