By Editorial Staff
Published April 24, 2008
Jesus and the Intellectual
By Dr. Bill Bright
As an ambitious young businessman in Hollywood, I met a group of people who spoke of Jesus Christ as their dearest Friend, Savior, and Lord. They told me that He had been raised from the dead and was alive and that I could know Him personally. I had never heard anyone talk this way before. As a matter of intellectual integrity, however, I was forced to investigate the claims of Christ and Christianity.
I soon concluded that, historically, there was indeed one by the name of Jesus of Nazareth who had lived on this earth almost 2,000 years ago. I became convinced that He had lived an exemplary life, the most holy life of anyone who had ever lived. I was convinced that His teachings and His influence were superior to those of any other person in all of recorded history.
But there were two problems that plagued me and prevented me from accepting Him as the Son of God. If I could find satisfactory answers to these questions, I would have no problem about not only receiving Jesus as my Savior, but also following Him as my Lord.
The first problems concerned the prophetic statements made by various Old Testament writers hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus. They told of His coming, His place of birth, His life, death and resurrection. Since I did not believe in the supernatural, I couldn’t accept the fact that God had inspired holy men hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth to prophesy concerning these details. I was skeptical. Surely, these were interpolations made in the Scriptures after the fact of Jesus’ life here on this earth, I decided. I discovered after careful study that this was a theory no reputable scholar holds.
The more I studied and the more carefully I analyzed the prophecies and their fulfillment in the life of Jesus, the more obvious it became that there was only one conclusion I could reach. Jesus was indeed the One about whom the prophets spoke and wrote. He was the promised Messiah.
My other problem concerned the resurrection. How could a human being who had died be raised from the dead? No reliable, modern evidence has ever indicated that anyone has been raised from the dead. Apparently the people of Jesus’ time were superstitious, gullible and naive. I believed that they were victims of fraudulent claims.
So I pursued my study. How could I believe the claims concerning Jesus of Nazareth without committing intellectual suicide. I was willing to believe, but not at the risk of losing my intellectual integrity.
One of my first discoveries was that no other religion claims that its founder has been raised from the dead. Christianity is unique in this regard. If Jesus of Nazareth actually rose from the dead in His own body on the third day as He predicted He would do, could I really be sure of this? If so, I would have no trouble believing all the other claims of the Christian faith.
Any argument for the validity of Christianity stands or falls on the proof of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It is for this reason that His resurrection has been ridiculed and contested through the centuries by all kinds of skeptics. It is for the same reason that men of faith from all walks of life and disciplines of learning have dedicated their entire lives to proving that Jesus truly was raised from the dead.
Six Irrefutable Evidences
I would like to share with you several irrefutable evidences that have brought me to the firm conviction that Jesus was raised from the dead, thereby proving Himself to be the Son of God.
First, the resurrection was foretold by Jesus Christ. Matthew writes, “From that time Jesus Christ began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21, NKJ). Although His followers did not understand what He was telling them at the time, they remembered His words and recorded them. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each describe the predictions in their accounts of Christ’s life.
Second, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for His empty tomb. If, as some have claimed, Jesus had not been killed, but only weakened and wounded by crucifixion, the stone and the soldiers would have prevented His escape from the tomb. If Jesus’ friends had tried to steal His body, the stone and the soldiers would likewise have prevented them. Jesus’ enemies would never have taken the body since its absence from the tomb would only serve to encourage belief in His resurrection.
Third, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the appearances of Jesus Christ to His disciples. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared on at least ten occasions to those who had known Him. The Lord proved that these appearances were not hallucinations by eating in the presence of the disciples and allowing them to touch Him.
Fourth, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the beginning of the Christian church. More than half of the first sermon ever preached dealt with the resurrection (Acts 2:14-36). Obviously, the early church knew that this was the foundation of their message …
Fifth, the resurrection is the only reasonable explanation for the transformed lives of the disciples. They all deserted Jesus during His trial and crucifixion. After the crucifixion they continued to be discouraged and fearful. They did not expect Jesus to rise from the dead (Luke 24:11, 41).
It was these same men and women who, convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, went out to turn the world upside down. Many died as martyrs after Pentecost for their faith and others were terribly persecuted. Their behavior does not make sense unless they knew without question the resurrection to be fact.
The witness of the apostle Paul and the transformation of his life can only be reasonably explained because of the resurrection. The apostle Paul, under his earlier name, Saul, devoted his energies and time to the self-appointed task of seizing and killing those who proclaimed Jesus Christ as the promised Messiah. But his life was irrevocably changed when he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus. From that time on he was a new person, courageously preaching the resurrected Christ and willing even to die as a martyr for his faith in the One whom he had once sought to destroy.
Finally, only the resurrection can explain the transformed lives of millions through the centuries who have received the living Christ into their lives. Second Corinthians 5:17 has become a reality for me and others: “Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (NAS).
These evidences satisfied my questions on the validity of the resurrection and as a result, I invited the living Christ to come into my life almost 50 years ago.
From Jesus and the Intellectual, by Bill Bright, NewLife Publications, ©1959, 1992. Used with permission. Dr. Bill Bright is founder and president of Campus Crusade for Christ International. He has a degree in economics, has done graduate studies at Princeton and Fuller Theological seminaries, and holds five honorary doctorate degrees. More than 1.5 billion copies of his booklet, The Four Spiritual Laws, are in print.
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Ever since the dawn of modern rationalism, skeptics have sought to use textual criticism, archeology and historical reconstructions to uncover the “historical Jesus” — a wise teacher who said many wonderful things, but fulfilled no prophecies, performed no miracles and certainly did not rise from the dead in triumph over sin.
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“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
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