“I believe in science.”
The seventeen-year old young man, who I happened to meet at Starbucks, said it with a finality, like that ends any discussion about Jesus. He added calmly, “I believe we came from the Big Bang, evolved from lower life forms and that’s it.”
Without realizing it, what he actually believes in is scientism, which is very different from science. I believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but I still believe in science. You won’t find me denying the law of gravity. That’s why I don’t climb cliffs. I tend not to enjoy things where I might die. I’m more of a hotel room vacationer, but that’s beside the point. I don’t even have an issue with a Big Bang per say. What I want to address is this idea of science alone. Sola Scientia.
This is a statement that many people make when it comes to conversations about this Person of Jesus. “I believe in science.” I had a short and amiable conversation with the young man, but it got me thinking. That’s it? Science alone? What about history? I believe in science, but I believe in history, too. That’s one of the best reasons to consider the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It’s not a religious claim. By it’s very nature, it’s historical. And the historical evidence for why Christianity exploded around the globe is stronger than the evidence for the explosion of a Big Bang.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denying any circumstantial evidence that the universe started with an explosion. All I'm saying is that the evidence for why Christianity changed the world is stronger than how the world began for the very simple reason that, well, there are no eyewitness accounts of the Big Bang. Now, I know many people will easily dismiss that, as it’s the habit of humans to dismiss the obvious. But let’s begin there as I suggest to you three reasons the historical claims of Christianity are greater than the circumstantial scientific claims of the Big Bang, both undeniably seminal events.
1. Embarrassing Details
There are many embarrassing details in the gospel accounts that the Apostles don't leave out, even about themselves. But one embarrassing detail is the women at the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome.
And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
That’s not a great idea if you want to start a false religion — have women discover the empty tomb at a time when women didn’t even have credibility in a court of law. Their testimony, in the rare case it was even used in court, counted as nothing.
Bad history doesn’t include embarrassing details. Good history tells the story how it happened even when it doesn’t put the writer in the best possible light.
2. Empty Tomb
It was in the best interest of the Romans and Jews to stop the spread of the Apostles' message that Jesus had risen from the dead. If the tomb was occupied with a body, they could have easily produced it, revealed it to the public, and Christianity would have swiftly come to an end.
The testimony is that they couldn’t produce the dead body of Jesus.
11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.
There’s no reason they would be talking about stealing the body if they could produce a body to begin with. It’s only a story you come up when you cannot come up with anything else.
3. External Historical Writings
The Babylonian Talmud tell us that Jesus was a false prophet hanged on Passover Eve for sorcery and blasphemy. What do you have to do to be accused of sorcery and blasphemy in Jewish culture? You have to claim to be God and perform miracles.
It also tells us that Jesus’s mother was married to a carpenter who was not his natural father.
The Talmud tells us that Jesus went with his family to Egypt, returned to Judea with disciples and performed miracles with sorcery, led Israel astray, was deserted at his trial without any defenders.
Suetonius (75-30 AD), the Roman historian answers this question, “Why were Jews expelled from Rome in 48 AD? Because of a controversy over a certain Christ.”
Tacitus, another Roman historian, referred to the crucifixion of Jesus under Pontus Pilate. Pontus Pilate has become one of the most famous historical figures ever because he is mentioned every Sunday in churches around the world as they recite the Apostle’s creed, “Suffered under Pontus Pilate.”
Plinay the Younger (110 AD) records that Christians gathered on Sunday to pray to Jesus as to a god.
Christianity is tied to history like no other religion.
So, I believe in science, even if it’s always changing and what we believe about gravity today may not be the same thing we believe about gravity in 500 years. But I believe in history, too. And the history of the early church tells us their message was the same from day one: He is risen.