24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2009
This book covers the third and probably final debate between the (now former) atheist Antony Flew and Gary Habermas, the well-recognized expert on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. By this point in their relationship Habermas and Flew have become good friends and the debate possesses the atmosphere of a casual conversation between two colleagues.
Habermas presses the historical argument which Flew acknowledges is very strong. However, Flew is not convinced that the historical argument by itself is sufficient to argue for something as extraordinary as a resurrection and raises the point that it may still be more likely that an event like a mass hullucination may be the cause for the appearances than an actual resurrection. Habermas is in his prime and Flew is perhaps not at the top of his game in this exchange as is evident when they get to the closing statements.
The book also contains two chapters about Flews conversion to theism (not Christianity). One is a dialogue between Flew and Habermas that recounts his journey from atheism to theism. The other is review of Flew's book "There is a God" by Habermas. These are reprints from other sources but are a welcome addition to this volume rounding out the relationship between these two thinkers that is a model of what philosophical dialogue should be.
The real gem of the volume is Baggett's analysis of the debate and general argument for the resurrection. Baggett rightly divides the question into two parts: the historical evidence and the inferential issue. Baggett assesses that Habermas has successfully made the historical case, but that an inference to resurrection is another question. He points out that many non-believers may not find the historical case compelling due to worldview commitments. A Christian theist himself, Baggett is nevertheless fair and balanced in his analysis of the argument for the resurrection acknowledging its strengths and weaknesses. His essay is worth the price of the book itself.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"Did Jesus of Nazareth rise from the dead?"
In 2003, Gary Habermas and Antony Flew met at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, to debate that very question. Habermas is a Christian philosopher widely known for his evidentialist argument for the resurrection. Flew was an atheist philosopher, perhaps the most famous such philosopher in the 20th Century. In 2004, he announced to a somewhat stunned philosophical world that he had abandoned atheism for deism. He does not believe in the resurrection, however, nor in any religions based on personal revelation.
Habermas and Flew's 2003 debate was not their first. Their first debate occurred in 1985 and was published as Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, edited by Terry L. Miethe. Their second occurred in 2000 and was published as Resurrected? An Atheist and Theist Dialogue, edited by John F. Ankerberg. Did the Resurrection Happen? contains a transcript of their 2003 debate and is edited by Christian philosopher David Baggett. Over the years since their first debate, Habermas and Flew have become friends, and that friendship no doubt explains the very cordial tone of their interactions at the 2003 event.
In addition to a transcript of the 2003 debate, Did the Resurrection Happen? includes the transcript of an interview of Flew by Habermas about the reasons why he abandoned atheism for deism. Despite the rise of an impressive philosophical defense of theism in the late twentieth century, Flew's "conversion," if that's the appropriate term, was driven by more scientific arguments: Big Bang cosmology, cosmological fine-tuning, and intelligent design. Some atheists disappointed at Flew's abandonment of them have claimed that he is an old man rooked into deism by friendly Christians. Flew simply claims to be following the evidence wherever it leads him.
Flew laid out the reasons for his change of mind in a 2007 book he co-authored with Roy Abraham Varghese, There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. (Flew was not happy with the publisher's choice of a subtitle.) Habermas' review of that book is the third major component of Did the Resurrection Happen?
The fourth, longest, and most substantial component of the book is an essay by David Baggett, "Resurrection Matters: Assessing the Habermas Flew Discussion," which I'll come back to in a moment.
To be perfectly honest, I was underwhelmed by the Habermas/Flew debate. In my opinion, Habermas talked too much, and Flew conceded too much. At a few points, even the moderator seemed to jump in to make Flew's case for him. Habermas' interview of Flew was far more interesting to me, and I got a much better taste of how Flew's reasons about the evidence for God and against the resurrection by reading it.
