On Easter, Dan pointed out the numerous accounts of Jesus’ resurrection and the hundreds of eyewitnesses who testified to the risen Christ. But why is this important? Shouldn’t we just believe because of the powerful experience we enjoy as Christians? Isn’t the Spirit of God testifying to our hearts enough?
Yes and no—that can get you started, but a mature follower of Christ needs to be able to demonstrate that he stands on solid ground. In fact, Jesus said that we should believe on the basis of evidence (John 10:22-40), and if we hold that the very words of Scripture were breathed out by God, then it seems to indicate that God wants us to be convinced by evidence as well as by the power of our experience.
Eyewitnesses and Fact-Checkers
A challenge frequently brought against the Gospel accounts is that they were simply made up by the church to rewrite a convenient history. On the one hand, this is a sort of back-handed compliment to the content of the stories—as if to say, “it’s too good to be true”—but on the other, that’s a challenge that just doesn’t hold up.
As Peter wrote, “we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). Right away we see that 1) the early church anticipated that people would think it was just made up, and 2) eyewitness testimony was indispensable.
These eyewitnesses give the Gospel accounts some of their most powerful support. Assuming for the moment that the Gospels were written within the lifetime of the people involved—which can be substantiated, but I’ll leave that for another time—there would have been people rising up to object and correct the accounts.
A Modern-Day Example
One of our Presidential hopefuls just learned this lesson in a painful way:
“In politics, memories should always match the videotape.” And in life, belief should match reality and faith should be founded on fact. If the Gospels had been falsely concocted to create the basis for the Christian religion, you would have seen plenty of rebuttals like this one. The fact that the Gospel accounts stand unchallenged as to their historical accuracy is a powerful bit of evidence that ought to encourage more investigation into these things—so that, as Luke wrote, “you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4).