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Jesus for Thinking People, Part 3

• Greg Boyd

In the last two weeks Greg spent time showing the flaws in the “conspiracy theory” and the “legendary theory.” This week he addressed another theory that secular scholars offer to answer the question: “What happened to produce the Gospel accounts?” The resurrection could have been a hallucination. Greg had five responses to counter this theory.

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Greg began this week’s message by directing us to I Cor. 15:1-8. This passage is especially important because it demonstrates that the message Paul preached predated his own writing. In fact, it predated it for enough time to develop into a creedal formula that Paul is passing on to his audience. Take a moment to read this passage. Notice (verse 1) that Paul is reminding his audience, not telling them for the first time. And also notice (verse 3) that what Paul is reminding them of (the Gospel) Paul himself received and passed on. Scholars estimate that Paul wrote this letter in 54AD, which means that the tradition that Paul is passing on must predate 54AD by an amount of time sufficient for a creed to be established. This information places the belief in Jesus as God—crucified and resurrected—very early in Christian history. Since the record shows this belief held so early on, it limits the kinds of theories that can adequately explain the message of the Gospel and why people were willing to die for it.

In the last two weeks Greg spent time showing the flaws in the “conspiracy theory” and the “legendary theory.” This week he addresses another theory that secular scholars offer to answer the question: “What happened to produce the Gospel accounts?” The resurrection could have been a hallucination. As we know, people sometimes “see things” and are deceived into thinking that what they “saw” was real even though it was not. This has even happened to groups of people who all see the same thing, though this is far rarer than the individual occurrences. Groups of people have claimed to see the Virgin Mary and other religious figures, so why not suppose that this was the case with the risen Christ? Greg had five responses to counter this theory:

  1. Too many people involved (well over 500 people total would have to have been affected).
  2. Too long a time period (40 days would be an awfully long hallucination!).
  3. No one was looking for a resurrected Messiah! Hallucinations often resemble an expectation on the part of the people.
    If you are looking for Mary, your more likely to “see” her, likewise with Bigfoot, etc.
  4. The biblical description was of a resurrection, not a vision. This cultural context would have used words for “visions” to describe a hallucination or “vision-like” event like the transfiguration “vision-like” events. But the Jewish idea of a resurrection involves the physical body, not a vision of a body.
  5. A “hallucination theory” doesn’t explain the empty tomb. Any good theory must account for the fact that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb on the third day.

All of these arguments the past few weeks come down to this. If Christ has not been raised, then our faith is in vain. And not only that, but we misrepresent God. (I Cor. 15:14-15) This is why it is worth the effort to understand the historical facts—so that we can understand as best as possible how credible the earliest witnesses were and what the core communication was about our Lord. Now that it is established as reasonable to believe these eyewitnesses and those who recorded their testimonies, Greg shifted to a concluding point that aims more at our current sense of reality, not just our awareness of ancient realities.

He closed with a chain of questions: Why do we find life so unsatisfactory? Why does death seem so unnatural to us? Why is life so empty? Why do we desire our lives to be significant? Why do we believe that good should overcome evil? The resurrection of Christ embodies answers to these basic human intuitions. The longings will be fulfilling in a new and eternal life, this life is not all there is, there are eternal consequences for the decisions we make, God will be all in all so ultimately good will overcome evil…all of this hangs on the truth that Christ was raised from the dead!

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Topics: Defense of Christian Faith, Resurrection

Sermon Series: Jesus for Thinking People


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Focus Scripture:

  • I Corinthians 15: 1-8

    Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

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