Making Sense of the Resurrection

Recently I’ve been reading a book by a brilliant philosopher on the west coast named Stephen T. Davis, professor of philosophy at Claremont McKenna College in California. He’s written more than 80 academic articles and fifteen books. I’ve been reading his book, Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993).

Dr. Davis argues that it is rational, logical, sensible, and reasonable to believe in the reality of a resurrected Christ. The claims of the resurrection, he says, are defensible claims. He wrote, “Belief in the resurrection… is rational on historical, philosophical, and theological grounds…. Belief in the resurrection as a divinely caused miracle can be rational for people who accept the worldview I call supernaturalism.”

In other words if you are an atheist who disavows the existence of God and rejects all reality except for materialism, it is not rational to believe in the resurrection. But if you allow for the existence of God (which implies the possibility of supernaturalism), then the resurrection becomes not only rational but sensible.

Furthermore, if you don’t believe in God, you have some explaining to do as it relates to the historical facts surrounding the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

Dr. Davis wrote, “There are certain facts surrounding the resurrection that have virtually been demonstrated by historical scholarship and that are not denied by any competent biblical, theological, or historical scholar. They are, preeminently, that Jesus died on a cross, that certain people later came to believe that God has raised Him from the dead, that a firm belief in the resurrection was at the heart of the message that these people proclaimed, and that they confessed that it was the reality of the resurrection that accounted for the radical change in their lives.

“Disheartened, confused, and fearful immediately after the crucifixion, they quickly became determined, bold, and courageous. The most plausible explanation of these facts… is that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead and show Himself to the disciples. It does not seem sensible to claim that the Christian church, a spiritual movement with the vitality to change the world, was started by charlatans or dupes.”

In other words, virtually every credible historian, theologian, and philosopher – whether they are Christian or now – will agree to certain facts.

  • Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross
  • His followers were traumatized and scattered
  • He was buried in a tomb outside Jerusalem
  • Three days later the tomb was empty
  • His followers were energized
  • They became thoroughly persuaded that He had physically risen from the dead.
  • Their excitement was so compelling that it changed the world and is still doing so today.

Those are widely-conceded facts. It is Dr. Davis’ assertion—as it is mine and as it was Luke’s—that the best explanation by far is that the angels were right when they said, “He is not here; He has risen as He said.”

PS – This blog is excerpted from my sermon, “It’s a Great Day to Explore a Tomb,” which can be found at The Donelson Fellowship website under the sermon tab.