45 Replies to “The Resurrection Argument that Changed a Generation of Scholars (Gary Habermas) – YouTube”

  1. We need to critically evaluate these minimal “facts” which most scholars seem unwilling to do. Many of these “facts” are simply “beliefs” and what is believed should be distinguished from something that is actually a historical “fact”. In matters of opinion debate is rather pointless. The genius of this MInimal Facts Approach is that it tries to eliminate the opinions of people which tend to proliferate in this particular field of study. However, most of these “facts” simply aren’t “facts” at all, but merely beliefs. They can be significantly argued against on this basis.


    1. Thom,

      People will always be able to argue against the resurrection of Christ as long as God continues to give them freedom to do so. That does not mean, however, that they are wise to do so. Nor does it mean that the evidence is on their side. People are capable of arguing against almost anything. But for those willing to accept evidence that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead according to the promises of the Hebrew Bible, such evidence is available.

  2. Mike,

    Thanks for the response, but I think you might have missed my larger point. The claims of Christianity are the starting point to the conversation. Christianity claims certain things and that these things have a direct import on my life. Additionally, the believers to these claims maintain that they are supported by historical “facts” or truths if you will. Upon closer examination these “facts” aren’t actually facts at all, but rather they are beliefs. It is upon this misrepresentation that I am able to contend against the claims.

    When you state, “. . . for those willing to accept the evidence that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead according to the promises of the Hebrew Bible, such evidence is available.” And I ask, “What is this evidence?” And your reply ends. Again I ask, “What is your evidence?”

    I ask a further question which bears some thought and consideration. Based on “all” the evidence, is it a reasonable position for someone to take that one Jesus did not get raised from the dead? This, of course, leads to another consideration. That would be, “What is the evidence to suggest that one Jesus did not get raised from the dead?” It is possible that you have never thought in terms of this type of evidence. Very seldom do believers or apologists thinks in terms of the evidence that suggests that one Jesus did not get raised from the dead. Anyway, I leave it here, and if you get time to respond that would be great.


  3. Thom,

    My wife tells me that our daughter texted her this afternoon. Is it a fact that my daughter texted her or a belief? I did not see the text myself. I only have my wife’s word for it, yet it never enters my mind to question my wife’s word. I believe her. For me, therefore, my daughter texting my wife this afternoon is both a fact and a belief. I therefore do not see facts and beliefs as something always different from each other. You seem to see them as mutually exclusive.

    The evidence we have for the resurrection is substantial. Click on the category to the right “Resurrection of Christ” and you will find a number of posts, including extended presentations by scholars on video that lay out the case of Christ’s resurrection in significant detail. My shorthand answer, though, is that I find reading the New Testament documents persuasive. They are testifying to a resurrected Christ. All things considered I find it harder to deny the veracity of those documents than I do to accept them. In fact, I am deeply humbled by the sacrifices that the witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection made on our behalf. Most of them gave up their lives that what was fact for them by experience might become fact to us through belief.

  4. Mike, thanks for your response. Again, however, I think I have failed to adequately explain the point that I was attempting to make. Obviously there might be times when a belief is at the same time a “fact”. However, it does not follow that all beliefs are, indeed, “facts”. It is here where I take some exception to the approach of Habermas and others who try to establish as “facts” some things which are really just beliefs.
    An example: If all Christians believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, does that make it a “fact”? I would say “no”. If all Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross, does that make it so? I would again say “no”. It doesn’t mean that it might not be a “fact”, but without compelling and convincing evidence and data that these things were, indeed, “facts” they would have to be left to the category of beliefs. Nothing necessarily wrong with that but you are left to include the element of Faith as conditional to their acceptance. I simply find it intriguing that so many apologists are intent on their Faith being historical that they take liberties that go beyond evidence and data. Habermas, Craig, Licona and others seem to fall into this group.
    Also, what about the “facts” that seem to argue against the resurrection. I noticed in your response that you failed to address these. However, as I suggested, it might be that you are like so many who have never considered those “facts”, which among other things, make it a reasonable position to take that one Jesus was not raised from the dead.
    Thanks again for your response. If you care to respond again, that would be great. I enjoy the exchange of ideas.

  5. Thom,

    I agree with you that all beliefs are not facts.  I merely wanted to point out that many times they are one and the same thing.

    I also agree with you that the number of people believing something has nothing to do with whether or not it is a fact.  Truth is always truth whether anyone believes it or not.

    As for Gary Habermas, his “minimal facts” approach is to focus on the facts about which most biblical scholars agree and try to work with those to establish his case for the resurrection.  For example, consider this passage from Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?  The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth:

    [T]here are several points on which virtually all scholars of antiquity agree. Jesus was a Jewish man, known to be a preacher and teacher, who was crucified (a Roman form of execution) in Jerusalem during the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was the governor of Judea.

