Apologetics Evangelism Jesus Christ Uncategorized

The Ultimate Proof – The Resurrection of Jesus – Apologetics 101 – no.10


Its been some week!  Not least in terms of writing and contending for the Gospel and all hell has broken loose!    For me Easter is a good time to remember that death is dead, Christ has won, love has conquered.  Although I happen to think that we should celebrate every Sunday as the Day of the Risen Lord.  Here is the latest in my series Christian Today Apologetics 101  which looks, of course, at the Resurrection.   It is really a distillation of the chapter ‘Marvellous’ in Magnificent Obsession.   You can follow the rest of the series Here


There was a fascinating response to my last article, on miracles. “You have asked what evidence atheists like myself would accept for the existence of God and I have been honest and told you that I don’t know,” wrote one person. “I do know it would have to miraculous on a level that challenges everything that I think I know or understand.” Step forward the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

At the Edinburgh book festival in 2010 Christopher Hitchens debated John Lennox. In concluding his speech, John Lennox mentioned the fact of the resurrection of Jesus. The moderator, John Humphreys, asked Christopher Hitchens to respond, indicating that he had five minutes. Hitchens barked: ‘I won’t need five minutes to respond to someone who believes in the resurrection.”

This is a standard tactic – equate people who believe in the resurrection with people who believe in a flat earth, Santa Claus and Scotland winning the World Cup, and you then don’t need to even think about, never mind examine the evidence.

The main objection to the resurrection is simple. Resurrections just don’t happen. But you need to stop there. We agree. Totally. That is the point. Resurrections don’t happen. If they did then the resurrection of Jesus would be no big deal. It would be a bit like me saying, Jesus is the Son of God because he recovered from illness.

Getting better is common. Getting resurrected is not. In the normal course of events resurrections do not happen. But the Bible is claiming that this is not the normal course of events. It is the ultimate extraordinary event. So instead of dismissing it we need to ask, what happened and what proof is there, before then going on to consider the implications.

What Happened?

Jesus died. This is important for those who want to argue the swoon theory. This has been suggested at various points in history and is still favoured by some Muslims and others desperate to avoid the evidence for the resurrection. The myth is that Jesus didn’t die but nobody noticed. He was flogged, nailed to a cross for hours, stabbed in the side, covered in spices, wrapped in a shroud. But he revived, neatly folded up the grave clothes, rolled the stone away, overcame the Roman guards and walked away. Not really likely, is it?

One of the details in the Gospels is that the Roman soldiers did not break his legs because they saw he was already dead. These were men who had witnessed many executions and deaths and were fully aware of when someone had died. Is it likely that Jesus fooled them by going into some kind of comatose state and then revived himself?

He was buried. After his death on the cross a rich man called Joseph of Arimathea intervened and, aided by the Pharisee Nicodemeus, took the body of Jesus to his own cave tomb. They left the body there after sealing the tomb with a massive rock. The women who followed Jesus were watching from a distance because they wanted to follow the Jewish practice of dressing the body. But they did not do so immediately because night fell and it was the Sabbath. They determined to return on the Sunday to do the job. Meanwhile the Jewish Sanhedrin asked the Roman governor Pilate to put a guard on the tomb, which was then sealed.

On the Sunday, the first day of the week, the women (including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James) took the spices and went to the tomb, only to find that the stone had been rolled away, and the body gone. They were told by “men in clothes that gleamed like lightening” that Jesus was not there and that he had risen as he had said. They told the 11 disciples, who did not believe them, although Peter went to the tomb and saw the evidence of the grave clothes with no body in them. In the differing accounts we read that Mary spoke to Jesus, that Jesus turned up in a room with the disciples and that there were then various other resurrection appearances.

From that point on it was an essential part of the early Christian Church that it consisted of those who believed that Jesus had really risen from the dead. That is the assertion. That is what we believe today. We do not worship a dead Lord. We do not revere an honourable teacher from the past. We do not seek to keep ‘the spirit’ of a great leader alive in our midst. When we worship Jesus Christ we do so a living being. When I wrote Magnificent Obsession I was visited by an atheist friend who stated, “I am completely amazed, that you, an intelligent man, believe that Jesus is still alive…if that were true it changes everything.” Indeed it does.

