Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cliffe Knechtle Should Have Been An Actor

Last week I had the chance to go to the MSU campus and watch Cliffe Knechtle from Give Me An Answer debate Jeremy Beahan, who does the Reasonable Doubts podcast. Looks like the audio is at Jeremy's website.

This Cliffe Knechtle guy is somewhere between funny and impressive. His presentation is animated and somewhat dramatic. His voice tone comes off with exaggerated inflections. His hands move a lot. He's pacing, sometimes getting himself into a horse stance. It's kind of strange, but on the other hand I think it's effective. In other words, nobody is going to fall asleep listening to him. What he says sticks. Also he doesn't need any notes. The whole thing is memorized. Every dramatic pause is planned. The guy is polished.

Jeremy was the opposite. He isn't a professional debater so he's not able to just wing the presentation. He relied on his notes, especially early. I thought he started out at a little bit of a deficit because of that, but the content was very good. And as the debate wore on I could see that he was relaxing more and more, and this made his presentation better and better. So I thought he did great.

After the talk I approached Cliffe and debated with him a little. He had said that the disciples all died for the belief that Jesus rose, so I asked him how he knows that. For instance how does he know that someone like Andrew was martyred for his claim that he had seen Jesus physically raised. "Church tradition." What tradition. "It's in the church fathers." OK, where? Give me a document. (Slight pause). "I Clement." No. "Origen, Papias." No they don't. "This was the policy of the Roman Empire. You deny the emperor worship and you die."

And off we went from there. It was good fun. Cliffe was sort of being reasonable, but I sensed as a few students started to gather around and listen he was starting to get animated and dramatic. It was time to put on a show again. And the discussion started to get a little less productive. For instance I asked if there are any critical scholars that think Matthew wrote Matthew. F.F. Bruce. I said no, Bruce is a conservative scholar. "Oh, so you think if they are conservative they aren't real scholars. That's extremely arrogant and absurd." I tried to explain to him over and over that I simply defined "critical" in such a way that conservative was excluded and I wasn't saying conservatives are not legitimate scholars. But he held on to this caricature of my position like a pit bull. It was like a life line.

I bumped into him in the hall way and spoke again with him, with no students around. I explained my points a little further and he seemed to listen very attentively and said that I was making very interesting points that are worth thinking about. With the spectators gone there was no need to go into an act again.

Then again maybe the later warmness and attentiveness was an act. Cliffe is pretty good at creating a show.

24 comments:

DagoodS said...

Few apologists know the sources for the traditions surrounding “Won’t Die for a Lie.” They either vaguely say “Church Fathers” or hop over to Hippolytus without realizing the intervening stories exist. (When talking about James, the brother of Christ, even Licona goes from Josephus to Hegesippus, skipping the Second Apocalypse of James.)

Coincidentally, I am having this same conversation here (albeit very protracted) with an Assist. Professor of Apologetics at Biola university. Frankly, I’m a bit disappointed. Here is a guy who teaches post-graduate courses on apologetics research, as well as defense of the resurrection. And he puts together a 200 word defense, presumably shooting for the strongest point possible. And he uses “Won’t die for a lie.” (I would have used the empty tomb.)

O.K., fair enough. If that is what he wants to use. But when I point out the tradition that has Peter crucified upside down also indicates Peter was killed because he was convincing wives not to have sex with their husbands—this Asst. Professor asks me where I come up with that!

Really?

A professor with a doctorate, who teaches post-graduate level courses on the resurrection and research? Who utilizes the tradition of the disciples dying as a strong argument?

And even he doesn’t know where the tradition comes from?

If the ones teaching it don’t know—how could a lay person like Cliffe Knechtle?

Oh—and why didn’t you invite me to come to the debate?

jason said...

Jeremy posted the debate as the most recent Reasonable Doubts podcast. I listened to it the other day and I must say that without seeing all of his theatrics the image of Knechtle I had concocted in my head about right on based on your description. The guy just sounded like a preacher. I would put his apologetics content on par with the guy who teaches the apologetics class on Sunday nights in any given Evangelical church - certainly not someone who does it for a living.

I thought Jeremy did a great job and Cliffe never even attempted to answer his points or rebuttals. It was just "Oh, Jeremy said the words free will, so how can a materialist have free will???, let alone morals???"

Huh?

Same old stuff from the apologist, but I thought Jeremy's replies were solid and fresh. It didn't come across like the same old atheist/skeptic content.
Good stuff, overall.

