Dr. Craig J. Hazen from Biola University points to Christianity as unique from other religions as it is not a “blind leap of faith,” nor dependent upon a subjective, emotional experience. God has provided a way for anyone to go on an historical investigation regarding the Truth claims of Christianity, and it all hinges upon Jesus’s Resurrection. Hazen points-outs in his talks that 1 Corinthians 15 makes it very clear that if the Resurrection didn’t happen, Christianity does not exist.
Dr. Hazen explains in his talks about the major world religions that “everybody wants a piece of Jesus” in their religious worldview. “In Hinduism, Jesus emerges in some Hindus’ minds as either the greatest, or one of the greatest teachers ever to walk the earth. In Buddhism, Jesus was thought to be “an actual incarnation of the Buddha, himself! If not, then he (Jesus) certainly is a great Bodhisattva in the Mahayana tradition…who leads people up to the precipice of enlightenment. In Islam,” Hazen continues, “Jesus is figured as greater than Mohammad, was considered born of a virgin, and remembered as a miracle worker.” But Christianity has Jesus at the center. Now, for anyone doubting Jesus’s existence, why would most major world religions acknowledge him if He didn’t exist?
(More information on the historical Jesus below)
Christianity acknowledges the claims made by Jesus, as both historically verifiable and true. You see, Jesus did not mince words when he boldly described himself as both the “Son of Man” and “Son of God.” These two titles pointed to Jesus’s preeminent, divine nature. Jesus was stating that he was Lord! Something the other major world religions do not ascribe. This proclamation (as shared by both C.S. Lewis and Josh McDowell) lends itself to 3 possibilities for those researching Jesus’s claims: 1) Telling the truth, 2) Lying, or 3) Talking as a Lunatic. Sisters, a “good person,” “prophet,” or “wise teacher” would not be a liar or a lunatic. He is either who He professed to be or not at all!
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand,2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers (>500!) at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.1 Corinthians 15:1-19
Another argument utilized by skeptics as to counter Jesus’s assertions of Lordship is to accuse his followers of writing-in these claims later in history. This could be termed the “Legend” argument. However, as Dr. Gary Habermas explains, the claims of Jesus’s Deity go back to the empty tomb and resurrection. Those who saw Jesus resurrected (500+ eyewitnesses) were both teaching and singing creeds that prolifically pointed to 3 distinct components: Jesus’s place in the Godhead, his death, as well as his resurrection. These teachings were heavily persecuted by those who were zealous for God’s old covenant. Numerous followers of Jesus were martyred for sharing these passionate convictions…One of these martyred followers was Stephen. And Saul was present. Stephens’s death happened before Jesus appeared to Saul while on his way to persecute more Christians (Damascus Road), which would have been just 2 to 3 years (A.D. 32-33) after the crucifixion (A.D. 30). The historical data pointing Jesus’s existence is both inside and outside of the Bible. And this evidence regarding Jesus’s life, death, and empty tomb is unchallenged by most non-Christian scholars. Notable mentions would be Bart Ehrman, Gerd Ludemann, and John Dominic Crossan.
“Jesus’ death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate is as sure as anything historical can ever be. For if no follower of Jesus had written anything for one hundred years after his crucifixion, we would still know about him from two authors not among his supporters. Their names are Flavius Josephus and Cornelius Tacitus.”Crossan
Friends, it’s my hope and prayer that this post encourages you incredibly. In His mercy, God has provided all of us with abundant evidence for the hope that we have in the Gospel of Jesus. You might not need these facts, and yet someone you might know might. But don’t put someone’s salvation upon yourself as that is a work only the Holy Spirit can do. Dr. Gary Habermas, during one of his lectures at Biola, advocated that we keep sharing the reasons for the hope that we have with humility and reverence…and yet to remember that not everyone walked away from Jesus, himself, believing. “And if they walked away from Jesus not believing, why would we think that most will walk away from us believing?” Habermas continued. “At the least, we can put a ‘rock in someone’s shoe’” and pray that the information shared promotes further investigation. Habermas exhorted his students to trust God with the work that He can do in that person’s life. We are called to make disciples, but it is only God who saves.
With all this being said, lay every preconceived bias under the microscope, 🔬 and wholly examine the evidence above. You will come away with answers. These answers can change your life! And if an answer could save the lives of those you love, it’s worth both investigating and sharing! Don’t you agree?! In today’s postmodern culture, discovering absolute Truth is incredibly unpopular, even fiercely discouraged. But absolute Truth is what we all need,…desperately. Reader, humans are profoundly imperfect, and often tend to behave so hypothetically most days. But the reality of Jesus’s death and resurrection doesn’t hinge upon the goodness of people but upon the Goodness of God. Please, please investigate the Resurrection for yourself. Praying that you do.
Dr. Gary Habermas’s “Minimal Facts” Regarding the Resurrection
Catalogued by Gary Habermas from Biola University, the following 12 historical facts are agreed upon by some of the most skeptical critics:
- Jesus was crucified. Verified as dead (stabbed in the heart)
- Jesus was buried
- Jesus’ death caused his disciples to despair and lose hope, believing His life had ended
- Jesus’ tomb was found to be empty just a few days later
- Disciples had experiences they actually believed to be literal appearances of the risen Jesus (basis of book Jesus’ Resurrection, debate by Wm Lane Craig and Gert Ludemann, who held the Hallucination Theory)
- Disciples were transformed from doubters afraid to identify with Jesus to bold proclaimers of His death and resurrection
- This message was central to the preaching of the early church (Acts 7; 1 Corinthians 15)
- It was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where Jesus died and was buried only a short time before
- As a result of the preaching, the church was born and grew
- Sunday became the primary day of worship, especially powerful considering early believers were all Jewish
- James, Jesus’ 1/2 brother and formerly a skeptic, was converted to faith when he also saw what he believed to be the resurrected Jesus
- A few years later, Paul likewise was converted by what he believed to be an appearance of the resurrected Jesus