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Christianity Grounded in the Historical Fact of the Resurrection

Comment

Jesus' apostles and other disciples were willing to die for him. But so what? Haven't the followers of other religious leaders and even some political leaders been willing to die for them, as well? What makes Jesus' followers so unique in this regard?

I address this very question in my new book, "Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel," because I used to wonder about this, too. What, if anything, distinguishes the Christian martyrs?

New Testament scholar Gary Habermas offered an insight that I hadn't considered before, and I find it enormously probative.

"One grand distinction," he argues, " makes all the difference in the world. Like other examples of religious or political faith, the disciples believed and followed their leader's teachings. But unlike all others, the disciples had more than just their beliefs; they had seen the resurrected Jesus. This is a crucial distinction. Their faith was true precisely because of the Resurrection."

Habermas cements the point with a few more questions: "Which is more likely — that an ideology we believe in is true or that we and a number of others saw a friend several times during the last month? If eternity rested on the consequences, would we rather base our assurance on the truth of a particular religious or political view, or would we rather that the consequences followed from repeated cases of seeing someone?"

This is fascinating — and compelling — is it not? Contrary to conventional wisdom, Christianity is based in history — in historical facts. The faith didn't come first; the history came first, and the faith followed. In fact, many of the disciples were dejected and dispirited when Jesus died — until they witnessed with their own eyes his bodily resurrection.

They weren't imagining they saw him. They didn't expect to see him. But when he appeared to them in his body, he proved to them he was real. He ate with them; they touched him; he talked to them; he opened up the Scriptures to them and showed them how they pointed to him, his sinless life, his suffering, his crucifixion and his substitutionary death on the cross for us.

He appeared first to a woman. Is this something the New Testament writers would have made up had they been concocting a believable story upon which to base the religion they were about to preach on his behalf? In those days, the eyewitness testimony of women was not considered nearly so credible as that of men.

He made some 12 resurrected appearances before different numbers of people at different times; in one case, it was more than 500 people.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this particular appearance 20 years or so after Christ's death, when many people who would have been alive at the time could have affirmed or contradicted his account. He challenged them to contradict his account. No one did.

Would the apostles have been transformed from feckless unbelievers to bold proclaimers of the Gospel had they not witnessed Jesus Christ in his bodily resurrection? What incentive would they have had to subject themselves to abuse, ridicule, mistreatment and ultimately martyrdom if they had not seen him?

It's one thing to suggest that someone would die for an ideology he believes in even without physical evidence; it's altogether another to contemplate that men would die for something they absolutely knew to be false. For if Jesus Christ had remained in the tomb and had not appeared to them, they likely would have believed their earlier hope had been for naught, but in any case, they wouldn't have manufactured a mythical story that they had seen him alive when they hadn't just so they could have the pleasure of dying for nothing. Dwell on that for a moment — seriously.

No, these followers did not die for an abstract ideology. They did not develop some elaborate theology around which they could base a religion for no reason. They were eyewitnesses to the most remarkable event in human history, and their faith was built around that. Their theology was grounded in the historical fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, which Paul admitted is essential for the validity and authenticity of the Christian faith.

For as Paul said, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; for you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:14-19).

The fact of the historical Resurrection, my friends, is essential and foundational to Christianity. We Christians don't deny that our faith depends on it. We can't. This faith is not based on idle speculation. It is not based on some man-made ideology. It is grounded in the historical truth of Christ's incarnation, his sinless life, his suffering, his death and his resurrection.

The biblical records come down to us with flawless accuracy as originally written by numerous reliable eyewitnesses who had the greatest motivation imaginable to carry this "good news" to the ends of the earth. And they did.

