Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?

Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? The Resurrection Debate

Gary R. Habermas and Antony Flew (edited by Terry L. Miethe), Harper & Row, New York, 1987, 190pages, $14.95.

Reviewed by James Ayers, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kingman, Kansas.

On May 2, 1985, Gary R. Habermas and Antony Flew participated in a public debate at Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia, entitled "The Historicity of the Resurrection: Did Jesus Rise From the Dead?" This book includes the substance of that debate, continuing discussions among the philosophy faculty, and reactions from noted scholars Wolfhart Pannenberg, Charles Hartshorne, and J. I. Packer.

Antony Flew will be familiar to first-year philosophy students because of his sharp critiques of religion in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, God and Philosophy, and other works. He is an able advocate of the skeptic's position on the existence of God. Habermas is less well known, although he has written four books on the Resurrection. His control of the evidence is powerful; the evidence itself is compelling; and Flew is never able to come up with a convincing rejoinder.

There are a couple of minor weaknesses in the debate. First, Flew was not as prepared as one would have expected on questions about the dating and authorship of portions of the New Testament. While he has some acquaintance with this intricate scholarship, he is not at home with it. Habermas, however, shows clear mastery of the material.

Flew's frequent rebuttal is "Well, we just don't know what happened." I wished Flew had done more homework so he could have based his argument more on knowledge than ignorance.

Those who have felt the discomfort of being labeled "fundamentalist" and "obscurantist" will recognize the temptation of self-righteousness to which Habermas occasionally falls prey. There are times when his response to Flew's critiques leaves us with the impression that he is defending his presentation rather than his ideas.

This is an excellent book in which a learned skeptical philosopher and able apologete go head-to-head. The participants state their positions clearly, and the debate format makes the opposing viewpoints accessible to the reader.

While not the sort of thing you would use as an evangelistic book, it provides pastors with historical evidence of Christ's resurrection. The Christian position not only holds its own, it carries the day.

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Reviewed by James Ayers, pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Kingman, Kansas.

October 1988

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