Does God Exist: Part 3 (The Minimal Facts Approach)

Updated: Mar 3


The Minimal Facts Approach is an argument for Jesus’ resurrection—which uses widely accepted historical data by New Testament historians. Why is this argument needed? It is needed because while a variety of philosophical arguments show that there is a God, they can not specify who this God is. So, by showing that Jesus most likely rose from the dead, one can conclude that this God is, most likely, the God of Christianity. It also shows that if this God is the God of Christianity, then He is involved within this world and therefore one has a choice of whether to be with Him or against Him. This is more serious than what one may be thinking; for, the Christian faith says that humans are sinners and therefore need a savior because the penalty for sin is death.[1] That savior is, according to the Bible—Jesus.[2]


The Historical Facts

There are three widely accepted historical facts that point to Jesus’ resurrection.


Fact 1: Jesus Died by Crucifixion. This fact is very important because, without it, Jesus could have faked His death and therefore Christianity would be seen as a sham. It is not only attested to that Jesus died by crucifixion,[3] but also that he was then buried in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea.[4] So, Jesus died, and his place of burial was known.


A possible defeater to the death of Jesus is the Swoon Theory which basically says that Jesus did not really die, that He merely faked His death.[5] There are many defeaters to this theory, so, in order to keep this simple, there is no possible way that Jesus survived a crucifixion. The Romans made sure that those crucified were dead before they took them down and a half-dead messiah would not be able to convince the disciples and others to be willing to die—proclaiming a risen Jesus.[6]


Fact 2: Jesus’ Tomb Was Found Empty. According to multiple accounts, Jesus’ tomb was found empty on the Sunday after his crucifixion.[7] Not only was it found empty, but it was recorded that two females found the tomb empty.[8] The reason why this is significant is because, at that time in Jewish/Roman culture, the testimony of women was essentially seen equal to that of a thief. So, if this account was made up, it would have made a lot more sense to say that two men had found Jesus’ tomb empty not two women. Also, the Jewish authorities claimed that the disciples stole the body; meaning that Jesus’ body was not in His tomb or else the authorities would have produced the body.[9]


The Fraud or Conspiracy Theory is a possible defeater that basically says that the disciples stole Jesus’ body. Aaron Brake points out the many flaws in this theory. He explains that, again, it does not make sense that the disciples would claim that two females found Jesus’ tomb empty.[10] Also, Matthew 28:11-15 says that the Jewish Authorities paid off the Roman guards and told them to say that the disciples stole the body. It would not be a good move for the disciples to talk about this credible defeater that could destroy Christianity altogether.[11] This assumes they believe Christ's resurrection to be true. Lastly, this theory does not account for all the claimed appearances of Jesus and the dramatic life change of the disciples.[12]


Fact 3: There Were Claims that Jesus Was Alive After His Death. This is perhaps the most amazing of the minimal facts because not only is it accepted by about every New Testament scholar, critic or not, but it is also well defended--considering what this historical fact claims.[13] Basically what this fact says is that multiple independent sources claimed that Jesus appeared to certain individuals on multiple occasions including Paul and the disciples. [14] Not only were there claims of Jesus’ appearances, but also the disciples lives dramatically changed to the point that they were willing to die—proclaiming that Jesus rose from the dead. Also, Paul, a formal persecutor of Christians, changed and became a Christian, ultimately dying for his faith.


Now, before moving on, it is worthy to mention the Hallucination Theory. It basically says that all these claimed appearances were really just people having hallucinations, in which, in some cases, a lot of people all had the same hallucination at the same time.[15] The reason why this is absurd is that all these appearances, within the gospels, were claimed to be physical in nature.[16] Also, it is not possible that a group of people can experience the same hallucination at different times.


Now, moving on, it is noteworthy to add how fast Christianity took off and how it started in a Jewish culture. In a culture where Jews feared God to an, from a worldly perspective, insane degree, why did so many become Christians if they did not truly believe it to be true? Also, Christianity did not start to spread generations after Jesus’ death (which would allow legend to develop) but, to the contrary, within one generation, Christianity had already spread within Israel, to Europe, Africa, and Asia.[17]


Conclusion

When the historical data is put into context of the previous two essays in the Network’s Foundation and the many to come, it is very plausible that this God, who had the power to bring this universe into existence, brought Jesus back to life. The philosophical evidence for a God cannot be denied and neither can the historical evidence for a resurrected Jesus.

All of these founding essays are the foundation of The Muse Network in which, through these founding essays, a basic worldview is formed—the Christian worldview. Now, there are many more founding essays (which will be in the Philosophy section) that will make this basic worldview into a well-fortified one, but the Network’s Foundation Series is evidence enough that there is a God and not just any god, but the God of Christianity.

Bibliography

Brake, Aaron. "The Minimal Facts Of The Resurrection." CrossExamined.org, March 5, 2018.

https://crossexamined.org/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/.

Craig, William Lane. “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?.” Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.

Craig, William Lane. On Guard. David C Cook, 2010.

[1] Romans 6:23 (NIV) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.


[2] John 3:16 (NIV) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.


[3] Aaron Brake, "The Minimal Facts Of The Resurrection," CrossExamined.org, March 5, 2018, https://crossexamined.org/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/.


[4] William Lane Craig, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?,” (Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p. 1728.


[5] Aaron Brake, "The Minimal Facts Of The Resurrection," CrossExamined.org, March 5, 2018, https://crossexamined.org/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/.


[6] Ibid.


[7] William Lane Craig, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?,” (Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p. 1728.


[8] Ibid.


[9] Aaron Brake, "The Minimal Facts Of The Resurrection," CrossExamined.org, March 5, 2018, https://crossexamined.org/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/.


[10] Ibid.


[11] Ibid.


[12] Ibid.


[13] Ibid.


[14] Ibid.


[15] Ibid.


[16] William Lane Craig, On Guard, (David C Cook, 2010), p. 237.


[17] Aaron Brake, "The Minimal Facts Of The Resurrection," CrossExamined.org, March 5, 2018, https://crossexamined.org/the-minimal-facts-of-the-resurrection/.

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