Douglas Groothuis

Defending Christian Faith, November 9, 2004





I am the resurrection and the life—Jesus Christ.



I.          The Identity of Jesus


A.        Importance of question (Matthew 16:13 – 18; 1 John 4:1 – 4)


B.         Reliability of the NT as a background or “minimal facts approach.”  See contributions by Gary Habermas in Steven Cowan, ed. Five Views of Apologetics (Zondervan, 2000) and James Sire, Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All? (InterVarsity, 1994), chapter 10


C.        Jesus on Jesus (See also Millard Erickson, The Word Became Flesh:  An Incarnational Christology (Baker, 1992), chapter 17


1.         Uniqueness of Jesus’ knowledge of God and mediatorial work


a.         Jesus’ statements:  Matthew 11:27; John 14:1 – 6


b.         Apostolic confirmation: Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5


2.         Jesus unique relationship to the Father (John 5:17 – 47)


3.         Jesus sense of mission and authority throughout the Gospels


4.         Jesus claims to forgive sin; only God can forgive sin; Jesus is God


a.         Mark 2:5 – 11


b.         Luke 7:36-50


5.         Jesus, “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 – 28)


6.         “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). See Exodus 3:14


D.        Evaluating Jesus’ statements (Stephen T. Davis; see also R. Nash’s argument in Faith and Reason [Zondervan, 1988])


1.         Jesus claimed, either explicitly or implicitly, to be divine (not merely a good teacher, prophet, etc.)


2.         Jesus was either right or wrong in claiming to be divine


3.         If Jesus was wrong in claiming to be divine, Jesus was either mad or bad


4.         Jesus was not bad


5.         Jesus was not mad


6.         Therefore, Jesus was not wrong in claiming to be divine


7.         Therefore, Jesus was right in claiming to be divine


8.         Therefore, Jesus was divine. Strongly or weakly rational?


E.         Understanding the claims of the Incarnation


1.         Jesus as truly human (John 1:14)


2.         Jesus as divine (John 1:1 – 2)


3.         Jesus is one person


4.         Jesus has a divine nature (as the Second Person—Logos—of the Trinity)


5.         Jesus has a human nature


6.         Jesus has two natures in one person (hypostatic union)


F.         Understanding the logic of the Incarnation


1.         Not a hopeless paradox or contradiction (contra Kierkegaard, others)


2.         Strategies for attaining logical coherence.  See also Erickson, The Word Became Flesh, chapters 20 – 22


a.         Avoiding assigning contradictory properties in one subject


b.         Possession of divine and human attributes, like a person possessing mind and body. Jesus qua deity; Jesus qua humanity


c.         Kenotic aspect:  suspended use of some divine prerogatives while still possessing them (2 Corinthians 8:9; Phil. 2:5 – 11)


II.        The Significance and Meaning of the Resurrection of Jesus


A.        Theism as background belief makes the resurrection possible, conceivable


B.         Jesus a liberator, victor over sin, Satan, death; harbinger of eternal life (John 11). Compare with Buddha


C.        Jesus as source of new life in Christians throughout world history (I Corinthians 15)


III.       Evidence for the Resurrection (See Also Douglas Groothuis, Jesus in an Age of Controversy, 272 – 282)


A.        The Empty Tomb: necessary, not sufficient for resurrection; must be explained adequately


1.         Based on several NT sources


2.         Not mentioned directly in early preaching in Acts—mutually assumed


3.         Jewish polemic assumed empty tomb (Matthew 28:11 – 15):  bad argument, anyway. Tomb was secured, theft neither possible nor desirable


4.         Part of pre-Markan accounts (derived from Mark and 1 Cor. 15)


5.         Women as witnesses of empty tomb (and resurrected Jesus)


6.         No other burial story exists (J.D. Crosson has invented one:  Jesus was buried in a shallow tomb and eaten by dogs)—archeological evidence against this


7.         Jewish view of resurrection is bodily:  Jesus could not be in a tomb and resurrected


8.         Burial by the rich man Joseph is historically sound


9.         No tomb veneration, which was common in that day


B.         Appearances of Jesus


1.         Multiple appearances over 40 days to many people, not isolated


2.         Appearances are bodily and historical


3.         1 Corinthians 15 as strong evidence for resurrection


4.         Apostolic preaching of a resurrected Jesus in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion and death (Acts)


