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For Sure: The Evidence for the Resurrection

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 5, 2023 12:01 am

For Sure: The Evidence for the Resurrection

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 5, 2023 12:01 am

Skeptics often accuse Christians of having blind faith with no evidence to support it. Today, Gabe Fluhrer demonstrates that there is overwhelming evidence for the resurrection and that the Christian faith provides the only rationally satisfying way to understand our world.

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If the authorities wanted to put an end to all of this, all they had to do was go get the body. We know that Pilate knew where it was. He sent out guards to guard the tomb.

That's all they had to do. And yet they never did, and the disciples kept preaching. The Bible is clear. Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

But is there any evidence to support that biblical claim? Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. This week we've been featuring messages from Gabe Fluhrer's series, Alive! How the Resurrection of Christ Changes Everything. We've seen the importance of the Resurrection, how atheists try and explain it away. Well, today we'll look at the case for the Resurrection and the evidence that supports the biblical declaration that He is risen.

He is Gabe Fluhrer. Few people in American history had the wit of Mark Twain. And one of his more memorable aphorisms was, faith is believing what you know ain't so. And I think that's how most people look at faith today. It's set in contrast to knowledge. There's faith and then you know things, and you just have to have faith in yourself.

And that all stems from the same root. And what I want us to see as we begin to look at the evidence for the Resurrection, is that understanding of faith is the very antithesis of what the Scriptures tell us faith is. For example, Hebrews 11, faith is being sure of what you hope for, certain of what you do not see. And so in our time together we want to ask ourselves, how can we know the Resurrection is true? Is there evidence for it?

And if so, what is it? And the way I want to answer that question is by an acronym. Can you tell I have young children? And what we want to see is that the Resurrection is true, and each of those letters has a corresponding statement. So it's true, T. We know it's true because of the transformation of the disciples in the first place.

T stands for the transformation of the disciples. And then in the second place, we know it's true because it's rationally satisfying. That's our R. And then we know the Resurrection is true in the third place because it makes our world understandable.

That's our U, understandable. And then finally, we know it's true because it explains all of the evidence. That's our E. So we begin with the transformation of the disciples. And if we flipped over to the book of Acts, verse 32, Acts 5, 32, Peter says this, And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. And then if you go down to the end of the chapter, we read that Peter and the others left rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus or that the Messiah is Jesus.

Now, why is that important for us to recognize? Well, let's go back not too long before this incident in Acts 5. And we read about what happened to Peter the night that Jesus was handed over to Pilate. And here's a man who was a fisherman. Now, I like to fish.

I like to hunt more than I like to fish, but my kids have gotten into fishing. And modern fishing is very different than ancient fishing. So Peter was probably a very strong man. He probably had rough hands, and he spent his life earning a living by catching fish.

Nets and boats and mending. So we're talking about a dude. Okay, so here's Peter.

He's a guy. Don't think of Peter as kind of the effeminate versions that some in church history wanted to make him out to be. Peter was kind of a blue collar, working class dude.

Who is the one who always speaks up? Don't you love that about Peter? And what does he say when he's with Jesus at the Last Supper?

I'm willing to go with you to the point of death. And Jesus says, no, Satan is going to sift you, but I've prayed for you. And then we come to that scene, that fateful scene in the gospels where Peter is warming himself by the fire. And here is this big burly fisherman who is undone by a servant girl. Probably a teenager.

Probably a young woman. Now why again do we say all that? It's a prelude to understand our first letter of our acronym. The transformation of the disciples. It's popular to argue that somehow the disciples were of course looking for the resurrection.

Back to what we said before about John Shelby Spong. Well of course they expected something like that maybe. But when you actually read the scriptures, what do we find?

No, they weren't expecting anything like that. They were dejected, disbanded, and disheartened by the crucifixion of their master. And that began with Peter's unconscionable denial of his master, calling down curses on himself.

Don't sanitize that, my friends. Imagine Peter saying filthy language against his savior. And yet when we meet him, 40 or so days later, he's standing before people who have the power of life and death over him, who are going to beat him. And he is saying to them things like, we must believe God rather than men. He is saying things like this, he is the Christ. Go ahead and beat us.

