Why the Resurrection Matters

Sorry to rain on your Easter parade, but most people in the world don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. That shouldn’t surprise you since less than a third of the people living today claim to be Christians. But even among self-proclaimed Christians, the number of Jesus-rose-from-the-dead believers is shrinking.

With packed churches on Easter and the proliferation of Christian apologetics books (The Case for Jesus anyone?), you would think a growing number of people would be convinced that Jesus is alive. But just the opposite seems to be true. I have a theory as to why this is, but I’m saving it for the last couple of paragraphs (feel free to read ahead if you’re short on time).

Actually, doubts about the resurrection have been around since that first Easter morning. Current day agnostics like Bart Ehrman, the fundamentalist Bible college student turned agnostic professor of religion, may think they have developed an original “Jesus is not God and He didn’t rise from the dead” shtick, but they’re wrong. These scholar/skeptic types who badly want to keep Jesus in the grave are following a 2,000-year-old narrative.

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A Former Pastor Tries Out Atheism

I'm all for creating spaces in which people can doubt safely. I've even written about it. But can the doubting process be pushed to an absurdity?  Well, I think it just has.  

Ryan Bell, a former pastor and adjunct professor at a Christian college and seminary, is giving atheism a try:

“I’m making it official and embarking on a new journey. I will ‘try on’ atheism for a year. For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else’s circumstances.”

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The Messiah Sweepstakes

Throughout the Old Testament, God promised the Jews that He would send a king who would establish God’s kingdom on earth. This “deliverer” was referred to as the Messiah, or “the Christ.” He would be God coming down to earth.

Predictions (or prophecies) in the Old Testament about this Messiah were many and specific, and all gave clues as to how the Messiah could be identified: where and when He would be born, His family tree, when and how He would die, and more.

You might think having so many prophecies posted for all to read—there are at least 40 in the Bible concerning the Messiah, made over a period of hundreds of years—would make it easier for someone to figure out how to be a candidate in the Messiah sweepstakes. But the opposite is true. It’s one thing for an imitator to fulfill one or even a few of the prophecies, but with so many specific parameters, it was impossible for any one person to meet the Messiah qualifications, such as:

  • Had to be born in the little town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2)
  • Would be a direct descendant of the famous King David (Isaiah 11:1)
  • Would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14)
  • Would say certain things while dying (Psalm 22:1)
  • Would come back from the dead (Psalm 16:9-10)
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Do We Need Another Youth Conference?

"Do we really need another youth conference?"

Well, our Rethink Student Apologetics Conference preregistration numbers suggest we do. With over 400 students, youth leaders, and parents already signed up, we have further evidence that youth are hungry for this kind of conference.  Why? Because it's not the typical youth camp or conference, where students may be entertained, may have alot of "fun," may be wowed with bells and whistles, but who may not walk away equipped with anything more than a temporary hyped-up experience. 

Students want parents and church leadership to step up their training.  The Center for Parent & Youth Understanding (CPYU) conducted interviews with students who had grown up in the church and were now in college. This is the kind of thing CPYU heard again and again:  

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Most Parents Aren't Ready to Train Their Own Kids

I’ve never had someone cry after my atheist role-play.  Until now.

In September, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of parents from Village Academy Christian School in Fayetteville, North Carolina.  Earlier in the day, I taught the junior and senior high students at chapel and spoke to three different twelfth grade classes.  I role played an atheist with the seniors, to give them a glimpse of the intellectual challenges awaiting them at college, and decided to give the parents, who had come out for an evening lecture, a glimpse in the same way.

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Book Review: Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace

Let me put my cards on the table.  J. Warner Wallace (Jim to those who know him personally) is one of my best friends.  For almost 10 years, we’ve been invested in each other’s life.  We’ve done ministry together.  We’ve served in the local church together.  We’ve led student mission trips together.  Our families have spent time together (my teenage daughter regularly crashes at his house and gets spoiled by Jim’s wonderful wife, Susie).  And now we’re speaking together, as colleagues at Stand to Reason.  Jim is a close friend, partner, and ally.  

So yes, as I offer a review of Jim’s book, Cold Case Christianity (CCC), you could argue that I’m biased.  However, if you dismiss my book review as unreliable on the sole basis of bias, then you need to read Jim’s book!  In chapter 14, he deals with a similar charge of bias against the disciples.  And had you read it already, you’d know bias does not preclude one from being reliable, as Jim’s “Mark Hillian” illustration demonstrates (see page 246).  So, don't dismiss this review before you consider the reasons why I think you need to read Jim’s book. 

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My Debate on the Grounding of Morality

Was I nervous? Yes, absolutely. Of course, this wasn't my ordinary speaking event. On April 5, about 170 people packed a room at Weber State University, to watch my formal debate with professor of philosophy Dr. Richard Greene. The question: Can there be objective moral values and obligations without God? Each debater had 20 minutes for opening arguments, a 10-minute rebuttal, about 40 minutes of joint Q & A from the audience, and a 5-minute conclusion.

Dr. Greene had home field advantage. He has been teaching classes at Weber State for about eight years and a number of his students came out for the debate. About 65% of the attendees indicated on a pre-debate survey that they held Dr. Greene’s view, that morality is best explained without God.

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Don’t Just Doubt Your Faith, Doubt Your Doubts

Students need space to share their doubts.  We all do.  If serious questions about Christianity and uncertainty toward God are not recognized and explored, they remain in the heart and mind, only to surface farther down the road and often with greater force.  Simplistic Christian responses will not suffice.  “Do extra devotions” or “just have faith” don’t do justice to a student’s real struggle with doubt. 

I encounter student doubt all the time.  My work actually helps to surface doubts, as I raise challenges to Christianity and then explore answers in my talks.  I remember when Helia, a freshman at a Christian college in Southern California, approached me after the talk I gave at a Summit Ministries student conference this past summer and shared her struggle with doubt.  I was glad for her honest questions and told her as much.  Why?  I want students to get their doubts on the table while they’re with me.  So I always allow space for questions, the starting point for dealing with doubt. 

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Is An Omniscient God a Contradiction?

Here's a challenge posed at Infidels.org, a big online resource for the skeptical community:  

"Can God know what it is like to learn? If God is omniscient (all-knowing), then it seems that he would have to know what it is like to learn. However, in order to know what it is like to learn, one must have learned something, which involves moving from a state of not-knowing to a state of knowing. This entails that at one time we were in a state of not-knowing a thing that was learned, then experienced what it is like to learn. But if God is essentially omniscient, he always is and has been omniscient, so was never in a state of not-knowing. Because being in a state of not-knowing is necessary to know what it is like to learn, we would seem to have to say that God does not know what it is like to learn. But this contradicts the original claim that he does know this based on his omniscience. Thus, it seems that God's omniscience generates a contradiction. Consequently an omniscient God cannot exist."

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From True Belief to Confident Knowledge

I don’t want students to merely believe true things.  That’s a start, but it’s not enough.  I want students to know true things.  So what’s the difference?

What would you think if I said I know it’s raining outside, but I didn’t believe it was raining outside?  You’d be puzzled.  It doesn’t make sense to say I know something that at the same time I don’t actually believe.  All the facts we think we know are also facts we believe, so knowledge includes belief. 

What if I said I know it’s raining outside, but it’s not true that it’s raining outside?  Again, you’d be confused and wonder, “How can you know something that’s not true?”  You can’t.  A belief is true if it matches reality and it’s false if it doesn’t.  So to say someone’s belief is false means they don’t know.  Therefore, knowledge not only includes belief, but truth as well. 

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