Book Review: The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona is a simple and powerful treatment of the most powerful evidences for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The basic strategy employed by the authors is what they refer to as the “minimal facts” approach. The authors understand that there are a wide variety of opinions held regarding the facts surrounding the Gospels and the resurrection. Using the minimal facts approach, the Habermas and Licona focus on fours facts that are almost universally attested to by all scholars, whether conservative or liberal, Christian or atheist. The “common ground” can then be used to show that a powerful case can be made that the best conclusion is that God raised Jesus from the dead.
The four facts that virtually all scholars and historical critics agree upon are as follows: 1) Jesus died by crucifixion; 2) the disciples believed Jesus rose from the dead; 3) the conversion of the church persecutor Paul; and, 4) the conversion of the skeptic James. They also cite one more fact in addition to the main four – the empty tomb of Jesus. Again, these facts are powerful in making a case for the resurrection because they are agreed upon by almost everyone. This allows one to focus on the subject of the resurrection, rather than peripheral discussions on topics like the accuracy of the Bible or other matters of possible disagreement.
The authors build a very strong case with the four facts (plus one), and in doing so support each one of the facts with the non-biblical historical sources that attest to the facts. This strengthens the argument, as evidence is presented that is external to the Bible, which some people may not readily assume as authoritative historically.
The authors move on to deal with the opposing theories and arguments that will normally arise from the evidence that has been presented. This section causes one to realize that there are not very many good opposing theories to the resurrection. For a theory to really hold water, it must be plausible as well as have good explanatory power and scope. Also, an opposing theory must account for all of the facts for it to be strong.
Strong rebuttals are given each opposing theory. These would include the fraud, hallucination, visions, delusions, deceptions, apparent death, and a number of other combinations. The reader quickly finds that no other opposing theory has greater explanatory scope, explanatory power, or accounts for all the facts better than the claim that God raised Jesus from the dead.
One more strong point of the book is that it deals with the topic of naturalism. Naturalism is the belief that the only thing that exists is matter – there is nothing supernatural. The authors dismantle this worldview by showing its inconsistencies and contradictions. Habermas and Licona then make a strong case for miracles and overcome some of the more common objections.
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus is a solid work. Simple and effective, it is written in a way that its contents will be easily remembered and applied as a means of evangelism and the defense of the Gospel. If the reader can defend the four facts presented in this book, he can present a strong case for the resurrection.