Category Archives: Jesus Christ

What a combination! Easter eggs, scavenging dogs & crucifixion

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Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, Raphael, 1516–1517

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This article was first published in On Line Opinion, 14 April 2022.

I visited my local shopping centre recently and saw all the Easter attractions. This is the time for Easter eggs but it has other ingredients that make it an attractive season. Of course, there’s the long weekend, plenty of sport on tele and the opportunity for gorging lots of chocolate. Talk about options!

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On 25 March 2022, Roy Morgan Research estimated “over four million Australians are planning a trip away this Easter with $7.1 billion to be spent on holidays, while around $1.5 billion will be splurged on food and chocolate, in a major boon for tourism operators and retail businesses.”

But why are there special eggs at Easter? Eggs symbolise new life and fertility. This Christian festival comes with little to frighten anyone in an era of religious extremism. Who could ever be offended by a cute chocolate bunny? Time Magazine reported: “The original story of Easter eggs starts in Medieval Europe, but it may or may not have originated with Christians.”

It could be very different if John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar were leading the agenda. For him, the cross spoke.[1] Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, as indicated by all four Gospels (Matt 27:57; Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50-56; and John 19:38-40). Instead, Jesus was buried in a shallow grave to be eaten by scavenging dogs.[2]

From where did he gain that provocative information? It originated from the method he used – postmodern deconstruction – by which he engaged in free-play of interpretation. The reader of a narrative determines the meaning of a text. It does not come from the intent of the original author.

The paradox

But there’s a paradox here. Have you thought how strange it is that Easter eggs are identified with one of the most horrific ways of killing a person? This is the time of remembering the most famous death by crucifixion in history – that of Jesus Christ.

To be crucified for crime, the victim was lying on the cross on the ground and held down. They were nailed on that cross with crude, rough nails.

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The 17th-century painting Christ Crucified by Diego Velázquez, held by the Museo del Prado in Madrid

They were lifted up on the cross and it was dropped into a hole in the ground. They experienced unimaginable thirst and found it difficult to breathe.

Medical doctor, C. Truman Davis MD, explained that as fatigue came to the arms and cramps to the muscles, the victim experienced deep throbbing pain.

There were hours of pain, cramps, and partial suffocation as tissue was torn from the person’s lacerated back as it moved up and down on the rough timber. This trauma impacted the chest and began to compress the heart.

Mocking crowds

To make it worse for Jesus, the crowds would mock the victim (Matthew 20:19, Mark 10:34, and Luke 18:32).

But how does our culture remember Christ’s crucifixion at Easter? With chocolate eggs, chocolate bunnies and jewellery! It’s almost impossible to walk down the street without seeing a version of the cross. Generally it’s on a chain around somebody’s neck or as ear rings. This is a far cry from the actual Easter event.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Malcolm Muggeridge, the famous British media personality, soldier-spy and later Christian convert, called this death the most famous one in history. He said that no other death than Christ’s has aroused one-hundredth part of the interest or been remembered with one-hundredth part of the intensity of concern. Muggeridge shocked the world with his conversion to Christianity later in life. St. Mugg”, as he was affectionately known, was clear in his new-found faith: “It is the truth that has died, not God,” and “Jesus was God or he was nothing.”

We are continuously confronted with troubles. Troubles in wars like the Russian-Ukraine conflict, troubles in families, and even disturbed personal souls.

Into the midst of this repulsion in our world, at Easter we remember the Jesus of the cross who died for our sins was resurrected. Why? So that we can have the opportunity to be set free from the guilt of our souls. Hence the association with eggs and new life!

Louis M. Lepeaux, French philosopher, politician and bitter opponent of Christ at the time of the French Revolution, once started a religion that he hoped would be superior to Christianity. He sought the counsel of the great French diplomat and statesman, Charles Maurice Talleyrand.

The originator of a new religion came to the French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perlgord and complained that he could not make any converts. “What would you suggest I do?” he asked. “I should recommend,” said Talleyrand, “that you get yourself crucified, and then die, but be sure to rise again the third day.”

Why should you bother to embrace the Christian message this Easter? The Christ of the cross changed the agnostic, Malcolm Muggeridge, into an active Christian who published Jesus Rediscovered. Millions of people have made the same life-changing commitment and discovered the joy that Muggeridge found.

Any old resurrection will not do.

Today, the religious and other media are dominated by the burial and resurrection of Jesus that diverge from the narratives in the New Testament Gospels. John Dominic Crossan objects to a Jesus who rose bodily. His claim is that Mark created the empty-tomb story and the sleeping disciples in Gethsemane.[3] This means Mark created the burial narrative involving Joseph of Arimathea.

When historical Jesus’ scholar, Crossan, stated that Jesus’ resurrection appearance was an apparition and not a physical appearance, was it possible to test this conclusion? To what degree are a scholar’s conclusions affected by the scholar’s presuppositions? That is what I attempted to do in my PhD dissertation, “Crossan and the resurrection of Jesus: Rethinking presuppositions, methods and models.”

For Crossan, Jesus was not buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea in the garden but was placed in a shallow grave to be eaten by dogs hunting for food. As for Jesus’ resurrection, it was an apparition (phantom) and not a bodily resurrection.

Refutation of Crossan views are found in the biblical text

Crossan admits his view is non-historical as a postmodern deconstructionist. His presuppositions are fixed, so he’s unable to listen to the text’s content. We know that Jesus’ resurrection was historical because of people’s seeing and touching Jesus after the resurrection, which cannot be accommodated in Crossan’s framework. The New Testament Gospels explained that Luke’s second appearance story of Cleopas and an unnamed companion (Lk 24:36-49), ‘in contrasting juxtaposition to the Emmaus story, emphasizes the “physicality” of the risen Jesus. Jesus invites them to touch him: “Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and blood as you see that I have.” He also shows them the wounds in his hands and feet. Then he eats a piece of broiled fish. The point is that this is not another ghost story.

The emphasis in 1 Corinthians 15 is on a future resurrected body that is different from that which is experienced in earthly existence, but there is continuity – it is a s?ma (body), indicting some dimension of physicality.

Earle Ellis noted that I Corinthians 15 lacks a stress on the empty tomb. However, he contends that Paul did not have to say “empty tomb” because it is implicit in his term resurrection, anastasis. ‘The rising on the third day [1 Cor 15:4] can hardly refer (only) to “appearances”. Most probably it presupposes and implies the “empty tomb” traditions. Also, the seed analogy [1 Cor 15:36-38] presupposes a continuity between what is buried and the raised body. “Spiritual
body” refers to the vitalizing principle and has nothing to do with immateriality’ (see 1 Cor 15:4, 37, 44).

This is what we remember at Easter. He is the Jesus who died, was resurrected bodily, and changes people’s lives. He was buried in Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb and not in some invented creation by Crossan or somebody else. The resurrection body of Jesus could be touched and he ate broiled fish with the disciples (Luke 24:36-43; John 20:24-29).

Jesus’ resurrected body guarantees victory over death and it will be only apprehended when the same physical body that died is risen from the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:54-55). That’s why it’s important to understand the risen Jesus was a physical body.

Bibliography

Crossan, J D 1988. The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock.

Crossan, J D 1998. The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D with Watts, R G 1996. Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions about the Historical Jesus. New York: HarperPaperbacks.

Notes


[1] Crossan 1988, The Cross That Spoke.

[2] “Jesus’ burial was not in a tomb hewn out of stone but was in a shallow grave where his
body became prey to scavenging dogs” (Crossan & Watts 1996:152-153).

[3] Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, 557.

Copyright © 2022 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 April 2022.

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Christmas bells mixed with the real thing

File:Christmas bells.png - Wikimedia Commons

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What foolishness or funnies should we expect at Christmastime? Christmas should have nothing to do with jingle bells, Christmas lights, Santa and the sleighs. How did they seep into this holy celebration?

According to history.com, the legend of Santa Claus dates back to about the third century when Saint Nicholas walked the earth. He was the patron saint of children. The shopping mall Santas were promoted by two New Yorkers, Clement Clark Moore and Thomas Nast. They had the major influences on the Santa Claus theory that millions of children anticipate on Christmas Eve.

Bells were a popular form of communication in the Middle Ages (AD 475-1400) and were usually rung from the largest building in the city, which was usually a church. The reason was to communicate a time of the day when an important person arrived or an important announcement was made. They were used to indicate the beginning and end of various events.

Ignorance of nativity

Baby Jesus In Manger Clipart - Clipart library(courtesy Clipart Library)

Recently, I went to the entrance of a leading department store and asked to be directed to a department where I might purchase a small nativity scene. The woman looked bewildered, “What do you want?” I had to explain that nativity referred to birth, and especially the birth of Jesus Christ. A non-Christian friend responded: “You should have expected that. We are not a Christian country but a secular nation.” Is that so?

The Australian Constitution’s introduction

What does the Preamble of the Australian Constitution state?

The Oxford English Dictionary asks: “What a truly great mystery is the Nativity of our Lord!

The introduction (preamble) of the Australian Constitution reads:

An Act to constitute the Commonwealth of Australia

[9th July 1900]

WHEREAS the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established. . . .

This introduction is part of the Act and demonstrates Australia is a nation built on a Christian foundation that seeks the blessing of the God Almighty (revealed in the Scriptures of Old and New Testaments).

