Skeptics will ask me, “Even if God exists, why your god, and why Christianity?” My short answer is the resurrection. As Dr. Gary Habermas has stated, “If the resurrection is true, then Christianity follows.” And as Paul told the pagan Athenian philosophers:
29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:29-30 *)
In fact, the apostle Paul banked everything on the resurrection of Jesus Christ:
14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. (1 Cor.15:14-19 *)
Understand that “eternal life” is dependent on the resurrection, not the crucifixion. If Christ is not alive, we have no life in Him (Rom.6:4-10; 8:11; Gal.2:20).
But unlike many believers do today, and even many other religions, Paul did not rest his case on personal revelation only. He pointed to the resurrection event as evidence that God made Christ Lord over all. He literally staked his life on it.
This is the case I will make in this short series. I will not appeal to the Scripture as divinely inspired to do this (although I believe it is). I will treat the Bible like any other history book and show that our faith is firmly grounded in historicity.
How can we use the Bible as a reliable historical document? We can by following what Dr. Habermas calls, “The Minimal Facts Approach.” Metaphorically speaking, it’s basically arguing with one hand tied behind our back, using only seven of the 27 New Testament books that all textual scholars regard as historically valid (using the other books as secondary references). They’re all Pauline epistles: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, Galatians and Philemon. And that’s more than enough to make our case!
But we also need to understand how historicity works:
“Historiography does not reconstruct events; it cannot bring Caesar back to life of reenact the battle of Actium. Historiography does attempt to provide a hypothetical description and analysis of some past events as the best explanation of the present evidence.” (Aviezer Tucker, Historiographical Counterfactuals and Historical Contingency, p.258 *)
Also bear in mind about burden of proof:
“Mere skepticism and setting the bar extremely high will not challenge a historical case for the resurrection…. If I say that Jesus rose from the dead then I need to demonstrate such a theory best explains the evidence and other theories cannot. However, it’s a double-edged sword…. Because if one wants to counter the argument that they have a better explanation of the data, then the burden of proof is on them to prove that the resurrection is insufficient to explain the data.
“The burden in history is always on the one making the claim. The burden is also on the one making the rebuttal or opposing claim.” (D.H. Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies)
An agnostic can refrain from making any claim, but that doesn’t make an objective argument against someone who is making a historical claim, nor does it challenge or refute the presented argument. If they wish to do that, then they need to propose an opposing theory and back it up with evidence and make a case for plausibility.” (Quotes from video: “The Resurrection of Jesus (Introduction)” by InspiringPhilosophy *)
My goal is to show that the resurrection is the best explanation of the evidence. I will show this through quotes, articles, and video clips from experts in this field of study.
The “present evidence”
Here’s an article by historian and textual scholar, Dr. Habermas, titled “Experiences of the Risen Christ,” a five year study of well over 2000 sources on this topic, published from 1975 to the present in German, French, and English. It concentrates on the common historical content recognized by virtually all researchers.
In my last post, “New Testament hymns and creeds,” I showed that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was central to the faith, recited, sung, and memorized by Christian followers going all the way back to the resurrection. This is not disputed by textual scholars, whether they be agnostic, atheist, or Christian.
Of course, since the resurrection itself is a supernatural event, you will have to decide what to do with that. If you don’t believe that miracles are possible, then no amount of historical evidence is probably going to convince you. Your a priori naturalist worldview will not permit you to see the facts objectively.
Consider what Antony Flew, an atheist turned deist philosopher, once said while still an atheist:
“The evidence for the resurrection is better than any other for claimed miracles in any other religion. It’s outstandingly different in quality and quantity…” (“Did the Resurrection Happen?”, p.85)
Make no mistake. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the Christian faith. Without it there is no Christianity. But it’s also our strongest suit! Our claim stands on solid historical ground.
Here’s a YouTube video by InspiringPhilosophy on the historical evidence for the resurrection. It’s longer than their other clips, but necessary, because it shows why the resurrection is the best inference to the evidence by comparing it to three popular counterclaims by skeptics. These counterclaims are categorized as follows:
- Mythic Theory
- Conspiracy Theory
- Hallucination Theory
Here’s the video. Beloved followers of Christ, fear not! We do have strong evidence to make our claim.
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