By Richard A. Knopp
William Lane Craig relates that a high school friend once said to him, “There ain’t gonna be no Easter this year.” When Craig asked, “Why not,” his cantankerous friend replied, “They found the body.”1 The questionable humor unintentionally reveals a fundamental truth: without the resurrection of Jesus, there is no Easter—or as Paul put it, “Your faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
But in spite of the bellows of unbelievers and the screams of secularists to make Easter an exclusive experience with the bunny, a multitude of valuable materials are available to sustain our faith and strengthen our witness. “Easter” is on!
The problem is not that we lack reputable resources. For many Christians, it’s an issue of apathy or ignorance. Apathy can perhaps be cured only by the Holy Spirit. Ignorance can be corrected by counsel. So here is some counsel.
Two monumental academic works are notable: N. T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003) and Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus (IVP Academic, 2010). Wright probably offers the most in-depth analysis of the biblical texts on the resurrection ever produced. And Licona is especially useful in his responses to classic and current critics of Christianity (David Hume and Bart Ehrman, for example).
It is doubtful, however, that these books (740 and 718 pages respectively!) will be used for Sunday school or small group studies.2 Nevertheless, they can deepen the well for church leaders who need nourishment for their own souls as well as others.
All Christians should be grateful that their faith is being ably championed at the highest levels of scholarship. If you know of someone who is wandering away from Christianity because they think it’s no longer reasonable, remind them that great minds and careful scholars disagree.
Concise and Comprehensible
If someone in my Sunday school class asked me for just one book on the resurrection, I’d recommend The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona (Kregel, 2004). It’s relatively concise (13 chapters, 196 pages) and comprehensible for the nonspecialist; yet it is well researched (with 478 notes in 86 more pages). It impressively interacts with biblical material, other ancient sources, opposing theories, psychological considerations, and philosophical assumptions.
But the book emphasizes the resurrection of Jesus is not just a historical truth to believe, but also a saving truth to be shared. It includes an insightful “how to” chapter on “people skills and the art of sharing.” The 29-page appendix provides a remarkable, compact outline of the entire book, with abbreviated parenthetical references. And the paperback edition even comes with an interactive CD that is set up as an animated game show. (If you don’t answer quickly enough, the host may pull out a hamburger, grab a bite, and ask what’s holding you up.)
If one wants to incorporate the resurrection in a dynamic set of personal devotionals or in an effective small group study, consider Risen: 50 Reasons Why the Resurrection Changed Everything by Steven Mathewson (Baker Books, 2013). The book creates a brief (120 pages) but compelling case for the “so what?” of the resurrection. It also includes excellent questions for an eight-week small group discussion.
A New Chapter
Excellent chapters on the resurrection often appear within anthologies or more comprehensive books. One example is the 37-page chapter on “The Resurrection of Jesus” in Douglas Groothuis’s Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity, 2011). Another is “The Resurrection of Jesus Time Line” by Gary Habermas in Contending with Christianity’s Critics (B&H Academic, 2009). This essay cogently establishes a plausible case for eyewitnesses to the resurrection, which responds to the prominent claim of skeptics that the resurrection idea was invented later or simply borrowed from other sources.
Of course, many great audio and video resources are accessible online or on DVD. Many can easily be located by doing an Internet search combining the words resurrection and video with the name of a Christian apologist, such as Gary Habermas, William Craig, Craig Hazen, Michael Licona, Norman Geisler, or Ravi Zacharias.3
Without question, Easter is on! And these resources can help you be more confident in the truth of the resurrection and more convincing as you share the good news with others.
1William Lane Craig, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” in Jesus Under Fire, ed. Michael Wilkins and J. P. Moreland (Zondervan, 1995), 165.
2N. T. Wright wrote a concise examination (64 pages) in The Challenge of Easter (InterVarsity, 2009).
3For convenience, such resources will be compiled on the Room For Doubt website at www.roomfordoubt.com/recommended-resources.html.
Richard Knopp serves as professor of philosophy and apologetics and program coordinator for Room For Doubt (www.roomfordoubt.com), a new apologetics initiative at Lincoln (Illinois) Christian University.