Monday, March 05, 2007

Resurrection Scholarship

"Over the past five years, I have tracked well over two thousand scholarly publications on the resurrection. Each source appeared between 1975 and the present, in German, French, or English, written by a wide range of critical scholars....As firmly as ever, most contemporary scholars agree that, after Jesus' death, his early followers had experiences that they at least believed were appearances of their risen Lord. Further, this conviction was the chief motivation behind the early proclamation of the Christian gospel. These basics are rarely questioned, even by more radical scholars. They are among the most widely established details from the entire New Testament....This [the belief that the earliest Christians thought they saw Jesus risen from the dead] has been a mainstay of critical thought since nineteenth-century German theology....More recently, James D.G. Dunn agreed: 'It is almost impossible to dispute that at the historical roots of Christianity lie some visionary experiences of the first Christians, who understood them as appearances of Jesus, raised by God from the dead.'...I have argued elsewhere that, while they still hold a decidedly minority position among the total number of commentators, recent decades have revealed a slight increase in scholars who espouse naturalistic hypotheses to account for Jesus' resurrection....As it was at the end of nineteenth-century German liberalism, as well as at the end of the twentieth century, probably the single most popular alternative to Jesus' resurrection was the hallucination, or subjective vision, theory....After a hiatus of many decades, arguably almost a century, the subjective vision theory has made a comeback....One old standby, the swoon or apparent death theory, has even appeared in a few places recently, although it is seldom espoused by scholars....Each of the naturalistic theories was attacked piece by piece by the liberal scholars in the nineteenth century, as each criticized the others' approaches. In the twentieth century, critical scholarship has largely rejected wholesale the naturalistic approaches to the resurrection....Exhibiting an amazing amount of consensus, most researchers across a very wide conceptual spectrum have rejected naturalistic approaches as explanations for the earliest Christians' belief in the resurrection of Jesus....Accordingly, the path of natural alternative theories is definitely a minority approach....Even before the publication of N.T. Wright's monumental volume The Resurrection of the Son of God in 2003, the tide had begun to turn toward the view that Jesus not only was raised miraculously from the dead but also appeared in a spiritual body. So, the resurrection is an event that happened to Jesus, rather than either an internal experience or a natural occurrence. The risen Jesus featured both bodily continuity, including qualities that could be observed and perhaps even touched, as well as transformed discontinuity. Thus, Jesus appeared as far more than a vision of light from heaven. Further, it was usually held that firm historical evidence accompanied these appearances....While sporting a few new wrinkles as well as some improvements, the view that Jesus was raised bodily is currently the predominant position, if judged in terms of scholarly support. Moreover, some scholars who reject this view still hold that it was at least the New Testament position, including Paul's own teaching. This is a marked change from recent decades when Paul's view was often interpreted far differently....less than one-quarter of critical scholars who addressed the historicity question offered naturalistic theories...The almost three-quarters of remaining scholars hold either of the two views that Jesus was raised from the dead in some sense....[more than three-quarters of these people] take the position that Jesus was resurrected in a real, though still transformed, body...The supernatural view that Jesus rose from the dead in one of two senses is a distinct majority position over the natural option (almost three to one). Very surprisingly, while the supernatural internal category (the old 'objective vision theory') was the most popular among scholars through the middle to late twentieth century, it has been relegated to a minority response in recent years, in favor of bodily appearances of the risen Jesus (more than three to one)." (Gary Habermas, in Robert Stewart, ed., The Resurrection Of Jesus [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Fortress Press, 2006], pp. 78-80, 82-84, 86, 88, 90-92)


  1. Just sent the following note:


    Dear James [White],

    I have publicly challenged you to a 2 1/2 hour "live chat debate" in your chat room. See:

    Your brother in Christ,

    Dave Armstrong


    I hope those of you at Triablogue will be among many who will encourage him to take up my offer.

    Yours in Christ,


  2. Uh, what does this have to do with the topic?!?!?

  3. Armstrong's trying to resurrect his career.

  4. Since Dr. White is currently writing a book on the tomb that is supposed to be published before Easter, etc. I find it very unlikely that he'll want to take time out of his schedule for Dave Armstrong.

