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My Amazon Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona

3.0 out of 5 stars

Best apologetics book I have read so far regarding the Resurrection, but exposes the Christian disconnect regarding probability!

on March 27, 2017
Format: Paperback|Verified Purchase

Best apologetics book I have read so far, but exposes the Christian disconnect regarding probability!

“So we know that the disciples sincerely believed that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to them. We’ve seen that there is good evidence to support their claims, namely the conversion of the church persecutor Paul, the conversion of the skeptic James, and the empty tomb. And finally, the complete inability of opposing theories to account for the data leaves Jesus’ resurrection as the only plausible explanation to account for the known historical facts. And it seems that if Jesus rose from the dead, we have good evidence that God exists and has actually revealed himself to mankind in Jesus Christ” —Habermas and Licona, p. 214

Anyone not from a Christian background who reads this statement will ask, “What are these guys smoking???”

Here is the big disconnect in logic between Christians and non-Christians on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus claim: Probability. If you believe that the god, Yahweh, exists; that he is THE Creator God; that he is all-knowing and all-powerful; and you believe that Yahweh has predicted in the Hebrew holy book (the Old Testament) that he will send a messiah who will be killed and then raised from the dead….OF COURSE you will believe that the resurrection is the most probable explanation of the evidence! But if you do NOT believe that Yahweh exists, then it is LAUGHABLE to suggest that the reanimation (resurrection) of a three-day-brain-dead corpse is more probable than the many possible, alternative, naturalistic explanations for the early Christian resurrection belief. (Even if you believe that there is evidence for a Creator God, evidence for a generic Creator does NOT automatically translate to evidence for Yahweh.)

Here is just one of many plausible, alternative, naturalistic explanations that without assuming the existence of Yahweh is MUCH more probable than the Christian supernatural explanation:

Someone moved the body on Saturday night. The women found the tomb empty the next morning, told the disciples, who soon believed that an empty tomb meant that Jesus had been resurrected. In the emotional hysteria that followed, one of the disciples had an hallucination in which he believed the flesh and blood Jesus appeared to him. Based on his hallucination, he convinced the other disciples to believe his delusion, which they did. They didn’t die for a lie. They died for someone’s hallucination (Medical experts confirm that people who have hallucinations remember them to be real). James converted PRIOR to his alleged appearance experience; he believed the first disciple’s hallucination as did the other disciples. Paul suffered a mental illness and at times experienced his own delusions and hallucinations, explaining his appearance experience. The detailed appearance claims in the Gospels are literary fiction, just as Licona believes that Matthew’s Dead Saints Shaken Out of their Tombs Story is fiction. The group appearance claims in the Early Creed were of a bright light which believers perceived as appearances of Jesus; they never claimed to have seen a walking/talking body.

It’s that simple folks.

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Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 12: How to Debate a Skeptic

“The majority of the people we [Christians] talk to will reject Christ, not because of any lack of evidence, but because they simply want to do so.”

—Habermas and Licona, p. 197

Take notes, Skeptics.  This chapter tells us how Christians are being advised to debate you!  Straight from Habermas and Licona, chapter 12 of their book:

—“Be loving, be humble, be a good listener” (be nice!)

Many Christians try to be nice in their debates with us skeptics, but in the heat of debate “the love of Jesus” often wears thin.  Tempers flare.  We skeptics are often equally guilty of bad behavior in online debates. But that should come as no surprise.  Christians and skeptics are imperfect human beings.  Christians’ belief in Jesus does not magically turned them into the “Cleavers”.  We should not expect any better behavior from them than how we behave.  I suggest we skeptics follow the same advice:  Be nice!

—Stay on subject

“It is easy to be drawn off the subject of Jesus’ resurrection.  Frequently this can occur when your skeptical friend does not have an answer to what you presented.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 194

Gary:  They sound pretty confident, don’t they?

—Anchor a conclusion before moving on

“Conclude one topic with your skeptical friend before moving on to another topic.  Once you have engaged in several dialogues with skeptics, you will discover that because of human nature he will rarely acknowledge that you have effectively answered his objection.  He will often simply move on to still another objection.  It is easy for this to go on over a period of time.  It can be helpful to bring closure to a matter before moving on to the next.  This assists in preventing your skeptical friend from coming back later and saying, ‘Yes, but remember it still could have been…,’ even though you answered that objection fifteen minutes prior.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 197

Gary:  Good advice!  Skeptics.  Take note:  Nail down those cagey Christian apologists by “anchoring a conclusion” regarding each and every inconsistency, assumption, and conjecture in the Christian Resurrection Story so as not to let them off the hook.  (How is that for “mixing my metaphors”?)

