Posted by: Tim | November 27, 2009

That’s a Good Question #7 – Is it reasonable to believe in the resurrection?

This is the 7th “That’s  a Good Question” article which recently appeared in the Three Hills Capital. The historicity of the resurrection is essential to Christianity, and I consider this article to be the most important piece of the series. As always, your comments are welcome!

That’s a Good Question #7

Is it reasonable to believe in the resurrection?

The resurrection of Jesus is the central miracle of the Bible. It is not an overstatement to say that Christianity rises or falls on the historicity of the resurrection.  The apostle Paul bluntly stated that “…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” If the resurrection didn’t really happen, then Christians are wasting their time (and I need to get a new job!).  But if the resurrection really happened, then Jesus is alive today and Christianity is proven true.

To consider if the resurrection really happened, I will list five statements about Jesus and the resurrection that are widely considered historical by scholars today, and consider their implications.

First, Jesus lived in ancient Israel in the first century, and second, Jesus died by crucifixion on a Roman cross. These are not particularly controversial statements even for skeptics of Christianity, any more than stating that Alexander the Great was a great ancient military leader in the fourth century BC, or that Augustine was a famous Christian theologian in the fourth century AD.

Third, Jesus’ tomb was found empty after His crucifixion. Even the earliest critics of the resurrection implicitly admitted that the tomb was empty, when they claimed that Jesus’ disciples had stolen His body, and most modern critics accept that the tomb was empty.

Fourth, Jesus’ apostles (and many others) believed that they saw Jesus alive after his crucifixion, on multiple occasions. They spent the rest of their lives preaching about Jesus and the resurrection, and many were killed for their witness. James, the brother of Jesus and Paul the apostle both turned from being skeptics before Jesus’ crucifixion to being leaders in the New Testament church, and also were eventually killed for their witness.

Fifth, the Christian church grew from nothing to spread across the Roman Empire in the first century AD.

These statements are accepted as historical by most scholars, whether liberal or conservative.  The historicity of Jesus’ resurrection would explain the empty tomb, the apostles’ firm belief that they had seen Jesus alive after His crucifixion, their willingness to die for their faith, and the rapid spread of Christianity.  But are there any alternate explanations?

One suggestion is that the resurrection was the result of legendary development. The problem with this idea is that the records of the resurrection are dated much too close to the event itself to have time to develop into a legend, and it does not explain the empty tomb, the many eyewitnesses who believed they saw Jesus alive, and who were willing to be killed for preaching about Him.

Another suggestion is that people who claimed to see the risen Jesus were hallucinating. But this explanation would require believing that large numbers of people hallucinated about the same thing, at the same time, on multiple occasions. Now that would be miraculous! Mass hallucination is not a credible explanation.

A popular solution proposed by many liberal scholars is to argue philosophically that miracles are impossible, so the resurrection did not happen.  It is ironic that Christians are often accused of having faith without reason, when it is in fact liberal scholars like these who have faith in their philosophical presuppositions and neglect to deal with actual evidence.

In summary, there is strong historical evidence to believe in the resurrection, and the best solutions proposed by skeptics are highly improbable, or simply make faith statements while ignoring the evidence. If the resurrection is true, then Christianity is true, and the call of Scripture to believe in Jesus Christ must be taken seriously.

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Responses

  1. I agree wholeheartedly. How to explain the change in a room full of frightened disciples hiding out in Lazarus’s house in Bethany, to afraid to go anywhere or do anything, to the post-resurrection men who traveled the world preaching what they had seen and heard, including the resurrection.

  2. […] #7 Is it reasonable to believe in the resurrection? […]


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