THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE FACES THE RESURRECTION

Scriptures: I Corinthians 15 and Acts 17

 

Investigating the evidence of Christ’s resurrection.

 

Theories of Evidence:  (1) Use of evidence, (2) Credibility of evidence, (3) Source of evidence (ignorance, incompetence), (4) Statistics (probability), (5) Self evident, (6) Foundationalism, (7) Truth (a characteristic of assertions, judgments, and beliefs) (8) Postmodern denial of available evidence to adjudicate between contradictory statements.

                                                                                                                                                                                            

                                                               Why did Jesus die?  Jesus put the Kingdom of God up against Caesar and that act led to a political execution that launched a worldwide religion.  Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ?”. . .“Let Him be crucified!”

 

                                                               It is called The Passion, the dramatic Gospel account of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago.  To Paul, the crucifixion of Jesus was the heart of the Gospel (I Cor. 1.18), “the power of God unto salvation.”  Every Lord’s Day and Lord’s Table reminds Christians of the death and resurrection of Jesus (“Do this in remembrance of me”). 

 

                                                               As long as Christians are marginalized and disenfranchised, John Crosean says in his 1995 book, Who Killed Jesus?, “such passive fiction about Jewish responsibility and Roman innocence nobody much cared.  But once the Roman Empire became Christian the fiction turned lethal.”  Even the TIME magazine article (December 6, 1999) “Jesus of Nazareth, Then and Now” by Reynolds Price, p. 84-94 exposes our postmodern plight.

 

                                                               “The memory of any stretch of years eventually resolves to a list of names as one of the useful ways of recalling the past two millennia as to whom acquired great power. “Muhammad, Catherine the Great, Marx, Ghandi, Hitler, Roosevelt, Stalin and Mao come quickly to mind.  [The list should at least include Kierkegaard, Wellhausen, Darwin, Freud, Keynes and Einstein.  These men rule the world from the grave.] . . .”There is no question that each of these figures changed the lives of missions and evoked responses from worship to hatred.  It would require much exotic calculation, however, to deny that the single most powerful figure, not merely in these two millenniums, but in all human history, has been JESUS OF NAZARETH!  Who was Jesus and how can we learn more about Him”?

 

                                                               Even Napoleon declared, “Everything in Christ astonishes me.  His spirit overawes me, and His will confounds me.  Between Him and whoever else in the world, there is no possible term of comparison.  He is truly a being by Himself. . . .  I search in vain in history to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything that can approach the Gospel.  Neither history, nor humanity, nor the ages, nor nature offer me anything with which I am able to compare it or to explain it.  Here everything is extraordinary.”

 

                                                               It is past strange that this view of Jesus is completely rejected by most major religious scholars (e.g. the Jesus Seminar) with their postmodern agenda.  The postmodern Christ is a far cry from the Jesus that changed and continually changes the world.  The Devil’s Advocate reimages Jesus to fit our post modern secularist perspective.  And the theologians are leading the pack.  Just listen to titles hitting the bestseller bookshelves.  Anglican Bishop John Spong wrote Born of A Woman, offering the preposterous suggestion that Mary was raped, and that the Church as a cover-up concocted the Virgin birth.  (Perhaps not; let us take a trip back to Isaiah 7.14)

 

                                                               Divinity professor Barbara Theoring authored, Jesus: The Man, in which she ways that Jesus didn’t die on the cross.  He was just poisoned.  He was revived and went on to marry and raise three children.

 

                                                               In The Historical Jesus, Catholic John Crossen argues that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead.  Instead His body was buried in a shallow grave and later dug up and devoured by dogs.

 

                                                               Even some evangelicals have separated faith from facts.  The Bible is simply a collection of myths and errors, they say.  Their postmodern message is that the Bible is true in its spiritual message but that it is full of errors.

 

                                                               The Scriptures never separate faith and facts.  In I Corinthians 15.17-19, Paul explicitly argues that “If Christ was not physically raised from the dead, our faith is worthless.”  The colour-coded gospels from The Jesus Seminar, like their classical liberal fellows, merely make Jesus in their own image.  There is no middle ground.  C.S. Lewis is correct when he stated that “Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar or our Lord!!”

 

                                                               But if I were The Devil’s Advocate here are some ways that I would have “faked” the resurrection.  I would wait a prudent period after the event before “publishing” my account.  I would publish my account far from the venue where it supposedly happened.  Dr. William Lane Craig brilliantly writes, “One of the most amazing facts about the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection was that it originated in the very city where Jesus was crucified.  The Christian faith did not come to exist in some distant city far away from eyewitnesses  who knew of Jesus’ death and burial.  No, it came into being in the very city where Jesus had been publicly crucified, under the very eyes of its enemies.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

                                                               I would select my “witnesses” very carefully. 

                                                               I would avoid using names, especially prominent personalities as witnesses.  Yet, sixteen witnesses  are mentioned by name, and the mention of Joseph of Arimathea as the man who buried Jesus would have been extremely dangerous if the gospel accounts had been faked or embellished.  As a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court), he would have been well known.  His involvement in the burial of Jesus could have been easily confirmed or refuted.  Especially, it would have been illegal for women to be public witnesses, since their witness was considered invalid. If the accounts were fabricated, the women would have never been included in the story.                                                    

                                                               I would have painstakingly correlated my account with others I knew and embellished the legend only where I could be confident of not being contradicted.  Many critics have pointed out the befuddling differences and apparent contradictions of the resurrection accounts.  The different accounts display an ingenious lack of collusion. 

 

                                                               I would portray any co-conspirators and myself sympathetically, even heretically.  The Gospel writers present strikingly unflattering portraits of Jesus’ followers, such as Peter and Thomas and their often sceptical reactions (Mark 16.11, 13; Luke 24.11,37; John 20.19-25; and 21.3).  Such portrayals are very unlike the popular myths and legends of that time (e.g. classical Greek and Roman myths). 

 

                                                               I would disguise the location of the tomb or destroy it in my account.  If I were creating a resurrection legend, I would keep the tomb’s location a secret to prevent any chance that someone might discover Jesus’ body or make His resurrection a spiritual one!  (e.g. John 19.41, the garden tomb)  The resurrection accounts identify Jesus’ resurrection as a bodily one (John 20.17).

 

                                                               I would attempt to squelch any inquiry or investigation.  I would attempt to curse or attach a stigma to anyone so shallow as to require evidence (a la Barth and all neo orthodox followers of Kierkegaard).  It would have been easy to confirm or discredit the nature of the evidence (Acts 2.32; 3.15; 13.3; I Corinthians 13.3).                    If Jesus’ tomb were not found empty, it would have been easy to negate the new faith.  Dr. Edwin Yamauchi says that it would have been easy to find witnesses against Christ’s resurrection , if there were any.  Even after the resurrection, most did not believe in Christ as Lord.

 

                                                               I would stop short of dying for my lie (or fiction).  Only those who believe in the truth about the Lord’s resurrection are prepared to die for their faith (Steven, Paul, John, the Patristic martyrs, modern martyrs for Christ, e.g. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemuller). These lives were among the “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1.3).  Countless millions have done the same--have we?   If  I were the Devil’s Advocate, I would attempt to explain away Christ’s resurrection if I could!  (See article by Josh McDowell, “If I Had Faked The Resurrection” Focus On The Family, April 2-4).

 

JDS