A skeptic?

The Resurrection of Christ
A Matter of Public Record

by Leighton Ford

"The French thinker Auguste Comte once told Thomas Carlyle that he was going to start a new religion to replace Christianity. "Very good," replied Carlyle. "All you will have to do is to be crucified, rise again the third day, and get the world to believe you are still alive. Then your new religion will have a chance."

From the very first Easter until now, the Christian faith has moved forward based on the fact that Jesus Christ did rise from the dead and that He is alive and changing lives.

Whenever people met the historic Jesus, they were changed. And this transforming influence of Jesus Christ did not fade out in the first century. Ever since, it has left a trail of changed lives.

I know a vicious gang leader in Harlem who became a preacher of the Good News that God is love. I know a savage Indian chief in South America who butchered the missionaries that came to tell him about God, but who now is the leader of the church in his tribe. I once met a prize-winning biochemist at the University of Minnesota who had a profound Christian experience when he was 50 years old and deeply influenced his colleagues by the way he calmly faced death by cancer. And I think of thousands of others. To the Christian, these changed lives are evidence that Jesus Christ is indeed alive.

Yet, the skeptic believes that this resurrection faith is not fact. He is convinced that these changed lives can be explained psychologically and that Christians are just deluding themselves into believing in God.

Several years ago during a meeting at the University of Georgia, a young male student challenged me, "You say your God is real. But isn't this just your idea? What if I said that lamp over in the corner was God?"

I told him that the lamp had never communicated with me but that God had. He persisted, "If you really believed that lamp was God, maybe you'd get the same results!"

A new religion has emerged among skeptics in our day that could be called "nothing but." It says that our Christian faith is "nothing but" wishful thinking. A teenager's conversion is "nothing but" a phase of adolescence. An older person's conversion is "nothing but" senility and aging.

Martin Luther's faith, according to this new religion of skepticism, was "nothing but" the result of a neurotic personality. Saint Augustine's conversion was "nothing but" his attempt to regain the love of his mother which he had lost during his wild youth. Sin is "nothing but" a psychological hang-up. Conversion is "nothing but" a quirk of the maladjusted. In short, our whole faith can be explained away psychologically, so they say.

Way back in the first century the same accusations were leveled at the Apostle Paul. A critic said that Christianity had driven Paul crazy, that it was "nothing but" a delusion. At the time, Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem on a trumped-up charge of disturbing the peace. He was given a hearing before Festus, who was a Roman official, and Agrippa, who was a Jewish king.

As recorded in Acts chapter 26, Paul made his defense with simple and burning eloquence. He told how he had been raised a devout Jew, how he had become a Pharisee, how he had opposed the teachings of Jesus. But one day as he was on his way to hunt down and arrest Christians in the city of Damascus, Jesus actually appeared to him; and from that point Paul became His messenger to the world, to tell all men that Jesus had died but He was alive again.

At this point the Roman governor, Festus, burst out, "You are out of your mind, Paul! Your great learning is driving you insane"
(verse 24). But Paul replied, "I am not insane, most excellent Festus. What I am saying is true and reasonable"
(verse 25).

The same accusation that was leveled at Paul is made today against the Christian. Our testimony to the reality of our Christian experience is explained away. Some say it is merely the result of conditioning; we have been taught since childhood to think and act like Christians, so we do. Others say the Christian experience is just an illusion that fulfills a psychological need in our lives.

Now, there are answers to these charges, of course. If it takes conditioning to make a Christian, how does one explain the countless believers who had no Christian upbringing? When the skeptic says that we simply make up a God to replace the father image of our childhood and give us a feeling of security, the believer can answer that maybe the skeptic is an atheist because he is rejecting the dad he hated when he was a boy!

Still, these questions make us wonder: Am I dreaming the whole thing? Is my faith just wish fulfillment? Is the Christian experience real? Or is it all in my mind?

Herein lies the importance of Jesus' historical resurrection that we remember at Easter. Sometimes we sing;

He lives. He lives,
Christ Jesus lives today....
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
That is wonderful, but it is only half the story. I know today that Jesus lives not just because I have experienced Him in my heart but because of what happened in history.

Again in Acts chapter 26 you find that that is exactly the point Paul made when Festus accused him of being crazy and deluded. He answered by tying his faith and his experience to the fact of the resurrection.

First, Paul raised a philosophical question. He asked King Agrippa, "Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead?"
(verse 8). Now if there is no God, obviously He could raise nobody. But if God exists and is the free, sovereign and all-powerful God revealed in the Bible, then certainly He can intervene in the world He has made. So why is it incredible that God should raise the dead?

"Well," the skeptic objects, "in the age of science, surely we can't believe that a dead man can rise again."

Why not? Science can't rule out the possibility of the resurrection, simply because the resurrection is a unique event, and science does not deal with unique events. The only things that science measures are those that can be repeated over and over and over again.

"Well," the skeptic protests, "I just can't help it. No matter what the evidence is, I just couldn't believe, for example, that my neighbor down the street, Tom Smith, could be dead for many hours and then come alive."

But we are not talking about Tom Smith, are we? We are talking about One who was unique, a Christ who was unique in His life and teaching and personality and sinlessness and identity as the very Son of God. Is it really unbelievable that He should also be unique in His resurrection?

