A friend asked a question recently about the Rev. Arthur J. Diffenbacher, a Grove City College and Dallas Seminary graduate who spent six years on the mission field in China and another two in Manchuria before WWII drove him from the field. After a time back in the States engaged in ministry, he entered the service as an Army chaplain in the summer of 1943. His approach to the chaplaincy was to be always with the troops in everything they endured. So it was perhaps not surprising when he became one of the early casualties of D-Day, dying on the battlefields of Normandy on July 5, 1944.
As I’ve recently been compiling an author-title index for THE INDEPENDENT BOARD BULLETIN, I came across an obituary for Rev. Dieffenbacher, published in the October 1944 issue of the BULLETIN. But I also noticed that just a few months earlier, in the April issue, there was published this short article by Rev. Dieffenbacher—
DID JESUS RISE?
Chaplain Arthur J. Dieffenbacher
“Now is Christ risen from the dead.” — I Cor. 15:20.
What but such a miracle could cause pious Jews, with fifteen centuries of tradition and the command of God Himself, to cease observing the seventh day of the week, and suddenly begin to worship on the first day?
What but such a manifestation of power could transform the disheartened, fearful apostles into courageous, powerful protagonists of One Who had but a few days before died a shameful death on a cross ; and what else could produce similar transformations in heart-broken, wrecked lives for the last 1900 years?
What but such a victory over death could prevent that cross from being more than the final failure of another self-styled messiah, and produce a faith in millions, that through His death there is forgiveness of sins?
What but the actual event can keep Christ Himself, who offered only His resurrection as a sign and proof, from being a fake, or His apostles from being liars, who based their preaching on the fact that, contrary to their expectations and hope, they had seen Him after death, and talked with Him, and touched His nail-pierced, spear-riven body? What but the fact itself can prevent Christianity from being a colossal hoax?
What but the assurance that His resurrection is a sample of that of all who die trusting Him could cause martyrs to go to death for their faith in Christ, steady and unafraid, as they did in the days of the early church, in the middle ages, and as they do even today under the Japanese rule? And what but this could give hope to a soldier who dies on the field of battle trusting in Christ?
What but such a conclusive triumph of right can, in the midst of injustice, give the assurance held out in the Scriptures that Christ will yet reign in righteousness and peace on the earth?