Down through the centuries many people have sought to show that the resurrection of Jesus actually happened. Richard Swinburne, Professor of Philosophy at Oxford University in England, tried a new approach. He used probability theory. Now economists use probability theory to make forecasts about consumer spending and actuaries use it to calculate insurance premiums, but Dr. Swinburne invoked probability theory to defend the belief that Jesus rose from the dead.
Swinburne observed, “For someone dead for 36 hours to come to life again is, according to the laws of nature, extremely improbable. But if there is a God of the traditional kind, natural laws only operate because he makes them operate.”
At a conference of more than a hundred philosophers at Yale University, Swinburne proceeded to weigh evidence for and against the resurrection, assigning values to factors like the probability that there is a God, the nature of Jesus’ behavior during his lifetime, and the quality of witness testimony after his death. He used the formula known as Bayes’ Theorem and by his calculations the probability of the resurrection comes out to a whopping 97%.
Now I don’t suppose anyone is likely to become a Christian just because of a mathematical calculation. But it can be a good starting point. For myself, I am convinced by the eyewitness accounts of the resurrection in the gospels.
I am helped by books like Frank Morrison’s Who Moved the Stone? and Lee Stroebel’s The Case for Easter. But at the end of the day, we have to put our faith in Christ. If he didn’t rise on Easter day he is still dead so he can’t possibly have an impact in our life. I have found in the 49 years since I trusted Christ as my Savior, that I have personal evidence that Jesus is alive. He has spoken to me through his word, his Spirit and his people. He has guided me. He has provided for me in extraordinary ways. He has healed me dramatically on two occasions. You could no more convince me that Jesus isn’t alive than you could convince me that my wife Gretchen is not alive, because I know she is.
The old Easter hymn, while perhaps lacking in theological depth, gives voice to my experience.
I serve a risen Savior
He’s in the world today.
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy;
I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.
Rejoicing in the resurrection,
C. John Steer