Logical Proof of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ
User ID: 449055
06/10/2008 01:00 AM
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Now it is a fact there is no such thing as historic certainty. I did my undergraduate major in history. Historic certainty means every conceivable piece of evidence is there. That which you can conceive as possible evidence must be there to have historic certainty. The moment an event is past, and no more, you have lost the eye-witness ability to see it.
Cameras help, as the Rodney King case shows, but there is an element gone, so all historic certainty by definition is relative. All you can hope for is psychological certainty, where exposure to the relevant facts of history that are available produces a reaction psychologically, and that reaction is impossible not to have.
Any smart attorney knows that in a courtroom, there isn't an attorney that says something and the judge rebukes him, that the attorney knows before he said it that he shouldn't have said it; he wants the jury to hear it. And the judge bawls out the attorney, and he says, "Yes, your honor," and plays his little meek role. He knows exactly what he is doing. And then the judge pontifically looks over at the jury and says, "Discard that from your consideration." Okay, BANG! That's about the only way you can discard it; it's in there. And you see and hear and feel, and whatever else the evidence, you have a reaction.
God vindicated His Son. Paul comes to Mars Hill; the philosophers are gathered there trying to consider all the gods, so worried they will miss one that they have a monument to the Unknown God. He seizes on that as a lever to talk about Christ. He says, "I'll tell you who the Unknown God is," and preaches Christ, whom he said God ordained by the resurrection. Paul said if there is no resurrection, our faith is vain, and we are found false witnesses of God, as we have testified of Him that He raised up the Christ.
The first message of the church was the one Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, "This Jesus whom ye know... And he named the fact that they knew Him crucified; that they also knew. Then he testified of that which they didn't know, "This Jesus hath God raised up of whom we all are witnesses," and he introduced that vindicating fact. Paul says in one of his speeches, "He was seen and He was seen," and he catalogues the witnesses and comes to the cluster he says to above five hundred brothers at once.
In those days, you could assemble eyewitnesses; not today. But like any other historic fact, from who wrote Shakespeare to Julius Caesar's existence, you can look for the fact of history on which Christianity is based, namely: Jesus came out of the tomb.
And I will say, to set the frame, that if Craig Lampe or Ed Masry or anybody else came in to the Cathedral making the claims Jesus made about themselves, I would offer the suggestion that they should submit to psychoanalysis and go to a hospital -- unless I could see a twinkle in their eyes, that they were putting me on -- because no mortal man can make these claims.
But if in the claims they said, "Slay me and in three days I'll come out of the tomb and sail off into the blue," and three days later they came out of the tomb and sailed off into the blue, I'd take another look at Dr. Lampe and I'd take another look at Ed. And I don't need anything else as a basis for my faith; I don't need all the fancy philosophic Trinitarian doctrines.
If I can find on the stage of history the One whose words I can spend my life researching, who was perfect, the center of all authority, the center of the religious universe, and all of these things, including having redeemed me, raised and prepared mansions in eternity, that's all the God I need. I could start right there.
THE ISSUE IS: DID HE COME OUT OF THE TOMB?
You won't settle that by thinking about it; you research it. Now, to research anything you have to get a foundation in facts. Most people are fuzzy-minded; they argue a resurrection didn't occur because it can't occur, and anybody who says it did must be lying. Any other fact, you research it.
If you're going to ask, "Did Scott preach this message within an hour on April 19, 1992?" you've got to assume that I was here and preached at all. You've got to assume that the Cathedral exists. You've got to assume that April 19th came and went. We don't discuss that; we take certain things for granted. But before you start arguing whether I preached an hour (or more), let's at least agree that I preached. You don't have to agree whether it was good or bad, but that I was here and my mouth moved and said things. That's known as the frame of reference -- what's taken for granted.
And if someone says "Wow, I don't believe you were there!," then to hell with debating clocks. It's much easier to prove I was here -- maybe not all there -- but there, than to prove how long I preached, because you don't yet know when I started. Was it the preliminary remarks? Was it the first mark on the board? That's more debatable, but to prove whether I was here at all or not, that's a little easier.
You need to approach the resurrection the same way. There are certain facts that have to be assumed before you discuss the resurrection. One is, did Jesus live at all? Why are we talking about whether He raised if we don't believe He lived? There was a time that was debated; not much anymore. For purposes of today and any meaningful discussion of the resurrection, you've got to at least assume:
Fact 1. That Jesus lived. If you don't believe that... Do you agree that it's probably easier to prove that He lived somewhere sometime than that He died and rose again? Do you agree with that? So give me the easier task.
