Exploring the Evidence for God

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Students are bombarded by a steady stream of ideas opposing Christianity. But how does Christianity compare in the marketplace of ideas? The good news is that the case for Christ is solid and robust. Many people are happy to discover that there is a powerful, cumulative case for the Christian faith.

Consider this bold claim: When it comes to the evidence, Christianity can be proven true beyond a reasonable doubt. The two arguments below are just a sip from the deep well of evidence that validates Christianity.

A DETECTIVE TAKES THE CASE

Former atheist and cold-case detective, J. Warner Wallace, has solved multiple cold-case murders by collecting dozens of pieces of evidence decades after murders took place. He built strong cases to convict murderers. Instead of relying on any one piece of evidence, he constructed even stronger cases by employing many evidences.

As a Christian, Wallace now trains people how to apply detective skills to investigate and defend the Christian faith. He advises people to share the powerful, cumulative case for Christianity rather than relying on any one argument.

Let’s take a brief look at two arguments that point to the truth of Christianity.

1) GOD MAKES SENSE OF THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE

Have you heard of the Big Bang Theory? The formal name is the Standard Model. The dominant view in modern cosmology is that the universe had a beginning. In the 20th century, scientists discovered that the universe began from literally nothing. If you suggested that the universe had a beginning just a few short decades ago, you would have been laughed out of most universities.

Before the Big Bang, there were no material or physical laws—no objects, no gravity, nothing. So what, or who, caused the universe? Since there was no material before the Big Bang, the cause must have been immaterial. Since time did not exist before the Big Bang, the cause must have been timeless. In addition, the cause must have also been extremely powerful. After all, the cause created the entire universe.

Therefore, a powerful, immaterial, and timeless cause must have caused the universe. The description matches the God of the Bible. It has taken science thousands of years to catch up with the very first verse: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

The argument that God makes sense at the beginning of the universe is called the cosmological argument. It’s a great argument for the existence of a theistic God, in general. The term “theism” simply refers to the belief in a God who is separate from the universe, yet is the creative source of it—similar to how a painter creates a painting. The existence of a theistic God provides the potential for Judaism, Islam, and Christianity to be true.

There is also, however, a more specific case for Christianity in particular.

2) THE CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS

If Jesus lived, died, and rose from the dead, then eternal life is both probable and accessible.

The resurrection is the heart of Christianity. Paul said, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Corinthians 15:14, NIV). If Jesus rose from the dead, then our trust in Him is reasonable.

The case for the resurrection’s authenticity has been developed by Dr. Gary Habermas. He discovered it during a time of doubt in his Christian life. His searching led him to the foot of the cross.

Dr. Habermas surveyed more than 1,400 sources on Jesus’ resurrection, published since 1975. He studied and organized about 650 of these sources in English, German, and French. He was amazed to discover that the vast majority of scholars—even atheists and skeptics—agreed that certain facts surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus are historically verifiable. Bottom line: the most reasonable explanation of these historical facts is that Jesus most likely rose from the dead.

Importantly, when the theory of resurrection is compared with alternate theories, the resurrection makes the most sense of the facts. The resurrection turns out to have the most explanatory power.

FIVE CONVINCING FACTS

In his book, “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” Dr. Habermas and his colleague, Dr. Licona, highlight five of these facts:

  • Jesus died by crucifixion.
  • The disciples of Jesus believed He rose and appeared to them after the crucifixion.
  • The Church’s persecutor, Paul, suddenly converted after the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • The skeptic, James, the brother of Jesus, converted after Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • The tomb was empty.

The first four facts are agreed upon by virtually all scholars in related fields. In other words, the dissenting views are very rare. Fact 5—the empty tomb—is agreed upon by about 75% of the scholars. This still establishes it as a historical fact, but it’s the most contested—and for obvious reason. The empty tomb puts an exclamation point on the resurrection. Christianity would have failed if Jesus’ body would have been produced.

The resurrection of Jesus best explains these five facts. The disciples believed they encountered Jesus after His death. What could account for this? Their belief was so strong they were willing to suffer. Sometime after the crucifixion, Paul, a persecutor of the Church, converted from killing Christians to dying as one. The skeptical brother of Jesus converted after the crucifixion of Jesus. What could account for these conversions? The tomb was found empty. Remember, for Christianity to be demolished, one need only produce the dead body of Jesus. The foundation of Christianity is the resurrection.

OPPOSING ARGUMENTS

Let’s briefly look at a few alternate theories to the resurrection of Jesus.

One alternate theory is that the disciples stole the body of Jesus and lied about Jesus rising from the dead. But why would the disciples suffer and die for a lie? And this lie did not help the disciples gain money, power, or relationship—the main motivations for crimes. In fact, according to Judaism, the disciples became blasphemers. To the Romans, they were considered criminals for saying there was a God beside Caesar.

Another alternate theory is the Hallucination Theory. It claims that the witnesses of the resurrected Jesus were hallucinating. There are many problems with this theory. First, there is no evidence in psychiatric literature of mass hallucinations. Second, hallucinations are single-scope in nature. This means people either see or hear something, but not both. In contrast, the Bible highlights 12 groups of people who witnessed Jesus. They saw, heard, and interacted with Jesus. This does not match what we know about hallucinations.

No alternate theory has the explanatory power that the resurrection does.

FOLLOWING THE EVIDENCE

There is a powerful, cumulative case for Christianity for those who are willing to investigate. Dr. Frank Turek shares evidence for the Christian faith on college campuses. He uses a question to test whether a person is willing to follow the evidence. He asks people, “If you found out Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” He’s had atheists yell, “No!” Dr. Turek points out that some people are not rejecting God for intellectual reasons. They are unwilling to follow the evidence where it leads.

The greatest commandment is that we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind (Matthew 22:37). We don’t have to check our brains at the church entrance. People should love God with all their mind and ask the tough questions. When serious doubts go unanswered, they may fester and eat away at a person’s trust in God. If we seek answers, we will find many. The process of discovering answers deepens our faith. If we ignore our honest doubts and questions, we rob ourselves of the rich confidence we can have in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We may then help others with their faith. This is one way we can love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

References:

  1. Craig, William Lane. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd Ed. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2008.
  2. 2.Geisler, Norman L. and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton, Il: Crossway Books, 2004.
  3. 3.Habermas, Gary R. and Michael R. Licona. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2004.

—Grant A. Bresett, Christian Apologist

Grant A. Bresett is a former atheist who now trusts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Grant has an M.A. in Religion from Southern Evangelical Seminary and an M.A. in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He teaches people how to defend their Christian faith on the radio, internet, and in-person.