New Testament Critic

According to the New Testament critic, D. H. van Daalen, it is extremely difficult to object to the empty tomb on historical grounds; those who deny it do so on the basis of theological or philosophical assumptions.

On separate occasions different individuals and groups saw appearances of Jesus alive after his death. According to the prominent, skeptical German New Testament critic Gerd Ludemann, “It may be taken as historically certain that . . . the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.“* These appearances were witnessed not only by believers, but also by unbelievers, skeptics, and even enemies.

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The original disciples suddenly came to believe in the resurrection of Jesus despite having every predisposition to the contrary. Jews had no belief in a dying, much less a rising, Messiah, and Jewish beliefs about the afterlife precluded anyone’s rising from the dead prior to the end of the world. Luke Johnson, a New Testament scholar at Emory University, muses, “Some sort of powerful, transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was . . .“** N. T. Wright, an eminent British scholar, concludes, “That is why, as an historian, I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again, leaving an empty tomb behind him.“†

Therefore, it seems to me, the Christian is amply justified in believing that Jesus rose from the dead and was who he claimed to be. But that entails that God exists.

God can be immediately known and experienced. This isn’t really an ar- gument for God’s existence; rather it’s the claim that you can know God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing Him. This was the way people in the Bible knew God, as Professor John Hick explains:

God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer given reality, as inescapably to be reckoned with as a destructive storm and life-giving sunshine . . . To them God was not . . . an idea adopted by the mind, but an experiential reality which gave significance to their lives.‡

Now if this is so, then there’s a danger that proofs for God could actually distract our attention from God Himself. If you’re sincerely seeking God, then God will make His existence evident to you. The Bible promises, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4. 8). We mustn’t so concentrate on the proofs that we fail to hear the inner voice of God speaking to our own heart. For those who listen, God becomes an immediate reality in their lives.

So, in conclusion, we’ve yet to see any arguments to show that God does not exist, and we have seen five reasons to think that God does exist. And, therefore, I think that theism is the more plausible worldview.


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