Arguing for the Resurrection of Jesus

Arguing for the Resurrection of Jesus January 25, 2023


Della Francesca guards asleep
Sleeping guards at Christ’s tomb (detail), by Piero della Francesca, ca. 1463-1465

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Conference Talks: “Why Evolution and LDS Thought are Fully Compatible,” given in late 2013 by Steven L. Peck

Steven Peck, a professor of biology at Brigham Young University, takes it as “axiomatic that evolution in its broad sense is the way the biological world works, although details are still being worked out and amazing discoveries will continue for centuries.” Using vivid examples, he explains both the compelling nature and the complexity of evolution. He also describes what he regards as the weak science behind what is popularly called the “Intelligent Design” movement. However, he says, “evolution does not negate by one iota the idea of a purposeful universe that was organized by a loving, intelligent God.”


Della Francesca painting of resurrection
The complete painting of “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ” by Piero della Francesca.  I’m not overly enthused about the representation of Jesus, and not only because of the silly flag that he’s holding and the culturally (and biblically) inauthentic tomb.  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Relatively soon after it was published, as I recall, I read a book containing commentary on, and the text of, a debate between Gary R. Habermas, an evangelical Protestant philosopher based at Virginia’s Liberty University of whom I had never previously heard, and Antony G. N. Flew, who was, at the time, arguably the most prominent vocally atheistic philosopher in the English-speaking world.  The topic of the debate was the purported resurrection of Christ; the book’s title was Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?  Professor Flew, obviously, argued for the negative, since there can be no resurrection of the Son of God if there is no God in the first place. Professor Habermas argued the positive.

As I recall, somebody called my attention to the book in conversation.  I was told that Professor Habermas had made a strong case that Jesus had, most likely, actually risen from the dead.  This intrigued me.  I believed, at that point, that Jesus really had done so.  But I also assumed at that point that the “evidence” for his resurrection was limited to the flat assertions of the New Testament.  Of course, those assertions were corroborated and fortified, for Latter-day Saints, by the “second witness” of the Book of Mormon (particularly 3 Nephi) and by the testimonies, some of them quite remarkable, of modern apostles and prophets.

When I picked up the book, I was still not expecting very much.  I was, though, quite frankly stunned by the case that Professor Habermas mounted, and astonished at the weakness of Professor Flew’s position in the debate.  And, even now, I count my reading of Did Jesus Rise from the Dead as a pivotal moment in my intellectual autobiography.  It convinced me that a persuasive if not altogether ironclad historical argument could be made, something that, perhaps surprisingly from where I now stand, I had not previously imagined.

Here is a bibliographical list of more or less directly relevant books by Gary Habermas, so far as I’m aware.  I’ve created it for my own nefarious purposes, of course — which almost certainly involve character assassination, deception, and mercenary self-interest, as well as the fact that I myself have an incomplete manuscript on the topic that I hope someday to finish and to publish — but I thought that at least a few others out there might find it of value:

Habermas, Gary R.; Flew, Antony G. N.(1987). Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row. 

———; Stevenson, Kenneth (1990). The Shroud and the Controversy. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

——— (1984). Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus: Historical Records of His Death and Resurrection. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

——— (1996). The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, MO: College Press.

——— (2000). Heart of New Testament Doctrine: Resurrection (vol. 1). Joplin, MO: College Press.

——— (2000). Heart of the Christian Life: Resurrection (vol. 2). Joplin, MO: College Press.

——— (2003). The Risen Jesus & Future Hope. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

———; Moreland, James P. (2004). Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

———; Licona, Michael R. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.

———; Flew, Antony G. N. (2005). Resurrected?: An Atheist and Theist Dialogue. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

———; Flew, Antony G. N. (2009). Baggett, David (ed.). A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew: Did the Resurrection Happen?. Veritas books. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Gary Habermas has been working in these waters for a very long time.  His 1976 doctoral dissertation at Michigan State University was entitled “The Resurrection of Jesus: A Rational Inquiry.”  He has been a prolific author, and multiple videos of him making his arguments are easily accessible online.  But Professor Habermas isn’t the only person who has put forward interesting historical arguments for the literal historicity of Christ’s resurrection.  Michael Licona, William Lane Craig, and N. T. Wright, among a fair number of others, have also made important contributions.  See, too, such things as my “Arguing for the Divinity of Jesus.”

This subject is, to put it mildly, rather important.  As Paul says at Romans 1:4, Christ was and is “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”


Mark Garlick does the Milky Way
A scientifically informed artist’s depiction, by Mark Garlick, of the Milky Way galaxy, from a position somewhere out in space (where, by the way, he had a reasonably good chance of bumping into some of my critics).


Here are a couple of somewhat surprising news items from the world of science.  (As regards the second of them, I suggest taking a moment or two to reflect on what’s happening and then to scream “Aieeeee!  We’re all doomed!” before calming down and resuming your normal routine.)

Newsweek:  “Milky Way Bigger Than It Should Be”

CNN:  “Earth’s inner core may have stopped turning and could go into reverse, study suggests”

Still, and despite such curious developments, here is a disturbing negative perspective on the current state of science as a whole:  “Science: Are we getting what we’re paying for?”



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