If you find you can't believe that Jesus Christ really came back from the dead, you should ask yourself, "Is my problem merely intellectual? Or is it possible that I don't want it to be true?"

Then Paul raised a biblical question. He made it clear to King Agrippa that he had not cooked up some novel theory, that the only thing he was declaring was what was promised in the Old Testament that the Messiah would come, that He would die, that He would rise again and be a light to all men everywhere, and that these predictions were fulfilled in Jesus Christ
(verses 22-23).

"King Agrippa," asked Paul, "do you believe the prophets? I know you do"
(verse 27).

Paul was essentially saying, "If you believe the prophets and if you compare their predictions with the historical facts about Jesus Christ, then you have to acknowledge that Christianity is true."

In the Old Testament there were some 300 distinct prophecies of Jesus Christ that lay like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They didn't quite fit until Jesus came and put them together.

Dr. Peter Stoner, who was chairman of the departments of astronomy and mathematics and engineering at Pasadena City College (Calif.), worked with more than 600 students for several years applying the "principle of probability" to Bible prophecy. As an example, they took eight prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Jesus, and estimated that the chances of all these being fulfilled in one man in one lifetime simply by chance were one in 10 followed by 32 zeros! That is why when we see Christ in view of His resurrection fulfilling the Old Testament, it's further confirmation that the Bible is true.

Then Paul also defended his experience with historical evidence. He insisted to King Agrippa, "What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice because," he said, "it was not done in a corner"
(verses 25,26).

Paul was pointing out that the facts about Jesus were a matter of public record. They were a matter of common knowledge. All over Jerusalem the Christians had proclaimed His life and death and resurrection. Thousands had believed these facts, and no one tried to refute them.

If somebody came to me today and said, "Mr. Ford, you've just fooled yourself into believing that Jesus Christ has changed your life. That is just a feeling you have," I'd answer, "Yes, I know that Jesus Christ is living because of what He has done in my life, but thats only part of the story. The other vital part is that I know Jesus Christ is living because He rose in history."

Several years ago a very unusual meeting took place at Harvard University. Hundreds of students gathered to hear an address by Professor J.N.D. Anderson, who was dean of the faculty of law at the University of London. His brilliant address surveyed the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus from the eyes of a lawyer. He smashed many of the theories which have tried to explain away the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He closed his address by listing a series of historic facts that must be explained in some other way if the resurrection didn't happen.

If there were no resurrection, he asked, how do you explain the Christian Church that can be traced back to the first century? The New Testament says it began because its Founder was raised from the dead. Is there any other theory that fits the facts?

How do you explain the success of the early Church? he asked. How did the apostles make thousands of converts in Jerusalem by preaching the resurrection, when anyone who wanted to check out the tomb to see if Jesus were still dead and buried could have done so simply by taking a short walk?

What changed the apostles? he asked. What changed Peter from a man who denied Jesus three times before the Cross to someone who defied the chief priests after the resurrection? What happened to James, the brother of Jesus? During Jesus' lifetime he didn't believe in Him, but he became a leader of the church in Jerusalem after the resurrection. What changed Paul from persecutor to apostle of Christ?

You see, as Paul said, "It was not done in a corner"
(verse 26). The documents are there to examine. The evidence is there to consider. And I challenge the skeptic: If you will not and cannot accept the resurrection, what explanation can you give?

The final thrust of Paul's appeal to King Agrippa was his personal evidence. Agrippa was embarrassed when Paul asked if he believed the prophets, and he scoffed, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?" Paul replied, "I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains"
(verses 28,29).

The final appeal of the Christian is, "Taste and see that the Lord is good"
(Psalm 34:8). Jesus Christ has given us purpose and meaning in a world that is empty and without direction. He has given us power to do right in a society going through a profound moral power failure. He has given us the solution to the guilt problem with his forgiveness purchased at the Cross. He has given us a family, with God as our Father and other Christians as our brothers and sisters in a world that is increasingly lonely.

This same Christ, the One who intercepted Paul 2,000 years ago, reaches into your life today. Do you sense that He offers sense and fulfillment to the loneliness and lostness of life?

If you don't know Jesus, why don't you make the great experiment of faith? Let the resurrection happen in you. Open your life to this living Christ and discover for yourself that Jesus Christ is the answer to the questions of your life."

Leighton Ford was an evangelist who conducted dozens of crusades around the world, often jointly with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He was also the author of at least five books including "Sandy: A Heart for God" (InterVarsity).

This article was quoted from the
Focus On The Family Magazine, March 1986, published in Arcadia, Calif., pages 2-4.

If you have not already invited Jesus Christ to come to live inside of your heart then click on the above banner if you want to learn how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ and receive spiritual encouragement in your heart and soul.

In some small way I hope that you have been encouraged by this article.
This article shared with you by:

Kraig Josiah Rice

  • Encouragement When You Are Hurting

  • The 7 I Wills that God has promised you

  • A Bible Study About Miracles
    Do you need a miracle to happen in your life? God still works miracles. Maybe He has one for you...

  • Testimonies
    Here are various testimonies that will help you with your faith.

    Click here to go to the articles index page


    As of January 29, 2007