Jon said...

I wanted to invite you, Mr. Sandwich, but I guess Jason doesn't like you or something and he said no, and then he bailed out anyway so it wasn't even worth it. Plus we were going to hit on all the debate groupies and you always get all the attention, so that's no good. Next time.

I agree that Jeremy did great. Cliffe goes with confident assertions and outrage. I thought Jeremy's pointing out that outrage is not an argument was awesome. Also, can you believe Cliffe wants to deny Markan dependence? Jeremy got after him on that and it was very good. Nice zinger on the whole genocidal God of the Bible being the source of morality. Jeremy does know his stuff.

Loaferman said...

Hello,
How do we know that the disciples decided not to die for a lie? It seems like you know, but you aren't saying.

I heard Cliff speak over 25 years ago many times at Purdue. There were other campus "preachers" there, but they did not actually answer questions or entertain dialogue, but Cliff actually did his best to speak with people, not yell at them.

I had an interesting experience this evening. I was watching a video on the net and suddenly realized a very simple thing. People make decisions about things because of how they feel and how they were treated more often than they make decisions based on a logical sequence like a computer does. So now I have a question: Is there a correlation to what you believe with what has happened to you in the past? I am interested to line up 100 people who believe a certain way and ask each of them what were the things in their life that occurred that seemed to forge a deeply held belief, either for or against something. I have my own theory, but I want each of us to compare what has happened to us with the turning points in our belief. It is fascinating to think that a decision with potentially eternal ramifications can be made on a statistically insignificant data set. (One way or the other.)

I have a riddle for you.

How long did it take God to invent time?




Answer:



None, there wasn't any yet.
Loaferman

B. Schaefer said...

Hi - just found this old blog post. So ...why do you believe the apostles died? NOT trying to debate - in the least. Just curious - from your language, it seems you have an idea, and I'm really curious. Thanks!

Jon said...

I think it's hard to know. For instance I understand our earliest account of the death of Paul is in an apocryphal book called the Acts of Paul. Everyone assumes Paul was beheaded and I think it's primarily based on this account. What many people don't know is the same account says that when he was beheaded milk squirted from his neck, and subsequently he approached Nero, head in hand apparently, and told him that he was next. How is it possible to separate the fantastical from the historical? That's the nature of ancient history. Things are just unknowable.

John from Conn said...

A well studied script is no match for a philosophy based purely on reason. Cliffe uses a very effective technique when debating, he brings up arcane points that he hopes his opponents are unaware of in an attempt to knock them off their game. His line of thinking is very internally consistent in its pattern from years of honing, studying, and practicing. But, it is one an Objectivist can dismantle quite easily. Please visit Ayn Rand.org and watch the smoke and mirrors disappear.

maxINaus said...

Cliffe is a man who believes he has the truth and wants to share it with people, for no other reason than he wants them to to share in the salvation promised by Christ to those who believe in Him. Yes he is polished and practised and he has a set plan of attack. So what? Atheists come across a Christian who knows exactly what they are talking about and can clearly communicate it, and they start talking about acting ability and smoke and mirrors. The guy gives very persuasive evidence for God, and for Christ being that God. HE doesn't expect you to be converted on the spot, he just asks that you consider the evidence, and then use your heart and mind and reasoning to at least look at Christ with an open mind and decide for yourself. No pressure.

Jon said...

My problem with his style is that it smacks of a used car salesman approach. The used car salesman wants to manipulate your emotions to get the sale, not necessarily persuade you with reason that this purchase is right for you. Of course he's fine using evidence as well. Whatever it takes to get the sale. That's Cliffe's method.

That's not how scientists and historians act. In fact if an individual scientist did act this way he would discredit himself. If you truly respect evidence and logic you don't bring to the table emotional means of persuading people. In Cliffe's world it would seem he'd do whatever it takes to get the sale. Scare you. Pull at your heart strings. Offer evidence. Make you cry. Whatever it takes to get you to sign the card that says you've accepted Christ as your savior. For me it's a turn off.

Doesn't mean he's wrong. Doesn't mean his evidence is poor. I think it is poor, but that's a separate point.

David De Jager said...