"Well, I'm not sure He lived, so don't give me that resurrection bit."
I have more time to do other things than that. Don't get into any argument about the resurrection with somebody who doesn't believe Jesus lived. That's easy to prove; until that's crossed, don't get to the next one:
Fact 2. That He was crucified. At the instigation of certain Jewish leaders -- not all the Jews; they weren't to blame for that; His disciples were Jews -- just certain Jewish leaders, at the hands of the Romans. The Romans carried out the execution; Jewish leaders instigated it. Unless you believe that, there's no sense going to the resurrection. The crucifixion's much easier to prove than the resurrection.
Fact 3. That He was considered dead. Notice I say considered dead, because a lot of people believe He recovered from the grave; "resuscitated." He was considered dead: pierced with a sword, taken down from the cross, taken to a grave. Of course, Holy Blood, Holy Grail comes up with a concoction that He practiced this, and had people take Him to the grave knowing He was going to come out. He practiced on Lazarus first (so goes the theory) but of course Lazarus was stinking before He started practicing, but it's a real nice theory. Some of the theories stretch the brain more than just accepting the resurrection, but at least He was considered dead.
Fact 4. He was buried in a known, accessible tomb. By accessible, I mean you could get to the tomb; you couldn't get in because of the rock and guards, but a known, accessible tomb.
Fact 5. He was then preached raised. I'm at this point not saying He raised, but He was preached raised, the tomb was empty, and He ascended. It's important to remember that the whole preachment included: empty tomb; raised from the dead; and ascending into heaven. That's the total message.
Now, if you don't believe that He was preached, I'm doing it today. But He was preached early on; if you don't believe that, that's easier to prove than the resurrection.
Fact 6. The Jewish leaders were interested in disproving His resurrection. Common sense will tell you the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion had more interest in disproving the resurrection than someone 2,000 years removed, considering it intellectually with a lot of skepticism mixed in, because the Jewish leaders' reputations and bread and butter and lives were at stake.
If they instigated His crucifixion, accusing Him of trying to set up a kingdom and accusing Him of blasphemy, and all of a sudden it's true that He raised from the dead, they are going to be looking for new jobs. So common sense says they had more psychological interest in disproving the theory, and would put themselves out a little more than most people on an Easter Sunday would.
Fact 7. The disciples were persecuted. They were horribly persecuted because of this preaching, starting with those Jewish leaders who first persecuted them: first they called them liars, said they stole it away. The whole Book of Acts tells of the persecution for preaching the resurrection.
Later, centuries later, Christians in general became a target for the evils in the Roman Empire and became scapegoats, and were just punished for other reasons, but every record agrees that the earliest persecutions could have stopped immediately if they would have quit preaching this resurrection message, and the ascension and the miracles attaching to Jesus. That's why they were persecuted, because the Jewish leaders had their reputations at stake. Thus,
Fact 8. The tomb was empty. All this leads to the fact, common sense says, if the Jewish leaders who instigated the crucifixion, having the extra interest because their livelihood was at stake, and if He was buried in a known, accessible tomb, they would have gone immediately to that tomb and discovered the body. Therefore, it is axiomatic that the tomb was empty.
The tomb was meaningless for centuries; many centuries went by. The tomb was lost to history because there was no body in it. Then, when the relic period began to grow, people got interested in His tomb, that had had no interest because there was no body in it, and tried to find it. And the whole church world still fights today over the classical site of the ancient historic churches, and Gordon's tomb that most of the Protestants identify with, just off from the bus station below the escarpment of a rock called "Golgotha" that has an Arab cemetery on top. The fight is because the tomb was lost to history; there was no body in it.
Now, these facts are easier to demonstrate than the resurrection, but unless these facts are accepted, you can't deal with all the theories about the resurrection. For example, the preaching has been so effective that all through the centuries people have come up with theories to explain it. Now, the reason that I do this every Easter is I try to demonstrate that you don't have to park your brains at the door of the church when you come in.
"Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the word of God." You don't just make people believe, but if you expose yourself to evidence, something happens inside and there will be a psychological reaction. My quarrel with people who deny the resurrection and live a life style that pays no attention to it, is that I can ask them 15 questions and find they haven't spent 15 hours of their life looking at it.
