Many people think that the truth of Jesus is the most important question to pursue. If Jesus was fully God and fully man, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died on a cross, raised from the dead, sits at the right hand of the Father, and will come again, then one should be a Jesus lover and follower. If these things, summarized in the Apostles Creed, are not true, then Christianity shouldn’t be embraced.
As an amateur philosopher, the truth question is important to me. I focused on the veracity of Christianity as a religion and philosophy double major while in college, and I continued this pursuit in my graduate studies.
I have become convinced of the truth of Jesus in my sixteen years as a Christian. As I grow older, read more, listen more, and spend time with those who don’t believe as I do, I have grown more confident in my reasons in believing in the truth of Jesus. Allow me to elaborate on these.
First, Jesus is necessarily true. My journey into philosophy has convinced me that Christianity is not just true due to its coherence with facts. Rather, it is transcendentally true. Various Christian philosophers have presented arguments as to why Christianity alone gives a coherent account for believing in truth, science, logic, ethics, etc. In brief, a naturalistic or materialist universe cannot account for non-tangible entities such as propositions (which are necessary to believe in ‘truth’), laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, numbers, human rights, etc. Belief in these important categories requires a ‘Personal Absolute’. We need an unchanging metaphysical standard as well as a transcendent mind. Conceding these points leads us very close to something like Christianity.
Second, Jesus is coherently true. Many critics of Christianity point out that there are errors in Scripture, science contradicts religion, or that miracles are impossible. These proposed defeaters by my skeptical friends and neighbors have not persuaded me. It should be pointed out that none of the ‘Bible errors’ are novel to the 21st century, or even the Enlightenment period. Ever since the beginning of the church 2000 years ago, theologians and pastors have wrestled with apparent contradictions in the Bible. Often, these tensions are resolved by reading entire contexts or embracing the theological diversity in Scripture. The latter does not lead to discord or contradiction. Rather, the diversity is a blessing as the Bible plays the themes and variations of its theology. My undergraduate and graduate studies have forced me to confront the best of these ‘contradictions’, and I still trust the Bible more than ever.
Most of my skeptical friends bring up science and/or evolution as a reason to reject Christianity. I’ve studied this issue the last few years and have even written on the subject. A few points need to be stated. First, even before the rise of modern science (which the Puritans were intricately involved with) or Darwinian evolution, Christians had disagreed on how to interpret the days of Genesis and age of the earth. Origen noted the literary diversity in Genesis 1-2, and Augustine believed in instantaneous creation as opposed to six days. Second, the strongest defenders of the authority of the Bible in the post-Enlightenment west were not young earth creationists. B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen, Charles Hodge, and many others tried to integrate faith and science in competent ways. Some even believed that forms of macroevolution were coherent with the creation story. Francis Collins, one of the world’s top scientists who was handpicked by President Obama to be the Director of the National Institutes of Health is an evolutionist and an evangelical Christian who believes in biblical authority and in the resurrection of Jesus. Third, to take theories of science that are even being questioned by atheist scientists and philosophers as reason to not believe in Jesus is unwise. A better route, as proposed by New York City pastor and best-selling author Tim Keller is to first look at whether Jesus really rose from the dead, and then figure out the details of Genesis 1-2 and science.
Finally, Jesus’s resurrection is true. As an amateur philosopher and academic, I can dialogue with my skeptical friends and neighbors all day and every day about the issues outlined above. However, the most pressing issue is whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. All secondary and tertiary complaints against Christianity are irrelevant if Jesus really did rise from the dead. All pragmatic arguments for Christianity are irrelevant if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead. I most often try to bring the discussion to this issue since it is the most relevant.
If even ardent critics and skeptics believe that Jesus of Nazareth really did exist, then the next question is whether he rose from the dead. I agree with many philosophers today who have disproven Hume’s claim that miracles are, by definition, impossible.
So, is there evidence showing that Jesus was bodily resurrected? Interestingly, Christian philosophers and academics have written extensively on this topic with much confidence. Usually, Christian academics tread other topics lightly (e.g. problem of evil, evolution, mind/body problem, etc.). Yet, an evidential case for the resurrection of Jesus has seen much ink spilled. Gary Habermas is one of the world’s leading experts on this topic. Still, even Habermas’ work is minimal compared to perhaps the most acclaimed work on Jesus’ resurrection written by N.T. Wright. Note Wright’s conclusion on the matter, “There are many other things to say about Jesus’ resurrection. But, as far as I am concerned, the historian may and must say that all other explanations for why Christianity arose, and why it took the shape it did, are far less convincing as historical explanations than the one the early Christians themselves offer: that Jesus really did rise from the dead on Easter morning, leaving an empty tomb behind him. The origins of Christianity, the reason why this new movement came into being and took the unexpected form it did, and particularly the strange mutations it produced within the Jewish hope for resurrection and the Jewish hope for a Messiah, are best explained by saying that something happened, two or three days after Jesus’ death, for which the accounts in the four gospels are the least inadequate expression we have.”
Often, my skeptical friends and neighbors will say, “There must be a naturalistic explanation for Jesus’ resurrection,” or “I need to reject this explanation simply for my contention that dead people don’t come back to life.” Yet, as Wright notes, this “cautious agnosticism” is going against the evidence and probability for Jesus’ resurrection being true.
So, I have articulated my intellectual and philosophical leanings as to why I believe in the truth of Jesus. I’ve explained in part why I think ‘defeater arguments’ against Jesus fall short. And finally, I’ve contended that the truth of Jesus’ resurrection is most pertinent to this discussion, and it is maybe the strongest argument for Christianity.