Knechtle's method is immaterial. His faith, conviction and arguments are what matter. His motivation is also paramount... what does he have to gain by staying in the ring? There is no clear reward but a command to die to self for this purpose and he is willing to do it. If you turn away because of his delivery, you might as well be complaining about his accent. A learned and composed man picks through the "show" (or personality I say) and pulls out the facts. I appreciate the refute of truth based on historical documentation. If one believes in the realm of supernatural, could it be that "milk" did in fact come out of Paul when beheaded? Could this have been an object lesson caused by HE that made milk and it's symbolism? Could Paul have in fact been resurrected for the benefit of NERO's salvation. Could our GOD be so gracious and forbearing as to go that far to reach a man of such decrepit and putrefied repute? I believe he can, he would, he did and I am a believer because of it. Please keep arguing the points, but don't give up because of the "accent" in which it is delivered. Your eternity may depend on it.

markmcsw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
markmcsw said...

Cliffe is the real deal

J.P. said...

Cliffe makes alot of sense...typical athiests (They somehow all think they are scholars). Use your common sense people. Cliffe nails it in my books.

Jos. Marden said...

Knechtle has lots of money backing him too bad he doesn't have the intellect or creativity to really do the job of a minister or scholar. BTW his Grace Church got a 300 million dollar "gift" from a hedge funder telling them to go build their church. Nothing spoils high minded Christianity like money. Why AA refused the Rockefeller money.

RavenCroweLamica said...

i am a very humble resident of this planet. in my own practice of spirituality, i have a personal "test". when i listen to or first meet a person, i go with what my "gut instinct" tells me. i am NOT a lettered scholar, nor do i think i am an expert on spiritual matters. i only know what makes me feel is correct about my own personal truth. May God/dess Bless All who are true spiritual seekers! )O(

Re'uben said...

Sad "story". I know you are expressing your thoughts but as one also there the whole time over the 3 days, your are misspoken. I wonder why? Perhaps anyone wanting an answer is best to ask Cliff and or visit his web site. http://givemeananswer.org/

Unknown said...

For the record apologists are defending the Bibles claims. These are not some pre-conceived responses without text or evidence and the texts cannot be changed. As a Christian there are three essential elements to faith in God and they require us to be forgiven first. No one has every answer - and the Christian who does think in this way is in for a very rude awakening. You will guess.the elements:
1. We broke the rules God wrote
2. God kept His Promise
3. Christ is risen and ascended into Heaven.
These three are essential to the faith of any Christian any how denies these fundamentals is clearly misguided and requires correction.

Unknown said...

For the record apologists are defending the Bibles claims. These are not some pre-conceived responses without text or evidence and the texts cannot be changed. As a Christian there are three essential elements to faith in God and they require us to be forgiven first. No one has every answer - and the Christian who does think in this way is in for a very rude awakening. You will guess.the elements:
1. We broke the rules God wrote
2. God kept His Promise
3. Christ is risen and ascended into Heaven.
These three are essential to the faith of any Christian any how denies these fundamentals is clearly misguided and requires correction.

Justice Bernal said...

The earth is flat, the sooner Atheists and Christians realize that Christians will then again be able to argue from creation, the tables will turn and the burden of proof will then be on the Atheists because a egocentric earth absolutely dictates a creator.

Justice Bernal said...

The earth is flat, the sooner Atheists and Christians realize that Christians will then again be able to argue from creation, the tables will turn and the burden of proof will then be on the Atheists because a egocentric earth absolutely dictates a creator.

Sione Aisaka said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Metternich said...

This is pretty pathetic. You paint Cliffe in the way you want to see him. Those who actually want to sympathetically see what he does and says can on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/user/askcliffe. He is awesome at reasoning about faith. No one is perfect including yourself.

Another Church-Going Atheist said...

This sounds very much like a "sour grapes" report from someone whose guy/side lost the debate. Just sayin'.

Pat M said...

A couple of questions for Cliffe. 1 - How can you reconcile the Bible account of human origins with the fact that most people of European or Asian ancestry have between 0-4% Neanderthal DNA, due to some humans migrating from Africa - the home of human evolution - mated with Neanderthals? 2 - How can any reasonable person accept the Bible account of human origins- based on a 6,000 year-old Earth and 'creationism' - and reject the overwhelming scientific evidence for evolution, etc? Cliffe's opinion that atheism means that life is pointless, is utterly absurd and insulting. He's suggesting that basing your life on facts, truth and reality is pointless. Thankfully, Cliffe's line in pseudo-science only fools the easily fooled. Unfortunately, very successful brainwashing by powerful, wealthy vested interests in maintaining the Bible as a credible account of human origins, these are in the majority.