In the first two books of their Coffee House Chronicles series, authors Josh McDowell and Dave Sterrett introduced us to a group of students (and a couple of instructors) who, together, go on a journey through the evidence surrounding the reliability of the Bible and the truth of Jesus Christ’s identity.
At the end of book two, Who Was Jesus… Really?, Nick’s friend Andrea had placed her trust in Christ has Lord and Savior—as did Dr. Peterson, Nick’s professor who had spent much of his life and career casting doubt upon the reliability of the New Testament accounts and the person and work of Jesus Christ. So powerfully convinced was he that he held a lecture recanting of his former positions against Christ and detailing the evidence for His existence and the truth of His divinity.
The final book of the series starts off with a bang (literally) as, in the wake of Dr. Peterson’s lecture on the deity of Christ, tension on campus is at an all time high. Dr. Peterson and Jamal Washington began receiving death threats, but ultimately believed it to be nothing more than someone blowing smoke—until one day, when Brett (a pre-med student and member of the school’s atheist club) travels to Dr. Peterson’s office to talk more about Jesus.
As he approaches the building, he sees students begin to run out in a panic. A young woman collapses on the lawn, her shirt covered in blood. Someone had opened fire on the Religious Studies building. In the end, nine people were killed, including Jamal Washington, Nick Ridley (two primary characters in the first two books) and the shooter himself.
In the wake of this tragedy, Dr. Peterson, Mina, Andrea and Jessica begin a series of conversations with Brett, Lauren and Scott about one of the most central issues of the Christian faith:
It’s fair to say that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the issue upon which the entire Christian faith stands or falls. “[I]f Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins,” wrote the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 15:17. Because Christ died on the cross to pay for our sins, His literal, physical resurrection is a sign of God’s vindication of Him (for the Jews believed that one who was crucified was cursed of God). As the authors put it, “Without the resurrection, Christianity doesn’t work” (p. 27).
And not only that, the resurrection is a sign of our future hope, that those who believe in Him will likewise be raised to eternal life.
The setting in which McDowell and Sterrett chose to address the question of the resurrection could not have been more appropriate. When death strikes we almost immediately begin questioning what the future holds for us—does heaven exist? Is there life after death at all? Do we just *poof* cease to exist? And, as they have done in the previous two volumes, the authors handle the common questions about the resurrection expertly (even as they try to keep the language quite plain).
They address the question of why Jesus had to die in the first place. Can someone be a Christian without believing in a physical resurrection? What about the other theories offered—maybe the unskilled, poor disciples (who were fishermen and tax collectors) stole the body from the highly trained Roman guard; maybe, like the Muslims believe, God replaced Jesus with either Judas or Simon of Cyrene and it was him who died instead of Jesus?
One of my favorite alternatives is the idea of the hallucination theory. Because hallucinations are individual occurrences, “by their very nature only one person can see it at any given time,” as Dr. Gary Collins says. “They are certainly not something which can be seen by a group of people. . . . Since a hallucination exists only in [a] subjective, personal sense, it is obvious that others cannot witness it” (see p. 125). In other words, the idea that 500 people, all from a variety of backgrounds, could all have the exact same hallucination at the same time is ludicrous.
Apologetics arguments aside, what comes across most clearly throughout this volume is the hope that the resurrection offers. This is best exemplified in the testimony of Dr. Gary Habermas who lost his wife to cancer in 1995. It was the hope of the resurrection, that just as Christ was raised from the dead, so too would Debbie be. If all that we had to hope was in this life, death would remain our enemy, and we would have only despair. But “Christ’s resurrection can get us through anything” (p. 138).
By providing a powerful appeal for the necessity and historicity of the resurrection, Did the Resurrection Happen . . . Really? serves as a wonderful ending to the Coffee House Chronicles series. I would highly encourage you, especially if you are in any form of student ministry to purchase copies of the entire series. You are sure to be blessed by them.
Title: Did the Resurrection Happen . . . Really?
Authors: Josh McDowell & Dave Sterrett
Publisher: Moody Publishers (2011)