But how do we prove it? The evidence for the resurrection has been well documented many times, from Morison’s Who Moved the Stone? to Lee Strobel’s The Case for Easter. If you are really serious about investigating this subject then NT Wright’s magnum opus The Resurrection of the Son of God is the recommended book for this week. The evidence we have consists of the following:

1. Eyewitness accounts: The Gospel accounts are not written as mythical accounts. They are written as historical accounts that were dependent on witnesses and must be judged as such.

2. The Empty Tomb: You can try all manner of theories to explain away the empty tomb but none of them work except the most obvious. Christ is risen.

3.The Resurrection appearances: These are carefully listed. Christ appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee, to more than 500 at one time, to James, at a meal before Pentecost and the Ascension. They were varied, physical, undramatic and unprecedented. It was the same Jesus but different. These were not collective hallucinations, or mass visions. That would be psychologically very difficult and still runs up against the problem of the empty tomb. They were not ghost appearances. I love the details for example in Luke 24:42-43: “They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.” Ghosts don’t eat broiled fish. It was far more than a symbol. A symbol does not eat broiled fish.

4. The Apostles’ testimony: Another key question for me is, were the apostles liars? Does it make sense? The human heart is fickle, changes and is open to bribery. Only one of them would have to have gone against it, threatened with imprisonment, torture and death, and all would have been lost. But they didn’t. The beginning point for the apostles is the resurrection. They were prepared to, and did, die for that belief. Not because they were fanatics or deluded, but because it was true, and being true, it changed everything including their deaths. If Christ had not risen from the dead, and they knew it, then the whole game is completely changed. 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 says: “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”

So what?

Tim Keller at the Gospel Coalition conference in 2013 made an intriguing statement. Resurrection makes Christianity the most irritating religion on earth. Why is that? Because you can argue about ethics, doctrines, rituals until you are blue in the face – people are free to believe what they want, what does it matter? But the resurrection means everything is changed. If Christ is not raised Christians are to be pitied for wasting our lives. But if Christ is raised then it would be insane to ignore him and his claims.

Rob Bell writes: “So when the writers of the Bible talk about Jesus’s resurrection bringing new life to the world, they aren’t talking about a new concept. They’re talking about something that has always been true. It’s how the world works.”

But that is not how the world works. Stand on the hillside at the grave of a young man in the Scottish Highlands. The scenery is dramatic; the weather is bleak, cold and windswept. You have just buried that young man. The way the world works is, that is it. His body is in the grave and will rot. The Christian has a different hope. I stood at my father-in-law’s grave on the Island of Lewis with other mourners when I heard the minister say in casual conversation: “There is going to be some party here on the day of the resurrection!” I was astonished to hear such a traditional minister describe the resurrection in such terms, but he was right. In the words of the singer/songwriter Garth Hewitt: “May you live to dance on your own grave, May you live to boogie all night long.”

Another time I took the heartbroken parents of a 27-year-old friend who had died suddenly to the mortuary to identify his body. It was both distressing and incredible. His body was there, but he was not there. In the materialist worldview, that is it. But everything in our soul screams out, “No – that is not right.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 says: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Like Job we declare: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him – with my own eyes – I and not another. How my heart yearns within me” (Job 19:25-27).

The resurrection gives us a future and hope. It’s personal, certain and unimaginably wonderful. That is why Calvin declared: “Let us, however, consider this settled; that no one has made progress in the school of Christ who does not joyfully await the day of death and final resurrection” (Institutes, 3:10:5). And he urged us to reflect continually upon the resurrection: ‘”Accordingly, he alone has fully profited in the gospel who has accustomed himself to continual meditation upon the blessed resurrection” (Institutes, 3:25:1).

My atheist friend quoted at the beginning said that in order for him to believe, it would have to be miraculous on a level that challenges everything that he thinks he knows or understands. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is just that. “The resurrection, therefore, is the place to begin if you are looking for a satisfying faith on which to base your life. Do not waste a lot of time investigating every religion under the sun from animism to Hinduism. Examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus instead. If he is risen you need look no further” (Michael Green).

It also means that Jesus is who he says he is. It is the greatest evidence for Christ. He is Risen! May you come to know the Risen Christ. Happy Easter.