We still are in severe drought in many parts of Australia. We must not be embarrassed to talk about the Lord God sending the rain after the drought we are still experiencing in some parts of the nation. After all, Australia’s Christian foundation is demonstrated each day when the President of the House of Representatives reads a Christian prayer. Christian values brought to Australia by the First Fleet and enshrined in the Australian Constitution include: ‘Humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God’.

The real Christmas event

This is related to the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ on the first Christmas Day. The Scriptures record the Nativity scenes in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. While there are some differences in the records, there are some points in common.

The basic narrative is that Mary and Joseph travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There they found no room for them in the inn, so the baby Jesus, when born, was placed in a manger. Such a humble birth was celebrated by choirs of angels and shepherds. Gifts were brought by the Magi. This version appears in Christmas carols and stable scenes. They are used for Christian liturgical readings during the Christmas season.

The manger is not like a baby’s crib (basket) today but was a “long trough from which horses and cattle fed” (Oxford English Dictionary). What a humble beginning for the birth of the Saviour! He died in similar circumstances where there was no exaltation but a humble, excruciating death by crucifixion.

Don’t miss the truth for the glitter!

God sends the rain and withholds it.

RainbowJeremiah the prophet warned Israel of the consequences of not serving God and seeking Him to send rain:

Foreign idols don’t have the power to bring rain.
The sky does not have the power to send down showers of rain.
You, the Lord our God, are our only hope.
You are the one who made all these things (Jeremiah 14:22 (ERV).

What should we learn from this verse? No foreign gods, including secularism of any sort, have the power to bring rain. No meteorologist (in spite of satellite technology to see the clouds) can cause the rain to fall.

There’s a similar message proclaimed for all people according to this New Testament passage:

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5:44-45 NIV).

DroughtWe know who sends the rain and it’s time for the Australian media, politicians and ordinary folks to own up: “We do know that Almighty God sends the rain but we are not prepared to bow down to His laws.” Therefore, the more we pursue secular values, the more droughts, floods, and other disasters we can expect to come from the hand of God who showed what he could do with drought and floods.

See my articles:

clip_image002Australia is in deep trouble: Droughts, floods and fires

clip_image002[1]Get to the heart of the BIG drought, fires and floods

clip_image002[2]Who can break the drought?

clip_image002[3]Dams needed. Who sends the rain?

The great hymns of the faith have been sung by people as varied as George Beverly Shea and Elvis Presley.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 06 November 2021.

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What is good news in a bad news world?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

After the Christchurch NZ massacre of 50 Muslims at Friday prayers on 15 March 2019 and about 50 injured, doesn’t it sound ridiculous to speak of:

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(image courtesy 123RF)

Sadly, there are things much more disastrous than terrorists in action. I mean that. Most Aussies and other people in the world don’t understand the . . .

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(image courtesy dreamstime)

What could be worse than this? Could I be talking about this Australian situation?

However, what are Australian governments doing?

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This is a very bad situation, a horror that Australian governments at State and Federal levels are perpetrating.

What could be worse than this abortion? I put it to you that this condition I’m speaking about is far worse than any of the above and it leads to abortion, euthanasia, crime, violence, terrorism, and a glut of other evils.

Where does it come from?

It leads to this kind of warning:

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(image courtesy openclipart.org)

Jeremiah 17:9 (NET) tells us about the source of the problem: “The human mind is more deceitful than anything else. It is incurably bad.[1] Who can understand it?”

A deceitful human mind for all people is the bad news. It infects everything we think about, say or do. In New Testament terms, it is described as, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23 NET). Further,

So what benefit[2] did you then reap[3] from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. But now, freed[4] from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit[5] leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. For the payoff[6] of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:21-23 NET).

The effects of this internal sin and then outward actions lead to death but this death does not relate only to the stopping of breathing.

The effects of sin

They are eternal. “For the payoff (wages)[7] of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23 NET).

The bad news is so serious because of its eternal consequences. The good news is positive because of its eternal benefits: “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects[8] the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath[9] remains[10] on him” (John 3:36 NET).

For how long will the unbeliever experience damnation? “And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”[11] (Matt 25:46 NET).

The length of time for punishment for the unbeliever is the same as life for the believer. Which path will you travel for eternal life or eternal damnation? “If you have no desire[12] to worship[13] the LORD, then choose today whom you will worship” (Josh 24:15 NET).

It is the sin within human beings that contaminates

It is the wrongdoing, sinful nature within every human being that drives him or her to do wrong, whether that is stealing from the neighbour, killing unborn children in abortion, or committing adultery.

There is only one solution and that is through a changed heart and mind. I know of only one way to change your and my heart and mind. That’s through a changed relationship with God, brought about through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He and He alone can change the human heart to want to pursue God.


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Detail from Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment, Sistine Chapel (courtesy Wikipedia)

Notes


[1] “Or “incurably deceitful”; Heb “It is incurable.” For the word “deceitful” compare the usage of the verb in Gen 27:36 and a related noun in 2 Kgs 10:19. For the adjective “incurable” compare the usage in Jer 15:18. It is most commonly used with reference to wounds or of pain. In Jer 17:16 it is used metaphorically for a “woeful day” (i.e., day of irreparable devastation).sn The background for this verse is Deut 29:18-19 (29:17-18 HT) and Deut 30:17.”

[2] Grk “fruit.”

[3]Grk “have,” in a tense emphasizing their customary condition in the past.’

[4] ‘The two aorist participles translated “freed” and “enslaved” are causal in force; their full force is something like “But now, since you have become freed from sin and since you have become enslaved to God….”

[5] Grk “fruit.”

[6] ‘A figurative extension of ??????? (ops?nion), which refers to a soldier’s pay or wages. Here it refers to the end result of an activity, seen as something one receives back in return. In this case the activity is sin, and the translation “payoff” captures this thought. See also L&N 89.42.’

[7] ‘A figurative extension of ??????? (ops?nion), which refers to a soldier’s pay or wages. Here it refers to the end result of an activity, seen as something one receives back in return. In this case the activity is sin, and the translation “payoff” captures this thought. See also L&N 89.42.’

[8] Or “refuses to believe,” or “disobeys.”

[9] Or “anger because of evil,” or “punishment.”

[10] Or “resides.”

[11] ‘Here the ultimate destination of the righteous is eternal life. In several places Matthew uses “life” or “eternal life” in proximity with “the kingdom of heaven” or merely “the kingdom,” suggesting a close relationship between the two concepts (compare Matt 25:34 with v. 46; Matt 19:16, 17, 29 with vv. 23, 24). Matthew consistently portrays “eternal life” as something a person enters in the world to come, whereas the Gospel of John sees “eternal life” as beginning in the present and continuing into the future (cf. John 5:24).’

[12]Heb “if it is bad in your eyes.”’

[13] Or “to serve.”

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 12 October 2021.

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Book Review: Christians, The Urgent Case for Jesus in our World, Greg Sheridan (Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2021)

Greg Sheridan AO

Sheridan interviewing the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, June 2010

Sheridan interviewing the Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, June 2010 (image courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Read the recommendations at the front of this book and you’ll get a view of the ecumenical nature of it for Christians. They range from evangelical, Protestant Anglican, John Dickson (author of A Hell of a Life) to Chris Uhlmann, Channel 9 political editor and newspaper columnist, to Peter Comensoli, Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne.

Greg Sheridan, The Australian‘s foreign editor, is one of the nation’s most influential national security commentators, who is active across television and radio and also writes extensively on culture.

The first half was promising

In this half, Sheridan writes for a general Christian audience – “about the compelling, dramatic, gripping characters you meet in the New Testament” (p. 1). Then at the beginning of chapter 5 one epilogue is from Mother Teresa, “Never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly.” An Essential Poll in Australia in 2017 found “about 40 per cent of Australians believe in angels, which sounds about right” (p. 132).

Sheridan let us know his position: “I certainly believe in Angels. We Catholics have a sacrament called Confirmation, which confers on the recipient the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (p. 134). “Angels are our friends. Surely—surely—we need all the help we can get” (p. 146).

The second half lost its power

An epilogue at the beginning of ch 6 by Larry Siedentop states, “It is hardly too much to say that Paul invented Christianity as a religion” (p. 147). Sheridan has blinkers on to place this kind of statement at the opening of a chapter. There would not be a conversion of Saul on the Road to Damascus without what happened on Golgotha:

Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:1-5 NIV).

Saul was persecuting “the Lord’s disciples,” so Christian disciples were present. “Who are you, Lord?. . . I am Jesus.” Sheridan is flatly wrong. The start of Christianity emerged because of Christ’s death on the cross.

Meet Gemma

Greg Sheridan told of Gemma’s unlikely helper in Tanzania at the School of St Jude. “That helper is St Jude, the Apostle, the patron saint of desperate situations and hopeless causes. . . . When she asks St Jude to help her, she is not asking him to exercise any independent, magical power. She is asking him to pray to God on her behalf, in a normal expression of what Christians call communion of saints” (p. 215).

This is not a biblical view but a Roman Catholic perspective of praying to the saints. It has no biblical warrant. This is how the Roman Catholic Church explains this practice:

One charge made against it is that the saints in heaven cannot even hear our prayers, making it useless to ask for their intercession. But as Scripture indicates, those in heaven are aware of the prayers of those on earth. This can be seen, for example, in Revelation 5:8, where John depicts the saints in heaven offering our prayers to God under the form of “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” But if the saints in heaven are offering our prayers to God, then they must be aware of our prayers (“Praying to the Saints”).

