Challenge Response: If Jesus Had Risen, Everyone Would Have Converted

Here's my response to this week's challenge:

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This week's challenge is about the resurrection. Here's what the challenge author writes: “The Bible suggests that Jesus rose from the dead and made appearances to hundreds of people before ascending into heaven. It is unlikely that this would have escaped the notice of Herod and Pilate and the vast majority of the Roman occupiers, not to mention the Jews who would have either directly witnessed this amazing phenomenon or heard about it from credible sources. This would have provided proof that Jesus was a divine being prompting Herod and Pilate to convert along with the Romans and with the Jews, with Christianity then becoming the official religion of Judea. Obviously, this did not happen, and the fact that it didn't suggests strongly that Jesus did not rise from the dead.” 

I actually agree with this particular challenge. It would be true that if the resurrection did happen, you would expect people like Jews to convert to Christianity. You'd expect hundreds of people to convert to Christianity after witnessing an amazing miraculous resurrection. You’d even expect skeptics who were going in this direction to do an about face, a hundred eighty-degree turn, and become followers of Jesus. You'd expect people who persecuted Christianity to also become believers, and you'd expect, eventually, that lots and lots of people in the entire nation would rise up and become Christians and that Christianity would become some sort of a noteworthy religion within that country.

Well guess what. That's exactly what happened. If you look at the record, that's exactly what happened. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and to over 500 people, and these people became believers in the resurrection and in Jesus Christ. These are people who were depressed, dejected, scattered, and were doubtful about what they had come to know about Jesus. But then, after the resurrection, they became passionate followers of Jesus Christ even to the point of persecution and death. 

In fact, even James, the brother of Jesus, was a skeptic after Jesus’ death. but he later came to believe that Jesus was actually the Divine Son of God who rose from the dead. What caused them to turn around? Paul, the person who persecuted the Church, who imprisoned Christians, who killed Christians eventually does a 180 and becomes a passionate follower of Jesus and a believer in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Eventually, lots more people became followers of Jesus Christ to the point where Constantine the Roman Emperor became a Christian himself and decriminalized Christianity in the nation. So in fact, what this challenge raises is an excellent point about good reasons why we should trust the resurrection happened. That is, that if it did happen, you'd expect tons of people, even people who had a bias against Christianity, to be completely converted, and that's precisely what happened. That’s in fact good reason why we should trust the resurrection did happen.

Did everyone convert? No, not everybody converted, but that's not surprising at all. In fact, even in Jesus' day before his death and resurrection, Jesus performed many miracles in the presence of lots of people. He raised the dead, he healed the sick, he made the lame walk, the blind could see, and yet despite these powerful supernatural evidences, people still rejected Jesus. The reason is because oftentimes, belief in Jesus isn't simply a matter of what the evidence says. Belief in Jesus requires a complete submission of the heart to Jesus.

I remember one time talking to a person who was telling me that they were willing to consider the claims of Christ. We actually went through an apologetics textbook, “Scaling the Secular City,” by JP Moreland. We went through each chapter over about a month, and after a month this girl said to me, “You know what, the evidences for Christianity are completely compelling. I'm completely persuaded that probably Christianity is true.” But she said, “I don't want to become a Christian.” I was surprised, “Well, why not?” She said, “Because I don't want to have to live according to the commands of Christ. I want to live how I want to live. She was in college. She was engaged in all sorts of activity that we would probably say is unbecoming of a Christian. So for her, it was an attitude of the heart. She didn't want to submit to Jesus Christ and to his demands on her life. You might have powerful evidence as to why Christianity is true, but people may still reject following Jesus Christ. 

If the resurrection actually happened, would that change lives? Absolutely. In fact, that changed lots of lives. Hundreds and thousands of people became followers of Jesus. But sometimes evidence, despite how powerful it is, isn't going to change a hardened heart if that person's isn't willing to submit their lives to Jesus.

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Alan Shlemon

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