David Robertson is the moderator of the Free Church of Scotland and director of Solas CPC, Dundee. Find out more on his blog and follow him on Twitter @theweeflea.


  1. It’s not just about equating the resurrection with Santa Claus, It’s about you having no evidence for it happening and pretending that a few convoluted stories in the book you regard as divine, cuts the mustard. It doesn’t.

    1. Thats it Michael…keep repeating the mantra…’there is no evidence, there is no evidence’…..maybe if you say it long enough it might actually be true. Or maybe you could start thinking….just a suggestion…

  2. David

    How are the Gospel passion narratives evidence? They highlight the whole Synoptic problem and their discrepancies only re-enforce the conflicting understanding they have of who Jesus was.

    The significance of the Last Supper is completely absent from John because of his Gnostic inclinations yet it is centre stage in the Synoptics.

    In Gethsemane, Jesus is wracked with doubt in Mark and Matthew. In Luke the “sweating of blood” had to be added later to increase the tension but by John, we have a completely different Jesus who is cool as a cucumber.

    After the wildly different discourses with Pilate, they can’t even agree on which day he is crucified!

    His last words on the cross echo exactly the mind-set in Gethsemane with his lamenting of being forsaken in Mark and Matthew, yet understanding in Luke and frankly only prepared to go when he is good and ready in John.

    The resurrection appearances again show discrepancies with the whole ending tacked on to Mark! Strange how you are quick to emphasise Paul’s second hand recollection of the 500 hundred witnesses but overlook the many appearances of the bodies of the Saints who emerged from their tombs in Matthew.

    1. Again an example of how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. You seem to have enormous faith in your own abilities to know what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John really meant rather than what they actually said. I guess you are omniscient from 2000 years away! Your parody of current NT scholarship would be amusing if it were not so pathetic!

    2. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is in the first chapter of John’s gospel and sets the tone for his anti-gnostic rhetoric right of the bat. From the very outset of your argument it is very clear that you are lacking in fundamental new testament learning. Also, could it be that John left out the Lord’s Supper because the synoptics and oral tradition had already documented this event and instead decided to flood his gospel with eucharistic messages elsewhere? I highly recommend “The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel: Issues & Commentary” by Craig Blomberg–I read this book during my Johannine Lit class at University and was absolutely brilliant.

  3. Michael & Jon


    1 You can not stay away can you. The first to comment, at 9:22am on Easter Sunday morning. Hooked. Nothing better to do ? You’ll have to get out more. Church maybe.

    2 From someone who harps on about “evidence” all the time – well, the evidence is you know nothing about evidence.

    3 That is the judgement from the cumulative weight of evidence of your post on this site, from your own “testimonies.”

    4 You show not one iota of true interest in following the evidence, or any ability to do so, “Who moved the stone”, by Morrison having been previously suggested. Maybe you are merely living up to you name by “taking the Michael.”

    5 You don’t have to be a prophet to know what your response to this will be.

    6 I’d have some respect for you if you took the trouble to investigate properly as have the men quoted below. But perhaps it is beneath you in your intellectual superiority over them.

    Michael & Jon;

    below are some men who follwed the evidence.

    1 “Who moved the Stone” looks at the evidence foresnsically in the round, and importantly harmonises the evidence.

    2 From Lord Darling a former Lord Chief Justice : “On that greatest point we are not merely asked to have faith. In it’s favour as living truth there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in averdict that the resurrection story is true.

    3 Or this from Simon Grenleaf, Havard law professor credited with bringing the Harvard Law School to international prominence and who wrote the highly authoritative referrence law books ” A Teatise on the Law of Evidence.” and “An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice”.
    As part of his critical observations “And their writings show the to be men of vigorous understandings If the their testimony was not true, there was no possible movite for their fabrication.”

    4 Greeleaf again:

    “All that Christianity asks of men…is that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses as they deal with their fellow men, when testifying to human affairs and actions, in human tribunals. Let witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, and with the surrounding facts and circumstances and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witnesses being subject to rigorous cross examination. The result it is believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability and truth.”

  4. Geoff & David

    If you would truly desire to examine a scholarly work on the subject, try; The Resurrection: A Critical Inquiry by Michael Alter.