    Ehrman, Bart D. (2012-03-20). Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (p. 12). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

    Ehrman is, by his own profession, “an agnostic with atheist leanings.”  He doesn’t believe in the resurrection of Christ.  Thus there are many   “facts” about Jesus which scholars from all across the skepticism-belief spectrum can agree.  From there, you examine the evidence and see where it leads you.  For me, it leads to belief in the resurrection.  For others, not.  Or at least not yet.

    By the way, and consistent with what I said earlier, the scholarly consensus on these minimal facts is a belief that they are facts.  The belief does not make them facts.  They are either facts or they aren’t.  Belief is merely the decision to accept them as facts.  This process is not just true about the history of Jesus, it’s true of all history.  I have a biography of Ronald Reagan on my bookshelf.  When the author says “Reagan told so-and-so such-and-such” he’s usually relying on either Reagan’s word or so-and-so’s word, or maybe both, or maybe a third party who was present, that the conversation took place.  We don’t expect historians to have personally witnessed everything about which they write.  If this is true for historians who write about contemporaries, how much more true when they write about those who lived before they were born.

    You said I “failed to address the ‘facts’ that seem to argue against the resurrection.”  I looked back over your comments and didn’t recognize any that you presented to me.  Please identify them and I will try to answer.

  6. Mike,
    Again, thanks for your response.
    Four things:
    1–Michael Licona in his work, “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” says this on page 64, “We need to be reminded every so often that a consensus of scholars does not establish the objectivity or truth of their conclusion.” I happen to very much agree with this sentiment. Too often throughout history the consensus has been shown to be wrong. I think this is something that must not be forgotten. Obviously the consensus might ultimately prove to be correct, but we should be mindful to the very real possibility that the consensus could be wrong.
    2–The Minimal Facts Approach to the resurrection takes all the “facts” as a whole to reach the conclusion that the resurrection is the best explanation to these “facts”. No one “fact” by itself leads to this conclusion. At least, it appears that this is the approach.
    3–Since many of these “facts” actually find their foundation in the realm of what was believed, many, if not most of them,can be contested as not being real facts at all. I won’t here begin the lengthy discussion of dealing with them in this fashion . It requires more time than is at our disposal in these communiques. If you are interested we can, at a later time, begin the process.
    4–I purposely made no mention of those “facts” that might argue against the resurrection. I did, however, make note of the almost universal situation that most apologists and believers find themselves in which is that of not being aware of or even researching those “facts” that when considered as a whole argue against the resurrection. You, yourself, might fall into this group. Apologists seem so immersed in those things which support their position that they tend to overlook the legitimate aspects of the Resurrection Story that might cause someone to take not only a contrary position but a reasonable contrary position. An interesting aspect to these “facts” would be that since they do not find their foundation in Belief they cannot be argued against. They are simply observations made about the story. They come from the New Testament documents themselves and so certainly no bias can be attached to them. I will leave you with just one of these and if you care to respond that would be fine. Please remember that like the MFA presented by Habermas and others, no one “fact” creates the case.
    Fact 1–No one claimed to be an actual eye-witness to the Resurrection of Jesus.

  7. Thom,

    1 – I agree with you and Licona. I’d only add that where there is a broad consensus across conservative and liberal scholars on a specific point, we should be slower to disregard the consensus than when it is narrow.

    2 – I’m no expert on the Habermas approach but my understanding is that he chooses to work with a handful of the facts rather all of them.

    3 – Same as 2.

    4 – I don’t see how “Fact 1” stands in the face of 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.

  8. Mike,

    I am considerably astonished, if not troubled, by your inability to see or understand the difference between what Paul talks about in I Cor. 15:3-8 and the “fact” that no one claimed to have been an actual eye-witness to the resurrection event itself. So called appearances of the resurrected Jesus are not the Resurrection event itself, where God apparently brings Jesus back to life from the dead. Let me re-phrase the point. Who do you think is an actual eye-witness to the Resurrection event itself? Nowhere in the New Testament documents do you find anyone who claims or who is said to be an actual eye-witness to the event itself. Perhaps you have access to other documents.

    1. Ah, now I understand what you are asking. No, I am not aware of anyone who testified that he or she saw the exact moment on the third day when Christ was transitioned from being a dead man to being resurrected from the dead. This does not bother me. Why does it bother you?

  9. Mike,

    Thanks for the reply.
    To answer your question. This “fact” doesn’t bother me anymore than any of Habermas’ minimal facts bothers me., except that I believe some of his “facts” can be contested. As I stated before, it is simply a “fact” that actually appears to be, in fact, a “fact”. You seem to agree.
    As a “fact” it would actually change some of the arguments presented by skeptics and others. It would also make things easier for apologists. For example, a witness or witnesses to the event itself could immediately dispel any suggested notion that the body of Jesus had been taken by someone. It also does some other things, but I imagine you can figure those things out. In the absence of any eye-witness to the event, it seems to leave the door open to some skeptics’ objections.
    In the same way that Habermas and others build a case for the Resurrection by using their minimal “facts”, this seems to me to be a fact that can be used with others to build a case against the Resurrection leading someone to the reasonable opinion that the Resurrection did not happen.

