How Could Anyone Believe in Resurrection?!
I was settling into bed when my wife turned to me and said, “Don’t you think people must think Christians are absurd for believing in the resurrection?” She was trying to understand how other people think about our faith, and it’s a fair question to ask. I wonder what your family or workmates think about the idea of someone rising from the dead. It sounds a little crazy if you just throw it out there like that! I spoke to Michanne that night about the surprising amount of evidence there is to support the resurrection of Jesus.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about how we can show our unbelieving friends the plausibility of the resurrection. I ended up stumbling across an article written by one of my favourite Christian thinkers, Glen Scrivener. He makes a fantastic point about why belief in Easter actually makes life less absurd, not more. I’ll let Glen explain:
“Here are three features of our world that are already Easter-like. They already have a life-from-the-dead shape to them. I don’t offer these as watertight proofs of God. But I do raise them as suggestive pointers.
Everything has come from nothing. It’s not just Christians who believe in improbabilities. We all live inside a glorious absurdity called existence. Here we are. We needn’t be. But out of nothing, everything. Out of the void, life. It’s incredibly Easter-like.
Order has come from chaos. There’s an intricacy to life and to our life-sustaining universe. Physical forces had to be “just so.” (Look up “the fine-tuning of the universe” to get a sense of how improbable a life-permitting universe is). Yet wouldn’t you know it, against all the odds — a cosmos, not a chaos! But more than such remarkable physical order, there’s also the emergence of biology.
Life has come from nonlife. As a Christian, I believe that on Easter Sunday the nonliving Jesus came to life. Out of lifelessness and entropy, an extraordinary vitality burst forth. This is undoubtedly a miracle. But a purely biological account of our origins tells a story much more extraordinary. According to a naturalistic explanation, all life has emerged from nonlife—and without a God of resurrection to work the wonder.
Since this is the nature of our life-from-the-dead universe, a different question emerges: Are things made more absurd or less absurd by believing in the God of resurrection?
But it’s not just the heavens that point the way to Easter faith—there’s history too. Let’s explore the history of the first century and history since the first century.
First-century history. Despite his humble circumstances, Jesus of Nazareth thought of himself as the King of heaven’s kingdom, the central figure of history, and the Judge ruling God’s future. The Jewish authorities found him guilty of blasphemy and the Romans executed him on account of his claims to kingship. He died on a cross and was placed in a tomb, the whereabouts of which were well known. Three days later, that tomb was empty, and his followers had experiences of the risen Jesus which went on for another 40 days and then stopped when Christians say Jesus returned to heaven. The body was never found, and all the eyewitnesses maintained their testimony, even on pain of death.
These are the historical facts, and then the explanations begin (which are many). But a Christian is someone who considers the alternative theories — he didn’t die, his body was stolen, the disciples faked it, or they hallucinated — and judges them to be much less satisfactory, all things considered. It’s not that Christians force themselves to believe the most improbable explanation. It’s that if you reject the resurrection, you entangle yourself in more absurdity.
History since. The question we should all consider is why we’ve ever heard of Jesus. Why didn’t Christianity die with Christ on Good Friday, never to rise again? But Christianity didn’t remain dead and buried. Far from it. It has become, in the words of historian Tom Holland, “the most disruptive, the most influential and the most enduring revolution in history.” This is extraordinary when you consider its source.
From a purely human perspective, Jesus was a penniless preacher, shooting his mouth off around some backwater of a long-dead empire. He was surrounded by losers and no-hopers. He was crucified in ignominy in his 30s. Yet he’s the most famous man who ever walked the planet. He’s built the world we live in. You may not believe Jesus turned water into wine, but here’s a miracle that’s difficult to deny: somehow Jesus has gone from godforsaken execution to world domination. How? Christians bring an explanation. Christianity rose from the dead because Christ did. Once again, this Easter faith isn’t brought forward to be embraced as an absurdity. It’s brought forward to explain an absurdity.”
Belief in the God of Easter is more rational than we might think. I encourage you to share Glen’s article with friends of yours who think that the resurrection is too absurd to believe in. You can access the full article here. It’s good to help people overcome obstacles to faith, to engage with people’s questions. But whether we have answers or not, let’s trust in the power of the gospel to transform lives (Romans 1:16). The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is with us (Romans 8:11) as we step out in courage and humility to share the good news of Jesus with others.
With you on the journey,