Just the facts, please, ma’am. Minimal facts.

But the angel told the women, “Don’t be afraid, because I know you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here! For He has been resurrected, just as He said.  Come and see the place where He lay.” – Matthew 28:5-6

They (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salmone -Mark 16:1) saw a young man dressed in a long white robe sitting ont he right side; they were amazed and alarmed.  “Don’t be alarmed,” he told them.  “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has been resurrected! He is not here! See the place where they put Him.” – Mark 16:5-6

“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men.  “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day?'” And they remembered His words. – Luke 24:5b-8

She saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying.  They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put Him.” Having said this , she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus. – John 20:12-14 (read the rest yourself to see what happens)

The Minimal Facts approach is very simple when it comes to determining the validity or truthfulness of something.  It uses two key points:

1. The data used has to have strong evidence that is factual.

2. The data must be verified or agreed upon by almost all scholars ON THE SUBJECT, even those who are skeptical.

Why capitalize “on the subject”?  Because someone who has not studied the material or had training in historical dating of works of antiquity, or whatever is the case, is just making an educated guess at best.  It would be like going to your dentist to get advice about your back pain or flu symptoms.  He might know a little, but he is not the person you want to see, because he has not been trained to help you in that way.

I was trying to explain this, however it would be better to just write what is in the book, The Case for the Resurrection (2004):

“A skeptic ought not be allowed to merely cite apparent contradictions in the Bible and say that the Resurrection has been disproved. The “minimal facts approach” builds a case using facts with a high degree of certainty, facts that any skeptic probably accepts.  These facts need to be addressed.  If a skeptic takes a position that even the majority of skeptical scholars reject, we can argue individually for the minimal facts that we are using.  So if a skeptic prefers to take another position, that’s okay.  In doing so, the believer now has an opportunity to present much more data in support of the argument for Jesus’ resurrection.  The skeptic will need to respond.” (Habermas & Licona, 2004)

What is that saying?  In a nut shell, that when arguing for the resurrection of Jesus I am not going to claim that the Bible is infallible, error free, etc… but I am going to use the individual books as works of antiquity (historical reference writings) to find out what happened 2,000 years ago.  Two other quotes from the book are merited here to close this post out.

First, regarding historical writings scholars use to find out the history that goes into our textbooks, it must be noted that:

“Historians recognize that most writings of antiquity contain factual errors and propaganda.  They still can identify kernels of the historical truth in those sources. If they eliminated a source completely because of bias or error, they would know next to nothing about the past.”  (Habermas & Licona)

A great example of this are the writings of the Roman historian Tacitus.  Scholars are able to sift through his heavy bias and determine what happened with unquestionable historical accuracy. (Habermas & Licona)

The next quotation is the most important in my mind.  As Christians we tend to create too large of a package deal when presenting the message of the gospel.  Not only do we want people to believe that Jesus is God, Jesus died for us, and that Jesus is alive; but we want them to believe certain things about immersion baptism, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, what to believe about when Jesus will come again, or any number of personal doctrine specific items.  The Bible does not say that you have to believe in the inerrancy or inspiration of the Bible itself in order to live forever after you die.  However, it does tell you “that belief in Jesus’ resurrection is essential in order to have eternal life.”  (Habermas & Licona)

That is the crux of the minimal facts approach and it is the key to sharing the love of God with the world today.

Yes, I believe the minimal facts approach is the best way to talk to others in today’s culture about who Jesus was and is.  It removes the stigmatism associated with Bible thumping Christians and appeals to the modern-day skeptical intellect that permeates our society.  We will readily believe just about anything we see on the Internet or”facts” that pop up in our sitcoms each night, but when it comes to life altering material we are willing to throw away the baby with the bath water instead of considering the facts that are hard to deal with because of the inconvenience of the truth.

Long enough.  I hope this makes sense.

Daddy Moose

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2 thoughts on “Just the facts, please, ma’am. Minimal facts.

  1. Ma K says:

    Hey Keith,

    I like your approach to this subject to pull from different sources to make your point on the Resurrection. I think it will make things very interesting for those of us (me) who have never studied anything beyond the Bible.

    However, I still believe the Bible in it’s original form is God inspired and totally accurate. I think a lot is lost when it is translated into English, however, as there is not a fool proof way to translate Hebrew and Greek into English, nor is there a way to convey the Jewish way of thinking and understanding of the Scriptures into English. Our Western mindsets do not fully comprehend what is written.

    With that said, I still believe firmly that any research and conclusions are ultimately going to be backed up by the Bible.

    Looking forward to reading your next blog!

    Ma Kim

    • Daddy Moose says:

      The point of the minimal facts approach is to look at the Bible as separate books instead of as one inspired work of God. Instead of having someone admit that the Bible is of God, you can get them to admit that each of the books were written almost 2,000 years ago and that we can use them like other works of historical writings to determine what took place during the times they are written about. This is huge for getting skeptics to even consider the resurrection of Jesus as plausible. If I approach them with the presupposition that the Bible is inaccurate and infallible, even in its original form, then I have lost the battle already.

      Muslims believe that once the Koran has been translated out of its original written language that it is no longer divine in any way. I have heard Dr. Townsend talk about the original manuscripts of Christianity being infallible and error free but I don’t remember what he believed about the different translations. I am not sure that I even believe that to an extent. If God created the Bible then why wouldn’t He create it with the ability for us to keep it as His Words without man’s ability to mess it up or cause it to be no longer 100% accurate? That does not make sense to me.

      For me, I have not found any other writings that can guide my life like what I find in the Bible. If I follow what it says, believe in what it says, and act on the promises that are in it then it does not fail me. Now trying to get the promises without being obedient doesn’t work and that is where a lot of Christians end up frustrated and angry with God.

      I agree with you as well that the ability to determine the cultural meaning of some things is extremely difficult and sometimes it changes. Case-in-point, the parable or saying that Jesus said about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven has been mistaught for centuries (check out this link).

      It is well past bed time. One more day til the weekend! Yeah! Thanks for your help this week. Stay alert while driving. People are crazy, especially in KY.

      Daddy Moose

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