Squarely at the center of Christianity is the resurrection of Christ (1Co 15.3-4). As a rule, Christians have gotten so used to the idea that they no longer realize how crazy that sounds.
So try a little thought experiment.
Suppose you hear that someone you know has died. And then, a few days or weeks later, you see him walking around.
What do you think?
Well, there are several possibilities that will come to mind.
- If you see him just briefly at a distance, you’ll say to yourself, “Boy, that guy sure looked like Joe!” And you might see if you can get a second look at him. But then you’ll move on, marveling that different people can look so similar.
- If you see him more thoroughly—say he walks up to you and says, “Hello, old friend!”—you’ll conclude that the report you got was mistaken. The guy who told me he died must have been joking, or honestly misinformed. Or maybe I dreamed it. Or whatever. At any rate, he didn’t die; he’s still alive.
- There’s a third, less likely, possibility. Once an acquaintance of mine died. Something that a lot of his friends didn’t know was that he happened to be an identical twin. Since I did know that, I didn’t have the reaction many of his friends did on seeing his brother at the funeral.
But I’ll tell you what you won’t think. You won’t think your friend rose from the dead, because that just doesn’t happen, and you know that perfectly well. There has to be another explanation.
Resurrections just don’t happen. Resurrection is impossible.
So then. About this alleged resurrection of Christ. Christians need to fully apprehend what an extraordinary—even preposterous—claim it is. We can’t expect people to just accept the allegation, and in fact we shouldn’t accept the allegation either without extraordinary evidences. Plural.
Resurrections just don’t happen.
After a lifetime of studying the claim and ruminating over the evidence, I’ve come to a conclusion:
The least likely possibility—the impossible one—is in fact the most likely possibility.
Now, that claim is just as preposterous as the first one, isn’t it?
What I’d like to do over the next several posts is examine the evidence and see whether there’s any basis at all for my conclusion.
I should note that in 1998 Lee Strobel edited an anthology called The Case for Christ, containing chapters by our generation’s leading apologists on Jesus’ claims to Messiahship, including the resurrection. I came to confident belief in the resurrection before Strobel’s book arrived on the scene and was delighted to see that his thinking on the evidence paralleled mine. What follows here is a concise summary of my thinking; if you want something quite a bit deeper and a lot more thorough, read Strobel’s excellent book.
We should begin with some observations about the nature of evidence. When detectives investigate a crime today, they generally gather two kinds of evidence: eyewitness testimony, and forensic evidence, such as materials left at the scene: shell casings, blood, fingerprints, and so forth.
The biblical record contains both types of evidence. The subsequent question is two-fold:
- Is the evidence reliable?
- Is the evidence exclusionary? That is, does it rule out other explanations?
These are important questions, and given the preposterous of the claim—he rose from the dead!—we ought to evaluate the evidence carefully and answer the questions with reasonable objectivity. That’s what I hope to do in the next few posts.
Something to think about for next time:
Eyewitness evidence is notoriously unreliable. Especially when it sees dead men walking around. Nobody in his right mind believes that Elvis bought a sandwich at a diner in Tulsa in 2006. So does the biblical evidence reach the level of authority needed to support a preposterous claim?
See you next time.