Isn't faith blind, irrational and without reason?

Question
Christians are asked to believe in the life, death and resurrection of someone they’ve never seen, like some leap in the dark. Doesn’t the resurrection defy logic? Isn’t faith blind, irrational, without reason?
Answer
The Christian faith is a reasoned, logical, rational faith, and not some blind leap in the dark to God-given trust. While belief is the conviction of a particular truth and logic is a science for discerning truth, both God-given belief and logic exist for Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

When Jesus said to Thomas, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" (John 20:29), he wasn't describing a blind, leap-in-the-dark faith. Rather, he was teaching that though many on this side of glory wouldn't literally see him and the actual scars of his crucifixion as Thomas did, his children would still believe in him (John 10:16; cf. John 10:3, 11, 14, 17-18, 27-30). Jesus knew that faith in him is a gift of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5). He also knew there would be numerous witnesses to his resurrection other than just Thomas (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-8). So, since the Spirit calls his people to examine the facts and gives them faith to examine the evidence, Jesus knew his people would believe by both faith and logic in the reality of his resurrection.

As a former homicide detective, I understand the need for evidence. The evidence must be verifiable and trustworthy. To be acceptable, the evidence must be of sound judgment and reasoning. For there to be an indictment in a case and a just verdict, genuine provable evidence is absolutely necessary.

Likewise, the Christian faith is one made up of trustworthy and verifiable evidence. As the writer of Hebrews informs us, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." The Greek word for evidence is hupostasis, meaning assurance, reality, of firm support, confidence, or trust.

So, where's the evidence for Jesus' resurrection? And how do we gain the assurance, reality, firm support, confidence, and trust in it? The answer is that the Holy Spirit gives us a preponderance of the evidence that is beyond any reasonable doubt.

To illustrate this, what follows is a mock hearing I created to include some of the evidence that exists and what it reveals to answer the question of whether or not Jesus resurrected from the dead.

A Hearing

Judge: For this hearing, I charge you as follows: Although we will use the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt" in our deliberations, this is only a hearing and not a criminal case. What is reasonable doubt? The U.S. Supreme Court has favored the following instructions in criminal cases:

The government has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Some of you may have served as jurors in civil cases, where you were told that it is only necessary to prove that a fact is more likely true than not true. In criminal cases, the government's proof must be more powerful than that. It must be beyond a reasonable doubt.

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant's guilt. There are very few things in this world that we know with absolute certainty, and in criminal cases the law does not require proof that overcomes every possible doubt. If, based on your consideration of the evidence, you are firmly convinced that the defendant is guilty of the crime charged, you must find him guilty. If on the other hand, you think there is a real possibility that he is not guilty, you must give him the benefit of the doubt and find him not guilty.

Light, please give your opening statement.

Light: In this hearing, Light will prove beyond a reasonable doubt using history and the Scriptures that Jesus existed and rose from the dead. Our case will be in three parts: 1) a substantiated history; 2) a scriptural testimony; and 3) an example of a changed life.

You will notice that the person in question, Jesus Christ, is not physically present and this hearing is in abstentia. It is also important to note that the only defense Darkness has is that Jesus is not physically here today. However, this does not mean that he's not someplace else. He and others have promised that he will to return physically to this jurisdiction very soon (John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; Tit. 2:13).

Darkness will contend that we should contact Jesus by phone and prove he has risen. However, Jesus doesn't use such outdated means as iPhones for communication, and Light contends that prayer is the most technically advanced communication method in the universe. It has the best security features known, and as compared to less advanced technologies it has the clearest reception possible. Best of all, prayer is free and has unlimited roaming and data downloads.

When the facts are completely and properly examined, particularly if you are a "called" hearer (Rom. 8:29-30; 11:29; 2 Tim. 1:9), you will undeniably agree with Light that Jesus literally rose from the dead.

Darkness: As you can see, your Honor, Jesus is not physically here today. What more needs to be said?

Judge: Present your cases.

Light: Light will begin by addressing the question of whether Jesus even really existed with a substantiated history. After all, to rise from the dead, he had to exist in the first place. We will also see some facts concerning his character, death, resurrection, and facts about those who followed him, called Christians. It's been hundreds of years, actually more like two millennia, so we don't have a birth certificate or an actual video or picture of his birth. So, as you might expect, we will rely on historical witnesses for this part of the testimony. These witnesses will be from history and what are called the Scriptures, which will be discussed in more detail later.

