The Resurrection is the hinge on which Christianity turns.
“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:14. Why would our preaching be useless? Because we would be “false witnesses about God” (verse 15). Why would our faith be useless? Because we would still be in our sins (verse 17).
The words preaching and faith in these verses point to the missional and existential dimensions of Christianity, respectively.
Christianity’s mission is proclaiming the gospel. “By this gospel you are saved,” Paul wrote in verse 2. He then identified the foundation of the gospel: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, … he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (verses 3–4).
The Old Testament prophesied Christ’s death and resurrection, but Jesus’ contemporaries saw the events happen. Paul used the phrase “he appeared to” four times in verses 5–8. The phrase precedes an impressive list of eyewitnesses: Cephas (Peter), the Twelve, more than 500 disciples, James and the other apostles, and finally Paul himself.
Atheist Richard Dawkins has defined faith as “belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” Paul agrees with Dawkins that if the Resurrection didn’t happen, there is no point believing in Jesus. The door slams shut on Christianity if the body of Christ lies moldering in a grave.
But neither Paul nor any other Christian defines faith as Dawkins does. On the contrary, in 1 Corinthians 15, faith is belief that Christ rose from the dead on the basis of eyewitness testimony.
Faith is more than belief, however. “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you,” Paul wrote in verse 2. Faith includes belief in a person. That’s trust. And it requires belief through tough times. That’s allegiance.
Belief, trust, and allegiance are the existential dimensions of Christianity. They’re how we should respond to the gospel. And given the evidence, such a response is warranted.
In “Seven Stanzas at Easter,” John Updike took liberal theology to task for affirming the symbolism of the Resurrection while denying its historicity:
Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.
For if Christ is risen — if He is risen indeed — the door to eternal life swings open wide! This is good news! Let’s share it with others!
P.S. This editorial appears in the spring 2023 issue of Influence magazine and is cross-posted here by permission.