Essentials of Apologetics - Lesson 12

Evidence for the Resurrection (Part 1)

Gain a deeper understanding of the significance of the resurrection of Jesus as it pertains to the existence of God, the truth of Christianity, and the continuity of life after death. The lesson weaves a personal anecdote into a compelling exploration of the crucifixion and resurrection, presenting a robust argument for the central role of these events in Christian theology. The narrative incorporates scientific and historical perspectives, providing a comprehensive understanding of the speaker's viewpoint on the resurrection and its broader implications for faith and belief.

Sean McDowell
Essentials of Apologetics
Lesson 12
Watching Now
Evidence for the Resurrection (Part 1)

I. Introduction

A. Encounter with a provocative book

B. Engaging in conversation about faith

C. Unveiling the perspective on Jesus in the book

D. Questioning the crucifixion of a "nice guy"

II. The Resurrection and Its Significance

A. Connection between resurrection and evidence for God

B. Addressing the three major questions answered by the resurrection

C. Implications for the existence of God

III. Identifying the True Religion

A. Jesus as a unique religious figure

B. The ultimate sign of Jesus' identity - the resurrection

C. Affirmation of the truth of Christianity

IV. Assurance of Life After Death

A. Comparing a movie experiment to the resurrection

B. Jesus' promise of preparing a place and life after the grave

C. Personal significance of the resurrection

V. Historical Context and Evidence for the Resurrection

A. Overview of Jesus' death by crucifixion

B. Criteria of multiple attestation

C. Medical and archaeological evidence supporting crucifixion

VI. Examining Common Explanations

A. Refuting the Swoon Theory

B. Jesus as the only one resurrected, not merely raised from the dead

VII. Conclusion

A. Significance of the resurrection for personal faith

B. Emphasizing the wealth of evidence for Christianity

C. Encouragement to be ready with answers for skeptics

  • Gain a comprehensive understanding of apologetics, the theological discipline of defending the Christian faith, through a personal mall encounter that highlights the importance of being prepared to provide reasoned defenses, with a focus on biblical foundations, addressing objections, and fulfilling a ministry to those with questions.
  • This second lesson on apologetics, highlights the importance of understanding worldviews, using practical exercises and examples to illustrate how our minds shape beliefs, categorizing worldviews based on their answers to fundamental questions, and exploring Christianity's unique perspective on creation, the world's problem, and the solution through Jesus.
  • This lesson explores Antony Flew's shift from atheism to recognizing Christianity's uniqueness. Dr. McDowell provides four reasons why a spiritual quest ought to begin with Christianity: testability in history, free salvation, a livable worldview, and Jesus' central role beyond religious boundaries. The lesson includes a Q&A time reviewing Islam's view on Jesus and Darwin's evolution.
  • Debunking the myth of blind faith, Sean counters with a scriptural foundation, using personal encounters and anecdotes. Examining biblical narratives, especially in Exodus and the New Testament, reveals a pattern: God provides evidence, imparts knowledge, and calls for faith and action. The story of doubting Thomas underscores that belief aligns with evidence, not against it. The lesson closes by emphasizing faith's dynamic nature, which can be fortified through evidence-based study.
  • In this session, you'll delve into the speaker's exploration of truth, gaining insights into its multifaceted importance in various life aspects. The session highlights three key reasons for the significance of truth, introduces the correspondence theory, and underlines the implicit connection between Christianity and truth, offering a comprehensive understanding of the topic.
  • You gain a deep understanding of the distinction between subjective and objective claims in this lesson, illustrated through relatable examples like ice cream preferences. Sean communicates that subjective claims rely on personal beliefs, while objective claims are based on the external world. Overall, you will develop a nuanced perspective on truth, specifically in differentiating between subjective and objective claims, with a focus on moral values.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the moral argument for the existence of God. Sean draws from a personal debate experience, emphasizing that God provides a solid foundation for moral values. Three key points are highlighted: the need for a transcendent standard for right and wrong, the role of free will in moral accountability, and the requirement for divine grounding of human value. The lesson challenges naturalistic worldviews, asserting that they fail to offer a satisfactory explanation for objective morality, ultimately suggesting that living in accordance with God's design leads to true freedom and fulfillment.
  • Explore the Christian view on the soul, diving into its significance through moral law and beauty. Analyze arguments supporting its existence, like its role in free will, using analogies. Address contemporary debates on gender and transgender issues, suggesting a dual human nature. Incorporate biblical references, evaluating flawed arguments and introducing stronger ones. Discuss practical implications for personal well-being. This lesson explores the soul's concept from a Christian standpoint.