  5. Hilarious and yet mindnumbing in its inanity. A new low for even you David.

    The Ultimate Proof ? The empty tomb? You truly are lost to reason.

      1. An empty tomb therefore a dead man resurrected? Astounding!

        No David where such beliefs encourage people to pervert humanity as all the three monotheistic religions do then it is for those with reason to mock.

        Atheists dont have to provide reasons frankly. As Sagan said extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Religions are the ones making extraordinary claims. Apologists for religion are therefore required to provide evidence if they want their stories to be believed. A supposed empty tomb 2000 years ago is most definitely not it.

        Quite happy to consider any evidence if you have it. What Christianity has offered so far is ineligible.

      2. Yes the resurrection is astounding! Well spotted! I wonder what you mean by perversion of humanity? It seems to me that those who refuse to acknowledge that human beings are made in the image of God are the ultimate perverts.

        Atheists don’t have to provide reasons. That just about says it all! It is true that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The extraordinary claim that we all came from nothing by nothing at no time, is one that requires a great deal of evidence!

        I very much doubt that you are happy to consider any evidence. Your whole faith and belief system militates against that. You cannot allow for the possibility that your naturalistic worldview might be disastrously wrong. To you everything is ineligible. It is the ultimate definition of the close mind.

    1. Hi, mgordon42,

      It isn’t really ‘mind-numbing’ but it is breath-taking that you should overlook the fact that the evidence is the eyewitness accounts of the empty tomb rather than the empty tomb itself. But then, it’s easy to dismiss the witnesses.
      1). The angels: Easy if you don’t believe in angels and dead easy if you won’t believe in angels.
      2). The women: Nobody fabricating evidence in the first century would have women come first to the tomb but we can still just about get away with dismissing them out of hand now.
      3). The disciples: Well, they would, wouldn’t they?
      4). The guards: Sure, it’s a really lame excuse that a terrified bunch of losers like the disciples could have broken into a sealed and guarded tomb and stolen the body, but it’s good enough for me.

      Sorry, I’m putting words into your mouth there. Perhaps you have better reasons for dismissing the witnesses, but i will wager you that they won’t stand up in court, either.


      1. Eyewitnesses? Ha ha – hilarious.

        Angels – well enough said.

        “Nobody fabricating evidence in the first century would have women come first to the tomb” – hilarious – your gospels cant even agree on who is supposed to have come to the tomb.

        Guards – you can only assume that there were any. Why have guards for a dead loser? Why not just leave him up there on the tree for crows to eat. Because thats what would have happened. Of course a little tale of Joseph of A has been created to put him in the tomb in the first place.

        Of course all of this to enable you to claim a dead guy got up and walked.


  6. Thanks Jon,

    Not sure if I want to devote time to a theist of possible Jewish presuppositions..Where does Jesus the Messiah fit into his theology. Does he accept that the “Old Testament ” is all about Jesus.(Luke 24:27) as is the New: it is one book. And, just to show I’m not biased, I don’t think I’d want to spend time studying NT Wright’s tome either! I missed the opportunity to buy one locally when it first came out.

    Morrison started his search from the position of unbeliever.

    I am not a theist., but a Christian, and Greenleafs comments remain apposite. Without the resurrection there would be no Christianity and it’s either true or a lie.

    It’s where objective reality meets the subjective reality of a believers new “birth from above” where in my own personal order of salvation the “love of God was being poured into my heart” with the resultant “peace of God that is beyond understanding”, of being raised to a new life in Him. Without the resurrection you’d be cutting out huge chunks of the bible and the identity of Jesus as God the Son, Son of Man. That might be acceptable to you. It’s not to me. as it is “living and active”, as it was both pre and post conversion.



  7. Tom Wright is a profoundly humane and intellectual scholar who has made a career out of exegesis of texts that simply may not be true, or opinions of events that did not happen. Think how you would value the work of similar Quranic scholars.

    1. Love it….a profoundly humane and intellectual scholar who is too dumb to realise what Jon knows – that he is exegeting false texts and having opinions about events that did not happen. If only he was as smart as Jon he would realise The Truth!

  8. David

    You make exactly the same assumption for countless religous scholars whose theology you don’t accept!

