When Skepticism Demands Believing
We are justified for exhibiting little more than a skeptical smile if a newspaper’s headline proclaims, “Mother Gives Birth To Half Alien.” Being skeptical of outrageous claims is healthy.
Common experience exposes unrealistic claims. While skepticism counsels us to doubt the highly improbable, could there be a situation where the preponderance of evidence is so strong that skepticism would guide us in doubting unbelief?
Consider the resurrection of Jesus. At first impression, a skeptical perspective would counsel that we reject such an incredible event. We have never seen the dead raised.
However, if we accept this skeptical position that Jesus never rose from the dead, suddenly we are confronted with an avalanche of evidence that demands explanation.
The open-minded skeptic now faces a dilemma. Which is less likely to have happened: That Jesus rose from the dead or that Jesus is still dead, even though the simplest explanation for an enormous amount of evidence asserts he returned to life?
If Jesus is still dead, how do we explain the agreement among the Romans, Jews and Christians that the tomb was empty? Could it be because it was empty?
If Jesus never rose from the dead, how do we explain the Jerusalem Christians never producing a body when severe persecution broke out against their loved ones?
If anyone had taken his body it would have been Christians. A small group would have known where it was. Why did they not stop the persecution by producing his body? Could it be because they did not possess it?
Since fables characteristically arise after the eye- witnesses are dead, if Jesus never arose from the dead why does even literary evidence begin emerging in little more than a mere twenty years and doubters are essentially invited to talk with the eyewitnesses? (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
If Jesus’ body decayed, then why would first century disciples invent the story that women were the first to witness the risen Lord? After all, at that time women were not considered credible and could not even testify in court. Is the most simple explanation that they were merely recounting what happened?
If Jesus never returned to life, how do we explain the apostles’ sudden transformation from cowards to emboldened preachers willing to accuse thousands and stand against the authorities who killed Jesus?
If Jesus is dead, Christianity should have never taken root in Judaism. After all, the Jews regularly picked up stones to kill Jesus because of his claims. What evidence short of Jesus’ resurrection could be so powerful causing them to overcome their embedded resistance to his claims?
If the apostles and early Christians knew Jesus’ body remained lifeless, why did they willingly die for what they knew to be a lie?
If Saul never saw the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, how do we explain him giving up his power, insider favor, privileged relationships, and educational advantages in order to become a social outsider and suffer persecution for what he would have known was a lie?
In evaluating the two highly unlikely scenarios that either Jesus rose from the grave or that he is still dead in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, it is more unbelievable Jesus remains dead.
Skepticism, steering us toward the simplest explanation, would counsel us to believe Jesus lives rather than embracing the more unrealistic alternative.
–by Barry Newton