|"The alleged bodily resurrection of Jesus, if true, was very consequential concerning mankind's most fearful and important questions."
The Unrivaled Resurrection
What do some of the world's greatest lawyers say about the event that changed history from BC to AD?
Resurrection Reasoning - Part 5
In summary, the general consensus of modern scholarship accepts the following ten details as established historical facts:
Every attempt at an alternative explanation to the physical
resurrection of Jesus thus far has failed to provide a plausible
account for all of the preceding facts, and therefore has
been universally rejected by contemporary scholarship.
- Jesus died by crucifixion 2,000 years ago.
- Jesus was then placed in a tomb.
- A few days later, the tomb was found empty.
- Soon after, the Apostles began testifying that Jesus had
risen from the dead.
- The Apostles really believed they had seen Jesus alive again.
- Even opponents and skeptics of Christianity at the time
claimed to have seen Jesus alive again, and their lives were
transformed as a consequence.
- Almost all of the Apostles eventually died for their testimony
that they had seen the resurrected Jesus.
- In the face of brutal persecution, the movement of Christianity
grew beyond all reasonable expectation.
- The belief that Jesus was physically raised from the dead
was central and foundational to Christianity from the
- The corpse of Jesus has never been produced.
Yet unquestionably, something must have happened two
thousand years ago that was so dramatic it changed the course
of history from B.C. to A.D.
But as long as liberal and non-liberal scholars alike reject
all the preceding theories, how do they explain the facts of the empty tomb, the Resurrection appearances, and the origin of
the Christian faith? Remarkably, modern scholarship recognizes
no plausible naturalistic explanatory theory — liberal scholars
are self-confessedly left without an explanation, maintaining
there is not enough evidence to reach a firm conclusion.
The official journal of the Society of Humanist Philosophers,
Philo, an atheistic periodical that “gathers some of the
best minds in the world to provide rigorous critiques of religious
ideas and doctrines,” acknowledges, “We skeptics have
definitely not been keeping up our end of the debate in the
philosophy of religion. Theistic philosophers have recently
written a great deal about the historical arguments for the
resurrection of Jesus. These arguments are backed by an impressive
degree of historical and biblical scholarship and cannot
be lightly dismissed.”
Indeed, these three great facts — the empty tomb, the
Resurrection appearances, and the origin of the Christian faith
— all lead conservative scholars to one conclusion: The bodily
resurrection of Jesus.
One basic principle of logic says that simple explanations,
rather than complex ones that require many assumptions
and complicated reasoning, are most often correct. Extraordinarily
then, the resurrection of Jesus would be the simplest
explanation for all the facts involved — it requires the
least number of assumptions and minimal complex reasoning.
Any alternative theory must plausibly account for all the
facts of the case, and as yet, scholars recognize none as satisfactory.
Yet there are philosophical objections to such a spectacular
conclusion. Many people believe that any alternative theory,
however implausible, is more probable than the idea that God
actually raised Jesus from the dead.
One popular approach to exploring events is that which
is presented by David Hume. It says that it is acceptable to believe an experience that conforms to normal, ordinary human
experiences. Anything that is unique so far as normal
human experience is concerned — such as a miracle — should
be rejected. For example, which is more probable: that the
witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection appearances were mistaken, or
that God raised Jesus from the dead? According to Hume’s
point of view the answer is obvious, because miracles simply
But professor Clark Pinnock points out, “The experience
against miracles is [consistent] only if we know that all
the reports about miracles are false, and this we do not know.
No one has an infallible knowledge of ‘natural laws’, so that
he can exclude from the outset the very possibility of unique
events. Science can tell us what has happened, but it cannot
tell us what may or may not happen. It observes events; it does
not create them. The historian does not dictate what history
can contain; he is open to whatever the witnesses report. An
appeal to Hume bespeaks ignorance of history.”
Today the notion that miracles can occur does not contradict
science or any known facts of experience — it is now
widely known that there is actually no scientific reason to reject
the possibility of a miracle. Today, physicists virtually
unanimously agree that time, space, and matter originated
together at some finite point in the past. In other words, the
universe had a beginning. Thus, most modern scientists agree
that it is at least possible that a God (who exists outside of the
universe) could have created the universe. As famous cosmologist
Stephen Hawking remarks, “So long as the universe had a
beginning, we could suppose it had a creator.” In fact, Hawking
suggests, “It would be very difficult to explain why the
universe should have begun in just this way, except as the act
of a God who intended to create beings like us.”
If the possibility of God exists, then so does the possibility
of miracles. Thus, the possibility of a miracle cannot, and should not, be ruled out. And thus logically, the possibility that God
raised Jesus from the dead also should not be ruled out.
Living in the 21st century, however, many individuals
believe that, in order for something to be credible, there must
be scientific proof: “If Jesus has risen from the dead, then
prove it scientifically!”
Unfortunately, there is a problem with proving anything
scientifically about a person or event in history: it is impossible.
One must realize that there is a difference between scientific
proof and legal-historical proof. The following excerpt
illustrates the distinction:
Scientific proof is based on showing that something
is a fact by repeating the event in the presence of
the person questioning the fact. There is a controlled
environment where observations can be made, data
drawn, and hypotheses empirically verified. . . .
Testing the truth of a hypothesis by the use of controlled
experiments is one of the key techniques of
the modern scientific method. For example, somebody
says, “Ivory soap doesn’t float.” So I take the
person to the kitchen, put eight inches of water in
the sink at 82.7°, and drop in the soap. Plunk.
Observations are made, data are drawn, and a hypothesis
is empirically verified: Ivory soap floats.
Now if the scientific method was the only
method of proving something, you couldn’t prove
that you went to your first hour class this morning
or that you had lunch today. There’s no way you
can repeat those events in a controlled situation.
To prove an event that has taken place in the
past, one must look at legal-historical proof, which
is based on showing beyond a reasonable doubt that
something is fact. In other words, a verdict is reached on the basis of the weight of the evidence. That is,
there’s no reasonable basis for doubting the decision.
This kind of proof depends upon three types
of testimony: oral testimony, written testimony, and
exhibits (such as a gun, bullet, notebook). Using
the legal method of determining what happened,
you could pretty well prove beyond a reasonable
doubt that you were in class this morning: your
friends saw you, you have your notes, the professor
The scientific method can be used only to
prove repeatable things; it isn’t adequate for proving
or disproving many questions about a person
or event in history. The scientific method isn’t appropriate
for answering questions such as, “Did
George Washington live?” “Was Martin Luther
King a civil rights leader?” “Who was Jesus of
Nazareth?” “Was Robert Kennedy attorney general
of the USA?” “Was Jesus Christ raised from the
dead?” These are out of the realm of scientific proof,
and we need to put them in the realm of legal proof.
In other words, the scientific method, which is
based on observation, the gathering of data, hypothesizing,
deduction, and experimental verification
to find and explain empirical regularities in
nature, doesn’t have the final answers to such questions
as, “Can you prove the Resurrection?” or “Can
you prove that Jesus is the Son of God?” When
men and women rely upon the legal-historical
method, they need to check out the reliability of
And that is exactly what Tom Anderson did. As former
president of the California Trial Lawyers Association and voted by the National Law Journal as one of the top ten trial lawyers
in America today, Tom accepted a challenge to “examine history
or archaeology or any other discipline” in order to discredit
the resurrection of Jesus. In his words: “My four month
study was motivated to find a loophole, any loophole, in the
truths of Christ. Finding none frightened me.”