J. Early Arceneaux
Go back to the beginning of the church. Would men who knew that what they confessed was not true declare that they believed it was true, and then die in defense of their declaration? Would they do this when they didn’t believe at all that the things they said were true? You know the answer the infidel would make. He would say, “Oh, they believed it all right. They were good, honest fellows.” Some infidels add “pious”—“they were good, honest, pious, liars!” For that is exactly what they were if they testified falsely. That is Paul’s description of them; that is what he said, “if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we witnessed of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead are not raised” (1 Cor. 15:14-15).
How Account For These?
Here are some things often overlooked in the discussion of Christian Evidences. And these things are all right on the surface; they are there in the Bible for all men to ponder. Consider the matter of the resurrection of Christ. When we come to talk about His resurrection, there are certain things that must be accounted for. There are certain facts (not theories, but facts) for which both the believer and the infidel must offer some explanation. Men must account for (1) an empty grave; they must account for (2) the course of the friends of Jesus after the hour when they said he arose; they must account for (3) the actions of the enemies of Christ following that hour; some explanation must be offered to account for (4) the existence of the New Testament. Why was it written at all? There must be some explanation given for (5) the existence of the church. How did the church chance to come into being? Why should it arise at all if there were no resurrection? To believe that such could be is to disbelieve completely in the integrity of men, and to repudiate all possibility of proving anything by human testimony.
The apostles were witnesses of the resurrection of Christ. And they sealed their testimony with their blood. That proves one thing, I think, beyond all possibility of Doubt—that is the honesty of the witnesses. They might be mistaken, yes; but they were honest. They might think a thing was so, and it be false; they might even die in defense of a falsehood—but no man would die in defense of that which he believed to be false. The apostles were not bearing witness of a theory; they were testifying to a fact. What did they need to qualify then as witnesses? Good eyesight, good hearing, and just a little common sense. As far as I know infidels have never denied that they had these qualifications. They have never undertaken seriously to impeach the honesty of these witnesses.
Now look at the witnesses the infidels produce. They are the soldiers who stood guard at the tomb of Jesus. And what is their testimony? Why, they say that while they slept the friends of Jesus came and took his body away! Look at that. Their testimony was that a certain thing happened while they slept. How do they know what happened while they were asleep? How can they bear witness concerning anything that happened during that period?
And these are infidelity’s witnesses! If the infidel doesn’t accept their testimony, then he has no witnesses; he has no explanation at all for the empty tomb. The only competent witnesses for his side at all are men who declare they were sound asleep when the events about which they testify took place.
Christ’s Summary of the Prophets
Following his resurrection, Christ appeared to His disciples and summarized for them the whole point and import of the prophets’ teaching concerning Himself. He said,
These are my words which I spake unto you; while I was yet with you, that all things that must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures; and he said unto them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:44-47).
Christ’s summary of the prophets declared that the prophets of old had told of His death, His resurrection, and the preaching of salvation. He did not mention as any part of the prophets’ teaching anything concerning a second coming of Christ to establish a political kingdom on earth.
Thus from the teachings of Christ, from the writings of the Old Testament prophets, and from the lives and writings of the apostles, the Christian has a reasonable, logical, and thoroughly credible explanation for the problems we have mentioned. The empty tomb, the psychological change in the attitude and conduct of his friends, the action of his enemies, the existence of the New Testament, the existence of the church, the observance of the Lord’s Supper—all of these things have a clear-cut, rational explanation. The human mind can understand how and why concerning them.
Now let the infidel offer an explanation. The New Testament was written; it exists; the church started; the gospel was preached throughout all the Roman Empire—indeed, it was preached in all those regions even before the New Testament was completed. Now let the unbeliever offer an adequate explanation. If the Biblical account is not the true one, then we call upon the infidel to establish for us the true origin of these things.
For 2,000 years he has been trying to give the answer. He is no nearer to it today than he was when those first infidel witnesses testified concerning what happened while they slept.