Why do I believe in Jesus?
I believe, because:
1. God exists; therefore, a resurrection is possible.
2. The figure of Jesus as presented in the NT is authentic – it must be. His character is so magnificent that no one could have invented him if he had not existed – and he predicted he would be killed and that he would rise on the third day; therefore, a resurrection is highly likely.
3. The tomb was empty, the apostles honestly believed they had seen the resurrected Christ, and thousands immediately became believers – these are facts which the great weight of scholarly opinion acknowledges. Resurrection is the best way to account for these facts.
Oh, it’s all too convenient. We are expected to believe that a man once dead is now alive?
Well, given that God exists, it does become possible.
Well, then, if he rose from the dead, then where is he? Oh, the reason we still can’t see him is that he ascended to heaven! Now that’s really convenient! Why should we believe that?
Here is why. Given that the figure of Christ as portrayed in the NT is authentic, a resurrection becomes highly likely. And if he was raised, then the account of the ascension becomes highly likely as well, “convenient” or not.
As to the authenticity of the figure of Christ as presented in the NT, no one has said it better than Simon Greenleaf:
§ 48. Lastly, the great character they have portrayed is perfect. It is the character of a sinless Being; of one supremely wise and supremely good. It exhibits no error, no sinister intention, no imprudence, no ignorance, no evil passion, no impatience; in a word, no fault; but all is perfect uprightness, innocence, wisdom, goodness and truth. The mind of man has never conceived the idea of such a character, even for his gods; nor has history nor poetry shadowed it forth. The doctrines and precepts of Jesus are in strict accordance with the attributes of God, agreeably to the most exalted idea which we can form of them, either from reason or from revelation. They are strikingly adapted to the capacity of mankind, and yet are delivered with a simplicity and majesty wholly divine. He spake as never man spake. He spake with authority; yet addressed himself to the reason and the understanding of men; and he spake with wisdom, which men could neither gainsay nor resist. In his private life, he exhibits a character not merely of strict justice, but of overflowing benignity. He is temperate, without austerity; his meekness and humility are signal; his patience is invincible; truth and sincerity illustrate his whole conduct; every one of his virtues is regulated by consummate prudence; and he both wins the love of his friends, and extorts the wonder and admiration of his enemies. He is represented in every variety of situation in life, from the height of worldly grandeur, amid the acclamations of an admiring multitude, to the deepest abyss of human degradation and woe, apparently deserted of God and man. Yet everywhere he is the same; displaying a character of unearthly perfection, symmetrical in all its proportions, and encircled with splendour more than human. Either the men of Galilee were men of superlative wisdom, of extensive knowledge and experience, and of deeper skill in the arts of deception, than any and all others, before or after them, or they have truly stated the astonishing things which they saw and heard.[i]
[i]Simon Greenleaf (1783 – 1853), The Testimony of the Evangelists Examined by the Rules of Evidence Administered in Courts of Law. (Public domain. Greenleaf was the 19th Century’s foremost authority on the law of evidence and one of the founders of Harvard Law School. He set himself to refute Christianity and was converted in the process.)
Jesus’ behavior has always astonished me but I only had vague notions as to why. You and Simon Greenleaf have so eloquently articulated what I was feeling and not knowing. Thank you!