    1. No I’m sorry that’s not true. I consider each case on its own merits. My motto is the same as that of the former atheist, Anthony flew, you follow the evidence wherever it leads you! That’s why he stopped being an atheist! But I guess that would be too radical step for you. Know the truth and the truth shall set you free!

  9. Hello Jon,

    I think we’re getting to the bottom of this with you. It’s not about evidence or intellect with you is it? It’s about your belief. I recall a few weeks ago you were asked what you believed and you didn’t respond.

    You wouldn’t subscribe to the Apostles Creed would you?

    You don’t believe in the triune God do you?

    You don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah do you? That all the explicit and implicit referrences in the Old Testament were totally fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah.

    You wouldn’t accept that the Tanak is Christian would you?

    Your referrence to Alter and exegesis is more from the Synagogue than the Christian Church isn’t it?

    Can you explain or pronounce what the Good News of Jesus is?

    I look forward to hearing about your beliefs, and to being corrected, but if I’m right, welcome.


    1. Geoff

      I did reply with regards to my beliefs, David was just a little slow putting it up. It’s at the bottom of his Apologetics No 6.

  10. “Ineligble”

    If mgordon42 has a legal background he should know that to be “eligible” in court evidence has to be “admissible” and to be admissible it has has to be “relevant”. that is “logically probative of the fact in issue.”

    Again, Simon Greenleaf is relevant here.

    I’m sure mgordon’s admitted numb skull is far mumber than his!

    1. Your post is incomprehensible Geoff.

      How ironic though you mention admissibility as the eyewitnesses mentioned are nothing of the sort.

      Additionally it is the Christian apologist who is making the claim therefore it is the Christian apologist who must present evidence. Im sorry but the texts are very poor evidence if indeed they are evidence at all.

      1. Geoff – you need to realise that atheists never have to produce evidence. They don’t even have to think. They just realise/know/feel and you have to produce the evidence to overcome their feelings and prejudices. They just know what evidence they would accept and that they have the ability to judge the evidence….but as for producing any evidence for their beliefs….don’t hold your breath!

      2. Hi again, Mark,

        I suppose I’d better begin by pointing out that Joseph of Arimathea was a witness, not that the tomb was so surprisingly empty, but that they had put a dead man in there three days earlier. Not sure why you make a thing of the tomb guard only appearing in one gospel when Joseph – whom you dismiss as an invention – appears in all four. But there you are, you’re not really interested in eyewitnesses that you don’t believe in anyway, are you?

        No, what you really want to laugh at is belief in the veracity of the gospel accounts. You should have said so, right off, instead of wasting time on the empty tomb itself. But taking up the two points you make about the evidential nature of the accounts, I think you’ll find that you’re wrong in both. The gospel accounts of who came to the tomb are reconcilable – See “Easter Enigma” by Jn. Wenham – but what we have in them are the sort of petty contradictions that are typical of witness reports and evidence that there has been no collusion. That in anyone else’s book but yours is evidence for veracity and not evidence against.

        Similarly, although you are wrong about the likelihood of bodies being left to excarnate on public display in Jerusalem on a feast day – the gospel accounts about breaking legs in order to get the bodies off the crosses more quickly has the ring of truth – you are right that the execution party would not have expected Jesus to be buried in a tomb. What was prepared would have been a shallow grave with lime to speed up the process of dissolution. You are right that the circumstance of a rich man asking for the body of a crucified criminal is unusual. Some might say that you couldn’t make it up, but I don’t know that I’d want to go that far. What I would like to say is that the closer a putative false account was in time to the event, then the harder it would be to invent the witnesses; the further from events in composition the harder it is to see how a fraudster could have known the crucial details of tomb architecture at that time in Jerusalem.

        Again, you may have better and more compelling reasons for thinking that the gospels are unhistorical but you’re not doing very well so far.


      3. Any evidence for Josephs’s existence or do we just have to accept that as a given?

        no sorry you are not convincing me.

      4. Whether or not you accept that Joseph of Arimathea existed or not, Mark,
        you see that in the narratives he is a witness for Jesus having been dead when they put him in the tomb rather than a witness that the tomb was subsequently empty! That’s the point I was making.