—Don’t wing it!

“No matter how much you have read on a subject or how often you have discussed it, occasionally someone will bring up something you have never heard before.  If you do not know how to answer it, what should you do?  Our natural reflex is to “wing it” and say something that may not be altogether true, or it may be hard to defend.  By doing this, you dig yourself into a hole that will be more difficult to get out of if the skeptic decides to probe further.  Our recommendation is to be honest.

Gary:  Ditto for skeptics!!!  When a skeptic “wings it” in a debate with a knowledgeable Christian in front of an audience of naïve Christians and then “crashes and burns” he has just reinforced the idea that naturalism is a false belief system to these naïve Christians.  They will cling even tighter to their supernatural “security blanket”.  We have all done it, but let’s all think before we open our mouths.  If you don’t know what you are talking about, don’t pretend that you do.  You can do lasting damage to…the Cause (the discovery of truth).

—Always be Calm

“It is easy to become defensive when someone attacks your beliefs.  Our natural impulse is to respond with anger.  The result is a heated argument.  You must resist the temptation to do this at all costs.  …I (Licona) find it effective to respond to an objection as though the person wants to believe and simply has a few questions that stand in the way:  ‘That’s a great question [or point’.  In fact, there are some scholars who once raised that same issue.  Here are some things for your consideration…’  Remember the words of Solomon in Proverbs 15:1:  “A gentle answer turns away wrath.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 204

Gary:  I believe that skeptics should adopt the same strategy.  In fact, I believe that this is how “mature” adults should handle all contentious discussions.  We should speak to those who are in disagreement with us as if we believe that they want to agree with us…there are just a few questions standing in the way of their doing so.  I admit; I am just as guilt as anyone else of getting into knock down, drag out fights on the internet.  But these slugfests usually accomplish nothing.  I believe that the strategy of personal interaction mentioned by Mike Licona above is how mature, educated adults in a civilized society should interact with one another.  I for one hope to emulate that behavior more in my future online discussions.

…Practice, practice, practice!

“There is nothing like a real conversation with a skeptic to show where you need improvement.  …get in the game!   —Habermas and Licona, p. 204

…Prepare for the Battle with Skeptics with Prayer

“Anyone who has argued the Christian view in a public setting realizes that it is more of a spiritual battle than an exercise in logic.  …our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).  Our main struggle is not against humans…

—Habermas, p. 202

Gary:  S-C-A-R-Y!  This is the kind of delusional, fear-based nonsense that we, the ex-members of this cult, are fighting to dispel.  Let us continue to shine the light of Reason and Science upon this ancient superstition so that others may be freed from its fear, bigotry, sectarianism, and discrimination.

 

 

Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 12: Comparing Jesus’ Appearances to the Appearances of the Angel Moroni in Mormonism

“What’s the difference between Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith and his eleven witnesses to the golden plates and Jesus’ disciples experiencing the appearances [of Jesus]?  …While all the apostles were willing to suffer and die for their beliefs, six of the eleven witnesses to the gold plates left the Mormon Church.  Imagine what we would think about the credibility of the testimonies of Jesus’ resurrection if Peter, Paul, James, John and two other disciples had left Christianity within a few years.  However, they clung to their faith to the very end of their lives.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 185

Gary:  We have very little information about what eventually happened to the original Eleven disciples of Jesus.  The stories of their martyrdom are very questionably historical.  Most scholars believe these stories are simply Church tradition.  We know much more about the Mormon witnesses than we do about the Christian disciples.  And even though some of the Mormon witnesses did leave the Mormon Church, none of them ever recanted seeing the Golden Plates or seeing the angel Moroni.  Does this prove they did?  No.  But neither does the fact that we have no record of any Christian apostle recanting seeing a resurrected Jesus prove that any of them really had seen a walking, talking corpse!

“There is evidence, however, that the Mormon documents are not true, including the lack of archaeological evidence where it should be and problems with the Book of Abraham.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 186

Gary:  I believe that both of these Abrahamic religions have something very important in common:  leaders prone to delusions and adept at promoting religious hysteria in very gullible people.

