The Resurrection: More Objections Answered

by Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli

(Excerpt from the full article: Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ)

No alternative to a real resurrection has yet explained: the existence of the Gospels, the origin of the Christian faith, the failure of Christ’s enemies to produce his corpse, the empty tomb, the rolled-away stone, or the accounts of the post-resurrection appearances. Swoon, conspiracy, hallucination and myth have been shown to be the only alternatives to a real resurrection, and each has been refuted.

What reasons could be given at this point for anyone who still would refuse to believe? At this point, general rather than specific objections are usually given. For instance:

Objection 1: History is not an exact science. It does not yield absolute certainty like mathematics.

Reply:  This is true, but why would you note that fact now and not when you speak of Caesar or Luther or George Washington? History is not exact, but it is sufficient. No one doubts that Caesar crossed the Rubicon; why do many doubt that Jesus rose from the dead? The evidence for the latter is much better than for the former.

Objection 2: You can’t trust documents. Paper proves nothing. Anything can be forged.

Reply:  This is simply ignorance. Not trusting documents is like not trusting telescopes. Paper evidence suffices for most of what we believe; why should it suddenly become suspect here?

Objection 3: Because the resurrection is miraculous. It’s the content of the idea rather than the documentary evidence for it that makes it incredible.

Reply:  Now we finally have a straightforward objection—not to the documentary evidence but to miracles. This is a philosophical question, not a scientific, historical or textual question. (See chapter five in this book for an answer).

Objection 4: It’s not only miracles in general but this miracle in particular that is objectionable. The resurrection of a corpse is crass, crude, vulgar, literalistic and materialistic. Religion should be more spiritual, inward, ethical.

Reply:  If religion is what we invent, we can make it whatever we like. If it is what God invented, then we have to take it as we find it, just as we have to take the universe as we find it, rather than as we’d like it to be. Death is crass, crude, vulgar, literal and material. The resurrection meets death where it is and conquers it, rather than merely spouting some harmless, vaporous abstractions about spirituality. The resurrection is as vulgar as the God who did it. He also made mud and bugs and toenails.

Objection 5: But a literalistic interpretation of the resurrection ignores the profound dimensions of meaning found in the symbolic, spiritual and mythic realms that have been deeply explored by other religions. Why are Christians so narrow and exclusive? Why can’t they see the profound symbolism in the idea of resurrection?

Reply:  They can. It’s not either-or. Christianity does not invalidate the myths, it validates them, by incarnating them. It is “myth become fact,” to use the title of a germane essay by C.S. Lewis (in God in the Dock). Why prefer a one-layer cake to a two-layer cake? Why refuse either the literal-historical or the mythic-symbolic aspects of the resurrection? The Fundamentalist refuses the mythic-symbolic aspects because he has seen what the Modernist has done with it: used it to exclude the literal-historical aspects. Why have the Modernists done that? What terrible fate awaits them if they follow the multifarious and weighty evidence and argument that naturally emerges from the data, as we have summarized it here in this chapter?

The answer is not obscure: traditional Christianity awaits them, complete with adoration of Christ as God, obedience to Christ as Lord, dependence on Christ as Savior, humble confession of sin and a serious effort to live Christ’s life of self-sacrifice, detachment from the world, righteousness, holiness and purity of thought, word and deed. The historical evidence is massive enough to convince the open-minded inquirer. By analogy with any other historical event, the resurrection has eminently credible evidence behind it. To disbelieve it, you must deliberately make an exception to the rules you use everywhere else in history. Now why would someone want to do that?

Ask yourself that question if you dare, and take an honest look into your heart before you answer.


Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli

The Poached Egg

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…