Thursday, March 24, 2016

What is Easter? (Part 2: The Proof)

Everything I said about Jesus in Part 1 is taken from the Bible. Specifically, it is taken from four books of the Bible called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These four books are known as the “gospels,” an Old English word meaning “good news.” They are also the first four books of the New Testament. Where the Old Testament had dealt primarily with God’s promises to the people of Israel, the New Testament described their fulfillment for the whole world in Jesus Christ.

Questions about the Gospels

To many minds, these books are an unreliable witness. For one thing, they were written by partisans. Matthew and John were two of Jesus’ disciples, His closest followers. Mark was written as the memoir of another disciple, Peter. And Luke was an associate of the Apostle Paul. They were all early Christians who, it is argued, had every reason to deify Jesus. They were not impartial biographers, certainly.

Another problem is that the Bible is used as the exclusive proof of what the Bible says. Christians are accused of circular reasoning. In other words, we are thought of as saying the Bible is true because the Bible says so.

Partial Witnesses

The first of these arguments is the most easily answered. Impartiality is not a guarantee of accuracy, or vice versa. Motivations need to be carefully considered, rather than mere attachments. Who is more likely to tell an accurate story of your life, your friends, or a stranger 2,000 years from now? And also, what would have been the benefit to the authors of the gospels to lie? They were persecuted for telling this story about Jesus. It didn’t make them wealthy or influential. Rather, they gave up everything to tell it. Some of them even lost their lives for it. In their case, their partiality is actually suggestive of their reliability.

Not Quite Circular

The second argument is more difficult to answer, though. The critics are certainly correct that the Bible is the only clear record we have of what Jesus is supposed by Christians to have accomplished. Arguing from it in order to prove it is circular.

It is not a closed circle, however. We must refer back to the question of the reliability of the witnesses. Why did the evangelists write what they wrote? To answer this, we do have to refer to the Bible. But we begin with the “why” before moving to the “what.”

I believe the best answer to both is found in 1 Corinthians 15. 1 Corinthians was a letter written by Paul to the Christians in Corinth, a city in Greece. Some people there began to question the resurrection of the saints, and Paul wrote this section of the letter to remind them of what Christ had accomplished. If there is no resurrection, then Christ was not raised. And if Christ was not raised, then no one is saved from their sins. If Jesus is still dead, there is nothing good about Christianity. It would, in fact, be the greatest lie against God. In that case, we would be the most pitiable people in the world (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).

To say Christ is not raised, however, is to ignore the evidence. After He had died, Jesus was seen alive again by His closest friends, by hundreds of others, and by Paul himself. They all also then saw Jesus taken up into heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:1–8 is essentially a dare. Paul wants the Corinthians to test him by seeking out the other witnesses to the resurrection. He had no doubt because he had seen the resurrected Lord with his own eyes, and he knew others had done so, as well. They were not teaching some fable constructed centuries after the fact. They were merely reporting the truth of their own lives.

This is the important point. The New Testament is not only the story of Jesus’ life, but of His apostles’ lives, also. Right after Jesus was arrested, his followers fled. They had every reason to believe they were next. If Jesus remained dead, then why would they risk the wrath of Jerusalem and Rome by proclaiming He was alive again? Where had their fear gone? The only reasonable explanation is that it had been taken away when Jesus had reappeared to them, just as they said. Likewise, why would Paul have become a Christian? He was a well-respected Jewish religious expert, and he was busily about the work of persecuting Christians before Christ appeared to him. Why would Paul trade that life in for one of poverty, itinerancy, imprisonments, beatings, shipwreck, and death threats? Why would all these people choose to die rather than say the resurrection had not happened? Because it had, and nothing this world could offer was worth more than the eternal life they knew was theirs through the death and life of Jesus Christ.

Is this all recorded in the Bible? Yes. But it is the only explanation for the behavior of the earliest Christians. They had no reason to start this movement unless it was true. It is not the apostles’ words, but their lives, which are the ultimate proof of the resurrection. And the resurrection is the ultimate proof of Christ’s deity, giving credence to everything else He said and did. That, in turn, validates the rest of Scripture and all its promises from God. The Bible is not proved by the Bible, then, so much as the Bible is proved by the devotion of those who gave up everything to proclaim the truths eventually recorded there. That the Bible also records that devotion, does nothing to detract from it. It was real, or else the New Testament would never have been written.

Decision to Make

We no longer have living witnesses to the resurrection. All we have is the record of their devotion. But that is enough. We can know that Jesus Christ is alive, because it is the only thing that makes sense of the evidence of His first followers’ lives. And if we know He is alive, then we can know His promises are true. Eternal life is available. Sins can be forgiven. Perfect love can be experienced forever, and there need be no fear in death. This is the truth, the absolute truth, the greatest truth, and it is accessible to each and every one of us. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Find the acceptance you seek. And if you have found it, celebrate. Christ is Risen! Nothing matters more.

Thanks for checking out the Quest Forums blog! If you enjoyed this post, please consider following me here, on Twitter (@Quest_Forums), or on Facebook (“Quest Forums”). Links are in the sidebar. I am always looking for new questions and comments, so submit yours on any of these sites or by emailing And please, spread the word! The share buttons below are a great way to do that. I want to connect with as many people as possible, so if you know anyone with questions about the Bible, send them my way.

No comments:

Post a Comment