Saturday, September 4, 2010
Book Review: The Risen Jesus and A Future Hope
The Risen Jesus And A Future Hope is a great book in which the Dr. Gary Habermas defends the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and shows the practical implications of the truth of the claim. Dr. Habermas split the book into the two sections respectfully. Habermas begins his defense by laying a few foundations in Chapter 1.
The first foundation is the inductive nature of the study of history. He then discusses the difference between miracles and miracle-claims. He cautions against accepting a priori (prior to evidence) conclusions. He then provides classical arguments against miracles (David Hume) and responds to the arguments.
He then provides the 12 facts related to the death and/or claimed resurrection that the majority of critical scholars accept. Habermas makes clear an intention in this book. He is not providing a thorough defense for truth of these claims, he is only using them as part of his argument because they are accepted by the majority of critical scholars. He makes the point that if the reader wants to thoroughly investigate the reasons for even critics to accept the truth of these claims, they should refer to the material of the critics. His purpose is not to repeat previous work, but build upon that work.
Before going into details regarding the evidences for the resurrection. Habermas discusses naturalistic alternatives to explain away the evidence. He mentions that the idea that the disciples hallucinated when they “saw” Jesus, as one of the dominant naturalistic theories today. He then provides 11 reasons that theory fails.
Next Habermas provides some details for the evidence related to the death of Jesus by Roman crucifixion, early Christian testimony, and Jesus' post-death appearances. After laying that evidential foundation. Habermas explains what he calls the “Minimal Facts Approach” to arguing for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Habermas offers the idea that the Resurrection can be established with a high level of certainty based on just 6 of the original 12 facts.
Habermas then moves into establishing a theistic context. He accomplishes this by providing arguments and evidences for theism and against naturalism. He uses the epistemic argument, the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, and arguments from near-death experiences (which he investigated in his book “Beyond Death”).
After presenting his evidence for a theistic universe, Habermas suggests that the reader not assume one paradigm is accurate (naturalism vs. theism), but investigate. He reiterates that the arguments above are sufficient to rule out naturalism. He states that theism also follows from the facts of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He further states that a case can be specifically be made for Christianity.
However, Habermas makes note that his process of interpreting the resurrection does not assume one worldview. He points out that historical facts are not self-interpreting, so he suggests that the facts of the resurrection be interpreted in the broader context in which it is claimed to have happened.
Habermas looks at the Resurrection in relation to the laws of physics. He establishes that the only way that one can be sure a miracle happened is when it is established that an event occurred that is opposed to a known law of physics. Since Jesus was alive, then dead, then alive again, and natural laws do not allow for something dead to become alive; it does qualify as a miracle. Habermas responds to some objections regarding the scientific method, the idea of changing “laws” of nature, the possibility of future explanations, and antecedant probability.
In Chapter 3, Habermas discusses who Jesus claimed to be and His teachings. Habermas begins by pointing out that many believe that Jesus worked miracles. He explains the significance of this in the context of ancient Judaism, and uses this to show why early believers gave credence to Jesus' teachings.
Habermas responds to some objections to the miracles claims of Jesus. His discussion includes the ability to attribute a miracle to God, miracle claims in other religions. Next he talks about Jesus' self-identity. He investigates the claims that Jesus called himself “Son of God” and “Son of Man”, along with other indicators that Jesus believed that that he was God. Finally, Habermas brings together all the evidence presented and explains that Christianity is the best explanation.
In Chapter 4, Habermas tackles Jesus' primary teaching- the Kingdom of God. He examines the claims that Jesus taught a present Kingdom and the claims that He taught a future Kingdom. He then presents the idea that Jesus taught both. He then discusses the claim that Jesus was wrong about the time of his second coming.
In Chapter 5, Habermas goes into discussing a key teaching of Jesus about the Kingdom of God. That key being that inheritance of the Kingdom is determine by a person's response to the offer of his atonement. He goes into the detail of sin, death, atonement, repentance and faith. Habermas then brings up God's confirmation of Jesus teachings, by raising him from the dead.
In Chapter 6, Eternal Life is the subject. Habermas talks about the Platonist and Gnostic views of the soul. He discusses both the Old Testament view of the afterlife and Jesus' teachings on it. He then moves into the resurrection-of-the-body teaching of the New Testament. He spends a little time on the nature of eternal life, and different biblical images of Heaven.
Chapter 7 begins the second part of the book. Part 2 focuses on the practical issues regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Chapter 7 talks about a big one: the fear of death. Habermas discusses different reasons why we fear death. He shows how a Christian can have victory over fears (in general), then specifically addresses the fear of death.
Chapter 8 is a very emotional, personal testimony from Habermas about the power of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Habermas starts by talking about Job and how he identifies with him. He then discusses his wife's sickness and death and how knowing the truth of the resurrection has given him hope and helped him through this trying time. Here's a video of Dr. Habermas in his own words on the content of this chapter:
In Chapter 9, Habermas discusses another approach to knowing that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is true: the testimony of the Holy Spirit. He makes certain that it is understood that the subjectivity of the testimony of the Holy Spirit has no bearing on the objectivity of the other discussions in the book. He then clears up some confusion and false conceptions of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. He explains the purpose of the Holy Spirit's testimony in the life of the Christian.
Habermas spends a good amount of time on the relationship between the Holy Spirit's testimony and evidence. He acknowledges that the testimony cannot be proven, and due to that he stresses that it cannot be used as external evidence in a presentation of evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Rather it serves to reinforce the external evidence for the Christian. He then suggests that Christians should not be surprised if their experiences reinforce a belief that they have, if it is true. He then answers several questions about the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
The final chapter discusses Jesus and the authority of scripture. Habermas establishes what Jesus taught about the Old Testament texts. He also explains that Jesus provided for the authority of the New Testament writers (his apostles). He then answers the opposing ideas that Jesus may have been trying to accommodate his contemporaries and that Jesus didn't believe or didn't actually know that the texts were (or would be) authoritative. Habermas ends with a note about how someone should apply scripture in their lives.
The Risen Jesus and Future Hope is an incredible book. The fact that Habermas does not limit his discussions to the disconnected-from-reality “arm chair” and applies the discussions to real life, makes this book an intriguing read all the way through. I highly recommend that everyone read this book. If your local church is looking for books to add to their library, this is one that needs to be there, and promoted to fellow members.
More books by Dr. Habermas