  • Gain insights into the intricate relationship between science and faith, exploring arguments for God's existence, the concept of fine-tuning in cosmology and biology, and the conclusion that the fine-tuning of the universe and DNA's information complexity point towards a fine tuner and an author of life, offering compelling evidence for the existence of God.
  • In this exploration of miracles, the lesson shifts from discussing God's existence to questioning divine revelation, challenging skeptics to reconsider their worldview and illustrating the philosophical underpinnings of miracles, ultimately emphasizing an open-minded investigation and hinting at a compelling case for theism and Christianity with overwhelming evidence for miracles.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of near-death experiences (NDEs) and their potential as a compelling apologetic tool, exploring evidentiary aspects, transformative impacts, objections, and the significance of information unattainable by natural means in supporting the case for an afterlife and the soul.
  • Dr. McDowell reviews the overwhelming evidence of the resurrection and the significance of the resurrection.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the historical evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus, including the crucifixion, discovery of the empty tomb by women, early and multiple accounts of Jesus's appearances, and the transformative impact on the disciples, ultimately challenging alternative explanations and asserting the resurrection as the most reasonable conclusion based on historical facts.
  • Exploring the Bible's trustworthiness through the character and copy tests, this lesson establishes the reliability of the New Testament by highlighting the writers' honesty, the disciples' willingness to endure hardships, and the exceptional proximity and quantity of early manuscripts.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a thorough understanding of the New Testament's reliability through an exploration of its extensive manuscript evidence, addressing skeptics' concerns about variations, and highlighting corroboration from external sources such as historical records and archaeology.
  • In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the problem of evil and suffering, exploring its intellectual and emotional dimensions, drawing on personal experiences, historical perspectives, and a philosophical approach, and laying the groundwork for a more in-depth exploration in the next session.
  • In this lesson, you will learn of the logical problem of evil, exploring the philosophical challenge to God's existence posed by the coexistence of omnipotence, omnibenevolence, and evil, while examining the limitations of God's power, the compatibility of free will, and the unique Christian perspective emphasizing the redemptive nature of the incarnation and the cross in addressing the problem of evil.
  • Gain insights into responding to objections in apologetics, including addressing conflicts between a loving God and hell, defending the Bible against contradictions, clarifying misconceptions about God's stance on homosexuality, explaining the concept of the Trinity, and attributing natural evil to the brokenness of the world due to sin.
  • Gain insights into a personal and relational approach to apologetics by understanding that everyone is an apologist and theologian, as the lesson, through anecdotes, underscores the importance of discerning underlying questions, emphasizing active listening and probing inquiries to address the genuine needs and heartaches beneath surface-level queries.
  • Gain insights into effective spiritual conversations by asking four key questions: understanding beliefs, exploring reasons behind them, finding common ground, and navigating areas of disagreement, with an emphasis on listening and fostering genuine understanding.

In this day and age, it is critical that followers of Jesus know how to think clearly and biblically about their faith and how it intersects with and often contrasts with how the world thinks. These areas include one's worldview, the fact that faith is not blind, why the truth matters, why seeing design in creation points to a designer, and evidence for the soul, resurrection, and the Bible. How can God allow evil, and how do we talk with skeptics? Dr. McDowell discusses these topics and others in this easy-to-understand course on apologetics.

Evidence for the Resurrection (Part 1)

Sean McDowell
Lesson 12
Essentials of Apologetics

A number of years ago, I was working at a local coffee shop studying, and a lady sat down right across the way from me, picked up a book by a former atheist by name of Christopher Hitchens, and the title is God is Not Great. Now, whenever I see somebody reading a book as provocative as this, I cannot help but engage them in conversation. Clearly they have opinions and so do I. Not looking for a debate, but this could be a great segue into talking about faith. So I lean in and I said, "Hey, that looks like an interesting book. What's it about?" If you ever ask somebody a question, then 15 minutes later they're still speaking, you're thinking, why did I open my stupid mouth? She was clearly taken by this explained, "Oh, science proves this." And the subtitle actually is How Religion Poisons Everything. So she's going on and on, and finally I said, "So what does that book show about Jesus?" And she goes, "Oh, this is the most interesting part."

