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Review Essay, Keeping the Balance

The resurrection of Jesus “If the witness [about Jesus] comes to a climactic point anywhere, it is in the witness to the resurrection”. According to St. Paul, it is the pivot of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 15: 14, 17). Clearly, “If Jesus really rose from the dead, then the whole affair seems to impinge dramatically on my existence”. But was He really resurrected?

In examining the witness to some event, we have to “ponder both the nature of the witness and …the character of the witnesses”. Williams considers the biblical witness to the resurrection and concludes that, at the very least, here lies serious “evidence which demands a verdict”. In a situation where “an alleged event is highly unusual and a witness reliable” we may “find ourselves in a quandary”. Having investigated the witness, “without insisting on forming beforehand our own definite judgments about those background beliefs” about God, the laws of nature, and the possibility of miracles, a “crucial question” must now be faced: is it “plausible to believe in the sort of God supposedly responsible for sending and raising Jesus”?

The existence of God and the person of Jesus We may seem to have come full circle. The evidence for the resurrection has forced us to a crises, but doesn’t belief in the resurrection require the assumption that God exists? And doesn’t that then mean that we must start with God, rather than Jesus, after all? Williams acknowledges that there are various “traditional arguments for the existence of God” that we might pursue. We can talk about design, moral law and religious experience, and these may lead us to conclude that God, in all probability, actually exists. However, “Among the traditional arguments for the existence of God …there have also been ‘historical’ arguments and these have had reference to Jesus”. These arguments “purport to show that some phenomena in human history constitutes evidence for the existence of God”. Williams recalls “the argument from miracles”, which infers the existence of God from the occurrence of miracles. The resurrection is, of course, a great miracle that has taken place in our human history, and its occurrence could be used as evidence for God’s existence.

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Category: In Depth, Spring 2006

About the Author: W. Simpson, PhD (University of St. Andrews, Scotland), is a physicist and writer with an interest in theology, currently engaged in scientific research in the middle-east.

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