How Atheists View The Resurrection
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. 1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Dwight David Eisenhower, the general who became an American President once said, “An atheist is a person who goes to a Notre-Dame-Southern Methodist football game and doesn’t care who wins.”
Wise, however, is the atheist who comes to the conclusion, “I was wrong!” and publicly acknowledges that fact, regardless of the hostilities that come from others. Such was an English philosopher and outspoken atheist who stunned and dismayed his faithful followers when in the year 2004, he acknowledged that God probably did exist. The son of a Methodist minister, Antony Flew embraced atheism in his youth and followed that path through his academic career that led to teaching positions at Oxford and the University of Aberdeen, and the University of Reading from 1973 until his retirement in 1982.
While atheists have sometimes been lumped into two categories–the ordinary atheist, and the ornery atheist, Flew was a polemicist and a gentleman. Years ago, on this program I told you of a debate between Gary Habermas and Professor Antony Flew. Professor Flew began the debate with a negative statement, holding to the fact that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was an impossibility because of natural necessity and natural impossibility. His position was that a resurrection could not happen because it violates natural laws. His secondary position was that too long a period of time had elapsed between the death of Christ on the cross and the position that Christ rose from the dead.
Professor Gary Habermas, best known as an authority on the resurrection of Christ based his position upon twelve known facts, eleven of which are accepted by almost all critical scholars today regardless of their faith. They are as follows: 1. Jesus died at the hands of Roman soldiers. 2. He was buried. 3. Jesus’ death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope. 4. Although not as frequently recognized, many scholars hold to the position that the tomb was found empty only days later. 5. The disciples believed to have experienced the living Christ shortly thereafter. 6. Their lives were transformed as cowardice turned to boldness. 7. The message of the resurrection was central to the preaching of the early disciples. 8. The message was first proclaimed in Jerusalem. 9. The church grew and prospered in spite of persecution. 10. Sunday, the day of the resurrection, became the Church’s day of worship. 11. James, the half-brother of Jesus was converted. 12. A few years later, Paul encountered the church, doing a reverse-about-face and proclaimed the resurrection.
And how does Professor Anthony Flew fit into this? Shortly before his death, Professor Flew co-authored a book with Roy Varghese entitled, There Is a God; How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind,” shortly before his death at the age of 87. Of course, his critics said he had been manipulated by evangelicals. Nonetheless, he died acknowledging that there is a God and life has no real meaning apart from His existence.
I am reminded of a friend I once had who explained, “Well, to tell you the truth, I guess I can’t live the kind of a live I want to live and believe in a God!” It was that honestly that also caused Antony Flew, the ex-atheist to die acknowledging that there is a God–the same one his father knew and proclaimed! Paul put it, “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and He was buried and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That’s old news, and new news, and very good news!
Resource reading: Ephesians 1:18-21