Part 7 of is series is the “how to” manual for using the previous 6 posts effectively. Obviously, this was not a full-on apologetics primer dealing with every aspect of the faith. This was the basic class. It was sort of like the wax-on, wax-off series. The historic truth of the resurrection event is THE single most important element of the faith to defend and argue. We can spend forever arguing about philosophy and Darwin and the crusades and any other aspect of Christianity. If you lose those arguments, it doesn’t change the fact that Christ died and was resurrected. If this happened, it acts as a reference point for every other teaching and thing we can know about God. This is the heart of our faith.  Paul puts it best:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received, I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
1 Corinthians 5:1-8

Verses 3 and 4 are thought to be part of one of the earliest creeds of the church.

Frequently, young people go off to college and are challenged with arguments and statements against the faith, but they lack any concrete arguments in its favor or to defend it, so they only have their presuppositions to utilize in defense of what they believe. As a result, they fall away easily when challenged. Or adults experience loss or frustration, then stumble because they do not know the historical events on which the faith is founded. It’s one thing to deny belief in God based on simple preferences, it’s another to deny a historical event. It’s like saying the French revolution didn’t happen. Or that Alexander the Great was a made up guy. Or that Nero was fictional. It’s not reasonable to just deny a historically provable event just because you don’t like it.

The previous posts demonstrated that there is ample historic evidence that is very reliable and well preserved that proves that Jesus was a real man, was executed by the Romans and rose again three days later.

Arguing the historical facts: The historic event is what needs to be argued when defending the resurrection. Simply arguing that it feels true or that Jesus changed your life is lovely, but it is subjective. Subjective proof cannot be demonstrated to others and it can be countered by clever arguments. Experience is a shifting foundation.

You will seldom encounter someone who will argue this history with any real knowledge of the more complex issues involved. Most folks know a few basic arguments and bust them out when itching for a fight or when offering a simple explanation. One apologist I follow used the following analogy: the atheist comes into the conversation with his bandolier and his 5 or 6 arguments, ready to run you off. They seldom expect folks to have an informed response. After all, they reason, Christianity is based on myths and assumptions with no basis in fact. The last thing they expect is for real answers to be offered.

Different folks argue in different ways. Some people itch to argue and look for chances to debate. They relish in the opportunity to play mental chess. I cannot say that I identify with this perspective. However, I do love to tell people about Jesus. Frequently when talking about faith, challenges or objections are raised regarding proof or whether or not Jesus existed or if there was any proof. Or, even when folks just ask: how do we know Jesus is real?

So, here are a few of the questions and challenges that folks will encounter. The silver bullets in the atheist bandolier, if you will.

What if some guy just made all this stuff up and there is no Jesus? There are a few variations to this one. They include: There is no proof Jesus even existed. Jesus was probably just a legend. These are pretty typical arguments. They are easily responded to because of the wealth of evidence. The answers for these can be found in parts 3 and 4, as well as by understanding how the Bible came to be. You can point to the eye witnesses. Frequently, this will be met with: that’s the Bible, it’s biased. At that point you can explain that these books were written as eyewitness accounts and of course they are biased. They were written by guys who saw Jesus rise from the dead. They will be biased toward what they saw. Another response is that you cannot use the Bible to support the Bible. The problem of course being that the Bible is multiple accounts put together. You are using one eyewitness to support another (posts 5 and 6). Further, you can argue for the witnesses from outside the Bible that prove that Christ existed (Part 4). Knowing the details of these positions is important for responding effectively. The accusations are general and based on speculation, your responses must be specific. You have facts on your side.

The Bible wasn’t written until decades later and probably not by Jesus’ followers. This argument is best responded to using the arguments that deal with that matter in Post 3 and the Response to a comment on Post 3 post. We have external confirmation for the authorship of some of Paul’s writings and John. Both of these are found in the early church fathers. In addition, the early church held that the various apostles wrote the texts. This is more evidence for the position than there is against apostolic authorship. Further, most of what we know about the apostles is revealed in the Gospels. Why fake a book under a name no one has hard of? So, “Matthew didn’t write Matthew.” Well, who is this Matthew guy and why would anyone pretend to be him? Most of the argument are spurious. As for the written decades later argument, there is no real support for this position. In fact, the books themselves show clear signs of having been written before the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Further, the epistles confirm the details of the Gospel accounts. See posts 3 and 4 for more on these. It is also worth noting that no other historical documents are treated in this manner. The Gospel accounts are supported externally by other biblical, external Christian and external non-Christian sources. They are so well supported that willing blindness is the only way to ignore the texts. Also, read Response to a comment on Post Post 6 for information on the church fathers’ research of the original accounts.

The books were likely edited to change the Gospel accounts to present a message the church wanted. Read Post 5 for more on this one. The big idea to present in discussing this point is that the distribution of the texts made this tampering impossible.

The story was made up by men who were trying to con the stupid peasants. Check the accounts of the disciples deaths in post 3. They died badly. This was a stupid lie if it was a lie. Why die for something you made up? Often folks will come back with arguments that lots of people die for their beliefs. The disciples died swearing that they saw Jesus resurrected.

Some guy just wrote the whole Bible and made it up. This is easily dealt with using the information in post number 6.

No Roman records exist of Jesus’ crucifixion. I’ve heard this more often lately. The nice thing about this argument is that it lends support to Tacitus, who would then have supporting documents to base his claims on. (See Post 4) But, the important thing to know is that we don’t have accounts of tens of thousands of crucifixions. The Romans may have kept records, but lots of records are gone because this was thousands of years ago and time has a habit of destroying documents. Lack of records isn’t conclusive proof. There is, however, the Torah. (read more in Post 4)

The Gospel accounts are full of contradictions. I deal with this in Post 5. It is worth noting that if you are familiar with the Biblical accounts and the harmony of the gospels, you can call this one out. Most folks say this and have no idea where there are contradictions. However, if you do this, you must be prepared to addressed apparent contradictions. The better response is in post 3.

The fallback for dealing with claims that you can’t immediately answer is is the question: What is the proof for your argument? Very few of the opposing theories have real evidence supporting them. “Everybody knows” or “scholars say” is not proof. The accounts of the early church fathers that validate the Biblical texts are proof. Speculation from skeptics with PhDs is not. What makes this interesting is that the attacks leveled against Christianity most often deal with the idea that there is no evidence. Opposing theories unanimously suffer from the same malady.

Ultimately, this is just the basic stuff. It is just the resurrection. Future posts will deal with  other areas.

Advertisements