One of the more interesting things about last night’s Peter Jennings Jesus program was Jennings’ legitimate wonderment at how the “Jesus Movement” went from absolute obscurity (the death of the leader and the scattering of all His followers) to the largest religion in the world.
When asked by Jennings, liberal and conservative scholars agreed that the crux of the answer is two alleged appearances of the risen Jesus: to the disciples on resurrection Sunday and to Paul on the road to Damascus. Before these appearances, the movement was essentially finished. The disciples were huddled in a room, depressed and afraid and Paul was a persecutor of Christians. After these appearances, both Paul and the disciples became radical world changers for Jesus.
No serious scholar doubts that Paul and the disciples believed that Jesus was resurrected. The transformation in their lives was too great for them to be simply making it up. It is clear that these men must have seen something as one does not face persecution for something one knows to be untrue. So the question becomes, “What did they see?”
I think an unbiased look at the evidence suggests that they actually saw the risen Christ. There is no better explantion. Unfortunately, namy scholars cannot accept that because they have a prior commitment to metaphysical naturalism. They say that, although we don’t really know what they saw, since we already know supernatural things don’t happen and therefore men don’t rise from the dead, it couldn’t have been the risen Christ.
It’s too bad and more than a little ironic. These liberal scholars usually present themselves as the “open minded” ones. However, because of their own bias against the supernatural, their minds are closed to the light that leads to life.