Is Resurrection Impossible?



During my undergraduate years, the toughest challenge to my faith came from an atheist, Chatterjee. He rejected even the possibility that Jesus had been resurrected. “I do not know who moved the stone that had sealed Jesus’ tomb,” he argued, or “why his tomb was empty, or what happened to his corpse. What I know is that Jesus did not rise from the dead, because resurrection is impossible. Once you are dead, you are dead. Death is the end of our existence. There is no soul that continues beyond death.” I thought over my friend’s challenge seriously. Jesus may or may not have risen from the dead, but could he logically assert that resurrection is impossible? What is ultimate reality: death or life?
It is possible to believe that death is the original and the ultimate reality. In the beginning, there was no life, no God, no angels, no spirits, no cells, and no amoebae. Life emerged in a cosmic accident and has been evolving ever since. One day, perhaps a few billion years from now, another accident will cause life to completely disappear from the cosmos. That makes death the ultimate reality. But, if that is true, then I have already conceded that all life came out of death! How, then, is resurrection impossible? On the other hand, if the ultimate reality is life — a “living” God who lives outside the space-time continuum, who seeded life into our cosmos — then resurrection must be possible and should be expected.
Like most Oxford students in his day, C. S. Lewis assumed that biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth, resurrection, and ascension into heaven were religious myths — no different than the myths of other religions. His friend, J. R. R. Tolkien challenged him to actually read the narrative to see if it sounds mythical. As Lewis read, he realized that the Gospels were not stories but straightforward eyewitness statements – either true or false. The followers of Jesus Christ, who saw him dead and buried, later witnessed that his tomb was empty. They saw him, talked with him, touched him, and ate with him, not in a state of trance or meditation, but in full possession of their skeptical senses.
At least one of the disciples, Thomas, did not believe the multiple reports of the resurrection. But then, the man who had died, stood in front of Thomas, publicly inviting him to verify that he was the same person whose hands were pierced with the nails that hung him upon the cross. Thomas chose to accept the fact standing in front of him and modify his worldview. The historical fact of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection had profound philosophical implications: death was not the end of human existence; we continue to exist beyond our death and remain accountable to God. Just as the consequence of human sin was Jesus’ death, the consequence of His obedience of faith was resurrection life.
This Op Ed piece is taken from the Vishal Mangalwadi’s new book The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization
(Thomas Nelson Publishers)
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