Genesis and the Cross
It may seem odd for people to celebrate the humiliating defeat of their leader and hero. But the suffering, shame and death of Jesus Christ are a source of hope to Christians.
No one wants to live in a world where evil is ignored, or worse still, approved. Everyone yearns for justice when they have been mocked, insulted, betrayed or abused.
Who has not rebelled when they have been treated like an animal or a thing? We have a deep desire for our wrongs to be put right, for our suffering to have meaning.
The cross of Christ answers our human need. In Jesus’ Passion we discover that behind the universe is a God who treats every person with immeasurable value, who cares about justice.
To the evolutionist the death of Christ makes no sense. Misotheist Richard Dawkins in his book The Blind Watchmaker (ch. 4) said that we live in a universe that he thinks looks like it has ‘no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.’
The Cross of Christ means God cares
‘Pitiless indifference’? Dawkins thinks that way because he thinks evolution is true, that we are just the product of blind, materialistic processes. If there is no God, then Dawkins is right. There is nothing out there that even knows you exist. And Dawkins tells you to get used to it.
But the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ destroy that desolate outlook. They prove once and for all that God exists and cares about what happens in this world—about what happens to you, and the way you live your life.
Antony Flew, once described as the ‘world’s most notorious atheist’, surprised an audience in May 2004 when he announced a change of mind—that he ‘accepted the existence of a God’.1
Although he is still dealing with the question of Jesus Christ being God incarnate he said, ‘I would say the claim concerning the resurrection is more impressive than any by the religious competition.’2
Previously, in 1985, Dr Flew had debated philosopher and theologian Dr Gary Habermas on this very question, the proposition that Jesus Christ conquered death itself.3 This debate was held in Dallas in front of a crowd of three thousand people. It was judged by two panels of experts from leading American universities: one panel comprised five philosophers who were asked to judge the content of the debate, and the other comprised five professional debate judges who were asked to judge the quality of the arguments.
Four of the five on the philosophers panel voted that Habermas had won, i.e. the case he made for the Resurrection was stronger than Flew’s attempts to refute it, and one scored it a draw. The panel of professional debate judges voted three to two to Habermas. The following comments from two of the judges follow:
‘I am of the position that the affirmative speaker [Habermas] has a very significant burden of proof in order to establish his claims. The various historical sources convinced me to adopt the arguments of the affirmative speaker. Dr Flew, on the other hand, failed, particularly in the rebuttal period and the head-to-head session, to introduce significant supporters of his position. Dr Habermas placed a heavy burden on Dr Flew to refute very specific issues. As the rebuttals progressed, I felt that Dr Flew tried to skirt the charges.’
‘I conclude that the historical evidence, though flawed, is strong enough to lead reasonable minds to conclude that Christ did indeed rise from the dead. Habermas has already won the debate. … By defeating the Hume-inspired skeptical critique on miracles in general offered by Flew and by demonstrating the strength of some of the historical evidence, Habermas does end up providing “highly probably evidence” for the historicity of the resurrection “with no plausible naturalistic evidence against it.” Habermas, therefore, in my opinion, wins the debate.’
It all hinges on Jesus’ Resurrection. The Apostle Paul wrote about Christ that he was ‘declared to be the Son of God with power … by the resurrection from the dead’ (Romans 1:4). We know that Jesus is who He claimed to be because of His Resurrection. Indeed, there are at least 17 factors that show that Christianity could not have succeeded in the ancient world, unless it were backed up with irrefutable proof of the Resurrection.4
The Resurrection of Christ gives us hope and purpose
‘No purpose’? Dawkins thinks like that because he imagines there is no Creator with a plan and design behind our existence. Yet, even people who believe in God are sometimes crushed by lack of purpose. How can God be both loving and all-powerful when there is so much suffering and evil in this world? Everything seems so random and pointless.
But death and suffering were not part of the world that God originally created. They are a result of sin. ‘For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22). We are all descended from Adam and Eve and we all suffer and die as a consequence of their disobedience, and ours. And Adam’s sin had catastrophic effects on the whole creation—see The Fall: a cosmic catastrophe. But because the obedience of Jesus Christ, we can be made alive, all of us, when we are in him. See also Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?
That Jesus Christ died on the Cross for our sin shows us that sin is serious and that it has consequences. Death is not an integral part of a selection process that produced biological diversity over billions of years. Death is the consequence of being estranged from our Creator. ‘For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23).
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which we celebrate on Easter Sunday, gives us hope. The gift of God is eternal life. And this hope gives us purpose for living.
The Apostle Paul once challenged some academics of his day, ‘Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?’ (Acts 26:8). Even many who believe in God can’t accept that He will supernaturally raise the dead to life.
If God did not create Adam supernaturally in the past, then it is inconsistent to think that He will raise the dead supernaturally in the future. If God needed the laws of nature to act on matter and energy over millions of years before the first man and woman emerged, then why would we expect him to change his modus operandi in the future and raise the dead supernaturally?
But that is not the way God created. In the beginning, on the sixth day of Creation, God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). On the third day after the Crucifixion, in an instant, He raised the cold, dead body of the Lord Jesus Christ to life.
And because Jesus was raised, we shall be raised too. ‘For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed’—‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye.’ (1 Corinthians 15:52).
For Christians, the death of Christ means that our sins have been taken away, that we have been reconciled with our Creator, and that we have a living hope for our own glorious resurrection.
And because of that we know that everything that we do in this life has meaning in the long term.
‘Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain’ (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Re-featured on homepage: 30 March 2018
- Flew, A., There Is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind, Harper One, New York, p. 74, 2007. Return to text.
- Flew, ref. 1, p. 187. Return to text.
- Habermas, G.R. and Flew, A.G.N., Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? The Resurrection Debate, ed. Terry L. Miethe, T.L., Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1987. Return to text.
- See Holding, J.P., The Impossible Faith, Xulon Press, Florida, USA, 2007; . Return to text.