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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Monday, June 24, 2024
The Echo

Reality of the resurrection

Why it matters to Christians today

“Why do people think it is unbelievable that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). The question strikes us today as naïve, just as it must have struck Porcius Festus and Herod Agrippa II in the original context. Paul can’t be serious. For realists, the resurrection is fiction. People think the resurrection’s unbelievable because it is unbelievable! 

So what explains Paul’s confidence on the one hand and his dismay on the other? 

The answer, ironically, is Paul’s actual experience (Acts 9, 22, 26). Paul had had an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus himself—proof that God does indeed raise the dead. The encounter rewired Paul’s sense of the believable and the unbelievable. What had been unthinkable was now quite literally the gospel truth.

But what about us today? Isn’t it unfair that we’re called to believe something that happened to Paul, the other apostles, those listed in 1 Corinthians 15, but not to us today? 

No, it’s not unfair if we focus on and amplify the place of God in Paul’s question, “Why do people think it is unbelievable that God raises the dead?” Paul’s question has a simple logic that makes sensible his dismay at human unbelief. 

We encounter this logic in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they have been understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse.” The same logic carries over into Romans 4, where Paul posits Abraham as exemplar of intellectually charged faith, “He is our father in the presence of God whom he believed—the God who makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do” (Rom 4:17). 

Abraham, like Paul, had had an encounter with God that rewired his sense of the believable and the unbelievable. Whereas Paul was rewired intellectually from Jewish tradition to belief in faith enabled union with the crucified and risen Christ, Abraham was rewired from Ancient Near Eastern faith in idolatrous polytheism to lifelong faith in the personal living God, who created life in the barren womb of his wife, Sarah. Both came to believe that the true living God can indeed create human life ex nihilo. And if God can create, he can recreate, which is what resurrection is—a new creation. 

With this rewiring comes the dismay reversal characterized by Paul. When human beings have the reality of God’s creative design evident within and among them everywhere, why would any thinking person exchange faith in God for faith in images “resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles” (Rom 1:23) or for “weak and worthless basic forces? . . . religious days and months and seasons and years” (Gal 4:9-10) or, as Jesus admonished, for “human tradition,” the precepts of the human imagination (Mark 7:8-9)?

Today’s scientific cynicism is equally vulnerable. With so much evidence of intelligent design inherent in the life that indwells and surrounds us, why would anyone exchange belief in God for the unsubstantiated hypothesis of blind cause and effect? Is belief in cosmic stardust less laughable than belief in Baal or Zeus? 

The resurrection is not a theological narcotic thrown in Scripture artificially to anesthetize the human fear of death. Resurrection is the goal of God’s creation from Genesis to Revelation, the final triumph of God’s hyper-abounding love for sinners like you and me. Rest assured! The Lord is risen! “The trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor 15:52).