I have a waning interest in what has often been called apologetics — books written to equip a Christian to at best explain, at worst defend, why it is okay for them to believe what they do. Often it feels like books like these cause a Christian to build an aresenal to protect their views from those of others. I’m more interested in learning what it means to engage in dialogue with anyone who I might be able to learn from. Sometimes, that will cause me to affirm and hold my views more strongly, and sometimes, it gives me the opportunity to be challenged and learn from the views of another.
I do, however, love me some historical Jesus scholarship. So when I was given the opportunity to review Did the Resurrection Happen? A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew, I took it! The book is formed around a long standing friendship and dialogue between Gary Habermas, an Evangelical scholar who argues in favor of the resurrection, and Antony Flew, a prominent atheist and perhaps the most respected voice of the latter 20th century on the philosophy of religion.
The book begins with the transcript of a with a public debate between Habermas and Flew about the resurrection that took place in 2003. It was their third public debate on the topic, born out of their ongoing friendship. Since that debate, Flew has publicly announced his move from atheism to theism — the belief that there is a singular supreme being of some kind. He has not, however, aligned himself with Christianity or any other religion, and still struggles with the idea of the resurrection. The point of all this is that the rest of the book deals with Flew’s ‘conversion’, via a few shorter essays, and then a longer evaluation of the debate and Flew’s conversion, written by the books editor, David Badgett.
Now back to that opening paragraph — my aversion to apologetics is not so much an aversion to the idea of apologetics, but to an attitude that is often bred by apologetics. A true apologetic will be marked by a healthy dialogue as two or more people explore, challenge, and learn from the views of another. And while I enjoyed much of the content of this book, what I appreciate most was the tone of genuine respect in the midst of difference that was evident between Habermas and Flew. When mutual respect is present, healthy dialogue can occur.