So, Roman Catholics don’t pray to the saints. The teaching is that they can ask the saints to pray for them. Nowhere have I found anything in the Bible that instructs Christians to pray to the saints, or to get the saints to pray for them.

We are to approach God directly. That’s the teaching of both the Old and New Testaments: “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16 NIV). To whom should Christians pray? “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea” (Ps 55:1 NIV). Therefore, it is false teaching to pray to the saints when Scripture instructs us to pray to God.

Australian Christians in Parliament

Sheridan is rather provocative in this statement – which is his judgement:

I have never met an Australian Christian politician I would say is not sincerely trying to live out their ideals and implement policies for the good—from Penny Wong on the left of the Labor Party to Andrew Hastie on the conservative side of the Liberal Party. It’s legitimate for a politician to think: these policies are the best way I can give effect to my Christian principles; it’s entirely wrong, except in extreme cases, for them to say, only this policy is a Christian policy, or, if you don’t follow my policy, you’re breaching Christian teachings (p. 241).

I find that to be too simplistic and anti-biblical. There are principles in government that are based on biblical foundations and those that are quibbling over a Christian base, don’t know the Scriptures.

It’s legitimate to say a homosexual marriage is anti-biblical. Romans 1:26-27 (NIV) states:

Because of this [the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another], God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

Sheridan doesn’t want to make a judgement about which Christian principles are for the good. God has done it for him in Rom 1:26-27 but he doesn’t want to accept it. Acts 5:29 gives another principle: ‘Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings!”’ (Acts 5:29)

Sheridan’s book is splendidly written by an experienced journalist. For me, it began with great promise but ended with anti-biblical compromise. It’s a promoter of ecumenism, i.e. generic Christianity, that dilutes the cutting edge of Christianity to get rid of the specific Gospel penetrating qualities.

If you have a high view of biblical authority and believe in the Gospel – as I do as a Protestant evangelical – don’t recommend this book. Its sub-heading is: “The urgent case for Jesus in our world.” Which Jesus? I’m convinced Sheridan promotes a compromised Jesus, which I can’t support under any circumstances.

 

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(image courtesy Allen & Unwin, Book Publishers)

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 10 October 2021.

What is the nature of sin and total depravity?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

According to John 8:34 (NLT): Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin”. Does that make all people are sinners who have no other option but to sin?

Can that mean all are totally depraved if we understand total depravity as the spiritual condition of all fallen human beings?

While often misunderstood, the doctrine of total depravity is an acknowledgement that the Bible teaches that as a result of the fall of man (Genesis 3:6) every part of man—his mind, will, emotions and flesh—have been corrupted by sin. In other words, sin affects all areas of our being including who we are and what we do. It penetrates to the very core of our being so that everything is tainted by sin and “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6). It acknowledges that the Bible teaches that we sin because we are sinners by nature. Or, as Jesus says, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” (Matthew 7:17-18).?

The total depravity of man is seen throughout the Bible. Man’s heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9) [Got Questions?]?

Is it sound biblical teaching to state that all human beings are contaminated by sin and because of the inner being (heart) of a person, wicked things are said and done – sins are committed?

If this is true, how would you communicate it to a non-Christian who asks: ‘What can be done about the crime and violence in my country?’

You can check this online at aJmartiva.

I have no idea why the Greek hamartia has been transliterated as aJmartina on this Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich lexicon (BAG) website.

Hamartia (sin) cannot be defined simply as this lexicon demonstrates. It means:

1. Actions and results that depart from the way of justice towards God and human beings (Gen 50:17; 1 Jn 5:17, ‘Every wrong thing we do is sin. But there are sins that do not lead to death’, NIRV).

There are many sub-headings under this category that include, fill up the measure of sins; let go = forgive sins; confess your sins to each other, etc.

2. In John’s usage, it means ‘a condition or characteristic quality and is opposed to truth’ (Jn 9:41; 15:24; 1 Jn 1:8).

3. ‘Paul thinks of sin almost in personal terms … as a ruling power’ (Rom 5:12). Everything is subject to sin (Gal 3:22); people serve it (Rom 6:6); are sold into its service (Rom 7:14); and Jesus is a sin-offering for sin (2 Cor 5:21).

4. In Hebrews (as in OT), ‘sin appears as the power that deceives [human beings] and leads them to destruction, whose influence and activity can be ended only by sacrifices (Heb 2:17; 3:13; 9:23ff; 10:18).

5. Special sins: that lead to death (1 Jn 5:16); a great sin (Gen 20:9);

So, my simple definition of total depravity, total inability is:

All human beings do wrong things against God’s standards and harm other people. This condition affects every person and it is opposed to truth. It is the ruling power in every aspect of all people: body, soul, spirit, mind, heart, and conscience.

To cure this condition, it required Jesus’ paying for the sins of all people by dying for them.

Both Calvinists AND Arminians believe in Total Depravity of all human beings. This is what Arminius wrote:

VII. In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace. For Christ has said, “Without me ye can do nothing.” St. Augustine, after having diligently meditated upon each word in this passage, speaks thus: “Christ does not say, without me ye can do but Little; neither does He say, without me ye can do any Arduous Thing, nor without me ye can do it with difficulty. But he says, without me ye can do Nothing! Nor does he say, without me ye cannot complete any thing; but without me ye can do Nothing.” That this may be made more manifestly to appear, we will separately consider the mind, the affections or will, and the capability, as contra-distinguished from them, as well as the life itself of an unregenerate man (Arminius 1977:525-526).

This quote is taken from my article: Do Arminians believe in election and total depravity?

Calvinism on total depravity

The late R C Sproul was teaching TULIP to a college level class of about 30. He explained the doctrine of total depravity (T)

showing them that sin is not simply tangential to our existence. Sin is not the blemish on our exterior; sin penetrates to the very core of our humanity, despoiling us in body, mind, and will and rendering us in a state of moral inability. So much so are we captivated by this bondage to sin that we no longer have within us the moral capacity to incline ourselves to the things of God. I labored over all that for the college students, and at the end of the discussion on total depravity, I asked for a show of hands as to how many were persuaded of this doctrine.

There was no hesitation; every hand went up. On the top left corner of the blackboard I wrote the number 30, and then wrote a message to the janitor: “Please do not erase.”

Class resumed the following Monday, at which time I started on the U of TULIP, unconditional election. When I got through and asked how many agreed with it, there was quite a bit of attrition. Once you get to L, limited atonement, there was wholesale abandonment of their convictions. I said to them, “It’s QED (quod erat demonstrandum); it is automatic. If you understand the doctrine of total depravity, you would have to believe in unconditional election or limited atonement even if the Bible didn’t teach it. If you do not believe in irresistible grace, you would have to assume it once you understand the nature of the fallen condition” (Sproul, Imputation: Romans 5:12-17)

Nice trick to play on College students Dr Sproul[1]

I hope adults are wiser and have more biblical knowledge to know that TULIP critique is found in the Bible. Sproul has failed to mount a convincing case for total depravity for these reasons:

Flaws in Total Depravity

clip_image002 The Bible teaches the depravity of the human heart (Jer 17:9 NIV). However, nowhere does it teach total inability. How do I know? The Bible tells me so. John 5:40 states, “

This issue is not a matter of whether a person can come to Christ. It concerns the will. Will you come?

clip_image002[1] Jesus wept over Jerusalem, saying, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matt 23:37 NIV)

clip_image002[2] Take note of the last verse of the Bible, Rev 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” We all can accept the “free gift of the water of life.”

It is not a matter of you are in and you are out but all have the offer to “come.”

D. L. Moody addressed a large group of skeptics. He said, “I want to talk about the word BELIEVE, the word RECEIVE, and the word TAKE.” When Mr. Moody had finished his sermon, he asked, “Now who will come and take Christ as Saviour?” One man stood and said, “I can’t.”
Mr. Moody wept and said, “Don’t say, ‘I can’t.’ Say, ‘I won’t’!”
And, the man said, “Then, I won’t!” But, another man said, “I will!” Then, another said, “I will!” And, another said, “I will!” Until scores came to trust Christ as Saviour (Hutson n.d.)

clip_image002[3] Some Calvinists object, using John 6:44 as the stumbling block: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

They need to read further to John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up[2] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” That happened at the cross and his ascension. So, all people are drawn to Christ. Why don’t they accept and come? For the reasons stated above: “You were not willing.” Free will is critical to life’s response to Jesus.

See my article: What is the nature of human free will? 

Calvinists, free will and a better alternative

clip_image002[4] Creation calls every sinner. See Rom 1:19-20, “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

clip_image002[5] Conscience calls all people. See Rom 2:11-16 (NIV),

11 For God does not show favouritism.

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Defects in Unconditional Election[3]

John Calvin wrote:

Not all men are created with similar destiny but eternal life is foreordained for some, and eternal damnation for others. Every man, therefore, being created for one or the other of these ends, we say, he is predestined either to life or to death (Calvin Bk III, ch 23)

Calvin left no doubt. Some people are predestined to heaven while others are foreordained to eternal damnation.

I find this to be a damnable doctrine that discriminates against certain people – with eternal consequences.

