Oftentimes Christians are accused of being too confident in their beliefs, or using “faith” as a way to shut down questions or concerns from those exploring Christianity.
There’s no room for questioning. No room doubt.
Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson get this. They don’t want to scare off doubters or make people shy away from questions. But they do want them to be willing to do something with their doubts—find answers. Enter: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection.
In its four easy-to-digest chapters, Dodson and Watson offer readers an engaging look at what it means for Jesus to have been raised from the dead and why it matters, beginning by challenging the foundation of modern day skepticism.
Possibility before plausibility
For many who doubt the resurrection of Jesus, the authors argue, the problem begins with their foundation: do we have a category for the supernatural? By and large, we in the West have discounted such things as impossible. So when we hear stories of miraculous events, we automatically assume there has to be a natural explanation for them. The flood account in Genesis, the parting of the Red Sea, the virgin birth… you name it, there’s a naturalistic alternative.
But those who are truly looking for answers need to ask, “Is this position truly open-minded?”
It certainly seems biased and closed off to possibilities we may not have personally experienced. Shouldn’t we at least be open to the possibility of Jesus rising from the dead? In fact, many are willing to believe in the supernatural teachings of Buddha, Vishnu, and Eckhart Tolle, but what about Jesus? If we are to consider fairly the plausibility of the resurrection—whether it happened or not we must begin with its possibility. (19)
This is so important for those investigating the Christian faith to understand—if you’ve already discounted the miraculous, you’re going to be profoundly disappointed with Christianity, because it hinges on a miracle.
At the risk of belaboring the point (which itself is the foundation of the first chapter of Raised?, not the entirety of the book), we need to have to get this straight: If Jesus was not raised from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all others because we’ve put our hope in something untrue (1 Cor. 15:19). And worse, if what we’ve put our hope in is a lie or a delusion, then we’re doing terrible evil to others by encouraging them to believe it, too.
But if we’re right, and the resurrection is true, it changes everything.
What the resurrection really means
The remaining three chapters of the book offer a look into the implications of the resurrection and how we move from doubt to belief:
- Chapter two is an overview of the big story of the Bible using the “Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation” paradigm (which is essential in a book geared toward non-Christians).
- Chapter three examines what faith really is.
- Chapter four looks at what happens when we trust in Jesus.
Each of these chapters is filled with solid, helpful material. Probably my favorite element of the three comes from the third chapter, where the authors press in a bit more on the nature of doubt. Doubt, they argue, isn’t the lack of belief—it’s just the belief in something else:
In his observations of pluralistic societies, Lesslie Newbigin noted that “doubt is not an autonomous activity.” What he means is that doubt is not self-sufficient—it cannot exist on its own. Doubt does not live in a vacuum. It is propped up by faith in something else. To doubt one thing is to have faith in another.… if you put your faith in one company or spouse, you are—at the same time—expressing doubt in other companies or potential spouses. You are doubtful they are the best possible fit, uncertain they are the one for you. Meanwhile, you have faith in the other company or spouse. To put it another way, if you doubt one thing, it’s because you believe in another. (61-62)
There are a lot of excellent books dealing with the evidence side of the argument, but few address the epistemological side of it. How we know something and what we can know to be true is critical for us to deal with when faced with a generation that’s uncertain of what can be known at all. But Raised? offers a thoughtful and welcome apologetic for a newer generation of doubters. If you’re looking for a helpful outreach resource for your church or a book to give to an unbelieving neighbor, you’d do well with this one.
Title: Raised?: Finding Jesus by Doubting the Resurrection
Authors: Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson
Publisher: Zondervan (2014)
Buy it at: Amazon