Evidence for Easter
In a pluralistic culture, diverse religious ideas are often viewed as merely products of subjective faith. A religion is “true” if it “works,” if it gives a sense of meaning to life and a connection to a community of faith. Matters of objective fact are dismissed in order to avoid controversy and strife. However, Easter makes no sense apart from the reality of a historical event. The Apostle Paul wrote to the early Christians, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (I Corinthians 15:14).
In a free society every religion is allowed to make its case publicly without fear of censure. All have the constitutional right to practice any religion or none. But this does not answer the question of what faith—if any—one ought to embrace. Easter offers an answer based on the compelling evidence that the story of Jesus coming to earth to redeem his people from their failures is vindicated by his space-time resurrection from the dead.
No blind leap of faith is required to believe that the resurrection of Jesus is more than a nice religious idea. The Gospel accounts that attest to the resurrection were written by people in a position to hunt down and check out the facts. They were either disciples of Jesus (Matthew and John) or individuals who carefully interviewed those closest to the event they described (Mark and Luke). These accounts were written shortly after the events they narrate; there was insufficient time for such mythological additions as a resurrection. The Apostle Paul, writing sometime in the 50s, spoke of Christ publicly appearing to many people, many of whom were still living at the time he wrote (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Had there been no resurrection, this kind of statement would have been suicidal, since hostile witness could have refuted Paul’s claim. We have no record of a refutation.
Moreover, all the New Testament books have been accurately preserved over time. Scholars have access to thousands of ancient Greek manuscripts from which to translate our modern versions of these books.
The earliest record of the Christian movement (the Book of Acts) reports that the church proclaimed a resurrected Christ as the source of its courage and drive. The first Christians weathered intense persecution for their resurrection-faith; yet they persevered—some even unto death. Had the notion of the resurrection been fabricated, it would have unraveled under the relentless social and political pressures it faced. As former Nixon aide Charles Colson has pointed out in his book Loving God, he and the other White House conspirators could not pull off the Watergate cover-up, despite their unmatched political clout. When the crunch came, the truth was quickly flushed out. The early Christians had no such power to obfuscate or intimidate; but they never recanted. Their resolve is best explained by their knowledge of the resurrection.
Those hostile to these determined followers of Jesus could have easily refuted the nascent movement by simply exhuming the dead body of Jesus and displaying it as the decisive evidence against any claim to his resurrection. Both the religious and the political authorities of the day had reasons to resent these Christians and to stop their evangelism. But there is no evidence that anything of the kind occurred. The tomb was empty.
Belief in the resurrection of Jesus is entirely different from the fascination many people have in supposedly supernatural events (of "The X Files" variety) that have no logical support. When Christians observe Easter they stand on the solid ground of history, looking upward with rational hope for a better life in the world to come.