In my intro to theology course, I do an entire day usually on natural theology. I do not do this because I believe that I can convince people with natural theology arguments. If we are in bondage to sin, we can't think our way into the Christian faith. Faith is trust, not merely the knowledge of historical facts- God attaches a Word of Law or Promise to those facts and of trust in that word is faith.
Nevertheless, pre-modern Christian theologians (notably Lutheran ones as well) offered proofs of God's existence and the truth of the Scriptures. For the Lutheran ones, the point was not that the Christian faith could attract converts with the right "knockout" arguments. Rather, it was that Christian truth was a kind of public knowledge and not just private truth. As public knowledge, it was as true objectively as anything else.
All my students think that faith is unverifiable belief that makes you feel good. They hold that they can either not take it seriously on the one hand or on the other hand, use Christianity as a make-believe game that can give them a God who will be a giant therapist who will fulfill all their psychological needs. I try to disabuse them of this idea by showing the rational validity of the Christian faith using the tradition of both natural theology and historical apologetic arguments.
Below, I have written something new which I'm going to use in class tomorrow.
I have offered proofs of the resurrection of Christ and then drawn out the implications of it for the truth of the entire Christian creed. I'd like some feed back. I think this is a pretty knock out argument overall- but I could be wrong.
Part 1: The resurrection.
How do we know Jesus rose from the dead?
1. The witnesses to the resurrection were women according to the Gospels. Because ancient people were sexist, women were considered to be bad witnesses and their testimony was not admissible in court. Therefore, the Gospel writers never would have invented stories about women discovering Jesus tomb empty or seeing angels. Therefore, Jesus’ tomb being empty on Easter morning is a historical fact.
2. Both Matthew’s Gospel and contemporary Jewish sources claim that the Jews believed that Jesus’ followers had stolen the body. This means that the Jews at the time of Christ acknowledge that the tomb was empty.
3. The early Church began in Jerusalem, where Jesus was buried, and was disliked by the authorities. If the tomb had not been empty, why did the authorities simply go to the tomb, open it and display Jesus corpse to end the preaching of the apostles? Since they did not, the tomb must have been empty.
Did the disciples steal the body?: No, because……
1. They would not have had the ability. They would have been no match for the Roman soldiers guarding the tomb.
2. The Gospels tell us that they believed that Jesus had been a failure and were depressed about it. They would therefore not have had the right psychological state of mind to steal the body.
3. They had no incentive to steal the body. Their proclamation of the resurrection led to poverty, torture and ultimately death.
Jesus’ tomb was not only empty, but Jesus appeared to the disciples because…..
1. Since grave robbery in the ancient world was common, it would have taken an empty tomb plus appearance to convince them that Jesus was risen.
2. Jesus appearance to his disciples contradicts what Jewish people in the first century thought the resurrected life was like. Not only is he a physical being (the general assumption was that natural life would simply resume), but he could appear and disappear at will. He could also walk through walls.
3. They did not make up the resurrection appearances, because they would again had not incentive to do so. Their preaching of the resurrection led to all of them (except for John) being put to death.
They did not hallucinate the resurrected Jesus because…..
1. Second Temple Jews had no concept of a resurrection of the Messiah in the middle of history. People can only hallucinate what they already know or have an unconscious expectation of. They would not have had any such expectation.
2. If they had hallucinated Jesus, they would have hallucinated him being welcomed into heaven, like other figures of the period (i.e. exalted Patriarchs like Enoch).
3. Jesus did not appear to them individually, but rather in groups. People in groups cannot hallucinate someone doing the same things at the same time.
4. They do not use Greek words which are used in other literature of the period to describe visionary experiences.
5. The Apostle Paul, who was a persecutor of the Church, was converted by an appearance of the resurrected Jesus. He then suffered death for his confession of faith. There is no other way to explain his conversion other than the actual resurrection of Jesus.
Part: The objective truth of the Christian Faith.
1. If Jesus rose from the dead (as we have proved above as a historical fact), then God put a stamp of approval of all that he taught.
2. If that is true and Jesus claimed to be God, Jesus is demonstrably God.
3. Jesus also claimed that the Holy Spirit and his Father were God. Therefore, Jesus’ resurrection verifies the doctrine of the Trinity.
4. Jesus claimed that all of the prophets wrote about him and that the OT was the Word of God. Therefore, because he rose, all these claims are also objectively validated.
5. Jesus claimed that his Apostles were infallible witnesses. The Apostles and their disciples wrote the NT. Therefore the inspiration of the NT is also objectively true.
6. Since the resurrection of Jesus verifies the witness of the Apostles and Prophets, what they taught is objectively and historically true.
7. What the Bible taught is summarized in the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed and the first six great Ecumenical Councils (and the Book of Concord!). Therefore, they are all objective true.
Tell me what you think.