Reality of the Resurrection -- Part 2

Do we have any facts that support the historical resurrection of Jesus?  Absolutely.  And we won’t just use arguments from guys on our side.  To make the strongest possible case, we’ll rely on those facts that virtually all scholars who study this subject agree upon, including critics of Christianity.  Resurrection scholars Gary Habermas and Michael Licona call this the “minimal facts” approach.  

Notice, this approach does not require us to defend an error-free Bible.  It does not require us to show the Bible is the inspired word of God.  Although important issues, inerrancy and inspiration are not essential to our case for the resurrection.  Instead, the minimal facts approach lets us build common ground with the critic.  Basically we’re saying to the skeptic, “You show me your historical facts and I’ll show you how they are evidence for the historical resurrection of Jesus.”  

So, what are the minimal facts?  Habermas and Licona list five:  

FACT #1:  Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.  
Not only is Jesus’ crucifixion recorded in all four gospels, but non-Christian sources report the event too.  Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus are just a couple of those sources.  

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #2:  The disciples believed they had seen the risen Jesus.
Scholars recognize two important pieces of evidence for this fact.  First, the disciples claimed to have seen the risen Jesus.  Paul lists the eyewitnesses in I Corinthians 15:3-8:  

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance:  that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

By the way, it’s legit to cite the Bible here.  Even critical scholars believe I Corinthians is an authentic letter written by Paul.  At this point, we’re simply using it as a source of ancient history, not as an inspired book of the Bible.  Thus, we have a reliable list of people who believed they saw resurrection appearances of Jesus.

Second, the disciples really believed they had seen Jesus such that it totally transformed them.  Jesus their leader had been brutally killed before their eyes.  Understandably, they split.  Peter even denies Jesus three times.  But something happened, transforming them from cowards who abandoned Jesus to courageous men who risked life and limb for His message.  They didn’t just claim Jesus rose, they really really believed it.

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #3:  Saul of Tarsus (Paul), an enemy of the church, converted because he believed he had seen the risen Jesus.  
Before his Road-to-Damascus experience, Paul tried to destroy the Christian church.  He beat Christians, imprisoned them, and killed them.  But suddenly, he converts to Christianity.  Why?  Paul and Luke both report it was because he believed the resurrected Jesus had appeared to him.  

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #4:  James, the brother of Jesus and a skeptic, converted because he believed he had seen the risen Jesus.  
The Gospels tell us James was skeptical of Jesus’ ministry (Mark 3:21; John 7:5).  He was unconvinced.  However, James eventually converts and is even martyred for his faith in Jesus.  What transformed this skeptic into a believer?  He believed he saw the risen Jesus.  Remember the eyewitness list in I Corinthians 15?  Verse 7 tells us “[Jesus] appeared to James.”  

And remember, virtually all scholars accept this fact.  

FACT #5:  The tomb of Jesus was empty.
Where was Jesus publicly executed?  In Jerusalem.  Where did the disciples start proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection?  In Jerusalem.  Think about those two facts, together.  How does Christianity get started if Jesus corpse is still in the tomb?  It doesn’t.  Jewish and Roman leaders simply pull out the dead body and game over.  But that didn’t happen.  The disciples preach the resurrection in the very city Jesus is crucified.  That’s only possible if the tomb is empty.

This is the one fact not accepted by “virtually all scholars.”  However, Gary Habermas found that about 75% of scholars buy this one and that’s still a large majority.

There you have it—five historical facts that need an explanation.  

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Reality of the Resurrection -- Part 1

Last Sunday millions of Christians celebrated Easter.  But if the bones of Jesus were found tomorrow, would you walk away from Christianity?  You should. 

Why?  Because faith in a dead Jesus is worthless.  Even the Apostle Paul says so.  In I Corinthians 15:14, he writes, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”  Did you catch that?  The bones of Jesus would make our faith useless.  

C’mon Paul, isn’t that kind of harsh?  No and here’s why.  Imagine a group of people who have dedicated their lives to Peter Pan.  They construct a beautiful building to gather in celebration of Pan’s life.  They sing songs to him and tell stories about his wonderful deeds.  What would you think about such a group?  What a waste of life.  Peter Pan is a fairytale.  We should feel sorry for such people.

