“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and
you are still in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17 ESV
Dear Church Family,
In Not Out of Africa, classical scholar Mary Lefkowitz challenges “Afrocentrism,” a movement claiming that the best of our western culture is actually stolen from Africa. She attended a lecture by one scholar who asserted that the Greek philosopher Aristotle had stolen books from the library in Alexandria, Egypt, and so his own philosophy was, likewise, stolen from Africa. (Oh, and the Jews were also Africans.) During the question time, Lefkowitz asked how Aristotle stole books from a library that wasn’t built until after his death. The scholar was caught off guard; he couldn’t answer, but he could say that he didn’t appreciate the tone of her question. Several students confronted Lefkowitz after the lecture and accused her of being a racist for having the temerity to challenge the African scholar’s claims.
We’re living in an age in which history is being rewritten, and it is being rewritten often from a very particular viewpoint with an agenda in mind. Now, I’m all for reexamining evidence, but what if evidence is overtly neglected (or replaced with myths) in the service of an agenda? What should be the Christian’s attitude towards evidence? Toward historical truth?
This is a touchy issue for Christians, because our faith is not primarily the result of logical arguments and scientific testing. Faith, at some level, is believing even when “proof” is lacking (John 20:29; 2 Corinthians 5:7). That, however, does not mean that Christians don’t care about evidence, that Christians don’t care about what has actually transpired in history.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is dealing with the resurrection of Christ as it relates to the future hope for a resurrection of the dead. He begins by noting that Christ’s resurrection was attested by several eyewitnesses (vv. 5-8). If Christ has not been raised, he states boldly, our faith is a fraud. Paul’s argument reveals what he believed about the importance of history for Christian faith. Christianity is not a “philosophy,” an “idea.” It is a lived relationship with a God who created the world and continues to interact with it. In 1 Corinthians 15, he declared that, if Christ had not been raised from the dead, we are…hopeless. That is because the resurrection of Christ was the beginning in history of the resurrection that most Jews (not the Sadducees) believed was coming at the end of the age. What happened, or didn’t happen, in history determines whether or not Christianity is true.
This is why Paul can refer to Christ, using an agricultural metaphor, as the “first fruits” of those raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). With the resurrection of Christ, God began to fulfill his promise of eternal life. That promise will ultimately be fulfilled when we, his children, are changed “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (v. 52 ESV).