However, not all of the witnesses will be friendly to the absolute truth called Scripture. Some, by reputation, may be considered vile or rather depraved, but we ask that you listen to their words very closely.

If there are no objections, your Honor, Light will call our first witness.

Darkness: Your Honor, we have no objections.

Judge: Call your first witness.

Light: Your Honor, Light calls on the Roman historian Tacitus who, reporting on the pagan Emperor Nero's decision to blame Christians for the burning of Rome in his work Annals (15.44), wrote the following:

Nero fastened the guilt … on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of … Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome.

I'm sure you'll agree that this is a rather unsympathetic reference to Jesus Christ. Tacitus reported Christians derived their name from a historical person called Christus, which is Latin meaning "Christ" (Matt. 16:16). He is said to have “suffered the extreme penalty.” We assert this is a reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Matt. 27:32-56; Mark 15:21-38; Luke 23:26-49; John 19:16-37). This crucifixion is said to have occurred during the reign of Tiberius and by the sentence of one named Pontius Pilatus (Luke 3:1-2; cf. Mark 12:13-17; John 19:14-16). Lastly, his statement of "a most mischievous superstition," appears to be an indirect testimony of Christ's resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:24; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 4:14; cf. John 2:19; 10:18; 11:25). Otherwise, how could we explain the rapid spread of a religion called Christianity based upon a mere alleged criminal that was crucified? (Acts 2:41, 47).

Judge: Cross examination?

Darkness: Your Honor, Darkness has no cross of this witness at this time. Pontius Pilate existed. We know that there are still Christians today that say they worship the Christ and claim him to be the Son of God.

Light: Your Honor, Light calls Pliny the Younger, the Roman Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor.

Pliny the Younger in his Letters wrote to the depraved Emperor Trajan and stated the following concerning Christianity:

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food — but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.

Light asserts that this refers to the early Christian worship of Jesus Christ. We note that Christians regularly met on a certain fixed day for worship (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10), which is Sunday and the day Jesus rose from the dead (John 20:1). Without a doubt, they continue to do this even today — in actuality every day, but specifically on what they call the Sabbath. Moreover, the worship at these Christian gatherings was directed to Christ and has with it an implied sort of covenant power to help these Christians hate sin (Psa. 97:10; 1 John 5:18). Pliny also seems to imply that these Christians were worshipping an actual human, a literally historical person (John 1:1, 14; Gal. 4:4). These Christians also appear to partake in love feasts where they assembled to partake of food, and even today these Christians partake of what they call the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:17-34).

Judge: Cross examination?

Darkness: Your Honor, Darkness has no cross of this witness. It's well known that Christians still worship on Sundays and take the Lord's Supper. The testimony read into record seems to agree with the historical record and what we witness today.

Light: Your Honor, Light calls Josephus, a first century Jewish historian.

Josephus, in his Jewish Antiquities (xx. 200) mentions James, the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ. This seems like a clear reference to Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:19). He also states:

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he … wrought surprising feats. … He was the Christ. When Pilate … condemned him to be crucified, those who had … come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared … restored to life. … And the tribe of Christians … has … not disappeared.

In our opinion, this is overwhelming historical evidence of many forms of historical truth. Josephus, like our previous witnesses, wasn't a Christian, and so is another unbeliever talking about Jesus. Yet he claimed this Jesus character was a wise man, And we know from other reliable sources that he even taught in the temple when he was very young (Luke 2:7) and that he wrought surprising feats (John 21:25). We assert these so-called feats were miracles as shown by other sources (Matt. 15:30). However, Josephus also stated he may have been more than a mere man. We assert that he was referring to being very God of very God himself (John 1:1, 14; cf. Phil. 2:6-7; cf. Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3). He even called him the Christ, which means Messiah (Matt. 16:16). He states that Jesus reappeared on the third day, and was restored to life. This seems to be a clear reference to Jesus' death and resurrection (Acts 2:24; Rom. 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Cor. 4:14; cf. John 2:19; 10:18; 11:25). He also mentions Pilate. And Josephus himself is mentioned in the Bible (Matt. 27:64-66; Luke 3:1-2; Mark 15:15).

Judge: Cross Examination?

Darkness: Your honor, Darkness has no questions of this witness.

Judge: Aren't you going to present a case during this hearing?

