[This post is part of the Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe series]
One thing that makes Christianity unique is that it rests on the truthfulness of a historical event. From a philosophical vantage point, the foundation of Christianity rests on the impossibility of its contrary (i.e. knowledge would not be possible unless based on the authority of an absolutely person, namely, God as Trinity, but that’s a different post entirely). However, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul seems very much to say that if Christ didn’t rise from the dead (in a real historical sense), then we are wasting our time. I would say this rests on the prior philosophical foundation (if the OT wasn’t what it claimed to be, then Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be either).
All of this is to say that Christianity hinges on the resurrection, unlike any other religion in history. This particular chapter in Doctrine is more or less an apologetic for the reliability of the biblical accounts of the resurrection of Christ. In answers very definitiely, the following questions:
- What is resurrection?
- What were ancient non-Christian views of the afterlife?
- What is the biblical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection?
- What is the circumstantial evidence for Jesus’ resurrection..
- What is the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection?
- What are the primary ancient objections to Jesus’ resurrection?
- What has the resurrection accomplished for Christians?
As you might can see, several different lines of evidence are examined, and they all point to the strong conclusion that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead. In a way, the fact that the Bible affirms it in no uncertain terms should be sufficient to prove the point, but these days, people do not take the Bible at its word. That aside, Christians should still be able to explain outside of the Bible, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, which is rather extensive.
The conclusion one should reach given a fair minded reading of this chapter is that it is perfectly reasonable to believe that the resurrection of Jesus actually did happen. Again, it should be pointed out that the subtitle to this book, What Christians Should Believe, should help to clarify that the staunchest skeptic will probably demand more argumentation and/or evidence before accepting the truthfulness of this doctrine, but for the Christians who is already on-board with the faith, this chapter will more than help to settle the truth in their mind.
Even a vocal critic of Christianity, Christopher Hitchens (recently diagnosed with cancer, keep him in your prayers) recognizes that one is hardly a Christian if they deny the real resurrection of Christ:
I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.
The rest of that interview can be read here, but is at least interesting to see that Hitchens is a sharp thinker and does get what the lynchpin is in Christian thought. He himself obviously rejects the truthfulness of this narrative, but he at least understands the role it plays. In a way, an additional subtitle could be added to Doctrine: What Skeptics Most Clearly Reject About Christianity.
A final word though, in respect to the last question above, a full length book has recently been published that unpacks the answer to that question in great and practical detail. Adrian Warnock’s Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything is a great devotional read to learn more about the practical implications of Jesus resurrection for the believer’s daily life.