I live in Downtown Dallas and witness a lot of astonishing things. The passionate preacher on the street corner yelling at strangers passing by, the homeless person approaching you for food or money, and the amatuer street racers revving their engines and honking their horns meet you at the front door. Together with the distant sounds of laughter, music, and friendly chatter, they produce a cacophony of noise that hums endlessly in the background. Even at night, everything gleams with neon light and life. It’s a terrible place to sleep. I’ve grown strangely fond of it.
A few weeks ago, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. As I took my daily drive by Dealey Plaza, I noticed it was unusually busy. A group of QAnon believers had gathered on the grassy knoll, awaiting the resurrection of President John F. Kennedy and his late son, JFK Jr–or so I would learn.
At one end of the mall, fanatics were lining up one-by-one to receive messages from a man who stood at the end with a bird on his shoulder. Eventually, they formed a giant letter “Q” by standing shoulder to shoulder. I continued to drive slowly by and carried on with my day.
Later, I heard from a friend that John F. Kennedy and his late son had not appeared after all. Instead, Twitter told me, the leader of the group confirmed they planned to appear at the Rolling Stones concert that night. My stomach dropped – I had tickets!
So it was strange to me when I heard the next morning after what was a cold and rainy but otherwise great concert that Michael Jackson, John F. Kennedy Jr., Elvis, and Prince were, in fact, the members of the band we had heard. They were simply disguised, the QAnon leader suggested, as the Rolling Stones.
I understand if this all sounds very strange to you. It is very strange! The curious behavior and foreign rituals, the outrageous claims of resurrection miracles, and the man with a parrot on his shoulder are wacky, red flags. I was tempted to call these people “fools” for believing in something so ridiculous. Surely, they know better, I thought. Then it hit me: “Is this how some people look at me as a Christian?”
We as Christians also gather in groups and listen to a leader regularly tell us about a man’s resurrection. Our prevailing symbol is an ancient instrument of torture, and we claim to consume a man’s blood and flesh every week. We both believe in resurrections and wait with eager hope for prophesied events that have yet to be fulfilled. We are both peoples of faith who believe in a divine plan of some sort, and we both believe in the authority and power of prophets. Rather than being fools for JFK, the closest followers of Jesus admitted being “fools for Christ.” (1 Corinthians 4:10). Perhaps, these are a few reasons why so many Christians are prone to join this movement.
So what, if anything, makes us different from those who are waiting on the grassy knoll in Dallas, TX? Can we be any more sure of our belief in the resurrection?
Give Me A Good Reason to Believe It (or, How We Know What We Know)
It is more socially acceptable to be a Christian in this scenario since Christianity is conflated with moral improvement and charitable living. But stop and think about what we actually confess: God was born as a man through a virgin, walked the earth for thirty-three years, died by torture, went to hell, and miracously rose from the dead and soared back to heaven in order to save humanity from eternal condemnation. It is a strange belief that can be downright offensive to modern ears.
When anyone makes a claim about the Truth, it’s right to seek out evidence to support or deny such a claim. The claims of Christianity are no exception to this rule, and that’s a good thing. How else could we have a productive conversation with others about what we believe? Paul urges fellow Christians to be prepared with a reasonable explanation for our hope in Jesus’ Resurrection. So we are ready to give an answer to those who look at us as if we are crazy.
One starting point for assessing the evidence of Christianity can come in the form of a reasonable question: “Are the New Testament Accounts of Jesus Historically Reliable?” This is worth taking time to seriously consider. If you’re interested in exploring this question, I invite you to check out our podcast, Christianity on Trial, and our free 1517 Academy course, “Introduction to Apologetics,” where trained Christian apologists, such as Dr. John Warwick Montgomery and Dr. Adam Francisco, weigh the evidence closely.
When you look, one thing you will find is that Jesus' life, death by crucifixion, and the report of an empty tomb on Easter Sunday are some of the most attested accounts in all of antiquity. No honest scholar denies these historical facts, though some challenge how the tomb became empty.
You will also find that most scholars agree that these are historically reliable documents. What does that mean? Not necessarily that they are true–though, of course, we as Christians believe them to be. Rather, there are enough early versions of these documents to conclude that they are true to their original form. When we compare these documents to other texts in a similar timeframe, all of them – Homer, Aristotle, Plato, Herodotus – pale in comparison in terms of written, available copies.
Why is this important for us today? For Christians, it can be a comfort to remember there are many good reasons for the hope that is in us. This is especially true in a world where brainwashing, gaslighting, and propagandizing are real daily dangers.
For all people, this also means that Jesus and all that he said and did deserves a serious look. C.S. Lewis offers a stimulating trilemma argument to explore the possible implications. In another place, he properly frames up what’s at stake here, saying: “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important," (Mere Christianity).
Christianity Could Be Proven False, but QAnon Cannot
If you continue this line of apologetic thinking, you will also discover that Christianity is theoretically falsifiable. If the right evidence is produced to show that Jesus did not rise from the grave, then Christianity could be proven false. Paul says, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men,” (1 Cor. 15:17-19). He doesn’t eliminate the possibility.
This makes Christianity unique in the scope of world religions. Not only does it show us how necessary the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection is in the message of the Gospel, but it also beckons the individual to consider the evidence. It is here where we can find our separation from those who have become QAnon believers.
When their predictions of resurrection shifted after the first failed appearances on the Grassy Knoll, one woman showed concern about their leadership and asked, “Are we putting too much faith in this man?” According to reports, she was immediately shut down for her “lack of faith,” as the group continued on, likely without her.
If the right evidence is produced to show that Jesus did not rise from the grave, then Christianity could be proven false.
In Christianity, this question gets a different response. We know things happen that cause us to question or doubt the claims of Jesus. Sometimes on the other end, we are challenged to give an answer to a difficult question and we’re left flatfooted and discouraged. So go ahead: Boldly question him, doubt him, and corner him with your concerns.
All of the facts and evidence are right there in front of you to consider. From Genesis through Malachi, the Old Testament prophecies find their fulfillment in a sacrificed and risen Jesus Christ. When you see that clearly for the first time, it’s quite striking. The same is true when you discover that the New Testament accounts are widely accepted as historically reliable documents.
But also don’t be fooled: No amount of evidence collecting or postulating will ever satisfy the human heart. That’s why God must come to us. Even after reports rang out about the empty tomb, the disciples doubted Jesus’ resurrection. So he appeared to them. Yet even as he physically stood in front of them, they were still troubled and doubted him (Luke 24:38). So he comforted them and gave them his Spirit too.
This is our natural tendency. We will never be fully convinced through facts and visible evidence – even when it is, as it were, standing right in front of us! Therefore, when we earnestly question and doubt, we also pray for God’s grace to intervene. Only in the freely given gift of faith–in the waters of baptism and the body and blood of the Holy Supper–can we find our complete assurance.
In this faith, given through the Holy Spirit, we can boldly proclaim our trust in both what he has told us and what he promises to still bring.