Why believe in the resurrection: a worthwhile sermon series topic?

An actual rolling stone for covering a tomb. It's wheel-shaped, and it fits in a groove in front of the tomb's entrance. At the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.

So I was driving by the First Baptist church that resides next door to our First United Methodist church a couple of days ago, and I saw a banner for their upcoming Easter sermon entitled “Evidence of the Resurrection.” It caught my eye, and I thought, “I want to go to that!” Unfortunately, I have to work that Sunday morning.

I kid.

But… I really would like to hear that sermon. And I wonder if other people would like to hear that sermon, too. It isn’t fair, in my opinion, that we, the church, don’t often talk about evidence for the central historical claim of our faith—that we don’t give people reasons to believe. If we don’t, who will?

I understand that reasons by themselves can’t convert someone or sustain someone who’s already converted. But isn’t Christian faith regularly under attack in our pop culture? Doesn’t every Easter season feature, for example, a provocative new cover story in Newsweek calling into question Christ’s resurrection? Isn’t there always someone claiming that this or that scientific or archaeological discovery makes the Christian faith obsolete?

Doesn’t it feel like we believers are outnumbered sometimes?

Don’t misunderstand. We’re most assuredly not outnumbered. We have the answers to defend our faith. But are we equipped to do so? Shouldn’t we be?

Unlike our Baptist friends next door, I don’t think I could do it in one sermon. It feels like a two-parter to me. And I wouldn’t do it on Easter Sunday. On Easter, I’d rather talk about the meaning of the resurrection, not the reasons for believing it. But maybe immediately following that?

Seriously, what do you think? I’ve devised this handy poll to facilitate your response. Don’t make fun of me. It’s my first time making a poll.

2 thoughts on “Why believe in the resurrection: a worthwhile sermon series topic?”

  1. None of the poll choices are exactly right for me. I believe in the resurrection, but don’t think that more historical information would strengthen my belief. You are right that just about every Easter, Newsweek or some other magazine comes out with questions about the historical Jesus. But, the historical research is unsatisfying, since the researchers tend to strip away everything in the Bible that is not documented somewhere else and want to separate history from theology. For me, this is not helpful at all. One of my professors said early this semester, “If you want to know more about Jesus, you have to follow him.” Many of the historical researchers are not following him, but are picking at the details of his life and death.

    I went to a Baptist church once that was having this type of sermon series and their “proof” was based on logic arguments as opposed to either history or theology. Arguments such as, why would people have died for this belief if it wasn’t true. The series ended with the challenge, “If you don’t believe in the resurrection, don’t’ bother coming back. There is nothing here for you.” When I talked to my UMC pastor about the experience, he said, “I would think if you don’t believe that, there is EVERY reason to come back!”

    I have my absolutes in faith and a bunch of things up on the shelf that are mysteries. When the time is right, I take those things off the shelf, deal with them, and figure out where I stand, knowing that I will never know everything that God knows. I’m okay with that.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Heather. I agree strongly that the best way to know Jesus is to follow him. And I don’t believe anyone comes to faith in Jesus because they’re convinced by historical evidence. On the other hand, as Pannenburg argues, Christianity as a religion is uniquely rooted in history. If the custodians of history call into question important elements of our faith, we ought to have an answer. In modernity, historians have more authority than theologians! I think some people will fail to become Christians if they think that Christianity has been proven to be bunk.

      Besides, it isn’t exactly true that critics of the resurrection want to separate history from theology. In many ways, they’re not doing history, either. Did you happen to read Wright’s Resurrection of the Son of God? At around 1,000 pages, it’s by far the most ambitious theological book I’ve read since seminary. One point he makes—and he was an ancient historian prior to becoming a theologian—is that, given the evidence for Christ’s resurrection, historians, by their own methodology, should conclude that Jesus was resurrected. They don’t do that, he says, because—you know—people don’t get resurrected. But suppose one person did? Wouldn’t the evidence for that happening look exactly like this?

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