If this is true, this is the center of the universe. If this is true, this is the central fact of history. You have to be a fool among all fools of mankind to not think it's worth at least 30 hours of study in your whole life. But there are many intelligent people in the world who have looked and come away convinced. That's why I am doing this. But the preachments are so sincere in their nature. All kinds of theories have been broached, but the theories won't fly if you assume these eight facts.
Theory 1. The disciples stole the body.
Theory 2. The Jewish leaders stole it.
Theory 3. The Roman leaders stole it.
Theory 4. The women went to the wrong tomb. You know, it was dark and they got lost like women walkers -- they didn't have women drivers, but "women walkers." They went to the wrong tomb, and they believed He rose, and I mean, my God, the screaming and crying out of the garden. "We went and He wasn't there!" They went to the wrong tomb; they went to an empty one waiting for somebody else.
Theory 5. It was all hallucinations. Glorified day dreams. They were sincere; they believed that this happened because they had all these hallucinations.
Theory 6. Resuscitation theory. He was crucified and He was considered dead, and He was buried in a known tomb, but He wasn't dead, and in the coolness of the tomb He revived and came out wrapped in the grave clothes and, thank God, the guards were asleep, and He pushed that rock out of the way -- and here comes Frankenstein!
Theory 7. The disciples lied. They made the whole thing up. They'd bet on the wrong horse and they just couldn't live with it so they made up this whole story and it took them seven weeks to figure it out, and then they told it.
Theory 8. It's all true. They are telling exactly what they experienced and what they saw. Now, just as you've got the "startling alternate" when you consider the only Jesus in history, that He's either a madman, a nut, a faker, or He's what He said He was, and that requires a definition of divinity, you have a "startling alternate" here.
User ID: 449055
06/10/2008 01:02 AM
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All these theories -- not all of them, but most of them -- sound good in isolation. The first theory (the disciples stole the body) the Jewish leaders themselves concocted, but when you take these facts for granted, you are again forced to a "startling alternate."
I hate -- I've always hated it when I was doing my degree in history -- I hate a self-righteous objective historian: "I'm objective; I take no opinion." There's no such thing as a knowledgeable person that doesn't have an opinion. Knowledge forces an opinion; no exposure to facts keeps you neutral. Knowledge forces an opinion, and when you study the facts, there are only two options:
OPTION 1: The disciples lied.
They stole the body, (Theory 1), then they obviously lied (Theory 7).
The Jewish leaders stole the body (Theory 2)? These facts preclude that: they were more concerned than anyone to disprove the preachment, so why would they make the tomb empty? And if they had, they would have said, "Wait a minute; we took His body from the tomb." They couldn't even think of that story; they told the one about the disciples, but even if it were tenable, they didn't just preach an empty tomb and the resurrection.
They preached a seeming Jesus with Whom they partook; they preached the ascension with equal vigor. So even if the Jewish leaders' stealing the body would explain the empty tomb, they're still telling the add-ons of the encounters with the resurrected body and the ascension, so they're still making up a lot of the story: they lied.
Roman leaders took the body (Theory 3)? With the controversies in Jerusalem, with the contacts the Jewish leaders had with the Romans, enabling them to get the crucifixion done, do you not think they would have exposed that fact, that the official Roman government took the body? But even if that explains the empty tomb, it does not alleviate the disciples' responsibility for preaching a resurrected body that they had encounters with, and the ascension, so they're still lying.
The women went to the wrong tomb (Theory 4)? It was a known accessible tomb. The Jewish leaders' interest would have taken them to the known tomb, and all they had to do to explain the wrong tomb theory was go to the tomb where the body is -- and they would have done it.
Hallucinations (Theory 5)? Well, the empty tomb blasts that. If it had been just hallucinations, there would have been a body in the tomb. You have to couple it with spiriting the body away. So, they're still lying. Even the Holy Blood, Holy Grail theory requires that they be liars to conspire and carry this out.
Resuscitation (Theory 6)? Well, that Frankenstein coming out of the tomb doesn't quite measure up to the good Jesus that was preached. It might explain the empty tomb, but it doesn't explain the kind of Jesus that they had preached, doesn't explain the ascension... They still made the rest of it up!
So no matter how you look at it, if you assume the eight facts which are much easier to demonstrate than the resurrection, there are only two options, two conclusions, because it boils down to the veracity of the witnesses. That's why I have no respect for those who deny the resurrection and have not read the classic, Sherlock's Trial of the Witnesses. He postulated a courtroom scene where all the witnesses were gathered and subjected to the kind of evidence of an English court.
You are faced with a "startling alternate": either these disciples made the story up to save face and the whole thing is a lie, or:
OPTION 2: They're telling what they truly experienced as honest men.
