Can We Believe in the Resurrection?

March 1, 2016

Can modern people still believe in the resurrection of Jesus? George Eldon Ladd in his book, I Believe in the Resurrection of Jesus, notes three approaches to the resurrection found in contemporary biblical scholarship:

  1. Christianity is a historical religion. The resurrection is a historical event—it really happened!
  2. The resurrection was a real event in past history whose nature is such that it transcends history, and therefore, it is not subject to verification.
  3. The resurrection did not happen, but talk about the Christ of Faith.

Approaches 2 and 3 have been influenced by an anti-miraculous, naturalistic approach that claims to be “scientific” and “objective.” Ladd counters, “A truly scientific method is the inductive method which accepts as a working hypothesis the best explanation for the known facts.” What are the facts that need to be explained?

  1. The empty tomb. Why would the disciples steal the body? If the Jewish leaders could have produced the body, why didn’t they?
  2. The eyewitnesses. The eyewitnesses suffered and died for their testimony. If their testimony was a fabrication, why the dedication? If their testimony was a fabrication, why did they have the women as the first witnesses of the resurrection? Why did they tell of their own faults and disbeliefs?
  3. The transformations. What changed fearful disciples into heroic martyrs? What changed Paul from their most ardent opponent into the most zealous evangelist? What caused Jewish Christians to transfer their worship from Saturday to Sunday? What caused Jewish Christians to accept Jesus as the Messiah when the Law said “anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse” (Deuteronomy 21:23, NIV). What caused Jewish Christians to call Jesus “Lord,” a term used in the Old Testament for Yahweh?
  4. The Prophecies. Mathematician Peter Stoner in his book, Science Speaks, had university students calculate the odds of eight Old Testament prophecies being fulfilled in one person (he chose Micah 5:2, Malachi 3:1, Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 13:6, Zechariah 11:12, Zechariah 11:13, Isaiah 53:7, and Psalm 22:16). He came up with the odds of 1 in 1017. Stoner compares this to the odds of choosing the correctly marked silver dollar in a pile of silver dollars two feet deep over an area the size of Texas.

I believe in the historicity of the resurrection. I believe that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.


How Many Circles? How Many Circles?

April 18, 2014

I had a professor who spoke of the one circle man and the two circle man. He would draw a circle on the chalkboard for the one circle man, and two circles that overlapped a bit for the two circle man.

The one circle man is the person who believes that nature is all there is. The single circle represents the physical universe. If you attempt to talk to the one circle person about a miracle, for example, the resurrection of Jesus, he has ruled such things out of bounds. He will say such things cannot happen. No amount of evidence will be convincing. because he views the universe as a closed system. That’s all there is. He is a one circle man.

The two circle man believes in the natural universe but also believes in a spiritual realm and the existence of God. Or, if not certain about God, he is at least able to grant the second circle as a possibility to be reasoned about. If you attempt to talk to the two circle person about a miracle, for example, the resurrection Jesus, he is willing to consider the evidence.

The two circle man also believes the universe usually operates by physical causes and effects. Miracles are not claimed to explain everything. Miracles would be viewed as something rare, that is why they are by definition wondrous. But the two circle man doesn’t rule them out of bounds by definition. He is open to the possibility that God can intervene in this world and do something instantaneously that cannot be explained by natural causes and effects.

The one circle man sometimes thinks that his one circle worldview is to be identified with the scientific enterprise. But the two circle man can do science as well. In fact, science grew up in the midst of two circle thinkers — the Christian west. The two circle man believes that this universe is orderly and understandable, because the Creator made us with senses and minds that correspond to that reality and lead us to true knowledge about the world around us.

The one circle man will sometimes unknowingly borrow from the two circle man. He will talk about the pursuit of truth and moral values and even meaning, failing to realize that those things to have substance must come from the other circle — the circle he denies.

Some one circle men will even wistfully talk about the Christ of faith even though they believe Jesus of Nazareth is mouldering in the grave. Their one circle life doesn’t allow for a resurrection, no matter the witnesses, no matter the prophecies, and no matter the tremendous transformations that occurred.

I’m a two circle man. I’ve not ruled the evidence as out of bounds. In your life, how many circles?