 

Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 11, Part B: Evidence for Intelligent Design, and, Evidence for a Generic Creator is not Necessarily Evidence for Yahweh

“The constants in our universe are more at home in a designed universe than in one that exists by chance.  If an intelligent Designer created the universe, we expect such a balance of forces.  On the other hand, if the universe is the result of undirected natural processes, the odds that it will possess such a strong appearance of design are incomprehensibly unlikely.  Thus, the most reasonable explanation for the appearance of design in the universe is that an intelligent Designer exists.  While it is admitted that this does not conclusively prove the existence of God, it is certainly a “face-card” in the hand dealt to the one who believes that God exists.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 178

Gary:  During the last 2,000 years, whenever science has been unable to explain a natural phenomenon, Christians have pounced and claimed, “It’s God!”.  This was the explanation, for example, for lightening and meteors.  We now know differently.  I suggest that we hold our judgment regarding the origin of the universe.  We may one day find out that just as with lightening and meteors, there is a very natural explanation for the origin of the universe.

“Keep in mind that the above arguments for God do not prove the Christian God.  However, the Creator is strikingly consistent with him.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 181

Gary:  Amen to the first sentence!  But the second sentence?  Really?  Please tell me how.

You just got done telling us that the inviolable laws of nature prove the existence of an intelligent Designer.  Yet the Christian god, Yahweh, is alleged to frequently violate those inviolable laws.  You just quoted the scientific consensus that the universe began with a Big Bang but that is not how the Christian god, Yahweh, says that he created the universe  (Read Genesis chapter 1 and 2).  The Creator god seems indifferent to (or enjoys) human suffering, whereas Yahweh claims to be merciful and compassionate.  The Creator God, if he exists, has created a very scientifically complex universe, whereas Yahweh seems very ignorant of science.  After all, he believes that a dome, a “firmament”, sits above the earth.

No, if a Creator exists, he could not be the Christian god, Yahweh.

“It is Jesus’ resurrection that reveals that the God apparently disclosed by the philosophical and scientific arguments above is the Christian God.”  —Habermas and Licona, p. 181

Gary:  That’s right.  The Resurrection of Jesus proves that Yahweh is the Creator God.  And it is the presumed existence of Yahweh as the Creator God that allows Christians to assume that a supernatural reanimation of a dead corpse (resurrection) is a more probable explanation for the early Christian resurrection belief than numerous, naturalistic explanations.

This is the logical fallacy of “Begging the Question”.

Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 11, Part A: The Dumbest Excuse for the Existence of Evil I have Ever Heard

“We may very well live in a world that has an optimized balance of the greatest amount of good with a minimal amount of evil.  Thus, evil does not render impossible the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God.”   —Habermas and Licona, p. 172

Gary:  Dumb.  Really, really dumb.  Need I say more?

Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 10: Who Did Jesus Think He Was?

As conservative Christians, authors Habermas and Licona believe that Jesus believed that he was God.  The authors spend chapter 10 of their book attempting to prove he did.  But did he?

I believe that the Gospel of Mark most likely gives us the most accurate portrayal of the historical Jesus.  I think that Jesus believed that he was divine in some sense of that word. I think Jesus believed that he was the messiah. He believed that God had given him special supernatural powers, powers above and beyond the typical prophet. I think he believed it was fully within his God-given powers to pronounce God’s forgiveness of sins, just as the priests did in the Temple. But I do not think that Jesus ever believed that he was Yahweh himself, Creator of the universe, who had existed for all eternity. Yes, he considered himself to be the “son of God” but he never refers to himself as the “ONLY Son of God, born of a virgin, fathered by the Holy Spirit”. (The kings of Israel were also referred to as “the son of God”, so this title was not something unique to Jesus.)

The Jesus of the Gospel of John is unrecognizable compared to the Jesus of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  I believe that the Jesus of the Gospel of John and the Jesus of the Synoptics are two different men!  I believe that the Jesus of the Gospel of John is a literary invention of late first century Christians who had developed a very high (but fictional) Christology.

Review of “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Habermas and Licona, Chapter 9: Did Paul See a Body of Flesh or a Spiritual Body?

Habermas and Licona use this chapter to discuss the ongoing debate among scholars regarding Paul’s view on the subject of “resurrection”.  I have studied both sides of this issue and have come to the conclusion that Paul most likely believed that Jesus was raised in his physical, albeit, transformed, body.

But does that necessarily mean that Paul SAW a body in his “appearance experience” on the Damascus Road?  Christians today believe in Jesus’ physical resurrection but do not claim to have ever seen his physically resurrected body.  So what did Paul “see”?  Did he claim to see an actual body or did he only see a bright light?

We will never know.