Baggett's essay was worth the price of the book. In it, he explains the character of Habermas' argument for the resurrection. It is an abductive case, in which one makes an inference to the best possible explanation. Starting with certain historical facts that believers and skeptics might agree upon, Habermas reasons between competing explanations, ultimately inferring that the fact of the Christ's resurrection (which is controversial) makes best sense of the agreed-upon historical facts (which are non-controversial). Baggett goes on to outline various skeptical responses to Habermas (some of which Flew employs), as well as the underlying philosophical issues in debates over the resurrection. Throughout, he defends Habermas' argument and suggests that if Flew continues to follow the line of argument that led him to deism, he may very well land on Christian theism.
One more thing about this book. It is rare to see debaters change their minds because of a single debate, especially when those debaters are well-known advocates of contrary points of view. That's part of the reason why I was drawn to this book in the first place. Why did Flew changes his mind, at least on the question of God's existence, though not on the question of Christ's resurrection? The answer, according to Flew, is evidence. But I can't help but wonder the degree to which his friendship with Habermas also affected him.
Those who would convince others of their points of view would do well to remember that winning a person is at least as important as winning an argument.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2009
This is one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of the resurrection. Since the first part is basically a transcript of an actual conversation between two of the most learned and influential people in their respective fields (one from a Christian perspective, the other from an atheist perspective), it is easy to read and extremely engaging. Because the basic context is one of historical evidence rather than a debate over interpretations of the bible, the information is thought provoking for Christian and atheist/agnostic alike. In my opinion, I believe Christians will find their faith strengthened and non-Christian readers will find answers to valid arguments on the subject. Most important, I found that even though some parts of the book (especially the final chapters) are highly intellectual in nature and use an extensive vocabulary, nevertheless the text flowed well, making the relative points easy to understand and follow.
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2009
If you want to be a witness for Jesus Christ, then I strongly, STRONGLY recommend you obtain a copy of Did the Resurrection Happen? from Intervarsity Press.
There are many things that could be said for this book, but I don't want to distract from the central issue. Our Christian faith is built on the resurrection of Christ, not on the age of the earth, not on a particular eschatology, not even on inerrancy. THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IS BUILT ON THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
This book, Did the Resurrection Happen? says something I have felt for years now, but needed to hear someone else say it in order to announce it, myself:
Even if we take the New Testament as simply an ancient text with excellent credentials, which it surely is at a minimum, there is enough historical evidence to make a very strong case for the resurrection of Christ.
The point I'm trying to make which is made in the book is that the resurrection of Christ is the foundation of our faith. Don't waste your time battling with skeptics over ancillary issues. Take them directly to the resurrection of Christ. There is room for a very good discussion there and you will be standing on high ground. That conversation ends in one of three places:
The person decides he has an almost invincible belief.
The person develops substantially more thoughtfulness about Christianity than he ever had before and continues to reflect on the matter.
The person comes to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
Read this book and become a better witness than you've ever been.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2013
There really was not much of a conversation. Poor Tony could hardly get in a word between the Moderator and the bombastic preaching of Habermas, who clearly knew much more about the New Testament than did Flew. The primary purpose of the book seems to be an opportunity for Habermas to reaffirm his belief in Christianity to fellow believers than an honest debate on the historicity of the resurrection.
I believe I could have made a better argument for Flew’s case than he did. Nothing was said about the huge discrepancies in the post resurrection activities of Jesus reported in the Gospels. The original Mark simply leaves us with an empty tomb. Matthew has the disciples go to Galilee where he appears to them on a mountain. In Luke he appears only to the two men on the road to Emmaus and the to the Eleven disciples before he ascends into Heaven. Although the same author states in Acts that Jesus stayed on Earth for forty days and gave proof to many that he was alive before he was taken up to Heaven. In John Jesus appears to his disciples who were hiding behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities and then he later appears to them to while they were fishing by the Sea of Tiberius. Jesus appeared to Paul in a vision, yet Paul believed enough to commit his life to preaching the Gospel of Christ. Then who’s to say the other disciples did not have similar visions? There have been many reports of appearances of the Virgin Mary and in 1968 thousands (including Egyptian President Nasser) witnessed Marian apparitions over the Coptic Orthodox Church of Saint Mary in the Zeitoun district of Cairo. So the appearance of Jesus to the 500 as reported by Paul would not seem unreasonable. No one can say for certain what happened on that Easter morning but the important thing is that, for whatever reasons, his disciples believed that Jesus had been resurrected and carried that message to the World.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 25, 2010
Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation
Gary Habermas & Anthony Flew
A few years ago we learned the surprising news that Dr. Anthony Flew, one of the world's most acclaimed philosophers and outspoken atheists, had renounced atheism. Thirty years earlier he had argued in his book, "The Presumption of Atheism," that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence surfaced for the existence of God. Apparently, something did surface--he changed his mind and wrote "There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind," published in 2007. Flew's conversion from atheism sent shockwaves through the academic world and until his death earlier this year he was the subject of considerable controversy. Atheists felt betrayed; Christians felt vindicated. But, as it turned out, it was a mistake to think that Flew became "Christian," at least in the orthodox sense. He simply accepted that there was a Supreme Power, an Ultimate Intelligence, behind creation. There is no evidence that he ever believed it was the God of Jesus.
During the period in which Flew was coming to grips with the existence of God he was engaged in a friendly debate, both publicly and in private correspondence, with Dr. Gary Habermas, one of the world's leading authorities on the historicity of Christ's resurrection--Flew the skeptic and Habermas the apologist. Their prolonged but congenial debate began in the mid-80's and continued until Flew's death earlier this year. Portions of that "conversation" have now been published in a book edited by Dr. David Baggett, entitled, "Did the Resurrection Happen? A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Anthony Flew." It is an intellectual, some might say ivory tower, approach to the efficacy of the most fundamental of Christian tenets.
Their final debate, published earlier this year, is of special interest because it contains Flew's revised thoughts following his conversion to theism. The book is in three parts: Part I is the transcribed text of the Habermas-Flew California Polytechnic University debate in January 2003, near the time of Flew's earth moving announcement that he had embraced a belief in a Supreme Being. Part II details Flew's journey from atheism to theism from both his and Habermas' perspectives. Part III is Baggett's somewhat heady but insightful assessment of the debate.
Of course, just giving cerebral agreement to the existence of God is not the same as having faith--it is possible to know things, even scientific facts, without believing anything. Still, I think it is important that we sort through available information if, while doing so, we realize that we can never know everything, a presumption atheism has to acknowledge to be consistent with its claims. To be a true atheist--to "know" God does not exist--one would have to know everything. Still, as Habermas demonstrates in the dialogue, there is strong enough intellectual and empirical evidence to support belief in the resurrection of Christ, a belief I accepted by faith a long time ago without observable evidence. Faith is, after all, the evidence of things not seen.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2009
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most key point of his divinity. "Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew" discusses the realty of the resurrection. Covering historical records and scientific evidence, this debate will provide much food for thought in this religious debate which holds one of the most vital beliefs of Christianity in the balance. A top pick for any scholarly collection on Christianity, "Did the Resurrection Happen?" is enthusiastically recommended.
Antony Garrard Newton Flew (1923-2010) was a British philosopher, and formerly a noteworthy advocate of atheism, until his 2004 change of mind (see There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind). He wrote such influential books as God & Philosophy; he also participated in debates/dialogues such as The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God,Does God Exist?: The Great Debate, etc.
Gary Habermas (born 1950) is Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy and chairman of the department of philosophy and theology at Liberty University, and is a foremost evangelical apologist who has written many books such as The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, etc. These two philosophers had also met in debate in 1985 and 2003 (see: Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?: The Resurrection Debate and Resurrected?: An Atheist and Theist Dialogue). This third debate took place at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, on January 3, 2003.