Well, if Jesus did not rise bodily from the grave, then Christianity is a fairytale.  Just like Peter Pan, it’s make believe and Christians are wasting their lives.  And what should people think about us?  Paul concludes that if Christ hasn’t been raised, “we are to be pitied more than all men” (verse 19).  

So, when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, what’s at stake for Christians?  Everything.

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Who Do You Trust? Really

For your first week of reading, Why Trust Jesus? Here's several questions that I want you to ask yourself but also ask your friends in your community group/ book study group.  After you have read Norman Geisler's foreword and my introduction, consider these questions.  

1. What characteristics do you look for in someone else, before you can trust them?

2. What are the greatest barriers to trusting Christ daily in your own life? Is it intellectual, emotional, or self-sufficiency? Talk it out. 

 3. We have all probably been let down by Christians. Maybe a pastor or priest,  a father or mother, an ex-lover. In the midst of  disappointments or failures, why do you believe the Christian faith is most trustworthy? Or more specifically, why Jesus? 

4. What steps will you take this week to grow in trust?

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Oprah's New Prophet is Dwight Schrute???

I like the show the Office. I like Rainn Wilson who plays Dwight Schrute. He is hilarious. I like Oprah. But I can't stand the false doctrine that Oprah and Rainn promote.  

I wrote my book, Why Trust Jesus? and the book co-authored with Josh McDowell, "O" God for Christians!  Sadly, some of my peers have bought into a "social gospel" so much that we often feel apathetic to speak out against religious pluralism.  The Baha'i faith that Rainn holds to may seem open minded and inclusive, but in reality is very exclusive. For example, teachers of the Baha'i faith deny the doctrine of the Trinity. They are "intolerant" of it.

Now, in my book, I commend Oprah for reaching out to the poor. That's a good work. James, in chapter one, refers to taking care of orphans and widows as "pure religion." But religion is not the "gospel" and it won't take anyone into heaven. The so-called "New Spirituality" and pantheistic books that Oprah has endorses like Eckart Tolle's The Power of Now and Rhonda Byrne's The Secret are selling just as much as the books of New Atheists. We might not watch her show, but this woman has influence.  Watch this video of Oprah and Rainn Wilson (aka Dwight Schute), If you were sitting in a chair next to Oprah, how would you respond? What would you ask her? How would you present the true Gospel?

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I Believe in Jesus, SO THERE!

Jenna Levon, a freelance writer in her twenties was one of the first to look at my brand new book, Why Trust Jesus? I was very encouraged with her with words, because I wrote this book for both believers, doubters and spiritual seekers.  Below are words from Jenna. 

Ten years ago, I made a huge mistake. I can picture the table where I sat in my high school cafeteria. I quickly found myself in a heated conversation about Jesus with my new friend, who was Jewish. As a Christian, I asserted that Jesus was crucified, he rose, and He’s coming back some day. 

Stephanie disagreed. My defense? “Because it happened. It’s what the Bible says, and it’s what I believe.” Hindsight is always 20/20, right? I am disappointed that I spoke with such little kindness, grace, and clarity about my Savior. I’m sure this lunchroom encounter left my friend with a bitter taste in her mouth not only for (foolish) me, but for Christians in general.

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FREE Bible Giveaway

Thanks to our friends at Holman Bible Publishers, we are giving away some copies of the Apologetics Study Bible for Students, designed to ground Christian students in the truths of Scripture by equipping them with thoughtful and practical responses to difficult and heartfelt challenges to core issues of faith and life.

To be eligible to win a copy of the paperback edition (1400+ pages in length), here's all you do:

  • Send an email to:
  • Put "Free Bible" in the subject line of your email
  • Tell us you want to be in the random drawing for a free copy
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More Than a Feeling

It was eighty against one.  Not good odds but when I role-play an atheist with the typical Christian students, I like my chances.  But these weren’t students.  They were adults.  And not just any adults, but Christian leaders on the East Coast.  Pastors, youth pastors, parachurch leaders, school teachers, and administrators.

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Who's Waiting for Your Kids?

In a few short years, students will leave our homes and graduate from our churches. They'll head off to college. Who's waiting for them? What kinds of people will they meet? And are they ready?

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