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One of the most famous events in history is still debated today. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, in Jerusalem, is a contentious issue, pitting believers against unbelievers.
The claims made by this Man of history have no precedents. While most people can agree that Jesus of Nazareth was a wise teacher, His own claims and those of His followers go far beyond that. That happens when someone claims to be God, but it is Christ’s physical resurrection that is the crux of contention.
Now, a legendary apologist for the Christian faith, Josh McDowell, and a sure-to-be legend Dave Sterrett have written a short book entitled, “Did the Resurrection Happen … Really?” This latest offering is part of Moody Publishers’ “Coffee House Chronicles,” in which the authors tackle various controversial issues. I can’t say enough good things about this latest installment.
Once again effectively using narrative and story to advance their agenda (we all have agendas, right? Can atheists agree with us on that?), fashioning this particular apologetic (a defense of the faith) around a fictional story set in a fictional college town, McDowell and Sterrett frankly make the medicine go down easier. Although we are blessed to have straightforward apologetics texts, “Did the Resurrection Happen … Really?” is a book easily read and digested by anyone, particularly that student demographic represented in the book. And, at 140 pages, it’s at best an evening’s task to get through.
As with their other works, the authors make their case for the resurrection through a story involving college students, in this case, classmates and professors at “Opal University.” In this story, a group of Christian students interact with atheists and agnostics, including professors.
The story opens with a horrific campus shooting spree – one of those we have been witness to in the last few years.
Death, and especially tragic death, has a way of centering the mind. No matter our belief system, we all know that humans eventually die. The question is, what comes afterward? A Hollywood actor, for example, might argue that nothing comes after this life. A Christian would counter-argue that the Bible claims the life after this one is the “real” one!
One other point to make about “Did the Resurrection Happen … Really?” is that even many Christians would say that “arguments” don’t win converts. That is patently untrue. We are all reached in different ways. For some, faith comes in a gentle, quiet moment when the spirit is engaged. For others, it is absolutely critical to have mental barriers removed. The resurrection of Jesus is the classic “mental hurdle” for some to overcome. In this new book, McDowell and Sterrett, in my opinion, remove those barriers in dramatic fashion.
A key piece of dialogue in this book involves the nature of the resurrection itself. “Brad,” a smart college kid, believes that Jesus died in history, but he questions whether He was physically raised from the dead.
McDowell and Sterrett make the salient point that Paul argued forcefully that the Christian faith itself depended upon Jesus actually being raised from the dead. And they aren’t afraid to engage with difficult points, such as, “Do you have to believe in a physical resurrection to be a Christian?” It doesn’t get more controversial than that.
Factual “nuggets” also enhance this book, such as when a character speaks about Paul discussing the resurrection 53 times in his letters.
McDowell and Sterrett also show that they are thoroughly familiar with all the arguments. On page 47, Lauren, a non-believer who is seeking the truth, asks if Christians are willing to read “the other side’s” arguments, and she references Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.”
No doubt McDowell and Sterrett are asked these kinds of questions. By the way, anyone who can actually make it through “On the Origin of Species” deserves a special presidential medal or something. Wow, talk about a hard, hard slog.
There is also some memorable detail in this book, which combines the authors’ gifts for research, articulation and overall communication of ideas. For example, an article is cited from a 1986 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, entitled: “On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ.” Can you believe the AMA would publish such a piece? Amazing!
There are also subtle points made for the consumption of Christians. On page 79, one of the students points out that many Christians are “intellectually lazy, shallow in their faith and too timid to speak up about what they believe.” This is a fairly tame challenge to those Christians who claim that we are only called to “love” people into the Kingdom. Again, millions need an intellectual reason to believe.
“Did the Resurrection Happen … Really?” is a superb book to put in someone’s hands. The authors expertly make their points in a small package, and that package lends itself to ministries and churches passing them out by the droves. Give on to a graduate from high school, junior high, college. Develop a Bible study from it. Above all, read it for yourself to determine what you believe!