During our church’s Easter service, a video was played that featured excerpts from (I’m almost certain) a Billy Graham sermon. One point made was that the Resurrection is the most important fact in human history, and also that it is as incontrovertible historically as just about anything else that happened in ancient Rome.
Now, we can quibble about whether there are some facts in history that might be more important, and of course argue more about just how incontrovertible the Resurrection is, but the Reverend Graham certainly has a point, does he not?
Let’s put it this way: The Resurrection is crucial to Christianity, and Christianity is a critical part of Western Civilization, and Western Civilization is of central importance to to the world. Hard to dispute any of that.
So it is odd, is it not, for so many not to wrestle with the question whether the Resurrection actually happened? It is not only of central importance to how you should live on earth, and whether there is an eternal life after that and — if there is — whether it will be extremely pleasant for you or extremely unpleasant. It’s also just very important as a world historical matter, so that not having bothered to think seriously about it is, as I say, very odd — like not bothering to decide if democracy is a good thing, or whether slavery was a bad idea, or whether there really are germs, or whether the earth is round or flat. I mean, you could certainly do it, but it would be weird.
I also think that it makes a lot of sense for evangelicals to make this point to people, and therefore press them to think about this Christianity business.
In the first place, we win that fight — that is, the fight about whether Christianity should be acknowledged as true or not. In The Screwtape Letters, the older devil cautions his protege that reasonable argumentation is to be avoided, since that is God’s territory, not Satan’s. And Pascal was right that everyone should have to acknowledge that this is a game where one can’t stand on the sidelines, and of course that the asymmetrical payoffs favor the righteous.
But even if we don’t always win that fight — in fact, even if most often (say 40 percent of the time, or only 30 percent, or even 20 percent) we don’t win that fight, at least at first — we’re still better off for having fought it. And that’s because it is very unlikely that non-Christians will become Christians if they don’t make a decision about the Resurrection.
And so, we can’t convert if we don’t confront. As the great hockey player Wayne Gretzky famously observed in another context, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”