There are many virtues that a person ought to embrace because they makes us better people. One of the Founding Fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin, set out a regimen for practicing and instilling virtues in his life. Though he was not perfect, he had a noble and honorable goal. I decided that practicing virtuous living was a good and worthy goal, so I am focusing on one virtue per week. This week’s virtue is silence.
This is not meditative silence like solitude. Rather, this is temporary silence where I pause before I speak. Silence is centered around three key questions to ask myself before giving an answer: (1) Is my response true? (2) Is my response kind? and (3) Is my response necessary? (more…)
Have you ever given any thought to what the world would be like if the Wright Brothers had never invented the airplane? While aerodynamics had been a problem that had been worked on stretching back to the 16th century, it was the Wright Brothers that brought us the plane and all that has been born out of their endeavors; the good and the bad; discovery and destruction. I would venture a guess that flight has brought us far more than anything Orville and Wilber ever imagined: from bi-planes and tri-planes to prop and jet engine aircraft, from rocketry and spacecraft, to landing on the moon, sending a rover to Mars, pictures of Pluto, satellite television, GPS technology, cellular phones, and so much more.
Now imagine life with none of that.
Have you ever given any thought to what Christianity would be like if the resurrection had never happened? First and foremost, according to the apostle Paul, there would not even be a Christian faith, much less an apostle Paul. In 1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, and 19, Paul states that if the resurrection had never happened then our “preaching is vain,” our “faith is vain,” our “faith is worthless,” we are “still in our sins” (there is no such thing as forgiveness), and “we are of all men most to be pitied.”
Allow me to just list some of what is lost to Christianity if the resurrection did not occur (this is not an all-inclusive list):
- Jesus could not be considered deity (Romans 1:1-4)
- Jesus would be a false prophet (failed prophecy to rise again – Matthew 27:63, 64; 28:6; Mark 8:31; 9:9, 10, 31; 10:34; Luke 18:33; 24:6, 7)
- No sending of the Helper, the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit (John 15:26, 16:7, 13)
- No Pentecost (Acts 2)
- No conversion of James, the half-brother of Jesus (no other explanation has been given for James’ conversion other than an encounter with his resurrected sibling)
- No Damascus Road conversion of Saul of Tarsus (thus, no Apostle Paul – Acts 9)
- No gospel
- No command to go into all the world and make disciples (Jesus made this statement after his resurrection and just before his ascension – Matthew 28:19-20)
- No preaching in Acts (all the sermons and sermon summaries in Acts either explicitly or implicitly reference the death, burial, and resurrection)
- No establishment of the church (see Acts)
- No letters written by Paul (we would be missing a large portion of the New Testament)
- No forgiveness of sins (1 Corinthians 15:17)
- No intercessory prayer on our behalf (John 14:8-14)
- No defeat of death (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)
- No future resurrection to look forward to for us / no hope (1 Corinthians 15:18)
- No second coming or coming on the clouds (Jesus would need to be alive in order to return – I think this point is fairly obvious)
- No Judgment (Acts 17:31)
- No baptism (Romans 6:1-11)
- We do not receive grace (Romans 1:1-6)
- No salvation (Romans 1:16)
- No faith (Romans 1:16-17)
- No justification by faith (Romans 5:1)
- We are still slaves to sin, under the law (Romans 6:14)
I will stop the list here. Although there is more that could be added, the point is abundantly clear: if there was no resurrection of Jesus, then there is nothing remotely close to Christianity that would have even gotten off the ground. Remember – the first century church was founded upon the preaching of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The resurrection: it is more than just an historical event to defend.
“He is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”
This was the call and response of the early church as well as how Christians greeted one another. The resurrection was such a central part of their lives that they would greet one another with this reminder. But is the resurrection any less central to the church and our faith today? With the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, have modern Christians come to the disbelief that a dead person can rise again? Tragically, yes. They view the resurrection as something either metaphorical or spiritual only. They would deny the physical resurrection of the body and even worse, have those who believe in such things to deny it as well. But what one often finds is that seemingly new objections to core Christian beliefs are not new at all. This is the same polemic Paul argued against in 1 Corinthians 15. And the good news is that our answer today is the exact same as Paul’s was then: we can offer up historical evidence that shows the resurrection of Jesus happened as recorded; that the same body that went down to the grave is the same one that came up, albeit transformed.
So what is the evidence? We can cite the following twelve facts that naturalistic theories cannot explain in total: (1) Jesus died by Roman crucifixion; (2) He was buried, most likely in a private tomb; (3) Soon afterwards the disciples were discouraged, despondent, and bereaved, having lost hope; (4) Jesus’ tomb was found empty very soon after his burial; (5) The disciples had experiences that they believed were actual appearances of the risen Jesus; (6) Due to those experiences, the disciples’ lives were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief; (7) The proclamation of the resurrection took place very early, at the beginning of church history; (8) The disciples’ public testimony and preaching of the resurrection took place in the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus had been crucified and buried shortly before; (9) The Gospel message centered on the death and resurrection of Jesus; (10) Sunday was the primary day for gathering and worshipping; (11) James, the brother of Jesus and a former skeptic, was converted when, he believed, he saw the risen Jesus; (12) Just a few years later, Saul of Tarsus (Paul) became a Christian believer due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.
Whatever happens, the church must stand firm in the resurrection for as the resurrection goes, so goes Christianity with it.
“He is risen!”
“He is risen indeed!”
1 Reference for the 12 facts of the resurrection were taken from the following source: Gary R. Habermas, The Risen Jesus & Future Hope, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2003), 9-10.