This past Sunday I did something that I had never done before as a Pastor. I preached on the historical reasons for the resurrection. It was not an easy sermon to prepare. There is a lot of material to cover in such a short time. I found myself a bit apprehensive to give a list of reasons why one might believe in the resurrection. (You can listen to that sermon above in the video player)
You may ask, "Why the apprehension?"
Certainly, that is a valid question.
Why should any minister of the Gospel be apprehensive on sharing the historical case for the resurrection? I guess my apprehension could be narrowed to the fact that I did not want to build an entire case on reason alone. I think it's dangerous to base our faith on a post-enlightenment rationalism that declares, "I have empirically proven the answer, thus removing the need for faith."
Jason Micheli captures my apprehension perfectly when he writes,
"The Barthian in me bristles at the unexamined assumption that that which is ‘objective’ and true must be empirically verifiable, it’s nonetheless true that the same Barthian in me is allergic to rational apologetics."- tamedcynic.orgAnd so all of this left me with an uneasy feeling about putting together a sermon that compiled a list of reasons for believing the resurrection. I was apprehensive about a "wooden rationalism" that called for undeniable verification. Thankfully, both Jason & N.T. Wright helped me provide a proper framing of where to put these arguments for the resurrection.
Jason Micheili cleverly asserts this dialectical statement:
To say the resurrection of Christ is beyond historical verification is true, for we believe God intervenes from beyond history to raise Jesus from beyond the grave. But to say the resurrection of Christ is beyond historical verification is not also to suggest that the resurrection of Christ is beyond historical plausibility, for we believe God intervenes to raise Jesus from the grave within history. In fact... I do think the resurrection is the best- or at least a compelling- historical explanation for the resurrection of Jesus.
N.T. Wright, in his popular book Surprised By Hope, (and elsewhere) spends endless chapters laying out the historical case for the plausibility of the resurrection. Yet, after tirelessly laying out his through argument, Wright explains to his readers exactly where these rationalistic based arguments belong for followers of Jesus. He writes,
"[T]hough the historical arguments for Jesus’s bodily resurrection are truly strong, we must never suppose that they will do more than bring people to the questions faced by Thomas, Paul, and Peter, the questions of faith, hope, and love. We cannot use a supposedly objective historical epistemology as the ultimate ground for the truth of Easter. To do so would be like lighting a candle to see whether the sun had risen. What the candles of historical scholarship will do is to show that the room has been disturbed, that it doesn’t look like it did last night, and that would-be normal explanations for this won’t do. Maybe, we think after the historical arguments have done their work, maybe morning has come and the world has woken up. But to investigate whether this is so, we must take the risk and open the curtains to the rising sun. When we do so, we won’t rely on the candles anymore, not because we don’t believe in evidence and argument but because they will have been overtaken by the larger reality from which they borrow, to which they point, and in which they will find a new and larger home. All knowing is a gift from God, historical and scientific knowing no less than that of faith, hope, and love; but the greatest of these is love."- N.T. Wright, Surprised By Hope, pg. 74So this is all to say, that while I find the various reasons for the resurrection compelling, I must always recognize that these reasons alone cannot form the basis of faith and trust in the resurrection. I must go deeper from reason to hope, faith, and love.