Ligonier Conference: Entry #13
March 17, Saturday
R.C. Sproul addresses "The Resurrection of Christ"
Hymn: Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?
A couple of days ago, I read about the recently discovered bones of Jesus. The more bizarre the proposition, the more media it gets... The author acknowledged that the scholars scorn the "Lost Tomb" propostion. Poll: 78% of Americans believe in the Resurrection of Jesus. But the author inserted the phrase: "78% believe in the myth of the Resurrection."
Job asked, "If a man dies, shall he live again?"
Two major events:
In the 70's (the 1770's) one major event took place, but it wasn't the Declaration of Independence. But something happened in Europe that had greater implications. One man, a professor in Prussia--in the field of astrophysics--who never traveled more than 100 miles from his birth place and took punctual afternoon strolls--had a name Immanuel. Immanuel Kant wrote the most definitive and comprehensive critique (The Critique of Pure Reason) of the arguments for God.
As a scientist, he argued that we cannot move from the visible world to invisible world. We cannot go from the phenomenal world to the noumenal world. He critiqued the classical arguments for God to save science from David Hume's skepticism.
This created an seemingly unbreachable rift between science and theology. He ushered God out the front door and tried to let God in the back door: not in metaphysical pursuit, but in practical thinking.
He was concerned about ethics and morality. It seemed that in man, there was a universal sense of duty--oughtness. The categorical imperative.
Pragmatically, Kant asked what would the necessary conditions be to make this sense of oughtness to be meaningful?
How can ethics be meaningful? The survival of civilization cannot survive long without an answer.
He said that there would have to be justice. Without justice, fulfilling our duty becomes a fool's errand. But justice does not always prevail in the phenomenal world. Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer? For justice to be true, we must survive the grave. And beyond the grave, there must be a Judge who would mete out and dispense pure justice.
What are the necessary conditions for this Judge to mete out justice? He would have to be perfectly righteous and beyond reproach.
The Judge would also have to be omniscient to be free from misinformation. A just Judge cannot be susceptible to a miscarriage of justice.
But a Perfect Judge alone cannot secure justice. So the Judge would have to have all power and authority to mete out this justice. Metaphysically we cannot postulate this Judge, but for practical concerns, we must assume His existence.
So we must live as if there were a God.
This thought process held back a full torrent of skepticism. But the cracks in the dam soon gave way.
A metaphysical and ethical Katrina took place.
NOW: CONSIDER PARALLEL THINKING BETWEEN KANT AND PAUL
TEXT: 1 Corinthians 15:12
Verse 12: How can you have a Christianity without Resurrection from the dead?
Paul uses a common form of debate in the following passage: The Ad Hominem of Argumentation. Be careful.... Paul is not falling into the informal fallacy of the Ad Hominem Abusive. This fallacy is creating the criminalization of politics today. But Paul is not falling into this fallacy.
But there is a sound form of Ad Hominem reasoning: Arguing to the Man. I step into the shoes of my opponent. We stipulate agreement on certain premises, and then we see where the "granted premise" goes in its logical conclusion. This leads to the reductio ad absurdum. So Paul wants to show that Resurrection deny-ers will lead to absurd conclusions.
His opponent had an absolute position--a universal negative: Dead Men Do Not Rise.
IF THERE IS NO RESURRECTION....
THEN CHRIST IS NOT RAISED... (a necessary inference).
THEN OUR PREACHING IS VAIN
THEN OUR FAITH IS VAIN
Let's face facts. Don't live in an Alice-in-Wonderland Theological Dreamworld.
If Christ is not raised, my preaching is worthless, and our faith is in vain--because you're faith is in a man "whose bones have just been dug up!" (Laughter)
ALSO: We're mistrepresenting God! We'd have to name ourselves "Jehovah's False Wintesses."
ALSO: We are still in our sins. We are contained, enmeshed, in jail to sin without bail. Because our justification does not end with the cross. Jesus was raised for our justification. The resurrection is God's apologia. Christianity stands for falls with the Resurrection.
ALSO: Our beloved who have died in the faith have perished.
This is the grim reality... if there is no resurrection.
If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people the most to be pitied.
I say to the enemies of the Christian faith, "If you don't like what we preach, don't hate us. Pity us. We forfeit whatever the world has to offer before going into a hopeless oblivion."
This is why the Bible says that without Christ we are without hope.
