Saturday, December 06, 2008

Phil Fernandes vs. Robert Price Debate MP3 Audio – Is Jesus the Savior?

Dr. Phil Fernandes debates Robert Price on the Infidel Guy radio show on the topic: Is Jesus the Savior? A lengthy but interesting debate/discussion.

Full MP3 Audio here.



  1. Jon December 6, 2008

    What did you think, Brian?

    To me it was basically this way throughout.

    Phil: Here’s an argument.
    Bob: Here’s the rebuttal.
    Phil: But you’re on the fringe.
    Bob: But what about my rebuttal?
    Phil: Here’s a new argument
    Bob: Here’s the rebuttal.
    Phil: But you’re on the fringe.
    Bob: But what about my rebuttal?

    Repeat for two hours or so.

  2. Brian December 6, 2008

    Jon – yeah, I know what you mean. Personally I agree that Price is on the fringe. What would I say to someone who doesn’t think any of the letters attributed to Paul were written by him? I wouldn’t argue with a hardcore skeptic’s conclusions… I would question his skeptical methodology and philosophical starting point.

    I thought it was a pretty civil discussion even if it did get a little intense at points and tedious at others. Very interesting.

  3. Jon December 7, 2008

    What you do, Brian, is look into it and see if there are good reasons to think that Paul’s letters are properly attributed, and of course also ask Price why he thinks they are falsely attributed.

    When I was a Christian I kind of just took Pauline authorship for granted, because of course mainstream critical scholarship admits that. But I also knew I didn’t really know why they did, and I couldn’t really defend Pauline authorship on the merits. These days I actually do tend to agree with Price. Paul is a big name that people wrote in the place of. Why is that so outrageous for a critical scholar to admit when he already admits that the exact same thing happened with the dozen or so works attributed to Peter.

    Anyway, my point is, consider the merits first, not where he sits relative to other scholars. Remember, Christians aren’t afraid to take minority positions. Many do so with regards to evolution, the authenticity of a text like II Peter, inerrancy, etc. When I discuss these matters with Christians, I don’t dismiss them because they our outside the mainstream of critical scholarship. If the arguments are there, that is what matters.

  4. Brian December 7, 2008

    In Deconstructing Jesus he suggests that maybe Jesus didn’t exist at all. Would you agree with him there as well?

  5. Jon December 8, 2008

    Yes, I do agree with Price that Jesus’ historicity is impossible to know based upon the current data that we have.

  6. Brian December 8, 2008

    Questioning historicity is different than suggesting the Jesus didn’t exist. My question was whether you agree with Price’s suggestion that Jesus didn’t exist. Do you agree that Jesus didn’t exist, Jon?

  7. Jon December 8, 2008

    Price’s position is that it is impossible to tell if Jesus did exist based upon the data that we have, not that he knows that Jesus didn’t exist. I agree with him.

  8. Brian December 8, 2008

    So you’re not sure Jesus existed or not.

    He also says, “The NT writings are either all anonymous or pseudepigraphal.” Do you agree with that?

  9. Jon December 8, 2008

    That’s right. I’m not sure that Jesus existed. The data does not justify the conclusion that he did exist, but regardless he may have existed. It’s tough to prove the non-existence of something.

    I agree with Price on authorship as well.

    Now the question to you is, how do you react to such claims? Do you dismiss them because they are not mainstream, or do you look into them and consider the merits? I encourage you to do the later. The former is more typical of what I see from Christians.

  10. Brian December 8, 2008

    I would ask why you believe one scholar over the vast majority on this point? You see, my response is the same as yours, yet inversely: The data does not justify the conclusion that he did NOT exist.

    My dismissal is not because they are not mainstream per se, although that does factor in. (there are reasons for scholars to hold that position, no matter their stance). I dismiss the idea that “Jesus didn’t exist” because it seems ad hoc and seems to me to force an unwarranted skepticism into the evaluation of the evidence. It seems more likely that someone is going to hold that position because of their commitment to skepticism. The minority position in this case carries a huge burden of proof.

  11. Jon December 8, 2008

    I would ask why you believe one scholar over the vast majority on this point?

    Well of course it’s not just one scholar, but even if it was I am of the opinion that the merits of the argument need to be considered first. Christians take minority positions, and that’s OK in principle. I’m really surprised that you would ask this question after listening to Price for two straight hours reply to this question and likewise have me reply to this question in more than one post in this very thread. You with “But that’s on the fringe” and me with “But what about arguments?”

    Of course if the arguments are ad hoc or formed from an unreasonable skepticism, then of course that would be a good reason to dismiss the arguments. I wonder which arguments Price puts forward that would be ad hoc or unreasonable in terms of their skepticism.

    I do have a “commitment to skepticism” if by that you mean I do not just accept the received wisdom, especially in matters of history. I recently did some research into Christopher Columbus. He was really quite a brutal guy. No big deal. Lots of historical figures were brutal. This doesn’t diminish the importance of his discovery of the Americas. But the strange thing is here in America we’re given this very romanticized version of what happened with him in school. When most Americans reach adulthood they continue to believe the romanticized version. Lincoln is another example. Not that he’s a brutal guy, but the facts about his life are not quite as wonderful as we are lead to believe in grade school.

    So it is with the historical Jesus. There’s a bit of inertia going on here, with most people just assuming he did exist. But likewise most Christians have no idea why we should believe he was a historical figure, other than to say that everyone else believes it. But then everyone in America thinks Lincoln freed the slaves. They think Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor was completely out of the blue and unprovoked. They think OBL attacked the United States because he hates religious freedom and has a problem with our prosperity. Are these beliefs true? There is reason to doubt each of them. If I find the reasons persuasive I will doubt these claims, regardless of the opinion of the majority.

  12. Brian December 8, 2008

    I think I understand where you are coming from. I think we can agree on a number of points: there are romanticized versions of history, we should be skeptical (to what extent we may differ), we should weigh the arguments, etc.

    However, you think it is reasonable to go with the fringe view, and I think there are serious problems with that view. Of course, Price has done the heavy-lifting and now those who read his books can simply put their faith in his scholarship. Personally, I am highly skeptical of Price’s conclusions.

    I am glad that you agree with me that if the arguments are ad hoc or formed from an unreasonable skepticism, that that is good reason to dismiss the arguments. That is exactly what I do with them.

    Well, Jon, thanks for taking the time to write. It has been an interesting discussion but I am closing comments for this one. Tomorrow will have some more fun resources on this topic.

    I now point our readers to your blog: