Just Released: "A Statistical Critique of the Minimal Facts Apologetics of Gary Habermas and Michael Licona." -- Written by Michael J. Alter and Darren M. Slade

SHERM Journal just released a publication whose full correct title is, "Dataset Analysis of English Texts Written on the Topic of Jesus’ Resurrection: A Statistical Critique of Minimal Facts Apologetics." It was co-authored by Michael J. Alter, and Darren M. Slade. In a nutshell, the article disproves (for the first time using actual data) the common apologetic assertion that 90% of "critical scholars" accept the historicity of certain minimal facts about Jesus. Abstract:
This article collects and examines data relating to the authors of English-language texts written and published during the past 500 years on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection and then compares this data to Gary R. Habermas’ 2005 and 2012 publication on the subject. To date, there has been no such inquiry. This present article identifies 735 texts spanning five centuries (from approximately 1500 to 2020). The data reveals 680 Pro-Resurrection books by 601 authors (204 by ministers, 146 by priests, 249 by people associated with seminaries, 70 by laypersons, and 22 by women). This article also reveals that a remarkably high proportion of the English-language books written about Jesus’ resurrection were by members of the clergy or people linked to seminaries, which means any so-called scholarly consensus on the subject of Jesus’ resurrection is wildly inflated due to a biased sample of authors who have a professional and personal interest in the subject matter. Pro-Resurrection authors outnumber Contra-Resurrection authors by a factor of about twelve-to-one. In contrast, the 55 Contra-Resurrection books, representing 7.48% of the total 735 books, were by 42 authors (28 having no relevant degrees at the time of publication). The 42 contra authors represent only 6.99% of all authors writing on the subject.
The leading defenders of the minimal facts approach are Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. One of the authors of this Sherm Journal Article is Dr. Darren M. Slade. He studied under Habermas at the doctoral level, and took many classes with him. He even debated him. You can find the article's webpage Right here. Below is an excerpt from the article's conclusion.
By now, the flaw in the second criterion listed in Habermas’s 2005 and 2012 articles should be apparent to the reader. Habermas’ numbers merely expose the likelihood of a confirmation bias among credentialed “true believers” who conclude something that they already believed to begin with: Jesus raised from the dead.[1] The data that Habermas has amassed is not proportionately pulled from all relevant subclasses of critical scholarship and is, therefore, unrepresentative of the actual historio-theological landscape. The data Habermas has gathered is not only tainted by virtue of his own professional biases (data gathered by advocacy groups like Christian apologetic institutions should be immediately suspect[2]), but it is also tainted by virtue of having only been collected from one subgroup (those who have actually published on the resurrection) of the target population (critical scholars).[3] Moreover, those who have published on the resurrection did so because they likely have very strong positive opinions about the matter. To claim that the majority of critical scholars believe Habermas’s minimal facts is simply unwarranted. Habermas indirectly surveyed a disproportionate number of Christian authors who, not surprisingly, were likely “true believers” long before engaging in “critical” research. Habermas’ minimal facts strategy implies that authors who have written on the resurrection (according to Habermas’s numbers, approximately 3,000 people) somehow represent all the different scholars in all the relevant fields of study who would have an informed opinion on Jesus’ resurrection. Apologists, theologians, ministers, and seminary professors do not qualify as a representative sample of scholarship, even if the sample size of publications is quite large. Having not actually drawn from relevant representative subclasses, the number of actual Christian-oriented publications is of no consequence.

[1] Kenneth Boa and Robert Bowman explain, “One’s perspective on what is reasonable, factual, and practical is largely determined by the worldview one has already espoused” (Boa and Bowman, 132).

[2] As John Frame correctly remarks, neutrality does not exist for the Christian apologist when examining evidences. To claim otherwise would be to tell a lie since the apologist already presumes the validity of Christianity (Frame, “Presuppositional Apologetics,” 217–18).

[3] Considering that numerous publications about Jesus’ resurrection appear in exclusively Christian periodicals and publishing houses, it is very likely that detractors and nonbelievers have been excluded from publishing their perspective on the subject.


John W. Loftus is a philosopher and counter-apologist credited with 12 critically acclaimed books, including The Case against Miracles, God and Horrendous Suffering, and Varieties of Jesus Mythicism. Please support DC by sharing our posts, or by subscribing, donating, or buying our books at Amazon. Thank you so much!