by David Krueger
"I do not think that anyone, anywhere, at any time brings dead people back to life." That blunt assessment comes from John Dominic Crossan, a leading figure in the Jesus Seminar, and one of the most influential authors on religion in post-Christian America. Any time you see a special on T.V. about the life of Christ, Crossan is one of the theological talking-heads you’ll see and hear. Thomas Sheehan, another fellow of the Seminar, put it even more directly: "Jesus, regardless of where his corpse ended up, is dead and remains dead."
The claim that Jesus actually rose from the dead on the third day is perhaps the greatest scandal of authentic Christianity in the face of modern secularism. Intellectual sophisticates and pseudo-Christian scholars cluck their tongues and wag their heads at those of us just silly enough to believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ. “How,” they ask, “can right-thinking moderns believe in such ancient myths and stories? After all, anyone with a modicum of common sense knows that dead person simply do not rise from the dead.”
Such theological drivel is not new.
During the period of history known at The Enlightenment, spiritual darkness began to spread throughout western Europe, England, and even America. One result of this spiritual darkness was the philosophy of Deism, the belief that God is an unconcerned creator, and that the miraculous events of the Bible cannot be true since they are neither scientifically or rationally verifiable. With the rise of historical criticism, the resurrection and the miraculous world of the New Testament were simply out of date. Some biblical scholars began to distinguish between the “Christ of faith,” and the “Jesus of history” and assumed that the Jesus of history was more myth than reality.
In England, two of the most brilliant men of their day had both become deists. They were both professors at Oxford University. Their names were Gilbert West and Lord Lyttleton. The two men were determined to silence the defenders of the supernatural in the Bible. They conferred together and decided that each would write a book. One would attack the alleged resurrection of Jesus from the dead, while the other would attempt to disprove the alleged conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Lyttleton undertook to disprove that Saul of Tarsus was ever converted, as is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles -- that his conversion was nothing more than a myth. Gilbert West would turn his attention to disproving the resurrection of Christ from the dead. West said to Lyttleton, “I shall have to depend upon you for my facts, for I am somewhat rusty on the Bible.” To which Lyttleton replied that he was counting upon West, for he too was somewhat rusty on the Bible. Their conclusion was, “If we are to be honest in the matter, we ought at least to study the evidence.” Each began his own study of the Scriptural evidence.
They had numerous conferences together while they were preparing their works. In one of these conferences West said to Lyttleton that there had been something on his mind for some time that he thought he ought to speak to him about, that as he had been studying the evidence, he was beginning to feel that there was something to it. Lyttleton replied that he was glad to hear him say so, for he himself had been somewhat shaken as he had studied the evidence of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Finally, when the books were finished, the two men met. West said to Lyttleton, “Have you written your book?” He replied that he had, but he said, “West, as I have been studying the evidence and weighing it according to the recognized laws of legal evidence, I have become satisfied that Saul of Tarsus was converted as is stated in the Acts of the Apostles, and that Christianity is true and I have written my book on that side.” His book can still be found in most large libraries. “Have you written your book?” asked Lyttleton. “Yes, but as I have studied the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and have weighed it according to the acknowledged laws of evidence, I have become satisfied that Jesus really rose from the dead as recorded in the gospels, and have written my book on that side.” West's book can also be found in our libraries to-day.
Similar stories can be found in our own day. Frank Morison, author of “Who Moved the Stone?,” and Lee Strobel, author of “The Case for Christ,” both were unbelieving lawyers who set out to prove the nonsense of the resurrection. Both investigated the resurrection accounts and both were converted to faith in Christ. When the gospel story is carefully and dispassionately studied, it will invariably lead men to only one conclusion: Jesus rose bodily form the dead.
The Scriptures simply leave no room for negotiation on this matter. The Apostle Paul writes: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain,” (I Cor. 15:13-14). Christianity stands or falls on the historical validity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The bodily resurrection of our Lord is absolutely fundamental to biblical Christianity – and the gospel we preach and believe. To abandon this core belief would mean the end of Christianity as revealed in the New Testament.
Many years ago when Linda and I were in England we had the opportunity to visit Westminster Cathedral in London. It's the Cathedral where English royalty is wed and Kings and Queens coronated. It is also a place where many famous people are buried. On each tomb can be seen the words, "Here lieth the body of ... " Then the name of some general, artist, scholar, politician or clergyman. How different it is at the tomb of Jesus. There you will not find a tombstone with the inscription, "Here lieth the body of Jesus of Nazereth." Instead we hear the words of the angel on Easter morning as our Lord's epitaph, "He is not here: for he is risen. Come see the place where the Lord did lay." To me, this is the most explosive verse in the entire Bible. Because the tomb is empty, we can sing with great assurance that old gospel hymn ...
I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;
I know that He is living, whatever men may say;
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He’s always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.