    I mean, Benny Hinn, maybe...but Dave Armstrong??? :-D

  5. I've seen this "challenge" posted on other Evangelical Web Blogs as well. It seems as though DA wants everyone to know he is down for a good ole fashioned internet live chat squabble, exciting indeed. It also seems pretty obvious he doesn't quite expect Dr. White to engage in this format, but wants everyone in the E-World to know of his brute confidence and brashness to engage Dr. White via E-Spattle, so if Dr. White does not entertain him (which I personally doubt he will engage in this semi-fruitless format), DA looks like an E-Hero to all the onlookers - to which I am not surprised at all. A simple private email to Dr. White alone would've revealed a sincere desire to engage in an E-Spattle Battle, but DA needs to let EVERYONE know of his "challenge" simply to elevate himself in the minds of the RC Apologetic world, as a Super E*pologist. Why not engage in a scholarly, professional, moderated, public, formatted, audio/visual debate with Dr. White? All around it profits everyone involved - especially the laypeople. The benefit of having a DVD to watch, examine, listen to, re-watch, distribute, etc., over an E-script printed on paper or read online is not even in the same league as the public debate. The differences between the two "debate" (if you want to call it that) formats is like the WNBA vs. NBA.

    I honestly suspect the reason DA avoids Dr. White in a formal debate is somewhat obvious. If his arguments are made to look foolish, (like many of the opponenets participating in Dr. White's debates) it will devestate his reputation as a RC E-pologist. Peter Stravinskas (as seen on the YouTube clips) is a great example of this, and DA certainly doesn't want to be seen in that fashion at all. The fact that some debates with Dr. White have been withheld from public viewing speaks volumes of the performances of his opponents and a good reason NOT to debate Dr. White in this format.

  6. Hey, I would love to see Steve Hays take on DA in written debate. What do you say Steve? BTW, Steve has been quiet lately, is he working on some secret project?

  7. "Hey, I would love to see Steve Hays take on DA in written debate. What do you say Steve?"

    Armstrong has avoided such a prospect at every opportunity.

    "BTW, Steve has been quiet lately, is he working on some secret project?"

    Well, if I told you, it wouldn't be a secret anymore!

    Aside from a number of email exchanges I've been having with various people, I'm drafting a reply to Philip Blosser.

  8. Uh, what does this have to do with the topic?!?!?

    Nothing whatsoever. I didn't see a way to write to Steve, so I did it here. White has already declined (as I confidently predicted in private last night), so it is a moot point.

    Armstrong's trying to resurrect his career.

    Really? With three bestselling books in amazon's Top 100 for the Catholic Theology category, another coming out in mere weeks, and more hits than ever on my blog (almost 200 more a day than Triablogue gets, and it is a group effort), and continuing letters all the time speaking of conversions due in part to my efforts, then if my career is faltering, I would be the last to know it.

    so if Dr. White does not entertain him (which I personally doubt he will engage in this semi-fruitless format

    If that is so, then why does he have at least four debates of this sort posted on his own website? In fact, he and I did this before for a short time, on 29 December 2000. It's just a cop-out. He does this and he does written debates or "exchanges" or "refutations" (dozens posted on his site), in addition to his fabled oral debates.

    I've addressed the Steve Hays vs. Dave Armstrong suggestion in a comment on my blog:

  9. Heh heh...just when I thought Dave couldn't seem more petty or self-aggrandizing, he proves me wrong.

    But what can you expect from an anti-Calvinist?

  10. Yeah, I know what you mean, Peter. I'm so "anti-Calvinist" that I wrote in one of my published books:


    I have been accused, in particular, of “bashing” or “disliking” or even “hating” Calvinist, or Reformed Protestants. This occurs because I have written quite vigorously (as part of what I would describe as my “apologetic duty”) in response to virulently anti-Catholic factions within Calvinism. But this, too, is an inaccurate appraisal of my beliefs.

    Actually, I have a rather high view of Calvinism and many Calvinists. I state this in several places on my website. I intensely dislike certain beliefs or strands of Calvinism (particularly supralapsarianism) - as I oppose all error -, but other aspects I highly admire: the scholarly approach, the more historically-oriented view, the retention of sacramentalism, the appreciation for Covenant theology, a superior ecclesiology to many evangelicals, a concern for self-consistency, a high view of the majesty and Providence of God, an exceptional and praiseworthy interest in theology and apologetics, the Lordship salvation view, emphasis on cultural and political aspects of Christianity and Jesus as Lord of all of life, etc., etc.

