I’m currently reading Habermas and Licona’s book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and immediately I’m confused about whether I’m reading apologetics or history:
At some point in the Christian walk, many believers ask some difficult questions: Is Christianity really true? Are there any good reasons to know which religion is true? Could it be that God does not really exist?” (Habermas & Licona, p-13, 2004)
This seems like circular reasoning to me, they’re assuming the very conclusion they’re attempting to show. They’re not investigating whether the resurrection of Jesus occurred and if there’s evidence to support it, they’re already there, its just a matter of ticking the boxes now.
Am I to assume when reading this book that they’re doing apologetics, bracketed around some genuine historical research? How am I to know which is which? Sure there are historical elements to their book, but it seems from the outset, they’re supporting inerrancy (they admit on p44 that the Bible is “inspired” and trustworthy” and on p45 that the Bible tells them to believe in Jesus’ resurrection to gain eternal life), however much they’re denying that’s what they’re doing:
“We cannot tell you we looked at the evidence without presuppositions or bias. Facing issues of this magnitude, it’s unreasonable to think that anyone comes to the investigation with no personal hopes or preexisting beliefs.” (Habermas & Licona, p-13, 2004)
This appears to be simply a smoke screen, they’re attempting to demonstrate that even I (and you) have presuppositions (which of course we do), but are all presuppositions created equally? Are my presuppositions, whatever they may be, on par with being committed to inerrancy? I find that hard to swallow. As we see later on:
“The Christian has the Holy Spirit who testifies to her that Christianity is true and that she belongs to God. The historical certainty we have of Jesus’ resurrection only re-inforces that God’s Spirit has indeed spoken to us.” (Habermas & Licona, p-33, 2004)
Again, circular; the word of God is true, because God told them, then the evidence also supports the inerrancy of God’s word? I’m not sure where to get off of this dizzying ride. They’re trying to bring in believers by showing them that they’re good Christians who believe in the word of God, but they also realise they’ve got a job to do in presenting the facts.
I have to conclude that much of what I’m reading is simply designed to curry favour with believers, to reinforce their faith, which makes the authors historical research suspect at the very beginning.
Of course it would simply be ad hominem to disregard their arguments without addressing them, but this kind of behaviour is exactly why Christian biblical scholarship is so hard to take seriously. It’s the same with Strobel’s book The Case for Christ: so much in that book is circular, uncritical acceptance of biblical inerrancy it’s difficult to take much, if any of it seriously (see Robert M. Price’s review in his book The Case Against the Case for Christ to see what I’m talking about).
I don’t want it to seem all doom and gloom though, I actually care about whether these authors have anything (reliable?) to say, I do have a modicum of respect for them (Licona in particular), and I’m sure they’re just peaches in real life.
I shall continue to read and ponder on the mysteries of the Christian faith…
Habermas G R., Licona M R. (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kregel Publications. P-13,44,45,33.
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- michael licona, norm geisler and biblical inerrancy (daytonhartman.com)
- Michael Licona Responds to the Accusations of Norman Geisler (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
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