I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.
The Reason for God Chapter 13
The Reality of the Resurrection
- What was your favorite part of this chapter?
- What made you struggle in this chapter?
- What did you learn about God in this chapter?
- What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?
If the resurrection is true it changes our lives completely.
- It is a huge historical philosophical issue.
- The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.
There is a burden of proof for both believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers need to come up with another plausible account for how the church began. They must deliver another narrative.
The Empty Tomb and the Witnesses
- There was not enough time that passed between the writings we have and the events, which took place for them to be fabrications. There were living eyewitnesses to the empty tomb and the resurrection when the gospels and the letters of Paul were written.
Problematic accounts of the resurrection
- There are too many quirks to the resurrection accounts to be fabrications. Women were used as eyewitnesses. There was no advantage for them to be used as witnesses. They had no social standing. There was probably pressure to remove these stories from the account but they could not because it was too well known.
- The empty tomb and the accounts of personal meetings with Jesus are even more historically certain when you realize they must be taken together. If there was only empty tomb you would think the body was stolen. If just the meetings with Jesus you could think it was a dream or vision. Both together = resurrection.
- Christians proclaimed Jesus resurrection from the beginning. That means the tomb must have been empty. No one would have believed them if the tomb wasn’t empty.
- We cant permit ourselves the luxury of thinking that the resurrection accounts were only fabricated years later. Whatever happened, the tomb must have been really empty and hundreds of witnesses must have claimed that they saw him bodily raised.
Resurrection and Immortality
- Some people believe that 1st century people were not as educated and so because they wanted to believe in a resurrection then they believed it. This is a false understanding of the ancients. To all the dominant world religions of the time, an individual bodily resurrection was almost inconceivable.
- In the 1st century Mediterranean world the universal view of the people at that time was that a bodily resurrection was impossible.
- In Greco-Roman thinking the soul or spirit was good and physical world was weak and corrupt. So salvation was the leaving of this body. You never wanted to go back.
- The resurrection would also have been unthinkable to the Jews. They wanted to be resurrected but saw it as a far off event in the future when God changed the world. The resurrection was merely one part of the complete renewal of the world.
- The idea of an individual resurrection was inconceivable to both Jews and Greeks.
- Many other would be messiahs were executed in during this time. None claimed to have come back from the dead. This would be impossible unless he actually was raised from the dead.
The Explosion of a New Worldview.
After Jesus death the entire Christian community suddenly added a set of beliefs that were brand new and up to that point had been unthinkable. The 1st Christians had a resurrection-centered world view. This was a new and unique set of beliefs.
- Every other instance that we know of where such a massive shift of beliefs only happens to a group of people over a period of time. It usually takes years of discussion and debate to have one single narrative that wins out. That is how cultures and worldviews change.
- However in Christianity , the view of resurrection sprang up in full-blown reality after the death of Jesus. There was no development or debate. People were just telling others what they saw.
- The subsequent history of the church gets even more difficult to account for. How could a group of 1st century Jews worship a human being as divine? Eastern religions believe God is an impersonal force that is in all things, Western religions believed that various gods took human form. Jews however believed in a single transcendent personal God. It would be blasphemy to believe that you should worship any human being. Yet hundreds of Jews began to worship Jesus overnight. What broke their cultural and religious mold?
- Pascal. “I believe those witnesses that get their throats cut.” All the disciples and early church leaders died for their faith. They died not for what they believed but for what they saw. Big difference.
The Challenge of the Resurrection
Nothing in History can be proven the way we can prove something in a laboratory. However the resurrection of Jesus is a historical fact much more fully attested to than most other events in ancient human history that we take for granted.
- If you don’t short-circuit the process with the philosophical bias against the possibility of a miracle, the resurrection of Jesus has the most historical weight and proof for what happened than any other explanation.
- 1st century people felt the same skepticism about the empty tomb as you and I do. The only way people embraced the resurrection was by allowing it to change their perception and worldview
- If you doubt the resurrection you should want it to be true. It gives us hope for the future. Why sacrifice what we have for those who have none if it all this doesn’t matter?
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