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Easter proves Christmas


“You know it’s a myth. This season celebrate REASON!”

So said billboards put up at Christmastime some years ago by an atheist organization.

The only problem with their assertion that Christmas is a myth is it’s, well, false and a myth itself. But I’m all in favor of celebrating reason, so how about we do that now?

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Let’s start by saying that when you approach the Christmas story as outlined in the New Testament, it’s important to understand there are two dimensions to it. One facet has claims of Bethlehem and the birth of a baby who was named Jesus. The other aspect involves an angelic visitation to a woman named Mary, a virgin birth, and angels telling shepherds that a savior for humankind has just arrived.

The first grouping of facts isn’t hard for most of us to swallow. It’s the second that sticks in some people’s craw.

A human-only Jesus that was born out of wedlock in a no-name town to some pretty insignificant parents? Ho-hum, no problem.

But an eternal Jesus that was divinely conceived here on earth, fulfilling prophecies written hundreds of years earlier, and who came to take away the sin of His people because He’s God incarnate? Problem.

Both dimensions form the Christmas story. The trick is joining the two together so you and I can have certainty about it all being true.

You can get there from here

In an episode of the Simpsons, Lisa asks her neighbor Ned, “How do we know the guys who wrote the Bible just didn’t make all that stuff up?”

Well, Lisa, when it comes to the New Testament and the Christmas account, numerous works will fill rows of bookshelves that speak to why we can trust what is written in Scripture. But when you examine the atheist billboard’s claim about it being a myth, let me give you just one thing to consider: the concept of literary genre.  

The Gospel accounts and their account of Christmas don’t mirror the genre of myth; instead, they reflect the category of ancient biography.

Proving that better than anyone is Dr. Richard Burridge and his landmark work What are the Gospels — A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography. Burridge, dean of King’s College in London, is a classicist who originally set out to disprove the thesis that the Gospels fit within the genre of ancient biography, but during his research, the evidence he uncovered caused him to reverse his opinion.

Burridge takes great care in presenting the openings, internal and external features, characteristics, and evidence of ancient biographies. Graham Stanton of Cambridge, who wrote the forward to Burridge’s book said: “I do not think it is now possible to deny that the Gospels are a subset of the broad ancient literary genre of ‘lives,’ that is, biographies.”

Agreeing with him is C. S. Lewis, former atheist and literature professor at Oxford/ Cambridge, who said: “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. I know what they are like.  I know none of them are like this.  Of this [Gospel] text there are only two possible views. Either this is reportage … or else, some unknown writer … without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic realistic narrative two thousand years ahead of when it happened. The reader who doesn’t see this has simply not learned to read.”

Heck, even skeptical historian Bart Ehrman bluntly admits: “He [Jesus] certainly existed, as virtually every competent scholar of antiquity, Christian or non-Christian, agrees.” 

So, Bethlehem, a manger, and Jesus’ birth … yep, they happened. If you deny that, you’re in the fringe minority with your eyes and ears covered.

But what about all the other stuff about a virgin getting pregnant and God becoming human?

German philosopher Immanuel Kant didn’t think you could be certain about those kinds of miraculous claims found in the New Testament. He asserted that two worlds exist — the noumenal world of certainty and the phenomenal world of experience and faith. Those two domains, Kant believed, could never be joined to each other, saying in essence “You can’t get there from here.”

Well, not so fast — in the case of the Christmas story, I think you can.

The apostle Paul spells this out when he speaks about Jesus, “which He [God] promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:2–4).

Paul references Jesus’ human historicity in vs. 3 and then goes on to say in vs. 4 that Easter proves Christmas: the baby in the manger was God in the flesh and the savior of humankind and we know this because there’s an empty tomb staring everyone in the face.   

But wait a minute — isn’t this using the claim of a miracle to support the claim of another miracle? Both indeed involve miracles, but ones that occurred in space-time history and are well documented and logically acceptable. It’s using the historicity of one event to confirm another along with an appeal to the best explanation for that incident.

Like the birth of Jesus, which no educated person denies, the historical events that make up Jesus’ resurrection are not debated by scholars either, Christian or non. What happened (His death, the empty grave, claims of seeing Him alive, the disciples preaching and dying for claims that He was alive) is not up for grabs. Of course, how and why they happened are indeed deliberated.    

If you want to follow the atheist billboard advice of “CELEBRATE REASON” then aim your thinking at the accepted criteria for examining a historical account, which includes explanatory power, explanatory scope, not being ad-hoc, plausibility, not contradicting accepted beliefs, and far exceeding its rival theories in meeting those conditions.

When you do, you’ll conclude that the hypothesis of Jesus’ resurrection is the most reasonable explanation for what happened. Proof of that is the only credible alternative hypothesis offered by skeptics today in public debates — the hallucination theory — which contains multiple logical impossibilities. Good luck defending that one.    

So, if Jesus rose from the dead, He is who His ancient biographies say He is. Which means the Bethlehem Christmas baby was God coming to save you and me.

And that really is, “good news of great joy which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). So, if we take the Bible’s advice and “come now and let us reason together” (Is. 1:18), it’s pretty easy to see that Easter proves Christmas. And that allows Lisa Simpson to rest easy. 

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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