    Francis Schaeffer was and is a huge influence on me, as were Charles Colson, J.I. Packer, G.C. Berkouwer and many other Calvinists. I often listen to R.C. Sproul on the radio and receive much benefit from him (I think he is a wonderful teacher). I have Internet acquaintances who attend John Piper's church. I visited a Calvinist pastor and his wife in another state in 1997. I have other Calvinist pastor friends. Many cordial debates with Calvinists are posted on my site. I could go on and on.

    (More Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 136-137).

    Obviously a sheer dislike of Calvinists there. Who could doubt it? The hatred and detestation in the words just jump out at you, don't they?

  11. Hmm, I suppose I should accept what you wrote in your book instead of simply looking at the way you've treated me throughout our history. I'm sure what you said in your book is definitely more accurate than the way you treated me....

    And yes, you're far more anti-Calvinist than I am anti-Catholic.

  12. Benedict XVI3/07/2007 12:08 AM

    Actually, I think James White prefers opponents whose argumentation is somewhat challenging. And I think he would prefer such debate "challenges" from mature adults who don't run around blogdom pointing out that they have challenged Dr. White to a debate. But hey, that's just me...

  13. Hi Peter,

    Would you like me to remove our unfortunate exchange from my blog? I've removed about 75 papers that I deemed were too "personal" rather than theological (it gets pretty intense at times with the mutual charges thrown back and forth).

    It could very well be that I jumped the gun with you. One gets "battle-weary" at times as an apologist, and we tend to do some knee-jerk reactions due to recurring themes coming from certain quarters. The latest charge now is that I am a "stalker." That's a new one. Just when I think I've heard every conceivable insult, some new one pops up.

    Just say the word and I'll remove it as a good-will gesture. What you do with your papers at my expense on your blog is up to you. I'm making these moves unilaterally in order to try to get things on-topic rather than personal. Someone has to take the first step in these matters.

    With James White it doesn't appear to be possible to deal with the issues non-personally, minus rank insults. With you maybe it is, and you would be open to a gesture meant to improve the situation rather than worsen it.

  14. "Hey, I would love to see Steve Hays take on DA in written debate. What do you say Steve?"

    Armstrong has avoided such a prospect at every opportunity.

    Armstrong has also avoided every prospect of debating anti-Catholics for two years, for the reasons I have given. I thought it was a perfcetly worthless exercise, and concluded that after no less than eight years of experience online, at the time I made that decision.

    Since you are a member of that class, I also avoided debating you. You need not tickle your imagination with vain, illusory hopes that I'm scared to death of you.

    I was, however, willing to debate the charge that I was scared or unable to debate you (during the time I restricted myself), and that was the one thing you refused to do. I had a good reason for my refusal (many good reasons). You did not. You simply called me a sophist and refused to do it.

    I wouldn't rule out a future exchange at all, now that I am willing to debate anti-Catholics again in some circumstances.

    But we would have to discuss what I mentioned in my comment, noted here, and I would have to be convinced that you could drop the smart-alecky, mocking routine long enough for us to actually do a constructive, remotely mutually-respectful discussion.

    Most people, I dare say, who had been subjected to the bilge that you have written about me wouldn't give you the time of day, let alone debate you.

    On the other hand, you have actually said some nice things about me, too, which I appreciated, both for the gesture, and the fact that it is so ultra-rare, coming from your school of thought. James White has never ever paid me the slightest compliment whatsoever, whereas I have paid him many through the years (I did several times right in his chat room the other day), have apologized many times for harshness, (he never has), defended him on more than one occasion, and have several links to his papers.

    Nor do you kick people out at the drop of a hat. I respect that too. For once, someone has the courage of their convictions and doesn't have to conduct himself like a tinpot dictator.

  15. Dave said:
    Would you like me to remove our unfortunate exchange from my blog?

    If you mean the page where you "discovered" my identity, there's nothing you wrote there that wasn't already available simply by following link on my website. As such, I'm not concerned with you keeping it.

    As for our discussion before that, I still think you are way too quick with the anti-Catholic label. It's used as a perjorative on your part to poison the well rather than discuss the issues.

  16. Hi Peter,

    I'm not gonna remove every paper I have about the term anti-Catholicism" because that is a valid, substantive issue.

    If, OTOH, you felt personally insulted and unfairly treated in the posted paper, I will remove it. I refer to this one:

    Reiterating the Meaning of "Anti-Catholic" With an Anti-Catholic and Getting Nowhere, As Usual

  17. If Steve wants to talk serious terms for a debate, he can write to me. I won't be visiting here much.