Item description for The Impossible Faith by James Patrick Holding...
A Thesis So Explosive, An Atheist Paid $5,000 for An Answer The Impossible Faith offers the proposition that Christianity could not have succeeded unless it had indisputable proof of the resurrection of Jesus. Had there not been such evidence, Christianity would have been an "impossible faith." Using his seventeen years of experience in apologetics ministry, the author will demonstrate the impossibility of Christianity in the eyes of the people of the first century and present an apologetic for Jesus' resurrection. Christians will be encouraged and emboldened by the message of The Impossible Faith, realizing "how firm a foundation" they have in Christ Jesus. Non-Christians will be challenged to consider the truth of Christianity in a new light. The arguments in this book are so powerful that one atheist paid over $5,000 for a response. It is impossible to estimate the evangelistic impact that is possible because of The Impossible Faith. James Patrick Holding is President of Tekton Apologetics Ministries, one of the leading apologetics ministries on the Internet. Tekton Apologetics Ministries was recommended by apologist and prominent author Lee Strobel on Hank Hanegraaff's The Bible Answerman in December, 2001. Holding has written over 1700 articles for his ministry, as well as articles for the Christian Research Journal and for the publications of Creation Ministries International . He has also published The Mormon Defenders: How Latter-Day Saint Apologists Misinterpret the Bible. He lives in Central Florida with his beloved wife and a very small, very spoiled poodle.
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Studio: Xulon Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.01" Width: 5.01" Height: 0.34" Weight: 0.29 lbs.
Release Date May 1, 2007
Publisher Xulon Press
ISBN 1602660840 ISBN13 9781602660847
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More About James Patrick Holding
James Patrick Holding has published or released items in the following series...
Reviews - What do customers think about The Impossible Faith?
An Excellent Thesis Oct 13, 2007
James Patrick Holding is my favorite apologist. He's dealt with a plethora of objections to Christianity having written well over a thousand articles. He's honest, knowing when something is beyond his purview (such as evolution), and sticks to the topic at hand. And last but not least, he does his homework citing only the most credentialed scholars when making his case. In fact, he is one of the few non-credentialed Bible scholars who I take just as seriously (if not more so) than many of those who are. Furthermore, his website -- Tekton Apologetics Ministry -- is one of the few sites I bother to read on a regular basis.
So it may not be much of a surprise to find that the Impossible Faith, while rather short, offers a most powerful and original argument for the truth of the Christian faith. As the back cover states, the book presents "a thesis so powerful, an atheist paid $5,000 [!] for an answer". The book's aim is to show that given the social and historical context wherein Christianity began, that unless there was some overwhelming evidence for its truth, it would not have been able to survive.
In the first chapter, Holding shows what happens to religions that cannot stand up to the obstacles of reality. Using Sabbatai Sevi as a case example, Holding states that in Sevi in 1666 had established himself as the Jewish Messiah in the minds of many. However, one day Sevi appeared before the Sultan's council, only to come out from the chambers a convert to Islam! However, later in his life, Sevi began showing signs of reversing his apostasy and was banished into isolation. It was there where Sevi died. However, one of his followers made the prediction that after 12 months, Sevi would raise from the dead. Of course, this didn't happen and as a result his religion fell to relatively few members. As Holding states, "[s]ocial, theological, and historical pressures inevitably come to bear and force most religious faiths to either change with the times, or cease to exist". Holding's point thus is that somehow, despite "impossible" obstacles, Christianity survived in its earliest stages. And that can almost certainly only be because it's true.