Darkness: Yes, your Honor, we definitely plan to. But concerning what has been offered so far, we have no credible refuting evidence. These are after all historical records; they say what they mean, and mean what they say.

Light: Your Honor, Light calls Lucian of Samosata, a second century Greek satirist.

In The Death of Peregrine Lucian wrote:

The Christians … worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account. … [It] was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.

Light asserts that though Lucian doesn't mention his name, he is clearly speaking of Jesus Christ, the original lawgiver (Mark 12:32-33; Gal. 6:2; 1 John 4:7-8; 5:3; cf. Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:23-25; Eph. 2:15). While Lucian is, of course, jesting, he makes some rather relevant comments about the founder of Christianity (Heb. 2:10; 12:2; cf. Acts 3:15). He says the Christians worshipped a man (Matt. 2:11; 21:9; 28:9; John 12:13; 20:28), that many of this man's followers thought very highly of Jesus, and that he was even crucified (1 Cor. 15:3-4). He mentions the word "brothers" (Acts 2:29-31; 15:6-7; Rom. 8:14, 16, 19; 2 Cor. 6:18) and speaks about conversion (Heb. 5:9; cf. Acts 2, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, 19) which involved denying Greek gods, worshipping Christ (cf. John 4:24), and abiding in Jesus' teachings (John 14:23; 1 John 2:3, 5-6; 3:24; 5:2; 2 John 1:6). By implication, since Lucian says that these Christians denied other gods (1 Thess. 1:9; 1 John 5:21) and followed their own, apparently Jesus Christ was the greater God (Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:10-11) and greater than any other in Greece.

Judge: Cross Examination?

Darkness: Your honor, Darkness has no questions of this witness. Our case rests upon our witnesses alone. These are just preserved century-old historical records. Nothing else, nothing more.

Light: Your Honor, Light has presented a historical summary of records that confirm Jesus existed as a man, that he was wise, did miracles, died, and was resurrected the third day after his death. Within some of these historical documents it is even implied Jesus was very God of very God.

Now, since, there is no objection, Light will present scriptural testimony which is very brief evidence from the Bible, or what Christians call “the Word”, or “Holy Scripture.” It consists of two distinct but related testaments, 66 books, 1187 chapters, and in one translation 757,439 words. There exists literally thousands of Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic manuscripts that validate these English Scriptures. And the God of highest authority (Heb. 6:13; cf. Isa. 45:23) himself verifies numerous times the evidentiary value of these writings (Psa. 12:6; 18:30; 119:142, 151, 160; Prov. 30:5; Matt. 22:16; John 17:17; 2 Cor. 6:7; Gal. 2:5; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rev. 21:5; 22:6, et. al.).

Your Honor, Light presents to you, the hearer, these evidentiary truths and now calls Scripture to testify:

Jesus was born. The Bible records two separate and very long historical and genealogical records of Jesus’ family tree (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38). His birth is chronicled in Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-20. This fulfilled prophecy (Mic. 5:2) and happened in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4). So, Jesus was literally born, a genuine human being with real human blood (Acts 20:28).

Jesus is God. The Bible states that Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14). He is one with the Father (John 10:30). He claimed existence before his birth (John 8:58; cf. Isa. 7:14). Others testified that he is God (John 20:28). The writer of Hebrews also describes Jesus as God (Heb. 1:8). Indeed, he is even worshipped as God (Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38).

One of numerous proofs that Jesus is God is the fact that he did many miracles (Acts 2:22). He healed the deaf and dumb (Mark 7:31-37), the blind (Mark 8:22-26), those with withered hands (Matt. 12:9-14), the crippled (Luke 13:10-17), lepers (Matt. 8:1-4), and even cast out demons (Mark 1:21-27). He turned water into wine (John 2:1-11) and walked on water (Matt. 14:22-33). He fed thousands with a miracle (Matt. 15:32-39). He even raised the dead (John 11:1-45). He was so very God of very God that he promised that those in his church would do even greater things than these (John 14:12). Jesus did so many things that they would fill an infinitely large library (John 21:25).

