William Lane Craig’s Website Asks Me Why I Doubt Eyewitness Testimony

Eyewitness Testimony - Stidham Reconstruction

Ryan, assistant to William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith blog: Hi Gary,
I’m curious about your statement in your last paragraph. I agree with you that eyewitness testimony is not sufficient for Big Foot or aliens, but I’m curious what your reasons are. Why do you think eyewitness testimony is sufficient in some cases and not others? In your view, what changes to make it no longer sufficient?

Gary: Most educated westerners have a different standard of evidence for different types of claims. For very common claims, we require less evidence than for extra-ordinary claims. Let me give some examples:

Your neighbor claims that he saw a beautiful red Camaro on his drive to work this morning. Is his eyewitness testimony sufficient for you? I will bet that you will say, yes—unless your neighbor has a reputation for being a liar. You will most likely not demand photographs or video recordings to believe the claim that your neighbor saw a read Camaro this morning. It is a common claim. We all see automobiles every day.

Now, let’s say that your neighbor claims that he saw one hundred red Camaros on his drive to work this morning. Is his eyewitness testimony sufficient for you? Seeing one hundred red Camaros at one time and place would be a pretty unusual event. I don’t know about you, but I doubt I would believe this claim unless I could verify it by watching a news broadcast which confirms that a red Camaro Convention had occurred in my town today. I doubt I would take my neighbor’s word for this claim. I might if he had a solid reputation for honesty and I was certain he wasn’t pulling my leg, but still, probably not. I would demand more evidence for this unusual, but still possible claim.

Now, let’s say that your neighbor claims that he had breakfast with Elvis Presley this morning, who took him for a ride to Mars and back in his invisible rocket ship. I don’t know about you, but I don’t care how honest and respected my neighbor might be, nothing he says or shows me is going to convince me of this claim. For me, and I would bet for most educated people living in the West, eyewitness testimony is not sufficient for such a bizarre, laws-of-physics and common sense defying claim.

I will bet that the overwhelming majority of Americans would agree with me on the above scenarios…until you ask similar scenarios involving their religion. Then these same people will have very different standards. Why is that??

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End of post.

14 thoughts on “William Lane Craig’s Website Asks Me Why I Doubt Eyewitness Testimony

  1. Ehrman makes a good point in his books and blog that if eyewitness testimony were totally trustworthy we wouldn’t need judges. Some guy says he saw something so you’re guilty. done. Or what about two or more witnesses who contradict each other? We have to conclude one or more are mistaken, or lying for some ulterior motive.

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  2. Gary, you’ve challenged Craig’s Assistant very well. Bravo!

    #1) — If there is one huge pet-peeve of mine, it is when someone like Craig or any other apologist today tries to first establish a self-perceived factual premise—e.g. “Eyewitness Testimonies” found in the Greco-Roman Canonical Gospels—when that premise is by no means a unanimous factual premise by the vast majority of independent Secular academics and scholars from ALL disciplines of science (not Faith) relevant to those Greco-Roman Canonical Gospels copied from somewhere, someone, in 70 CE thru 110 CE… at the earliest!!! That’s approx. 38-years AFTER Yeshua’s execution by the Romans. Furthermore, all of the earlier Canonical Epistles, especially the Herodian Jew Saul/Paul of Tarsus’ epistles… do NOT align well with the narrations of the Canonical Synoptic Gospels! Major problem there Apologists. And this #1 problem isn’t even the big one!

    #2) — Yeshua bar Yosef was unequivocally a Sectarian Homeland Jew. Period. The two languages he was most fluent in was A) Mishnaic Hebrew (a highly complex Semitic language for Greeks to barely understand), and B) Syro-Aramaic, the common language of the Levant & Judea/Syria and Homeland Jews. Nowhere, ever has any Jewish manuscripts or gospels been found to exist—only indirect hints of one or more Hebrew Gospels of Yeshua—which does NOT bode well for Christendom at all! And it is a well-known fact among all Jewish scholars today of the Tannaim Period and those Semitic languages that Greeks in 1st-century CE Palestine simply could not precisely translate Mishnaic Hebrew into Syro-Aramaic then into Koine Greek without numerous errors and distorted theology. It’s near impossible.

