Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
It’s a question asked and answered each Easter in news reports, television documentaries and personal conversations. This year, two Southern Baptists who train others to defend the faith have offered their thoughts on the best way to answer.
Rob Phillips, who leads apologetics for the Missouri Baptist Convention, pointed to the “minimal facts argument,” which defends the resurrection using only evidence “considered virtually undeniable,” even by skeptics. Stephen Wellum, a theology professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said evidence for the resurrection always must be coupled with an explanation of the resurrection’s significance within the Christian worldview.
Phillips told Baptist Press the minimal facts argument is “a compelling case for the resurrection” in the 21st century because “there appears to be such a high level of skepticism today about the Bible in general and about its recorded miracles in particular.”
Citing Liberty University apologist Gary Habermas, Phillips noted two requirements for a “minimal fact”: “First, each fact must be confirmed by several strong and independent arguments, typically 10 or more historical confirmations. Second, the vast majority of scholars — even liberal Christian scholars, non-Christian scholars and atheists — must recognize the occurrence’s historical nature.”
Phillips identified six such “minimal facts” that support a belief in Christ rising from the dead bodily:
— “Jesus died by crucifixion;
— “Very soon after His death, His followers had real experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus;
— “Their lives were transformed as a result, even to the point of being willing to die specifically for their faith in the resurrection message;
— “These things were taught very early, soon after the crucifixion;
— “James, Jesus’ unbelieving brother, became a Christian due to his own experience with whom he believed to be the resurrected Christ;
— “The Christian persecutor Paul … became a believer after a similar experience.”
Phillips concluded, “These ‘minimal facts’ come not only from multiple eyewitnesses as recorded in Scripture, but from numerous non-biblical sources — even sources hostile to Christianity. While there is overwhelming evidence to support these historic events, our goal as followers of Jesus is not necessarily to win a debate or to get in the last word.
“Rather, it is to offer a winsome testimony of the resurrected Christ with whom we have an unbreakable relationship, and to encourage our listeners to trust Him for everlasting life,” Phillips said in written comments.
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Source: Baptist Press