This article first appeared in 2010.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in human history. Not only does it declare loud and clear that death has been conquered, but it also validates that Christ’s sacrifice of His life on our behalf is sufficient, enabling forgiveness of our sins and release from sin’s power and penalty. It further assures us that the Christian hope in eternal life is secure and guarantees that it is not a hollow fantasy.
But the Resurrection has another dimension that is often forgotten by the Christian. It totally dismantles the naturalistic worldview and debunks its fundamental assumptions. This view, so commonplace in our society (and vigorously espoused by many in the scientific community), sees everything through the “lens of nature” and contends that nature is complete in and of itself. To put it another way, “naturalism” sees nature as the ultimate reality, and nothing else is needed to explain the world in which we live.
Followed to its logical conclusions, man is nothing more than a material being, the most complex animal on the evolutionary scale. Life is defined as that interval of time between birth and death, and when we die, we cease to exist. In short, after death, we are nothing more than a “memory” to those left behind, and any hope of life after death is foolishness in the extreme.
The naturalist argues that there is no “force” or “being” out there that has caused nature’s existence or has any influence on how it expresses itself. Thus, the idea of a god that has any role in impacting or coordinating the affairs of nature is ludicrous. If there is a god, he is unknowable, and even if he does exist, there is absolutely no reason why we should concern ourselves with him. Not surprisingly, any alleged reality referred to as the supernatural is meaningless, and the idea of life-eternal is an oxymoron. Further, the “laws of nature” preclude any possibility of the miraculous.
Re-infusing “Life” Into 100 Trillion Cells
The Resurrection, though, clearly challenges such notions. Consider for a moment what is involved in bringing a dead person back to life. Not only are we talking about re-infusing “life” into the cells of this person’s body so that he is identical in appearance and function to what he was prior to death, but the complex biochemistry of each of these cells is also restored so that they can adequately carry out their precise and diverse activities (some cells responsible for brain function, some for cardiac function, some for digestive activity, etc.). And we are not just talking about a few hundred, or even a few hundred thousand cells, but probably as many as 100 trillion cells (what most scientists believe compose the human body).
The power necessary to make this happen is foreign to anything with which humans are familiar, not to mention the knowledge required to ensure that every chemical reaction necessary for optimal cellular function is fully up and running for each of these trillion-plus cells.
The power necessary to make this happen is foreign to anything with which humans are familiar, not to mention the knowledge required to ensure that every chemical reaction necessary for optimal cellular function is fully up and running for each of these trillion-plus cells. Further, if the body we are discussing belongs to Jesus, this power would also have to extract Him from His tightly wrapped graveclothes and enable Him to exit from a tomb whose entrance is blocked by a two-ton rock and guarded by Rome’s elite military, all without being seen in the process.
Finally, the means by which this power and knowledge are exhibited assumes a mind to make it happen. And the mind responsible for these actions has to have the authority to initiate them and ensure that no detail necessary to bring this corpse back to life is overlooked.
The only person who has such a mind and is able to guarantee that this power and knowledge is carried out precisely as planned and executed in such a way that nothing can thwart its efforts is a sovereign God, and not just any god, but the God who created this universe and all that it entails. There is no way that such a resurrection could be “pulled off” through random, indifferent, or impersonal processes so characteristic of naturalism’s view of the world.
Four assertions logically follow that undermine the assumptions of the naturalistic worldview:
First, if the Resurrection is true, there is a God. He is not a figment of the imagination, but a real being. The only adequate explanation for Jesus’ resurrection is that a sovereign God was responsible for its occurrence.
Second, the Resurrection clearly demonstrates that there really is a realm of reality that can only be described as supernatural. While humans may not understand it or have the means of studying it as we do the natural world, the Resurrection puts to rest any misgivings regarding the existence of the supernatural. This single event validates once and for all the certainty of a supernatural order of reality.
Third, the miraculous is no longer in dispute. If God can raise a dead body to life, He has already demonstrated that He can supersede nature’s laws to accomplish His purposes without interrupting the stability of the cosmos in the process. If there was ever any doubt about the possibility of miracles, the Resurrection has proved that doubt to be unfounded.
Not only did the resurrection affirm the existence of a sovereign God, but it also indicated that there is a supernatural realm of reality, that miracles can and do happen, and that eternal life is a solid and not a capricious hope.
Fourth, Jesus’ resurrection also validated the concept of the eternal. The Resurrection declared that death has been defeated and that life after death is no longer a theoretical concept but a surety.
The idea that death is the end of man’s existence has now been overthrown. If a sovereign God could raise Jesus from the dead, why is He restricted from raising others from the dead, you and me included? Life after death demonstrated in Jesus’ resurrection is no longer just an irrational wish, but a certainty.
As we approach this coming Easter season and celebrate once again the empty tomb of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, it is important that we not get sidetracked with a limited understanding of what was accomplished when God raised Jesus from the dead. While it is true that our salvation was achieved and everything that Christ did on the cross on our behalf was validated, it is equally true that the meaning of who we are as recipients of God’s grace and the magnificence of His majesty also became crystal clear on that day. Not only did it affirm the existence of a sovereign God, as if there were any doubt, but it also indicated that there is a supernatural realm of reality, that miracles can and do happen, and that eternal life is a solid and not a capricious hope. It further affirms that Jesus truly was the Son of God and thus the manifestation of God in the flesh. We can rightfully shout that because HE LIVES, we also shall live!
Thomas A. Miller, MD has had a distinguished career in surgery spanning more than 35 years. Previously serving on the surgical faculties of the University of Texas (Houston) and Saint Louis University, he currently is Professor of Surgery at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and the editor of three textbooks on surgical physiology. This article is adapted from his book Did Jesus Really Rise From the Dead? A Surgeon-Scientist Examines The Evidence (Crossway, 2013).