Thursday, January 06, 2011

Book Review: The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

Charles Foster describes "The Jesus Inquest" as the case for and against the resurrection of the Christ. Since he is a trial lawyer, he puts the resurrection on trail. He creates Character X who presents the position of unbelief and Character Y, who, with limitations, is designed to represent the Christian position. Mr. Foster attempts to keep faith out of the question and deal only with facts that could be examined in a courtroom setting. He does have some faith in the resurrection, himself, but he leaves it up to the reader to sort through the evidence and draw his or her own conclusion.

While there is interesting material in the book, I don't recommend it. Mr. Foster, himself, describes the weakness of the book in his preface. He realizes that neither the Christian nor the unbeliever will think that his or her case has been presented as strongly as it could be. A mature Christian who is familiar with apologetics might enjoy the book and learn something from it. However, I think that the book raises fruitless arguments that might needlessly shake the faith of some who are not mature enough to discern which arguments have a solid foundation and which don't.

Likewise, Foster does not establish the validity of God's word or the trustworthiness of the canon as we have it. People who are examining the evidence for the resurrection need to be presented with reasons why God and his word can be believed. Similarly, a person presenting portions of God's word must use them in context to avoid straw arguments, such as the odd misunderstandings cites surrounding I Corinthians 15.

I do believe that certain facts point to the truth of the resurrection beyond any reasonable doubt. In one sense, taking the evidence to trial would seem both logical and helpful. Certainly, verifying evidence can build our faith. However, this approach works only to a certain point. After all, court rooms run on precedence, and Jesus was the ultimate precedent breaker. He shakes up everything we have come to expect from a fallen world. His death and resurrection defeated two things that we, in our finite human experience, believe to be inevitable: sin and death.

From the prophecies of his coming to his birth to a virgin to his exit from a tomb, Jesus is like no other man we have ever met. He certainly is like no other man to ever step onto a witness stand. In ordinary circumstances, dead people do not come back to life. Jesus did. That is the point. We would do well not to endlessly examine evidence without arriving at a conclusion, but to take hold of the truth and preach it with power. (Acts 4:33)

(I received a copy of this book from Thomas Nelson's Book Sneeze program. My opinions are my own.)

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