    Habermas fact–The tomb was empty. This doesn’t bother me. It appears to be the case. Does it prove a resurrection has taken place? Obviously, not.
    Thom fact–No one was a witness to the Resurrection event. This doesn’t bother me. It appears to be the case. Does it prove that a resurrection has not taken place? Obviously, not.

    Hope this is beginning to make some sense.


    1. While I think Gary Habermas, Mike Licona, William Lane Craig, and others do a good job of defending the historical case for the resurrection of Christ, and I have found edification in their work, I do not base my faith on their arguments. Rather, my faith in Christ’s resurrection is based on 1) the testimony of the apostles and 2) the fulfillment of Scripture. When I speak of the testimony of the apostles, I am thinking of the 27 documents we have in the New Testament. When speak of the fulfillment of Scripture, I am thinking of the Hebrew Bible (also called the Old Testament).

      Having studied the New Testament, and what I could learn of the apostles’ lives beyond it, I find it impossible to believe that they were insane, confused, or lying (the only other possibilities). Having read the Old Testament, I find it impossible believe that any other life besides that of Jesus of Nazareth could have fulfilled its intricate framework of riddle-like prophecies. To me, everything else considered – such as the empty tomb – is but a detail in the broader context of these two overarching and compelling factors.

  10. Mike,

    As always, I appreciate your response. Of course, it also raises a number of questions, because, however you approach your faith, it seems that you must deal with historical issues that either support or undermine the claims of Christianity. You talk about the testimony of the apostles. However, even within that framework, how do you deal with significant issues pertaining to historical disagreements that you find within the apostles own testimony? Especially is this true when they pertain to matters of the event called the Resurrection. I don’t here simply refer to the peripheral matters such as how many angels were at the tomb, if , in fact, there were angels at all heralding the news that Jesus had risen. I think there are more substantive disagreements between the apostles’ testimony as it relates to the Resurrection. These would seem to suggest that someone is simply wrong with regard to substantive issues that relate to this event and the testimony that is often used to verify it as an actual historical event. I could go deeper into this point, but I will refrain from doing so at this juncture. To do so would be to assume your interest, an assumption that I am not willing to make.

    Back to Habermas for a moment. I only followed this particular line of argumentation because you included it on your website. As I stated before, apologists like Habermas, Licona, and Craig become somewhat myopic in their approach to the historical evidence for the Resurrection. They seem to focus only on those “facts” or what they consider to be “facts” that support or contribute to the Resurrection hypothesis. They seem to avoid those “facts” that might argue against it. At this point I consider it a possibility that their myopia has simply prevented them from considering or even acknowledging the existence of such data. That you saw fit to include the Habermas approach on your site seemed to be a green light to pursue this particular line of thought.

    Anyway, I have enjoyed our short exchange. Ultimately I think you have acknowledged that your Faith is really just that. Trying to establish it as something concrete within a historical context or defense is easily argued against, despite the efforts of some apologists to make it appear differently.

    1. Thom,

      My faith is based on what happened in history. If Christ was not truly raised from the dead, then I have put my faith in nothing and my faith is therefore worthless. However, Christ is raised. My faith is in him, and my faith is therefore most valuable for it navigates me through life.

      I do not share your view that the apostles’ testimony differs materially. I do not consider that the number of angels at the tomb is a material issue. It would be like focusing on how many cabinet members were present with Lincoln when he was assassinated in Ford’s Theatre. I’m not conceding that there is a contradiction in the gospel accounts on this point; I’m merely saying that, even if there was, it would not be a material point.

      The apostles’ testimony as captured in the New Testament gives multiple independent attestations to Jesus’ resurrection and thus provides an answer to the puzzle presented by the Old Testament: that is, who would fulfill the messianic prophecies and how would Israel’s hopes for the future be consummated. Without the resurrection of Christ, not only is Christianity discredited, but Judaism is as well.

      With the resurrection of Christ, however, both Christianity and Judaism are not only validated, but they are both transcended by the resurrected Christ Himself who reigns supremely over the universe and governs all that we see and that we don’t see. It is not faith in a religion that has power, but faith in Him.

  11. Mike,

    You are correct to point out the primacy of the Resurrection of Jesus in Christianity. Paul makes that point abundantly clear in I Cor. 15. It is for this very reason that people through the centuries have grappled with this claim that one Jesus was raised from the dead. The trend in modern apologetics has been to discredit anyone who might take the position that one Jesus most likely did not get raised from the dead. This they do through historical formulations that suggest that based on the “data” and “facts” the hypothesis that Jesus was raised from the dead is the best explanation of the “facts”. I simply contend that this “data” and these “facts” are entirely self-serving and selective in nature because all the “facts” pertaining to the claim are not considered.

