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The Resurrection: A Physical and Historical Event

The following excerpt is modified from chapter 18 of Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century.

Christianity rests on a single, history-changing event: the resurrection of Christ. Paul himself proclaimed clearly, boldly, and unswervingly, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” and again, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).

Liberal scholars for the last two centuries have attempted to dismiss the resurrection as a myth tacked on to the life of the “historical Jesus.” In 1 Corinthians 15:3–8, Paul clearly describes the resurrection and subsequent witnesses in a passage that is universally accepted as being from no later than about 50 A.D., not long after he personally met with Peter and James and heard their accounts. The short years between the resurrection even and the penning of this passage are simply not enough time for a “resurrection” myth to have developed.

Even a cursory reading of the book of Acts reveals that the central message of the apostles was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, an event of which they were eye-witnesses. A few passages from the apostolic sermons in Acts include:

  • This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. (2:32)
  • And you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To
    this we are witnesses. (3:15)
  • The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (5:30–32)
  • And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. (10:39–41)

Critics have offered various explanations for the empty tomb found on Easter morning, none of which stand up to scrutiny. The most popular explanation is that the apostles stole the body to further their agenda. However, the apostles faced excruciating executions that could have easily been avoided if they had produced the stolen body. It is psychologically unlikely that an entire group of men would stand up to torture and death for the sake of a hoax. Other lines of thought believe that thieves or the Pharisees stole the body. There were plenty of people, namely the Pharisees, who wanted to see Christianity stamped out and would have stopped at nothing to find and produce the body. The young faith could have been easily strangled from the beginning if anyone had been able to produce it.

Scripture makes it clear that the resurrection was a physical and entirely historic event. The apostles take great pains to explain that they were witnesses of the risen Christ, and history provides us with an indisputable fact that no sources, Christian or otherwise, ever disputed: the tomb into which Jesus’ body was laid on Good Friday was empty on Easter morning.

April 23, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Apologetics,Holidays,Jesus Christ,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,The Gospel,Theology | Author: Crossway Staff @ 7:00 am | (2) Comments »

Defending Your Beliefs

Scott Klusendorf recently spoke at a Students for Life of America conference. Klusendorf is the founder and president of Life Training Institute and is an expert on effectively communicating (and helping us to communicate) the pro-life message. Of course we highly recommend you pick up his book The Case for Life. But even if you don’t, please do check out the video below where he helps us answer the question: How do you engage (namely in the pro-life/pro-choice conversation happening around us)?

February 23, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Apologetics,Culture,Current Issues,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Theology | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 6:00 am | (4) Comments »

Preaching an Objective Message in a Subjective Culture

Guest Post by Josh Moody, author of No Other Gospel

I confess. I went to see Avatar. In 3D. Since then I’ve seen Narnia in 3D, and was transfixed to discover that now you can buy TVs which transmit in 3D.  I’m not sure I can personally imagine sitting in my living room watching a small screen with oversize 3D specs perched on my nose, but technology can do strange things to us all.

When we think about following Jesus today we are aware that our culture’s attitude to truth has changed. No longer do we live in a time when people assume there is one truth about important matters, and our human task is to find that truth and live in its light. Instead, the common idea is that there are multiple ‘truths’. Truth is relative, it is a matter of opinion, it is in the eye of the beholder like beauty (so-called).

As a Christian, or someone who is encouraged to follow Jesus, we may feel like we are putting on our faith 3D glasses. We adopt a certain perspective on life that makes things look better. They come alive.  They have a sharper focus.  And it is our preference. We are looking at life through faith (3D) lenses.

But what if the reverse were true? What if instead of living by faith being like putting on glasses to look at life, living by faith is taking off the blinkers? What if, in our natural human selves, we are at least a little more like Plato’s cave, where we are merely looking at the shadows formed on the wall, and the great light is behind us, which we have to turn around to face?  Or to put in biblical, and better, terms, what if actually living by faith in Jesus was seeing (instead of being blind) hearing (instead of being deaf).

If this is the truth (capital ‘T’), then following Jesus is not a matter of perspective, or opinion, but a matter of seeing things as they are really are. Any other perspective on life is like being the captain of our own personal Titanic and refusing to believe that there is an iceberg ahead.

This seems to be more how the Bible looks at it. It is uncomfortable to think that without faith in Christ I am blind, but no less an authority than Jesus seems to clearly suggest that is the case (John 9:39).

Or if you look at Paul’s advise towards the end of his letter to the Colossians. In Colossians 4:2-6 he gives some very practical, and extremely helpful, counsel about how to be a witness without being an offense. “Conduct yourself wisely toward outsiders.” “Let your speech always be grace, seasoned with salt.” Paul is saying that we are to pray for opportunities, pray for those who preach the gospel to preach it clearly, and then make the most of opportunities (instead of forcing opportunities).  And to do so with winsomeness and insight (‘salt’ is used in secular Greek even for ‘wit’).

This is very helpful. But it begs the question why? And that question is not answered, and there is no motivation to reach out, unless we have the entire perspective of that letter.  And that ‘perspective’ is God’s perspective, which is the Supremacy of Christ.  Unless we see (Colossians 1) that Christ is the head of all things, and realize that He is the judge, and the Lord, and it is only through Him that salvation comes – unless we see Jesus not as the patronizing caricature of the really very nice man, but as the God-incarnate crucified Son of God that he was – unless we have that divine perspective we won’t even want to follow the practical advice of Colossians 4:2-6.

So, really, everything has changed in our more subjective, relativistic, world. But what has actually changed is that now we are living in a society that in some ways is far more like biblical society, or the society that the Bible writers were reaching out to with the gospel. Theirs was a culture of many ‘gods’ not one God, with many opinions and viewpoints, not one metanarrative, and as such the practical advice of Colossians 4 and the divine perspective of Colossians 1 are exactly what we need – perhaps as never before since they were first written.

