Responding to religious skepticism
Suppose on Monday you went happily to work, still humming “Christ the Lord is Risen Today, alleluia!” And a coworker hears you and says, “What are you so happy about? The resurrection of Jesus is malarkey. It is just a story invented to sell Bibles.”
How would you respond to a skeptic?
You might ask, “Have you read the story?” Reading the story can change a person. It has a certain authentic reality that is hard to explain. People throughout history have been drawn to it. Charles Dickens wrote, “The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world.” Albert Einstein wrote, “No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.”
Ask the scoffer simply to read the story and see for themselves if they are not drawn to Jesus and if they do not find themselves believing that all things are possible for him. Point out that Jesus predicted that he would be killed and that he would rise again on the third day. Point out the disciples also had difficulty in believing. They doubted the first reports of the resurrection, thought at first that the risen Christ was a ghost, and one of them even insisted on touching Jesus’ wounds. They had doubts, but they came to believe.
But suppose the scoffer says, “The church wrote the New Testament; they could put anything in it they wanted to.” Then point to the Old Testament. The Old Testament was completed hundreds of years before the time of Jesus. Copies of almost all the books of the Old Testament were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. So how is it that this ancient Jewish book seems to describe someone that looks so much like Jesus? Have them read Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. These passages portray someone suffering in a manner very much like Jesus did. Have them read Psalm 16 and 49. Who is this person that God will not leave in the grave?
“No, the scoffer says, you are still quoting the Bible. Have you no evidence beyond the Bible?” Yes, we do. There is the negative evidence. Christianity would have been easy to disprove.
All that was needed was for someone to produce Jesus’ dead body. His body could not be found. Why not? Then there is the positive evidence. Something must have happened to the disciples. Christianity started in Jerusalem, right where Jesus was crucified. From Jerusalem the disciples went out into the world telling people about Jesus’ teachings, life, death and resurrection. The disciples were arrested, beaten and for the most part … killed. How can their zeal and courage be explained, unless they had actually seen what they claimed to have seen?
Lastly, there is the evidence of the church. For nearly 2,000 years the Christian church has claimed that Jesus was alive and still somehow present among Christians. Christians have claimed to feel his presence. This may be the best answer for those who say, “Jesus is dead.”
Come to church, friend, and see that Jesus is with us still — just like he said.