Christianity is unlike any other religion in that is rises or falls based upon a historical claim. While other religions use subjective means that cannot be evidenced one way or another (e.g. Mormonism says you know it is correct because your heart will tell you), Christianity is based upon something objective. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19,
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.
In short: If Jesus did not rise from the dead then all of Christianity is wrong. It’s all laid out there on the line. This is not a generic statement. Either Jesus Christ is risen from the dead or you are wasting your time with Christianity. On the other hand, if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, then we can have full faith that the Word of God is completely accurate and that Jesus is the Savior of the world.
Here is one of the problems you will run into if you regularly share the good news of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Someone will object to your claim by saying, “You are making a statement about something that supposedly happened 2,000 years ago. There is no way to give evidence of something that happened that long ago.” It does not matter how much we believe something if it did not really happen. Some skeptics have honest questions and objections and we need to stand ready to give an answer for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). So, what do we say?
First, we need to realize that this objection isn’t an objection against the Bible per se. Its an objection against the ability to know history. Yes, the year A.D. 30 (the probable year Jesus was resurrected) was a long time ago. But I want you to have the confidence in knowing that whether something happened 2,000 years ago or 2 hours ago, we are able to gather evidence for both in the same way.
Consider an example:
Let’s say you and I were talking at 10 am one day. I ask you, “What did you have for breakfast this morning?” You respond with, “2 pieces of bacon and 1 egg.” Now what if I come back at you with, “Prove it!” What would you do?
You could say, “That’s what I have every morning” but that wouldn’t actually prove anything to me. You may have decided to change it up today for some reason.
You could say (to take it to the extreme), “Examine the contents of my stomach.” Still, that wouldn’t actually prove you had bacon and for breakfast this morning. You could have had them last night for all that I know.
There is no way to do some sort of scientific experiment to prove a historical event. Historical events by definition are unrepeatable. Therefore science is of no help. Further, there is no way to prove to me with 100% certainty what you actually had for breakfast. With historical events, whether it was 2 hours ago or 2,000 years ago, the way you approach it is by gathering the evidence and then drawing a conclusion based upon the best explanation of that evidence.
You give evidence for the resurrection in the same way you would give evidence for what you ate for breakfast.
You can begin building your case that you had 2 pieces of bacon and 1 egg by telling me to talk to your wife. You say that your wife sat with you at the table while you ate it. She is an eyewitness to the historical event. If your neighbor, daughter, brother, uncle and mother were all at the breakfast table also, then the eyewitness evidence becomes even stronger. Multiple sources make for good evidence.
Next, you explain that your eyewitness account is an early report. Your wife didn’t just walk by the table after you had already finished your breakfast. She actually cooked the bacon and eggs for you. This is strong evidence because her early testimony is much more reliable than if your children noticed an empty egg carton later that evening.
Third, your story contains some embarrassing fact. If your wife were making up the story, she is much more likely to only include good details about herself. But on the other hand, why would you wife mention to me that she accidentally dropped your bacon on the floor but then put it back on your plate before you came into the room if it were not true? Embarrassing facts add to the evidence of the event.
Finally, there is testimony from your enemy. Your neighbor doesn’t like you because your dog digs up his garden. But still, your “enemy” affirms that you probably did indeed eat 2 pieces of bacon and 1 egg since you are generally a truthful person. Coming from him, weight is added to the reliability of the story.
When dealing with history, remember the 4 E’s of Evidence:
1. Eyewitnesses (the more the better)
2. Early Reports
3. Embarrassing Facts
4. Enemy testimony
You can’t prove breakfast. But you can be as sure of the resurrection of Jesus Christ as you can be about the bacon and eggs your spouse ate this morning.