This post is part of a series called “What We’re Reading,” where members of the Lifeway Groups Ministry team will share what they’re reading or studying and how it has impacted their walk with God. This month’s reflection is from Lynn Pryor, a team leader for adult ongoing Bible studies at Lifeway.
Two questions have driven me deeper into my relationship with Jesus Christ: 1) How did we get here? and 2) What do we do with the resurrection of Jesus?
I became a Christian at a young age, but as a teenager and young adult, I chased the questions of the Christian faith. I was never a skeptic, but I wanted to know why I believed. Did I believe in Jesus simply because that was how I was raised? Or could I say with confidence that I know what I believe—and why?
The two questions I mentioned earlier are the ones I cannot explain apart from what the Bible teaches. I cannot explain them away or dismiss them. For example, regarding how we got here, I cannot look at any aspect of science and not see the presence of an Intelligent Designer. Skeptics say science and faith don’t mix, but I disagree. In fact, I contend it takes more faith to believe all this happened by chance than it does to believe in an Intelligent Designer who created with intention and purpose.
It’s the second question, though, that I want to focus on. What do we do with the resurrection of Jesus? Did it really happen? Or is it something we just choose to believe because we want to? Consider the following:
- Thomas Arnold, who taught at Oxford University, said, “I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.”
- Harvard Law School professor, Dr. Simon Greenleaf, was a skeptic; He mocked Christians in his classroom until some challenged him to put the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus through the filter of the law. He took up the challenge and found the evidence so convincing he became a believer. He concluded the resurrection of Jesus is one of the best established facts of history.
- Lee Strobel, an investigative journalist and committed atheist, set out to debunk the resurrection of Christ. He used the tools he had used in his investigative writing, and he came to the conclusion that Jesus died—and He rose again. (The movie of Lee Strobel’s life, The Case for Christ, was released in theaters on April 7.)
Each spring, churches and Bible study groups give a big emphasis and celebration around the resurrection of Christ. That’s great, but I’ve discovered that most Christians join in the celebration without asking themselves why. They just assume the resurrection is true. So in my teaching every year around Easter, I raise the question: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?
My goal is not to make skeptics but rather to get believers to realize faith in Jesus is not a blind faith. It is grounded in historical reality that cannot simply be washed away.
It’s been a rich experience every time I’ve done this exercise with a group. Space limits me from mentioning all the passages that help me see the historicity and validity of Christ’s resurrection. Consider this from just one passage, Luke 24:
- Verses 1-6: The empty tomb points to the resurrection of Jesus.
- Verses 6-8: Jesus foretold His resurrection.
- Verses 9-12: The disciples did not invent the story; in fact, they didn’t believe it at first.
- Verses 13-35: The disciple spoke with Jesus.
- Verses 36-40: The disciples saw Jesus physically.
Don’t take my word for it. Research the resurrection yourself. Here are some books I’ve valued through the years on this topic:
- The Case for Christ, Lee Strobel
- More Than a Carpenter, Josh McDowell
- The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell
- Buried Hope or Risen Savior, Charles Quarles
Lynn Pryor is a team leader for adult resources at Lifeway. He and his wife, Mary, lead a Bible study group for young adults and have survived raising two sons to adulthood. A graduate of Southwestern Seminary, Lynn has previously pastored and served churches in Texas. Follow him on his blog at lynnhpryor.com.
My husband and I lead a young adults group in our church. I will be sharing your writings on Sunday.
You tell the story that Prof. Simon Greenleaf became a Christian after his Harvard students challenged him to investigate the Gospels. I am certain you repeated the story in good faith, and did not know that it is completely false. With due respect, I believe that perpetuating such falsehoods cheapens real apologetics, and Christians would be better served by relying on accurate and truthful evidence.
Greenleaf was an Episcopalian who would be appalled and offended by anyone who called him an atheist. See Daniel D. Blinka, The Roots of the Modern Trial, Greenleaf’s Testimony to the Harmony of Christianity, Science, and a law In Antebellum America, 27 Journal of the Early Republic 293 (Summer 2007). If you like, I can email to you a PDF of this article.
You can also Google “A discourse pronounced at the inauguration of the author as Royal professor of law in Harvard University, August 29, 1834. By Simon Greenleaf” to find clear proof of his Christian faith before he began teaching any students. Greenleaf explained:
Christianity founds its claims to our belief upon the weight of the evidence by which it is supported. This evidence is not peculiar to the department of theology; its rules are precisely those by which the law scans the conduct and language of men on all other subjects, even in their daily transactions. … The Christian religion is part of our common law, with the very texture of which it is interwoven. Its authority is frequently admitted our statute-books; and its holy things are there expressly carted from blasphemy and desecration.
Again, this is what Greenleaf believed BEFORE he started teaching at Harvard. The idea that students had to challenge him in order for him to convert to Christianity is patently absurd. The plain and indisputable fact is that Prof. Greenleaf was never an atheist or skeptic, and the apologetic stories about him trying to disprove Jesus’ resurrection are appear to be complete fabrications.
I respectfully suggest that you remove or correct this inaccurate information. In fact, I “challenge” you go beyond quietly and surreptitiously deleting the fable from your website. You can publish a retraction in which you explain the story is false and discuss how Christian should beware of such simplistic urban legends. You can take a stand against falsehood and for truth. Please contact me if I can assist you in any way.