Habermas points out, "I think the best evidence we have for the resurrection is the apostle Paul and... even people like Michael Martin and G.A. Wells concede that Paul was an eyewitness to what he believed was a resurrection appearance of Jesus... The same goes for James, the brother of Jesus. He was also an unbeliever during Jesus' life. That's conceded by virtually all scholars... we have Paul's testimony first-hand... It's rare to find any New Testament scholars who deny Pauline authorship for 1 Corinthians. Paul states a couple of times that he saw the resurrected Jesus... not only is Paul giving us his own experience, he's our best window on the other apostles and what they were preaching regarding Jesus' resurrection." (Pg. 34)
They have the following exchange: "AF: We have a whole lot of people who think they saw him... they were grief-related appearances... ostensible appearances. Yes, what seemed to them to be appearances... GH: Okay, so basically if you're going to say grief visions, you're saying hallucinations. AF: If you'd like, yes." (Pg. 39)
Later, we read: "GH: Is your present view unfalsifiable?... Your unbelief specifically in the resurrection... If we have our list of historical facts and every time you bring up a natural possibility, each one seems to be opposed by a number of rejoinders, at what point do you say that it begins to look like a real resurrection? Or conversely, at what point would you say that you view is not falsifiable? AF: I think the only honest answer is that I don't know. I am not sure... I think the unfalsifiability of UNBELIEF is somehow a different problem than the unfalsifiability of a BELIEF. GH: But if you can't falsify your own view, and if there is no probable rejoinder to the resurrection, and you're left with, 'Well, I don't want to believe it anyway,' of course that's your right." (Pg. 44-45)
Habermas discusses near-death experiences [which he dealt with at length in Immortality: The Other Side of Death]: "take a highly evidenced NDE where someone recalls data during an EEG that is flat for three hours, and they report things they saw during that time, although their brain apparently wasn't working... NDSs say, 'Wow, this world might be different from what we think it is.' " (Pg. 46)
Flew admits in response to a question, "you want me to respond to Pascal's wager. I'm afraid that at this time in the evening I don't feel fit to do so. I have recently written some second thoughts about this wager, but I don't recall them right now." (Pg. 61) When another questioner asks what happened to Jesus' body if he wasn't resurrected, he replied, "I don't know. I don't pretend to know. Because i don't think we can be in a position to know that the body was deposited in a tomb, though of course the opponents of Christianity wanted to find the body, didn't they? They wanted to find a body that hadn't risen." (Pg. 62)
In a later exchange, we read: "AF: as a schoolboy of fifteen years, it first appeared to me that the thesis that the universe was created and is sustained by a Being of infinite power and goodness is flatly incompatible with the occurrence of massive undeniable and undenied evils in that universe... GH: In your view, then, God hasn't done anything about evil. AF: No, not at all, other than producing a lot of it." (Pg. 77)
All of the dialogues between Flew and Habermas are fascinating reading, and will be of tremendous interest to students of apologetics, or of the philosophy of religion.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2009
This is a neat book, featuring a cordial dialogue between two great thinkers on the most important question of all. Flew's conversion to Deism is fascinating, and the fact that this debate happened just months prior to that conversion makes it all the more important. Besides being a model dialogue, the book also makes it clear what some of the deeper philosophical issues involved in the debate are all about, and why they're the real points of divide between Habermas and Flew. Although the editor makes it clear that a committed and intelligent atheist may not be convinced by the resurrection argument taken by itself because of his or her commitments, he also stresses that the argument poses an important set of challenges to those atheistic and skeptical commitments. I recommend this book strongly to anyone interested in this question so vital to the truth and intellectual credibility of Christianity.
on June 8, 2013
Many agnostics and intellectuals, I fear, never give the Bible a fair consideration, thinking they would have to check their brain at the door to ever give Biblical Christianity credibility. This book should help them see that there are reasonable, rational paths to giving historic Scriptural Christianity fair consideration. As a Confessional Lutheran pastor, I do not believe we can prove someone into the Faith. But we can help remove stumbling blocks that may keep them from listening to the Word of God about Christ, thru which the Holy Spirit will bring them to faith in Christ.