David Limbaugh is a writer, author and attorney. His latest book is "Jesus on Trial: A Lawyer Affirms the Truth of the Gospel." Follow him on Twitter @davidlimbaugh and his website at www.davidlimbaugh.com. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... Can't you get the NT correct. Some of the Apostles were certainly willing to kill for Jesus. When they had the chance, to die with him, most of them took a powder. And what is the big deal? Isn't it possible that even Jesus died a little for himself, like we all die a little for ourselves to have a little nip at the life that is eating us alive? I have lived too much against my will for others. For their support, their help, and the caring for friends and for family. I was a born beast of burden. And in those rare moment when people were not making demands upon me, cracking the whip, or asking for harder faster and smarter, then, I was living for myself, and I liked it. Why should I fight your fight. Why should your profit mean more to me than my own.
Sir; you are a fool to believe your proof of Christ or Christianity or of any religion is worth spit, or even needed. There is no train of logic that can disprove God, and there is no logic or fact that proves God. You are a simple idiot to think you can do what is not needed done to begin with. The more impossible is God, the sooner faith is invoked. Bring up the first point to be proved, and the whole impossible house of cards is shown for what it is: all need and desire clinging to the garbled transmissions of faith cobbled together from fragments of another age. You don't really want people to think about it because thought requires critical judgement. Consider for a moment that any part of it may be wrong. Does it matter that an event in front of all others in three gospels is last in the fourth. Does it matter that the poor become the poor in spirit in the forth sermon on the mount. Does it matter that Jesus was a Jew when the last Gospel is antisemetic and lays the death of Jesus at the feet of the Jews?
You see; to read the bible with a critical eyes is to learn of something without ever knowing its strength or weight. I know the power of God, and it is exactly equal to the need for God in people's live and that is the triumph of bad people everywhere, and here I include you, that you make it worse across the board for people, and then say: That's too bad, but here is a sweety, a little bonbon God to make you feel better about your misery. People without the slightest courage flock to Jesus, and Jesus could not step on their toe without them howling for an attorney. You can't count on these people to die for Christ, and to live for Christ is simply out of the question.
These churches some times put their positions on full display: There was a print just inside the door where I used to go to church, and it was of Jesus holding a lost sheep. The tradition of this is still evident in many places in this world. A lost sheep is not uncommon. When found, the lamb's foot is smashed, so it must be carried for a time, and it is forever hobbled. People like you want every Christian's foor smashed as they walk through the door. You do not want them to find the truth or even to consider it. You want them to accept on faith your defense of your religion which is no defense at all.
What people need they will seek, even if it is social poison, and will lead to the destruction of their society. And Jesus promised this, to divide families, and divide people. The belief in God is antagonistic to the practice of reason and reason is essential to government. And I have to ask if any people can live long with one leg mired in belief while their society demands some consent for the future, and some ability as an individual to reject one paradigm, and embrace another one.
We all know the suicidal tendency of Christianity; and how many Christians are willing to surrender their lives or sell their souls in the name of their particular dogma. There is nothing life affirming in Christianity. It is the religion of the dead. If it was a step up from paganism, it was a step away from the reason that made Rome and Greece great in our estimation. More than ever, we have to quit letting these dead people do our thinking, and that is true of those who wrote our constitution. Living and reasonable people have got to demand their day, and have to tell the Christians to get back in their cracker box churches to await the end of days.
It is not too much for reasonable people to ask people of faith to have their faith, to pray to God and trust in God. These religious nut cases want a foot in both worlds so they can always claim a special case having no real trust in reason and perhaps less faith in God. When the consequences of stupidity are only too well known, we cannot allow ourselves to be led by people doing as they please while giving God the credit for their failure. People do not have to reject goodness to act rationally. They do not have to reject reason to believe in God. All they have to do is realize that God blesses the wise, and in all things act with wisdom.
You may be a fine human being and a fair business person, and being fair in business allows a better expression of caring. To follow a church, to tap into the power of denomination to gain political office is still a surrender of common sense and social responsibility. It may be necessary to outlaw all churches to get the religious to act with a true humanitarian purpose, but I do believe it is possible. Put simply: you need Christians to have a church, but you don't need a church to be a Christian.
Thanks... Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Thu Sep 11, 2014 7:24 PM
Your right James A. Sweeney, this man is an idiot.
Comment: #2
Posted by: WILLIAM KELLEY
Thu Sep 11, 2014 10:19 PM
You right, William Kelley, this man is an idiot. I wrote a Sweeneyish sermon to Marc Dion, and am all out when it comes to dealing with idiots. This guy is nuts.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Tom
Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:06 AM
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