According to an article in the New York Times from April 2002, the well-respected Oxford University philosophy professor, Richard Swinburne, used a broadly accepted probability theory to defend the truth of Christ's resurrection. He did this at a high-profile gathering of philosophy professors at Yale University. "For someone dead for 36 hours to come to life again is, according to the laws of nature, extremely improbable," Swinburne said. "But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because he makes them operate." Swinburne then used Bayes' Theorem to assign values to things like the probability of God's being real, Jesus' behavior during his lifetime, and the quality of witness testimony after Jesus' death. Then he plugged the numbers into a probability formula and added everything up. The result: a 97 percent probability that the resurrection really happened.
Throughout the ages, scholars and laymen alike, have recognized the need to deal with the historicity of the Resurrection, that it cannot be simply shrugged off as a contemporary improbability. Often the result has been the proposal of an alternative theory which attempts to explain theResurrection in terms different from the Gospels. (I have shared these various theories on many Easter Sundays, so I will not go into them here.)
The fact remains, all of these theories have been dismissed by serious scholars because they lack historical corroboration and are not logically sound. The historical objections to these theories are many but at the heart of the matter is the fact that the disciples, the men closest to Jesus, dedicated the rest of their lives to His gospel and endured many hardships, even death. In fact, all of our Lord's disciples but one died a martyr's death. Today, few would die for the truth but no one would die for a lie.
There is one historical problem which most theories recognize and which is at the center of the Resurrection controversy - the empty tomb. After 2000 plus years it still stands as a resounding question mark demanding an answer. Pilate and Caiaphas knew the tomb was empty and yet, sought their own explanation and theories.
For the believer, it is the critical foundation and the unmovable rock upon which our faith stands. To the objective mind, there is no room for doubt. In the words of the famous Oxford historian, Thomas Arnold, "I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." Arthur Michael Ramsey, former archbishop of Canterbury, echoes such sentiments when he declared, "I believe in the Resurrection, partly because a series of facts are unaccountable without it."
Psalm 3:3 states, But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head. God lifts our head out of disappointment, fear, anxiety, depression and even despair.
For those carrying a suitcase full of pain, the reality of the Resurrection meets us at the level of our heart and brings God's encouragement into our lives like the pure white water of a rushing stream. As the Gaithers wrote, Because He lives I can face tomorrow. Because He lives all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future. And life is worth the living just because He lives.
If this communique finds you discouraged, weary, fearful or anxious, look to the horizon and see the risen Lord. Be renewed in your faith during this season.... and once you experience that renewal, tell someone about this great confidence we have of a risen Savior.