What has Paul just done? He has drawn a gastly picture of the consequences of no life after death. Life itself, under the sun, is meaningless.
As Kant understood, your ethic is meaningless. And society cannot last--we are doomed to barbarianism. Our nation is going to barbarianism with such velocity, we wonder if it can stop--apart from God's intervention.
The only thing left in life is to MAKE WHAT IS RIGHT BY YOUR MIGHT!
What Kant was saying was this: Since the alternative to Life-After-Death is so grim and meaningless, We must live as if there is a God!
Here is using God as a crutch!
But Nietszche comes along and blows Kant away. I'm not going to live with the assumption God just to make life bearable! Let's face the abyss! Let's face the nihil! The nothing.
This was affirmed by Jean Paul Sartre: Existence is Naseum.
Albert Camus said the only serious question left for philosophers to examine is the question of suicide.
So Kant's arguments didn't survive the next generation. Gird up your loins like a man, Kant! Face the inevitable.
Some would say that Paul is doing the same thing.
But Paul does not argue for the Resurrection because the Life's Hopelessness Without IT!!! No, this is not the foundation of his argument.
Paul uses nature as examples of resurrection: Seeds. And in like manner, when our bones go into the ground in mortality, they are raised in immortality. This argument closely resembles Plato's argument.
But Paul doesn't rest his case on analogies of the seed or of the butterfly.
Why Does Paul Assert the Reality of the Resurrection?
Because Paul believes the Gospel he mentioned in the first part of the chapter: 1 Corinthians 15:3-4.
Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. Paul appeals to the Scriptures. Paul's first line of apologetics is an appeal to the Bible. (That's why we must always defend the Scriptures...)
Then He appeared to Cephas
... Then to the Twelve....
... Then to over 500 at once...
... Then to James ....
... AND THEN TO ME (Paul) ...
We are declaring to you something of which we had an empirical experience. We beheld Christ's glory on the plane of history! (This happened in the phenomenological world - JR)
We found an empty tomb? What can it mean? The disciples did not proclaim the Resurrection based on the empty tomb! No it was the appearance of Christ!
The resurrection had over 500 witnesses--and the others.
But what I'm writing to you, my dear friends in Corinth, is not on the basis of hearsay (as good as the hearsay is....), but as one born out of due time.
The text is written is by an eye-witness of the Resurrection.
One reason the above news reporter says that the Resurrection is a "myth" is not that Paul was stupid, but because--judging from our 21st century understanding of biology--we know that when people die, they stay dead. Since it is impossible for the dead to rise, the New Testament story must be wrong.
What a different view of life is in the New Testament! In the New Testament, it was impossible for death to hold Christ! Our empiricism does show that dead people stay dead. But our empiricism is that the dead people were sinful people. So death must be inseparably tied to sin. It is the soul that sins who dies.
So if Christ had no sin, how can we expect Him to stay dead? It is remarkable that Christ died in the first place! But having paid the price and finished the work, the Father raised Christ from the tomb!
The Resurrection is God's Proof of the Person of Jesus!
Paul debated the Stoics and the Epicureans at Mar's Hill. He noted the "Unknown God." "What you worship in ignorance, I proclaim to you in power...." If you stumble at the Resurrection, how do you account for life itself! The necessary conditions for life are not found in us--or in the physical universe!
The only one who has the power of life, being, and motion is the eternal, self-existent God! He has the power of life and death. He holds the keys.
If Christ can raise Lazarus, His Father can raise Christ. What is so hard about that to believe? If there is life in the universe anyway, why is this so difficult.
It is impossible that Christ should not have risen from the dead.
BTW, it was abhorrent to the 1st century man that someone should rise as it is to us today. It was just as difficult to believe back then as it is now. It's not like they saw resurrections all the time!
The times of ignorance, God overlooked. Now He commands all people everywhere to repent because He has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man He has appointed and given assurance to all in raising Him from the dead.
The Resurrection is the final apologetic. Is time for us to believe. God commands us to believe! He doesn't invite. He commands. The proof is given: BY RAISING HIM FROM THE DEAD!
Well, you may say, I wasn't there, so I can't holler glory. Send Christ back and show death and resurrection again.
No, Christ did it once for all.
God is going to judge us by this one act.
We don't believe in the Resurrection because the grimness of the alternative, but because of the testimony of its reality in Scripture.
Be unmovable, abounding in the Lord, because our work is not in vain!
GOD RAISED CHRIST FROM THE DEAD.