Go ahead and flog us. It doesn't matter. They keep preaching and teaching. There's been a turnaround in their lives. And the only way to explain that turnaround is that Jesus was alive. We have some friends whose son worked for the New England Patriots. And I was raised a diehard Cowboys fan, which has prepared me well for suffering the past few decades. But our friends, we began to get interested in the Patriots and watched the Super Bowl when they came back from, I believe it was 24 or so points down and beat the Atlanta Falcons a few years ago.

It was called the greatest comeback in sports. Well, here we have the greatest comeback of cowards in human history. We have these men who were dejected, who were everything from the ancient equivalent of a jihadist. That's what Simon the Zealot was. He was waging terrorist tactics against the Roman government. He wanted terror and mayhem to go on.

We have that guy on one end of the spectrum to Peter, the family man, who's working and earning a living and gets his life upended by Jesus. And these various people, these various men come together with a unified message and they are absolutely fearless in their declaration of that message. How do we explain that? Was it because they had a mass hallucination?

No. Was it because they somehow felt that Jesus was alive in their hearts to stand up against that? We all find out what we truly believe when there's a gun to our head, don't we? And that's what had happened to the disciples. Their lives were being threatened. And yet they never gave up on this message. So much so that when Peter was crucified according to church history and tradition, he has to be crucified upside down because he was not worthy of the same death of his master.

How do you get there from the guy calling down curses upon himself in the presence of a servant girl? It's because Jesus was alive. Now, the counter argument might be this. Well, look at all the other martyrs around the world. Look at people who are willing to die for their principles. And the answer to that is they weren't dying for principles. They weren't dying just for theological formulations, as important as those are, as we'll see. No, they were dying because they knew the person they were proclaiming that they were willing to give their lives for was alive.

And the fact that they were so radically transformed and, let's be clear, changed world history can only be explained by the fact that Jesus was alive. Because, again, if the authorities wanted to put an end to all of this, all they had to do was go get the body. We know that Pilate knew where it was.

He sent out guards to guard the tomb. That's all they had to do. And yet they never did. And the disciples kept preaching. So the transformation of the disciples is their first line of evidence. Then our second is that the resurrection of Christ is rationally satisfying.

And I put it intentionally like that. Because so often today, again, we can have this faith knowledge dichotomy. And what we would want to argue in contradistinction to that is saying, no, actually the only way to make sense of reason and evidence is through the resurrection of Christ and the worldview that underwrites it. And I think of a scene, I'm reading right now to my middle daughter at night, the Chronicles of Narnia. And we're in the line, the witch in the wardrobe. And she's just as absolutely enthralled by these stories.

And I got to the scene the other night, read it many times before, when Lucy's been to Narnia, Edmund has been and lied about it. And so they go to see the professor in whose home they are staying. And Peter's the spokesman and says, well, professor, it seems like she's crazy. She's got these mad ideas about going to another realm through a wardrobe.

And I love this scene. Quote, logic, said the professor half to himself. Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies or she is mad or she is telling the truth.

You know she doesn't lie and it is obvious that she is not mad. So there's only one explanation left. And that's what we can say when it comes to the resurrection of Christ. It's when you look at all the options before us and you look at all the evidence that needs to be explained and you look at what we find today with Christianity as a worldwide presence and you eliminate every other false option, the only one that remains, my friends, is that it actually happened. And that will change us. It will change our lives, won't it? If you believe that he's actually alive, it colors everything else. It's like putting on a new set of glasses to see the world.

It's like receiving new ears to hear the world. Because when we exchange the false, unbelieving glasses for the truth of what the Scriptures tell us about the resurrection, it makes sense of reality like nothing else can. And I keep saying the worldview that underwrites it. And that's everything that comes together of which the resurrection is a part. And again, because today so often we think that there's natural laws and God doesn't violate them and this is no way we can have miracles or things like that happen. When we realize that the Scriptures say, no, the world is his, and when he does things like raise his son from the dead, it always had a purpose, it had a background, there was a back story to it. Then we come to the point of recognizing again, only the Scriptures can explain why we even want a rational explanation for things that happen. Only the Scriptures can explain why we even care about logic. So it's rationally satisfying.

