Were the Apostles Willing to Die for a Misguided Faith?

by Sean McDowell

Could the apostles have been sincere but misguided in their convictions about Jesus? In my recent book The Fate of the Apostles, I make the case that all the apostles were willing to suffer and die for their faith, and some of them did. A common objection, however, is that they were sincere but misguided. In other words, the apostles were not liars—they just mistakenly died for something that was false.

One problem with this objection is that the resurrection lies at the core of the first Christian kerygma. In other words, to be a Christian was to believe in the resurrection, which is clear from the earliest Christian creeds, the New Testament itself, and the apostolic fathers.[1] William Lane Craig observes,

It is difficult to exaggerate what a devastating effect the crucifixion must have had on the disciples. They had left everything for him, and now he was dead. They had left everything for him, and now he was dead. They had no conception of a dying, much less rising, Messiah, for Messiah would reign forever (cf. John 12:34). Without prior belief in the resurrection, belief in Jesus as Messiah would have been impossible in view of his death.[2]

Craig argues that without the resurrection the Christian faith could not have come into being. It was the resurrection that turned tragedy into triumph. God had vindicated the person of Jesus Christ by raising him from the dead. Thus, he could be proclaimed as the long-awaited Messiah (Acts 2:32-36). If Jesus had not risen, Paul claims the faith of a Christian is worthless and there is no forgiveness for sins (1 Cor 15:14, 17). But since Jesus has risen salvation is possible (Rom 10:9), without belief in the resurrection, the disciples would have seen Jesus as a failed Messiah (Luke 24:21). They would have returned to their previous jobs and gone on with their lives as before. Craig concludes…

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Were the Apostles Willing to Die for a Misguided Faith? – Sean McDowell