Wineskins Archive

December 20, 2013

AfterGlow: Whither Resurrection Reality (Jan-Feb 1998)

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by Phillip Morrison
January – February, 1998

30Shortly after this Easter issue of Wineskins appears, the resurrection of Jesus will be the subject of intense interest on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames. On April 8 and 9, 1998, Dr. Rubel Shelly and Dr. Hector Avalos will meet in the Great Hall on the Iowat State campus to debate the question of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Avalos is assistant professor of religious studies at Iowa State and executive director of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. Avalos grew up in northern Mexico where he was a child preacher and faith healer. he later earned his master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School and doctoral degree from harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Avalos has contributed scholarly articles to numerous publications, including the Oxford Companion to the Bible.

Shelly is preaching minister for the Woodmont Hills Church of Christ in Nashville and co-editor of Wineskins magazine. After earning his undergraduate degree at Harding University, he earned two master’s degrees at Harding Graduate School of Religion. He then earned a master’s in philosophy at Vanderbilt University and a doctoral degree at Vanderbilt with a major in philosophy and a minor in religious studies. In addition to his church work, Shelly has taught in several colleges and universities and authored numerous books and articles.

This debate on the resurrection of Jesus was arranged after an officer in the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union had a letter to the editor published in the Davenport, Iowa Quad-Cities Times claiming that there were no eyewitnesses to jesus’ ministry and resurrection. Replies from believers were also published, in which the resurrection was affirmed. Then a letter from Dr. Avalos was published, and he later suggested that a more formal exchange be conducted. Tim Hall, minister for the Central Church of Christ in Davenport, contacted Dr. Shelly, and, after lengthy negotiations, the debate was scheduled.

On the first night of the debate, Rubel Shelly will affirm that “The best historical evidence supports the view that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in space-time history as reported in the New Testament.” Avalos will deny that proposition.

On the second night, Hector Avalos will affirm that “The best historical evidence and methods support the view that reports of the resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament probably do not reflect an actual event in normal space-time history,” and Shelly will deny.

The format each evening will feature an affirmative construction, a negative response, an affirmative rejoinder, a negative rejoinder, an affirmative summation, and a negative summation. Agreement between the participants allows for the distribution of audio and video recordings as well as a print version of the debate. Information about how to obtain these materials will appear in Wineskins and other places.

This discussion will not make questions about the resurrection go away. There will always be believers and there will always be doubters. As Christians, we believe that the Christian life is the best way to live here, and the promise of being raised to live with God forever is an additional blessing. It is fitting that this debate will take place just a few days before the Christian world celebrates Easter, 1998.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison

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