Tom Gilson

He Is Risen! Three Reasons We Know It’s True

He is risen! How do we know? John Stonestreet of BreakPoint/The Colson Center for Christian Worldview does a daily one-minute nationwide radio broadcast called The Point. I write some of them for him, including three this week:

Women as Witnesses

Cowards in the Story

Cowards to Courageous

(The video is obviously just for the web. Click here if you don’t see it.)

These three minutes represent a version of the “minimal facts” case for Jesus' Resurrection, based on facts that few scholars dispute, including skeptics and unbelievers. As Brett Kunkle shares here, this approach begins with the handful of facts on which scholars agree, and asks, what is the best explanation for these things?

And you know the conclusion I draw: we can celebrate Christ's victory today, for he conquered sin and defeated death. He is risen indeed!

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11 thoughts on “He Is Risen! Three Reasons We Know It’s True

  1. You have to take polls with a grain of salt, but for some reason belief in the resurrection has gone down in America since last year.

    Perhaps this has something to do with the popularity of “rationalists” like Dawkins, Ehrman, etc. If so, it’s both tragic and ironic.

    I’d like to know what the response was to question #5, but they don’t give it out unless you subscribe.

  2. Hume said that the only justification for believing in a miracle is that all alternative explanations are even more improbable. I can think of countless explanations for these events that are much more probable, such as:

    * Like any decent yarn, there are tales of betrayal, cowardice, deception, etc. etc. The point of the gospel stories is to exalt Jesus, not his followers. What difference does it make if they were portrayed as fallible? I mean good grief, The Rock played a twisted bastard in “Faster”, yet he was the star! But wait… people want to admire the heroes in movies. Why would anyone make a movie centered on an antihero unless it was a historical documentary? Ergo, “Faster” is a historical documentary.

    * Suggesting that no author would say the witnesses were women operates on the false dichotomy that either it’s true, or someone deliberately fabricated it. It’s far more plausible that during its four decades of hearsay the details of the story got changed around; some stuck, others didn’t. Heck, that’s abundantly evident on the fact that only one of the four gospels mentions that there was an angel at the tomb. Apparently angel appearances were so commonplace back then that no one else thought to mention it.

    Besides, it’s not a court of law. The women don’t need to be viewed as anything special for the story to be believed. In the myth Jesus walks around and is witnessed by many men anyway. Y’know, before he floats up into the sky to sit at his own side, since Heaven is in the sky and he’s his own father, because that makes perfect sense.

    What is the best explanation for anonymously written stories told in the third person that do not claim to be based on eyewitness accounts, were passed around as hearsay for at least four decades, had innumerable details altered in the process, and ends up with accounts that tell fantastical tales of supernatural events while conflicting on the details?

    Probably that it’s not actually true.

  3. Mike, it wasn’t passed around as hearsay in the sense that you say: when the accounts were written down, especially the one in 1 Cor. 15, there were many eyewitnesses still alive. “Hearsay” in that culture was actually something much more reliable than in ours; there was a strongly established culture of accuracy in oral communication.

    As for “it’s not a court of law,” think of it this way. Think of what would have happened had the story come out of, say, white South African culture in the 1960s. Suppose a white-led religious group had said that the first people their resurrected God had appeared to were blacks. It’s just not the way people invent stories.

    What about “Faster”? Sounds like it’s being completely honest: it’s representing itself as fiction, and it is fiction.

    Look, you probably don’t care about this, but there is a principle that real historians use to make real historical judgments: the principle of embarrassment. It says that where some historical information has been recorded in spite of the fact that the person(s) recording it would be embarrassed by it, that embarrassment factor increases the likelihood that it’s true.

    I don’t think that the nasty people in “Faster” were embarrassed by being described that way.

    But the story of the Gospel is a story about the leaders of the early church as well (see the last 23 or so books of the Bible), even though as you say its purpose is to exalt Christ.

  4. Back around 2000, in a televised debate with Gary Habermas about the resurrection, Anthony Flew raised two good objections: (1) the uncertainty of ancient history and (2) doubts about God’s existence. While as a Christian I agree that there is very good historical evidence for the resurrection, I think that evidence is compelling because I believe in God. If God exists miracles, are not only possible but they are what we would expect. If God doesn’t exist then there has to be some other explanation. I agree! What I don’t agree with is that atheism should be accepted as some kind default position. My argument is that atheism is not the best explanation for the existence of the universe or my existence.

    My point is that using evidence for the resurrection with atheists is probably a waste of time. It would be better to start with their basic presuppositions about God’s existence. That’s where their arguments are embarrassingly weak.

  5. Mike D,

    What is the best explanation for anonymously written stories told in the third person that do not claim to be based on eyewitness accounts, were passed around as hearsay for at least four decades, had innumerable details altered in the process, and ends up with accounts that tell fantastical tales of supernatural events while conflicting on the details?

    What’s the probability that historians are wrong and you are right about the minimal facts? Let’s see the math.

  6. “Hearsay” in that culture was actually something much more reliable than in ours; there was a strongly established culture of accuracy in oral communication.

    What? Rubbish! There was a tradition of embroidery if anything.

  7. It is the argumentum ad landfillum: declare the other person’s position rubbish, with no sources, no evidence, no explanation, no reasoning, and you make your point! Excellent work, BobM.

  8. I have been doing some research of my own as to why to believe in the resurrection of Jesus. Here is my list of top ten reasons:

    1. Jesus’ tomb was found empty by some of his women followers.

    2. The disciples, beginning with women, had experiences which they believed were physical appearances of the risen Jesus.

    3. The disciples were transformed from discouraged doubters in despair to bold proclaimers of a new faith.

    4. The Resurrection was central to their message.

    5. They preached the message of Jesus’ resurrection starting in Jerusalem.

    6. The church was born and grew rapidly.

    7. Paul & James (Jesus’ half brother) were converted to the faith when they saw the resurrected Jesus.

    8. Orthodox Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah made Sunday their primary day of worship.

    9. A Messiah who died and was resurrected was not part of the first century Jewish theology. The early Christian teaching about their Messiah was completely new and original. The resurrection explains this.

    10. The first century teaching of the second coming is evidence of a real resurrection. Why would such a teaching emerge if they any of his early followers suspected that their Messiah was dead and buried?

    Agree or disagree? If you had to come up with ten top reasons what would you include on your list?

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