        However, you seem to be under the misapprehension that I’m trying to convince you that the New Testament accounts are trustworthy. I believe that they are but I have to confess that I have no thoughts of convincing you. You left the jury when you decided to speak out but your pontificating does not make you a pontiff, if I may be so bold. You are a witness in this court, the same as the rest of us and, it seems to me you are witnessing most effectively to the truth of at least two Scriptures.

        First and foremost, you are demonstrating that the New Testament was right when it predicted that scoffers would arise in the last days, asking, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?’ Also, though, I can’t get away from the fact that you seem to be witnessing to the truth of the Old Testament adage that the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ Beware lest it creeps up on you unawares when at last you find yourself out of the witness box and in the dock.

        I hold my hand up for – although I wouldn’t have the temerity to think that I could convince you – I do recognise the foolishness of preaching to you about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how that takes away the sin of those who believe in him. I’m also foolish enough to admit to praying that God himself will convince you and indeed save you. So I admit it: I’m a fool for Jesus.

        Whose fool are you?


      5. I think it more likely that breaking of legs is done to hasten death so that those policing the execution can go home. Put yourself in the executioners shoes.

  11. Thanks Jon,

    I’ve tracked down your response. You clearly have a deep interest in meaning and have done some wide reading.

    If you forgive me for picking out your last points:

    “Whilst I agree some passages of scripture offer a profound insight into the nature of human relationships, I simply think they were inspired by a belief in God, rather than directly informed by him.”

    You’ll be aware that the Christian teaching is that a belief in the God of Christianity is a gift from God, it is by revelation, from Him, otherwise He is unknowable. Certainly, who would or could invent a triune God?

    As an intellectual thought experiment, what would your idea of god be, if you could “invent” a god to your liking, to be consistently and not only intellectually, but whole life satisfying. I wouldn’t want him to be like Allah.

    Would any god worth their salt be infallible? And could such a god infallibly reveal themself, to and through fallible humans with finite minds and understanding?

    Could such a god become human? Could they raise somone from the dead? And why would they want to?

    Could such a god have an enduring personal, loving relationship with humans? Could they be described as “love”? Remember, Islamic scholars would not describe Allah as being love or having a personal relationship with humanity.

    You’ll be aware that Christian teaching is that human love relations (not sex) are a (poor) reflection of the pre creation love that existed between and within the trinity.

    If true, and I contend it is, John Chapter 17 is astonishing as we are brought into a communication within the trinity. I invite you to meditate, ponder on it, at face value.

    It answers the question: What was God doing before creation? But goes far further, to bring us into relationship with Him in and through union with Him.

    On another level, it also answers questions about suffering, the subject of Apologetics No 6.

    As you are a man of reading, could I endorse David’s recommended reading by Keller on Suffering. It includes some philosophical disussion, and Keller’s book, “The Reason for God”, which is a general book.

    And more recently David’s feebly endorsed book; Sinclair Ferguson’s, Whole Christ. I have not read it, but I’ve listened to his preaching/teaching on the interenet. It “sums up” Christianity, the Good News of Jesus, in a union with Him, in His death, life and resurrection and ascencion.

    Thank you.

    And to you David for your indulgence, if you permit this being posted.


    1. Geoff

      I would simply posit a god who wasn’t so offended by sin.

      The nature of God is at the root of my atheism. He is poorly defined and usually described “via negativa” in such as way as to make him indistinguishable from non-existence.

      Also, the properties of omnipotence, omniscience and omni-benevolence are contradictory and unintelligible on close examination.

      Too often, the theist withdraws behind the “unknowable veil” to avoid difficult questions about God’s nature and purpose.

      His holiness, which ultimately provides the basis by which he is worthy of worship, is equally unintelligible and other than by grace alone, so is his very act of creation.

