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Set Forth Your Case – Paper #11

Part 11 of a 16 part series…

To catch you up, my father, Dr. Michael Ruth (an author, family therapist, and pastor since the late 70’s) gave me an assignment to read the book Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock and to write a 1-2 page response to each of the chapters.  It might be a little difficult to fully understand my responses to or summaries of the chapters without reading the book, but I wanted to share my work anyway.

Set Forth Your Case by Clark Pinnock
Chapter 11: On the Third Day

In the first paragraph of this chapter Pinnock makes the following statement, “It (the resurrection) is a focus for both theology and apologetics, because it enters into both God’s redemptive provision (Rom. 4:25) and the ground of certainty (1 Pet. 1:3).  In addition to laying redemptive groundwork for deliverance, Christ came to demonstrate that the ‘unknown God’ is no longer unknown (Acts 17:23, 31).  The resurrection is a fact of history without which history does not make sense.”  In using the resurrection of Christ as the central theme of this chapter, Pinnock hones the argument he made in chapter 10 to a finer point.  Just as Christ is the central focus of the Gospel, Christ’s resurrection is the cornerstone on which the Christian faith is built.

One of the key purposes of apologetics is to pull Christianity out of a world entirely centered on mysticism in order to show unbelievers that while there is an inescapable portion of God that is magical, mystical and divine, there is also enough historical evidence of His reality to sustain a decision to follow Him.  I believe that is the point Pinnock is trying to make here.  Indeed he says, “God acted in the empirical realm…in order to save men from both sin and agnosticism.”  As he has done in recent chapters, Pinnock gives historical examples of the proofs we have to support Biblical claims.  One such example involves a lawyer – Frank Morrison – who was determined to write a book disproving the resurrection.  After pouring over the facts for himself, he stopped the task entirely, recognizing that it was a useless pursuit.

In order to convince unbelievers, it is vitally important that we have history on our side.  As Pinnock says, “The sinner needs to know that the gospel is not the concoction of a human imagination, but is objectively true.”  Indeed, Pinnock carries that point further to say that, as Christians, we would be absurd to claim the resurrection ourselves without requiring any proof of its validity.  He says it would be similar to someone telling you they have a five-leaf clover and you take it as fact without requiring the holder to prove it to you.  On top of the logical fallacies, you are going have a hard time convincing a skeptic to believe if the basis on which you believe is nothing more than existential experience.

At this point in the chapter, Pinnock delves into the evidence that can be presented for the resurrection:

  • The Empty Tomb: Christ’s disciples were proclaiming His resurrection in Jerusalem within three months of his death.  Religious balance between Romans and Jews in the area was not achieved without difficulty, and these rabble rousers certainly did not help the cause of “peace.”  Surely, if they could have, officials would have simply produced the body of Christ and squelched the movement.  Pinnock points out that some Jews proclaimed the disciples stole the body; but as Pinnock points out, besides the problem of stealing the body under the nose of Pilot’s stationed guards, “Hypocrites do not become martyrs.”  Others challenge the resurrection and say that Christ did not in fact die on the cross, but survived his crucifixion and escaped the tomb Himself.  This claim, however, requires a double measure of faith.  As Pinnock says, “A hypothesis of this sort only emphasizes how far a non-Christian will go to escape the inescapable.”  To draw us back to the point then, one of the best proofs for the resurrection is the fact that Christ’s enemies and detractors could never produce evidence to the contrary.
  • Christ’s Post-Resurrection Appearances: We know that Christ appeared to many after His resurrection.  John records Christ’s first appearance to Mary Magdalene in the 20th chapter of his gospel.  (As an aside, this in and of itself is support for the gospel’s validity, as no first century male would create a scenario that placed a woman in such a privileged position.)  We see recorded accounts of His appearances in Acts 10 and 1 Corinthians 15, and we can read in each of the four gospels that the apostles indeed were scared and confused after Christ’s death, in hiding from the authorities for fear they would receive the same fate as He.  Though they walked with Him for many months, they too needed proof that He did rise from the dead, just as he predicted.  Thomas even touched His wounds!  Seeing Christ utterly convinced the apostles – including Paul – that the gospel was indeed true, so much so that they were all willing to be persecuted and martyred to share this truth.  We see in the book of Acts that the early church exploded after Christ’s resurrection, due in great part to the fervor with which the spiritually-bolstered apostles preached the word of God.  His appearances to them were the culmination and the validation of all His teachings to them when they walked together during His earthly ministry.

There are certainly a lot of scripture references that Pinnock gives in his defense of the resurrection, and certainly a critic might simply still choose to claim that the Bible is not historically or factually relevant.  I mentioned this myself in an earlier paper…that yes, it would be easier to bring non-believers to Christ if we simply could get them to believe that the Bible contains accurate historical accounts and is the infallible word of God.  I do not take issue with Pinnock’s use of scripture as his primary source of evidence for the resurrection in this chapter because he laid his proofs out for the validity of scripture in chapter nine; therefore, I am willing to accept his premise in this chapter.

Copyright © 2013 Jonathan Ruth

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