A full house at Stephens Auditorium braved heavy snow, but left a debate on the resurrection of Jesus Christ with few clear answers.
Some people had to be turned away from “The Resurrection of Jesus: Fact of Fiction?” debate Thursday after Stephens’ capacity of 2,700 was reached.
The debate featured William Lane Craig, research professor at the Talbot School of Theology, arguing for the resurrection of Christ, and Hector Avalos, associate professor of religious studies, arguing the resurrection did not occur.
Both men were given 20 minutes for opening statements, 12 minutes for a first rebuttal, eight more minutes for a second rebuttal and five minutes for closing remarks.
Kendra Essman, junior in linguistics and co-president of the ISU Atheist and Agnostic Society, said a critical beginning set a terrible tone for the rest of the debate.
“The first person to speak has a lot of power and Craig started with tearing down Avalos’ past debates,” she said.
Essman said she wanted the debate to be focused on evidence and not its participants. She said she was disappointed that Craig and Avalos found it easier to attack one another.
“The two were tied up in quibbling,” Essman said.Craig based most of his argument on what he said were “four established facts about Jesus.”
These facts were the burial of Jesus, the discovery of an empty tomb, Jesus’ several appearances after he had died and the unwavering belief of Jesus’ disciples in the resurrection.
Avalos said the facts Craig cataloged were not actually facts. Although Craig believed the stories of the events are factual, the stories do not make the events themselves factual, Avalos said.
Overall, Craig said, there was a very clear argument historically of the resurrection.
Craig said he enjoyed the dialogue with Avalos very much and he thought there was no ill will between them.
“Both Avalos and I conducted ourselves with the proper tone and behavior,” Craig said.
Eric Christensen, senior in management information systems, said he believed Avalos was the stronger arguer because of his use of pure logic.
“But Craig had the charisma going for him, which probably won him more of the crowd’s favor,” Christensen said.
David Davis, junior in marketing, said he didn’t think Avalos used more logic. Davis said Avalos talked more about Craig personally and Craig was more focused on trying to prove whether the issue was fact or fiction.
“They both are really bright men, but Craig was putting up more of an argument why it is fact,” Davis said. “Avalos didn’t show [the bodily resurrection of Jesus] to be fiction.”
Davis said where the two participants differed most was in their belief in a god. He said their beliefs automatically differed because Avalos is atheist and Craig is Christian.
Davis said he doesn’t think it is a win-win situation, because people who believe in Jesus’ resurrection were there to justify what they already believed and Craig restated the beliefs the Christian audience already held.
The debate might not have changed minds, but it made people ponder the subject, attendees said.
“It made me think more, but I still believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose three days later,” Davis said.
Christensen said parts of the debate became too academic for him, such as when the conversation turned to the interpretation and accuracy of translating ancient manuscripts using languages such as Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, he said.
Moderator Alex Tuckness, assistant professor of political science, said the resurrection’s basis in fact has been debated for centuries and is very important.
“If Jesus was not raised from the dead, the Christian faith is useless,” Tuckness said.