In the second chapter, Holding highlights just how important honor was to people in Jesus' society. Honor was, in fact, "of primary importance". Holding quotes scholar David DeSilva who states, "The promise of honor and threat of disgrace [were] prominent goads to pursue a certain kind of life and to avoid many alternatives". Holding goes on to discuss the crucifixion and how absolutely horrendous it was to the minds of 1st century folk - not merely because of the physical pain which is of more modern concern and emphasis, but because of the nonphysical pain of dishonor. Most Christians are aware of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:18. But such extant remarks were hardly limited to the apostle. Josephus, Justin Martyr, Celsus, and an oracle of Apollo all testified to the enormous disgrace and dishonor that the crucifixion was. The point Holding makes here is that the severity of the crucifixion in an honor-and-shame culture such as the first century known world was a virtually insurmountable obstacle for Christianity, and the only way to explain the fact that Christianity did overcome this obstacle is that there must have been some sort of incredible proof that despite what Jesus experienced, that he was still vindicated; a la the Resurrection.
In the next chapter, Holding shows how people in the first century were hardly politically correct! In fact, what we today call stereotypes, meant quite a lot to those of Christ's day. And three in particular counted very much against Jesus. (1) He was a Jew; (2) He was a Galilean; (3) He was of Nazareth. (1) was not good because for a religion that aimed to convert not only Jews but Gentiles also, because as Holding shows in quoting Tacitus, the Jews were thought of as superstitious and were a people considered to despise everything non-Jewish. (2) was of a similar nature. Holding quotes Josephus who states the Galileans were naturally predisposed against Rome that they were "trained for war" against it. Galileans were also thought to lack intelligence. Holding notes a rabbinic account where a teacher spent 18 years trying to teach the Galileans though finally left frustrated by their lack of learning. (3) served as a problem, for in Christ's time your home town said a lot about you. However Nazareth, being a backwater town, could only serve to hurt the earthly image of Jesus. Even so, these obstacles were also overcome.
Holding next notes how the preaching of a physical resurrection was an unappealing message for most Gentiles. Many Gentiles thought the body and material matter not to be good, but evil. As the author states, "[t]he best hope was for us to get rid of our body, not desire for it to be raised again!"
Last but not least, Holding notes the obstacles Christianity made for itself by proclaiming, not unlike Judaism, things such as an exclusive path to God and salvation, and separation from the world. As Holding states, Christianity also taught people to break away from their families, advocated changes in social roles, and abolished the sacred symbols of Judaism. It is hard in our Western age and society, and in a book review no less, to underscore how seriously negative the reaction to these teachings would have been. Indeed all these factors made Christianity a most "impossible faith".
Holding then moves on to apply his thesis to other religions, such as Islam and Mormonism. After all, its not as though other of the more successful religions do not, or have not, experienced some kind of trials. Holding seems most willing to grant this. However, the trials these other religions experience simply were not up to par with what Christianity had to bear. For instance, although Mormons endured much persecution in their early years, being in a modern Western civilization, martyrdom was no more the vehicle of shame that it was for Christianity, but rather served to further its cause. Islam on the other hand was and is an impressive faith in how it came to be, and as Holding acknowledges may even pass the test of being an impossible faith if it were not for one major factor: through the sword was it able to sweep through the Middle East, enforcing and maintaining the status quo. Christianity, on the other hand, totally lacked this major advantage. As Holding asks, if Muhammad's tactical and military victories were instead failures, or simply did not happen, where would Islam be today?
Having established his thesis, Holding goes on in the last couple chapters of the book to defend the Resurrection against alternative, naturalistic hypotheses. Holding tackles the untenable (yet sometimes advocated) swoon theory, as well as theories that someone stole the body of Christ. He rightly argues that these alternative theories to be substantially less supported by the evidence.
In the end, despite all the shame, ostracizing, and contempt that Christianity had to face in its earliest stages, it somehow was able to overcome despite boldly and daringly espousing miracles that were easily verifiable in that day. And if we can discount dishonor as an incentive for converting [!], there can really only be one other reasonable rationale for doing so: the miracles attested in the Gospels and New Testaments were indeed verified to such an extent that all dishonor was overturned and the message vindicated. For it's only by such indisputable proof that such a result could have occurred.
