We were walking through the hall on our way to the elevators after a particularly intense class lecture on Nietzsche. I was a grad student working through my doctoral course work and my companion was a seasoned professor, an expert on ancient and modern philosophy.
For many Christ followers Nietzsche was an evil mastermind, bent on destroying faith in God. Some of these criticisms seemed well founded, but I was beginning to think that Nietzsche was critical of religiosity and had little understanding of true Christianity.
So, I prompted my professor with further questions. “What did Nietzsche think about the claim that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead?” I could tell my question caught my companion off guard.
“Well,” he said, “He didn’t think it happened.”
Now I was confused. “How did Nietzsche explain away all the evidence for this event?”
I could tell by the look on his face that two things had happened. First, I had asked a question he had never heard. Second, my expert in ancient philosophy was unaware of the “evidence” for Jesus’ rise from the dead.
His simple, “I don’t know” was telling.
The Achilles Heel?
How could this be? If Nietzsche was one of the leading critics of Christianity, wouldn’t the Resurrection be the easiest way to take down the truth claims of the faith. After all, even Paul the Apostle said, If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (I Corinthians 15:17) For the atheist or die hard critic, wouldn’t this be the Achilles heel?
Over the years I have found myself surprised at how little critics of Christianity reference the Resurrection. Even fewer still will deal openly with the historical evidence for this event. But then again I get it. You would have to really have a grudge against Christianity to spend the time necessary to go through all the evidence. When guys like Gary Habermas and William Lane Craig research entire dissertations on this one event, few people have the time to do the same.
What is more surprising is how many Christians talk about Jesus as if they are explaining an idea, a philosophy or a teaching. Sure, Nietzsche and Dawkins can dismiss Christianity as an idea to refute but then it is not our faith they are referencing. Our faith is grounded in a person: a person who showed up during the Roman empire, fulfilled countless prophesies from hundreds of years before his time, taught men older and more educated than himself, claimed to be God, performed miracles, died at the hands of his enemies and then rose from the dead.
Drop the Mic
Let that sink in… rose from the dead. Yes, now would be where you drop the mic. This is not blind faith. This is historical confidence. Do you believe that Alexander the Great lived the life you learned about in school? Why? You have the same reasons to believe that Jesus of Nazareth lived the life you learned about as well.
Christianity is not a set of propositions to believe. It is not a practical way of living for a better life. It is not an experience of fullness. Christianity is God coming to us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He is personal, relational and rescuing.
For the one who is drowning in their own self help exhaustion and moral sickness, Jesus draws near and offers life and forgiveness. No one else even offers. Go ahead. Look. No one else offers. Nothing else offers.
Celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is the cornerstone of our faith. So celebrate with confidence. He really did come to life after being dead. It was a moment in time when all of the laws of nature and physics were upended by the one who created them.
Does your heart leap and stir at this? Is your own life anchored to His? Do you need to remember you don’t follow an idea, but follow a real person?
For more information about the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus go to www.str.org