In a criminal or civil trial, no one knows more about the law than the two opposing lawyers and the judge. The layperson has to be instructed about the legal standards to be applied. Also, nobody has more at stake than the parties involved. Win, lose or draw, nothing changes for the jury when the trial is over. So why do the people that know the least, and that have no stake in the outcome, get to make the most important decision? It’s because we believe that when people use common sense, they will discover the truth more often than not. When it comes to the Christian faith, I think we can apply common sense in trying to discover if Jesus actually rose from the dead.
When a juror evaluates the testimony of a witness, he must decide a few things:
- Is the witness competent to give facts?
- What, if anything, does the witness stand to gain or lose by giving this testimony?
- Is the testimony reasonable?
Let’s try to evaluate the claims of the Gospel Authors in the same way:
- The Gospel authors were either eyewitnesses to the events they described or they recorded the testimony of eyewitnesses. That many archeological discoveries confirm the people and places described by these authors, suggests that they were there when it happened rather than writing about events they never observed.
- The Gospel authors did not become rich or famous because of their claims. In fact, many of the Gospel authors and the early apostles were killed because of their claims. In a trial, the person that tells a lie only stands to possibly go to jail for a while.
- Whether Jesus’ resurrection is reasonable or not depends on your assumptions. If you assume that miracles are impossible or that the physical realm is all that has ever existed, then Jesus’ resurrection seems impossible. However, if you believe in God, you have to be open to the possibility that God acted in human history and brought Jesus back from the dead.
Given that the authors were competent to observe the facts that they wrote about, that they didn’t gain but instead suffered greatly for these claims, and that God can perform miracles, it is reasonable to credit the authors’ reason for the foundation of the Christian faith, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
For further reading on this topic, I recommend “Cold-Case Christianity” by J. Warner Wallace.