Why did Jesus have to be raised?

This is meant for skeptics and critics of Christianity; it’s not a theological question.  Thinking back on alternate explanations of the accounts of Jesus’ life in the Gospel accounts, there seems to be somewhat of a consensus (among skeptics) that miracles were needed to gain credibility in order to secure a following.  OK, I suppose that’s one possibility.  But why the resurrection?

A body being raised from the dead is quite a fantastic claim, even for ancient heathens to accept at face value.  As unscientifically minded as they may have been, at least they knew dead men don’t come back to life.  To me, this claim is wholly counterintuitive to their objective according to skeptics: to gain power and a major following.  The first century had no shortage of gods and religions so it’s obviously not a necessary component for beginning a new religion.

I realize asking the skeptic to speculate why the first disciples would have included a tale of resurrection (presuming it didn’t happen), but this rather hefty claim needs to be accounted for, especially if there was never any shred of evidence for it.

  • Since a resurrection wasn’t necessary to start a new religion, why would such a fantastic claim be offered, especially if there was no evidence to back it up?
  • Why would the disciples make this fantastic claim vitally central to the religion itself — without it, there is no Christianity?
  • Given that other religious systems were present, and Judaism was not only a religion but also the culture — in the same way being “an American” is part of our culture — why would so many people be willing to abandon their lifelong religion and cultural identity for such a fantastic claim that had no evidence?
  • How could such a fantastic claim change the entire world forever?

I could go on, but I’m confident more questions will arise in the discussion that follows.  I want the skeptical readers to take close note that I am not suggesting the above points equal ‘therefore Jesus was resurrected’.  Not at all.  The point here is that skeptics claim the resurrection didn’t happen and never had any evidence for it happening.  If this is true the above points, and others, need to be answered without ad hoc explanations.

Comments

  1. Interesting questions, John – and your post promotes much conjecture and special pleading.

    What I cannot understand is the need for an omnipotent being to impregnate a virgin teen and then live in human form knowing full well that he would die at the hands of men 33 years later only to resurrect and then ascend into heaven. Then, if that’s not enough, in order for you to be allowed into this kingdom of heaven you must accept this story or else suffer in hell forever.

    Could anyone out there please explain to me how this possibly makes any sense?

    So, even assuming for a moment that the resurrection story is factual, why would god need to go through the ordeal in the first place?

    • Z

      Jesus being born of a virgin fulfilled prophesy, and it is what prevented Jesus from having a fallen nature. Our sin nature is though to be passed to us from our fathers because sin was brought into the world through Adam (even though Eve sinned first).

      Second, For Jesus to be our mediator and fulfill the priesthood requirements, he had to be at least 33 years of age. He cam as a man because that’s what we are.

      Third, as I’ve noted in previous posts, we do not go to hell because we don’t believe. In the same way we dont die from a disease because of a lack of a cure. We die from the disease. Jesus provides the “cure”, not taking the cure (accepting Jesus as a substitutionary atonement) allows you to be punished for the sins you committed.

      Fourth, Hell is eternal because of who the offense is against, not for the duration of time it takes to sin. Just like punching a stranger in the face is not going to give you the same punishment as punching the president in the face.

      Honestly, Dan, keep quiet on this thread. Not kidding.

  2. wiley16350 says:

    @zqtx
    The purpose for the life of Christ is to set for us an example of how we should live our lives. How we should respond to the calling of God and live our lives in service to him. His death is the example of ultimate love. The sacrifice of oneself for another. The death also allowed for the resurrection which was used to prove Jesus was who he said he was. It is the ultimate proof of the reality that God exists (especially for those that witnessed it). The harsh way he died was to take the punishment deserved for sinners. This was needed to express how much he loved his father and us. It also showed how much love God had for us. To die easily knowing you would rise doesn’t do much to show love. To die harshly, willingly shows much love.

    I don’t believe in eternal hell, so I won’t address that aspect of your question.

  3. paynehollow says:

    Zqtx…

    Could anyone out there please explain to me how this possibly makes any sense?

    John, may I offer an opinion in response to this question?

    Z, not every Christian would ascribe to what is called the Penal Substitutionary Theory of Atonement, which is what you’re describing there/John is talking about in his post.

    So, for those Christians, God didn’t have to go through the ordeal in order to broker a deal for the “purchase” of our forgiveness and which transaction we take part in by “paying” our belief in that salvation deal (and without the “purchase” – our forgiveness paid for by Jesus’ blood – and our “payment” in consent/belief, we are doomed to hell). That’s not what the incarnation/life/death/resurrection of Jesus mean.

    Rather, the point of the story is that God loves us all and wants to see us saved from our own harmful, hurtful actions and that salvation comes in a life of love – sacrificial love – forgiveness and grace. Jesus’ teachings, life and death and resurrection, then, are an object lesson, God saying, “Look, here is what I’m speaking of when I speak of salvation by Grace…”

    Now, being free human agents, we are free to accept God’s love and grace in our lives (heaven/the kingdom of God) or reject love and grace (“hell,” whatever that might mean and, ultimately, we don’t know… God has not told any of us, beyond the obvious hell we make for ourselves sometimes in war, murder, rape, cheating, etc).