    Naturally, Christian Apologists today want to ignore, deny in all sorts of circus acts and conjured rebuttals that these two highly problematic underminings of all Christianity will never go away. Not until some Hebrew Gospels in Mishnaic or Syro-Aramaic turn up.

    Sorry Mr. William Craig. Your “faith” has been blind and quite misguided and mythical for the last 1,989 years. Time to have a “Come to Jesus” moment Sir and all Christians who swallowed hook, line, and sinker what was fed to them. 😉

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  3. Great post, Gary. For me, the first time I heard of that argument was from Richard Carrier in his “Why I Am Not a Christian” book, a really short offering that is easy to read but dense with logic. He’s also a big Batesian (“Proving History”), and extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence is Bates Theory to its core.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One more thing to get to one more level of detail: the reason why the Elvis/Mars scenario is an extraordinary claim that requires extraordinary evidence is not based on how it strikes us personally or subjectively (“I could never believe that!”). It’s because, in contrast, we already have evidence that Camaros exist (from your other scenarios), whereas we don’t have evidence that Elvis is alive, nor that a dead person could come back from the dead, nor that an invisible ship could get you to Mars, nor that any ship could get you to Mars, nor that ships can be invisible. That means that in order to accept that Elvis took you to Mars, you have to establish all those other claims.

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      1. Great detail and further points Prinzler. A scenario I sometimes use with Christian Apologists—extraordinary claims require (overwhelming?) extraordinary evidence—is my total “Faith™” in Sasquatch and the very real vast number of Sasquatchians around the world. We too have “eyewitnesses” to Big Foot’s existence! Hence, my personal “Faith™” in my Lord & Savior Sasquatch is EQUALLY AS REAL as yours in a Jewish reformer/rabbi you’ve never met in person; which ironically is the exact same case as Paul of Tarsus. Hah, riddle us that one won’t you? 😉

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  4. Mark: Jesus arose to heaven from a room in Jerusalem.
    Matthew: Jesus never met his apostles in Jerusalem. He sent them a message via two women to meet him in Galilee,a three day walk from Jerusalem. They do. No ascent to heaven mentions.
    Acts: Jesus commands his apostles to not leave Jerusalem. Jesus is there 40 days, then ascends to heaven.
    Luke: Jesus leaves his tomb, meets his apostles in Jerusalem, and leads them out to the nearby
    village of Bethany and ascends to heaven. all on the same day he leaves his tomb.
    John: Jesus meets his apostles in Jerusalem. and later they all go to Galilee. No ascent to heaven is mentioned.

    These anonymous accounts are obviously not eyewitnesses and these tales are obviously not true.
    Two prophecies in Mark and Luke tell the high priest at Jerusalem that they will seem him descend with power with clouds of heaven. See Matthew 24:33. Other prophecies that the new Kingdom of Heaven would come about in his followers lifetime also are failed prophecies.

    There is no reason to take these stories as true in any way. The question is, why do so many people accept this as true when obviously, none of it can possibly be?

    WCB

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    1. If I may … in answer to your last question — These inconsistencies are NEVER shared from the pulpit and since VERY few believers ever critically read their bible, the “accepted” stories continue to inculcate from generation to generation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. When I was still a believer, I decided to read the New Testament from beginning to end. I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and then starting reading John. When I got to John’s Resurrection Story a small crack occurred in my faith: “Wait a minute! That isn’t what the other Gospels said. Something is wrong here.”

        It didn’t cause my deconversion, but it was one of many early cracks in my faith.

        (Another crack was when I took my young children to their Lutheran church school to sing in a school program. Dozens of cute little kids were up on the platform singing their hearts out…and after they were finished…the pastor of the church gave a sermon on the Slaughter of the Amalekites and how it was “good” for God to have ordered the slaughter of men, women, and little children. Something inside me said, “That’s just not right.”)

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        1. Just out of curiosity, did you read the four gospels one after the other, or side by side, as one would with a parallels book or whatever it’s called. I have two different books that do this. One is the Synoptic Gospels side by side, and the other is all four. Man, you really see the differences that way. Especially when John is compared.

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          1. Since my deconversion, I have read the Passion Stories and Resurrection Stories side by side, but not while I was a believer.

            I would encourage every believer to do so, however.

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