      1. Jon,
        your reason is fine as long as you are not offended by your own sin. Awakened to it, however, and you will most definitely want a God who not only is offended by sin but who forgives and is able to save completely all who will come to him.
        Similarly, you can shy away at theological attempts to define God, but have you considered Jesus?
        Of course these attributes of God are contradictory and unintelligible but the reason the theist cannot explain them any better to you is that we are also, in this life, on the outside of the mysteries yet to be revealed. It is only when you are faced with the utterly irreconcilable contradictions of your own life that you will seek the one who made reconciliation for us through the blood of his Cross.
        Nobody is avoiding difficult questions by pointing to the resurrection of Christ. Perhaps your difficulty is that we are pointing to a challenging answer.
        Where else will you turn, but to a holy God when convinced of your own unholiness? Let me suggest that the act of creation does not make sense apart from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ but when faced with the reality of your own internal darkness, pray God that the God who caused the light to shine out of darkness should so shine in your heart to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.


  12. mgordon42

    Sorry to do this piecemeal David.

    I’m not sure mgordon has any practical experience of court room advacacy, but why wouldn’t it be just mentioned in Matthew only. matthew is coming at it from a different place. Slightly diferent accounts in court usually adds an air of authenticity, of truth, such as when all police witness evidence isn’t exactly the same, because they are not in the same place at the same time, or may be focussing on specifics. It can show that they have not got their “heads together” and refreshed their memories together.

    So mgordon is being disingenuous, or simplistic indeed with boringly “old hat” arguments.

    Again this is getting tedious, I challenge him to read read “Who moved the stone” by Morrison as it was written from an unbelievers standpoint and answers any so called discrepancies or contradictions in the gospel accounts. True form he wont.

      1. Mark,
        It might surprise you to know that the Bible discusses what the consequences would be of the resurrection being just a story in 1 Cor. 15:

        ‘… if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ. whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20a But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead …’

        I count seven consequences of Christ’s resurrection just being a story:
        1. Gospel preaching is a pointless exercise.
        2. Christian Faith has no basis in fact.
        3. God is misrepresented.
        4. Christian Faith leads nowhere.
        5. Sin is not dealt with.
        6. Death is the end.
        7. Christians are of all people most to be pitied.

        Marcello Truzzi’s principle that ‘Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.’ is rightly presented as a challenge to the resurrection having happened. Christianity has always claimed that the Bible provides such extraordinary proof but be that as it may, It is an extraordinary claim of yours that people accepting the dire consequences of making up such a story would nevertheless concoct such a story if they did not believe it to be true. If extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof then extraordinary proof is required of anyone saying that the resurrection story has no basis in fact.


  13. Jon

    I have spent ages answering your post off the top of my head with my inept keyboard skills, only to lose it, so I closed it down and opened it, to find John’s response to you.

    I look to answer some of your post without reference to John’s response. so there may be some overlap..

    Thank you for your openness and interesting response. I am particularly intrigued by your first and last sentences.

    1. “I would simply posit a god who wasn’t so offended by sin.”

    God and sin. Scripture indeed sets before us sin in contrast to a holy God. But it is always in the context of a rejection of God and His nature, or who He is. It is in the context of a promise-keeping, covenant-making, convenant-keeping God and a rejection of Him eminating from the fall when His kindness and goodness and promise of sustaining life is rejected because of our desire to be sustained by knowledge and to be lik, so hee Him. The irony or our desire to be like God is that we were created in His image, so sin is always a rejection of Him and His nature.

    2. “His holiness, which ultimately provides the basis by which he is worthy of worship, is equally unintelligible and other than by grace alone, so is his very act of creation.”

    I find this deeply intriguing and wise. It is the heart of the matter. It is only by grace that we know his holiness. And this is where you see sin always being described in the negative against his holiness. And it is where much has been written about the holiness of God .

    What do you see the holiness of God being? Is it a sour faced, lemon sucking, tut-tutting god?

    I simply lean on theologian, Jonathan Edwards, who describes the holiness of God is his beauty and Christians are to worship God “in the beauty of holiness” .

    So holiness is his beauty, his character, his nature, his goodness, and sin is coming up short in contrast.

    That places before us a seemingly unbridgeable chasm, a conundrum, a dilemma, a paradox..

    But just as God made promises and covenants as did his always failing, disobedient , unbelieving people”doing what is right in their own eyes,” He in the person of Jesus Christ, fully God and full Man perfectly obeyed, perfectly loved the Father, and perfectly loved his neighbour (us) was perfectly sinless, righteous on our behalf, in our place AND in our place our sin became His andhe received “the wages of sin” – death in our place, as a substitute.

