The Resurrection and History
So, let’s go back to our conversation about trying to find God by looking at creation. We basically stopped at saying that we could find evidence for a generic sort of deity from creation. However, we never identified that God or Gods. We never moved past a sort of nameless, shapeless deity. So, how do we know which one(s) we’re talking about?
One way to do that is to look for evidence of God acting in the world. Religions often claim that their God has acted in some way, but here’s the question, “Is there any evidence for those claims?” If we want to know whether any religion has a claim to truth, we need to see if there is actually any reason to believe their claims. It really shouldn’t be hard to find, though. After all, if a deity wanted us to know him/her/it, then theoretically, he/she/it should leave some evidence behind, right?
With Christianity, we have a focal point for our efforts to find a God. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15.17 that if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. In other words, no resurrection, no Christianity. The interesting thing about this is that the Resurrection of Jesus is not something we have to take on faith. Most people get this backwards. They think that they have to trust that the resurrection happened just like they trust that the rest of Christianity is legitimate. That’s not true. Instead, because the resurrection happened, we can trust the rest of Christianity. If Jesus actually rose from the dead, then at least some form of Christianity is correct (though, we would need to have further discussions to figure out which one). If the resurrection happened, then Christianity is true. If the resurrection did not happen, then Christianity is false.
The really interesting thing about all of this is that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical event, and people wrote about it. That means that the claims of Christianity can be tested. That means that Christianity is falsifiable and can be proven to be either true or false (depending on which way the evidence points).
Some will want to say that it is not possible to provide evidence for a resurrection, but for two reasons I will disagree. For one, conceptually it really isn’t hard to show that such a thing happened. All you need it evidence to show that someone was alive, then dead, then alive again. You need to be able to show each of the three stages, in order. If you think about what's required, it really isn’t hard to do this. The hard part is actually having evidence for all three of those stages, in order.
On the other hand, some will say that this is a theological event and so it cannot be investigated. I could not disagree more. The resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was a historical event. Certainly, it had theological implications, but the most basic claim of Christians about the resurrection is quite simply that it happened. If it did not happen, then we can all safely abandon Christianity. If it did happen, then we need to take it seriously.
Something else we need to consider about the resurrection is the impact it has on one of our previous topics. We said that Jesus claimed to be divine. How do we know whether he was or not? I think rising from the dead would answer that question. After all, he said during his lifetime that he was going to be killed and then rise from the dead (though nobody at the time understood what he was talking about). Besides, what human has the power to choose to rise from the dead? If it were possible for man to do this, surely someone else would have done it by now. Power over death is something that is out of the reach of man; that’s a God thing.
So, really, we need to ask the question “Did Jesus really rise from the dead?" To answer that question will take more space than we have here. But, what I wanted to do was to make you aware that such a question can be answered with evidence and to encourage you (whether you believe it happened or not) to take a look at that evidence. If it happened, the resurrection is one of the most significant events in history (equalled only by the original creation itself). It would be the reaching down by God into the world of men in order to bridge the gap between the two and meet us where we are. If God actually wants to meet us, then perhaps we should pay attention. And, to know whether He actually does, then we should take some time to look at the evidence to see whether Jesus rose from the dead, because if he rose from the dead, then he really is who he said he is.