As mentioned at the beginning, Holding has put together quite an impressive and powerful thesis defending the Christian faith. I would recommend it to anyone seriously thinking about and investigating the Christian faith. At just over a hundred pages, it doesn't take much investment out of anyone's extracurricular time to read. Holding doesn't waist any time or words, and so gets right to the point. And even if one is poised to doubt and/or disagree with Holding's thesis, I would encourage him or her to read it anyway. For anyone who is going to claim that Holding is wrong must deal with the facts he has presented. Hand waving and casual dismissal will not suffice.
Overall, highly recommended.
EXCELENT thesis, but too short. Sep 25, 2007
This book is an excellent resource for finding why Christianity's beginnings were so radically different than any other religion's, and why that is so important to its truth claims. Its thesis is essentially that the forces working against early Christianity were so powerful, that the only explanation for why Christianity actually DID survive, is that it's true. It is the impossible faith, in the sense that the religion would not possibly have survived if it wasn't true.
It, in my opinion, is an expansion on the idea of Circumstantial evidence, as presented in Case for Christ by JP Moreland (another JP!), particularly "Exhibit 5, the Emergence of the Church." Holding expands on it, and turns it from a weakly presented argument in CFC, into what may actually be the strongest of the Circumstantial evidences for Christianity.
Now, I'd just like to see JP expand on the others!
He does expand on a few things like the death of Christ, and the empty tomb, but these are more supplemental to his point than anything else
1 complaint, and 1 quibble, preventing the 5th star
1 Quibble: too short. Granted, everything is presented simply and precisely without any fluff or distractions, I come away feeling as though there could have been more said in support, or in response to criticism. At 110 pages, I received it earlier this afternoon. I've almost read it twice already. (But boy is it worth it.) I would have liked more.
1 complaint. In his conclusion he pleads with any skeptic to honestly consider Christianity, but he doesn't offer much in the way of what it means to become a Christian, namely, repentance and trust in God. In light of the quality of the rest of the book however, this is minor.
One final thing: for further information, his website has a plethora of additional amazing information on more subjects, (like Mithraism, which is just touched on in this volume.) A word of caution however- while the research is top notch, Holding's tone can at times be condescending and (less often, but sometimes) downright mean and uncharitable. This is the only thing which prevents him, in my mind, from being equal with Glenn Miller of the Christian-Thinktank. Sometimes you have to ignore how he's saying something to hear the intelligence of WHAT he's saying. As far as this book goes though, the tone is simple and precise, without a trace of negativity, so this book is free from that flaw.
Believing in the "Impossible": A Critical Review. Sep 22, 2007
Anyone who reads much of what Holding says on the web knows that he majors in ad hominems against those who disagree, and it should be well known that I do not like him. He's a non-credentialed arrogant hack who has gained a following mostly from the uninformed. No wonder he had to self-publish this book. He claims that one of the reasons Christian publishers won't publish it (which leads me to think he tried to get it published) is because, in his own words, "I won't write Left Behind style crap, and the market for Christian lit is glutted, unlike the atheist market." I think there is another reason.
The book reminds me of one of the good college term papers I've read, which I'd give him a "A" on if I were grading it, but that's it. "Good," in so far as he read a few books and strung together some decent information from which I learned a little. "College term paper," in so far as he lacks a breadth of knowledge on the issues he writes about beyond that level. Among Christian publishers who are looking to publish in the area of apologetics, they are looking for something better.
On the back cover Holding claims to have 17 years in apologetics ministry. If he's 38 years old now (a guess), then that means he started his ministry when he was 21 years old. What can that mean? That a 21 year old on the web arguing for Christianity has an apologetics ministry? Hardly. He also claims "It is impossible to estimate the evangelical impact that is possible because of The Impossible Faith." Since he capitalizes and italicizes the words, "The Impossible Faith" here, it's hard not to escape the conclusion he's referring to his own book. Such wildly overstated self-promotional claims usually come from college sophomores who think they know everything simply because they're not yet informed enough to fully grasp the serious objections to their own arguments.