She paused and goes, "Think of the nicest person you've ever known," and my grandma's image come to mind. She said, "Jesus was not born a virgin. He's not the son of God. He didn't rise on the third day. He's just like that person. He was just a really, really nice guy." All I could was think of to ask one question. "If Jesus was just a nice guy, then why did they crucify him?" I mean, even the Romans wouldn't crucify Mr. Rogers, right? "Gosh, that guy, he's so nice, let's crucify him and make an example about niceness." Now, there are some good objections we have to seriously consider as Christians. The idea that was just nice is not one of them, but it takes us to the question, what's the identity of Jesus? Was he born a virgin? Did he actually rise on the third day? And in our journey together, we've been talking about evidence for God, evidence for miracles. Here is where you might say the rubber meets the road because if the resurrection happened, it answers three of the biggest questions we have about life.

One is the question, does God exist? Does God exist? Now, how does the resurrection answer this? We could get to the existence of God if the universe had a beginning. It cries for a transcendent source, the moral law, beauty, et cetera. But how does the resurrection prove that God exists, so to speak? Well, when you imagine when we're done, we go walking out to my car and we see a huge dent on my car and I see you out there and I go, "What happened?" You say, "I'm sorry, I saw the whole thing." I said, what was it? You said, "I couldn't stop it, but I saw this feather floating down, landed on the front of your Ford and damaged it." Now, I would never believe that. If it was a Chevy, I might, but certainly not with my Ford. Now, why would that not be a believable explanation? Because an effect needs a sufficient cause. An effect needs a sufficient or adequate cause. Well, 2,000 years ago, somebody says, "I'm going to die and rise on the third day." And after three days and after predicting it, conquers the grave.

That points to a supernatural transcendent cause with power over life and death. Now, even 2,000 years later, we can't rise somebody from the dead. We don't have that power today. So if Jesus has actually risen from the grave, that points towards the existence of the God that Jesus talked about and tells us we live in a supernatural world. Second, not only that there is a God in his supernatural source, it tells us which religion is true. You see, there's no other major religious figure who claimed to be God. Buddha didn't. Muhammad didn't. Other figures told us how to get to God or how to get the truth, Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to be the truth. And the ultimate sign he was going to give was a sign of Jonah, three days in the belly of the whale, come back after a kind of death, the ultimate sign of the identity, Jesus is the resurrection. So if Jesus has risen from the grave, God is real and Christianity is true. But third, we know there's life after death.

Life continues on after the grave. How so? In the early 90s, there was this movie called Flatliners, Oliver Platt, Kevin Bacon, Keifer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, et cetera, and they're medical students and they want to know if there's life after death. Well, instead of reading philosophy or studying various religions, they decide to flatline one another's hearts and then resuscitate them back to life and ask them the question, what did you see if anything on the other side? Now, it's obviously a morbid experiment. Do not try this at home. But the thinking kind of makes sense, doesn't it? If you want to know what's on the other side, talk to someone who's been there and who can come back and who can tell us about it. In the movie, they flatline their hearts for 10 seconds, 15 seconds, they start pushing the four minute barrier. The movie has a little bit of a new age, eastern vibe to it. But ever since I saw that, I thought, wow, that actually makes sense.

If we want to know if there's life after death, let's talk to someone who wasn't dead five minutes or 15 seconds, but who is dead and rose on the third day. Jesus said in his final speech with his apostles, I'm going to go prepare a place for you with my father. If Jesus has risen from the grave, God is real, Christianity is true, and life continues after the grave. Can you see how much is at stake? Now, interestingly enough, I started to share the story of my father earlier. Many of you will recognize the name Josh McDowell. My father grew up in a broken background. Abusive father. He was severely sexually abused. One of his sisters took her own life and in college he was just desperately searching for meaning, and some people challenged him, this is in the 50s, to consider the claims of Christ. There was no internet, there was no modern day apologetics movement. You couldn't just go buy a book and study this stuff.

He had enough money from a painting business and started, he sold it and went to travel around the world to gather the evidence to actually prove that Christianity was false. He ended up being surprised by the evidence, although he would say the evidence got his attention, but it was the love of God that drew him. My father wrote in 1972 a book called Evidence that Demands a Verdict. And what's interesting is publishers said, "No one's going to buy this book, it's just a bunch of evidence." Now, every publisher on the planet wished they had the rights to Evidence that Demands a Verdict because it sold millions and millions of copies. Well, not long ago we updated this together. It was one of my joys to just update this with my father, but one of the questions I had was, I started thinking, wow, my dad's been doing this for a long time. He's got a perspective of the evidence going back to the 50s, was convinced by the evidence in the 50s.

