A few years ago, I came to the conclusion that God did not exist and the resurrection of Jesus couldn’t have happened. I actually woke up one day and realized I couldn’t describe myself as a Christian anymore. If I didn’t believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, I couldn’t claim to be a Christian. That’s because this alleged historical event is the very thing that Christianity is founded on. No resurrection equals no Christianity.
But how do we even begin to look at the resurrection from a historical perspective? And if it’s true, if this really happened, how is it that so many people say that it didn’t? This may really come down to what Michael Licona refers to as our horizons.
We need to wrestle with our horizons so that we can wrestle with the resurrection.
What is a “Horizon”?
In his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Michael Licona says that horizons can be understood as one’s “preunderstanding”. Licona explains that “it is how we view things as a result of our knowledge, experience, beliefs, education, cultural conditioning, preferences, presuppositions and worldview.”
We see all things through our horizons. They aren’t what we’re looking at, they’re what we’re looking through.
They are the glasses we are each wearing when we look at anything. We all have them. Do you have beliefs? Knowledge? Preferences? Experiences? Then guess what: you have a horizon. And whether you realize it or not, you interpret everything through it.
We See What We Want to See
The pesky thing about our horizons is that they influence how we view everything. Especially something as out there as the resurrection of a Jewish carpenter 2000 years ago.
If you want to see resurrection when you look at all the historical data around Jesus allegedly rising from the dead, you’re going to see resurrection. If you want to see that the all the witnesses hallucinated a risen Jesus, that’s what you’ll see. If you want to see that the disciples pulled off one of the biggest hoaxes in history, that’s what you’ll see.
But if you want to make sure that what you’re seeing is the truth, you’ll do everything you can to (1) be aware of your horizon, and (2) remove it.
How Do We Transcend Our Horizons?
Our horizons are parts of us. They influence our perceptions all the time. If we want to investigate something like the resurrection, we must be aware of our horizons and remove them (or at least diminish their influence) if we are going to be truly open to discovering the truth. But how do we do this?
1. Admit your horizon and name it.
First, just admit you have a horizon. You’ll never transcend it if you aren’t honest about having one. And figure out what makes up your horizon. If you believe that the supernatural exists, the resurrection is possible. But if there’s no room in your worldview for supernaturalism, why would you ever consider that a supernatural event has even occurred? You wouldn’t. The investigation is over before you even start.
2. Face you doubt.
Some have been given the gift of faith. Others have been given the gift of doubt. I fall into the second category. I hated doubt at first, and now I truly see that it was and is a gift.
I don’t care if you’re a Christian who’s doubting their beliefs, or an atheist doubting theirs: face your doubt if you want to truly get past it. Don’t burry your head in the sand. Don’t fake it till you make it. And don’t give up. Keep pushing into your doubt. Either your doubts will be confirmed, or they’ll be obliterated. Either way, you’ve put yourself in a position to rise above your horizon and find the truth.
3. Crack the echo chamber.
The echo chamber is the room we lock ourselves in where all we listen to on the overhead speaker are the voices of the people we already agree with. If you don’t want to challenge your worldview, don’t listen to anyone who has one that’s different from yours. If you don’t want to challenge your beliefs, don’t listen to anyone who believes differently from you.
If you want to crack your echo chamber, ask questions. And listen to anyone who’s got an answer. Especially the people you think you might not agree with. This takes humility and empathy. If we can’t put ourselves in the shoes of the people we disagree with, we will never truly see their perspective or how they got there.
A few years ago, my horizon exploded into a million little pieces. My worldview shattered. I no longer believed a man named Jesus rose from the dead. There was no God. And no life after death. This was contrary to everything I had believed for 20 years before this.
But now I had a blank slate. And this is where things really got interesting. With my horizon out of the way, I became open to all the options. I just wanted to know what was true. And as a result of all of this, today I am more confident in the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and that Christianity is true than I have ever been.
So, ask yourself, how much does your horizon influence how you see the resurrection of Jesus?