The Death and Resurrection of Christ (Essential Doctrines)

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The Death and Resurrection of Christ (Essential Doctrines) Empty The Death and Resurrection of Christ (Essential Doctrines)

Post  Barnabas on Sun Jul 18, 2010 1:00 pm

Christ's Resurrection - the foundation of our faith

What is the most essential point of Christian teaching? What is the most important message of Christian faith? What is the foundation of Christianity?

The foundation of Christian faith lies in the historicity of the two most important events in the history of mankind: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Christian faith is based upon the historical claim that Jesus bodily resurrected from death after being dead for three days. According to Christian historical testimony, Jesus was killed by crucifixion, but three days after his death, he resurrected from death. According to this historic testimony, he showed himself first to his closest disciples as a man who conquered physical death through his bodily resurrection. During the forty days after his resurrection, he showed himself not only to his closest disciples, but also to other people. The Apostle Paul reports that more than 500 people saw and met the resurrected Christ (1 Cor 15:6). The same apostle said: "And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins (1 Cor. 15:17). "

Thus, the answer to the question of the foundation of Christianity is the historical authenticity of Christ's bodily resurrection. The historical claim of Christ's resurrection is not only the fundamental point of Christian confession, but it is also the foundation of Christian apologetics (apologetics, a scientific and philosophical discipline dealing with the intellectual defense of Christian faith). The reason that the resurrection ought to be the foundation of apologetics is that it is not sufficient to provide good reasons for a mere belief in God's existence, e.g. by invoking the cosmological argument for God's existence. Moslems can also provide such arguments, e.g. the kalam cosmological argument of al-Ghazali, because these kinds of arguments do not necessarily prove the existence of the Christian God. However, if we have good reasons for believing in Christ's resurrection, then, having accepted the historicity of Christ's resurrection, it takes but a small step to show that the God of the Bible exists. Therefore, if someone asks us why we are Christians, i.e. if someone asks us for the reasons for accepting Christian faith, our primary answer ought to be an appeal to the historical fact of Christ's resurrection. Our arguing for the Christian faith should focus exclusively upon Christ's resurrection. However, would not this kind of arguing be question-begging, an arguing in circles of sorts: (1) we are Christians because we believe in Christ's resurrection; (2) we believe in Christ's resurrection because we are Christians.

The problem is that the very claim of Christ's resurrection is quite dubious to people who are not Christians. Non-Christians expect us to provide reasons for the truthfulness of our historical proposition about Christ's resurrection. If we can show that Jesus did indeed resurrect, then we ought to accept other statements about Jesus, namely that he is the unique Son of God and the Saviour of our world, who was heralded by ancient prophets. Christ's birth, his mission as a healer and a miracle performer, his death, as well as his resurrection were proclaimed in ancient prophetic scriptures whose origin has been confirmed as dating back to times before Christ. The prophetic writings in question are the writings of the ancient Jewish prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and many others. It is estimated that there are more than 300 prophecies about Christ written in their scriptures. All these prophecies are known as "messianic prophecies" because they are about the promised Messiah, who is a very special servant of God with the mission to save mankind. The word "messiah" comes from Hebrew and literally means anointed (one), referring to Israelite priests, prophets and kings who were anointed by oil in consecration to their respective offices. "Christos" is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "messiah." As Christians, we believe that all messianic prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus' life, from his birth to his death and resurrection. For this reason we recognize and address Jesus as Christ. If Jesus had not resurrected, then he would not have been the Christ. In the same vein, if Jesus had not resurrected from death, then the Christian faith would be a false faith. However, as Christians, we are very certain that Christ did indeed resurrect from death. Our certainty is not a fanatical conviction, but rather grounded upon good historical reasons which every reasonable person should accept.

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