So I asked him, I said, "Dad, how does the evidence compare now to when you first started researching the scriptures in the resurrection?" He said, "Son, there now is a tsunami of evidence." Now, if you know my dad, he's just not one to understate anything. He's just larger than life, that's just the way God has made him. I thought, well, that's interesting. I'm going to write an article for him and he'll edit it and approve it and make sure, and we called it the Evidence for Christianity is like a Tsunami. Fox News published it. That week, Evidence that Demands a Verdict launched into, if I remember correctly, number 16 or number 18 on all books on Amazon. Now, why does that matter? We're told we live in a postmodern age and people are not interested in evidence. I think there's a lot of people not interested in evidence, but there's a lot of people that are. That's why we're called to be ready with an answer. There's a lot of people who want to know, did Jesus really live?

Did he really die on the third day? That's why we've got to be ready with an answer. Now, remember one big objection, if people don't think miracles are even possible, they will write this off before we even begin an investigation. Again, just a reminder that knowing where somebody's coming from in their presuppositions is important. Now, what we're going to do is walk through a couple in this lecture and then we'll pause, take some questions and come back and do part two, a simple case for the resurrection. Now, these are the kind of facts that I make my students memorize, the kind of facts that I've memorized. I can't tell you how many times on a plane, somebody said, "Really, you're a Christian? Why do you believe Jesus rose on the third day? Pull out a napkin and write these four down and start talking about it. So easy to do and together make a collective case for the resurrection, but keep something in mind, any adequate explanation for the resurrection is going to have to account for all four of these facts and really even more facts than this.

So if a theory can explain one or two that's not adequate to explain the data as we have it. So let's jump in and look at what facts do we know as this tied to the resurrection of Jesus. One is the death of Jesus. We know that Jesus died by crucifixion. We know this. You might be saying, how can you say that we know this? Well, one criteria that historians and Jesus scholars will use is called the criteria of multiple attestation. So if you have multiple sources that report a fact, it's more likely to be true. So Jesus turning water into wine only appears in the gospel of John. I believe that by faith, I think the gospel of John is reliable, but we have one source. When it comes to death of Jesus. We have all four gospels. We have the rest of the books of the New Testament. We have early church fathers. We have a whole bunch of sources confirming that Jesus died by crucifixion. That's one fact. The other interesting thing is to take point by point what we're told about Jesus.

The first thing is Jesus was whipped at least 40 times. Now, this was not an Indiana Jones type whip, and by the way, that image is actually from a reviewed journal article, in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1986 called On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ. You can read that. It's online. It's a fascinating medical study of what it meant for somebody to die by crucifixion. Really interesting study. There's been others like this done as well, and the person would be stripped completely bare, partly to humiliate and shame the person and make sure no part of the body was protected. And at the end of this whip, it wasn't like an Indiana Jones whip, it would go out in more like a cat nine tail and have multiple threads that would go out with pieces of bone or wood or like steel on it, so to speak, to tenderize the meat in some sense. It would stick in the back and it would rip out and just tear out the flesh.

This is why Eusebius, who might have slightly overstated said, "The sufferers veins were laid bare and the very muscles, sinews, and bowels of the victim were open to exposure." That's a fourth century historian describing how brutal just the whipping alone was. So Jesus is whipped by the Romans, not by the religious leaders of the time. Now, the second thing is Jesus carries the cross up to the top. Now, there's debate whether Jesus carried the top bar or the entire cross, but he's so exhausted, he's so beaten up, he can't even physically do it the entire way. He's falling over. He's hitting himself. By the way, they would take the robe, put it on, and then they would let the blood start to coagulate and then they would tear it off. Crucifixion was so painful, they actually invented a new word to describe it. It's the word excruciating. C-R-U-C comes from cross. So if you stub your toe, use a different word. He literally had to invent a new word because of how painful it was.

The idea was maximal pain and utter humiliation, in a public place, so people would see this and fear roam because of it. That was the idea. What's interesting, as this journal article goes on, it notices that John describes, and we'll come to this in a moment, that a spear wound went into the side of Jesus. And what came out?

Blood and water.

