Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up? A Debate between William Lane Craig & John Dominic Crossan - William Lane Craig, John Dominic Crossan, Paul Copan This debate reflects the distinction that is made between the Jesus of history and the Jesus of faith. Over the past two hundred years, the traditional supernaturalistic understanding of the Gospels has been challenged by those who propose that the message of the Gospels is contained in myth. They say that the Bible represents important moral truth but not historical accuracy, in the sense that Jesus was resurrected but not physically. The events recorded in the Gospels, especially those that involved violation of natural laws, did not happen but represented the beliefs that the church projected
backwards. This view was first proposed by David Friederich Strauss (1808-1874) and developed by Martin Kãhler and most recently by Rudolf Bultmann, who suggested that even searching for a historical Jesus was in fact anti-thetical to Paul's justification of grace through faith. Seeking historical verification represents failure of faith.

The pendulum swung back when Ernst Kãsemann delivered a lecture in 1953 that rejected these arguments. He proposed that without a historical grounding Christianity "would collapse into docetism — a faith in a chimera." Crossan, former co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, sides with the earlier thinkers, reiterating that Jesus must be separated from theological encrustation, that the Gospels contradict each other on significant historical descriptions, and that believing in the traditional supernatural events becomes an obstacle to faith.
Craig, an evangelical, supported by Buckley, of course, argues that if we cannot believe in the virgin birth, the physical resurrection, the miracles, then the foundations of belief will come crashing down. If any of those events can be disproved, faith is destroyed.

Crossan uses Aesop's Fables as an example of his position. Animals speak in those stories. We accept today that animals can't speak now, but we can't prove they couldn't in ancient Greece. To debate whether they could or could not may be fascinating, but it obscures the real point and moral messages Aesop was trying to convey. Jesus and the Gospels similarly used fables and parables to convey a truth. Did the
Good Samaritan really exist as a person? The debate can go on ad infinitum, but whether he did or not misses the point. To debate the historical accuracy of Jesus' life, Crossan suggests, also misses the point. We get lost in the debate and are distracted from the moral of His message. As Crossan states, "When I look a Buddhist friend in the face, I cannot say with integrity: 'Our story about Jesus' virginal birth is true and factual. Your story that when the Buddha came out of his mother's womb, he was walking, talking, teaching, and preaching (which I must admit is even better than our story) — that's a myth.
We have the truth; you have a lie.' I don't think that can be said any longer, for our insistence that our faith is fact and that others' faith is a lie is, I think, a cancer that eats at the heart of Christianity."

Marcus Borg, in his commentary on the debate, provides a valuable insight regarding how we understand resurrection. He states that resurrection as understood by the Jews and Romans of the first century is different from common interpretation today. Modern Christians confuse it with resuscitation, i.e., the restoration of life to the corpse that then goes on as before requiring sustenance, elimination, etc. Crossan prefers the first century interpretation that meant moving on to a new life, something different, a spirituality not requiring a body or physical existence. Hence the presence of Jesus’ corpse in the tomb is irrelevant for Borg and Crossan. The visions seen by the Apostles and Paul do not require a physical being.

This debate, which was held at Moody Memorial Church in Chicago, and the essays from other scholars reflecting on the debate, are fascinating and a model of how a reasonable dialogue can be conducted between two diametrically opposing viewpoints.

Of course, it's all non-sense, but enchanting, nevertheless.

P.S. William Lane Craig has gained a reputation recently for trying to take on Richard Dawkins (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/oct/20/richard-dawkins-william-lane-craig) and his debate with Christopher Hitchens is available on YouTube.