By Steve Berman
We get caught up in pointless arguments with nonbelievers, where politics, law, and culture grow like thorns and mask the Christian’s best answer.
The teachings, morals, lessons, parables, and laws of the Judeo-Christian Bible (Old and New Testaments) hinge on one fact that prove their exclusive claim to truth. If Jesus did not die and rise from the grave, then nothing we preach is more than personal opinion.
Nonbelievers offer the same argument the Apostle Paul addressed in 1 Corinthians: “we do not believe in the resurrection of the dead.” From a purely naturalist viewpoint, it’s impossible. Dead things do not reanimate. Life does not proceed from death, at least in that living human beings do not return from the dead. Once the brain is dead, there’s no thought, no electrical activity, no consciousness, no spirit, nothing.
Paul was writing to Christians who expressed faith in Christ but not in a resurrection of the dead.
Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.
1 Corinthians 15:12-19
Truly, if this event did not occur, there’s little difference in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, animism, ancestor worship, and countless other religions from Christianity, in that exclusive but false claims all belong to the category of “false claims.” The power of Zeus and Apollo to save would be no better than Jesus Christ were it not for the resurrection. The Bible would be nothing more than myth, which is exactly what many humanist/secular/atheist nonbelievers believe it to be.
But Paul also gave an answer to them (before he addressed resurrection in general).
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Christ has appeared in dreams to multiplied thousands of people, most of whom are changed by the encounter. Large numbers of Jews and Muslims have become (and continue to this day) believers in Christ following these dreams, some after reading the New Testament confirming their own witness. Some never read the Bible before this, because the book is banned in a not-insignificant number of countries.
If the Bible is a myth, why is it considered so dangerous in so many places that it’s banned? Why is proselytizing banned in most Muslim-dominated countries, and in Israel? Why, despite the bans, are thousands of Jews, Muslims, and those living in officially atheist countries such as China coming to Christ?
According to Voice of the Martyrs, a Christian organization dedicated to sharing the Gospel in places where it’s difficult, dangerous, and illegal, 47 countries ban or restrict Bible distribution. Many allow Bibles but not translations into local languages.
In places like North Korea, and many Muslim-majority nations, the Bible is completely banned. Iran, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, UAE, Yemen, Maldives, North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are on the list of “covert operations only” for VOM.
The Guardian published a list of the “worst place to be a Christian,” that largely backs up VOM’s data. The Bible is banned in more countries than any other single book—even Mein Kampf. In contrast, the Koran is only banned (uncensored) in Russia. That was in 2014 … since then Vladimir Putin has cracked down on Christians harder than practically any other religious group.
Why does this happen? If the Bible is so easily disproved and cast aside as myth, why is reading that particular book considered to be so dangerous to Islam, dictatorships and communists who believe it to be false? Why if Muslims believe the Bible to be corrupted, and Jesus’ death to be falsely reported, do they bother banning the book?
Why can’t atheist scholars attack Isaiah’s description of the “suffering servant” and the 353 specific prophecies from the Old Testament fulfilled by Jesus Christ? Why do secular nonbelievers discount Biblical scholars from cultural and moral discussions as “biased” then dismiss their credentials as Biblical scholars (who read the original Greek and Hebrew) when discussing the Bible?
If the Bible is a myth, and the resurrection of Christ never happened, why is it the most prolifically reported and carefully curated event in the ancient world? There are more texts of the New Testament Gospel accounts (some written within a few decades of the event) than of Josephus and Plutarch, two of the most studied historians and biographers of the time.
Were the five hundred witnesses Paul (and the witnesses named by the Gospel writers) referred to made up? Were they victims of mass hypnosis? Were they willingly slaughtered for a known lie? People will die for a lie—but a lie they believe. Nobody sane will die for a lie they know to be false, like a messiah who did not rise from the dead.
It really takes more faith to believe, without serious research, that Jesus Christ never existed, or never rose from the dead than it does to follow the facts where they lead. Skeptics normally consider themselves too sophisticated to actually learn Greek and Hebrew (both languages are actively spoken today) and study the source documents. They normally proceed from an “it’s impossible” world view and therefore dismiss any reports to the contrary.
But that’s not how real scientists should act. Something either happened or it didn’t. There exists evidence demanding examination.
Proponents of other worldviews and religions don’t need rigorous scholarly examination to know that the Bible represents a danger to their beliefs. That danger is not primarily in the words of the books, but in the confirmation of what people know in their hearts, what they experience in dreams, visions, and personal encounters, in books written thousands of years ago.
The Bible can’t be, at the same time, both a myth and the most enduring human truth in the world. Skeptics would be well served not to pretend that it’s two mutually exclusive things. Go where the evidence leads. The Bible and its author do not fear rigorous examination.
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.