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Is it Irrational to Believe That a Man Can be Raised From the Dead?

Posted by thethousandmarch on April 20, 2014 at 3:20 PM

To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus. Not simply to believe he was a wise man, a great moral teacher, or a significant socio-political catalyst. We believe this man is God’s Anointed One (Messiah) sent to redeem and restore the world. We believe this man is God; so we trust him to save us from the corruption of sin – to save us from death. How could we believe such a thing? Because we believe that Jesus the “Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.” (1 Cor. 15:20) This belief that Jesus rose from the dead is the foundational belief of the Christian worldview. It is this event which vindicates Jesus and validates his claims. Our trust in Jesus is not an irrational hope founded upon blind faith.


There are many reasonable arguments for the existence of God, but his existence cannot be proven through anything we presently objectively observe. We can only know what we experience; we can only know God exists if he reveals himself to us. Jesus claimed that he was a representation of God – “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father!” (John 14:9) – he claimed that he revealed God to us. How could such a claim be validated? Jesus performed many miracles which demonstrated that he was a prophet, and the ultimate miracle was being raised from the dead. Such an event is a considerable piece of evidence.


The claim that Jesus was raised from the dead is a historical truth claim. There is no piece of observable evidence which can be evaluated scientifically which we have in our possession at present. However science does not have an exclusive claim upon reason; it is not the only discipline which analysis data through a logical process. There is an ample amount of historical evidence pertaining to the resurrection of Jesus which can be evaluated. And Christians have always understood that our faith is dependent upon the reality that this event truly occurred. The story is not a myth or metaphor. If it did not in fact occur, what hope do we have? “And if Christ has not been raised, then [our] faith is useless and [we] are still guilty of [our] sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” (1 Cor. 15:17-19) So because I do believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, I believe he represents God. And because I trust Jesus, I believe I can know some very crucial facts about the nature of reality, both physical and spiritual, most importantly I can know the Creator.


There are of course many people who think such beliefs are irrational, in part because they believe all religious thought is irrational. They would say science is based upon reason and religion is based upon faith. They would say faith is completely subjective and generally irrational. Of course many religious people are quick to oblige them in confirming their bias. Certainly religious beliefs are not all or equally justified. Yet many are justified. Only a man blinded by his own unprovable ideology would assume that his assumptions must be self-evident to all reasonable people. The fair-minded atheist and agnostic will acknowledge that not all Christians are ignorant, naïve, or superstitious fools.


We Christians are very aware of the fact that people do not naturally die and regenerate. Jesus’ disciples, despite his claims, did not actually expect Jesus to rise from the dead. As superstitious as you think they might have been they each refused to believe that Jesus was actually raised from the dead until the each saw him with their own eyes. Just because something does not usually happen you cannot simply dismiss the claim that it has happened in a particular instance without examining the evidence. If you don’t think it worth your time, you have not made a scientific or historical, or therefore rational, assessment of the evidence. You’ve allowed your bias to predetermine your response to the claim. If that is a person’s position they must be honest, their ideology, not their logic has determined their judgment.


If you take the time to examine the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and do not dismiss the possibility of resurrection (or the existence of God) before hand, you will find that it is not an improbable hypothesis. The possibility cannot easily be dismissed, unless your ideology does not allow you to consider it. For those interested I’d recommend a book which I am currently reading by Michael R. Licona called The Resurrection of Jesus, A New Historiographical Approach (his website risenjesus.com). He provides a robust argument in support of the historical claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Licona acknowledges the fact that we all have our biases, which make it impossible to be completely objective in our interpretation of evidence. Yet he attempts to be as honest and as rational as possible as he thinks through the data. He does not ask us to ignore logic and just believe. He does not ask us to ignore what we know to be true. He doesn’t tell us to put our faith in our own subjective experience. He wants us to use our reason and examine the objective evidence.


I believe in God for various reason – some based on rational arguments, some experiential, some emotional and subjective. I believe Jesus was raised from the dead – I believe this was an historical event for which there is objective evidence. It cannot be proven, but it can be demonstrated that resurrection is the most probable explanation of the evidence. This is a claim which can be rationally assessed and discussed objectively (as objectively as an historical event can). I believe Jesus’ resurrection from the dead demonstrates that he was a revelation from God. Therefore we should listen to him. And so, though my religion requires me to have faith, it is not an irrational unreasoned faith.


If the Christianity you have been exposed to or grew up with was completely subjective and experiential, didn’t care about rationality or logic, was anti-science, or only cared about personal transformation, health, wealth, and behavior modification, then I would say you have not been exposed to Christianity.


Categories: Basic Christian Belief, Science, Easter