Can a scientist believe in resurrection? Can a thinking person really accept one of the most outrageous claims in Christianity?
Yes, Easter is still a few weeks away. But for those of us who believe in resurrection—in the Resurrection—it’s easy to get excited. And since many of you are already preparing Easter messages, we wanted to provide some material for your consideration.
So how do scientists who are Christians understand the resurrection?
The Resurrection Challenge
Let’s set the stage with Richard Dawkins as our antagonist.
“The nineteenth century is the last time when it was possible for an educated person to admit to believing in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment. When pressed, many educated Christians are too loyal to deny the virgin birth and the resurrection. But it embarrasses them because their rational minds know that it is absurd, so they would much rather not be asked.” [Faith in Faithlessness, p. 287]
This idea is widespread and connects specifically with the science. Atheist Jerry Coyne answers his own question—does resurrection contradict science?—with the following: “You’d think so, right? After all, in the last several thousand years there’s been a single dubious report of someone coming back to life after having been dead for several days. Other than that, bupkus.”
The issue is often tied to disbelief in miracles. An example from a 2016 Pew report: “About half of current religious ‘nones’ who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention ‘science’ as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said ‘I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.’ Others reference ‘common sense,’ ‘logic’ or a ‘lack of evidence’—or simply say they do not believe in God.”
Let’s now turn to a series of links on science and the Resurrection, almost entirely from Christians in the sciences. May their observations serve as the reply to Dawkins, Coyne, and other skeptics, as well as provide reasoned and faithful material for your Easter messages.
- NT Wright and John Lennox are two helpful guides on science and resurrection.
- Ian Hutchinson and Joshua Swamidass are also great guides on the topic.
- A sampling of BioLogos-affiliated scientists who affirm the resurrection.
- Alister McGrath reflects on faith and resurrection for Christianity Today.
- Peaceful Science features testimonials from Daniel Ang and Zachary Adern.
Ordinary Easter Hope
In recent weeks, I’ve attended conferences featuring some amazing confessing scientists. At the Conference on Science and Faith at Arizona State University, one scientist noted the myth that “real” scientists don’t really believe in Christianity. He waved his hand to his left where three prominent physicists sat, each a counter-example to the myth. Another dozen or more resurrection-believing Ph.D. scientists were in the audience.
Of course, there are far more atheists in academia and the sciences than in the general population. But there are plenty who believe in the God of Jesus Christ and the truth of his Resurrection.
Alister McGrath was once an atheist scientist, until he found compelling, rational reasons to become a Christian. But while a curate in the 1980s, McGrath learned that the gospel was about more than evidence and airtight reasoning. It was about hope—the hope resurrection gives ordinary persons when they face suffering and the uncertainties of life.
The scientists featured in the links above are highly educated, rational persons. And, in direct contradiction to Dawkins, they are unembarrassed by the empty tomb. They are also ordinary believers when it comes to the Easter event. They are more than the powers of their minds or their scientific accomplishments; they are “Easter people like you and me.” My prayer is that their mere existence brings hope to you and those in your ministry.
Let’s give McGrath the final word, quoting from the CT article linked above:
“Ordinary Christian believers helped me realize that the Resurrection changes not just the way we think but also the way we live. Things that I had understood in a rather dry and detached way now became living realities. What I had once studied, I now inhabited. What I had once understood, I now embraced.”
Christ has risen! He has risen indeed!