Jesus Physically Died. The New Testament portion of Scripture states that Jesus literally died a physical death (Matt. 27:32-56; Mark 15:33-34; Luke 23:44-46; John 3:16; 19:28-37; 1 John 3:16), which fulfilled Old Testament prophecy (Psa. 22:14-18; Isa. 53:1-12). He was buried in a borrowed tomb as he wouldn’t be there for long (Luke 23:50-56). A huge boulder was rolled in front of the tomb (Matt. 27:60) and it was sealed and guarded by a host of soldiers (Matt. 27:65-66) because it had been said that Jesus would rise from the dead (Matt. 12:40; 27:63-64; cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:23; Matt. 20:19; Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34; Luke 9:22; 18:31, etc.).

Jesus Resurrected from the Dead The huge boulder was rolled away from in front of the tomb, not so Jesus could get out, but so witnesses could look in (Matt. 28:2, 6; Mark 16:3-4). It was reported on the third day that he had risen. (Mark 16:6).

I now reiterate that Scripture has shown Jesus was a man who was literally born, whose miracles were witnessed by many, that he was God, that he died and was buried. But finally and importantly, the Bible records that he resurrected from the dead (Rom. 1:3-4; 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Tim. 2:8, et. al.). This, however, begs the question of whether or not there was any evidence or any witnesses of this.

Some Witnesses to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that he was the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), that he was the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The Bible’s claim that he rose from the dead was witnessed by numerous people. I offer here a list. But with Light's intention to make the record as complete as possible, in these references some of the same people, especially the disciples of Jesus, are mentioned multiple times.

Some Witnesses
Some Scriptures
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit Acts 2:24; John 2:10; Rom. 8:11
Mary Magdalene John 20:10-18
Other women Matt. 28:8-10
Cleopas and his companion Luke 24:13-32
The ten and others (excluding Thomas) John 20:19-23
The eleven and others Luke 24:33-49
Seven disciples John 21:1-14
The disciples Matt. 28:16-20
The Disciples on the Mount of Olives Luke 25:50-52; Acts 4:1-9
500 breathers at once 1 Cor. 15:3-6
The Apostle Paul 1 Cor. 15:8; cf. Acts 9:3; 18:9; 22:6, 18; 23:11;1 Cor. 9:1
Angels Matt. 28:1-8; John 20:12; Acts 1:9-11
Everyone already in Heaven 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; 1 Thess. 4:16

So, literally tens of thousands of people were witnesses that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

I now offer a brief list of important reasons for why the resurrection is important to Christians.

  • 1. It proved that Jesus is the Son of God (Rom. 1:4).

  • 2. It proved the love of God (Gal. 2:20).

  • 3. It proved the truthfulness of God, as Christ was raised the third day according to the Scriptures (Psa. 16:10-11; Isa. 53:10-12; Acts 17:2-3; 1 Cor. 15:3-4).

  • 4. It proved the truthfulness of Christ's very words, that He would be raised on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34).

  • 5. It proved the power of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit (Phil. 3:10; cf. Acts 2:24; John 2:19; Rom. 8:11).

  • 6. It authenticated Christ's victory over death, therefore displaying His absolute sovereignty over life and death (Rom. 6:9; 1 Cor. 15:54-55; Heb. 10:12).

  • 7. It authenticated Christ's ministry as the savior of His people (Matt. 1:21).

  • 8. It authenticated Christ's sinlessness (Psa. 16:10; Acts 13:32-37).

  • 9. It united Christ to His people (2 Cor. 4:14; cf. 1 Cor. 1:30).

  • 10. It provided the justification of Christ's people (Rom. 4:25).

  • 11. It provided the Christian's living hope, as without the resurrection our faith would be "useless" (1 Cor. 15:14-19; 1 Pet. 1:3-4).

  • 12. It provided the Christian's source of life - eternal life (John 11:25; 1 John 5:11-12).

  • 13. It provides life "now" (1 Cor. 15:58).

  • 14. It provides the very outpouring of His Spirit to all His people (Acts 2:33).

  • 15. It provides power now for the Christian to overcome all adversity (1 Cor. 15:30-32).

  • 16. It provides for the final resurrection of all Christ's children (Hos. 13:14; 1 Cor. 15:20-22, 42-44, 55; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

  • 17. It means that Christ will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30-31).

  • These are just a few of the numerous truths of the resurrection that Christians teach.

    Your Honor, if there are no objections, Light will make our last point and then allow Darkness any rebuttal thereafter.

    Darkness: We have no objections, your Honor.

    Judge: Call your next witness.

    Light: Light calls Changed Life. Your honor, although Light could call thousands of other witnesses who could be called “Changed Life” (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4), we will only call one and then rest our case.

