When I was a senior in high school, a friend of mine started attending a Christian college just over the Canadian border. She came back jazzed, sparkling. “It is so exciting,” she tried to explain to me. “All of these things have answers! I’ve always believed, but now I’m starting to understand what I believe.”
I was a brand new Christian then, maybe one or two years in. I don’t know why this bothered me, but it did; I pushed back against her enthusiasm. Was I afraid that she—a friend I admired and looked up to—would outgrow me? That somehow this new knowledge would build a barrier between us? Maybe. I don’t remember what I thought or said, only that this idea raised my hackles, and that I was less kind than I should have been. I regret that.
Because now, looking back, I think I know what she meant. At the time, both she and I were part of a church that, as I remember it, didn’t emphasize doctrine, but tended to value our feelings about and experiences of God. When, in my twenties, I finally encountered for myself the idea that the things we believe have roots—old roots; roots nourished by present-day discoveries and understanding—I felt like I’d been trying to shelter a little candle and keep it burning, only to be confronted by the rising sun.
I learned then that Christianity involves our minds as well as our hearts. The whole of us is transformed by its tenets; no question sits outside its scope. I wish I had delighted with my friend in her discovery that the Christian faith isn’t disconnected from the natural world, or from the big questions we all have about existence (why are we here? Why does evil exist?), but that it is entwined throughout every aspect of our lives. That the history recorded in the Bible is largely supported by archeological findings; that Christianity meets some of life’s toughest philosophical questions with answers no other religion adequately supplies; that nature testifies to the hand of an artist at work behind it—these are revelations that eventually deepened and shaped my own faith, and that I now revel in sharing with my daughters.
And that is why, amid our beautiful and beautifully-written picture books of the Easter story, we also have Doug Powell’s Resurrection iWitness, which asks and then examines the question, “How can we know that Jesus rose from the dead?” The book is styled like a dossier full of documents, photos, and paintings, and explores the most common objections to the claims that Jesus rose from the dead. Was his body really stolen? Did the disciples substitute a body double? Perhaps Jesus never truly died, but only swooned? Powell sets these claims under the microscope and examines each one logically, asking if each claim could account for the lives the disciples lived after the crucifixion, or for the empty tomb.
This is a book aimed for older readers (I plan to let our twelve-year-old read it, but, because some of the paintings of the crucifixion are fairly graphic, I doubt I’ll put it out for the younger girls yet) who have started asking questions of their faith. Can it withstand this? Or this? What about this? We cannot base our faith on these arguments alone, because just as Christianity isn’t a purely emotional endeavor, it isn’t a purely intellectual one either. But seeing how the events of Scripture stand unmoved by the cultural mood of the moment can bolster and strengthen our faith and remind us that Jesus did not live and die in a kingdom far, far away, but here—in the world we know, at a particular time, among a particular group of people. His story may sound like the stuff of fairy tales (a prince disguises himself as a peasant in order to rescue his wayward love?), yet his story is true—and it is our story, too.
Doug Powell (2012)