    You state, “My faith is based on what happened in history.” That can be challenged. Actually your faith is based on what you believed happened in history. If you choose to make that leap or step, you are certainly welcomed to do so. To do so, however, without giving careful consideration to all the “facts” is a possible misstep. This would be my concern, because I think this is often the case with many believers and apologists.

    You might want to read my last e-mail again. I, like you, regard such issues as the number of angels at the tomb to be mostly insignificant and immaterial. Those kinds of skeptical arguments are simply smoke-screens to avoid larger more relevant matters.

    One last thought. When you mention the testimony of the apostles, it must be noted that you are talking about really an incredibly small number of individuals. We have nothing extant written by or attributed to the majority of these individuals. We think of Peter, Paul, and, perhaps, John. Paul, in fact, while doing his best to establish his authority was not an original member of this group. What is the testimony of Judas Thaddeus, Andrew, Nathaniel, James, Thomas, Philip, and the others of whom we have no testimony? What do we actually know of their experience and testimony other than the apparent “fact” that they went along with those who led? One thing appears to be certain. They began as followers and continued as followers to the dictates of those who led. Just a thought.

    I’ll leave you with one final thought. You cannot have a resurrection claim that is to be believed without having “appearances” to give the claim validity. The best historical argument against the Resurrection, in my opinion, lies with the somewhat suspicious nature of these appearances in the New Testament documents and how they come about. If you can call into question the very nature of these appearances you can actually challenge the entire story and the claim itself. How can this be done? Perhaps another time.

    Your passion and commitment to your Faith has not been lost on me.

    Hope you will be well. Thom.

  12. Thom,

    Thanks for the comments on your position.

    The number of witnesses testifying to Christ’s resurrection is considerably more than would appear at first glance. Even so, I think the first glance witnesses are sufficient.

    Further, one must keep in mind that it would take very persuasive testimony to convince a first-century Jew, whether in Palestine or in the far reaches of the Diaspora, that their widely-anticipated messiah was in fact a dead Galilean carpenter who had suffered the ignominy of crucifixion at the hands of Roman occupiers. Moreover, maintenance of this testimony, whether by a witness or one who had faith in a witness’s account, brought on the most negative of consequences, including other ignominious forms of death.

    I simply cannot in good conscience ignore the quantity and quality of evidence for Jesus’ resurrection that has been left to us.

  13. Mike,

    It might be suggested that Jesus was, in fact, not the “widely-anticipated messiah” that Jews had looked for through the centuries. In fact, in a very real sense he was not. After all, it demanded that a very small group of individuals changed the very mission and expectations of what the Messiah would do and be. That they convinced others of this “new” Messiah is simply to state the case. It seems difficult to fault those who simply rejected this new notion of Messiahship. Two thousand years later many are still rejecting it. I think their position to be reasonable given all that Jesus did not do.

    You write, “I simply cannot in good conscience ignore the quantity and quality of evidence for Jesus’ resurrection that has been left to us.” In like manner I cannot ignore the quantity and quality of the evidence that argues against the resurrection. That this evidence is mostly ignored or widely not discussed should come as no surprise. Actually most of it lies hidden within the documents themselves and has never been adequately presented or considered. My approach simply builds the case. In the end it reminds me of the primacy of Faith in such matters. And that, like hope and love, is a good thing. This is especially true when it speaks to and focuses on the solidarity of us all.

    Be well. Thom.

    1. My point about “widely-anticipated” was not that the specific messiahship Jesus delivered was widely-anticipated, but that a messiah was widely-anticipated by Israel. Expectations of role and activities varied. By most conceptions, Jesus was a “surprise” version of messiah that they were not expecting. What helped folks get over their surprise was 1) His elevation to heaven which gave messiah even greater glory than had generally been anticipated for this king, and 2) the Scriptures were shown to have provided for this conception all along, even though the prophecies had been written in riddle-like fashion. By riddle-like fashion, I mean the prophecies seemed to contradict each other until the answer was revealed. Specific examples of this would be Psalm 118:22, Psalm 110 (as demonstrated by Jesus in his Matthew 22 challenge to the Pharisees), and, of course, the Isaiah 53 suffering juxtaposed with the Isaiah 54 glory.

      I’d be interested in having the opportunity to address “the quantity and quality of the evidence that argues against the resurrection” that you say you have. Contrary to your expectation, your claim comes as quite a surprise to me, and especially that you think “most of it lies hidden within the documents themselves.” I literally cannot imagine to what you are referring.

