I would venture to say that most Christians have experienced some form of pushback regarding the issue of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Whether this pushback originates from the disbelief that such a miraculous thing could have possibly occurred or whether they claim that there simply isn’t evidence for such a grand claim to be true, we’ve likely heard many of these forms of opposition. In a world that is progressively becoming obsessed with scientism, how are Christians going to support a claim that Jesus rose from the dead after three days? Are these claims that skeptics pose valid? Is there evidence that supports our stance in believing that Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead?
The video above is of Christian apologist Dr. William Lane Craig as he discusses the facts of the resurrection. Dr. Craig does highlight that a majority of New Testament scholars (even skeptics) accept the following four facts:
Fact 1: After the crucifixion, Jesus was buried in a tomb by a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin named Joseph of Arimathea.
Fact 2: On the Sunday following the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb was found empty by his women followers.
Fact 3: On multiple occasions, different individuals and groups of people experienced appearances of Jesus alive after his death.
Fact 4: The original disciples believed that Jesus resurrected from the dead despite all predispositions to the contrary.
If these facts are believed by a majority of New Testament scholars, and even skeptics, what is stopping more people from believing in the resurrection? In my personal opinion, it is a worldview issue. A skeptic may find all of the historical facts compelling, however they’d prefer to place their faith in an alternative option because they are so convinced that miracles cannot happen in a natural world. As Christians, we can only present the facts and let God take over and pray that the message touches their heart in a way that would relieve them of feeling that the only plausible possibilities are the ones explained by natural causes.
Many skeptics would accuse my approach as wishful thinking or even claim that I believe in the resurrection purely on blind faith. I don’t believe so. Given that the four facts listed above are widely agreed upon by New Testament scholars, I’d say all people should be comfortable in their historical stance on Jesus regardless of whether they believe Jesus actually rose from the dead or not. However, this is where the fork in the road splits the believers from the non-believers. Christians accept the resurrection hypothesis as being the possibility that has the greatest explanatory scope and power. Many skeptics have come up with numerous conspiracy theories such as Jesus wasn’t actually dead but just appeared to have died, Jesus had a twin-brother that appeared to individuals and groups of people after his death, the disciples of Jesus stole the body of Jesus, the theory of cognitive dissonance, Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus’ body in a graveyard for common criminals shortly after being placed in his tomb without telling anybody about it, everyone that saw Jesus was hallucinating, and many others (1).
Upon observation of these conspiracy theories, we find that none of them are greater in explanatory scope and power than the resurrection hypothesis. They do not account for all four facts as effectively as the resurrection hypothesis does. This isn’t a matter of blind faith for Christians. In fact, if skeptics highly value evidence, these are issues that you may want to respectfully discuss in a conversation with a skeptical friend if given the opportunity.
Dr. Craig stated towards the end of the video, “You need a launching pad to launch this missile”. This is very true! I didn’t mention anything about how the expansion of the Christian movement drastically increased in the face of major opposition! If you’re interested in this topic, I’d recommend N.T. Wright’s book, “The Resurrection of the Son of God”. It discusses in much greater detail on this pivotal issue of the Christian faith!
1 William Lane Craig, On Guard (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook) Chapter 9