Hutson stated:

I have often said, “Did it ever occur to you that nothing ever occurred to God?” God in His foreknowledge knows who will trust Jesus Christ as Saviour, and He has predestined to see that they are justified and glorified. He will keep all those who trust Him and see that they are glorified. But, the doctrine that God elected some men to Hell, that they were born to be damned by God’s own choice, is a radical heresy not taught anywhere in the Bible.

We know this is the case because of the statement in 1 Peter 1:1-2,

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To God’s elect, exiles, scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

Christians are chosen, according to God’s foreknowledge “to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.” Notice it does not say this election is to eternal life or eternal damnation but “to be obedient to Jesus Christ.

Another verse that promotes election, based on foreknowledge is Rom 8:28-30:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

This is predestination, based on foreknowledge, but it is predestination “to be conformed to the image of his Son.

Calvinists love to cherry-pick portions of some verses:

Mr Hutson introduced me to Vic Lockman, a Calvinist, who wrote a book, TULIP, in which he promoted that theology by quoting these verses:

clip_image004 He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…” (Eph 1:4) but he did not quote the entire verse which reads: “”According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

The verse has nothing to do with eternal salvation or damnation but election to “be holy and without blame before Him in love.” It is an abomination to see what this Calvinist has done with this verse. He does it again with this verse:

clip_image004[1] Lockman quoted John 15:6, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” He has played the shortcut trick by cutting the verse in two. The whole verse reads, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.”

Again, this verse has nothing to do with eternal salvation or eternal damnation but chosen to “bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain.”

This is God’s will:

clip_image004[2] Second Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Surely this is one of the toughest verses for Calvinists to avoid! See my article, How a Calvinist can distort the meaning of 2 Peter 3:9.

clip_image004[3] John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.”

It’s important to note that “believes” and “has” are both present tense verbs. “Whoever continues to reject” and “God’s wrath continues to remain.” The meaning is that of continuous action. The interpretation is: “Whoever continues to believe in the Son continues to have eternal life.” If you continue to reject the Son, God’s wrath continues to remain on you.

The most balanced view of the Calvinist vs Arminian debate I have read is by the late Norman Geisler: Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election, 2nd ed.

See also my articles:

clip_image006 Sproul damns Arminianism by association with semi-Pelagianism

clip_image006[1] Is any flavor of Arminianism promoting error?

clip_image006[2] Salvation is a work of God and human beings: More misinformation about Arminianism

clip_image006[3] Do Arminians believe in election and total depravity?

clip_image006[4] Sent to hell by God: Calvinism in action?

clip_image006[5] This was a false charge against Arminians: ‘God does not hate’

clip_image006[6] Controversies over John 10:28 and once saved always saved (OSAS)

clip_image006[7] Blatant misrepresentation of Arminians by Calvinists

clip_image006[8] This was a false charge against Arminians: ‘God does not hate’

clip_image006[9] Stutters on the stairway: Arminianism vs Calvinism (eternal security)

clip_image006[10] Some Calvinistic antagonism towards Arminians

clip_image006[11] An Arminian view of faith in Christ

Works consulted

Arminius, J. 1977. The writings of James Arminius, vol. 1, Public disputations of Arminius, Disputation 11 (On the free will of man and its powers), 523-531. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. Available at: Works of James Arminius, Vol. 1 – Christian Classics Ethereal Library (Accessed 8 October 2018).

Calvin, John Institutes of the Christian Religion, Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Geisler, Norman 2001. Chosen But Free: A Balanced View of Divine Election, 2nd ed. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers.

Hutson, Curtis n.d. “Why I Disagree with All Five Points of Calvinism.”

Notes


[1] The rebuttal is based on points made by Hutson (n.d.).

[2] Or, exalted.

[3] Insights from Hutson (n.d.)

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 October 2021.

The Meaning of Romans 6:1-4

Does Baptism bring eternal salvation?

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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(courtesy Liberty Valley Church)

Do you need to be dunked in water or have water sprinkled on your head to receive eternal salvation through Christ? Or, is baptism necessary for salvation, whether that be for an adult or infant?

An examination of major Christian denominations surprised me that their beliefs include baptismal regeneration.

Some of these denominations are: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Episcopal, Methodist, Lutheran, Christian Church – Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ (USA), Moravian Church, The Westminster Confession of Faith, and the United Pentecostal churches.[1] [2] [3]

This is a Lutheran teaching as stated in The Augsburg Confession (AD 1529):

Of Baptism they teach that it is necessary to salvation, and that by Baptism the grace of God is offered, and that children are to be baptized, who by Baptism, being offered to God, are received into God’s favour.

They condemn the Anabaptists who allow not the Baptism of children, and affirm that children are saved without Baptism (Article IX: Of Baptism).

clip_image003(Presentation of the Augsburg Confession 25 June 1530 before Emperor  Charles V. Image courtesy Witness, Mercy, Life Together.)

In Martin Luther’s small catechism (AD 1529) he stated:

IV The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

Secondly.

What does Baptism give, or of what use is it? Answer:

It worketh forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe, as the Word and promise of God declare (IV.2)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

I. One Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins

977 Our Lord tied the forgiveness of sins to faith and Baptism: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:15-16). Baptism is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification, so that “we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4; cf Rom 4:25).

978 “When we made our first profession of faith while receiving the holy Baptism that cleansed us, the forgiveness we received then was so full and complete that there remained in us absolutely nothing left to efface, neither original sin nor offenses committed by our own will, nor was there left any penalty to suffer in order to expiate them (Pt 1, Sect 2 I, ch 3, Art 10.I, On Baptism for the Forgiveness of Sins).

There are two principal interpretations of Rom 6:1-4:

(a) Baptismal regeneration, and

(b) The spiritual reality baptism symbolises (Hunt 1995).

(a) Baptismal regeneration

Richard Donovan explained v. 3:

In verse 2, Paul said that we have “died to sin.” Now he links that odd expression to baptism. Paul suggests that baptism has power that transcends mere symbolism, and involves more than cleansing from sin. . . . When we are buried in baptismal water, that act unites us with Christ in his death and burial (v. 5) [Donovan 2017].

He further explains v. 4 which speaks of ‘we also might walk in newness of life’. When did this start? ‘This “newness” began with our baptism, but the renewal process continues throughout life and will be fully realized only in the general resurrection at the end of time’ (Donovan 2017).

For Donovan, new life begins when a person is baptised. Thus, he promotes baptismal regeneration.

Jim Parker, an Eastern Orthodox priest, stated:[4]

Here’s my “opinion.”
Rom 6:1-2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
Rom 6:3-4
Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death,
that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,
even so we also should walk in newness of life.

So, according to scripture, (not my opinion says Jim) in baptism, believers are baptized into Jesus’ death.

And, according to scripture, (not my opinion) in baptism, believers are buried with Jesus. Therefore, according to scripture, (not my opinion) in baptism, as Christ was raised from the dead (to eternal life) so believers also are raised from the dead. (That’s resurrection to eternal life.)
Also:

Gal 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

(It is only by being “in Christ” that we have eternal life.)


Col 2:11-14
In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

So, again, scripture (not my opinion) says that we were dead and were buried with Christ and then were raised up again and made alive with Christ.
Tit 3:4-5 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
“Washing of regeneration”: Washing is baptism; regeneration is another word for “born again.”

And from the early church:

Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD) The First Apology, Chapter LXI, “Christian Baptism”

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Esaias the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: “Wash you, make you clean. . . .”
And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe. . . . The illuminand is also washed in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold everything about Jesus.
So, it is certainly NOT “my opinion.” It is the teaching of scripture as confirmed by the writings of the early church.
You believe whatever you like. I will follow the teaching of the Church as it has been taught from her as:

Justin Martyr (100 – 165 AD) The First Apology, Chapter LXI, “Christian Baptism”

Note: the word “regeneration” refers to being “born again.”

I will also relate the manner in which we dedicated ourselves to God when we had been made new through Christ; lest, if we omit this, we seem to be unfair in the explanation we are making. As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, “Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Now, that it is impossible for those who have once been born to enter into their mothers’ wombs, is manifest to all. And how those who have sinned and repent shall escape their sins, is declared by Esaias the prophet, as I wrote above; he thus speaks: “Wash you, make you clean.”

And for this [rite] we have learned from the apostles this reason. Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge, and may obtain in the water the remission of sins formerly committed, there is pronounced over him who chooses to be born again, and has repented of his sins, the name of God the Father and Lord of the universe; …… The illuminand is also washed in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Spirit, who through the prophets foretold everything about Jesus.

Theophilus (ca.180)

The things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this could be a sign of men destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and bath of regeneration – as many as come to the truth and are born again.

Irenaeus (ca. 180)

When we come to refute them (the Gnostics) we will show in its proper place that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God. They have renounced the whole faith. . . . For the baptism instituted by the visible Jesus was for the remission of sins.
But there are some of them (Gnostics) who assert that it is unnecessary to bring persons to the water. Rather, they mix oil and water together, and they place this mixture on the heads of those who are to be initiated . . .this they maintain to be redemption. . . . Other (heretics), however, reject all these practices and maintain that the mystery of the unspeakable and invisible power should not be performed by visible and corruptible creatures. . . .These claim that their knowledge of the unspeakable Greatness is itself perfect redemption.