And then in the third place, it makes our world understandable. And we come again to this despairing tendency we see in modern life, which I've termed moderate nihilism. Nihilism comes from the Latin word for nothing. And true nihilism, the kind that Frederick Nietzsche, the philosopher of the 19th century, came to embrace led him to insanity, as it would to anybody, that there's no meaning, there's no purpose, there's nothing, so why don't we all just go take our lives?

Not to be flippant, but that's where it ends up. Now most people don't ever get that consistent with it. But when we think about moderate nihilism, it's what we see all around us. And we see it in architecture. Just notice how many buildings, modern buildings, don't have what you see the moment you drive on this campus.

Which is what? Arches. Arches, if you look at any building prior to about 1950, you'll see arches in those buildings. I'll never forget when we lived in Philadelphia and I would go through one of the old train stations there. They always had these beautiful archways and the everyday could be beautiful in that time. Now look at any school that's built that's a box. Look at any modern apartment building.

They are meant to be useful but ugly. And what is that but a concrete, quite literally, expression of nihilism? Life is hard and harsh like the concrete that fills our city streets. And this moderate nihilism stems from, I would argue, the Darwinist view of the world. It begins with him. He is one of the most transformative individuals in world history but particularly for what we see with his nihilism. And he felt it in his own life.

Listen to what he says in his biography, his autobiography, pardon me. Quote, up to the age of 30 or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge and Shelley, gave me great pleasure. And even as a schoolboy, I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays.

I've also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry. I've tried lately to read Shakespeare and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding out general laws out of large collections of facts, close quote. My friends, a good indicator that a world view has gone astray is when something is intrinsically beautiful, as the Emperor Concerto by Beethoven, for example, makes you reach for Pepto instead of rejoicing in the Lord.

That's a good indicator that something's wrong. Notice that, just like Jean-Paul Sartre in the middle of the 20th century. So here we have with Darwin, in the middle of the 19th century, saying, it's all nauseating to me. And so that nihilism pervades everything and it pervades the churches. That's where we see so many of the churches emptying today. When the baby boomer generation started building churches, what did they have in their pulpits but the pleasant, glad-handing unbelief of educated ministers who were completely apostate when it came to understanding and believing the truth of the resurrection? And that began to be believed consistently and churches subsequently emptied. Why?

Because everybody said there's no way this can be true. But you see, here's what the Scriptures offer us as an alternative to that moderate nihilism. A worldview that makes our world understandable, that can answer the questions like, why is there so much evil and suffering? Why do we hurt so badly? Why does it hurt so terribly when people die? Why are we here?

What is it all about? My friends, all of us will ask and answer those questions and they start young. They start when we're young.

They begin when we almost are self-conscious, don't they? And so many of the answers offered today don't make reality understandable for us. And even as they have these massive contradictions at their core, like we noticed in one of our lectures where you get rid of the whole concept of truth if you believe this, the whole concept of right and wrong, even with those glaring contradictions, people would still rather believe that than the truths of the Scriptures.

Because, again, when we talk about beliefs, my friends, and when we talk about logic and evidence, we're talking about spiritual warfare. God told the prophet Habakkuk to publish the message and make it plain so that he who runs may read. And that, my friends, is, as Calvin put it, the theater of God's glory in the world all around us.

He who runs can read the glory of God. And the reason we don't is because we've been blinded by Satan instead of believing the obvious that's right before our nose. Finally, the resurrection of Christ explains all the evidence.

One of the tests that a scientific theory is true is whether or not it can explain more evidence than the other theories put forward. And so it is with the resurrection of Christ when we strip away all of the false assumptions and just ask ourselves at the most basic level, how do we account for the transformation of the disciples? How do we account for the rise of Christianity? How do we account that even in our day today, and many of us can testify to this, how do we account for the change that people undergo when they meet Christ? How do we account for all of this? And the only theory, so to speak, that can account for it all is that it actually happened like the Bible says it happened. So the other theories cannot account for all the facts. They can't account for what seems so patently obvious when you begin to read the scriptures. Now, a related question is this. Is there evidence outside the Bible that the resurrection happened?