And when we come to that point, the entire Christian faith revolves around: were these disciples who were the witnesses honest men telling what they saw, or conspirators who concocted a lie to save face, and there are four reasons why I cannot believe they were lying:
Reason 1. Cataclysmic change for the better on the part of the witnesses.
Everybody agrees Peter was unstable, and with a group he could not be counted on to stand. He fled in fear and he denied his Lord; he was always in trouble because of his instability. After the resurrection, he is the man that preaches to a mocking mob, he fulfills his destiny to become the Rock, he dies with courage requesting that he be turned upside down because he is not worthy to die in the position of his Master -- a cataclysmic change that can be identified to a point in history, and that point in history is where they began to tell this story of the resurrection.
John? He was one of the brothers called "Sons of Thunder." He wanted to call fire down from heaven on everyone that opposed him. He and his brother used their mother to seek the best seat in the kingdom. After they began to tell this story, every scholar agrees John was a changed man. Instead of a "Son of Thunder," he's almost wimpish in his never-failing expression of love. He is known as the "Apostle of Love" -- a total cataclysmic change.
Thomas is consistently a doubter; from start to finish, he's a doubter. He's a realist; he questions everything. When Jesus is going to go through Samaria and faces death, and tells His disciples about it, Thomas then says, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him." That's courage, but he thought Jesus would actually die; that's a humanistic view.
When Jesus is discussing going away, building mansions in heaven, says, "Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know," all the rest of them are surely shouting about the mansions. Thomas is listening to every word. He says "We don't know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Now that's a consistent thumb-nail sketch of a personality trait.
Who is it that's doubting when the resurrection comes? Same guy! "I won't believe 'til I touch Him, put my hands in the marks of death." The moment arrives. Jesus is there and says to Thomas, "Behold my hands and my side." Jesus says, "It is more blessed to believe without seeing." That is an axiomatic truth, but He did not condemn Thomas. He just stated that fact, and then He offered to submit to the test, which is what we are doing today. He said, "Behold my hands and my side." And Thomas cried, "My Lord and my God."
It is significant that in the most philosophic area of the world, where the Vedanta philosophies have produced Buddhism and the Eastern religions that flow out of it, it is Thomas that pierces the Himalayas to die a martyr near Madras, India, to be the herald of faith in the most challenging philosophic area of the world at that time, and never again does he waver an instant in faith -- a total change from a consistent doubter to an unwavering "faither."
Now, you can say, a crisis will change people, but a lie will seldom change people for the better; they'll get worse. These men are cataclysmically changed for the better; I don't think that telling a lie would do that.
There are indirect evidences of truth. Mark wrote to Gentiles; you can count it in Mark's Gospel, he has Christ referring to Himself as "Son of Man" more often than any other Gospel. Count it yourself. Now if he was a liar, knew he was lying, trying to perpetrate a fraud, why would he have Jesus refer to Himself with a phrase that suggests humanity when his purpose is to try to represent Jesus as the Son of God? If he's a liar, he'd just have Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of God. But ironically, as God's little hidden evidences of honesty, in Mark's Gospel, written to Gentiles, designed to prove that Jesus was the Son of God, he had Jesus refer to Himself as the "Son of Man" more than any other Gospel.
Now, Jesus did refer to Himself as the "Son of Man" because Jesus was preaching to a Hebrew audience that read the Book of Enoch and read the Book of Daniel where the "Son of Man" was a messianic picture of coming in clouds of glory to set up His kingdom. So it's quite proper for Jesus to refer to Himself as the "Son of Man" in a messiah mentality, but if you are writing to Gentiles who don't know anything about the Old Testament, and trying to perpetrate a lie that Jesus is the Son of God, unless you're just basically honest and telling the truth, you wouldn't have Jesus say "Son of Man" as often. Why not change what He said to serve your purpose? Inherent honesty. I could give you a dozen of those, but that is what historians call indirect evidence of honesty.
Reason 2. Internal consistencies.
The fact that the disciples waited seven weeks is used by those who say they were lying as the time needed for them to cook up the lie. If they are smart enough to tell a lie of this nature, my judgment is, they would have figured that out. They waited seven weeks because Jesus told them to wait. That's the action of honest men, even though waiting that long hurts their story -- if they were going to make up a lie.
Reason 3. Price paid.