Tertullian (ca. 198)

Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life . . . we, like little fishes, after the example of our ichthus, Jesus Christ, are born in water.
Now, the teaching is laid down that “without baptism, salvation is attainable by no one.” This is based primarily on the ground of that declaration of the Lord, who says, “Unless one is born of water he has not life.” However, when this is laid down, there immediately arise scrupulous (or rather, audacious) doubts on the part of some.
“Unless a man has been born again of water and spirit, he will not enter the kingdom of the heavens.” These words have tied faith to the necessity of baptism. Accordingly, all thereafter who became believers were baptized. So it was too, that Paul, when he believed, was baptized.
So, rather than form my own opinion, I will accept as fact the teaching of scripture and the early Church. Above are the scriptures and some of the teaching of the Church to which I submit as a disciple.

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s view on Reformation catechisms is:

The confessions and catechisms of churches grounded in the Reformation clearly deny that baptism saves:

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563), Q. 72: “Does this outward washing with water itself wash away sins? A: “No, only Jesus Christ’s blood and the Holy Spirit cleanse us from all sins.”
The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647), Q. 91: “How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation? A: “The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them or in the one who administers them, but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in those who by faith receive them” (
Question and Answer: Baptismal Regeneration, 2018).

Comparing Scriptures (the analogy of faith)

“Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame. . . . Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:11, 13). It does not state that anyone needs to call on the name of the Lord and be baptised to be saved.

Dave Hunt wrote:

Those of every nation who believed in Christ as their Savior were to be baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Mat:28:19). These new disciples were to preach the gospel everywhere and to baptize those who believed (v 20) through their testimony as Christianity spread worldwide.

Baptism in the early church was by immersion: “they went down both into the water. . . . [W]hen they were come up out of the water” (Acts:8:38-39
), etc. Why? Because baptism symbolizes the believer’s identification with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection: “we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead…we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom:6:4). . . .

[The Council of] Trent anathematizes all who deny that “the merit of Jesus Christ is applied . . . to infants by the sacrament of baptism” or who deny that by baptism “the guilt of original sin is remitted. . . .” 5 Today’s Code of Canon Law (Canon 849) declares that those baptized are thereby “freed from their sins, are reborn as children of God and… incorporated in the Church.” Canon 204 states, “The Christian faithful are those who . . . have been incorporated in Christ through baptism” and are thereby members of the one, true Catholic Church (The Berean Call, “Baptismal regeneration.”)

The path to salvation

As indicated above: Who can be saved? “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:13 NIV).

How will people know who Jesus is and how should they respond to him? “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Rom 10:14 NIV)

The path is very simple. You must be able to call on the Lord’s name to be saved. You won’t know who Jesus is without a proclamation that you understand.

There is no need for baptism. That comes along the path of discipleship:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matt 28:19-20 NIV).

Baptism is part of growth in Christian discipleship. It is not a necessity for Christian salvation.

See the Got Questions Ministries article, “Is baptism necessary for Christian salvation?

See my articles:

clip_image005 Baptism and Salvation: I Peter 3:21

clip_image007Believer’s baptism or infant baptism?

What is the meaning of Romans 6:1-4?

It is not debating baptismal regeneration vs baptism as the spiritual reality which baptism symbolises:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (NIV).

It discusses the Christian experience of death to sin and growth in grace, using the baptism analogy. This should be every Christian’s experience for getting rid of the old life and being renewed into a new life. This new life began when we were born again and growth takes place when we bury sin and live the new life.

Baptism of a child by affusion (courtesy Wikipedia)

Works consulted

Donovan, R N 2017. Biblical Commentary (Bible study): Romans 6:1-11. Sermon Writer (online). Available at: https://www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/romans-61b-11/ (Accessed 20 October 2018).

Hunt, D 1995. Baptismal regeneration? The Berean Call (online). Available at: https://www.thebereancall.org/content/baptismal-regeneration (Accessed 20 October 2018).

Notes

[1] Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics (CRTA) n.d. Baptismal Regeneration (online). Available at: https://reformed.org/definitions/index.html?mainframe=/definitions/baptismal_regeneration.html (Accessed 20 October 2018).

[2] Wikipedia 2018. Baptismal regeneration (online). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptismal_regeneration#Methodism (Accessed 20 October 2018).

[3] Hear Jesus n.d. Groups and denominations that teach baptismal regeneration (online). Available at: http://www.hearjesus.net/groups-teaching-baptismal-regeneration.html (Accessed 20 October 2018).

[4] Christian Forums.net 2018. Are all people infected by sin? (online), Jim Parker#82. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/are-all-people-infected-by-sin.77892/page-5 (Accessed 19 October 2018).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 27 September 2021.

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The New Testament evidence refutes a postmodern resurrection

 

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1. The surplus of views on Jesus’ resurrection

 

Jesus has caused lots of unorthodox and orthodox views of his resurrection to be promoted. Let’s look at some of these views:

1.1 Unorthodox verdicts

Immediately below are examples of different views of the resurrection that are unorthodox.

Paul Tillich

“Tillich’s own theory: the resurrection really is a statement that the existential Jesus has become, for those who have faith, the essential Christ in whom Godhead and manhood are so united that existential human possibility has become essential manhood or humanity. This is the ‘restitution’ theory, as Tillich calls it” (source).

Rudolf Bultmann

Bultmann’s view on the resurrection was:

It is also possible for something to have profound historic (geschichtlich) meaning and significance but remain unverifiable as a historical (historisch) fact: e.g., the resurrection of Jesus.

The distinction becomes especially critical in terms of the death and resurrection of Jesus, because the two terms overlap in this case. The crucifixion and death of Jesus are both historical (historisch)—they actually happened in history and can be verified by historical research—and historic (geschichtlich)—they have lasting significance and meaning for history. The resurrection of Jesus, however, is not a historical (historisch) event—it cannot be verified by historical research, and thus cannot be proven to have actually occurred in history—but it is a historic (geschichtlich) event—it has lasting effects and significance for history (source, pp. 54-55).

Karl Barth

After Carl Henry identified himself as the editor of Christianity Today, he asked Barth:

“The question, Dr. Barth, concerns the historical factuality of the resurrection of Jesus.” I pointed to the press table and noted the presence of leading religion editors. . . . If these journalists had their present duties in the time of Jesus, I asked, was the resurrection of such a nature that covering some aspect of it would have fallen into their area of responsibility? “Was it news,” I asked, “in the sense that the man in the street understands news?”

Barth became angry.  Pointing at me, and recalling my identification, he asked “Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?” The audience—largely nonevangelical professors and clergy—roared with delight. When encountered unexpectedly in this way, one often reaches for a Scripture verse. So I replied, assuredly out of biblical context, “Yesterday, today and forever.” 1

Indeed! The historically verifiable, bodily resurrection of Jesus the Lord must be defended in every generation—a perennial responsibility with great privilege as part of Gospel proclamation. Christian leaders have done so from antiquity, and the Church now enjoys a wealth of resources for the challenge (source).

Wolfhart Pannenberg

It is certainly true that Pannenberg repeatedly uses the word metaphor in connection with the resurrection. He does so, for example, in his Systematic Theology: ‘The language of the resurrection of Jesus is that of metaphor’. As such, it rests on the underlying metaphor which speaks of death as sleep. This is part of the reason that Pannenberg prefers Paul’s account of the resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:5–7) to the Synoptists: the latter have a tendency ‘to underscore the corporeality of the encounters’ and therefore offer no firm basis for historical considerations’ (source).

Robert Funk

But scholars — who included Burton Mack, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan — also concluded that the religious significance of Jesus’ resurrection did not depend on historical fact (Los Angeles Times, September 7, 2005).

Marcus Borg

“Professor MARCUS BORG (Oregon State University): I do believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I’m just skeptical that it involved anything happening to his corpse. . . .

“Note that Jones does not simply believe that the resurrection was material, physical, and bodily, but insists that it must have been so. Though I disagree I am happy to say to him and others who hold this view, “Believe whatever you want about whether the resurrection of Jesus was in material physical bodily form” – which I understand to mean that it was an event that could have been recorded by a news crew if they had been there. Believe whatever you want about that. Now let’s talk about what the resurrection of Jesus means (source).

John Dominic Crossan

All great religions offer humanity parables bigger than themselves. So also here. When Christ, rising from the dead after having been executed for nonviolent resistance against violent imperial justice, grasps the hands of Adam and Eve, he creates a parable of possibility and a metaphor of hope for all of humanity’s redemption. Even though Christ is crucified for his nonviolent resistance, this Crucifixion and Resurrection imagery challenges our species to redeem our world and save our earth by transcending the escalatory violence we create as civilization’s normal trajectory. And the universal resurrection imagery makes it clear that we are all involved in this process” (source).

Bart Ehrman

One of the most outspoken detractors of Jesus’ deity and the truthfulness of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, writes, “But then something else happened. Some of [Jesus’ followers] began to say that God had intervened and brought [Jesus] back from the dead. The story caught on, and some (or all – we don’t know) of his closest followers came to think that in fact he had been raised” (Did Jesus Exist?, 233). So did the early Christians invent the resurrection of Jesus? For his part, Ehrman disputes that Jesus’ tomb was empty. This is in part because neither Joseph of Arimathea—the man who put Jesus in the tomb according to the Gospels—nor the tomb itself are mentioned in the earliest creed (1 Cor 15:3b-5a; How Jesus Became God, 129-69). Yet 1 Cor 15:4 does say, “He was buried,” and proceeds to affirm, “He was raised.” The obvious historical conclusion is that whatever Jesus was buried in, presumably a tomb, was now empty! (source)

2. Orthodox perspectives

Gary Habermas

 

Dr. Gary Habermas has coined a method to show the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus called “The Minimal Facts” approach to the resurrection.

