The question about the resurrection of the dead is a critical point to consider. Since we’ve already argued (see the previous post) in the positive of the resurrection through the proof of Christ’s resurrection, let’s consider it from the negative – that there is not a resurrection. If mankind, and all life here, is just the result of matter plus chance plus time, then there is no eternity to consider. We are matter, and nothing more. There is no spirit to live on after this life has turned to dust. If that is the case, then we have to wonder, “What is the point in trying to be good?” Paul even makes this point himself. If this life is all there is, then “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” So what is it that drives the atheist, the unbeliever, the one who scoffs at the resurrection or eternity, to do “good”? That desire is really at odds with the core beliefs of the atheist.
Granted, one might look at the evil around us and wonder if we can really claim that we all have a drive to be good. But there truly is something inside each of us that compels us to good behavior – or at a minimum appear that we have good behavior. As C.S. Lewis said, “If we do not believe in decent behavior, then why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not behaving decently? We know that it could be beneficial to cheat on a test when we didn’t study, or to tell a lie when the truth makes us look foolish, or to break a promise when it’s difficult to keep, but there is something that prevents us from doing these things. There is something that tells all societies from all eras that honesty, loyalty, and unselfishness are admirable traits and treason, lying, and selfishness are not. Each society may change to whom you should be loyal, whether it is to your family, your god, or your government, but none of them desire treason. Ah, but there are many people out there that do cheat, lie, and steal. But don’t they try to hide the fact that they do those things? Even the basest of humans will try cover up their horrible deeds – because they know there is something wrong with them.
Well, you might say, they are only hiding them because of society’s standards. And we all know that doing good benefits society. This is a valid consideration. Society tends to benefit when people treat each other according to this standard of behavior. But that’s essentially saying that we should behave decently for the benefit of society. Behaving decently to benefit society is behaving unselfishly; and behaving unselfishly is behaving decently. We’ve now created circular logic. We are still unable to define what decent behavior really is. It’s like saying ‘Men ought to be unselfish’ because it benefits society. But we’re trying to define what drives the “ought” part of that statement. From where did man get the compulsion to benefit society? Yes, we should behave to benefit society, but why should we care about benefiting society? So in this argument we’ve said you should be unselfish because that’s being unselfish. This argument fails to explain the origin of the standard of behavior; it simply points out its usefulness.
So where did mankind get this idea of what constitutes good behavior, this Moral Law? It couldn’t have come through nature because humankind are the only species that exhibits this idea of morality. The rest of the animal kingdom has no moral compass to guide their actions. We even judge animal behavior differently than we do human behavior because, well, they’re animals. Animals “kill” but don’t murder. Animals “mate” but do not rape. It is because they don’t have this moral element to their actions.
Does that mean that mankind has just evolved to a superior state to develop morals? But the basis of evolution is simply to progress the species forward. Therefore, evolution would determine any behavior that progressed the species was beneficial or good, even if that involved destroying other fertile females or killing male infants that challenged the alpha male. Evolution could not have determined that those actions are morally reprehensible.
We clearly exhibit this desire for behaving decently, yet it could not have come through nature or evolution. Therefore, there must be a Moral Law Giver, something outside of nature that imparted this Moral Law onto mankind alone. It is the only way to explain the existence of this Moral Law. Only this Moral Law Giver, or God, can give us the sense of an Ultimate Right and Wrong that we are inherently continually striving toward. Only a moral code based on Godliness, not mankind’s preferences, can provide us adequate motivation for living an ethical life and for judging against those who do not. It is only because of this Moral Law that we have this innate compulsion to do what is right and refrain from what is wrong. And we only have this compulsion for good behavior, this Moral Law that defines good behavior, because God exists.
So if there is no resurrection, why do we desire to be good? The atheist cannot answer this question because without God there is no explanation for desiring good behavior. The only way to explain desiring good behavior is that God exists and that there is an eternity. We only desire to be “good” because God has written this Moral Law and this eternity on our hearts.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.”
And because there is a God and there is a resurrection, we can have hope.
In the book of Corinthians, Paul writes from Ephesus back to a church he had already established in the city of Corinth. And he uses this exchange of letters with that congregation to encourage them but to also instruct them on important doctrinal matters. One such point was the importance of understanding and believing in the resurrection. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul begins his argument for the confidence in the resurrection by summing up the key doctrinal points to the Christian faith: that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected. Simply put, that is what Christianity all comes down to, Christ dying for our sins and resurrecting to overcome death.
