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“The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting. It has rather been found difficult and left untried.”
The story of Jesus is either the greatest event in history or the cruelest hoax. If it is a hoax, then the whole of the Christian message crumbles together with the hopes of those multitudes of lives built on his name. The apostle Paul said:
“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up; if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.”
-1 Corinthians 15:14-19 (NKJV)
But if the story is true, then this world has been hit with extraordinary news of earth-shaking consequences. Have you taken the trouble to decide which it is?
In a matter this weighty, it is in your interest to explore the truth or falsity of Christ's claims. Amazingly however, many people who don't believe have never bothered to explore the evidence in support of Jesus, but to the contrary, often run away from it. At the same time, many Christians themselves are not sure, at bottom, whether the claims of their faith are solid. Is the Christian claim a hoax? Is it just wishful thinking? Or is it actually true?
The following pages will demonstrate that the story of Jesus, and of his Resurrection  in particular, rests on solid historical grounds. So wherever you may be in terms of belief, unbelief, doubt, or indecision, I invite you to take a new look at this evidence.
SORTING THROUGH THE CONFUSION
Disagreement abounds today regarding the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. If you were to randomly ask people in a survey who they think he is, you would get a variety of responses. Some might say he is a great prophet who stands equal to Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, and others. Some give him credit for being a profound moral teacher. Still others might say he was a loving, but weak person who happened to get killed for a noble, but lost, cause.
Who do you think Jesus is? Are the above opinions accurate to any degree? Or are some relevant details missing? Our age rightly demands open-mindedness and intellectual honesty in any investigation. So also regarding Jesus, it is essential to have all the facts before deciding for, or against, him.
Jesus Christ claimed to be God, the Creator of the cosmos, the one and only way by which we can enter into Heaven. These are high claims!
Our relativistic age is confusing the whole issue about Jesus by imagining his relevance to be merely a matter of individual taste, like one's choice of hats! But the issue is really of an altogether different kind. Either this claim of the New Testament is true or it isn't. If it is falsehood, then let us go on to something else. But if the claim is true, shall we not come to terms with him and believe in him as he commands? The answer to that question rests not on what we may happen to prefer, but on whether Jesus of Nazareth stacks up as the one he claims to be. Helping you understand that he indeed is The Eternal Son of God (John 8:58) is what this answer is all about. Millions of Christians are quite certain that your eternal destiny and mine is at stake over what we have done with Jesus Christ (1 John 5:11-12).
“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
—1 John 5:11-12 NKJV
Is Jesus Christ a man, or is he God? Answer
If Jesus is God, how could he die? If Jesus died on the cross, then how can he be alive today? Answer
WHAT IS THE EVIDENCE that Jesus Christ is God?
Is Jesus Christ's character consistent with his high claims?
REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES
- J.B. Phillips, Ring of Truth (Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1967). This noted British scholar observes, “Over the years I have had hundreds of conversations with people, many of them of a higher intellectual calibre than my own, who quite obviously had no idea what Christianity is really about… they knew virtually nothing. This I find pathetic and somewhat horrifying. It means that the most important event in history is politely passed by. For it is not as though the evidence had been examined and found unconvincing; it had simply never been examined” (p. 24). [up]
In a public debate on the existence of God, outspoken agnostic philosopher, Dr. Kai Nielsen was confronted with the body of evidence for Christ's resurrection. He admitted his ignorance saying, “I don't know much about such things… Suppose there were good evidence for [Christ's resurrection]. I have no idea if there is or isn't.” [J.P. Moreland and Kai Nielsen, Does God Exist? The Great Debate—the entire transcript (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1990), p. 64.]
- Resurrection: Appearing alive on the third day following his death and burial. [up]
- Current trends influenced by Soren Kierkegaard[a] and described by Francis Schaeffer[b] divorce faith from reason. Joseph Campbell is a contemporary example. When Campbell admitted disbelief in a personal god, a Catholic priest asked him whether logical argument might change his mind. Campbell replied, “No, Father, What then would be the value of faith?”[c] Yet he in fact is perverting faith by regarding it as illogical. Of course, faith is not sight. But to have faith does imply an acknowledged trustworthiness on the part of its object. The New Testament cites a whole range of supporting evidence (John 20:30,31, Acts 1:3, Romans 1:20f), and urges the use of our minds to discern this evidence (1 Peter 3:15). The apostle Paul affirmed the intellect while preaching to the great minds of Athens (Acts 17:22f). Demonstrating the credibility of faith's object does not nullify faith. Rather, it separates true faith from mere credulity.[d] [up]
- a. Soren Kierkegaard, Training in Christianity (Princeton University Press, 1967), p. 28f]
- b. Francis Schaeffer, Escape From Reason (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1972).
- d. Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers (New York: Doubleday, 1988), p. 243.
- d. See the following: Frederick Fyvie Bruce, The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament (Downer's Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977); John W. Montgomery, Faith Founded on Fact (Nelson, 1978); John R.W. Stott, Your Mind Matters (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press., 1972); James Sire, Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All? (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994); Elton Trueblood, A Place to Stand (HarperCollins Publishers, 1969).
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Rev. Gary W. Jensen, M.Div. Editor: Paul S. Taylor, Films for Christ. Provided by Films for Christ.
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