The Resurrection of Jesus: A Christian Apologetics Cornerstone
by Steve Wilkinson
Jesus’ resurrection after his crucifixion and death is the cornerstone of the Christian faith. The apostle Paul, after giving an account (1 Cor 15) of this event, says that if it didn’t happen, the Christian religion is useless. He adds that, then, Christians should be most pitied because they are still in trouble with the God of the universe. But even on a practical note, it would seem that for people who spend a good portion of their time on Christian activities, that time could be much better spent.
Paul makes a pretty strong claim. And let’s face it, if Jesus is either myth or dead somewhere, the rest of our apologetics are pointless. And it wasn’t just Paul highlighting the importance of the resurrection; the other disciples based their case on the testimony of this event throughout their writings. Even Jesus points to the centrality of this event in Matthew 12:39-40. It is the KEY piece of evidence.
It is also an interesting claim in that it is historically grounded and testable in a unique way among world religions. The majority of world religions make no historical claims crucial to the religion. Sure, if Siddhartha Gautama never lived, it might throw a bit more skepticism on Buddhism, but it would have little impact on the truthfulness or falsity of the Buddhist worldview. Anyone could make similar claims about reality, which would need to be evaluated based on their own merit. Who made them, apart from this individual’s piety and sincerity (which might help credibility), is fairly irrelevant.
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For a Christian who recognizes the nature of inspired Scripture, little more is needed. The claim of Jesus’ resurrection is well supported by the Biblical texts. But how are Christians supposed to respond to the challenges of the skeptics concerning this historical event? How can a Christian be sure this event happened as recorded?
First, a bit more about the Biblical witness. There is not room in this article for a strong defense of why Christians hold the Bible as the trustworthy (and usually inerrant) Word of God, nor is there room to get into topics like textual criticism, or detailed evidence and argument concerning historical reliability.1 However, we can argue from the historical evidence generally agreed upon by historians to make a very strong case. This kind of defense won’t get you all the way to certainty, but demonstrates the reasonableness, as well as the best-explanation nature of the historical claim. Rather than being crazy to believe, it becomes rather crazy not to…