The "explosive proposition" of his book is that "there is simply no possibility that Christianity could have been accepted by anyone in the ancient world, unless its first missionaries had indisputable proof and testimony of the faith's central tenant, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Had there not been such indisputable evidence to present, Christianity would have been an impossible faith." (p. viii) This is a very large claim! It's widely recognized among educated people that the larger the claim is, the harder it becomes to prove it. But if you think this is a large claim he goes even farther. When discussing the skeptical argument that the disciples stole the body of Jesus, Holding writes: "It is impossible that Christianity thrived and survived while making such audacious claims falsely, and even more incredible to suppose that such claims were made with the full and continuing knowledge that the result in most cases would be rejection, ostracization, and persecution." Then in the next paragraph he adds, "There are two added layers of difficulty..." So, first Holding claims such a faith is "impossible," but that's not enough. He adds that beyond being impossible, "it's even more incredible..." But that's not even enough, for he goes on to talk about "two added layers of difficulty." (p. 97). How he can pile up "two added layers of difficulty" on top of an already "incredible" skeptical argument on behalf of an "impossible" scenerio, is beyond me. Educated people know not to claim more than what their arguments actually show.
His argument has floated around in Christian circles for decades, and maybe even centuries before, with more reserved claims about what it actually shows. It would be interesting to know who first used it. I myself used it as a Christian. But I only claimed the Christian faith was unlikely. The novelty of his approach is that he uses some recent scholarship from the Social Science Group of Malina, Neyrey, and Rohrbaugh, along with McCane's study of burial customs in the New Testament era--books which someone must have pointed out to him and from which he uses like they were the gospel truth. He obviously picks and chooses what he wants to believe by these scholars, since none of them would affirm the inerrancy of the Bible, and McCane may be an atheist for all he knows.
It's worth looking at his main argument.
Holding argues that ancient societies highly valued honor much more than we do today, and as such Jesus' shameful crucifixion and burial would be powerful obstacles to them believing he is the Son of God. Holding asks, "How could a man, subject to such overwhelming disgrace, in a society where honor was so crucial, have come to be recognized as the Son of God? There is only one viable explanation," that Jesus arose from the dead. (p. 17). Really? Only one viable explanation?
Holding argues that in the ancient world people concentrated not on individual identity but rather on group identity such that there were three strikes against believing in Jesus. Strike # 1 is that Jesus was a Jew, hated and despised by the Romans. Strike # 2 is that Jesus was a Galilean, which added to Roman hatred just like Iraq or Afghanistan is to us today. The Galileans were also thought to be "ignoramuses" by the Jews in Judea. Strike # 3 is that Jesus was from Nazareth, which would cause both Jews and Gentiles to scoff at the idea he was the Messiah. Holding writes: "Ethnically and geographically, Jesus was everything that everyone did NOT expect a Messiah to be." (p. 27). Everyone? Really?
Holding argues that the resurrection was a major stumbling block in preaching to the Gentiles because a bodily resurrection went against the philosophical thinking of that day, where the body was considered something to be escaped from, and it was strange to Jewish ears because "no one had conceived of the idea of one UNIQUE resurrection before the time of final judgment" (pp. 29-32). Again. "No one"? What about Herod and some others (Mt 14:1, Mark 16:14-16)?
Holding argues that in the ancient world "innovation was bad." Giving preference to the thinking of the ancestors over innovative ideas was the rule among the ancients. Holding argues this in regard to several particular innovative ideas: 1) Jesus taught that believers should be willing to forsake their families; 2) Jesus reached out to tax collectors and a Samaritan woman; 3) Jesus said the Temple would be destroyed by pagans; 4) Jesus teaching was subversive toward the Jewish perception of patriotism. Since Christianity was such an innovation (an arrogant and exclusive innovation), "it is extremely unlikely that anyone would have accepted the Christian faith--unless there was indisputable evidence of its central claim, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ." (pp. 33-45). Once more. Is it "extremely unlikely that ANYONE would have accepted the Christian faith...?"
Holding turns next to three other religions, Mithraism, Mormonism and Islam and argues that none of these other religions passes the test as an "impossible faith." (pp. 47-66). There are differences, no doubt, but they all arose from superstitious people and charismatic leaders. Mithraism actually died out, and by the criteria Holding suggested earlier that an impossible faith would be one that "passed into history" (p. vii) then it should be considered an "impossible faith." When it comes to Mormonism, like Christianity, he doesn't mention how persecution actually fans the flames of a movement.