  14. MIke,

    The evidence to which I speak is similar to the evidence suggested by Habermas and others in their Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection, evidence to which I have already given an example in my Fact 1. To say that it is “hidden” is to suggest that it is like the MFA. It has been there in the documents for years. It only needed someone to organize it and give it a structure, which is what Habermas has done with his approach. You simply take the documents and irrespective of inspiration or inerrancy you develop a list of facts which when compiled lead you to the position that is suggested by these “facts”. Which group of “facts” you choose to believe is entirely up to the individual. Either position, however, is a reasonable one based on the “facts”. Ultimately, it becomes a matter of Faith, more so with those facts that leads one to conclude that Jesus was, in fact, raised from the dead.

    There is a significant difference, however, between the “facts” of Habermas and my own. Many of his “facts” can actually be disputed or challenged. None of the “facts” that I present can be contested. You, yourself, quickly agreed with the first “fact” that I presented. All of them are similar in this regard. They are uncontested “facts” which when considered as a whole lead one to the reasonable position that one Jesus was probably not raised from the dead. That you have already agreed with the first “fact” demonstrates the strength of the argument to some degree.

    Now, as a mental exercise or puzzle solving, imagine for yourself, using only the documents at hand, what additional “facts” can be found or used to argue against the proposition that Jesus was raised from the dead. Imagine yourself to be a skeptic as you proceed. Be mindful, this is not easy. In the same way that Habermas developed his approach over a period of years, it has taken me an equal amount of time. If things like this were easy, they would have been done long ago. Habermas and Craig did not come to their positions over night.

    Let me know if you come up with anything. This will require some time, I imagine. Give it the attention you think it deserves. If you believe it merits little, so be it. True skepticism, when taken seriously, is not easy, especially in the face of a worthy opponent.


    1. Thom,

      The fact that you boast of (that no one claims to have seen Jesus at the instant He transitioned from death to resurrected life) is just not an important one, nor does it argue against the resurrection.

      Let’s say I’m looking for evidence that Thom Waters exists. I post a notice on my blog seeking anyone who says they have seen you to contact me. Two or three people respond that they know you. Is it going to matter to me whether any of them actually saw you come out of your mother’s womb? If any of them had seen you at the moment of birth, would it make their testimony of your existence any more compelling?

  15. Mike,

    The fact that Christians boast that one Jesus died by crucifixion simply doesn’t argue in a positive fashion for the resurrection of Jesus. We all die. The fact that one Jesus happened to die by crucifixion simply doesn’t argue in a positive fashion for Jesus being raised from the dead.

    Habermas went looking for multiply attested to “facts” that he felt ultimately supported the Resurrection hypothesis. Why not look for “facts” period? Funny how agendas work. No one “fact” by itself amounts to anything much when presenting a case either “pro” or “con” the Resurrection.

    1. Thom,

      Jesus claimed to have been the fulfillment of the promises of the prophets of Israel. Those promises included a solution to mankind’s most formidable problem: death. His resurrection was but a demonstration of His power over death. If you choose to not believe Him and His representatives on this point, you may – but you deprive yourself of much truth, hope, and direction in this life.

  16. Mike,

    At the risk of sounding impertinent, and I don’t mean to sound so, you are beginning to present yourself more as a spokesman than an apologist.

    It does, however, remind me that belief, most of the time, transcends argument, and each of us does our level best to maintain and hold onto that which we hold most dear. We do that even in the face of anything that might challenge these beliefs. One thing that belief has always afforded us is rest, commodity, and reputation. Once enjoyed, these are difficult to relinquish.

    I simply wanted to point out that there is sufficient historical data to suggest that a disbelief in the resurrection of Jesus is a reasonable position to take. That you and I have both read the same documents and have reached a different conclusion is to acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree given the same information with which to work.

    In the end, I think we would enjoy one another’s company, and the exchange that would develop.

    Wishing you the best,


    1. Thom,

      Regarding your distinction between “spokesman” and “apologist” I don’t know how you define either term. Therefore, I don’t understand the point you are trying to make.

      Beliefs can be sifted. I was once an evangelical Christian pastor, but I am no longer. I have kept my faith in Jesus as Lord and the Bible as the word of God while shedding the beliefs that people should go to church in this life and that unbelievers go to hell in the afterlife.

      Beliefs can be viewed as conclusions to arguments. Sometimes these are just arguments we have with ourselves. Arguments, therefore, can be productive when they’re practiced properly and when they lead to productive conclusions – whether they are arguments with ourselves or with others.

      You and I can each use reason to argue within ourselves and decide about Christ. That we come to different conclusions, however, is an indication that something other than just reason is at work. Maybe we are each operating with a different set of evidence. And, of course, our wills are involved, too. The mind cannot go where the will is unwilling. To this dynamic I think you were alluding. Whether a person’s will is fully open to the truth is something known only to the individual and God – and sometimes even the individual himself is not fully aware of how his will is set. This is why reasoning apart from opening one’s will toward God (“O Creator, help me to be honest before you in all things and at all times and willing to act on whatever truth you show me”), can be self-deceptive and limiting.