    So that Jesus “became sin that we might become the righteousness of God” As Donald McCleod puts it, in Jesus, our union with him, we (I’ll capitalise this) become AS RIGHTEOUS AS GOD.

    And as others have put it Jesus lived the life we should live and died the death we should die. As our substitute and in our union with Him we have lived that life and died that death..

    This has moved from negativity of sin to joyous positivity, through the “active obedience” of Christ.

    So if you want to know the NATURE of GOD – LOOK to CHRIST. Sorry for shouting.

    May I invite you in this context to ponder the quotes abstracted by David from Fergson’s “Whole Christ” book.

    Other recommendations I’m sure David will endorse are both by Michael Reeves, “the Good God” and “Our life in Christ”

    On a personal level at the age of 47 God revealed His goodness and in deep sorrow I was convicted , not of any specific sin, but of the sin of not “loving Him”, by ignoring Him all my life. A sin of unbelief, which has been described as the sin under all sin, because.. “we love because He first loved us”.

    To end where we started with David’s blog:

    “And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you. Romans 8:11.

    Thank you for your time.



  14. “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

    —Sherlock Holmes

    Yet, how many times have you heard a Christian apologist say one of the following:

    —“It is implausible that any first century Jew would have moved the body of Jesus resulting in the Empty Tomb. The miracle of the Resurrection is much more probable than that a first century Jew would move a dead body.”

    —“It is implausible that the Jews and Romans would not have brought out Jesus’ body to disprove the Christian claim of a Resurrection if they knew the whereabouts of his corpse. The Resurrection is much more probable than that the Jews and Romans had moved the body and did not care what a small band of religious fanatics were saying about their dead leader.”

    —“It is implausible that the authors of the Gospels made up stories in their Gospels when so many eyewitnesses would still have been alive to challenge their false claims. The miracle of the Resurrection is much more probable than that the Empty Tomb and the Appearance Stories are literary fiction.”

    —“It is implausible that the Jewish rabbi, Saul/Paul, would have converted to Christianity if he had only experienced a vivid dream or hallucination. The miracle of the Resurrection is much more probable than the conversion of a Christian-hating, devout, first century Jewish rabbi to Christianity.”

    —“It is implausible that Paul did not know all or many of the five hundred eyewitnesses listed in the Early Creed of First Corinthians chapter 15. The miracle of the Resurrection is much more probable than that Paul was simply repeating something he had heard but not verified.”

    —“It is implausible that Christianity would have grown so quickly under such difficult circumstances if the disciples had not really seen a resurrected body of flesh and blood. The miracle of the Resurrection is much more probable an explanation for the growth of Christianity than that this belief was based on hallucinations, illusions, or false sightings.”

    —“It is implausible that so many disciples would have been willing to die for their belief in the Resurrection if their belief in this alleged event was based on a lie, hallucinations, or illusions. The miracle of the Resurrection is much more probable than human misperception.”

    —“It is even more implausible (and practically impossible) that all these very implausible events, added together, explain the early Christian Resurrection Belief. The miracle of a once in history Resurrection is much more probable than these very implausible naturalistic explanations.”

    Dear Christians: Even the extremely unlikely scenario that a group of disciples, at the same time and place, experienced simultaneous hallucinations in which they each believed they in some general sense saw a resurrected Jesus is still much more probable than a true resurrection of a dead corpse. The only reason Christians cannot see this is that they have presumed the existence of the Christian god, Yahweh, and his unlimited supernatural (magic) powers, before the debate on the probability of the Resurrection has even begun. We skeptics, on the other hand, are not claiming that a Resurrection is impossible, we are simply saying a Resurrection is much, much less plausible/probable in our cumulative human experience than any combination of very improbable naturalistic explanations. A miracle, by definition, is a very rare and very unusual event.

    1. Hi, Gary,
      thank you for piling up your list of plausibility statements even if you did so, so that you could knock it all down again. No, I can’t recall hearing such arguments but why should I have when better arguments are available — read David’s post — and when the plausibility pile is so easily demolished!
      You are right that a septical approach cannot begin with the denial of the possibility of miracles but equally, skepticism worthy of the name looks at the most challenging primary evidence, not at straw-man arguments that can be huffed and puffed away.


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