    This person is one of the most vicious enemies the church ever had who later became a defender of the church and the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). The conversion of Saul, later renamed Paul (Acts 13:9), may be seen in three scriptural texts (Acts 9:1-9; 22:6-11; 26:9-20). This is often called the "Damascus Road Experience," but another name may be more fitting, the "Redemptive Road Experience."

    Saul was on a journey to Damascus with a letter from the high priest in Jerusalem giving him authority to arrest any who belonged to "the Way" (those who followed Christ, Acts 9:2). Saul was in outright defiance against God, opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:9), breathing threats and murder against his disciples (Acts 9:1), persecuting Christians in raging fury (Acts 26:11) even into foreign cities (Acts 26:11). Saul, was a "pure-blooded citizen of Israel" (Phil. 3:5, NLT), "a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee" (Phil. 3:5). While he thought he loved God, he hated his Messiah.

    As Saul drew near to Damascus, "a great light from heaven suddenly shone around [him]" (Acts 22:6; Acts 9:3) and his party. Saul "fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to [him], 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?'" (Acts 22:7; Acts 9:5). Note that Saul was not searching for Jesus, but Jesus found Saul (cf. Luke 15:1-7).

    "The men who were traveling with [Saul] stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one" (Acts 9:7). Saul realized that this was no ordinary voice. Being an Jewish scholar, a thought of “Moses, Moses!” and the burning bush may have crossed his thoughts (Exod. 3:1-4). He knew it was deity because he called him "Lord" when he asked who he was (Acts 26:15). “I am the Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 26:15) was his answer. He then added, "It is hard for you to kick against the goads" (Acts 26:14), which is a Greek proverb referring to a rebellious animal kicking at a spiked stick or staff used to prod them. This could refer to the wood and iron symbolizing the cross and its nails and in this way Saul was attacking the cross and Jesus who died there. This experience temporarily blinded Saul (Acts 9:8-9). Though surely terrified (Isa. 6:5-6), Saul asked what the Lord desired him to do (Acts 22:10; cf. Isa. 6:8). Jesus told Saul to go to Damascus and await further instructions (Acts 22:10). This depraved persecutor of Jesus' followers was now converted for God's glory and purpose in God's kingdom: "I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you" (Acts 26:16). As Paul, this man would go on to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 26:16-18).

    This "Redemptive Road Experience" was the beginning of a unique and incredible journey for Saul. While not all conversions are as startling as Saul's, each Christian has a unique and incredible commission from Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20) to unhesitatingly obey (John 14:15), to love God and others (Mark 12:30-31), to understand Jesus, his resurrection, and his sufferings (Phil. 3:10) so they may be better enabled witnesses for God's glory alone (cf. Acts 1:8, 22; 2:32, 40; 3:15; 4:33; 13:31; 14:3, 17; 15:26; 22:20; 26:16).

    Your honor, we leave open the possibility to call rebuttal witnesses. We have a Book of Life full of them. But at this point, Light rests its case.

    Judge: Any Rebuttals?

    Darkness: Your Honor, Darkness, who represents most here today, wishes to withdraw this case. After hearing all the witnesses Light has provided before us this day, we stand convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus rose from the dead. We are convinced that witnesses we would call, though coached very well, are all undeniably liars (John 8:44) and the seed of the serpent (Gen. 3:15).

    We here today agree Jesus is alive and resurrected from the dead. Christ came in flesh, died, and was raised up on the third day. This is not some irrational mystical thought, but really happened. The Christian faith is backed by actual facts, many from both the Bible and even history itself. So, the Christian faith is a logical and rational faith. To believe in Jesus means to really believe in the facts, both historical and scriptural. However once reluctant, I acknowledge that beyond facts and history, even the demons believe this (Jas. 2:19).

    Your Honor, where there was once great darkness, there is now light (Isa. 9:2; 60:1; Matt. 4:16; Luke 1:79; cf. Gen. 1:2-4). This is knowledge, assent, and trust given by the Holy Spirit himself. The truth has set us free (John 8:32).

    Hearing ended

    I hope the above was helpful. Faith isn’t blind when it’s God-given. It’s not irrational when lives are changed. History supports reason when Holy Spirit illuminates truth. To not believe is to live in darkness.

    Related Topics

    Is saving faith knowledge in a set of facts?
    Demons Believe in God

    Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

    Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).