  17. Mike,

    Essentially what I mean by spokesman is someone who will ultimately within the discussion fall back into an explanation of or an aside concerning the benefits of belief. “If only you believed you wouldn’t deprive yourself . . . etc.” That you have done this causes you to look more like a spokesman. An apologist sticks only to the nature of the debate or exchange within the context of the argument’s arena.

    Having thrown-off the somewhat unattractive belief that non-believers go to Hell, I can certainly understand that you are no longer a pastor within the evangelical community.

    I take exception to your thought that more than reason is at work within our researching the evidence both pro and con the resurrection. You call it “will”. However, at this point “will” has nothing to do with the discussion regarding whether Jesus was raised from the dead or not. If through your argumentation you convinced me that Jesus was raised from the dead and that this resurrection entitled God to make claims upon my life and I refused to bow before those claims, then that could be interpreted to be a matter of will. This, however, is not the case.

    There are simply too many things about the Resurrection Story that do no ring true. When my kids were growing up I remember times when they would tell me something and it simply did not have the ring of truth to it. Questioning them from this angle allowed me to pursue things further and eventually the real story would come out, if , in fact, my intuition about the original story proved to be true. The Resurrection strikes me in this way, and there are enough “facts” to suggest that it did not happen, as the early believers want us to believe.

    Who doesn’t want to believe in a resurrection from the dead? Who of us doesn’t want to live forever in some celestial heaven or “new” creation where every tear is washed away and every wrong righted? It has much to recommend itself to us as a thing to be believed. That someone should simply not be convinced by the evidence available is to state only that they do not believe the story, especially when there is evidence to argue against it.

    Perhaps rather than the “will” as the stumbling block, it is, as Calvin believed, just a matter of “Election”. If that is the case, we are all to be lamented that God would favor someone so much more than someone else.

    Mike, I’m not trying to get anywhere with my life. I have no ultimate destination in mind. I do, however, believe in the notion of loving my neighbor as I love myself. If Goodness, purposely capitalized, is worth pursuing in anyway, and I believe it is, then I believe in that pursuit however far short of it I might fall. It appears that my Humanity dictates such a shortcoming. So be it. I’m not trying to get anywhere by it.

    I have enjoyed our exchange.


    1. By your definition, I’m happy to be considered a spokesman. Faith in Christ is a very good thing.

      I, too, have raised children. I, too, have listened for the ring of truth. For me, the resurrection story as delivered to us through the New Testament documents as well as the Old Testament documents rings thoroughly true. I’m shocked to hear you say the opposite.

      I stand by my remarks about will. I think you’re looking at it in too narrow a sense.

      Keep on pursuing the desire to do the right thing in life. It is our most important and valuable instinct.

      God bless.

  18. Mike,

    I am reminded that some time ago we pursued a discussion of some length and it appears that we made little headway towards convincing the other of our position. In reviewing our discussion I thought it relevant to offer another of those “minimal facts” (indisputable and accepted by all scholars, although they might not know it) that argues against the proposition that one Jesus was raised from the dead. Again, this would be another “minimal fact” that Habermas omits from his list, and the reason for doing so should become apparent.

    Minimal Fact: By the time that some of this disicples began to preach the Resurrection of Jesus, there was no body of any kind to be found, either of a dead Jesus to disprove the claim, or of an alive, living Jesus to promote it.

    The question needs to be asked, “If there was no living body of the Resurrected Jesus to prove the claim, what happened to it?” The Christian response is that God whisked him away in a somewhat de-materialization process where he was taken up into the clouds where he now sits at the right hand of God. Not much in the way of histoirical proof here. What we do have, however, is a piling on of miracles. The Resurrection isn’t enought. We now have another equally miraculous event and the Christian response is that you simply have to believe. Sure, why not? I’ll must check my brain at the door and ask for it back on my way out. This is another “minimal fact” that simply does not enhance the pro=Resurrection position in any way. Of course, we don’t find it in the Habermas list. Jesus has been resurrected. However, we have no body to verify the claim. The body was taken up into the clouds–another miracle. The story can “miracle you to death” if you allow it to that.

    Anyway, thought you might be interested in another “minimum fact” that argues against the claim of Resurrection. I am simply building my case in the same way that Habermas builds his, using “minimum facts” that are indisputable from the documents we have.

    Hope you are wll.

  19. Thom,

    I fail to see how the “minimal fact” you have stated advances the discussion. It is a point on which both defenders and critics of Christ’s resurrection have always agreed. It neither undermines the case for resurrection, nor establishes a case against resurrection.

    As for your point that one must “check his brain at the door” to believe in a miracle, I just don’t buy it. The only thing you’d have to check at the door is the assumption that miracles cannot happen. In other words, an open mind accepts the possibility of miracles, while a closed mind insists that they are impossible.

    Your attempted case against resurrection is built on the assumption that if God did raise Christ from the dead, He would present Christ in a physical form you would find acceptable. Such an assumption is unwarranted.

