Below is the second half of a relatively long (but actually concise) treatment of evidences or evidential steps for the view that the Christian faith is rational, and even desirable, to hold (the first half is here). The introductory paragraph is repeated for clarity. Thanks for reading, and may the God of all creation bless you.
For the person who wants to know that there is reason to believe a holy book–that there is evidence to back it up–different areas of apologetics have those answers. In fact, there is more evidence for the truthfulness of the Bible today than ever before, excepting when the events actually occurred. This essay assumes that the person searching for a legitimate holy book already believes that there is a deity of some sort; it does not cover arguments for the existence of God. What this essay does cover, in concise form, are the issues of reliability of the Old and New Testaments, fulfilled prophecies, miracles, and Christ’s resurrection.
What is a biblical miracle, and what is its purpose and meaning? In the Judeo-Christian context, a miracle is a work of God outside of the patterns of normalcy. Miracles of healing and of being saved from death obviously show the intervention of a God who loves. Biblical miracles consistently show three things. One, they display God’s glory (they also have the effect of showing to God which persons react faithfully to His glory, and which do not). Two, they are proof that the person “performing” the miracle is from God (the source is God, not the person). And Three, they display God’s benevolence. Some examples of such miracles are found in Exodus 14:13-18, Daniel 3:16-30, Mark 2:1-12, and John 11:38-44.
Do miracles happen today? Yes, they do! Most people think they don’t because they aren’t reported in mainstream media. I knew a lady personally, one of the most stable and intelligent ladies I have ever met, who told me the story of her daughter being healed from a terminal illness. The Lord did an emotional healing of myself, and I felt His work in my whole body (I will not explain further here). Open Doors USA reported on its website, in 2002 (April 7), a cancer completely healed in China: “one young woman was healed from cancer. The doctor treating her had fainted from the shock of seeing the cancerous growth gone. We all laughed at that.” Pastor Andrae Crouch was healed of cancer (Nappa 1999). In September 2001, The Voice of the Martyrs wrote of a healing in its magazine/newsletter: a young Pakistani Muslim man was hit by a car while riding his bike, and his leg was broken. A woman came out of the crowd and prayed for him, in Jesus’ name. He felt energy move throughout his body and his leg was healed (later, she gave him a bible and was never seen again, and he became a follower of Christ). I have read of many other miracles, too, occurring at the time of a person’s salvation and others that happen that save a person from death. Some medical miracles can be read about at the World Christian Doctors Network.
What about miracles outside of the Judeo-Christian faith? There are some amazing and unexplained things that happen in the world that people might say are miracles, but which do not meet the criteria that show that they are from God. Some of these may not be explained yet, and others may be the activity of fallen angels. The magicians of Pharaoh’s court in Exodus 7 performed seeming miracles. A girl had a spirit that told the future in Acts 16 (16-24), but the spirit in her was not from God. The book of Revelation foretells of someone who will perform ungodly miracles (13:11-14). So, if “miracles” happen that do not seem like they are from God, that may in fact draw people away from God, we should not be surprised.
There are some Buddhist scriptures with interpretations that record possible miracles, but since the miraculous activities are self-aggrandizing and do not point to God (such as the changing of physical things to other physical things, flying, reading minds, passing through solid matter, etc.), they are not Godly miracles. A modern day Hindu “miracle” happened in 1995, which was apparently reported from all over the world (Hinduism Today, November 1995 [as cited in Powell 2006]). A man in New Dehli dreamt that the Hindu god Lord Ganesha wanted milk. So the man went to the temple and told a priest, who then gave the statue of Ganesha some milk. The statue “consumed” the milk. People heard of it and started offering milk to Ganesha statues all over, and the statues “consumed” the milk. This went on for 24 hours in India, but longer elsewhere. The “miracle” seems useless and it lacks benevolence; indeed, God is not transcendent in Hinduism belief and so any such displays are supernormal, not supernatural. In the Quran, it is written that Muhammad did not perform any miracles.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
I wonder if other Christians feel the same as I, that for some odd reason Jesus’ resurrection does not need explaining? The reality of Christ’s resurrection is a very significant topic in apologetics, however, since it is such a hard to believe event for the unbeliever. A subissue is the disharmony of the differing gospel accounts as to what happened at the empty tomb. (This issue had led me to read Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus [Carla Ricci 1994], and I highly recommend it!) Women were very involved in Jesus’ ministry, he taught them much as disciples, and women were the first witnesses of His resurrection. This happens to play an important role in showing the reality of the resurrection, explained below, along with other rationales for accepting the resurrection as fact.
If the resurrection did not happen, how can anyone explain the beginning of the church? That may seem like an overly simple question–after all, there are many religions today that begin and grow for what seem to be very shallow (and unreasonable) reasons. Well, today, people in the Western World, at least, do not become lion chow in a public arena, are beheaded, or are crucified, for having beliefs counter to those of the government or religious elite. In conditions like that, one would be much more careful about choosing one’s beliefs!