    To my way of thinking, this makes a great deal of sense.

    One Christian’s opinion…

    ~Dan

  4. I appreciate your replies, gentlemen, and I look forward to hearing more perspectives written here.

    I just can’t understand why a deity would find it at all necessary to go through any of it. It’s not really a sacrifice, now is it? He’s not really dead – he never was, was he?

    Regarding what this deity wants, how could an omnipotent and all-powerful being want or need anything?

    • The reason it is considered a sacrifice is because it is thought by many that Jesus’ human nature felt the full weight of the wrath of God for a world of sin. Jesus’ human body did die, and it was raised, again fulfilling a prophesy that the Messiah’s body would not see decay.

  5. paynehollow says:

    Well, the record suggests that Jesus felt everything a regular guy would feel, so his living a simple life, laughing, crying, hurting, grieving, wanting, hoping like any other human… not wanting to feel pain, not wanting to be hated or oppressed or ostrasized or demonized… to lovingly pour out his human life like that, well, that seems like sacrificial giving to me. And it teaches us that this is what love and grace is about in such a way that his followers would do the same, at least at their best.

    As to what an omnipotent God wants or needs, you’d have to ask that God. I am not in a place to know, that’s for sure. I suppose one could guess that if God loves us as parents love children (as the testimony goes), then that God would want the best for us, would want to see us avoid suffering, would want us to walk in the kindest, best ways, right?

  6. So Dan, if I am to understand this correctly, if Jesus and God are one and the same, did he suspend his existence outside of being a man for 33 years while here on earth? Did he not know what it would be like to be human or what his fate here would be?

    • The trinity is perhaps the most difficult of all the Christian doctrines. I have heard it put best as “1 what(God) and 3 whos”. I would suggest looking up somewhere the doctrine of the trinity from a theological website.

      I dont think that something needs to not be able to not be recovered for it to have been a sacrifice. So I’m not sure this is a point to be focused on. I could “sacrifice” some of my money, and that could be recovered. Sure, not that money, but the dollar amount could be recovered.

    • So, it’s important to me that my post be addressed. Would you do that? Can you offer any reasonable reasons to address my bullet points? How do you, as someone who believes the whole story is false, explain the bullet points given there is no need for a resurrection to create a new religion, and how do we explain the rest if there was no evidence for any of it?

  7. I’ve heard Christians use the word “sacrifice” a lot as it relates to the life and death of Jesus Christ.

    By definition, sacrifice means destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else or something given up or lost – can we agree on that?

    Someone please explain what the actual loss that god has given up that cannot be recovered?

  8. wiley16350 says:

    @zqtx
    You give an either/ or description of sacrifice, ignore the first and force us to fit the second. “sacrifice means destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else”. Jesus gave up his life and allowed humans to beat, torture and mock him in order to give us life after death. Here is a definition of sacrifice from dictionary.com that completely fits. To surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else. So we don’t have to agree that loss is a necessary requirement of sacrifice.

  9. wiley16350 says:

    I should say complete loss

  10. wiley16350 says:

    @zqtx
    I’m not sure if anybody can truly completely understand the relationship between Jesus and God. It’s absolute that Jesus was/is divine. His divinity came from God the Father. He was born from the holy spirit and I would say that the spirit dwelt in him at all times. Therefore, him and the father were one in spirit and likeness in mind. Jesus also had a human nature that was limited in knowledge and was swayed by feelings. I think because of his human nature he ended up expressing doubts and fears in facing his impending death. The spirit of God within him gave him the will to follow through, because it was the will of God. I see it as Jesus was God because the spirit of God is what controlled him and not his human nature. His humanity was basically only skin deep. It can be very complex and I’m not sure I could explain it completely. Humans can call on the holy spirit for assistance but i’m not sure if it’s biblical to say that the holy spirit remains with us at all times.

  11. @Wiley
    It sounds like you’re trying to soften the definition to just mean that his “sacrifice” was to permit his human self to be injured and subsequently “killed”, even though he really didn’t die since he’s god.

    I still don’t see any sacrifice here.

    • Z

      I will be on later to address your good questions. Right now at work I have limited time to go into the theological answers as to why Jesus had to die and be resurrected.

      Until then, would you mind speculating for me and answer my questions from the post since you do believe the resurrection is not a fact of history. Please explain those points for me if you would.

  12. wiley16350 says:

    @zqtx
    Jesus died, his human nature died and the spirit of God left him while on the cross. I think that’s why he asked God “Why have you forsaken me”. When the spirit left him, he knew God left him and he was going to die. He was probably in great fear at that point in time. Even still, if you were a criminal deserving of a beating and someone decided to take your place and be a sacrifice for you. Would they have to die to be considered a sacrifice? No, just taking the beating would mean they sacrificed. They sacrificed their health, their reputation and their dignity so that you wouldn’t have to sacrifice yours. This is what Jesus did. He took a beating that he didn’t deserve, sacrificed reputation and dignity deserved for a king and became a servant and viewed as a disgrace so that you didn’t have to sacrifice any of those when you face God at the judgment.

