Women at the grave/ Жены мироносицы. Первая четверть ХVIII в. Основа. Три доски (хвойная древесина). Две врезные сквозные шпонки. Темпера. Икона из Преображенской церкви Спасо-Кижского погоста (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Back when I held more of an agnostic position towards the “God question”, I used to view Easter as a harmless folly. If people wanted to believe that Jesus was somehow alive and in their hearts, I figured “why not let the kids can have their fun?” After all, various religions had their holidays celebrating odd stories that no one really took very seriously. None of these claims had any more basis then the other, or so was my assumption. But as I began to study Christianity I began to realize that Christians took this claim very seriously. In fact, St. Paul laid it all out on the line when he said “if Christ be not raised, our preaching is in vain and so is your faith.” (1 Cor. 15:14)
It is this resurrection claim that is a massive stumbling block for a number of worldviews. For starters, if it is true that a divine miracle took place on that first Easter Sunday morning, then it follows that naturalism is false. That’s rather obvious. But I think what the resurrection means is that Jesus is not just one great teacher among many gurus, swamis, religious teachers or prophets. To put it plainly, the resurrection is a stumbling block for religious pluralism.
From its very origins the Christian claim has been quite strong. “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you (the Sanhedrin) crucified, whom God raised from the dead…is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12) This message wasn’t popular or politically correct back then, nor is it now. As William Paley put it many years ago, “For it ought to be considered that this was not setting or magnifying the character and worship of some new for a place in the Pantheon whose pretensions be discussed or asserted without questioning the reality of any others it was pronouncing all other gods to be and all other worship vain.” This upsetting of the apple cart is what caused many Christians to become lion food.
Believers are often charged for being arrogant for believing that Christianity is true, but do we call someone arrogant for believing the history of Napoleon, Babe Ruth or any other larger-than-life figure? If the evidence is there, then of course not. The historical facts are of Christianity are available for anyone to investigate: Jesus publicly proclaimed the kingdom of God and was believed to have worked miracles. He publicly was crucified for being charged by the Sanhedrin as a threat to Caesar. It was public knowledge that his tomb was found empty. He publicly appeared to his followers, and these followers claimed to the public that they had seen him alive again; that they heard him speak, touched him, ate and drank with him for forty days. Furthermore, they willingly suffered and some died for this belief for the world to see. For the early believers it was not a matter of just feeling Jesus in their heart but what they believed they had experienced with the senses.
(If you are interested in a thorough presentation of the historical data, and how it is interpreted by various scholars, watch this) :
(Or if you want to get the pros and cons from a believer and a skeptic, you can watch this debate between Dr. Gary Habermas and the late Dr. Antony Flew):
Other religions claim to have had private encounters with angels, or had personal experiences of enlightenment, or had subjective ideas about God. The public historical evidence is between Christianity and other religions is pretty wide. I think this is what surprised me the most in researching Christianity. What the Christian faith claims to offer isn’t trivial. Therefore, I think it is our responsibility to give it its day in court in a thorough and honest manner. As the 19th century theologian John Relly Beard said:
The worst state, short of vice, in which a mind can be, is one of unconcern respecting questions of the highest possible import;—questions which relate to God, duty, and eternity. These questions may have their foundation in error; but this no one can know for himself, who has refused to enquire: they may also rest on the most satisfactory basis, and lead on to the most salutary results; but whether they involve good or ill, the man must be wrong in regard to them, who either receive[s] them without evidence, or rejects them without due examination. Mental honesty is the great quality which all who have the light of reason should, before all things, labor to preserve; and, for myself, I see no essential difference between the hypocrite who, to serve a purpose, affects to believe that of which he is not convinced, and the sceptic who, under the impulse of his prejudices, refuses to enquire, or enquires only so far as he may find agreeable. Both are false; the one to his light, the other to his opportunities. The one professes what he does not believe, the other believes what he does not know;—I say what he does not know, for whoever declares that religion is false without due and faithful enquiry, makes a positive assertion while he seems only to deny, and entertains a conviction for which he has no sufficient warrant.
In doing your due diligence, you might be surprised at what you find.