In the short and remaining mostly superficial chapters Holding argues that there are "three pillars" supportive of the "impossible faith": 1) Miracles; 2) The empty tomb; and 3) The fulfillment of prophecy (pp. 67-75). He argues that the resurrection was not expected by his disciples (pp. 77-82). And he closes by arguing against two old and often debated arguments that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross, known as the "swoon theory" (pp. 83-94), and the "theft theory," that someone stole the body of Jesus and perpetrated a lie (pp. 95-105).
Overall Holding wildly overstates his case, doesn't interact sufficiently with his detractors, and bases his arguments on certain implausible assumptions that he doesn't justify. For instance, Richard Carrier has sufficiently refuted his claims, not once but twice, along with Robert M. Price, Brian Hotz, and recently the combative Matthew Green, but Holding doesn't mention their arguments or interact with them at all in this book. While I can excuse him for not dealing with Green's recent arguments, I can't with regard to those written before he self-published his book. Why didn't he? He doesn't interact with the book, The Empty Tomb, either. If he wants to be a scholar, a wannabe, then the one thing scholars do is they show awareness of the relevant literature and interact with it. Holding doesn't do this in his book, even though he does attempt this outside of his book.
Furthermore, Holding quotes from the New Testament showing no awareness of Biblical criticism, the debates about Biblical inspiration, or whether Jesus actually fulfilled prophecy. To blithely quote from a gospel (or the New Testament) without some understanding of the strata of gospel origins and the debates that ensue from them is just superficial stuff. He also assumes the people in Biblical times were not superstitious people in comparison to our own modern educated societies. He thinks people believed Christianity because of evidence even though they believed in Artemis, Zeus, and Janus, and that's merely college level stuff.
JWL of debunkingchristianity at blogsot dot com
Interesting Book Sep 18, 2007
This book by James Holding is quite different from many of his online diatribes where he frequently uses sarcasm and ad hominems. However, this book is well written, it avoids sarcasm and diatribes, it cites many sources, and it is concise. It is offered as "food for thought" and not meant to be a comprehensive essay on the topic which he covers in greater detail in his online version of TIF.
There are many rebuttals availible online to Holding's online version of TIF. There are some written by Richard Carrier, Brian Holtz, and Dr. Robert Price. These rebuttals are availible on the secular web (Internet Infidels). Holding has responded to these rebuttals on his website "Tektonics".
I have read the book and although I still disagree with his main conclusion (the Resurrection really happened), I give this book a "5" rating because it is refreshing to see James Holding writing a book that is not filled with wrath and invectives. He can write much better than I can and unfortunately I am not currently able to answer all his arguments in his book. I will be doing some homework over the coming weeks so I can offer better reasons for my conclusions why I feel the book's conclusion is in error.
more pulp apologetics Sep 7, 2007
James Patrick Holding, (real name Robert Turkel) is a pulp apologist and former prison librarian (not a biblical scholar) who refuses to link any criticism of his apologetics to his Tekton Apologetics Ministries. Now, he's written a worthless book that defies history, modern scholarship, higher criticism, and just plain common sense. Christianity just didn't pop on the scene like Turkel would have it. It developed over many decades borrowing from the pagan religions, Greek thought, and its Judeo underpinnings. When Christianity obtained both ecclesiastical and political power, it set about cementing its myths, fabrications, and selective writings by removing all the competition by censorship, pogroms, and religious purges. But Turkel doesn't seem to bother to mention anything about these historical events that make Christianity as defined by it's true founders truly impossible, the Bible stories notwithstanding. Perhaps if Turkel would allow links to sites critical of his apologetics, his fans would learn the truth about him and the dismal apologetics he offers as scholarship. This book is a good example of shoddy scholarship, bold assertions, and circular reasoning, thus proving how duped gullible Christians can be.