Auguste Comte, the French philosopher, and Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish essayist, were deeply engaged in conversation. Comte said he was going to start a new religion that would supplant the religion of Christ. It was to have no mysteries and was to be as plain as the multiplication table; its name was to be positivism. “Very good, Mr. Comte,” Carlyle replied, “very good. All you will need to do will be to speak as never a man spake, and live as never a man lived, and be crucified, and rise again the third day, and get the world to believe that you are still alive. Then your religion will have a chance to get on.”
You cannot separate Christianity from the resurrection of Christ. The teaching of the resurrection is central to Christianity because, if it is accepted as true, one has no other choice but to accept everything else that comes from Jesus as true.
In his book The Reason for God, Tim Keller explains,
Someone may say, “I like parts of Christianity, but I could do without some of it.” I would respond, “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
This is essentially the point Paul was making when he wrote,
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor. 15:14-19)
You can’t simply dismiss Christianity as fiction. You can’t pick and choose from its teachings as if it were a philosophy devised by men. The resurrection confronts us with something that demands your attention. Either it is true and must be embraced, or it is the greatest hoax in history, and it must be defeated.
If it is true, it also means hope for us. This life is brief. It always ends in death. But Jesus, who called himself the “resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25), came back from that death. His resurrection means we can expect one of our own at the end of time. “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”