Today, Muslims die (kill themselves) for a belief they think is true. People will die for the truth (and, in fact, Christians do die perhaps every day in countries that are hostile to their faith). But if some critics are correct that the Apostles were promoting false beliefs, why would they die for a lie (almost all were killed for their faith)? Who would do that? The Apostles and very many early believers died for their faith, knowing it to be true; it would be absurd to die for a cause that you knew to be false. Paul, as an apostle, is very hard to explain indeed, if the resurrection had not happened. Paul was not one of Jesus’ followers, but an ardent persecutor of Christians! He had a great education and was a Roman citizen—in short, he had a privileged life and his future was bright prior to his conversion. Because of his encounter with the living God and after convincing the other apostles that he was sincere, Paul served His Lord (and thus His church), and for this he was eventually beheaded by Nero.
So there was an empty tomb . . . that doesn’t prove Jesus was resurrected, or does it? A lot of people must think the evidence pointing to Jesus’ resurrection is good, since they try and come up with all kinds of explanations countering the event. Some, like the alien theory, are down-right silly. But what of the evidence? It’s interesting that the Jews tried to cover up the resurrection right from the beginning, knowing that Jesus’ body was gone. This is more significant when one considers that the tomb had been guarded by Roman soldiers who would forfeit their lives for this kind of negligence, and, that the Jews never did find Jesus’ body (you can bet that they tried) (Matthew 27:62-65, 28:11-15).
Another bit of evidence comes to us in a less obvious way. Some critics try to claim that the story of the resurrection was made up and developed through some time by the gospel writers. Even though there is good argument against this in general, we know that in fact Paul wrote of the resurrection early on, within 20 years, at the most, after Jesus died (and prior to the gospels being written). This is in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, where Paul tells of the many witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, many of whom were still living at that time (readers and hearers of his letter could go and ask these people if what Paul said was true).
One of the evidences is of a type that people of today cannot appreciate unless they know the historical context of New Testament times. At that time, women were held in very low regard amongst the Jews. Sometimes it is hard to see or fathom this from the texts, since women do not seem to have trouble following and supporting Jesus. But women at that time did not testify in court as the men deemed them unworthy witnesses. Yet here, women are indeed the first witnesses to the resurrection. The men at first dismissed what the women had to say about the resurrected Jesus. One can imagine, in this social context, that the men had a very hard time writing the gospels with the women’s stories included. At that time, including their witness would be the opposite of what one would present in order to prove something, and something as important as Christ’s resurrection. The fact that the women’s accounts in each of the gospels varies is also telling—it shows that the writers did not collaborate to try and come up with a totally coherent and slick story that sounded official and convincing (Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8 [and perhaps 9-11]; Luke 24:1-12).
Sir Lionel Luckhoo, who during his lifetime won 245 consecutive murder trial acquittals (for this he is in the Guinness Book of World Records), is not alone in his thinking and assessment of Jesus’ resurrection:
“I have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice. I have been fortunate to secure a number of successes in jury trials and I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt” (Anon 2012).
© Vicki Priest 2012 (this is a modified and edited version of a series of articles published by the author at Examiner.com, 2011)
Bibliography and Recommended Reading (for both article parts)
Anonymous. “Why should I believe in Christ’s Resurrection?” GotQuestions.org. http://www.gotquestions.org/why-believe-resurrection.html (accessed March 2012).
Arlandson, James. “Do Miracles Happen Today?” American Thinker. January 13, 2007. http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/01/do_miracles_happen_today.html (accessed March 2012).
Chong, Timothy. “Bible, Canonicity.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hinson, 101-102. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Copan, Paul. Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011.
Dowley, Tim, Editor. Eerdman’s Handbook to The History of Christianity. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977.
Garrett, Duane A, General Editor. NIV Archaeological Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.
Geisler, Norman, and Ed Hindson. “Bible, Alleged Errors.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, by Ergun Caner Ed Hindson, 97-100. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Gleghorn, Michael. “Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources.” bethinking.org. 2001. http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/intermediate/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian.htm (accessed March 2012).
Hart, David Bentley. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies. New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2009.
Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.
Kennedy, D. James. “Christ: The Fulfillment of Prophecy.” In The Apologetics Study Bible, by Ted, General Editor Cabal, xxviii-xxix. Nashville: Holman, 2007.
MacDonald, William. “Prophecies of the Messiah Fulfilled in Jesus Christ.” In Believer’s Bible Commentary, by William MacDonald, xviii-xxiii. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995 (1989).
Nappa, Mike. True Stories of Answered Prayer. Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1999.
Powell, Doug. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006.
Ricci, Carla. Mary Magdalene and Many Others: Women Who Followed Jesus . Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1994.
Sailhamer, John H. Biblical Prophecy. Grand Rapids: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998.
Yates, Gary E. “Bible, Transmission of.” In The Popular Encycolopedia of Apologetics, by Ed, and Ergun Caner Hindson, 107-110. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.