Since the Gospel accounts contain miracles and since we know miracles don’t happen, it follows that the Gospel accounts are at best; unreliable or at worse just plain fairy tales. As Prof Richard Dawkins said “You can’t sneak in a little magic when it suits you”.
Ironically, before our recent escape into Modernity, the power of “miracles”, (that is the supernatural interventions of a benevolent God) was the ‘tour de force’ of Christianity, but now they’ve become the reason for dismissing it.
But is this fair? Are we asking people to believe in magic & the tooth fairy? Or are we asserting a message of profound and eternal weight, when we affirm the supernatural?
Let’s Patronise these Atheists a little
Okay, let’s concede that the Gospels can’t be used to establish the Resurrection. So, we’ll lay them to one side, and begin the case for the Resurrection without them.
Let’s use St Paul, he’s the ideal candidate for the sceptic. He wrote 13 letters, none of them contain miracles, which is a great start (no magic here).
But wait, we can offer even more. Paul was an enemy of the Christian faith in a former life, which eminently qualifies him, because after all it’s very hard and extremely embarrassing to eat humble pie and apologise to your enemies that you made a huge mistake. Furthermore, he was an intellectual and academic.
Let’s use Paul to Validate the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
We’ve established Paul, was a former opponent of Christianity, he’s very smart and doesn’t use “magic”.
We know that Jesus was crucified about 30AD. Fifty days later the Christian movement was successfully launched at Pentecost (without the help of Social Media).
From here the Church in Jerusalem grew and grew. However, by Act 9 fierce opposition arises with the martyrdom of Stephen. Guess who’s watching? Paul’s zeal for God has found a cause to support.
However, God has other plans, accosting him on the road to Damascus, Paul faces off with Jesus now Christ (perhaps he’s hallucinating? Let’s see). Notwithstanding, he repents and accepts his new commission. Scholars date this event to about 32AD, that’s two years after the crucifixion.
In Galatians, Paul tells us that after the Damascus Rd conversion, he went straight to Arabia for some time out, returns to Jerusalem three years later.
Which means he’s back in Jerusalem in 35AD for the first time after his conversion, and is about to meet with the heavy-weights; Peter and James. Peter, the disciple whom Jesus handpicked as the supreme leader of the recently formed Church and James the brother (ie half-brother) of Jesus himself. You can feel the intensity. Paul the former persecutor of the Church is now in the same room with the big guns.
Let’s Assume they didn’t Talk about the Weather
What did they talk about? I’ll get to that later, but stay with me for now, because we’re jumping ahead to 55AD, the date Paul wrote 1st Corinthians 15.
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: That Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time (hmm … 500 hallucinating at the same time?), most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles,and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born”.
In verses 1&2, Paul reminds the Corinthians that they believed the Gospel message that he first preached to them. He then goes on to spell out that message (vs 3 ff see above).
Now this is where it starts to get very interesting because the message he preached is preserved in a creedal format. By which I mean it’s something like a formula that the early church recited as a type of catechism.
Read it aloud, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. It’s diachronic and has rhythm with the repetition of “according to the scriptures” and “that”.
The fatal blow to the sceptically inspired rejection of the Resurrection miracle comes in verse 4-5
“He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve”.
What Were They Talking About?
Let’s go back to 35AD. Peter again, James and Paul were in the same room comparing notes during their 15-day colloquy. Paul constrained by scholarly honesty wanted to check whether the message he received directly from Jesus on the Damascus Rd was the same as Peter & James’, he wants to be absolutely certain of his message, before he begins his mission to the Gentiles.
You’ve gotta love Paul’s honesty. Just to make sure he was on message, 14 years later Paul returned to Jerusalem to meet once again with the Jerusalem hierarchy. Where they reassured him that his version of the Gospel was the same as theirs (Galatians 2) He says they ‘….. added nothing to my message”
And What was that Message?
It was this; that according to the scriptures; Jesus died for our sins, he was buried, and then he was raised on the 3rd day, then he appeared to Peter and then Twelve disciples, to prove that his Resurrection was genuine.
Paul’s message and entire life’s work was based on the unassailable evidence of the supernatural Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. It was founded on a miracle, not magic.
Vic Matthews has three degrees: B.Optom, B.Arts & B. Christian Studies. He is a kiteboard tragic, and a fledgling author, and copywriter. His books can be found at http://www.graphw.co/books/
Vic Matthews' previous articles may be viewed http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/vic-matthews.html