Reasons to Believe

Christianity's Dangerous Ideas

“Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”1

This line—from my favorite book in C. S. Lewis’s remarkable children’s series—makes it clear that Aslan, the Christ figure in the story, is no tame lion. But his being dangerous does not rule out his profound benevolence.

Like Lewis’s ferocious feline, ideas, including those of belief systems, can also be dangerous. And if Christianity encompasses ideas that are “not safe,” then is it not therefore a risky and hazardous religion?

One of my longtime friends, an atheist, agrees that historic Christianity includes dangerous ideas. However, from his point of view, the Christian faith affirms irrational and superstitious ideas that are not just unsafe but harmful. He believes these ideas are injurious both for those who believe them as well as for those who are affected by them.

Alternatively, I believe Christianity’s distinctive and essential ideas (or doctrinal truths) are rational and in fact do correspond to reality. Though these Christian truth-claims are “dangerous” in the sense that they often challenge accepted consensus (especially in modern and postmodern eras), I would argue that they’re still good.

“Dangerous Ideas” in such disciplines as philosophy, theology, and science often challenge the standard paradigm (accepted model) of the day. These so-called unsafe ideas have radical implications for how people view reality, truth, rationality, goodness, value, and beauty, and can sometimes contravene what many people believe. Not only do such revolutionary ideas threaten accepted beliefs, but they also contain explosive world-and-life view implications for all humanity.

Historic Christianity contains numerous beliefs that are theologically and philosophically volatile (in the best sense of the term). The Christian faith contains powerful truth-claims that have transformed the church and even turned the world upside down.

I’m writing a book that will explore seven of historic Christianity’s dangerous ideas, and this article briefly examines what I consider to be the Christian faith’s most dangerous idea.

Not All Dead Men Stay Dead—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Naturalists (nature is the exclusive reality) believe that death is the final end of one’s life and existence and there is no escape from this inevitable consequence. In other words, the Grim Reaper doesn’t play favorites. Not only does everyone die but everyone also stays dead forever. There are no exceptions to this certain naturalistic fate.

From this perspective, any belief system that affirms life after death is sheer wishful thinking. Death is the great equalizer—it comes for everyone. This life is all there is so make the most of it. There is, then, no meaning to life other than what people can hope to create for themselves. Yet this bleak predicament fills men’s hearts with legitimate angst and dread. Everything that a person builds in this life is broken down completely and permanently by death.

In stark contrast to the naturalistic worldview’s melancholy and hopeless dilemma, historic Christianity’s most dangerous idea is that one man—Jesus Christ—died but didn’t remain dead. Following his public crucifixion, he rose from the dead on the first Easter morning. Therefore at the center of Christianity’s earliest preaching and teaching (kerygma) is the solemn proclamation that Jesus Christ lived on Earth, conquered death, and thus remains the living Savior and Lord.

Several strands of formidable evidence back Jesus’ historic bodily resurrection from the grave. These interwoven elements include the empty tomb, Jesus’ postcrucifixion appearances, the transformation of the apostles, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the change in the day of worship from the Sabbath to the Lord’s Day, and finally the emergence of the historic Christian church itself.

The implications of this perilous proposition are staggering and life-changing. Jesus Christ has accomplished what the collective testimony of humanity says is not possible—he rose bodily from the dead!

Here are two promising consequences of the resurrection for those who know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

First, Christ’s resurrection is the answer to mankind’s greatest existential predicament—death. The resurrection provides hope, purpose, meaning, and confidence in the presence of death (John 11:25–26; Romans 14:7–8).

Second, Christ’s resurrection is the pledge and paradigm for the future bodily resurrection of all believers (1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:20, 2 Corinthians 9:14; Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:18; 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Because he rose, believers will also rise.

Unfortunately, many Christians do not genuinely appreciate just how shocking and dangerous the idea of Jesus’ resurrection really is. Christian philosopher Stephen T. Davis explains: “Christians today do not seem to be astonished at the idea of resurrection (after nearly two thousand Easters, we seem to have gotten used to the idea), but we ought to be.”2

If, as a Christian, this most dangerous of all ideas doesn’t rock your world-and-life view, then maybe your faith has become too safe. And if you’re not a Christian, welcome to Christianity’s dangerous ideas. Prepare for a venture into a historic faith that reveals even more incredibly explosive truths.

Our Bodies Compared

Earthly Body: Resurrection Body:
Mortal Immortal
Dishonorable Glorious
Weak Powerful
Natural Spiritual

RESOURCES:

Without a Doubt

RTB Web article: “If Christ Has Not Been Raised: Reasoning through the Resurrection” (http://www.reasons.org/resurrection/if-christ-has-not-been-raised-reasoning-through-resurrection)

 

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1 C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), 80.

2 Stephen T. Davis, Risen Indeed: Making Sense of the Resurrection (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 168.
 

Subjects: Resurrection, Worldviews

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity’s truth-claims. Read more about Kenneth Samples.