Never before has the Christian layperson had such a wealth of information at his fingertips. Want to know what scientists say about the age of the Earth? Google it. Want to read about geological evidence for the Great Flood? Google it. Want to know if there is archaeological evidence for several million ancient Hebrews suddenly exiting Egypt? Google it. Have the ruins of Solomon’s Temple ever been found? Google it. How do we know that “Matthew”, “Mark”, “Luke”, and “John” really wrote the Gospels? Google it. Is there really evidence that proves that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead? Google it. And on and on.
Think about the Christian layperson fifteen hundred years ago. How could he verify that what his parish priest was telling him was true about God and the world? Did he have access to the local university library? No. The man in the pew had no choice but to believe exactly what his priest told him to believe.
And what about just 50 years ago? If a Christian layperson wanted answers to the above questions, the local public library was not going to have all the answers. It would have taken you years of research, visiting libraries in multiple cities and even multiple countries, and even then you would still not have the wealth of information that we have today.
I predict that the evidence will soon become so overwhelming for any educated person to believe in the historicity of the majority of the stories in the Bible, including the pinnacle event, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The only hope for the survival of conservative/orthodox Christianity is to completely abandon any attempt to provide evidence for anything that the Bible says.
Skeptic: We have undeniable evidence that the world is billions of years old.
Conservative Christian: God created the world in an advanced stage. It was a miracle.
Skeptic: We have undeniable geological evidence that the Great Flood of the earth did not occur.
Conservative Christian: God wants people to believe in him by faith, not evidence. God removed the Flood evidence from the sedimentary levels of the earth. It was a miracle.
Skeptic: There is zero archaeological evidence of the exodus of a large number of ancient Hebrews from Egypt, nor of their wandering in the Sinai for 40 years.
Conservative Christian: God went behind the Israelites in a great cloud, removing any trace of their exodus and wanderings. God wants people to believe by faith, not by evidence. It was a miracle.
Skeptic: No evidence has been found of the great kingdoms of David and Solomon nor of Solomon’s Temple.
Conservative Christian: God himself removed all evidence of these great kings, their kingdoms, and their magnificent temple, as punishment for the stiff-necked Jews, and, so that people today will believe by faith, not by evidence. It was a miracle.
Skeptic: We have no eyewitness testimony of the resurrection of Jesus. The Gospels were written years later by anonymous writers in foreign countries. The Apostle Paul says in Acts 26 that all he saw on the Damascus Road was a bright light and heard a voice in a “vision”.
Conservative Christian: This is all God’s divine will. If Jesus had presented himself to Pilate and the Sanhedrin in his resurrected body, then everyone in the world would have believed immediately. God didn’t want that. He wanted to send missionaries out into the world over a period of hundreds and thousands of years to spread his Good News. He didn’t want everyone to believe all at once due to “evidence”. God wants people to believe by faith; by another human being telling them this supernatural story, not by doing the work himself.
Skeptic: Why is there no mention in any non-Christian writings of the first century about the Resurrection? How did Jesus leave the upper room and lead his disciples out of the city to Bethany to the mount of the Ascension without all of Jerusalem seeing them, causing a great uproar over a walking, talking dead man whom all of Jerusalem had seen crucified just three days before? And why is there no record in contemporaneous non-Christian documents of dead saints coming out of their graves the moment Jesus died, walking around Jerusalem, terrifying the entire city, as the Gospel of Matthew says?
Conservative Christian: Jesus was in his resurrected body so people did not recognize him unless he told them who he was. Jesus probably told the disciples not to tell anyone that he had risen from the dead. Regarding the dead saints rising again: The Jews and Romans suppressed this information due to their embarrassment of failing to kill Jesus.
Skeptic: What about the passage in Matthew that says that the moment that Jesus died, dead people were resurrected, but then the passage goes on to state that these dead people didn’t come out of their graves until after Jesus was resurrected…three days later??? What were these resurrected people doing in their tombs for three days?
Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.<sup class="footnote" data-fn="#fen-NRSV-24177r" value="[r]”>[r] 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!
Conservative Christian: We cannot question God. If God says that these people were resurrected, brought back to life from the dead, but did not come out of their tombs until Jesus came out of his tomb first, we must accept this by faith. It was a miracle. They probably occupied their time by reading Scripture in their tombs for three days.
Gary’s Conclusion: So if I were still a conservative, orthodox Christian I would attend a church that taught the absolute inerrancy of God and his Word, the Bible. I would teach my children that God prefers to work above and beyond the Laws of Nature. Just because there is no trace of a historical claim in the Bible does not mean that it did not happen. With God, all things are possible…including performing supernatural acts (miracles) without leaving any trace behind.