The articles on a “positive” case, remind me very much of my father’s tool-box. Dad was a die maker and as a result, he had (and still has) tools that are interesting to look at, but I don’t the faintest idea of what he does with them. He has shown me how to use a micrometer, etc., but for the most part, the tools in that particular box are completely esoteric to my senses. Information, even Biblical scholarship, when put into sermons or anything else has the same, ultimate effect. “That’s a great fact to know, but what do I do with it, how does it affect me today.” (This is the reason why I’m fully in favor of application in sermons. A good expositor will provide information to his congregation to help them understand the meaning of the text, but the preacher must also help his hearers to understand how to apply that to their lives in a 21st century context). The same can be said of apologetics.
What do we do with this case? I suggest that there are three primary “applications” of this information to our current world. The first is personal. This information is an anchor. It is often assumed that Christians prize blind faith. While I have met Christians like this, most of us don’t have blind faith. Most of us have dealt with doubt at some point in our lives. My first taste of serious doubt came as a teenager, reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail. I didn’t have the facts at the time to really dig through them. I have dealt with doubts since. When I grew older, in college, I felt the compunction to read both sides of a story before settling on any issue. (I have therefore changed my position on some issues, but not on the faith). Doubts, for me, are a reason for research, but this leads to the question, where do we start? I suggest that this is the right starting point for dealing with doubt. When doubt strikes, the first question that should be asked is, “have they really provided something that is contrary to your positive case?” I would state it this way: if someone wants to convince me that Christianity is false, they must disprove the resurrection in a way that explains all of the minimal facts for the resurrection; or as I sometimes put it, find the body. (While it is true that liberals have attempted to present various theories about the resurrection, none of them have been terribly convincing. Primarily, this is because all of these theories fail to explain all of the facts in a believable way). This should give us confidence in our beliefs.
A second use for this case is argumentative, and operates on the same standpoint. The Resurrection is the point of testability, therefore it is that point at which we use as our shield, defensively when the heathen attack the faith. For the most part, I have found that those who attack the faith are Biblically illiterate. They understand nothing of either the Scriptures, nor the construction of Christian theology. Most attacks, therefore come from other quarters. Either they aim at inerrancy, thinking for some reason that Christian acceptance of the Scriptures is uncritical, or they come from the ghosts of liberal theology’s past: One will find modern versions of the Swoon Theory (The Passover Plot for example) despite the fact that it was debunked in the mid-nineteenth century; the Religiongeschite school was proven to be an exercise in begging the question in the 1950s but that hasn’t stopped those who argue the gospels are a myth from Joseph Campbell onwards. On the popular level, attacks are based on extreme levels of speculation about Christian origins (often referring to conspiracies to cover the complete lack of evidence in their work). In all three cases, the Resurrection provides us with a balance point to counter the attack leveled. The affirmative (or the person trying to convince someone to change their position) always has the burden of proof, and any attempt to convert someone from Christianity must of necessity answer these questions.
The third use, and I believe in our time, the most neglected one, is the offensive use. The Church has allowed itself to be put on the defensive. This is a mistake. We are commanded to earnestly contend for the faith, and this means more than taking defensive actions. Where is our ability to provide a reason for someone to convert to Christianity? I would submit, a careful examination of Acts indicates that the early Church preached the resurrection as their primary message; in many ways, to use the previous analogy of a meteor in a field from our introductory article, the meteor itself is the resurrection (and my preference for an evidentalist approach is perhaps typical of my own preference for working from the baseline of any discussion). Over the years, many atheists, agnostics, and others have come to Christ after they began to objectively examine the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Some have written books on the subject. One of them, that is clearly written on the lay level, is Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. It is an exceptional work from a newspaper reporter who was convinced by evolutionary theory to become an atheist, but who later found he had no reasonable explanation for the resurrection within the framework of religious atheism. Another is Warren Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity, by a cold case detective who investigated the gospels from the standpoint of a cold case detective who is used to working with eyewitness testimony when forensic analysis is not possible. The problem is that the information is not available, despite the work of Strobel, Wallace and others to popularize the information that is out there. That is the central purpose of Truth in the Trenches ministries, to provide facts to help believers understand how good the evidence is for the faith. Use this information to challenge the one attacking the faith. Ask him how he deals with the underlying facts. Perhaps the Spirit will use such a thing, as He has so many times before, to draw that skeptic to Himself. Like many skeptics, he may simply dismiss the resurrection with an apriori shrug, but maybe he will begin to look at the evidence rather than the pseudo-scholarship that world in which we live revels. Truth can still counter error.