Many people outside the church want to assert that these points have only been made after the passage of time. The claim is that only over many generations has this become what Christians believe in. So it is important to stop on this point to consider the implications of when Paul is writing this. It has been estimated that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians around AD 55 or 56 based on his missionary journey timeline. That means it was written only twenty-two years after Jesus’ death and resurrection and, as Paul tells in his letter, while most of the 500 witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were still alive. However, we have to consider further that Paul is writing this to remind the Corinthians of things he had already taught them back in AD 50 when he first established the church there. Therefore those things had been taught to Paul already before he began his missionary journey. In fact, it is safe to presume that Paul had learned those facts at his conversion in roughly AD 32, only two years or so after Christ’s resurrection. So we see that these crucial points of church doctrine were established immediately after the events took place, not many generations later as some people try to claim. We can have confidence that those things really happened; Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected.
Those facts are confirmed further in that they not only happened, but they happened publicly. All other world religions rely on the single account of one man’s private revelations. Christianity relies on multiple accounts of one man’s public actions. The miracles Jesus performed were in public, among crowds of both friend and foe. The trial of Jesus before Pilate was in public where the crowds cried out for Jesus to be crucified. His crucifixion was in public, beside two criminals, carried out by Roman soldiers (John 19:34). And his death was in public, affirmed by the soldiers piercing His side, Pontius Pilate himself (Mark 15:44), and the Pharisees (Matt. 27:65-66).
That just affirms to us that Jesus was real, had the power to work miracles, and died. But that doesn’t make Him the conquering Savior over sin and death. That would have to come through His resurrection. Now, Jesus could have simply claimed that He would be resurrected spiritually, where no one could prove or disprove whether it really occurred. He could have then just told the disciples to have hope and faith that His Spirit was living on in eternity even though they could not confirm that. But Jesus claimed that He would rise physically, something that would be obvious to everyone, something that could be proven evidentially. So was that in public too? In 1 Corinthians 15:2-8, Paul lists all the people that witnessed the physical resurrection: Peter, all the disciples, 500 people at once (most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this), James (the half-brother of Jesus and founder of the Jerusalem church), and then Paul himself. But the Gospel accounts fill in more witnesses than even that, as if that wasn’t enough. We know Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9), Mary (Matt. 28:1), and disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13). The resurrected Jesus walked with them, talked with them, ate with them, and touched them – all physically confirming His physical resurrection. We know the tomb was empty because the Pharisees were trying to bribe the guards to lie about why it was empty (Matt 28:12-13). And we know all of this was common knowledge because Paul, while speaking to King Herod Agrippa (Acts 6:7), that “this thing was not done in a corner.” Peter says the same to the Pharisees when preaching in the temple (Acts 4:8-14). These facts about Jesus are common knowledge because it was all done in public by the Pharisees themselves and witnessed by hundreds of people.
Paul points all of this out to the Corinthians in order to reaffirm to them that there is the resurrection of the dead. Because, after all, as Paul says, without the resurrection, the faith of the Christian is a giant waste of time. He says, “If in this life only we have hope, then we are to be pitied more than any other.” Why is that? Because everything we do as Christians is out of the idea that there is a resurrection. If there is not, then Christ wasn’t raised from the dead. If Christ was not resurrected, then our faith is useless, we are false witnesses of God, and more importantly, we are all still dead in our sins.
But because Christ did die and was resurrected, then we do have hope. Our faith is solidly grounded on truth. We are true witnesses of God’s love and His mercy. The preaching of this truth is true and it brings life and hope wherever it is preached. But most importantly, we are forgiven and cleansed from our sins.
The Christian life is not to be the most pitied because it is the only life with hope.
Stay tuned for more on the resurrection...
Today is the day set aside to remember the remarkable accomplishments of a life cut all too short, that of Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s the day we celebrate the peaceful movement started by Dr. King in an effort to use love to overcome senseless and unfounded hate. It is regrettable that we don’t have his voice actively ringing in our society’s ears today. What do you imagine he would say about the current condition of many cities? He wanted people to love each other for who they were on the inside, that part that each individual is responsible for and has full control over. And yet now we still have people on all sides of current issues focusing on the external part of a person, the part that they are not responsible for. In his famous speech, Dr. King longed for a time, not where no one was ever judged at all, but that the judgment be made on things that matter – on a person’s character, not on the trivial things that make no bearing on who a person is.
His words were a shining beacon of that time especially in how he broadcast them through the lens of love and not hate. He wanted there to be forgiveness on all sides. He wanted there to be equality of people, an idea that was first established in the Declaration of Independence. Only under that auspice was there even a hope for equality among all individuals because it stated: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Ah, and here’s the connection. “Created” equal. What worldview would even allow for the hope of equality among people, men and women, educated and uneducated, black and white? Only under Christianity are those principles given.