These facts are used by Habermas for three main reasons:

1. The vast majority of scholars accept these facts as historical.

2. They are well established by the historical method.

3. The only explanation that can account for the existence of all these facts is the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Actually, Habermas uses about 11 or 12 minimal facts but the resurrection can be demonstrated using only about 3 or 4. Here we will include the 6 facts that fulfill the requirement of being accepted by most scholars. These facts are:

1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.

2. The disciples had experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.

3. The disciples were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief.

4. The apostolic proclamation of the resurrection began very early, when the church was in its infancy.

5. James, the brother of Jesus and a former skeptic, became a Christian due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.

6. Saul (Paul), the church persecutor, became a Christian due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Habermas knows this because he has traced about 3400 sources including atheist, agnostic, and other critical scholars in French, English and German (source).

Norman Geisler

However, there are many good reasons to reject this “dehistoricizing” of the text:

1. This passage is part of a historical narrative in a historical record—the Gospel of Matthew. Both the larger setting (the Gospel of Matthew) and the specific context (the crucifixion and resurrection narrative) demand the presumption of historicity, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary in the text, its context, or in other Scripture—which there is not.

2. This text manifests no literary signs of being poetic or legendary, such as those found in parables,  poems, or  symbolic  presentations.*  Hence, it should be taken in the sense in which it presents itself, namely, as factual history.

3. This passage gives no indication of being a legendary embellishment, but it is a short, simple,  straight-forward account in the exact style one expects in a brief historical narrative.

4. This event occurs in the context of other important historical events—the death and resurrection of Christ—and there is no indication that it is an insertion foreign to the text. To the contrary, the repeated use of “and” shows its integral connection to the other historical events surrounding the report.

5.  The resurrection of these saints is presented as the result of the physical historical resurrection of Christ.  For these saints were resurrected only “after” Jesus was resurrected and as a result of it (Matt 27:53) since Jesus is the “firstfruits” of the dead (1Cor 15:20).  It makes no sense to claim that a legend emerged as the immediate result of Jesus’ physical resurrection.  Nor would it have been helpful to the cause of early Christians in defending the literal resurrection of Christ for them to incorporate legends, myths, or apocalyptic events alongside His actual resurrection in the inspired text of Scripture.

6. Early Fathers of the Christian Church, who were closer to this event, took it as historical, sometimes even including it as an apologetic argument for the resurrection of Christ (e.g., Irenaeus, Fragments, XXVIII; Origen,Against Celsus,  Book II, Article XXXIII; Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, Chap. XIII).

7. The record has the same pattern as the historical records of Jesus’ physical and historical resurrection: (a) there were dead bodies; (b) they were buried in a tomb; (c) they were raised to life again; (d) they came out of the tomb and left it empty; (e) they appeared to many witnesses.

8. An overwhelming  consensus of the great orthodox teachers of the Church for the past nearly two thousand years supports the view that this account should be read as a historical record, and, consequently, as reporting historical truth.

9. Modern objections to a straight-forward acceptance of this passage as a true historical narrative are based on a faulty hermeneutic, violating sound principles of interpretation. For example, they (a) make a presumptive identification of its genre, based on extra-biblical sources, rather than analyzing the text for its style, grammar, and content in its context; or, (b) they use events reported outside of the Bible to pass judgment on whether or not the biblical event is historical.

10. The faulty hermeneutic principles used in point 9 could be used, without any further justification, to deny other events in the gospels as historical.  Since there is no hermeneutical criterion of “magnitude,” the same principles could also be used to relegate events such as the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection of Christ to the realm of legend (source).

William Lane Craig

Jesus’ resurrection – The doctrine should be understood as an historical event

Liberal theology could not survive World War I, but its demise brought no renewed interest in the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, for the two schools that succeeded it were united in their devaluation of the historical with regard to Jesus. Thus, dialectical theology, propounded by Karl Barth, championed the doctrine of the resurrection, but would have nothing to do with the resurrection as an event of history. In his commentary on the book of Romans (1919), the early Barth declared, “The resurrection touches history as a tangent touches a circle-that is, without really touching it.” Existential theology, exemplified by Rudolf Bultmann, was even more antithetical to the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.

Though Bultmann acknowledged that the earliest disciples believed in the literal resurrection of Jesus and that Paul in I Corinthians 15 even attempts to prove the resurrection, he nevertheless pronounces such a procedure as “fatal.” It reduces Christ’s resurrection to a nature miracle akin to the resurrection of a corpse. And modern man cannot be reasonably asked to believe in nature miracles before becoming a Christian. Therefore, the miraculous elements of the gospel must be demythologized to reveal the true Christian message: the call to authentic existence in the face of death, symbolized by the cross. The resurrection is merely a symbolic re-statement of the message of the cross and essentially adds nothing to it. To appeal to the resurrection as historical evidence, as did Paul, is doubly wrong-headed, for it is of the very nature of existential faith that it is a leap without evidence. Thus, to argue historically for the resurrection is contrary to faith. Clearly then, the antipathy of liberal theology to the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection remained unrelieved by either dialectical or existential theology.

But a remarkable change has come about during the second half of the 20th century. The first glimmerings of change began to appear in 1953. In that year Ernst Käsemann, a pupil of Bultmann, argued at a Colloquy at the University of Marburg that Bultmann’s historical skepticism toward Jesus was unwarranted and counterproductive and suggested re-opening the question of where the historical about Jesus was to be found. A new quest of the historical Jesus had begun. Three years later in 1956 the Marburg theologian Hans Grass subjected the resurrection itself to historical inquiry and concluded that the resurrection appearances cannot be dismissed as mere subjective visions on the part of the disciples, but were objective visionary events.

Meanwhile the church historian Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen in an equally epochal essay defended the historical credibility of Jesus’ empty tomb. During the ensuing years a stream of works on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection flowed forth from German, French and English presses. By 1968 the old skepticism was a spent force and began dramatically to recede. So complete has been the turn-about during the second half of this century concerning the resurrection of Jesus that it is no exaggeration to speak of a reversal of scholarship on this issue, such that those who deny the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection now seem to be the ones on the defensive.

Perhaps one of the most significant theological developments in this connection is the theological system of Wolfhart Pannenberg, who bases his entire Christology on the historical evidence for Jesus’ ministry and especially the resurrection. This is a development undreamed of in German theology prior to 1950. Equally startling is the declaration of one of the world’s leading Jewish theologians Pinchas Lapid, that he is convinced on the basis of the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Lapide twits New Testament critics like Bultmann and Marxsen for their unjustified skepticism and concludes that he believes on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead.

What are the facts that underlie this remarkable reversal of opinion concerning the credibility of the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection? It seems to me that they can be conveniently grouped under three heads: the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith. Let’s look briefly at each.

Jesus’ resurrection – The resurrection appearances (source)

N T Wright

The Question of Jesus’ resurrection lies at the heart of the Christian faith.  There is no form of early Christianity known to us that does not affirm that after Jesus’ shameful death God raised him to life again.  That affirmation is, in particular, the constant response of earlier Christianity to one of the four key questions about Jesus that must be raised by all serious historians of the first century.  I have elsewhere addressed the first three such questions, namely what was Jesus’ relation to Judaism?  What were his aims?  Why did he die?1  The fourth question is this: Granted the foregoing, why did Christianity arise and take the shape it did?  To this question, virtually all early Christians known to us give the same answer, “He was raised from the dead.”  The historian must therefore investigate what they meant by this and what can be said by way of historical comment (source).

Wayne Grudem

Jesus rose from the dead. The Gospels contain abundant evidence to demonstrate Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-53 and John 20:1-21:25. In addition, the rest of the New Testament depends on Jesus rising from the dead.

But Jesus resurrection was not a mere resuscitation. Unlike what happened to Lazarus (John 11:1-44), Jesus rose from the dead with a new kind of life. For instance, Jesus was not immediately recognized by his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-22). And Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus at first at the tomb on Sunday morning (John 20:1).

On the other hand, there was continuity between Jesus’ resurrected body and his other body. Though they may have been initially startled at meeting Jesus again, they were convinced he had risen from the dead (Luke 24:33, 37). There are some important aspects of Jesus’ resurrected body:

The Significance of Jesus’ Resurrection

There are several doctrinal implications to Jesus’ resurrection. For one, Christians are born again through Jesus’ resurrection: “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). In another place, Paul tells us God “raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2:6). So the resurrection ensured our spiritual regeneration.

In addition, the resurrection ensured our justification. Paul wrote to the Romans, Jesus was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). That means our approval before God is contingent upon Jesus rising from the dead. All the penalties we deserved were counted toward Jesus because of his resurrection, at least partially.

Finally, Jesus’ resurrection points to our eventual resurrection. Paul tells us, “and God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). In another place, Paul calls the resurrection of Jesus the “firstfruits” or first taste of a ripening crop. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so also Christians will be raised from the dead according to the Scripture (source).

