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ISBN/ASIN : 0825427886
Manufacturer : Kregel Publications|
Release data : 25 September, 2004
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Biased and worthless
Many things that Habermas presume as true concerning, for instance, the idea that most scholars regard the "empty tomb" as a fact of history, are simply false. Scholars are not nearly so unified on accepting many of the premises assumed. He presumes so many facts told us by the bible that he might as well just say "Jesus is risen because the bible says so" and save us some time and money.
For reasons why the resurrection is not supported by history, and for other challenges to fundamentalist Christianity, see the writings by Robert Price or Michael Tenenbaum on the matter.
The Best Single Volume for Beginners
In The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Gary Habermas and his protégé Michael Licona have produced an amazing resource for presenting and defending the historic Christian faith. Case for the Resurrection presents Habermas's "minimal facts" approach to arguing for the resurrection of Christ - a method that avoids appealing to sources that only Christians would find compelling. To encourage readers to really assimilate the material, a quality video game is included on a CD-ROM in the back of the book.
It is divided into four parts. Part One is an introduction to the whole book that explains why Christ's resurrection is so important, gives an overview of the historical method, and previews the main points that will be discussed. Part Two delivers the minimal facts approach itself (see below). Part Three demonstrates how the approach can be used to handle common objections to Christ's resurrection. Part Four compliments part three by including many secondary objections that might be brought up, as well as a section on people skills. Nearly one third of the book awaits, however, as the main body is followed up by a series of sample conversations, an outline of the entire approach in (this alone is worth the price of the book), extensive notes, and a bibliography.
The book's strengths are many. The minimal facts approach "considers only those facts that are both strongly supported by evidence and are conceded by almost every scholar, even those who are skeptical" (p. 220). There are five facts brought to bear on the issue: (1) Jesus died by crucifixion, (2) Jesus' disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them, (3) the church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed, (4) the skeptic James (brother of Jesus) was suddenly changed, and (5) the tomb was empty. The authors note that point five is not technically a minimal fact because it only has about 75% acceptance by scholars rather than the vast majority required by the others, but there is enough evidence and agreement to include it anyway. Each of these is given plenty of supporting arguments and evidence.
The evidence and arguments are presented in an easily understood manner, even for the layperson. Memory aids are found throughout in the form of helpful acronyms, graphics, and summaries. These permeate the book to such an extent that even a cursory glance will deliver more useful information than an average Sunday school class. The writing is casual and friendly, which serves as a constant reminder that this is how the authors intend the material to be used. More than most apologetics texts, the authors show a great concern for the manner in which this information is communicated - they often stress the need for listening and responding to the objector's points without simply bulldozing them with facts.
I was not really planning on reviewing the CD-ROM game included with the book because I assumed it to be a mere add-on for promotional purposes, but to the degree that I expected this I was completely wrong. The game is actually a high quality trivia game with a humorous "host" who encourages the player (sometimes through playful ridicule) as he goes through the game. It was quite entertaining and really lets the reader objectively evaluate how well they truly grasp the material.
Case's weaknesses are few and minor. The book is entry-level without appearing "dumbed down" and so some of the more difficult scholarly objections were handled rather cursorily, but to offer much more would have weighed the book down. Further, the notes and bibliography can point the reader to more detailed refutations. There is quite a bit of repetition that was appreciated for aiding the memory and driving home how well the minimal facts approach can be used in numerous situations, but it could have been lightened considerably and still served its purpose. The weakest section of the book was chapter eleven which dealt with God's existence. It comes in section four (secondary issues) because it is not a direct objection to the resurrection itself, and is treated only briefly (less than ten pages), offering only two arguments (intelligent design and first cause). Both arguments use primarily scientific data for support rather than the considerably more powerful philosophical versions of the arguments, and many classical arguments are not mentioned at all. (Unlike, for example, William Lane Craig - another debate heavyweight - who uses the same basic evidential method when dealing with the resurrection, but includes the powerful Kalam cosmological argument for God's existence - supported by both scientific and philosophical evidence - in his overall case). Due to the evidential nature of the book (which reflects Habermas's apologetic methodology) this was not necessarily unexpected, but as an "armchair editor" I would have had that chapter expanded - possibly into a more robust appendix.
If there is a second edition, (or, better, a sequel!), more space should be devoted to theories being expounded in recent books like The Empty tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Robert Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds.), and ideas being promoted by other up-and-coming critics like Richard Carrier who has taken up the "spiritual resurrection" gauntlet. While some of these theories are briefly dealt with in Case for the Resurrection (and more thoroughly refuted in other works such as Norman Geisler's [[ASIN:159244735X The Battle for the Resurrection: Updated Edition]] and N. T. Wright's [[ASIN:0800626796 The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God)]]) they will become less "academic" and more "popular" as the internet continues to close the gap between the two.
Good for laymen
I've been working on writing a speech for the resurrection. I've heard Gary Habermas speak on multiple occasions and I looked forward to getting this book.
This book has been very resourceful. However, for the striving apologist I would suggest picking up a book of a higher level. Habermas and Liocina are both evangelicals and they present their argument in that manner. For the striving apologist, I think Craig's arguments and Swinburn's arguments are some of the best for a general study of the resurrection. But, like I said, this book is resourceful as well. Aside from presenting their argument in a very evangelical way, they provide a lot of background information and other scholarly materials in their "Endnotes" section.
This is a good introductory book to the resurrection just as The Case for a Creator (Lee Strobel) is a good introductory book to intelligent design. There are however, essays, even books written on almost every single page covered in the The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.