Thursday, March 28, 2013

Tale of an Empty Tomb

The resurrection is the heart of Christian teaching and one of the most contested aspects. Some would reject it because they claim science refutes the possibility of miracles. But science tells what happens if nothing interferes, but cannot say whether there is something that can intervene. If we cannot write off miracles in principle, we need to ask what the evidence for the resurrection is.

The most popular alternative is that it was a legend that grew up over time. But we need to remember that the resurrection was, from the beginning, the centerpiece of Christian belief (see 1 Corinthians 15). Without the resurrection it is difficult to see what Christianity is even about. If Jesus had been merely a failed Jewish messiah or a wandering rabbi or a moral philosopher, He would have vanished into obscurity. Now there is abundant evidence to support an early date for the writing of the New Testament. But even the critics generally concede that there are four books written by who they claim to have been written by: Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Galatians. These attest to the fact of the resurrection and its centrality to Christianity. If they were indeed written by Paul, it was about 20 years after the event. Further, people were from the beginning willing to die for Christianity. Now people will die for a lie, but who will die for some vague legend? Tradition tells us almost all the original apostles and their immediate followers died martyrs' deaths. Even if this is discounted, Nero, within about 30 years of the resurrection, was putting people to death for being Christians. Also, Christianity had critics from the very beginning, and they would have noticed if Christians had simply changed their story.

Another possibility is a conspiracy, either by the disciples or Jesus Himself. This has many of the same objections as the legend theory. Further, it has the problem of how they would have pulled it off and what they thought were going to get out of it. Chuck Colson relates this to his involvement in Watergate. He asks, if a small group of people with all the power of the presidency could not cover up the Watergate scandal for more than a short time, how could we expect a bunch of powerless Galileans to have pulled off a swindle to fool all history? There are also the ideas of hallucination, wishful thinking, or mystical experience. This might work to explain the support of a few immediate followers but does not explain it being accepted by anyone beyond the inner circle. There has been the occasional person who has claimed to see Elvis Presley alive. But is it likely that any large number of people will make this the basis of their belief system, let alone die for it? I would conclude that the explanation that best fits the evidence is the resurrection really happened and therefore Christianity has a solid basis.      

No comments:

Post a Comment