At some point most Christians will have to face questions about the reality of the Christian faith. What if none of the things we believe are actually true? What if Jesus didn’t actually rise from the dead? I don’t think there are adequate reasons to doubt, but here are 3 answers to that question.
1. The apostle Paul’s answer
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 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 of all people most to be pitied.
If Jesus’ resurrection is a myth, then we are wasting our whole lives, and are the most pitiable of people. As Paul continues:
And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,‘Let us eat and drink,for tomorrow we die.’
2. A philosopher’s response
If you are more philosophically inclined, you could respond to the apostle Paul in this way:
If the Bible is not true, then what is true? Certainly none of the other religions – none comes close to having something like the resurrection of Jesus as a pillar to support its claims. That leaves us with atheism, which provides us with not the smallest scrap of a foundation on which to build any claims about the purpose of life, or what is a good or bad.
In which case, who can say what is a waste of a life, and what is a good use of one? Is hedonism the answer? Or pursuing the “good” of mankind, whatever we think that is? Or is living in delusion actually the best? No-one can say – there is no purpose behind our existence, nothing we were created for, and no-one has an objective place from which to say that other people are to be pitied or wasting their lives.
3. Puddleglum’s answer
In C.S. Lewis’s story “The Silver Chair”, Puddleglum is a Marshwiggle, a human-like creature who lives in the swamps and has a very gloomy outlook on life.
In the story, Puddleglum and two human children, Eustace and Jill, search for the missing Prince Rillian, and find him deep in an underground world where he had been enchanted by a witch. After freeing him from the enchantment, they have to face the witch herself, who proceeds to try to persuade them, with clever words and an intoxicating odour, that “the Overworld” they now want to return to does not in fact exist. The “sun” they claim to have seen is merely a fantastical extrapolation from the lamps they have seen in the underworld; the great “lion” they believe in is likewise a childish dream, generated from imaginations that have seen a cat and wanted a bigger and better cat. “Come, all of you. Put away these childish tricks. I have work for you all in the real world. There is no Narnia, no Overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan.”
She has almost succeeded when Puddleglum realises that the fire is responsible for the smell that is bewitching them all, which he bravely puts out with his bare feet. Then he says the following words, which, like many parts of the Chronicles of Narnia, are an obvious and deliberate allegory to Lewis’s apologetic arguments for Christianity, and need no further commentary:
“One word, Ma'am,” he said, coming back from the fire; limping, because of the pain. “One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things – trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say.”