Saturday, April 14, 2012
Resurrection Series Part 10: Conclusion
Welcome to part 10 of the Resurrection series -- our final post based on the book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. You can find all proceding parts here. In this post, we will continue with a few more objections to the Resurrection before reaching the conclusion. I hope you have enjoyed this series! Christ is Risen: He is risen indeed!
Though the Resurrection is not in dispute, many will try to downplay the witness of the disciples by comparing it to other religions. For example, Joseph Smith and eleven witnesses all claimed that they experienced supernatural appearances, so what is the difference between the supernatural experiences of Jesus and the twelve disciples? A close examination of this point will reveal that while Jesus’ disciples suffered for and died for their beliefs, six of the eleven witnesses to Moroni’s gold plates left the Mormon Church! But even if these witnesses had seen the golden plates, this does not mean that there is anything valid contained within the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, there is absolutely no evidence that the Book of Mormon is true, nor is there is any archaeological evidence to support it. In contrast, there is much archaeological evidence for the Bible – evidence which agrees on some very minor points – and there is so much more evidence outside the disciples’ testimonies which supports Jesus’ Resurrection (for example, the conversion of skeptics Paul and James). While, there is conclusive evidence against Mormonism (such as the major problems with the Book of Abraham, the lack of archaeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, etc.), there is no such evidence against Christianity. Therefore, the Mormon witness pales in comparison to the witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection.
Even though comparison of other religious figures who have supposedly risen from the dead does not stand to scrutiny once the religion as a whole is examined, many adamantly claim that Elvis Presley’s body is not in the tomb or that he rose from the dead. They claim that no one has ever had enough evidence or determination to dig up the casket and investigate. However, in Jesus’ case, the tomb is definitely empty – there is no question about it – whereas, Elvis’ case is questionable. Still, many claim to have seen Elvis; these sightings, however, can be explained by other opposing theories – for example, maybe Elvis faked his own death or it was a case of mistaken identity (there are so many Elvis impersonators). In contrast, none of these opposing theories fits as an explanation for the Resurrection of Jesus. Furthermore, there is no religio-historical context for Elvis’ supposed resurrection, but it is abundant in the case of Christ’s. Elvis didn’t perform any miracles; but Jesus did. And Elvis certainly did not predict his own resurrection; whereas, Jesus did.
But what about alien sightings? People claimed to have “seen” Elvis, but are alien sightings a more plausible explanation for the Resurrection? The answer is an emphatic “no.” There are several reasons for this. Firstly, there were multiple eyewitnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus – and these were not all believers at the time (i.e. Paul, James). We have good reason to believe the testimony of the disciples since their claims are verified by skeptics who also saw the Resurrected Christ. Additionally, the Resurrection occurred “within the context of Jesus’ claims, miracles, and the probable existence of God, and no plausible explanation can account for all of the known historical data” (page 245). Therefore, the Resurrection of Jesus is the only plausible explanation – it is the only explanation which fits all the facts. In contrast, those who have encounters with aliens have questionable testimonies, and there are many good opposing theories – “such as weather balloons, military aircraft, hallucinations, poor reporting techniques, etc.” (page 246). Even science strongly opposes the alien theory by showing that life on other planets is highly unlikely. Most UFO testimonies only show that this phenomena breaks the laws of natural, making it no longer material, but supernatural. Therefore, certain UFO sightings may actually be true and do not need to be explained away; however, there is still a cause for these events. Yet, skeptics always maintain that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (page 246). Actually, there is extraordinary evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection: He appeared to people both on an individual level and in groups; He appeared to friends and enemies; His tomb was clearly empty; and all opposing theories of His Resurrection fail. The Resurrection of Christ “is the only plausible explanation of the data” presented (page 246). In fact, if one wishes to maintain that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” he must admit that “If Jesus did not rise from the dead, one must explain the evidence. Explanations such as group hallucinations are extraordinary and must be supported by extraordinary evidence” (page 246). If the skeptic wishes to maintain that the supernatural is not possible concerning Jesus’ Resurrection and that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” then he must also reject his claim to aliens – a claim which actually appeals to the supernatural.
The Resurrection is very important to Christianity, because, as Paul said, “If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Often people are skeptical, possessing a strong a priori view against the Resurrection. After presenting some of the evidence for the Resurrection, however, some skeptical people may naturally become intrigued and want to know more. Naturally, sharing the message of salvation is the next step. Romans 3:23 states that we will all stand before God and be judged for failing to live up to his standard of perfection: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Because we have not kept His standards, our destination is a horrible place called hell: “...those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power...” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). But because of God’s great love for us, He left His magnificent home in Heaven to come to our corrupted earth and die for our sins. Romans 5:8 states, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” It is when we put our faith in Him as the risen Lord that we obtain His mercy – a pardon for our sins – and eternal life. Romans 10:9 instructs, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” We do not earn salvation through works – except the “works of God” which naturally accompany believing in Him (see James 2): “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is through faith in Him alone that we are saved. Titus 3:4-7 sums it up best: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” When Paul stated that we are still in our sins if Christ did not rise, he was making a very valid point: If Jesus did not rise from the dead, there is no remedy for our sins; and if Jesus was not the remedy for our sins, not only was it altogether unnecessary for Jesus to come in the first place, but He did not resurrect – thereby putting the final punch on death: “We are of all men the most pitiable.” But the facts show that Jesus came to this earth, died, and rose from the dead for us – so that our sins could be forgiven, so that we could be in right-standing with God. “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 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. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).