Russell and Duenes

Where Thy Victory, O Grave!

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I was thinking the other day about an  old acquaintance of mine, a man who came up through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in college, and then went on to graduate studies in theology. He made shipwreck of his faith by accepting the lies of modern biblical “scholarship.” Buying into the morality of this present, evil age, he tried to convince me that Jesus was nothing but a charismatic religious leader who gathered a few followers to himself, taught some warmed over Jewish ethics, and after his death, was buried in a shallow grave somewhere. In my younger foolishness, I thought it good to “go round and round” with him about the Christian faith. We’d email each other back and forth with our positions, but I really should have shut it down early on. It was not good for my soul, and I found myself getting distracted from the bedrock upon which Christian gospel stands, a bedrock that this man had no evidence to overturn.

That bedrock is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. (As an aside, if you ever have about an hour-and-a-half free, I can’t recommend more highly N.T. Wright’s lecture on the reality of the resurrection. Find it here). I had to remind myself that everything about my relationship with Jesus, such as it is, stands or falls on the reality of His rising from the dead. And what is our confidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead? There are many evidences, of course, but I want to suggest the one which has proved most helpful to me. St. Paul makes reference to it in 1 Cor. 15:5-8, when he writes that Jesus “appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Were these men hallucinating, or merely having a private, inner, religious experience? No. Rather, Paul is making clear that he, along with the other apostles, was bearing witness to a reality external to himself, something that happened in history, and most importantly, something that inexorably and profoundly altered the course of their lives. One simply must give a plausible account as to how it is that Paul, Peter, James, John, and the rest of the disciples and followers, were willing to lay down their lives for this Jesus, and to do so in such civilization-altering way. And the only such plausible account is that these men (and women) had in fact seen Jesus alive from the dead. They had, as St. John says, heard Jesus, seen Him with their eyes, and handled Him with their hands. They testified to it with their mouths, and with their very lives. Everything else follows from this, and so does my faith.

My acquaintance was sorely and sadly mistaken, not only because his beliefs provide no hope, and render life utterly meaningless and futile, but also because the best evidence points away from any notion that Jesus, like all other men, remained in His grave. The history of men and nations points rather to the reality that this Jesus rose from the dead, as He said He would, and today still changes the hearts and minds of men and women the world over, to accomplish His sovereign and everlasting purposes. Anything other than this rests on epistemological sand, and the vain imaginings of men in their pride. “Lives again our glorious King…where, O death, is now thy sting? Dying once He all doth save…where thy victory, O grave? Alleluia!”

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

April 19, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Posted in Apologetics, Duenes

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