“It is highly improper,” observed the late Dr. Harry Rimmer, “to refer to Christianity as ‘one of the world’s great religions.’ There are many great world religions, of which Christianity is certainly not one.” What reason does Rimmer give? “A ‘religion’ consists of man’s systematized thinking concerning God, and is the result of humanity’s attempts to approach God, and to find Him out for their own satisfaction.” On the other hand, “Christianity is God’s search for man. The revelation of Jesus Christ owes nothing to human wisdom or the thinking of fallible man. It is God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Far from being merely a great world religion, Christianity is the only sure method of salvation which God has established for the redemption of mankind” (The New Testament and Laws of Evidence).
The New Testament asserts to be a revelation from God to man (2 Tim. 3:16,17). The truthfulness of this claim is a question of its credibility. This has to do with the “trustworthiness” of the documents and their reliability. Akin to this is the concept of “veracity” which includes the honesty of the Bible as well as its accuracy and alignment with truth. Unlike other religions practiced by man, the supreme strength of Christianity is “found in a set of historic documents called the New Testament, which are the foundation and evidences of the Christian faith.”
In the first century the doctrines of Jewish teachers plagued the churches which spread their calumnies far and wide, especially invading congregations established by the Apostle Paul. They attacked his own credibility as a true apostle of Jesus Christ, and ultimately the bedrock truth upon which the Christian system is built, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
These assaults no doubt caused much uneasiness of mind to Paul as well as to the rest of the faithful in that age. Those evil workers (Phil. 3:2) occasioned much pain to the faithful of that age. However, it is important to keep this in mind. These evils have proved of no small worth and service to the church throughout the ages. Why? Because the apostle was constrained not only to relate the proofs of his apostleship by which he gives to us a full assurance of his calling by the Lord, but also shows us the ultimate bedrock truth upon which Christianity is built, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This event was historic reality, not the whimsical dreams of man. Christ’s body was resuscitated to life and emerged from the rocky tomb. Consider the historical value which one finds in Paul’s letters.
First, references which Paul makes to this miraculous event (resurrection) are mostly incidental allusions. For example, in Romans 14:6-9, the apostle is regulating a practice of eating certain kinds of food. As he passes by the way he comments “for to this end Christ died and rose again.” Or in a passage in which he is expounding on the purpose of his own suffering, (2 Cor. 4:7ff) he comments, “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus” (v. 10). As an off-handed comment he adds, “knowing that he that raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also with Jesus” (v. 14).
Again, when seeking to persuade Roman Christians to live godly lives, Paul appeals to the fact that in baptism they have “put to death” the old man of sin. “Know ye not that as many of you as have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death?” Then what? “That like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the father, so we also must walk in newness of life.”
In other words, Paul does not set forward, but in one passage (1 Cor. 15) to prove the resurrection of Christ. Instead, what we find are incidental statements or simply allusions to this central tenet. What does this show? Real history. “Respecting the value of the original letters, as far as they contain allusions to contemporaneous events, and especially when these writers were active agents in them … The writer in such cases is almost invariably off his guard, and we thus get at the real facts, which in formal histories too frequently receive a coloring in conformity with the prejudices of the historian” (C.A. Row, A Manual of Christian Evidences, 147).
Row continues. “The presence, in these epistles [Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians] of a large number of incidental allusions imparts to them a value as materials for history, such as is possessed by few similar documents. Their incidental form possesses this peculiar advantage. They prove not only that the writer was firmly persuaded of the truth of the facts to which he refers, but also that those to whom he writes entertained a similar opinion” (147).
Second, the value of this testimony is even further heightened, if that be possible, by the fact that the churches to which Paul wrote were not filled only with devoted friends, but a number of determined opponents. Formidable opposition groups gripped the Galatian and Corinthian churches. These enemies, who denied Paul’s authority in Christ, persuaded many persons which in turn compelled the great apostle to the Gentiles to give a defense of his gospel. Interestingly, the letters Paul wrote to answer these critics “were intended to be read in the presence of the very persons who deny St. Paul’s apostolic commission, whom he denounces in the strongest terms, and whom he again and again challenges to come forward and refute his positions.” (Row, 148).
This alone shows that as Paul alludes to the central facts of Christianity, “that their truth must have been accepted alike by the apostle and by his opponents; for to have alluded in this manner to facts which he knew that those to whom he was writing were ignorant of, or did not believe in, or the truth of which he was aware that his opponents would call in question, would, in a controversy of this kind, have involved an act of folly which is simply incredible. This peculiar feature, therefore, affords such a guarantee that the facts alluded to were accepted as true, both by the writer and his correspondents, as is probably furnished by no other writings in existence” (149).
This demonstrates that there was a substantial body of certain accepted historical facts, not the least of which was the resurrection of Jesus Christ, accepted by friend and foe alike!