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SKEPTICISM UNDONE (published in The Tribune 3/30/13)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:18 PM by Fccea Webmaster
Here's a surprise! Guess who were the biggest skeptics regarding the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ of Nazareth? Who do you think?

Perhaps an Enlightenment leader like Voltaire, who said that while Christianity was centuries in the making, "I'll show how just one Frenchman can destroy it within 50 years." He was a tad optimistic as 20 years after his death his home was purchased -- to use for printing and distributing Bibles in France! Meanwhile among his last words were: "I wish I had never been BORN!"

How about a naturalist like Aldous Huxley? He boldly accepted a universe without meaning. His reason? "For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation . . . from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom." We might admire his honesty -- but it's hard to seriously credit someone who admits his worldview was largely driven by his sex drive!

So there's always the great 20th century British philosopher, Bertrand Russell who gave his life to defending atheism. But his credibility takes a preliminary hit when he replied to the question of whether he would die for his beliefs by saying, "Of course not. After all I may be wrong." The final blow was his deathbed confession at age 96: "Philosophy has proven to be a washout for me."

Well, how about one of the New Atheists? Christopher Hitchens might qualify. However, since the time of his death in late 2011, Mr. Hitchens is no longer an atheist. I wish this change had come during his lifetime, but there was no deathbed "confession", although he did thank those who prayed for him.

Any of the above would qualify as a great skeptic, although their skepticism did not always work out so well. But I think the "greatest" award goes to someone else -- to the disciples of Christ!

I think this is true if for no other reason than that they were in a position to know for sure. And yet they simply would not believe. When told of the empty tomb by the women who found it, "these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them" (Luke 24:11). When Jesus Himself appeared to them later that day they still held out: "But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit" (Luke 24:37).

Jesus countered: "Look at me, fellows. See the scars? Touch me. Does a ghost have flesh and bones like I do?" Their reaction? Still unsure: "And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them" (Luke 24:41-43). This was a tough crowd. But by the time they had seen, touched, talked to and eaten with Him, they knew they were seeing a living, breathing, resurrected Lord.

This is one fact among many that demonstrate the reality of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Anyone who rejects this pivotal event of history must, among other things, explain how these ultimate skeptics became history's extreme witnesses.

These were not men given to flights of fanatical, religious fancy. They were hardheaded skeptics with feet planted firmly on the ground, convinced by what they had seen, heard, touched and experienced (I John 1:1) -- convinced enough to die for their beliefs -- all but John who was heavily persecuted.

Fanatics may die for an unconfirmed false truth -- but no one dies for what they know to be a lie. These men knew! He is alive, indeed!

When the worst skeptic of all, Thomas, had been convinced, he simply responded, "My Lord and my God!" That is the saving response. I hope that is your response as well. Happy Easter!

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton/Ault