The past few weeks have seen an increase on the number of attacks on the historicity of the Gospels and often specific attacks on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ as described in the Gospels. The Jesus Papers argues that Jesus did not die on the cross but survived the crucifixion in some sense. Quoting Jesus by Ehrman (commented upon here by Layman) tries to present the Bible texts as unreliable because of their allegedly faulty transmission. The Jesus Dynasty by James Tabor (commented upon here by Layman) tries to present the idea that Jesus would not have agreed with the religion that bears his names and presents him as simply a preacher and not the Son of God. The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus's Final Week in Jerusalem written by two of the most active of those who seek to destroy Christian faith from the inside, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, present the "social justice Jesus" who didn't die to redeem ths sins of the world, but was more like a modern-day social reformer who practiced civil disobedience over the economic injustice in the world. As stated in the Publisher's notes:
The Last Week depicts Jesus giving up his life to protest power without justice and to condemn the rich who lack concern for the poor. In this vein, at the end of the week Jesus marches up Calvary, offering himself as a model for others to do the same when they are confronted by similar issues.
Of course, as I have commented on repeatedly, this is all part of the effort of these various people to ride on the gravy train of The Da Vinci Code in an effort to make a few fast bucks. After all, if they published their theories at any other time, chances are that their views would recieve some notice and then be relegated to the "that's an interesting viewpoint" bin. But with The Da Vinci Code movie right around the corner, these guys know that people are going to be seeking books about the historical Jesus and they want to be first in line with their theories. Of course, the more far-fetched the idea, the more attractive it is to some people.
But here's the good news: these weird ideas do not appear to be catching on. In an article in the Washington Post entitled "Is Jesus Risen? Literal View Gains Ground" by Michelle Boorstein, Washington Post Staff Writer (Sunday, April 16, 2006). She reports:
In the past two decades, there has been a heightened scrutiny of Scripture, with basic Christian tenets such as the Resurrection challenged by biblical scholars and others in their search for historical facts about Jesus. But in recent years, there has been a rise in the popularity and stature of books that embrace Dickerson's traditional view of Easter, experts say.
* * *
"There seems to be in the past decade a move to embrace the traditional faith of the church, not really in a retrograde way, but in a 'let's take another look at what modernity may have too readily dismissed' sort of way," said Cynthia Lindner, director of ministry studies at the University of Chicago Divinity School.
The traditional books are part of a general surge in "evidence books." Two that take the opposite tack are "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" by Bart Ehrman and "The Last Week: A Day-by-Day Account of Jesus's Final Week in Jerusalem," by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan. Last week, they were on the Publishers Weekly top 10 list of religious hardcover books.
Despite such successes, a shift is seen even by some who believe that Jesus was not resurrected in the traditional sense -- and, more importantly, that the point is not essential to being a believing Christian. Ian Markham, dean of the nondenominational Hartford Seminary, said Christians are increasingly turning away from the idea that all life can be explained by science.
"We are just aware that life is much more mysterious and surprising," Markham said. "People are less inclined to dismiss things just because they are unscientific."
This resonates with Gary Habermas, a historian who chairs the Liberty University philosophy and theology department and has written 13 books about the Resurrection. Last year, he released a review of the most recent 2,200 scholarly articles and books about the subject and concluded that about three-quarters of New Testament scholars embrace the belief that Jesus rose from the dead. His research, which some dismiss because he is not a biblical scholar, was published in the Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus.
Polling is thin about beliefs among Christians in general about the Resurrection and whether they have changed. The Barna Group, which researches the behavior and beliefs of Christians, found in 2000 that more than 50 percent of Americans disagreed with this statement: "After he was crucified and died, Jesus Christ did not return to life physically." A 2003 Harris poll found that 96 percent said they believed in Jesus's Resurrection. A Scripps Howard poll that year found that 63 percent of Americans were "absolutely certain" Jesus physically rose from the dead.
Thus, it appears that despite these constant attacks on the orthodox Christian claims, the number of people who believe that Jesus did, in fact, die and rise from the dead, is increasing! I attribute this increase partially to the number of legitimate, well-researched and intelligent articles and books that are being written in defense of orthodox Christian beliefs. I also partially attribute it to the rise in popular writings on the Internet by lay apologists who are willing to contribute their time and energy for no monetary return to write articles and contribute on discussion boards defending the orthodox Christian faith. But I primarily attribute the rise in the orthodox views to two things: first, the claim that Jesus lived, was crucified and resurrected is true and people sense it. Second, the Holy Spirit is moving amongst us and opening people's hearts.
He is risen, and you can take that to the bank!