  20. Mike,

    I think you might be undervaluing this particular “fact” especially were it presented to an unbiased observer with no position to defend. Why do you suppose that Habermas does not include it within his list of “minimal facts”? The answer should be obvious. You say that it is a “fact” that both defenders and critics have always agreed on. However, I have never heard any apologist or detractor mention it or use it within the structure of a debate. I challenge your position that they have always agreed on it. I don’t believe it has ever been presented within the context of an histoircal argument against the Resurrection Hypothesis. I fail to see how this “fact” can possibly add to the pro-Resurrection position. You claim that one Jesus was raised from the dead, but by the time people began to preach the message there was no body of this living, resurrected person to be found. You’ve got me scratching my head with regard to the impact of this “fact”.

    My challenge is not with miracles per se, but with this particular additional miracle claimed by believers and apologists for which we have “zero” evidence of any kind. Bodies simply don’t get taken up into the clouds as a matter of course. Yet, this is your story and the one you want me to believe. This is the reference I make to checking my brain at the door. I assume that you don’t buy into those stories of people being abducted by aliends. No evidence to speak of among other things. Yet, you happily buy into this bodily disappearance of your resurrected person. Sounds to me like your playing both sides of the fence.

    ANyway, given an impartial audience I would be happy to place all of my “minimal facts” against those of the MFA and see how the audience votes. I think your belief and tendenz might be affecting your judment .

  21. Thom,

    Obviously, Roman authorities had control of Jesus’ body when they killed him. If there was no resurrection, it should have been easy for them to present the corpse in order to disprove the claim. How you think their failure to do so helps your case is a mystery to me.

  22. Mike,

    That is exactly the point. The missing body at this point helps neither position. The fact that there is now no body, either dead or alive, serves only to point out this reality. Yet, when asked why there is now no body of the living, resurrected Jesus, the Christian response is to inject another miracle for which there is “zero” evidence, In some ways this exposes the somewhat gullible nature of people who want to believe something. I simply find it difficult to buy into this continuing piling on of miracles without involving some brain power, however limited in scope that might be.

    My own “minimal facts” approach to the Resurrection was prompted years ago by recognizing that in every “case” brought before a jury there are always two sides of every argument. To consider a matter without hearing both sides is to run the risk of making a decision that is both a rush to judgment and one that is more likely to be wrong. Habermas presents one side of the argument. My job as one in search of all the facts is to call into question his facts, if possible, and then to present those additional facts that might lead to reasonable doubt concerning the position that he wants us to believe. Then it is reasonable to let the jury decide the matter. Anything short of this is not satisfactory.

    It would be an interesting debate were someone like Habermas or Licona willing to accept the challenge.

    Always good to exchange with you.


  23. Mike,

    That seems to be an off-beat question not at all germaine to what we are discussing. The Habermas apologetic approach to the Resurrection is the topic at hand. I am maintaining that his approach never had in mind all of the “minimal facts” that pertain to the question of the Resurrection, but was rather a search finding mission on his part to look only for those “facts” that he believed supported an already arrived at position or belief, that being that one Jesus was raised from the dead. For those of us genuinely consumed by the question of what in the world was happening during this time, it was left to complete the search for all the “minimal facts” including those that argued on a historical basis that the proposition might not have happened as conventionally believed and promoted by believers. Whether the omission of all the “facts” by Habermas was intentional or not is impossible for me to say. I do believe, however, that the search was motivated by looking for those “facts” that he believed bolstered his position. In a debate regarding the matter where all of the “minimal facts” are considered it is quite possible to through considerable or reasonable doubt upon the pro-position to the proposition.

    Please remember that I have still not listed all of the additional “minimal facts” that argue against the proposition. Those that I consider to be the most powerful and compelling I have not mentioned. It must also be noted that none of the “facts” that argue against the proposition can be disputed in any way. On the other hand, Habermas has taken certain liberties that actually allow one to argue against the certainty of some of his “facts”, that is, the possiblity that they might not be “facts” at all.

    The absence of any body at all, either a dead body or a living body, is a “fact” not easily dealt with in any historical or intellignet manner without pulling in another so-called miracle for which there is simply no evidence whatsoever.

    Anyway, hope you will be well. Perhaps someone will take me up on my challenge to debate the issue in a public forum. Licona has already passed.

  24. Thom,

    It has become clear to me that you do not understand the Gary Habermas argument. Among other things, your repeated reference to “all of the minimal facts” indicates this to be the case.

    Here’s what Habermas is saying (my words, not his): “I could give you an argument for the resurrection based on the research of conservative biblical scholars. However, since some people think conservative scholars are biased toward a conclusion of resurrection, I will restrict myself to those facts which are conceded even by liberal scholars. That is, I will make my argument from those minimal facts upon which there is a consensus across the conservative-liberal spectrum of biblical scholarship.”

