The Resurrection of Christ
a talk by R.C. Sproul, Senior
Sproul says Christians should be pitied if Christianity is false, because they would be refraining from much of the fun in life for the sake of false hopes. It's not so simple as that. Consider a typical Mormon who gives up the carnal pleasure of drinking coffee. She probably also gains a lot in terms of emotional support from her religious community. We tend to take the things we have for granted, so she may think, "If only I were free from my religion so I could drink coffee. How great that would be!" But even if her religion is false, she may actually be benefitting more from it than she would from drinking coffee instead.
"If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is an exercise in futility. I'm wasting my breath. I'm wasting my time. We're all here wasting our time at a conference like this, if Christ has not been raised."
This is why I don't have a life-goal of convincing all Christians that their religion is false; I believe many of them are better off believing something false than losing their support system.
However, there are three types of Christians to whom I do want to show the faults of Christian belief.
First, a Christian whose life is worse off for believing Christianity is true. This would include homosexual Christians who are put through shame and self-hatred for no good reason. It would also include Christians, like my former self, who were deeply troubled by the doctrine of eternal Hell for others. I didn't have any loved ones die outside the faith, but that would be an especially painful situation for true believers in damnation.
Second, a Christian who is more interested in truth than the benefits of religion. I don't mean: interested in showing that their own religion is true. That's common. I mean the kind of Christian who is interested in knowing what is true, even if that doesn't turn out to be Christianity.
Third, a Christian who is making the lives of others significantly worse because of that Christian's religious beliefs. This would include parents like the Catholic man I overheard saying, "If one of my sons ever says he's gay, I will beat that f----- half to death." I sincerely hope none of his sons do turn out to be gay, but only because it would be hard on them with a parent like that. I also want Christianity to be challenged in the public square, to keep it — and all other religious positions — a matter of individual conscience rather than government policy.
"[O]ur beloved ones, our husbands, our wives, our children, our parents who have died, our friends who have died in the faith have perished. That's the grim reality if there is no resurrection from the dead."Death is grim. No doubt about that. But Sproul teaches something much worse: unending torment for billions of other people. There's no "good news" in a narrow path to life and a wide path to destruction, unless the destruction spoken of is the bodily death we already expect.
It would be easy at this point to paint Sproul as someone primarily interested in benefits rather than truth, but he does change tack a bit toward the end. He cites messianic prophecy from the Old Testament and claims of witnessing a resurrected Jesus in the New Testament as reasons to believe Christianity is true in the first place.
I used to agree about messianic prophecy. Now I see it as a deep dishonesty from the beginning of Christianity. I believe early Christians searched the scriptures for any justification for maintaining that Jesus did not fail when he died, and tweaked both the details of his life and the original meaning of Jewish scriptures to construct new theologies of success. They transformed an apocalyptic preacher into God himself, and invited other nationalities to sign on for this new monotheistic craze which promised so much.
But is it true? Those who ask this question today and are prepared to follow the evidence will find more reason to reject than accept Christian claims. Still, not every form of Christianity can be proven wrong on its own terms. Calvinists, for example, claim no one is mentally capable of seeing the truth except a chosen few. Convenient. Most Christians probably believe the evidence is out there for everyone, just as God's invitation is out there for everyone. Why don't they doubt if the evidence is shoddy? Unfortunately, a lot of them seem to believe the case for Christianity is solid just because someone wrote a book with that title. And many of them simply aren't interested in the question; Christianity is their unquestioned way of life.
I hope this series has been helpful. It was actually quite easy to write, since these are things I've spent many hours agonizing about in the past. Feel free to challenge me on whatever you like. Or, if you must, feel free to express agreement. I can deal with that too!