You don't pay the price these men paid to tell a lie. All of them, save John, died a martyr's death: Bartholemew flayed to death with a whip in Armenia; Thomas pierced with a Brahmin sword; Peter crucified upside down, St. Andrew crucified on St. Andrew's cross (from which it gets its name); Luke hanged by idolatrous priests, Mark dragged to death in the streets of Alexandria. These men paid beyond human belief for their "lie."
Reason 4. They died alone.
St. Thomas Aquinas' great -- greatest, I think -- proof of the veracity of the disciples and the resurrection is that they died alone. Now, as I do every year when I finish this message, I can conceive of a group of men trying to save face, telling a story, having bet on the wrong man, crushed by His failure (as they would view it), trying to resurrect Him with a lie.
I can conceive of them staying together and group pressure holding together the consistencies of their lie, because they don't want to be the first one to break faith and rat on the others and collapse the whole thing.
Let's assume that Dr. Badillo and Ed and Louis (one of our horse trainers) concocted this story. You don't have television, you don't have satellite, you don't have FAX, you don't have telephone, and as long as you three stay together under great pressure, you don't want to be the one, Ed, to let Louis and Dr. Badillo down.
But now separate you. You, Ed, be Bartholemew in Armenia, and you, Dr. Badillo, be Thomas over in India. And Louis, you be Peter in Rome. You have lost contact with each other. You can't pick up a phone and call anybody; nobody knows where you are, and since you know you are telling a lie and you know you don't really expect the generations forever to believe it, and you are being literally flayed to death -- that is, skinned with a whip, your skin peeled off of you -- all you've got to do to get out is say, "It's all a lie," and "Forgive me, I'm leaving town."
Ed wouldn't know it; Louis wouldn't know it. You could see them next time, playing poker together and saying, "Boy, I really tore them up there in Armenia. I told the story, and nobody could forget it the way I told it." They wouldn't know you lied. You, you're going to be pierced with a sword in India; you are never going to see these people again. All you have to do to get out of the pressure is say, "It's a lie."
You, you're off in Rome; you're a little more exposed, but with your life at stake, all you have to say is, "Sorry. Maybe I dreamed it," and wiggle out and head to France. As Thomas Aquinas said, it is psychologically inconceivable that these men, separated, each one paying the supreme price for their story and each one dying alone, that some one of the group wouldn't break away from his fellows and say, "Hey, it wasn't true!"
To die alone. And not one shred of evidence surviving 2,000 years of hard-looking critics, you will never find one record anywhere on the face of this earth where any one of these men ever wavered unto their terrible death in telling this story. Therefore, I came to the conclusion there's no way these men were lying. They were telling what they thought and experienced and saw as true.
I remember doing this with my professor at Stanford, and he said to me, "Gene, I am convinced. These men believed what they were telling. Therefore, some one of these other eight facts must be wrong." Well, if you're honest and you say that, I've got you, because those other eight are a lot easier to demonstrate. What is the alternative?
IT'S TRUE, AND HE CAME OUT OF THAT GRAVE.
Well, if that is true, then what? All the rest of this is true, and I have a starting point for a faith in a God eternal. And I then have crossed over that threshold where I can now comprehend what Christianity is, for if I can believe that Jesus Christ came through those grave clothes, through that rock, through that door, and sailed off in the blue, then molecular displacement is nothing to Him -- He can do it without creating an explosion. It is true that all things consist in Him, and He can control them.
Therefore, it's not difficult at all to believe that that same substance of God, placed in Mary, came forth as Jesus of Nazareth through the Holy Spirit. God says He places that same God-substance in us when we trust Him. That is the true born-again experience -- a generator of life, a regeneration, a new creation that penetrates my cell structure and is placed in me as a gift from God when I connect by trusting His word.
That's the genesis of all Christianity, properly seen, that Christ is in us the hope of glory. I don't have to become some mystic or far-out freak to understand what Christianity is. I can now spend my life pursuing His words, including the authority He attaches to the Old Testament, and the promises that are written therein. And each time I grab hold of those and act on my belief, and sustain the action in confidence, that faith connection keeps in me a life substance the same as that that raised up Christ from the dead, as capable of changing my nature as radioactive material, invisible though it may be, can change your cell structure as you hold it.
God puts a life in us capable of regenerating, and that's why spirituality is the expressions of the Spirit, and why spirituality is called the fruit of the Spirit. It is that new life growing out through us which can only be maintained by faith in His word, but it was founded and based upon the solid rock of the provable quality of "He raised from the dead," and it gives me faith to believe that He will do the other thing He said, which is come again.
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