“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14).
FUNDAMENTALS ARE . . . WELL, FUNDAMENTALLY IMPORTANT. And the most fundamental truth of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. As John S. Whale expressed it, “The Gospels do not explain the resurrection; the resurrection explains the Gospels. Belief in the resurrection is not an appendage to the Christian faith; it is the Christian faith.” The resurrection is the indispensable fact of the gospel. Without it, the gospel is not good news. It is not even helpful religious philosophy. It is simply nonsense.
So we must come to grips with the question of whether the resurrection actually took place or not. The New Testament documents allege it to have happened, and we must decide whether we find the allegation credible. But how shall we decide? Is it merely a matter of personal preference? No, we are jurors listening to evidence in the most important trial that has ever taken place — and the evidence is the testimony of the New Testament itself. The primary witness is on the stand. Our job is to listen to the witness carefully, desiring only one thing: to reach the right conclusion.
Of course, we must listen not only to the witness but to the cross-examination. But having heard the claims of the witness and the critics of those claims, our job is to render a verdict. Do we believe the primary witness or not? Is the truth being told?
It may be hard work to make up our minds whether to believe the testimony of the New Testament to the resurrection, but the one thing we must not do is say that what really happened is not important. This is a question with the highest possible stakes: it is nothing less than a matter of our own life and death. So let us work our way through the transcript of this most important trial and take the time we need to deliberate about our verdict. But having thought about it, let us take a firm position one way or the other. The witness is either telling the truth or lying. Which is it?
“If you are irrevocably committed to the proposition that it would have been impossible for Christ to triumph over death, you may as well quit fiddling around the fringes of Christianity, because, as Paul bluntly said, the whole thing stands or falls on the fact of the Resurrection. Either it happened, or it didn’t, and if it didn’t, Christianity is a gigantic fraud, and the sooner we are quit of it, the better” (Louis Cassels).