Habermas and Licona list Paul's conversion from persecutor of the church to the church's great advocate as the third key fact which helps point to the fact of the resurrection. Somehow they expect that for the skeptic this fact, along with the others, is difficult to account for.
The obvious question is, why do they think this is so significant? Don't people convert from one religion to the other all the time? Habermas and Licona address this objection on page 65. The difference, they say, is that Paul's conversion is based upon primary sources (what he perceived as a personal encounter with Jesus) whereas other people that convert do so usually because they are persuaded by secondary sources.
Once again the skeptic is left wondering how people as intelligent as Habermas and Licona can make such claims. The follow up question is obvious. Don't people convert from one religion to the other based upon what they perceive as personal experiences all the time? Didn't Joseph Smith convert based upon a personal encounter with the angel Moroni? Didn't Mohamed advocate his god Allah as the one true deity based upon what he perceived as a personal encounter with the angel Gabriel? Don't many people become Roman Catholics based upon personal encounters with Mary? Don't Pentecostals convert based upon personal encounters with the Holy Spirit and with Jesus as well? Don't thousands upon thousands of people convert to one religion or another based upon what they perceive as personal encounters?
Skeptical readers may be wondering why I'm even bothering to review such silliness. This is again just nonsense that Habermas and Licona can't possibly think would be persuasive to anyone but those that want to be persuaded. Why bother with this book? Frankly I didn't expect the reasoning to be this poor when I started. And honestly it's not always as weak as this. But this book does raise issues that will lead to more interesting critiques in the future, so don't give up on me here.
One other point in rebuttal to Habermas and Licona. They haven't really argued that Paul really wrote things like Galatians and I Corinthians. I understand that most so called critics assume he did, but that doesn't prove it. I actually think there are good reasons to doubt this, as I argued in the comments section here, but of course even if he did write it, it really doesn't prove anything.
"Once again the skeptic is left wondering how people as intelligent as Habermas and Licona can make such claims."
Yes, this is very interesting! I am frequently confused by the fact that apologetics such as this can be written by people that are clearly far more brilliant and well-studied than I am.
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