Blood and water. Now, if you read some of the early church historians on this that I've read, they kind of interpret this spiritually. Well, maybe the water was baptism. They're trying to make sense of it. But then 2,000 years after this, in this journal article, they said, "Wait a minute, is it plausible or likely that somebody died the way Jesus died, that blood and water would come out?" That's an interesting medical question. Well, here's what it writes in John 19. "The soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man and the other who was crucified with him. But coming to Jesus when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs." Now, one of my friends was like, "Oh, maybe the Romans didn't kill him." I'm like, "Really? The Romans knew how to kill people. Haven't you seen gladiator?" Obviously, I'm partly kidding, but the Romans lives were at stake to make sure the victim died, that's how much they had to make sure the crucified victim was dead. They came and saw that he was already dead.

It says, "And the soldier pierced his side of the sphere." By the way, if he was alive and it was pierced with a spear, what would happen? With the heart beating, blood would come out and they knew that. It'd be pulsing. It says, "One soldier pierced his side with a spear, immediately, blood and water came out." Now, John doesn't know what he's reporting. John was at the cross as an eyewitness, he just says, "Blood and water comes out." When this journal, American Medical Association, 2,000 years later, the doctor and historian theologian said, "If somebody died by the means that you die on the cross, which is asphyxiation, not blood loss." If you're held down like this, hung for a long enough period of time, eventually you can't breathe shatter your shins and you cannot pull up and breathe, you asphyxiate. So if you die by this means and are hit with a sphere near the heart, guess what would come out, blood and water because there's a watery type substance called the pericardial sack that surrounds the heart.

Now, you can't prove that this is what happened to Jesus, but that's a very interesting, what you might say, a medical crossover in light of what Jesus happened to Jesus reported by John in chapter 19. I think that's fascinating. I think it's interesting and I think it adds to it. Even the medical aside, we have multiple sources. There's actually even archeological evidence of people being crucified. So for example, Dr. Hewitt wrote, this is in the Harvard Theological Review years ago. "There's astonishing little evidence that the feet of a crucified person were ever pierced by nails." Every crucified victim they found had been crucified with ropes or some other means. How do we know in the biblical account that they used nails? Well, what did Thomas want to see, nail marks in his hands and in his feet. The archeological record, he's right, was at odds with a biblical claim. Until 1968 in a person who was crucified in Palestine, middle of the first century, who's been dubbed [inaudible 00:17:53] was found with nail marks and crucified.

Since then, multiple other accounts, in fact, one in Britain was found not long ago, which is part of the Roman Empire, crucified with nails. Friends, Jesus was dead by crucifixion. The last piece, which I mentioned earlier, is if you're going to invent a hero, you're not going to invent somebody who was crucified. It would be counterproductive to do so. Why would they invent this death for Jesus? The archeological, the medical, the historical, and the logical explanation is that, in fact, Jesus was dead by crucifixion. That's our first of four points. Now, we're going to come back and look at the next three points, and we're also going to look at some of the common explanations to try to account for this, but any questions so far on the meaning or nature of the resurrection or the death by crucifixion that I could try to address? Yes?

I guess the glorified, it was done by the pathology department at Mayo Clinic, did this, this was approved, the Swoon Theory was not valid. That's the argument.

So the Mayo Clinic is behind the Journal of American Medical Association

Did this article.

So what's called the Swoon Theory, which was far more popular in the past. It shows up on the internet sometimes. I've seen one scholarly article defending this, maybe two in the past, like 15 years, is the idea that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross. He swooned and was close to, was placed in this tomb, which somehow revived him, and then he went out and convinced the disciples. Well, the Sworn Theory was put to death, pun intended, by a skeptic by the name of David Strauss, decades and decades ago, I think in the 19th century. He said, "Can you imagine Jesus ... he was not a believer. He embraced the legend theory. He goes, "Imagine somebody's put almost to the point of death through crucifixion, and then somehow just unwraps the burial cloth, pushes the stone away, defeats the Roman guards, shows up to the disciples and says, 'Hey, if you believe in me, you can have a resurrection body like mine.'" Even Strauss was like, this is crazy.

But on top of that part, and this is really helpful, the article is meant to show that medically there's just no chance Jesus survives this. Good clarification. Any other questions about what we've covered so far? Somebody earlier asked me, was Lazarus resurrected? And the answer's, no. Jesus is the only one who's been resurrected. There have been multiple people who have been raised from the dead, but they would die again because they were raised from the dead back in their mortal human bodies. Jesus was resurrected with his new spiritual body. And that doesn't mean spiritual immaterial, it's more like we say the Bible is spiritual. It's the orientation, but it's still a physical book. Jesus was the first fruits of what we will all experience in the end. So there's been many risings from the dead, but Jesus is the only one who's been resurrected. And he is the one with a promise that we will be resurrected and then never die again. Amen.