I recently came across the "Minimal Facts Argument" by Dr Gary Habermas. In short, the argument is that there are a half dozen reliable historical facts (even for those who'd judge the NT as unreliable) showing that the disciples of Jesus went through a powerful transformation based on their experience of the resurrected Jesus, from which we can conclude that the resurrection of Jesus is historically defensible.

I've been a Christian for 26 years and it struck me very very hard and it occurs to me that this line of reasoning has already adjusted the academic majority view substantially over the last 40 years (since its inception).

My question is: does the argument have the potential to be as long term ground breaking within the church (and it's Christian theology) as it is largely not common knowledge among Christians, whereas it has been able to utterly revolutionise academia (where it turned a whole myriad of cynics' presuppositions upside-down) i.e. could it end up being the biggest landmark "discovery" of the last thousand years?

I must say it has markedly increased my emphasis on the historicity of the gospels.

  • which church/denomination are you referring to?
    – depperm
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 12:52
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    Linking isn't discouraged at all, relying on links for the answer to make sense are discouraged. And summarizing what is linked to is usually strongly recommended. :)
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 13:00
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    Just as a point of terminology, I wouldn't call it a "revelation" at all, because that has a very specific meaning--knowledge revealed to a person or people directly by God--whereas this is an apologetic argument Dr. Habermas devised. It doesn't appear that he even claims it was the product of divine revelation.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 13:03
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    you mention within the church and so I was wondering what church/denomination point of view you/the article were coming from
    – depperm
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 14:08
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    I took a quick look at the site you linked to and I'm not seeing what is so controversial or groundbreaking about these views. So my guess is no, if people like me aren't understanding why it's such a big deal. Maybe I'm missing something that you could elaborate on? Commented Jun 8, 2018 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


Although I admit I hadn't heard of Habermas prior to this question, it can't be denied that he is an important figure in Apologetics, as evidenced by him being in the top 14 authors by number of index references in Groothuis's textbook Christian Apologetics.

The Minimal Facts Argument (MFA) does not exist in isolation. It is a specific form of apologetic argument in the broader approach of Evidential Apologetics. Habermas is not the only proponent of this approach, and though I don't know who first developed it as a distinct approach to apologetics, Habermas is the youngest of the proponents listed in Wikipedia, making me think it's pretty unlikely that he was its founder.

Evidential Apologetics itself is really a development of so-called Classical Apologetics. Groothuis explains their relationship as follows: Classical Apologetics has a two-step strategy: arguing first for a monotheistic God, and then for the particulars of Christianity, focusing on miracles, the incarnation, and the death and resurrection of Jesus. Evidentialism has a one-step strategy, jumping straight to the argument of the historicity of Christ and the resurrection, its proponents arguing that the fact of the resurrection is enough to bring someone directly from atheism to faith in Christ, without needing to be convinced of theism first.

It is natural for Christian apologists to give a heavy focus to the death and resurrection of Jesus - it is the centre of our gospel of course! More than that, it seems to me that the MFA is really just a particular formulation of another common argument, often called the Transformation of the Disciples. Two popular pop-level apologetics books, Josh McDowell's Evidence Demands a Verdict and Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ each include it as part of their Cumulative approach to apologetics. McDowell quotes none other than John Stott saying "Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection", and Strobel interviewed J. P. Moreland who says that his first line of evidence for the resurrection is the transformation of the disciples.

Furthermore, it is also quite common for apologists to present first the extra-Biblical evidences for Jesus. Though many have written on these topics, few do it as well as John Dickson's The Christ Files, which considers in order the secular Greco-Roman sources about Jesus, then the hostile witness of Jewish sources, before finally considering the Christian witness.

In summary, The Minimal Facts Argument is unlikely to be revolutionary within Christianity because it is far from a revolutionary argument. The ideas it conveys are actually well recognised and are given a place of top importance by many apologists. (For this reason I'm highly doubtful that you can attribute the change within secular academia of almost universal acknowledgement of the historicity of Jesus to the MFA.) The MFA is one way of building an argument on these facts, but it is not the only way to do so. And because most apologists do not subscribe to the Evidentialist approach, I think the specific form of MFA may end up being overlooked compared to those who present the very similar Transformation of the Disciples argument within a Cumulative approach.

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