Resurrection (is Not) for Dummies
Post-Easter, I thought I would offer a few tidbits for those who wonder if one can be a Christian and use her/his brain at the same time. I hope you are encouraged in your faith or challenged in your skepticism, or perhaps both, as you consider…
It is no small thing that C.S. Lewis was an Oxford University historian and atheist-turned-Christian, who came to believe that “The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be a myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history.”
Dr. Simon Greenleaf, a founder of Harvard University School of Law, also came to believe in the resurrection. Greenleaf wrote the book, Treatise on the Law of Evidence, which continues to be esteemed by many legal scholars as the greatest volume ever written on the use of empirical evidence to prove or disprove historical truth claims. Once an antagonist toward Christianity, the professor would mock the “resurrection myth” to his students. When challenged to prove his assertion by use of his genius analytical skills, he accepted the challenge. But after doing his research, Greenleaf concluded that any honest cross-examination of the evidence for the resurrection of Christ would result in “an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability, and truth.”
Anne Rice, the brilliant and famed atheist writer of The Vampire Chronicles, wrote about her conversion to Christianity, “The world of atheism was cracking apart for me… I was losing my faith in the nonexistence of God.”
There are also world-renowned scientists like Pascal, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and others who came to embrace the resurrection as true. You can add thinkers like Francis Collins, the esteemed architect of the genome project and the many scientists and cutting-edge healthcare professionals in the church that I serve. All would tell you that their faith and their science, far from being contradictory, are deeply compatible with one another. Flexing their well-developed intellectual muscles, each would say that their faith supports and animates their science, and their science drives them to a place of awe for the One who created and sustains it all.
What’s more, none of these scientists accept the secular claim that miracles are impossible, therefore delegitimizing the Jesus and resurrection story. For them, it’s not an intellectual hurdle at all. If there is a God powerful enough to create the entire universe, he is also powerful enough to suspend the laws of nature that he created. He does this both to reveal his power, to provide assurance that we are not alone in the universe, and to demonstrate that our lives are infused with infinite meaning.
Based on these and many other “convincing proofs” that Jesus rose from the dead (Acts 1:3), it seems to take more faith not to believe in the resurrection than it does to believe.
In my experience at least, the main hang-up that my non-Christian friends and family members have with Christianity is less intellectual and more emotional. Rather than being a function of rational thought, their non-belief appears, in most cases, to be more of a posture of the heart and will. As C.S. Lewis wrote about his former life as an atheist, “I was angry with God for not existing.”
Recently, I spoke with a man who had heard the story of Jesus and the “many convincing proofs” of the resurrection several times in his life. Yet, this man seemed deeply defensive, even overtly hostile, to the idea of becoming a Christian himself. I pointed out to my friend that he seemed not merely to disagree with the Gospel message, but that he seemed prone to also attack it. I asked him why this was so.
After a quiet pause, he answered, “Okay, Scott, I’ll tell you the truth. I’ll tell you the real reason why I dislike Christianity. It’s not because the evidence is unconvincing to me. In fact, the opposite is true. But I still don’t ever want to become a Christian because if I do, Jesus will ask me to forgive my father for the ways that he hurt me.”
I have had many similar conversations in which the person in front of me, when push came to shove, had no issues with the rational aspect of faith—but used the rational arguments as a smokescreen. For each of these friends and family members, beneath the surface was something about Christian discipleship—something about the narrow path of Jesus—that bothered them on a visceral level about the call to agree with and follow Jesus in every area of life. For my friend with the difficult father story, it was a painful memory of his deceased father that he didn’t want to release to God. The call of Christ to “forgive… just as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Colossians 3:13) felt impossible for him. I understand his concern and hope that you do too. The call of discipleship is a call, as Bonhoeffer once wrote, to “come and die.” For some, death to the things we are holding onto feels almost impossible to fathom.
For others, it is difficult to envision surrendering to Jesus their approach to money, their sexuality, their prejudice, their addictions, their divisive and partisan attitudes, or their self-righteousness.
And yet, the call to consider Christ remains the same. Embracing the resurrection and absolute lordship of Jesus Christ come as a package deal. If Jesus is risen from the dead, then it means we are accountable to all that Jesus said, namely, that we are sinners who are without hope apart from him, and that our lives belong completely to him. “Christ is risen!” means that he has a claim on our lives. He is the boss of us. He has full rights over us. He is Lord.
Scott’s latest book, A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us-Against-Them
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 C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics.
 Anne Rice, Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession.