A few blogs ago I promised to tell the sceptical professor why I was sure their is a God, an afterlife and so on. I was going to do it under 3 headings 1) personal experiences 2) God’s revelation of himself in history/time and 3) God’s revelation of himself in ‘nature.’ I haven’t forgotten the 3rd heading but before I deal with it in a future blog there’s something under the 2nd heading which I must say something about because it’s so central to why I believe, namely, the resurrection.

Willow leaf with rainwater (1)
(Photo: Scott Murray)

The game changer
The resurrection is a key event in the history of the human race. If it happened, it changes everything; if it didn’t happen the Christian faith is worthless. Paul acknowledges this strongly in 1 Cor.15: ‘… if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.’ And again ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.’ In other words if this event we call the resurrection didn’t happen, there is no hope for the human race. If it did, it’s a game changer.

Habermas & the resurrection
‘Facts are cheils that winna ding / an’ douna be disputed’ as Burns put it’ – (Facts are lads that will not be got the better of and cannot be disputed.) Millions of people believe the resurrection was and is a fact; millions more have no belief in it. Gary Habermas is one of the world’s foremost scholars on the resurrection. He believes it was a historical fact that the resurrection happened and he carefully shows why he believes in various scholarly books, e.g. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Habermas & Licona, 2004) For me the case he makes, using the professional historian’s methodology, is convincing.

Moon with birch tree near Braco
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Antony Flew’s change of mind
I was a little surprised then to discover that he was a friend over many years of the late Antony Flew. I had known they had discussed religion in public debates but had no idea they were long-term friends. Flew was a well-known atheistic scholar of the 20th century and wrote numerous books setting out the case for the non-existence of God. It came as shock to his fellow atheists when he announced in 2004 at the age of 81 that he had come to believe in God. Not, it must be said, the God of the Bible but the God of Aristotle, God as First Cause. He was in other words a deist.

Miracles – a step too far
In interviews with Habermas he makes clear that he doesn’t believe in revealed religion. He believes there must be a naturalistic reason for what is called the ‘resurrection.’ Miracles for him are a step too far. He doesn’t believe in a God who reveals himself to mankind. But what then made Flew change his mind, his very sharp philosophically trained mind, as regards God as First Cause? Apparently, the reasons were new evidence on the scientific front, especially in astronomy and biology and also the philosopher Richard Swinburne’s arguments for the existence of the Christian God in the book Is there a God?

Birch buds in springtime
(Photo: Scott Murray)

Flew’s tutor
I must say I have some sympathy with Antony Flew. After all, his tutor at Oxford was Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976) who appears to have ardently sought out naturalistic explanations for the existence of mind. Ordinary language philosophers such as Ryle would have no time for miracles. I remember being given his book The Concept of Mind to read when I did my philosophy year in Edinburgh and it struck me at the time as narrowly behaviourist. So, despite Habermas laying out for Flew the substantial historical evidence for the resurrection, he couldn’t believe in it.

Why I believe in the resurrection

The reason I have sympathy with him is because I also for years rejected the possibility that reality could have a supernatural (or trans-physical) origin. It is only because numerous trans-physical events have happened in my own life that I find it easy to believe in the resurrection. If only one acausal event has happened in what Dooyeweerd calls our ‘temporal reality’ then our reality is not a closed system of cause and effect. I have the strongest possible personal evidence that this reality is not a ‘closed system.’ For me Dooyeweerd’s philosophy that posits a Creator, an infinite personal trans-physical centre, makes much more sense of all my experiences. The resurrection and the living Christ as Alpha and Omega is the key part of the jig-saw.