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An African Apologetic for the Resurrection

Christian Apologetics

I had the wonderful privilege of contributing a chapter, titled "An African Apologetic for the Resurrection," to the book, Apologetics in Africa: An Introduction. Langham Publishers has graciously allowed me to publish the introduction of my chapter as a blog to spark discussion. If you wish to purchase a copy of the book, it's available at Langham Publishing, Takealot, and Amazon.


Many people have seen Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, but few have watched the brilliant 2016 movie, Risen, an epic retelling of the story of the resurrection through the eyes of the non-believing Clavius (played by Joseph Fiennes), a Roman tribune, as he encounters the risen Christ Jesus played by the New Zealander, Cliff Curtis. The movie The Case for Christ came out the following year, which told the true story of Lee Strobel, who at the time was an atheist journalist and investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune (nothing to do with the Roman Tribune). He set out to find evidence to disprove the resurrection of Jesus. Like the apostle Paul and countless others, his life was changed when the evidence for the resurrection became irrefutable. Strobel is now a formidable Christian apologist and has defended the resurrection of Christ.


These films demonstrate how Jesus’s resurrection is quite simply the apex of Christian hope and theology. The apostle Paul proclaimed in his first letter to the Corinthians that if Christ Jesus had not been raised, then their preaching was in vain, and Christian faith was worthless (1 Cor 15:14). Paul continued, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:17–19 ESV).


Yet, within a naturalistic worldview, the resurrection seems logically impossible and cannot in any way be proved by natural and scientific laws, but neither can such laws disprove such a miraculous event. Don’t expect scientific explanations for any miracle because such miracles involve the direct intervention of God which transcends our natural laws and thus defy common sense. Therefore, just because certain events cannot be reasonably explained by science, does not mean they don’t occur . . . they sometimes do.


Wolfhart Pannenberg, one of the most prominent and creative theologians of the twentieth century, used historical and philosophical arguments to defend the miracle of Jesus’s bodily resurrection in his book, Jesus – God and Man.[1] Some decades later, the prolific New Testament Scholar N. T. Wright wrote his significant work The Resurrection of the Son of God,[2] which also argued for Jesus’s resurrection. He did this by investigating ancient beliefs on life after death in the ancient Greco-Roman and Jewish worlds, the New Testament, and early Christian beliefs. His book has influenced my theological formation and framework quite profoundly. I have already mentioned Lee Strobel; his book The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Resurrection[3] is also an important work that argues for the resurrection at a popular level. Another more recent work is Michael R. Licona’s book The Resurrection of Jesus,[4] similar in some ways to the work of Pannenberg and Wright but still rather unique. Andrew Loke likewise argues for the resurrection of Christ. He takes a fascinating approach in his book Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.[5] Loke considers an exhaustive list of hypotheses regarding the post-mortem appearances of Jesus. He tackles these and responds to each in detail. These hypotheses include combinations of hallucination with cognitive dissonance, memory distortion, and confirmation bias. More recent is another historical investigation by Gary Habermas,[6] titled Risen Indeed. These are some of the major works published in defense of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, no doubt there are many others. Lastly, and most importantly for this chapter, is the father of African theology, John Mbiti, and his important work, New Testament Eschatology in an African Background.[7]


I will begin this discussion by providing a biblical sketch of the resurrection. We will then explore seven significant proofs for Jesus’s resurrection. Lastly, I will draw your attention to contributions on the resurrection from African theologians. After looking at resurrection in African theology, we will conclude with implications of the resurrection hope for Africa in our present day.


Check out the book here: Langham Publishing, Takealot, or Amazon.

[1] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus, God and Man (London: SCM, 1973).

[2] N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003).

[3] Lee Strobel, The Case for Easter: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for the Resurrection

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009).

[4] Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach

(Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2011).

[5] Andrew Loke, Investigating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ: A New Transdisciplinary

Approach (Abingdon: Taylor and Francis, 2020).

[6] Gary Habermas, Risen Indeed: A Historical Investigation into the Resurrection of Jesus

(Bellingham: Lexham Press, 2021).

[7] John S. Mbiti, New Testament Eschatology in an African Background: A Study of the

Encounter between New Testament Theology and African Traditional Concepts (London: Oxford University Press, 1971).


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