You Ask Me How I Know He Lives?
How do we know the Resurrection really happened? I mean, what is your answer to others when they ask how you know Jesus really came back to life? My Pastor’s sermon Easter Sunday got me thinking about this. I think the answer to this question has changed through the years. In fact, it may be changing again. Here’s how I see the shape of that answer over the years:
1. PRE-MODERN: Of course He lives, we all know that!
For most of history, Christendom answered the question simply and forthrightly—“we all know the resurrection happened so it happened.” Sure, there are a few “infidels” who refuse to believe, but virtually everyone believes the resurrection occurred without a question. We admit that some who believe it live their life with many vices and few virtues, but even they believe the Resurrection happened—we take that for granted. Everyone in this town—in fact our whole country—believes it.
2. MODERN: He lives because the evidence proves he lives.
For more than 1500 years, the pre-modern answer prevailed in Christendom—the resurrection happened because we all say it happened. In the 14th through 17th century the renaissance brought a new era of modernity which came to prevail by the industrial age of the 1800’s. Darwin’s Origin of Species and Lyells Principles of Geology supplied new answers to questions of humankind’s origins and the nature of life. The scientific method which had existed for hundreds of years, became the arbiter of truth. Nothing was to be taken as truth without testing and proving. Resurrections don’t happen—that’s a fact. Many Christians responded to modernity by adopting the tools of modernity to “test” the claims of the resurrection. Some concluded that the resurrection never happened in actuality (after all, it has never been replicated in a good scientific study) and proposed other explanations—a spiritual resurrection or “the resurrection stories were concocted to tell us something about the importance of Jesus’ life.” These “modernists” adjusted the claims of religion to fit the claims of science. However, others responded by using the tools of science to assemble the resurrection evidence that demands a verdict concluding that scientifically they could show the resurrection was a real event in history.
3. ANTI-MODERN: He lives because he lives within my heart.
The church of my youth was neither pre-modern nor modern, but anti-modern. The "modernists” were the bad guys who placed science as the arbiter of truth and thus rejected the resurrection. We Christians rejected evolution, old earth theories or any other scientific theory that was contrary to the Bible as we understood it. And we even rejected the tools of science as the arbiters of the Bible’s truth. We testified to the truth of the resurrection because the resurrection had happened in our own lives. We knew Jesus was alive because He lived within our hearts—he walks with me, and talks with me and tells me I am His own. I think we were beyond the pre-modern answer because we accepted scientific explanations when they were not contrary to the Bible.. we believed in the scientific explanations for germs, thunder, lightning, and hurricanes, but we rejected science when it made claims contrary to what we believed the Bible explicitly taught. Science said resurrections don’t happen and the Bible said they did. We chose the Bible over science. Still others took a different route to the same destination. They said faith matters were off the table of science since faith was in a different realm than “hard science” –a realm that was not subject to the laws of science. Religion was in the “spiritual’ realm and science could neither prove nor disprove it. Both of these groups were essentially anti-modern. We knew the resurrection happened because we had experienced our own personal resurrection and thus it was true.
4. POST-MODERN: He lives because I believe He lives.
The current era is only a baby step from the anti-modern answer. I believe it is the era we are now entering, or are already in. You ask me how I know he lives? “I believe He lives and I have a right to believe it without you forcing me to prove it. Post-modern faith claims that science has its own presuppositions just like religion and scientific creeds and assumptions are no better than religious creeds and assumptions. Both have meta-narratives that explain life that are constructed on their own assumptions. Each of us has the inherent right to choose which set of assumptions we believe. More, nobody else has the right to challenge my faith by appealing to their own sacred assumptions. Calvinists see such faith coming as a gift of God so those who are destined to believe simply believe. Arminians tend to see this faith as more of a choice made when we decide to believe “the Christian story” (which includes the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ). In a postmodern world, the Christian story gets a place at the table just like the scientific approach to truth (or any other approach) since we all have assumptions and presuppositions and no one arbiter of truth is superior to another. In the postmodern world one can believe in the resurrection because they believe it, not because it has been proved.
I know… I didn’t do a very good job describing all this. However, I’ve done enough to supply some points for discussion following Easter Sunday. I’m asking you. How do you know he lives? What is your answer? What are the weaknesses and strengths of each of these answers and which do you prefer? Or do you have another answer yet? I ask you… how do you know he lives?
So, what do you think?
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Keith Drury is Associate
Professor of Religion at