Resurrection Hope for a Hopeless World

By Jenna Barlow

The fact that Jesus Christ was bodily resurrected from the dead is indispensable truth to Christian knowledge, faith, witness and practice. But it is not merely a “religious fact” and nor is it received on “blind faith.” It is a publicly known fact. If someone is willing, they can go discover whether it is true or not, and literally billions from around the world — and for more than a couple millennia now — have done just that; they have discovered, believed and banked their life on the credibility of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

Three Biola University professors, J.P. Moreland, Craig J. Hazen, and Clay Jones, recently took some time to share their expertise regarding this theological, historical and existentially important topic.

If Jesus was bodily raised from the dead, what difference does that make for Christianity as a knowledge tradition?

Moreland: This is an important question. If the resurrection of Jesus is a publicly known event, and the Bible testifies to that reality, then that means that the Bible gives us more than just a basis to believe that reality but a reason to actually have knowledge of that reality. If it speaks truthfully about that momentous reality, how much more so should it be trusted as a source of knowledge on other matters? On the other hand, if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then the Bible’s account of it has no greater authority than a creative piece of religious fiction. You might get a nice “warm fuzzy” feeling from it and even be inspired Oprah-style, but scripture would hardly be a worthwhile source of knowledge to guide action, if Jesus did not rise from the dead.

So, what do you find to be the top compelling reasons to show that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead?

Hazen: It really shocks most people to find that virtually all scholars in the field—whether believers or unbelievers, skeptics or supporters—consider some very important aspects of the Easter story to be true beyond a reasonable historical doubt.  Even the toughest critics of the resurrection hold that 1) Jesus died by crucifixion, 2) His tomb was discovered to be empty a few days later, 3) Jesus’ disciples believed they had experiences of the risen Jesus, 4) the disciples were transformed from doubters to bold witnesses of the risen Jesus, 5) James and Paul had independent experiences that they believed were real encounters with the risen Lord.

If both critics and believers agree to a set of facts, that should be considered knowable history.  The question then is, how do you account for these facts?  When you line up various theories to try to account for these (such as, Jesus had a twin brother, it was an hallucination, the whole thing is a legend) none of them capture the known data.  Jesus coming back from the dead on the third day as the Scriptures declare is the only compelling answer based on the known historical facts…

How is Christian hope rooted in the resurrection of Jesus?

Jones: The resurrection evidence sets Christianity apart from all other major world religions because the others offer no objective reason to believe their religion’s founders. Thus the adherents of other religions typically offer either a subjective test leading to bliss or enlightenment or they chant “Just believe!” But the Christian’s hope is founded on the eyewitness testimony of those who suffered and gave their lives because they were convinced they’d seen Jesus rise bodily from the grave!

How is hope related to faith?

Moreland: Faith is confidence or trust. It is rooted in knowledge of what is real, whether we are talking the reality of God or trusting my chair to hold me. Faith produces, nurtures and empowers hope. Hope is far more enriching than mere “wishful thinking.” It is often an expectation for change, for wellness to be ours. People change because they have hope. Hope needs faith. Faith in God creates a sustainable, dynamic and prosperous hope.

How and why is the resurrection of Jesus unique compared to other “divine power” claims in other world religions?

Hazen: In my view, one thing that sets Christianity apart from the other great religious traditions is that Christianity is “testable.”  That is, you can offer evidence for it and against it, and the evidence means something.  In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul wrote that if Jesus did not come back from the dead, our faith is worthless and empty.  Hence if the resurrection did not happen, Christianity is simply not true.  This unique feature puts Christianity in a class of its own among the world religions.  Christianity can be objectively tested…

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Resurrection Hope for a Hopeless World | Biola University

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RECOMMENDED RESOURCES:  The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus / The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach / The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3) / More suggestions…