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Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Review: The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

Charles Foster is an English barrister (lawyer) who debates himself over the evidences for and against Jesus’ resurrection.

I found this book fascinating. Foster has done an exhaustive job of gathering facts in different subject areas such as acceptable source material, manner of death (or lack thereof), burial, empty tomb (or lack thereof), witness testimony, and contemporary circumstances that impinged upon the case evaluation. In different areas he then argues the cases against (X) and for (Y) vital components that could establish or dismiss the idea of resurrection.

I appreciate that Foster draws no conclusions, but lets the reader make up his own mind on the strengths of the arguments. If one starts the study by accepting that the existence of God is a possibility, however remote, some surprising indications for a resurrection appear.

For what it’s worth, I am a skeptic and scientist who came to faith through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I therefore had a considerable familiarity with this subject before reading this book. My biggest reservation with this book is that learning the outlines of a complex subject through a detailed and thorough exposition can be frustrating for someone not familiar with the area, and I fear that this book may contribute to such a sensation in someone who just wants to know what happened. Mr. Foster dives right in with his arguments without giving the “lay of the land” to orient the reader. For the uninitiated, it may be difficult to tell which facts are the “deal breakers” and which are just “grace notes” on an argument.

Even so, Foster articulately argues both for and against the resurrection. This book is dense and intense reading, but also thought provoking. I agree with the author that the resurrection is a critical issue with which to grapple. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, it doesn’t matter. But if he did, this opens a sequence of inference that lead back to the questions: who is Jesus? And what will you do with this information?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


tweedpipe said...

Thanks so much for your kind and thoughtful comments on the book. Much appreciated.
All best wishes.

Joe said...

We have various fictional and mythical (overlap) accounts of resurrections. So, the idea that Jesus rose from the dead is not impossible to imagine even without the fact a religion is built around it. Also, for the average believer, they go about their day and faith without deep contemplation about the event. This is seen by the fact many Muslims, let's say, act the same way even without similar importance put on the event, even if belief in God overall is an important part. Which I don't necessarily think it even must be.

I'm not sure how important him actually raising from the dead really is. People have faith in it as much as others have faith in things that Christians don't think happened (Mormon faith or revelations to Mohamed).

Amy Deardon said...

Joe, You're absolutely right that many people don't understand the belief system that they follow whether Islam, Christianity, Mormonism, or other. Furthermore, religious systems seem to help promote and guide good behavior and good lives, even without an explicit faith in God's existence. Thirdly, there are many professions of faith in miraculous events that are not shared by other religions or belief systems.

I can only give my own testimony. The reason I became a Christian was because I carefully investigated the historic, objective circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I made no assumption for God's existence, although I didn't rule it out either. I figured IF God existed, He COULD have effected a miracle (the resurrection) although this would be extremely unlikely and therefore the proof must be strong. I am a PhD scientist and used to drawing conclusions from data.

I've written a summary of why I accept the evidence for the resurrection on my website (

Belief in the resurrection is central to Christianity: if the resurrection didn't happen, Christianity is irrelevant. Even Paul writes this:

"And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. (For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either). And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost). If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15: 14-19)

I put verses 16 and 18 in parentheses since in this epistle Paul was writing about general resurrection of all people, and reassuring his readers that they would be raised because of the certainty of Christ's resurrection. These verses are not essential in the context I use, which is that the resurrection is central to the Christian belief system.

The understanding of the resurrection is embedded deep in the sacrificial Jewish religious system in place before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 C.E. Basically, Christianity states that there is no way that anyone can be good enough to be with God, and therefore God provided Jesus (the God/man) as a sacrifice to remove our sin. All other belief systems teach a set of rules or behaviors that one must or must not do in order to be "acceptable." This includes Atheists who believe in the primacy of scientific inquiry, and those who believe in "all religions" since they must be TOLERANT of other beliefs.

I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to drop me a line, and thanks for visiting!