Christian apologists often focus on the resurrection as the one central claim of Christianity upon which the entire edifice stands or falls. From a doctrinal standpoint, I fully understand the centrality of the resurrection. But doctrine is different from apologetics. I have heard from numerous apologists (in fact, we hear it directly from Paul himself), that if the resurrection is false, then Christianity is false. These apologists then take this to mean that if the resurrection is true, then Christianity is true.
But that does not logically follow.
Let’s look at this two ways. The first is formal logic. Consider proposition 1: if A is false then B is false. Does that make proposition 2 true, where proposition 2 is: if A is true then B is true? No. This is most easily seen with an example.
Let A be “Jim is a human.” Let B be “Jim regularly wears reading glasses.” So proposition 1 is: “If Jim is not a human, then Jim does not regularly wear reading glasses.” This is clearly reasonable. Proposition 2 would be, “If Jim is human, then Jim regularly wears reading glasses.” Just as clearly this is not always true. There are plenty of humans who do not wear reading glasses.
So from that example it should be clear that you cannot go from proposition 1 to proposition 2. And that means that even if the first statement we made is true (the resurrection being false implies Christianity is false) that does not mean the second statement is true (the resurrection being true does not imply that Christianity is true).
Now let’s look at it the second way. Let us assume (just for the sake of this argument) that the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is incontrovertible. It isn’t. Not even close. In fact it should be embarrassing to apologists just how poor that evidence is. But for the sake of this argument we will ignore that and say sure, Jesus rose from the dead.
Does that imply that Jesus was God?
Well, apparently not, even according to the scriptures. Lazarus rose from the dead. Was he God? Elisha raised a couple of people from the dead. Were they God? Dorcas and Eutychus rose from the dead. So did many people at the same time Jesus rose, according to Matthew. We’re all of these people God?
Clearly rising from the dead is NOT, even within Christianity, sufficient to demonstrate that someone is God.
Let’s look at it yet another way. Suppose that some malevolent supernatural being runs our universe, analogous to the Devil within Christianity. Suppose that the rules of our universe are such that he can claim the souls of any person who worships Jesus. But anyone who is an atheist gains eternal reward, much to this Devil’s chagrin. What would a universe look like if this were true? Well, it would include incontrovertible evidence that Jesus should be worshiped. After all, if the Devil runs the show, he would stack the deck in his favor. He, as the author of lies, would make everything seem to us mere mortals as though believing in Jesus was the right and proper thing to do. In short, from the Christian perspective (at least from the perspective of a Christian who finds the resurrection of Jesus plausible), the world would look exactly like it currently does.
And that is just one alternate scenario. Maybe aliens raised Jesus from the dead. Maybe time travelers from centuries in our future raised him. Maybe God raised him, but Jesus wasn’t God, and yet he became so full of himself that he continued the stories that he was God. Yes, these are outlandish ideas. But remember, so is “God did it.” After all, there is no convincing evidence that anything supernatural has ever happened.
So hopefully it is clear that even if Jesus was resurrected, somehow, him being God is only one of many possible reasons. Yes, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then Christianity is false.
And he didn’t. There is no convincing evidence that he did.
But if he did rise from the dead, that is evidence of one thing and one thing only: that SOMETHING caused him to rise from the dead. There is a lot of work left to show that it was because he was God.