Well, as a matter of fact, yes, there is. An ancient historian, Tacitus, lived AD 56 to 120, said this, quote, Nero created scapegoats and subjected them to the most refined tortures, those whom the common people called Christians, a group hated for their abominable crimes. Their name comes from Christ who, during the reign of Tiberius, had been executed by the procurator Pontius Pilate. Suppressed for the moment, the deadly superstition broke out again, not only in Judea, the land which originated this evil, but also in the city of Rome, close quote.

Isn't that fascinating? So here's a guy writing, probably within 50 or so years of the resurrection of Christ, saying this is a deadly superstition. What is he referring to? The notion that Jesus was alive. Now, he's a pagan. He dismisses this as myth and nothing else than that. But he says there's this superstition that broke out in Judea and has now come to Rome. And notice he says there's this guy named Christ who was executed under the reign of Pontius Pilate. Once again, the scriptures say these things happened.

And my friends, this is so basic. The guy who taught me Old Testament in seminary, we read a book one year that was so powerfully transforming to me to understand this, that the Bible has a concern for history, beginning in the Old Testament that no other world religion has. And that is so important so that when you get even outside the Bible, you'll see that the scriptures didn't make this up.

This really happened. And if you search high and low in other world religions, there's not this same focus on facts, historical reality, all in service of convincing us of the truth of what God is telling us. One more example, this from a sympathetic writer, not a hostile opponent like we just read, from Ignatius of Antioch. He lived AD 35 to 107, discipled by the apostle John. We have seven letters that he wrote as he made his way to Rome to face martyrdom. And in one of those letters, he said this, quote, For I know and believe that after the resurrection he was in the flesh. And when he came to the people around Peter, he said to them, Take, handle me, and see that I am not a bodiless phantom, close quote. Isn't this interesting that, again, within the first century, he's essentially quoting from Luke's gospel in a shorthand. So that gives us evidence that that gospel was probably in circulation by the time he's writing this. And then he says so plainly and makes it a point to put it like this that the resurrection happened in the flesh. This wasn't a hallucination. This wasn't a ghostly appearance to them.

No, it actually happened. So that when we take the two strands of evidence before us, that in the Scriptures, those outside the Scriptures, and we could mention many more, they combine to form a tapestry of truth for us, my friends, that the resurrection of Christ really happened, that it's a historical verity, just as much as July 4, 1776, to use an example from America, would be a historical verity, that it was an actual event in space-time history. And given the available evidence, the resurrection of Christ, therefore, is an invitation, my friends, to a world in which God reigns and Jesus wins. And to quote, I think it was Tolkien, all that is sad becomes untrue.

All that is wrong is made right. That only happens with the Biblical worldview, the centerpiece of which is the reality of the resurrection of Christ. So it invites us to experience resurrection, reality, a life based on truth. And, my friends, nothing can be more rational than believing the Word of God and the evidence He gives us there. What a helpful summary of the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. And what a great comfort it is to know that the resurrection is not something based in wishful thinking, but it is based in space and time and history, and it can be an anchor for our faith.

That was Gabe Flewer from his series Alive. Thank you for joining us for Renewing Your Mind. I'm Nathan W. Bingham. Today is the final day that we'll be featuring messages from this series. This series is eight messages in full on one DVD, and Dr. Flewer will look at the Old Testament and how it foreshadowed the resurrection of Christ. He'll survey the Gospels, the rest of the New Testament, and he'll also look at the practical implications of the resurrection for you and me in our day-to-day lives. So we'll send this to you for your donation of any amount, and you can give your gift to us. You can give your gift right now at, or of course you can call us at 800-435-4343. That series again is Alive, how the resurrection of Christ changes everything, and you can give your gift at Tomorrow I'm sure you'll want to gather the whole family together as R.C. Sproul reads from one of his beloved children's books, The Donkey Who Carried a King. So join us tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-05 03:57:10 / 2023-04-05 04:06:46 / 10

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