Now, that may seem flawed given so many atheists, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists may say that racial or gender discrimination is wrong. But they have no basis to form such an opinion if they are to be intellectually honest with their beliefs. They may decide for themselves that all people are created equal, but it is at direct odds with their worldview. For the Buddhist, Buddha originally refused to even allow women into the order of discipleship. Once he finally conceded to permit women, he created more rules for them to follow. Jews would often begin their prayers saying, “Thank you Lord that I am not a Gentile, slave, or woman.” Muslims treat women as property, denying them basic civil rights. They want to destroy anyone that has a different religious belief than them in accordance with the ninth chapter of the Quran to make them “objects of the sword.”
The real irony of belief though is found in the atheist. Because the atheist believes in only naturalism, then he must rely on evolution to achieve human life. In that respect, human life has no value anyway – not any more than a rock or a tree or a frog. The problem really comes down to whether evolution could have resulted in a moral value system that would even tell us that racial hatred is wrong. But evolution can’t do that. Mankind could not have ever received a sense of morality if it were left up to nature and evolution alone. Evolution would mandate that anything that progresses the species would be “good.” It means if rape or infanticide or racial discrimination progressed evolution, we could not declare it as wrong. There would be no evolutionary advantage to protect the disabled and elderly in our societies since they would be simply less fit to survive. Consider the reality of the mindset of the Nazi efforts to exterminate certain ethnicities. They were trying to cleanse the “lesser” species to promote the “fitter” species for survival. This was humankind enacting Darwinian evolution. If morality were simply a result of evolution, then those efforts would have to be applauded not condemned. It simply was aiding the survival of the fittest. Yet we unmistakably denounce those actions as evil. The same would have to be said for racial discrimination. Evolution would have to say that discriminating against a particular race for the benefit of the “human species” would be ok. Nothing from evolution could ever tell mankind that was wrong, yet we know that to be wrong.
Charles Darwin even said: “If men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters; and no one would think of interfering.” Yet even the atheist should find issue with a society that condoned that behavior.
The reason why we know racial discrimination and hatred to be wrong, that our equality is “self-evident,” is because our morals come from a higher authority. It is because our morality was given to us by something outside of nature and mankind. It came from an ultimate moral authority, a Moral Law Giver, a God. And we see that it is within Christianity that the equality of the individual finally comes into focus, especially at a time when women were less than human and slavery was rampant – among all races. But Jesus showed mankind a different way. He showed love to the Jew and the Samaritan; He showed love to the tax collector and the fisherman; He showed love to the woman in sin and the man with leprosy. He looked over the crowds of men, women, and children and it broke His heart for them. Mark 6:34 “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” He saw not the different classifications of people, but He saw people dead in their sins.
Paul says in Galatians 3:21-29: “Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
The unification of people into loving one another without regard for skin color or ethnicity is that we are all united as sinners and enemies of God. And only through our faith in Christ are we then united again as sons of God through that faith. Only with Christianity is there neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, black nor white. Only under faith in Jesus and only from the moral law given to us by God can we truly be colorblind.
Jesus didn’t teach this way through a violent riotous protest. Jesus didn’t teach this way by enacting Roman legislature. Jesus taught it by teaching love and forgiveness. Only when people are able to love and forgive one another can we truly move beyond discrimination of any kind to see people for the content of their character and not for the color of their skin.
This past week my dear, sweet Grandad went home to be with the Lord. It was a moment that we knew had been coming for a while. His health had been failing him and his mind was slowly slipping along with it. He lived a wonderful 94 years and was married to my sweet Granny for 65 of those years. I have such precious memories of my Grandad that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
And what permeates through all of those memories is the kindness of a man who loved everyone through the love of Christ. I have never seen a finer example of showing Christ’s love to other people than with my Grandad. He loved and forgave in the manner that Christ calls us to. He was generous in everything to help the least of these, from his work with the prison ministry to giving rides to total strangers because he saw someone’s need. In every decision he made was in his effort to do what was right and kind and loving. He had an inner joy in all things, a joy that was fundamental in his life. I loved my Grandad dearly and deeply grieve that he is no longer with us. And I know that when God received Grandad’s spirit He was able to say, “Well done My good and faithful servant.”
It is in these moments of sorrow and loss that we truly ask what does life really mean. Platitudes and nice clichés will no longer do. We long to define what it is that gives life value. What is it that we are living for? Has what I’ve devoted my time and my life to been worth it? For the Christian, we have a way to answer those questions. We know that the answer to those questions is found in the same person of Jesus. He gives our lives value and it is for Him that we live. He is the answer to all of life’s fundamental questions. It is from Jesus that we have that fundamental joy. For the unbelieving person, you must determine whether your worldview can satisfactorily address those questions. What does your worldview say about pain and sorrow? How does it meet you in your everyday life to determine what is right and wrong or to give life value? Does it give you fundamental joy in the face of momentary sorrows?
But most importantly, for the unbeliever, when you die and stand before the Almighty God, what can you possibly do to make up for a life lived anti-theistically?