Reasons for (Christian) Faith
by PastorErick | 9/26/17, 4:52 PM
Why, of all the religions in the world that claim a true path to the Deity, is it reasonable to accept Christianity as the true path to God?
I suppose there could be a few different ways of attacking this question. Some have begun their answer with pointing to the Bible as proof. After all, the Scriptures have many prophecies predicted and then later fulfilled in world history. Other’s have pointed to their conversion experience (or Testimony).
However, the place I’m most comfortable beginning this sort of conversation is specifically with the resurrection of Jesus. Because as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, apart from its reality nothing else really matters:
If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14 ESV)
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV)
If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:19 ESV)
If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32b ESV)
Everything hinges on whether Jesus rose from the dead. When I say everything I mean EVERYTHING. Tim Keller spells it out:
Sometimes people approach me and say, “I really struggle with this aspect of Christian teaching. I like this part of Christian belief, but I don’t’ think I can accept that part.” I usually respond: “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.
The Reason for God, pg. 202
So if it really is THE issue upon which everything else hinges, we need to spend some time examining the reasons for faith in this Resurrection. Let’s start today by looking at the documentary evidence.
Our claim here is fairly straight forward: The New Testament Gospels (and 1 Corinthians 15) are a trustworthy set of documents depicting Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
In response to this claim some have objected, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John claim that Jesus rose from the dead. But these books were written at least 30-40 years after the events took place (in John’s case, probably 60-70 years after the events took place). They just made it up to back up their story."
This seems like a potentially rational objection, but upon closer examination it doesn’t hold up. For starters, the claims made about Jesus were actually written far too early for legendary elements (like Jesus’ miracles and resurrection) to creep in without being called out if not true. There were pleny of people still alive at the time that these public documents were unveiled that would have seen Jesus and would have known his disciples. These "opponents” of the faith would have had all the incentive in the world for debunking the early Christian eyewitnesses claims about Jesus’ resurrection. Why couldn’t they? Simply put, there were too many eyewitnesses to the risen Christ still alive that vouched for its authenticity. Consider what the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians just 15-20 years after Jesus’ life:
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.
Notice what Paul mentions: Jesus appeared to over 500 (!) at one time; He challenges his readers to go and speak to these people themselves! If they didn’t really see Him risen, Paul could never have done this. There would have been numerous members of that supposed group of 500 that would have spilled the beans if the story of the resurrection weren’t true.
C.S. Lewis before becoming a Christian, was a world-class literary critic. Commenting on the Gospels, he noted:
I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know none of them are like this. Of this text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage….or else, some unknown (ancient) writer… without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative…
We have no good reason to doubt the gospels accuracy either. We have thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament to compare and contrast that were written within a few hundred years of the events recorded; we even have some copies that date to within seventy years of when the originals were written. To give you an idea of what this means: When we compare this to any other ancient writing from around the same time, we have about 10 times more manuscripts to go on.
Norman Geisler, just speaking about the Gospel of Luke writes, “In citing thirty two countries, fifty-four cities, nine islands, and several rulers, Luke never made a mistake.” (Norman Geisler, When Skeptics Ask).
If Luke is this meticulously accurate about recounting unimportant details like the names of cities, than why wouldn’t we trust him to give us accurate information about more important things such as, I don’t know, a man raising from death?
Alright that’s enough for today. Next week we’ll look at some more evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ as we seek out more Reasons for (Christian) Faith.
- 31 - Reasons for Faith in the Bible Part I: Jesus Said So
- 24 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part V: The Uniqueness of the Resurrection
- 17 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part IV: The External Evidence
- 10 - Reasons For Faith In Jesus’ Resurrection Part III: The Birth, Rapid Expansion and Martyrdom Of The Early Church
- 03 - Reasons for (Christian) Faith Part II: The Counterproductive Gospel