Continued from Why I Am a Christian III
The disciples, of course, could have said anything they wanted to say about Jesus – what he had said and done while alive, the nature of his teachings, their beliefs that he was the promised Jewish Messiah. They could even have gotten together and cooked up a story about seeing him alive after he had died. That too is possible. But is it likely? I don’t think so.
What seems absolutely historically certain is that the disciples of Jesus really themselves believed that he had risen from the dead. What makes this certain is not simply that they said he had risen from the dead. What makes this seem certain is that they spent the rest of their lives, and indeed, in almost every case, they each gave up their lives, proclaiming and teaching that it was so, and that they themselves had seen and talked with Jesus after his death and burial.
The evidence is overwhelming, historically speaking, that the disciples of Jesus went to their graves believing that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Why would they do that? I have no credible explanation for this except that it was true, that Jesus had in fact been raised from the dead and had in fact appeared to them over the course of forty days just as their accounts say that he did. To propose that the resurrection was not true, but that they all believed it was true, and spent the rest of their lives proclaiming that it was true, well, that itself just does not ring true.
Yes, there is the lame attempt to suggest for example that the disciples had all fallen under a spell, a sort of group hallucination. That is certainly not normal to human experience, though one can suppose that it is possible.
And yes, it has also been suggested that the disciples were victims of their own really strong psychological desires that the resurrection be true, such that their emotional need caused them to believe that it was so. That is possible.
But better to be a grown up about it and just say that they conspired, they lied, and they made it all up. And frankly, that is possible too. Human pride and stubbornness could have been a motive. Human pride can steel people to do all sorts of immoral and stupid things. But is it credible to believe that the disciples would have spent their entire lives, and given up their very lives in often brutal deaths, for the sake of such a lie? It just seems far-fetched to me.
Much more credible is the simple explanation that the reason that the disciples believed Jesus to have raised from the dead is that he was raised from the dead just as they believed. Had they been confronted with the real risen human Jesus, raised to life on the other side of death, then they would have been motivated not only to tell everyone about it, and to believe and put forward the teachings of Jesus before and after his death, but to die if necessary in the process, for the truth which they knew to be so. The truth of the resurrection makes sense of the rest of the story.
Believing the resurrection to be true is more plausible than believing it not to be true.
Which means, if the resurrection is true, that it is reasonable for me to believe the truth of all the other things that Jesus said, such his claim that he would die as a ransom for many, such as his claim that he was the fulfillment of the Jewish covenant, such as his claim that he was indeed the king that was to come, the messiah.
And if the resurrection of Jesus is true, and happened as Jesus said it would, it means that I am inclined to believe the things that Jesus believed about the existence of God, the creation of the world, about the nature of human beings, and about the historical pattern of creation, fall, and redemption. This also means that I am inclined to believe the truth of the stories Jesus Himself believed to be true, stories about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Elijah. This also means that I believe what Jesus has said to be true about the future, the future of the universe, the future of the earth, and about the future of his own return. This also means that I am inclined to believe that Jesus has the right to tell me what following him is to look like, and what is right and not right for me as a human being to do and say to my neighbor.
It seems that we have come full circle. Not only are there good reasons to believe in the existence of an infinite and personal God, the creation of the world and human beings by this God, the truth of the basic story-line of the first chapters of the Bible, there are also good reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and working backward, the truth of Jesus as the promised messiah, and working backward again, the truth of what Jesus understood about the nature of God and the nature of the universe. In the end it all seems to fit together as credible and reasonable.
And so, for me, all these things added together answer the question, “Why am I a Christian?”
But what happened personally to me 30 years ago when I asked Jesus into my heart is also part of the reason for believing. Now, what do I mean by that? Well, Jesus promised that when people believed in him they would be changed, converted, altered, made different. And this has been happening now for two thousand years: men, women, and children walking down the road, minding their own business, and bam, here comes Jesus into their life and they are never the same. The historical fact of the profound conversions of millions and millions of people all over the world, men and women from every nation and race and ethnic group, itself argues for the truth of the message of Jesus. For He said that such would be so. And so it has been. And it was for me, thirty years ago now, as I was lying in my bed in my house at 6438 Bridgewood Road, Columbia, SC, talking to God, asking Jesus to come to into my heart, then going to sleep and waking up a new person, a Christian.