Apologetics is the branch of Christian studies that deals with why we believe what we do. I dislike the word because it comes from the same root as ‘apologise’, which means essentially to defend something we feel guilty or embarrassed about. “Hey, I know this might sound foolish, but let me tell you why I believe in God… or the creation… or the Gospel”.
Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel (Romans 1:16) and he was incredibly bold in proclaiming Christ’s resurrection from the dead. In fact, he flung it out as a gauntlet to all who did not believe. “Do you want to disprove Christianity? Do you want to bring the Faith down upon its knees? Then just disprove the resurrection!” In 1 Corinthians 15:14-17 he writes, ‘…If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead …And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.’ Outrageously provocative challenges – obviously he felt he was standing on safe ground. He was… and so should we. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is one of the most well attested facts in world history!
Josh McDowell sets out the historic evidence for the resurrection in his ‘The New Evidence that demands a verdict’ so I will note only that a Roman guard attested to it, the Pharisees could not produce a body, the Apostles witnessed to it with their very lives, and nearly two thousand years of cynical investigation has not been able to overturn the evidence.
Have you asked yourself why the resurrection is so important that Jesus cited it as the only evidence of His divinity (Matthew 12:38-40) and Paul positioned it as the foundation on which Christianity stands? You must have noticed that in First Corinthians Paul does not cite the crucifixion, or Jesus’ teachings, or our faith, as the ‘proof’ of Christianity – he cites the empty tomb as the proof. Why is this? I believe it is because the resurrection goes to the very ‘ground zero’ of the Christian Faith; a relationship with the living God.
The cross put an end to the Old Covenant of law, ritual, and earned righteousness, but the empty tomb opened up a new era of relationship with God. In rising from the dead Jesus conquered death so that all who believe in Him may live eternally. He also proved that He was a living, not a dead God! We cannot relate to a book (even the Bible), and we cannot have a relationship with a dead hero; but we can have a living relationship with the living God. Do Buddhists claim a relationship with Buddha? No, they know he died, his body cremated, and his ashes shared among the rulers of India. Do the members of the Islamic religion claim a relationship with Mohammed? Of course not, for he was but a prophet who lived and died and whose remains are said to be interred in the mosque of Medina. They don’t even claim a relationship with Allah, for he is seen to be unapproachable by humankind. Only Christians claim a relationship with God… because of the resurrection.
To enter into this relationship we need a resurrection of our own – the resurrection of our dead spirits. Jesus said quite plainly that to enter His kingdom, His realm of eternal existence, we must be born again (John 3:7). When He gives us the gracious gift of spiritual life, we are able to relate to Him, both now and forever.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a hugely important doctrine, a vital precursor to our eternal life, and a well attested fact. There is no need to be apologetic in proclaiming The Faith. The burden of disproof lies on the shoulders of the atheists, agnostics, and sceptics.