So how do you believe and encourage others to believe in the Christian gospel in a more subjective age, where truth is a matter of opinion?  You take courage from the fact that that kind of age is similar to the time which saw the greatest expansion of the church: its first century or two. And we follow their approach. Which is to preach Christ crucified as Lord of all.

Josh Moody is the Senior Pastor at College Church in Wheaton, IL. Learn more about his newest release, No Other Gospel.

Q: If pain & evil exist, then how can your God be good?

apologetics3One common argument against the existence of God is the ubiquitous presence of pain and evil in our world. Modern thinkers often conclude that horror and injustice make the existence of a loving, all-powerful God implausible.

Interestingly enough, it is the last two generations of Europeans and Americans, generations that have experienced a radical decrease in suffering, that have struggled the most with the problem of pain, much more so than previous generations that experienced much greater suffering in general.

In Apologetics for the Twenty-First Century, Louis Markos holds that the reason for this shift dates back to the eighteenth century writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who philosophized that humans were inherently good. Until then, people had accepted pain and suffering as a result of the inherently sinful nature of man. “Because we misunderstand—or refuse to accept—that we are fallen, we imagine that we ourselves (apart from God) can eradicate evil and suffering through state-funded public education, universal health care, and free-market capitalism…we are left angry and bitter when we do not get what we think we deserve,” Markos says in chapter 15.

“Because we misunderstand—

or refuse to accept—that we are fallen,

we imagine that we ourselves (apart from God)

can eradicate evil and suffering…”

Arguments have been made that if God is all-powerful and all-loving, that he would do anything he wants and eliminate suffering. The philosopher Alvin Plantigna refutes these claims by pointing out that God does not do irrational things, i.e. make a square a circle or simultaneously give and not give us free will in order to combat suffering. Many scenarios exist by which God demonstrates his love and power by using evil for good. In this way, God ensures our free will and shapes us into the people that he would have us be.

apologetics-for-the-21st-century2All other arguments aside, we see in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ a God who suffers for us and with us. He experienced full suffering himself on our behalf and is therefore a God who can truly empathize with our pain. While God does not promise that we will not suffer, he does promise to be with us when we do.

Excerpt modified from chapter 15 of Apologetics for the 21st Century.

October 21, 2010 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Apologetics,Church History,Culture,Life / Doctrine,The Christian Life,Theology,Trials / Suffering | Author: Crossway Staff @ 6:00 am | (2) Comments »

Improving the Gospel or Losing the Gospel?

Mark Dever on Unbiblical Theology: Questioning 5 Common Deceits
Adapted from Proclaiming a Cross-Centered Theology

New challenges to the clarity and sufficiency of the gospel arise in each generation. Today some people, even within evangelicalism, are acting and speaking as if Jesus Christ alone is not fully sufficient and as if faith in him and his promises alone is a reduction of the full gospel. They are effectively modifying, or expanding, the gospel we have received.

There are several different ways that people are trying to supplement or add to the gospel. Let’s consider some of the threats that we face, some of the mistaken notions that threaten to carry us away.

1. “Make the Gospel Social!” I don’t mean by this to communicate any indifference about issues of this life. Are both evangelism and compassionate service to be part of our individual discipleship? Yes. Are they both to typify our lives as Christians? Yes. Are they equally part of the gospel? No. Never substitute doing good works for sharing the gospel. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it social; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

2. “Make the Gospel Larger!” There is a problem of confusing an action of ours with the gospel itself, even if that action can be said to reflect the gospel or to be consistent with it, perhaps even be an implication of it. When someone says that the gospel includes opposition to abortion or working to end unjust laws, then I have a few questions: does it also include nationalized health care or the war in Iraq? To require us to include what we take to be implications of the gospel as part of the gospel itself can too easily confuse our message and cause us to lose the radical and gracious sufficiency of faith in Christ alone. We want a Christian worldview and we don’t want to confuse that with the gospel. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it larger; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

3. “Make the Gospel Relevant!” We should reject any kind of “relevance” that sacrifices the very distinctiveness that Scripture tells us will a part of our life-saving witness to the gospel among those we would reach. We should illustrate the gospel before them by our lives of Christlike love. The gospel’s relevance appears precisely in our being distinct. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it more relevant; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

4. “Make the Gospel Personal!” Some people seem to understand the gospel only in reference to themselves as individuals with no idea of the local church. This individualism, which ignores the local church, ends up distorting our discipleship and even our gospel. The local church is a glorious testimony to the gospel, which is greater than the sum of its visible parts. The local church is not simply a collection of individual lights; it is a furnace that rages against the dark that God uses to create more lights. Don’t try to improve the gospel by decoupling it from the church; you’ll end up losing it. We must preach the gospel we have received.

5. “Make the Gospel Kinder!” Many people have assumed that the ultimate purpose of the gospel is the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Therefore, we should do whatever we can to reach whomever we can (which in and of itself, of course, is good). But here, “reaching them” is not seen as merely making sure they hear and understand the gospel, but making sure that they accept the gospel. God is in this for our salvation—and even our glory, as Paul says in 1 Cor 2:7—but also, and more fundamentally, he is in it to please himself, to demonstrate himself to the universe. He has a larger end in mind—the display of his character in creation, the theater of his splendor. Don’t try to improve the gospel by making it appear kinder at first glance. If you do, you’ll end up losing the gospel. We must preach the gospel we have received.

*You can also read chapter 5 on The Curse Motif of the Atonement by RC Sproul here.