Tuesday, September 30, 2008

How important is the Resurrection?

For the first several years of my Christian life, I'll admit that I didn’t understand the importance of the Resurrection in the Christian faith. I understood the importance of the crucifixion, and probably most Christians do. That Jesus died, and that he died for our sins is of course of paramount importance in Christian theology. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the heart of the Gospel message, and yet it says nothing about the Resurrection.

Unlike almost all other revealed religions, however, Christianity bases the truth of its claims on objective historical events rather than on purely subjective truth claims. These amazing events – Jesus’ execution, his burial in a tomb, the finding of the tomb empty, and the subsequent appearances of the risen Christ to many individuals and groups of people over a period of 40 days afterward - are the foundation of the claims of the authors of the New Testament.

As N.T. Wright, author of the voluminous scholarly work “The Resurrection of the Son of God” observed, there were about a dozen or so other messianic movements in Judaism for the period of 200 years or so around the time of Christ. All of those movements, with the exception of Christianity, ended with the violent death of the leader. The Jewish messiah was to overthrow Roman rule and free the Jewish people from Roman oppression. Death at the hands of the Romans was thus a sure-fire indicator that this person was not the messiah.
The followers of these other would-be messiahs had the choice to either abandon the movement or find another messiah. The early Christians did neither, but instead began to proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth, who had been executed by Roman authorities, nevertheless was the awaited Jewish Messiah as well as Lord of all the earth. They insisted that this bizarre statement was true because God had raised Jesus from the dead, and they had seen the evidence with their own eyes: the tomb was empty, and Jesus himself had appeared to them, announcing his Resurrection in person.

So how important is the Resurrection? Well, Paul certainly considered it important when he wrote

And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead.

1 Cor. 15: 14-15

Furthermore, Paul proclaimed to the philosophers in Athens these words:

Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone-- an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.

Acts 17:29-31

The Resurrection is the proof of the pudding as far as the Gospel is concerned. If Jesus really rose from the dead, then everyone should be a Christian. If he did not rise from the dead, then no one should be.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Getting a fresh start . . .

For my few but discriminating readers who have been following my blog, I'm going to be starting it up again with new content in the next few days. I plan on continuing to address topics related to theology and philosophy, with more of an emphasis on missions. I've also decided to replace the previous front page format with a simplified one for easier maintenance. Hopefully this will facilitate greater participation. As always, please feel free to leave your comments on any of the topics under discussion.

So stay tuned, there's more on the way!

About me

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My ministry in Hungary involved teaching theology and training Hungarian church planters. I have a great interest in apologetics as well as missions.