Validating the Resurrection Against the Argument Keeping Me Up at Night
Yesterday, I explained that people have a tendency to spread comforting lies rather than listen to harsh truths. Facebook is rife with examples of unexamined statements that are easy to verify as false, yet people spread with glee.
This could work against the Resurrection. Wouldn’t people believe that Jesus rose from the dead and was thus vindicated by God as the Messiah rather than face the harsh reality that he died on the cross and is still in the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea? Isn’t that just like the rant misattributed to Bill Cosby that people keep spreading around the Internet uncritically because it supports their own beliefs perfectly and they would like to think that Bill Cosby agrees with them because Bill Cosby is supercool?
Maybe. However, I think that there are two good reasons I will remain a steadfast Christian. First, there are always natural skeptics who will hear something and not just spread it, but instead spend their time trying to inform others of the grievous error they are making by believing it. Second, not everyone who believed in the Resurrection needed it as a “comforting lie.” Paul, for example, was predisposed to believe otherwise, yet came away a believer.
While 90% or better of FB users read that article and believed it was from Bill Cosby, there were still exceptions to the rule. People like me, skeptics by nature. People who read those and feel something just isn’t right. People who spent the five necessary minutes to confirm or deny that meme and then helpfully provide the links to the person who shared.
That spotlights the key difference between the Resurrection and the Bill Cosby meme: the presence of disconfirming information. I can readily find that, from Bill Cosby’s own mouth.
If people are much the same 2000 years ago as today, then I have to assume that it played out then as it does now, minus Facebook, Snopes, and Google. Bob walks up to Jim and said, “He is Risen!” Jim, like 90%+ of Facebook believed him without question and started telling everyone he met.
But, there has to be a me somewhere. Call him Roy. Roy hears Bob and thinks, “People don’t rise from the dead 3 days after the fact.” Without Snopes, Roy would have to do the legwork, and that would take more than 5 minutes. He could ask the guards at the tomb, he could ask the other eyewitnesses that Paul mentions (remember: there are over 500 of them), he could talk to the Pharisees and the Sadducees (no friends of Jesus’ followers). Try as he might, he just can’t find anything akin to Bill Cosby’s official denial letter.
The officials claimed someone stole the body. The guards back that up. But wait — isn’t the penalty for dereliction of duty death? Why weren’t the guards put to death?
None of this means the Resurrection happened, but it does point in a favorable direction. With all the enemies of Christ, you’d think there would be some disconfirming information out there and the enemies of Christ would make it really easy to find. Not Snopes or Google easy, but 1st-century easy for those natural skeptics. The Pharisees and the Sadducees would have a vested interest in making sure that the information was available.
What we do see are bully tactics. It’s punishable by death to talk about it, preach it, or to disturb a corpse. Not, “Here’s why Jesus’ Movement is Crap.” Instead, “Don’t Talk About Jesus’ Movement or We’ll Kill You.” The old I-can’t-answer-you-so-I’ll-punish-you-until-you-shut-up trick.
Again, doesn’t mean that a man rose from the dead three days after his burial, but it does seem to point favorably toward that conclusion.
The natural objection is that Christians obliterated such information when they came to power following Constantine’s conversion. But that fails, because Christians were a heavily persecuted minority at the time in question. If the authorities made disconfirming information easily available, then Christianity would never have gotten off the ground, there wouldn’t have been a conversion of the Roman Emperor 300 years later, and therefore no opportunity for those sneaky Christians to destroy all the evidence.
So I’ll keep going to church and praising the one who rose on third day in fulfillment of the Scriptures.