Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Clearing the Roadblocks: The Resurrection

Challenge: Sure, Jesus was a great teacher, and he certainly was a good man. But I just find the resurrection to be a little too incredible. I can’t believe in a religion that’s centered around a man rising from the dead.

It does seem incredible, I won’t deny it. In fact (and I'm going to make things worse before I make them better here): I believe that Christianity actually rises or falls or whether Jesus physically rose from the dead. The Apostle Paul says as much in 1st Corintians 15. [1]
But believe it or not, I would suggest that this actually gives Christianity an advantage over the other world religions. Consider this: if the resurrection didn’t happen, then you can forget Christianity and move on. But at least Christianity is testable. You can make decisions for or against the Christian worldview based on objective, historical evidence.

But have you ever considered for yourself what the alternatives to the resurrection are? Here’s a brief list of the other theories that I’ve found out there:
  1. Jesus didn’t really die, he just fainted
  2. Jesus’ body-double died on the cross or
  3. Jesus’ body-double appeared to his disciples
  4. The disciples stole the body or
  5. The Romans lost the body
  6. The disciples lied or
  7. The disciples were high or
  8. The disciples had a collective vision/hallucination
  9. Everybody just went to the wrong tomb
You know what strikes me as odd? If there was good evidence supporting any of these theories, the others would just disappear. I mean, if there was strong historical evidence that Jesus didn’t really die and then rise from the dead, then skeptics and atheists wouldn’t mess with the idea of body-doubles and group hallucinations. If just one of these theories had solid historical evidence, then every skeptic would give the same reason, the same theory.

But you know what I hear? I hear a lot of people who have decided ahead of time “This can’t happen” (which is in itself a leap of faith, isn’t it?) and then there’s a mad scramble to make sense of the facts. Because we do have facts. There are at least four facts that even most non-Christian scholars and skeptics concede to be true [2]:
  1. Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried
  2. His tomb was found empty and no one ever produced his body
  3. His followers, as well as insider skeptics (like Jesus’ brother James) and outsider skeptics (like Saul turned Paul), had life-changing encounters with one thought to be the risen Jesus
  4. Christianity survived, even thrived, inexplicably through severe persecution
Only the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus has enough explanatory power to make sense of just these four minimal facts, let alone the rest of eyewitness testimonies we have in the Gospels.
If it helps, you can remember these as the “bear” facts—a handful of details considered accurate even by critics of Christianity—to give evidence for the resurrection.

The Burial (and death) of Jesus
The Empty tomb (no one produced a body)
The Appearances of Jesus (or at least supposed appearances according to his followers)
The Rise of Christianity
None of the theories, nothing but the resurrection, accounts for just these four minimal facts alone. After all, a good conspiracy involves a small number of people (not over 500). A good conspiracy event lasts a short period of time (not over 40 days as Acts 1 tells us). And a worthwhile conspiracy offers low risk/high reward to the conspirators (but Christianity offered high risk/low reward if it was a lie).

But let me ask you one last question: what if the resurrection did happen? If Jesus really was who he said he was, and if Jesus really did what the Bible says he did, that would have massive repercussions for your life. Are you content staking your life on the chance that one of the other theories is true? Don’t you at least owe it to yourself to investigate for yourself the life, death and resurrection of Jesus?

[1.] "If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain...if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins." 1 Corinthians 15:14,17 ESV
[2.] Gary Habermas has popularized this as the “Minimal Facts” approach.

Other posts in the Clearing the Roadblocks series:
Does God Care About Our Government?


Carol said...

Yes, thank you...love the "bear" facts.

VinnyJH57 said...

To say that dead people always stay dead is no more a leap of faith than to say that the sun always rises in the east. It is a logical conclusion based on knowledge and experience.

Jared Totten said...

To assume that miracles cannot happen because God does not exist and we are locked in a closed and natural system is to assume the very thing you're arguing for.

If the only theory that has enough explanatory power to account for the minimal facts I mentioned is the resurrection, then we ought to be open-minded enough to follow the evidence where it leads.