Easter, the Skeptic, and Me

Easter, the Skeptic, and Me

Photo by Evan Dennis on Unsplash

By Charles Kelley

PHILOMATH, Oregon – I’m a skeptic. And so are you. I don’t believe everything I see. I’ve been to magic shows and watched magicians saw their assistants in half and pull rabbits out of hats. I’ve seen a green-clad boy and friends flying over London in Peter Pan. I wasn’t fooled. 

I’m a skeptic. I don’t believe everything I hear. In 1985, I visited Soviet Latvia as part of an official Intourist KGB tour group. When we came to the historic Lutheran cathedral called the Dome Church, I heard our trained tour guide called it the Dome Museum. Someone inquired, “Why is this church called a museum?” She replied, “The people asked the government to take away the churches — they couldn’t afford to maintain the buildings, so they asked the government to help preserve the buildings.” We all laughed. I didn’t believe her. And you wouldn’t have either.

A few days later, I went into an almost bare grocery store. I perused bread items, several cans of food, and about a dozen hanging chickens. Yet the lines to get in were long. When I asked the same tour guide why this was the case, she replied, “The people in the Soviet Union are so wealthy, they keep buying everything on the shelves, but you in the United States are so poor that your shelves are always well-stocked with food.” More laughter. I didn’t believe her. And you wouldn’t have either.

You see, I’m a skeptic. FurthermoreI don’t believe everything I have been taught. As a child, I was taught that there was a Santa Claus. It was quite a blow for me when I realized that my letters from Santa were written by my mom. In high school, my biology and chemistry teachers taught that life as we know it is a product of time + chance + the impersonal. Somehow, spontaneously, from nowhere, appeared some sort of microscopic life form, and from that has evolved all life forms. It seemed to me then, and it seems to me now, it actually takes more faith to believe that time + chance + the impersonal resulted in an orderly universe – replete with a host of life forms and human personality – than it does to believe that our universe is the intentional product of a personal God. I’m a skeptic and so are you.

But we must also understand that there are times when not all that is true is easily seen.

The Bible refers to two kinds of skeptics – the closed-minded and the open-minded. The first group of skeptics was the Scribes and the Pharisees. No matter what Jesus said or did, they weren’t about to choose to believe on Him. They claimed to have tough questions that needed to be answered before they could believe. They said Jesus needed to prove himself with endless signs. But, in reality, no amount of answers or evidence would have convinced them that Jesus was Messiah. Why? Their minds were closed. They didn’t want anyone to challenge their authority, comfort or lifestyle. They were skeptics – but for the wrong reasons.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.

One of the twelve disciples was given the moniker “Doubting Thomas.” I think Thomas has received entirely too much bad press. He’s been blasted for not exercising simple faith. But put yourself in his shoes. Imagine witnessing your leader and friend tortured, mocked, mutilated, and crucified before your very eyes. You watch him die. Then you follow the procession to the tomb where he is laid. What would it take for you to believe that your leader and friend was alive from the dead? Would you not be skeptical if your friends told you that he was alive?

Thomas was skeptical, but he was open-minded. He didn’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus. He said that he would not believe that Jesus rose from the dead unless he actually felt his scars and put his hand in his healed wounded side. So why do I call him open-minded? Simply because when Thomas was presented with evidence, he abandoned his skepticism and chose to believe. After he saw Jesus face-to-face, he bowed, saying, “My Lord and my God!” I don’t believe the resurrection story simply because I was told He’s alive or because I want to please my family or sub-culture. I believe Jesus is alive because of sound reasons.

The abundance of eyewitnesses. More than 500 people claimed to see the risen Lord. The testimony of witnesses in a court of law is very important. When I served as a jury foreman on a rather important civil trial, we listened to many hours of testimonies from witnesses and experts. Each witness was important. Can you imagine listening to the testimonies of 500 eyewitnesses each swearing that they saw the same thing? What kind of jury would ignore that kind of evidence?

The absence of the dead body. There are only three possible groups of people that could have taken the body of Jesus: The Roman guards, the religious leaders, and the disciples. We know that the Romans didn’t take the body; they wanted to maintain peace in Palestine. We know that the religious leaders didn’t take Jesus’ body. The last thing they wanted was to give the followers of Jesus the opportunity to proclaim the resurrection, just as he predicted. There was no way the disciples took it. They had abandoned Jesus during his trial and execution. Why would they risk their lives for the sake of a false story? Further, how were they to get past a group of aggressive Roman soldiers?

The silence of the enemies. If Jesus is dead, where is the body? It would have been easy to discredit Christianity if the body would have been produced. But of all the things the religious leaders said when the Early Church began, not once did they challenge the resurrection. They knew the facts. He was alive.

Transformed lives. The same handful of followers of Jesus, though terrified when he was arrested, and absent when he was crucified; were instantly transformed into people with extraordinary courage and passion, all within a few days. How? Why? When confronted with evidence they believed. When they believed they lived accordingly.

Are you a skeptic? If so, what kind are you? Are you a skeptic for good and sound reasons? If presented with substantial evidence that Jesus, the Son of God, really has risen from the dead, will you place your faith in Him and serve Him as your Lord?

What will it take for you to believe that Jesus really is who He claimed to be?  

JND Anderson, former professor of Oriental Laws and Director of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London wrote this: 

“Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Easter’s message is either the supreme fact in history or it is a gigantic hoax. In the days of the early church, this antithesis seems to have been realized. On the one hand, there was a little company of men and women who turned the world upside down by their passionate proclamation of the miracle that had transformed their lives; on the other hand, there were those who vehemently denounced the whole story as arrant blasphemy.

Today the issue is not this clear-cut. Ours is a tolerant age suspicious of all fanaticism. Most people have no desire to attack the Easter message; yet they only half believe it. To them it is a beautiful story, full of spiritual meaning, but, they conclude, “why worry about its literal importance?”

This attitude misses the point. Either the resurrection is infinitely more than a beautiful story or else it is infinitely less. If it is true, then it is the supreme fact of history, and to fail to adjust one’s life to its implications means irreparable loss. If it is not true, if Christ has not risen, then Christianity is all a fraud foisted on the world by consummate liars or, at best, deluded simpletons.

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