George Eldon Ladd

Our modern world has a very different view of the supernatural and miracles than was the case in the time of Jesus. Accounts of alleged miracles were common at that time. There are a variety of interpretations of the historicity of the resurrection. Some believe it was an historical event and subject to public verification, while others believe faith is necessary for properly interpreting the historical facts. Others maintain that it was a historical event but it transcends historical verification and historical meaning (i.e. it is an eschatological, meta-historical event). Bultmann denies that the resurrection was an event in history and asserts that its meaning is found in the kerygma and encounter with Jesus through preaching.

This book will argue that the historical facts do not coerce faith, but faith is supported by these facts. For many, the resurrection is denied on an a priori basis, following Enlightenment presuppositions about naturalistic causes and effects in a closed system. In this model, supernatural intervention in history is ruled out in principle. The biblical world is one where people believed in supernatural acts. It is not properly scientific to reach conclusions before the evidence is studied inductively. Naturalism is not open to certain possibilities, and as a result misses the best explanation of the data (source).

2.1 Critique of metaphorical / symbolical resurrection

How do we know that the metaphorical/symbolical resurrection of Jesus is the incorrect one? When we go to the Gospel texts, we find these post-resurrection appearances of Jesus that were not apparitions:

  • He met his disciples in Galilee and gave them ‘greetings’ (Matt 28:9);
  • They ‘took hold of his feet’ and Jesus spoke to them (Matt 28:10);
  • ‘They saw him’ and ‘worshiped him’ (Matt 28:17);
  • Two people going to the village of Emmaus urged Jesus to stay with them. ‘He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them’ and their eyes were opened concerning who he was (Luke 24:28-35).
  • Jesus stood among his disciples and said, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39).
  • ‘He showed them [the disciples] his hands and his feet’. While they still disbelieved, Jesus asked: “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them’ (Luke 24: 42-43).
  • Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ and told them that ‘you are witnesses of these things’ – Jesus suffering and rising from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:45-48).
  • Jesus said to Mary [Magdalene], ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (John 20:17);
  • Jesus’ stood among his disciples (the doors were locked) and said to them, ‘”Peace be with you.” When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord’ (John 20:19-20) and then Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
  • Doubting Thomas was told by the other disciples that ‘we have seen the Lord’ but he said, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe’ (John 20:25). Eight days later, Thomas was with the disciples again and Jesus stood among them and said to Thomas, ‘”Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”’ (John 20:27-29).
  • The metaphorical resurrection is an extra added to the biblical texts.

This string of references from the Gospels (and I haven’t included the glut of information in 1 Corinthians 15) reveals that in Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he demonstrated to his disciples that ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39).

There is an abundance of witness here to the fact that Jesus’ resurrection was bodily. His post-resurrection body was one that spoke, ate food and could be touched. It was a resuscitated physical body and not some metaphorical / symbolic event.

What Korb and Spong promote is a postmodern, reader-response free play invention, according to the creative imaginations of Korb and Spong. It does not relate to the truth of what is stated in the Gospels of the New Testament.

John Shelby Spong stated, “I don’t think the Resurrection has anything to do with physical resuscitation,” he said. “I think it means the life of Jesus was raised back into the life of God, not into the life of this world, and that it was out of this that his presence” — not his body — “was manifested to certain witnesses” (source).

Winston obtained a comment from Professor Scott Korb of New York University, aged 37 at the time, a non-practicing Catholic, who moved from a literal to a symbolic resurrection. His concept of the resurrection is, ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’. For Korb, this change from literal to metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’. For him the metaphorical view allows people to return to the story year after year and find new meaning in it (source).

3. My postmodern reconstruction of Korb and Spong’s writings

Since both Korb and Spong rewrite the resurrection of Jesus to replace the bodily resurrection with a metaphorical perspective, what would happen if I read Korb and Spong as they read the resurrection accounts?

Let’s try my free play deconstruction of Korb. According to Winston, Korb said of Jesus’ resurrection, ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’ but this metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’.

What he means is that when people reach the end of the drought declared in the outback country of Australia, they are about to receive cash from the government as a handout to relieve this sheep-rearing family from the death throws of drought. The resurrection is into new hope for the family and the community of that outback town in Queensland. At Easter, the compassion from the government has reached that community and family. This metaphorical, postmodern, deconstructed story of what Korb said is powerful in giving that town hope for a resurrected future.

That is the meaning of what Easter means to me, as told by Scott Korb. Why should my reconstruction not be as acceptable as Korb’s? Mine is a reader-response to Korb’s statement as much as his was a personal reader-response of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.

My reader-response is destructive of Korb’s intent in what he said. The truth is that what Korb stated needs to be accepted literally as from him and not distorted like I made his statements. Using the same standards, Korb’s deconstruction of the Gospel resurrection accounts destroys literal meaning. He and I would not read the local newspaper or any book that way. Neither should we approach the Gospel accounts of the resurrection in such a fashion.

Therefore, the biblical evidence confirms that Jesus’ resurrection involved the resuscitation of a dead physical body to a revived physical body.

4. The facts point to Jesus’ bodily resurrection

 

clip_image003(Jesus’ bodily resurrection best explains the data: factsandfaith.com )

Since I have demonstrated from the Gospels that Jesus’ resurrection appearances involved a bodily resurrection, we know this because,

5.1 People touched him with their hands.

5.2 Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.

5.3 Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for ‘food’).

5.4 Take a look at the wounds in his body.

5.5 Jesus could be seen and heard.

There are three added factors that reinforce Jesus’ bodily resurrection. They are:

5.6 The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body (Geisler 1999 668).

In that magnificent passage of I Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999:668)

In his magisterial publication, The Resurrection of the Son of God, N T Wright (2003) spent approximately 500 of 817 pages demonstrating that soma meant ‘body’ and so when applied to Jesus’ resurrection, it meant bodily resurrection and not an apparition or some other kind of resurrection. Wright’s assessment of the 1 Corinthian letter is that …

The resurrection would not only be bodily (the idea of a non-bodily resurrection would have been as much an oxymoron to him as it would to both Jews and pagans of his day; whether you believed in resurrection or not, the word meant bodies), but it would also involve transformation (Wright 2003:372)

5.7 Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12). That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, ‘from the dead’. Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus being raised ‘from (ek) the dead’ (John 12:1). In this case there was no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried. Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999:668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

5.8 He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ ‘appeared’ to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul ‘as to one abnormally born’.

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an ‘appearance’ or was it actually ‘seeing’ his physical being. These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh; he died in the flesh; he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a form of ‘spiritual’ existence. Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987:728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’ (Acts 1:3).

6. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection, the bodily resurrection, of Jesus.  Paul told the Corinthians: ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised , our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia, published by Oxford University Press, states that by mid-century there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world´s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion or whoop it up in a carefree way of eating, drinking and being merry.

British evangelist and apologist, Michael Green (b. 1930), summarised the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection. . . . [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter.  If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light.  If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.  In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990:184).

7. BELIEF IN THE BODILY RESURRECTION IS ESSENTIAL FOR CHRISTIANS

7.1 Belief in the resurrection of Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation

Romans 10:9 states: ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ. You are saved from hell.

Your new birth, regeneration is guaranteed by the resurrection. First Peter 1:3 states that ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’.

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection. Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection; he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Romans 4:25 states that Jesus ‘was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’.

Your salvation, being born again, justification, having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do. Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom. It was a real, physical body. If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.

Also,

7.2 Christ’s resurrection proves that he is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign. According to John 2:19-21, ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”… But the temple he had spoken of was his body’.  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body – of the man Jesus – destroyed and three days later, he would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; and Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

7.3 Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, ‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live’. If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

Another piece of evidence to support the resurrection as a central part of Christianity is:

7.4 Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection. First Cor. 6:14 states, ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’.

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the Christian’s own bodily resurrection, Paul states that Christ is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Cor. 15:20).  What are ‘firstfruits’? It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like. The New Living Translation provides this translation of 1 Cor. 15:20 to explain it in down to earth terms, ‘But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died’.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection?

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection. Among those is Dr Albert Mohler who provides a summary of the essential need for Jesus’ resurrection:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion–whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14]. Furthermore, “You are still in your sins!” [v. 17b]. Paul could not have chosen stronger language. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” [v. 19].

Yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been under persistent attacks since the Apostolic age. Why? Because it is the central confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God, and the ultimate sign of Christ’s completed work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Those who oppose Christ, whether first century religious leaders or twentieth century secularists, recognize the Resurrection as the vindication of Christ against His enemies (Mohler 2016).

8. Conclusion: Genuine hope

What is the ‘genuine hope’ of Jesus’ resurrection? Nothing could be clearer than what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 (NLT), ‘If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins’.

The hope that relates to Christ’s resurrection was not expressed by Archbishop Coleridge in what was cited by Cooper, ‘genuine hope that satisfies the human heart’ and not the cheap cosmetic hope. The latter was not defined. Was it a hope so?

The fact is that if there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is futile, worthless or useless and all human beings are still in their sins. This means there is no forgiveness and cleansing for sins and so no hope of eternal life with God. It is serious business to deny or reconstruct the resurrection. It is redefining Christianity to make it something that it is not.