    Obviously, liberal scholars concede fewer facts than do conservative scholars. Hence the name: “minimal facts approach.” The strength of his argument, besides building upon only those facts agreed to by his opponents, is its concision. Thus adding more minimal facts, as you are suggesting, misses the point.

    I’m not surprised Licona turned down your offer for a debate. In fact, I’d be surprised if anyone accepted your challenge. You need to frame your argument in a more coherent way, or at least in a way that rightly recognizes the argument it seeks to refute.

    It’s odd that you consider my question off-beat. It seems to me that it gets to the heart of the matter. If God exists, resurrection should pose Him no dilemma. If He does not exist, I cannot think of any reasonable basis for a hope in resurrection. Therefore, the two go together like Washington and the eagle on a quarter.

  25. Mike,

    Let’s make this easy.

    Minimal Fact: By the time that some disciples began to preach that one Jesus had been raised from the dead, there was no body to be found, either of a dead Jesus to disprove the claim or of a living, resurrected Jesus to further promote it and to prove it.

    Are you and other scholars, either conservative or liberal, denying this “fact”?

    A simple “yes” or “no” will do. This should be easy, no mumbo, jumbo.

    If you agree that it is a “minimal fact”, why does Habermas not include it in his list?

    1. Absolutely correct. It is a “fact”. It is also a “minimal fact” in the exact sense in which Habermas defines the term, which is that it must be well-evidenced and accepted by scholars from all ends of the spectrums. However, it does not meet the confines of a “minimal fact” within the terms that Habermas will not admit to in his definition. That is, for his usage a “minimal fact” must promote the proposition that one Jesus was raised from the dead. This is exactly my disagreement with his approach.

      Habermas, like most of us, is operating from an agenda. His agenda is to promote and give additional legs to the proposition that one Jesus was raised from the dead. Anything that does not do this or that might create conflict for this agenda will be and must be ignored. Let the opposition do the work of finding and exposing those “facts” or additional information that might do damage or harm to the case or cause.

      As I have said before, this is the reason why we hear both sides in a courtroom, that “all” the facts can be considered and aired before the jury.

      Contrary to your assertion, my presentation is most cohernt and quite organized.

  26. Mike,

    Indeed you are correct to point out that Habermas does not argue his case in a vacuum. It is my position that no one has confronted his argument using my approach which both calls into question his “minimal facts” and presents those additional “minimal facts”, judged so by his own definition, that argue against the proposition on historical grounds because these additional facts call into question the entire Belief.

    The most compelling of these additional “minimal facts” that argue against the proposition I have not here presented. Too often Belief destroys intellectual curiosity. That is to be lamented.

    Be well. I have enjoyed the exchange. Thanks for the considerable time on your site.

  27. “Gary Habermas approaches the issue by constructing a case for the resurrection of Jesus using only what the majority of skeptical, liberal, and atheist scholars will grant as historical fact. This is why it’s called the minimal facts approach.”
    ~ TMD

    Only what the majority of skeptical, liberal, and atheist scholars will grant as historical fact. Very interesting

  28. Many Christian apologists believe that Gary Habermas’ research found that 75% of scholars believe that the Empty Tomb is an historical fact. This is a false claim.

    If you read Habermas’ research the truth is that his 75% claim is based on a literature search of articles in which scholars state an opinion on the historicity of the Empty Tomb. That’s it.

    Let me ask you this:
    Which group of scholars is going to be more motivated to write articles
    on the Empty Tomb? I would bet good money that the answer is: evangelical
    scholars. Why? Because without the Empty Tomb, the evidence
    for a BODILY resurrection of Jesus is significantly weakened. Appearance claims by a small group of mostly uneducated, superstitious Galilean peasants is NOT strong evidence upon which to base your claims of the veracity of the foundational belief of the conservative/traditional Christian faith: that a three-day-dead corpse walked out of his sealed grave, spent forty days with his friends, and then levitated into outer space.

  29. gary,

    I agree with you that evangelical scholars would be more likely to write articles on Jesus’ empty tomb. But why should anyone be surprised by that.

    As for “mostly uneducated, superstitious Galilean peasants,” I have read the New Testament and it sounds nothing like the kind of thing superstitious people would write.

  30. I recently discussed the issue of Gary Habermas’ research on the Empty Tomb with New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman on his blog:

    Bart Ehrman:

    To my knowledge non-conservative scholars do not generally read the work of Habermas. They tend to stick to the writings of critical New Testament scholars.


    So when Christian apologists tell me that the majority of New Testament scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb based on Habermas’ research, I can tell them they are wrong?

    Bart Ehrman:

    You can tell them that the majority of NT scholars have never *read* Habermas (and may not even know about him).

  31. I’m no expert on Habermas’ work, but my understanding is that he claims to have researched the views of NT scholars – not that they have researched his. Ehrman’s point, therefore, is a non sequitur.

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