A common question I’m asked at speaking engagements is this: Can you identify the single most important evidence for the Christian faith? My consistent answer is the historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. As Paul explains, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). But, if Christ really did rise from the dead, then all who turn to Him will be made eternally alive and forever secure in their relationship with God.
Many nonbelievers, however, are not ready to listen to the evidence for Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead, an event that occurred so long ago. They have, from their perspective, more pressing barriers to the Christian faith. Some examples include:
- Haven’t scientists confirmed that the universe and Earth are much older than 10,000 years?
- Isn’t the order of creation events in Genesis 1 flat out wrong?
- Doesn’t scientific evidence verify that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor?
- With billions of planets in the universe, why should we believe Earth is special?
- Why would God create pre-human hominids?
- How can people in their right mind believe a global flood happened a few thousand years ago?
- Doesn’t the big bang theory disprove the biblical creation story?
The principle here is that we need to engage nonbelievers with what they consider to be their most pressing barriers to faith rather than what we think are their biggest barriers. By graciously responding to the nonbeliever’s most pressing barriers, we have built an onramp to discussing the case for Christ’s bodily resurrection.
How do we find out what a nonbeliever’s biggest barriers are? Ask and listen. Start by asking general questions then, as the situation allows, you can move on to asking more direct and personal questions to help discern the nonbeliever’s spiritual condition. As the Spirit leads, you can ask, “What would you say are the biggest reasons for not giving your life to Christ?”
By offering thoughtful replies to the nonbeliever’s objections, you will gain the right to ask, “Have you ever considered the historical evidence showing that Jesus of Nazareth rose bodily from the dead?” If a nonbeliever sees that his or her primary barriers to faith are addressed compassionately and respectfully, he or she will likely be more willing to give careful attention to the evidence for Christ’s resurrection.