  13. Thanks, John – I’ll be busy for the remainder of the day myself, but I’ll get back to this later.

    @Wiley
    Are not Jesus and God one and the same? Was not Jesus God incarnate?
    How could Jesus be separate from God at any point if Jesus was God incarnate?
    Are you saying that Jesus existed just as an ordinary fallible man?

    That seems the case if he had to ask “Why have you forsaken me?” Unless he’s posing the question to himself in third person, since “you” and “me” are the same person. I still can’t figure that out.

    • Z

      I have a quick second to address this point. “Why have you forsaken me…” Jesus was quoting psalm 22. It points directly to a prophesy in the psalms. I read that it was common for learned Jews to reference the first verse or two from a psalm to make a reference to it. Read psalm 22 to get an idea of what Jesus was alluding to.

  14. wiley16350 says:

    @Zqtx
    I think I already explained that earlier.

    I’m not sure if anybody can truly completely understand the relationship between Jesus and God. It’s absolute that Jesus was/is divine. His divinity came from God the Father. He was born from the holy spirit and I would say that the spirit dwelt in him at all times. Therefore, him and the father were one in spirit and likeness in mind. Jesus also had a human nature that was limited in knowledge and was swayed by feelings. I think because of his human nature he ended up expressing doubts and fears in facing his impending death. The spirit of God within him gave him the will to follow through, because it was the will of God. I see it as Jesus was God because the spirit of God is what controlled him and not his human nature. His humanity was basically only skin deep. It can be very complex and I’m not sure I could explain it completely.

    To answer directly then;
    Jesus and God were the same because the spirit of God indwelt in him. The spirit of God gave him his divinity, his knowledge and his ultimate will. So Jesus was God in spirit and the son of God in the flesh.
    If the spirit of God leaves the human flesh, then they become separate.
    Jesus as a human was never ordinary because he was born with the spirit of God and he died without the spirit of God. He rose when the spirit of God returned. Jesus wasn’t fallible because the spirit of God determined his ultimate will. His flesh may have been fallible, but the spirit of God within would not allow it to falter.

    Jesus as the human and son of God, posed the question to God the Father. God left the human flesh and the flesh died thereafter. In his humanity, Jesus is portrayed separate from the father and this is the aspect we see Jesus from when he is on the Earth. So we see him praying and talking to the father as his son. I really don’t know exactly what is taking place when he prays and talks to the father. Maybe it’s his human emotions talking with his divine spirit. Maybe he really is just talking to himself and it’s just relayed to us in this way for effect. That is probably the hardest thing to explain.

  15. John,
    Might I suggest what you don’t need is the “help” of a known heretic spewing unbiblical reasons for the resurrection and passing them off as Christian?

  16. paynehollow says:

    You have a problem with people offering Christian thoughts? Is it that you are easily bullied by people like Glenn, or that you fear that your Christian opinions won’t hold up well against other Christian opinions?

    My brothers, let us reason together. There is nothing to fear in diversity of opinions…

    As to the topic, I offered my thought and had no more to add – Z offered out an open-ended question to Christians in general and I answered from my perspective. But it is rather sad that you seem so fearful or intolerant of honest opinions.

    ~Dan

    • Dan,
      I don’t bully anyone, and I’m sure John isn’t one to be bullied. My suggestion was that he block you.

      And you do not represent true Christian teachings, but rather muddy the waters with your heresy. John isn’t putting up Christian opinions here, rather he is putting up what the Bible actually says.

      Now quit playing the victim.

  17. @John
    From all of your bullet points, the main question I see you asking is “Why would people make this claim?”

    The short answer is that people have made claims throughout history about all sorts of things and created or tried to create a following. It’s extremely convenient when that claim is about an event that can never be verified and must be taken on faith. That seems to be true about many religious and spiritual belief systems. If someone came to you with a claim and then said “Why would they lie?”, would that make you more inclined to believe the claim? For me, it does not.

    To address the details of your reply, I appreciate your explanation. You shared more in those few paragraphs than I’ve seen in most of the time I’ve spent on your blog.

    I’d like to see more discussions like this to gain a better understanding of what readers truly believe. These tenets are the foundation of the Christian faith and it’s interesting to see the variation among followers. Many of your statements can lead to some lengthy discussions by themselves.

  18. paynehollow says:

    John, may I ask a line of questions, re:

    How do you, as someone who believes the whole story is false, explain the bullet points given there is no need for a resurrection to create a new religion

    Do you think it was Jesus’ intent to “create a new religion…”?

    Or, do you think that skeptics think it was Jesus’ intent (or his followers) to create a new religion?

    DO skeptics think that?

    ~Dan

    • Dan, I think the perception is that Christianity is a new religion. In the first century the Jews would have had to be convinced that Christianity was an extension and the fulfillment of Judaism.

  19. paynehollow says:

    Seems reasonable. Thanks.

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