Defending the Resurrection
Many were encouraged by the article If Christ is not raised. But some wrote in with critical comments and objections to the resurrection. Since one point the article raised is the importance of being able to answer objections to the resurrection, we publish these, with answers from Lita Sanders, for your edification.
John, U.S., writes:
What if the women stole the body of Christ? How would we refute a claim as that, they went to visit the tomb of Jesus, so did they not have that ability? Also was the guard not there when they went to visit? If so, anyone could enter.
The women had no motive to steal the body of Jesus or to fake the resurrection, and if the earliest followers of Jesus wanted to fake a resurrection, women would be the worst people to choose to do it, because the testimony of women was not accepted in that day. The disciples themselves did not believe the women until they saw the empty tomb for themselves.
The women expected to find the tomb with a huge rock in front of it, and they were counting on the guards to pity them and move the sealed stone, because there’s no way they could do it themselves. If they needed the guards there, they obviously couldn’t be counting on slipping the body past the guards, who if anything would be even more alert as they were finishing the burial preparations. In fact, Matthew tells us that when the women went to the tomb, there was an earthquake, and the angel descended from heaven and rolled back the stone, and the guards became as dead men (Matthew 28:1–8).
Even the first Jews to spread the lie that the body was stolen said that the disciples, not the women, stole it (Matthew 28:11–15). The best refutation for the idea that the women stole the body would be that’s a dumb idea, it wouldn’t work, and nobody who denied the resurrection ever blamed the body stealing on the women.
David, U.S., writes
At best, the resurrection is a metaphor. There is no evidence that dead people come back to life. There is plenty of evidence to contrary. And there is also plenty of evidence to show that in the 21st century many followers are leaving their religion too. Just as God failed to prevent the deaths of 200,000 humans in the 2004 tsunami, so imaginary gods will not resolve the multiple challenges we face with excessive global warming.
Someone clearly didn’t pay attention in high school English. The resurrection as a metaphor doesn’t even make sense; literally no one in the New Testament used it as a metaphor. Yes, there’s lots of evidence that people don’t normally rise from the dead, which is precisely why it was such a big deal when Jesus rose from the dead (that was awesome!).1 Miraculous events are, by definition, outside of what science can investigate, which is why we need to look at it as a historical matter. And historically, there is much evidence for it.
Many people are leaving their religion in the West—this is a good thing, if they don’t actually believe in Christ, because that gives us a better idea of who we need to pray for and share our faith with. Many people reject the faith because they’ve never actually been taught how to defend their faith against the uninformed attacks of Internet atheists, who say things like, for instance, “the resurrection is a metaphor, at best.” Besides, Christianity isn’t dying. The ‘decline’ spoken about in the West is predominantly happening among liberal churches, while conservative, bible-believing churches are growing. And while the church is growing slowest in Europe and North America, it is actually still growing.2 In Asia, Africa, and South America, Christianity is experiencing dramatic growth.
You, the Bible, and I can all agree that imaginary gods can do nothing. And if you need to go back to 2004 to find hundreds of thousands of people dying, you’re not trying very hard. The Bible is clear that one consequence of sin is death, and sometimes death takes the form of a natural disaster that kills hundreds of thousands of people. But it is no less a ‘problem’ when people die on a smaller scale. We have a God who came down and died to conquer death, and who rose to show us that He was victorious, and guarantee us that when we trust in Him, we will be raised with a resurrection like His own.
Patricia B., U.K., writes:
Paul says "He appeared to over 500 brethren many of whom are still alive… last of all He appeared to me… what… as a human being… NO… as a vision in the heavens, a light that lit up the sky a voice that knocked him to the ground… so did Paul confer that all that had seen Him had seen Him the same way! Awkward if you want a physical resurrection. This means His body is still here.
Paul himself indicates that his own experience is unlike the apostles, “as to one untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:8). The Gospel accounts which detail the appearances to the women, the disciples, and on the road to Emmaus make it clear that Jesus appeared as a man, a physical human being who could be touched (John 20:27), who could eat food (Luke 24:42–43), and who looked so human that Mary was able to mistake him for the gardener (John 20:15–16). There were some supernatural aspects to His body; He could appear (Luke 24:36) and disappear (Luke 24:31) at will, for instance. But His resurrection was an actual resurrection that left the tomb empty. Otherwise the Jews would not have had to invent the story that the disciples stole the body.