Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Back to the questions posed by my friend about Jesus and the Christian faith. If the resurrection is true than Jesus is the Son of God. But how do we know that its true? On what basis do we believe Jesus rose from dead?
Remember, we’re trying to understand this from the perspective of other religions so some of our standard answers won’t work. For example, “We know it’s true because the Bible says so and here’s the book, chapter, verse.” That’s enough for Christians, but for those who don’t accept the Bible it carries little weight. Or “The disciples wouldn’t have died for it if it wasn’t true.” Oh really? What about David Koresh’s followers or Jim Jones’ followers? Or the old standard, “We don’t really know, we just have faith.” An answer that often comes from a sincere heart, but to non-Christians it must sound like fairly shallow reasoning. So we have to dig a little deeper. On what grounds do we believe the resurrection is true?
My answer is this “I believe in the resurrection of Jesus based on the evidence of eyewitness testimony.” That’s fairly close to the above answers, but not exactly the same. What it means is that I trust the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection and believe their testimony is true. It’s the same reason I believe in any other historical event. For example, I love reading about the Civil War, but how do I know that event actually took place? I wasn’t there. I didn’t see it. I didn’t experience it for myself. Yet, I’m 100% positive it happened. Why? The weight of testimony. There were thousands of eyewitnesses and they recorded their stories in books and letters. Those materials have been handed down to me and I trust their testimony to be true. It’s the same with the resurrection. Only the documents are much older and the eyewitnesses are much farther removed from our time.
But the point is this…I believe in the resurrection of Jesus because I trust the eyewitness accounts of Matthew, John, Peter, etc. They saw it with their own eyes, recorded it for us in books and letters, and I believe their testimony to be true. Which is really the definition of faith. Take another look at Hebrews 11:1. Faith is not blind trust of things not seen, it’s evidence of things not seen. Faith is based on the weight of testimony. A concept we’re all very familiar with and employ nearly every day. Whenever we’re presented with a story about something we ourselves didn’t witness we must decide whether or not it’s true. On what basis? The weight of testimony. If two or three eyewitnesses testify that it actually happened then we’re likely to believe that it did, even though we didn’t see it for ourselves.
As Peter explained in his second letter, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” I believe him, thus I believe in the resurrection, thus I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, thus I believe that what he taught and promised is true.
Of course all this is a rather “modern” argument and it may not hold much water with “post-moderns.” I suspect they would say “That’s fine for you Russ, but I’m OK with uncertainty and ambiguity.” But that’s for another post.