The central mark of the Christian message, one that distinguishes it from nearly all the competitive religious claims in the world today, is its emphasis on the redemptive acts of God in history. The Gospel is unmistakably historical and incarnational. To the earliest disciples of Jesus, the bodily resurrection of their Lord was the decisive proof of his divinity and of the existence and power of his Father. The resurrection gave them both the core of their theology (Rom. 4:25) and the ground of certainty in their apologetic (Acts 17:31). To save man from both sin and uncertainty, God made a demonstration of his existence and character in the flesh and bone of history, in the empirical realm where men live and move. The “unknown God” is no longer unknown. He is risen!

The Apostle Paul boldly affirmed: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.… Your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:14, 17). Paul did not hesitate to insist that faith and historical reality were quite inseparable; he even went so far as to rest faith upon facts. There is a place in time and space where the power of God has been unequivocally demonstrated, and where it can be discerned by the use of historical reasoning. The resurrection provides skeptical man with a verification procedure by which he may surmount the hurdle of conflicting religious claims and come face to face with the Lord Christ. The resurrection caused that mighty explosion which was the primitive Church and without which the first Christian community is beyond explanation. A historical datum like the resurrection must be approached as such, through use of the historical method. Genuinely historical materials can yield ...

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