Voices. Many voices. So many opinions about matters of faith and truth.
A dozen major worldviews.
Ten thousand religious systems worldwide.
More than 32,000 variations of just one of those 10,000 religions.
Scores of other ideologies, thought forms, and philosophies of life.
And each voice claims to speak truth.
So how will all of this be sorted out? What sense can be made of so many mutually exclusive views?
If there really is a personal God who created the universe, you want to know it. If “God” is just the tag for some sort of impersonal, supernatural, universal oneness, you want to know that. If humans are nothing but atoms and molecules spinning around and around in a cold dark universe, you might as well know that. You sincerely intend to follow the truth wherever it may lead. But how can you even begin to know what is true?
You decide to examine the life of the founder or leading spokesman of some of the most notable belief systems.
For Judaism, it’ll be Moses and Father Abraham. For Islam, it’ll be Mohammed the Prophet. For Christianity, it’s Jesus; for Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama; and for Mormons, Joseph Smith. It’s Mary Baker Eddy for Christian Science, and Paul Kurtz for humanism. Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins will speak for naturalism. And for the Taoists, it’ll be Lao-tzu and Wayne Dyer. Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey are up for Eastern religious makeovers. John Adams and William Sinkford are on for Unitarian-Universalism. And so on.
Everyone from Helen Schucman to Charles Taze Russell is to be considered. Everyone from David Koresh to Confucius, from Baha’ullah to Billy Graham to the Dalai Lama and the pope.
Zoroastrianism, agnosticism and Satanism are represented. The founders of Kabbala, Spiritism, Marxism and the Greek Orthodox Church are all up for review.
You sit down for a briefing on these tremendously influential men and women, and many are well-informed, dynamic, charismatic individuals. Almost all are visionaries. Some are rebels. Most are cordial but intense. A few are rather withdrawn.
You obviously can’t be persuaded by who is oldest, tallest, most attractive, most popular, or best-educated. And you sometimes privately wonder: “Is this one just a charlatan, or maybe self-deluded?”
You examine everything, looking for any indication that any of these individuals are supernaturally credentialed and thus truly speaking for God.
Something on Jesus’ curriculum vitae catches your attention. It says simply: “Rose from the dead according to the Scripture.”
Those eight words immediately set Jesus apart from all others. Not one of the others ever claimed to have returned to life after three days in a tomb. No manifesto or sacred writing but the New Testament of the Bible records any prophecy or fulfillment of such an event.
The grave of every other founder and spokesman for every other belief system in the history of the world, if they have yet died, is actually or presumably occupied. But not the grave of Jesus. Insofar as anyone is able to identify it, it stands empty. And no one has ever produced the body or bones of Jesus.
Many intriguing objections to the resurrection of Christ have been raised over the past 2,000 years. Every one of them has been answered by well-credentialed scholars in an intellectually credible manner.
The Wrong Tomb Theory, The Swoon/Resuscitation Theory, The Twin (Impersonation or Mistaken Identity) Theory, The Hallucination Hypothesis, The Conspiracy Postulate, The Myth Allegation, The No-Such-Thing-As-A-Miracle Objection, The Deluded Woman Theory, The Seance Theory, The Unreliable Historical Record Charge, The Greco-Roman Parallel Theory — and numerous other objections — have all been methodically dismantled and roundly refuted.
The complex Islamic charge that Jesus himself was never even actually crucified (a form of the Substitution Theory, based on Surah 4:154-158) also has been turned back.
To make the case for Jesus’ resurrection even stronger, more than 500 eyewitnesses are reported to have seen him alive, post-crucifixion. And there is the testimony of reputable historians, scientists and other professionals, including Simon Greenleaf, world-renowned jurist with Maine connections.
In sum, the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ stands as what is quite likely the best legally documented and most spiritually significant event in all of human history.
“The truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.” (1 Corinthians 15: 20, The Message)
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Dr. Gary Habermas is arguably the world’s leading expert today on the resurrection of Christ. For further study, see his “Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,” or Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ.”
The Rev. Daryl E. Witmer is founder and director of the AIIA Institute, a national apologetics ministry, and associate pastor of the Monson Community Church. He may be reached at the Web site AIIA.ChristianAnswers.Net or by e-mail at AIIAInstitute@aol.com. Voices is a weekly commentary by Maine people who explore issues affecting spirituality and religious life.