5.         Alternative views


a.         Conscious deception: no rational motive for it (Pascal, Charles Colson)


i.          Goes against messianic expectations


ii.          Goes against extant Judaism


b.         Hallucination: no mass hallucination over that much time for that many different people


C.        Four features of the early church that confirm the resurrection (indirect evidence)


1.         Transformation of the disciples requisite to spread the gospel in a hostile setting


2.         Change in key social structures (Lord’s day, belief in the deity of Jesus)


3.         Sacraments (ordinances) of the early church: baptism, Lord’s supper


4.         The very existence of the early church begs for a sufficient explanation


D.        Ancient mystery religions and the resurrection of Jesus (2 Peter 1:16)


1.         Mystery religions not based on history


2.         No significant parallels between mystery saviors and Jesus


3.         Sources on mystery religions probably come after Jesus and the NT


See also Murray J. Harris, Three Questions About Jesus (Baker, 1994). Addresses the evidence for Jesus’ existence, his resurrection, and his deity.


For more on the resurrection of Jesus see, Richard Swinburne, The Resurrection of God Incarnate (Oxford, 2003). See D. Groothuis review of this book and a much worse book in Books and Culture:



See also the magisterial, N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress, 2003).


IV.       From Christ to Christianity


A.        Bible as the inspired and flawless (inerrant) Word of God


1.         Establish general reliability of NT


2.         Jesus authority and the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17 – 18; John 10:35)


3.         New Testament rests on Jesus’ authority through the Apostles (John 14:26; 15:26 – 27)


4.         NT is the apostle’s teaching or an extension of it (2 Peter 3:16)


5.         New Testament test for canonicity


a.         Continuity:  read in churches consistently


b.         Apostolicity


c.         Consistent doctrine


See also Doug Groothuis, “The New Testament Canon” in Jesus in an Age of Controversy, and Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Development, 3rd ed (Abingdon, 2003), 309-19.


B.         Sin (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21 – 23; Romans 3)


C.        The Cross of Christ (see John Stott, The Cross of Christ (InterVarsity Press, 1987)


D.        Faith in Christ as Lord and Savior (Eph. 2:8 – 9; Titus 3:5 – 6)


E.         Righteousness from God; righteousness in our lives: justification and sanctification


V.        The Argument from Biblical Prophecy


A.        Prophetic fulfillment within the OT: harder case to make apologetically, not a lost cause. Different from the Qur’an. No internal fulfillment in Qur’an, nor does it fulfill any biblical prophecy (except concerning false teachings)


B.         On reliability of the OT, see Jeff Sheler, Is the Bible True? (Zondervan, 1999), Walter Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant?  (InterVarsity Press, 2001). Kenneth Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans, December 2003). And see Dr. Richard Hess of Denver Seminary


1.         Short argument from the New Testament and Jesus


a.         NT is historically reliable


b.         Jesus is authoritative on what he addresses


c.         Jesus endorses what we know as the OT (Matthew 5:17-20; John 10:35; multiple references)


d.         Therefore, the OT is reliable


2.         Short argument from the NT and Paul


a.         Paul’s writings are historically reliable


b.         Paul, as the Apostle of Christ, is authoritative on what he addresses


c.         Paul endorses the OT (Romans 15:4; multiple references), along with Jesus


d.         Therefore, the OT is reliable


C.        Prophetic fulfillment from the OT to the NT


1.         End of the world prophecies—dubious apologetic value. The distraction of End times fiction.


2.         Messianic prophecies—strong apologetic value (see Walter Kaiser, The Messiah of the Old Testament)


a.         First hope (Genesis 3:15)


b.         Suffering servant (Isaiah 53). See Barry Leventhal, “Why I Believe Jesus is the Promised Messiah,” Norman Geisler, Paul Hoffman, eds. Why I am a Christian (Baker, 2001), 209-213


c.         The Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:5 – 6)


3.         Structure of argument from prophecy


a.         Detailed, clear predictions made long before events


b.         Events could not be manipulated by human means, could not be lucky guesses     


c.         Prophecies have been fulfilled in reliable documents


4.         Demonstrates uniqueness of Jesus as the Messiah


5.         Evidences the supernatural character of Scripture, OT and NT


6.         Indicates (does not prove) the omniscience of God; demonstrates the prescience of God