First Corinthians 15 (NLT) gives at least 8 reasons why Jesus’ bodily resurrection is more than that expressed in Cooper’s (2016) article:

a. Christ’s resurrection is tied to the resurrection of believers who have died (15:12);

b. If Christ has not been raised, preaching is useless (15:14);

c. If no resurrection, faith is useless (15:14);

d. If Jesus was not resurrected, those who have preached the resurrection are lying about God and the resurrection (15:15);

e. No resurrection of Jesus means faith in Jesus is useless and all unbelievers are still guilty in their sins (meaning there is no forgiveness for sins) (15:17).

f. If Jesus was not raised, those who have already died are lost/have perished and there is no future resurrection for them (15:18).

g. If we have hope in this life only with no hope of future resurrection, Christians are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (15:19).

h. BUT, the truth is that Christ has been raised from the dead (not metaphorically, but bodily), and He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died (15:20).

9. Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian?

There have been those (as pointed out in this article) who have redefined (deconstructed) the resurrection to make it metaphorical or symbolic. Korb, Borg, Funk, Spong, Coleridge and Crossan have done that as Christian representatives. Thus they have doubted and denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Their reconstructions have caused them to engage in a reader-response innovation of their own making. They have invented what the resurrection means. It is a meaning out of their own minds and worldview. It is not a perspective based on a historical, grammatical, cultural interpretation of Scripture.

Reasons have been given in this article to demonstrate that a person must believe in the bodily resurrection to receive eternal life. Otherwise faith and preaching are useless; people do not have their sins forgiven, and hope is hopeless (see §7).

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God…  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Cor. 15:13-15, 17, 19).

The conclusion is that if Jesus has not been bodily resurrected, faith is faithlessness because it is a useless faith. Now to answer the question of this article: Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? No! Your faith is useless or vain if you doubt or reconstruct the bodily resurrection. You may not like my conclusion, but I’ve provided the evidence above that leads to that biblical conclusion.

Much of this material has been adapted from my article: Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection.

10. Works consulted

Geisler, N L 1999. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Wright, N T 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

 

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 21 September 2021.

The New Testament evidence refutes a theological liberal resurrection of Jesus

By Spencer D Gear PhD

1. The surplus of views on Jesus’ resurrection

Jesus has caused lots of unorthodox and orthodox views of his resurrection to be promoted. Let’s look at some of these views:

1.1 Unorthodox verdicts

Immediately below are examples of different views of the resurrection that are unorthodox.

Paul Tillich

“Tillich’s own theory: the resurrection really is a statement that the existential Jesus has become, for those who have faith, the essential Christ in whom Godhead and manhood are so united that existential human possibility has become essential manhood or humanity. This is the ‘restitution’ theory, as Tillich calls it” (source).

Rudolf Bultmann

Bultmann’s view on the resurrection is:

It is also possible for something to have profound historic (geschichtlich) meaning and significance but remain unverifiable as a historical (historisch) fact: e.g., the resurrection of Jesus.

The distinction becomes especially critical in terms of the death and resurrection of Jesus, because the two terms overlap in this case. The crucifixion and death of Jesus are both historical (historisch)—they actually happened in history and can be verified by historical research—and historic (geschichtlich)—they have lasting significance and meaning for history. The resurrection of Jesus, however, is not a historical (historisch) event—it cannot be verified by historical research, and thus cannot be proven to have actually occurred in history—but it is a historic (geschichtlich) event—it has lasting effects and significance for history (source, pp. 54-

55).

Karl Barth

After Carl Henry identified himself as the editor of Christianity Today, he asked Barth:

“The question, Dr. Barth, concerns the historical factuality of the resurrection of Jesus.” I pointed to the press table and noted the presence of leading religion editors. . . . If these journalists had their present duties in the time of Jesus, I asked, was the resurrection of such a nature that covering some aspect of it would have fallen into their area of responsibility? “Was it news,” I asked, “in the sense that the man in the street understands news?”

Barth became angry.  Pointing at me, and recalling my identification, he asked “Did you say Christianity Today or Christianity Yesterday?” The audience—largely nonevangelical professors and clergy—roared with delight. When encountered unexpectedly in this way, one often reaches for a Scripture verse. So I replied, assuredly out of biblical context, “Yesterday, today and forever.” 1

Indeed! The historically verifiable, bodily resurrection of Jesus the Lord must be defended in every generation—a perennial responsibility with great privilege as part of Gospel proclamation. Christian leaders have done so from antiquity, and the Church now enjoys a wealth of resources for the challenge (source).

Wolfhart Pannenberg

It is certainly true that Pannenberg repeatedly uses the word metaphor in connection with the resurrection. He does so, for example, in his Systematic Theology: ‘The language of the resurrection of Jesus is that of metaphor’. As such, it rests on the underlying metaphor which speaks of death as sleep. This is part of the reason that Pannenberg prefers Paul’s account of the resurrection appearances (1 Cor. 15:5–7) to the Synoptists: the latter have a tendency ‘to underscore the corporeality of the encounters’ and therefore offer no firm basis for historical considerations’ (source).

Robert Funk

But scholars — who included Burton Mack, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan — also concluded that the religious significance of Jesus’ resurrection did not depend on historical fact (Los Angeles Times, September 7, 2005).

Marcus Borg

“Professor MARCUS BORG (Oregon State University): I do believe in the resurrection of Jesus. I’m just skeptical that it involved anything happening to his corpse. . . .

“Note that Jones does not simply believe that the resurrection was material, physical, and bodily, but insists that it must have been so. Though I disagree I am happy to say to him and others who hold this view, “Believe whatever you want about whether the resurrection of Jesus was in material physical bodily form” – which I understand to mean that it was an event that could have been recorded by a news crew if they had been there. Believe whatever you want about that. Now let’s talk about what the resurrection of Jesus means (source).

John Dominic Crossan

All great religions offer humanity parables bigger than themselves. So also here. When Christ, rising from the dead after having been executed for nonviolent resistance against violent imperial justice, grasps the hands of Adam and Eve, he creates a parable of possibility and a metaphor of hope for all of humanity’s redemption. Even though Christ is crucified for his nonviolent resistance, this Crucifixion and Resurrection imagery challenges our species to redeem our world and save our earth by transcending the escalatory violence we create as civilization’s normal trajectory. And the universal resurrection imagery makes it clear that we are all involved in this process” (source).

Bart Ehrman

One of the most outspoken detractors of Jesus’ deity and the truthfulness of Christianity, Bart Ehrman, writes, “But then something else happened. Some of [Jesus’ followers] began to say that God had intervened and brought [Jesus] back from the dead. The story caught on, and some (or all – we don’t know) of his closest followers came to think that in fact he had been raised” (Did Jesus Exist?, 233). So did the early Christians invent the resurrection of Jesus? For his part, Ehrman disputes that Jesus’ tomb was empty. This is in part because neither Joseph of Arimathea—the man who put Jesus in the tomb according to the Gospels—nor the tomb itself are mentioned in the earliest creed (1 Cor 15:3b-5a; How Jesus Became God, 129-69). Yet 1 Cor 15:4 does say, “He was buried,” and proceeds to affirm, “He was raised.” The obvious historical conclusion is that whatever Jesus was buried in, presumably a tomb, was now empty! (source)

2. Orthodox perspectives

Gary Habermas

Dr. Gary Habermas has coined a method to show the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus called “The Minimal Facts” approach to the resurrection.

These facts are used by Habermas for three main reasons:

1. The vast majority of scholars accept these facts as historical.

2. They are well established by the historical method.

3. The only explanation that can account for the existence of all these facts is the bodily resurrection of Jesus.

Actually, Habermas uses about 11 or 12 minimal facts but the resurrection can be demonstrated using only about 3 or 4. Here we will include the 6 facts that fulfill the requirement of being accepted by most scholars. These facts are:

1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion.

2. The disciples had experiences that they thought were actual appearances of the risen Jesus.

3. The disciples were thoroughly transformed, even being willing to die for this belief.

4. The apostolic proclamation of the resurrection began very early, when the church was in its infancy.

5. James, the brother of Jesus and a former skeptic, became a Christian due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.

6. Saul (Paul), the church persecutor, became a Christian due to an experience that he believed was an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Habermas knows this because he has traced about 3400 sources including atheist, agnostic, and other critical scholars in French, English and German (source).

Norman Geisler

However, there are many good reasons to reject this “dehistoricizing” of the text:

1. This passage is part of a historical narrative in a historical record—the Gospel of Matthew. Both the larger setting (the Gospel of Matthew) and the specific context (the crucifixion and resurrection narrative) demand the presumption of historicity, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary in the text, its context, or in other Scripture—which there is not.

2. This text manifests no literary signs of being poetic or legendary, such as those found in parables,  poems, or  symbolic  presentations.*  Hence, it should be taken in the sense in which it presents itself, namely, as factual history.

3. This passage gives no indication of being a legendary embellishment, but it is a short, simple,  straight-forward account in the exact style one expects in a brief historical narrative.

4. This event occurs in the context of other important historical events—the death and resurrection of Christ—and there is no indication that it is an insertion foreign to the text. To the contrary, the repeated use of “and” shows its integral connection to the other historical events surrounding the report.

5.  The resurrection of these saints is presented as the result of the physical historical resurrection of Christ.  For these saints were resurrected only “after” Jesus was resurrected and as a result of it (Matt 27:53) since Jesus is the “firstfruits” of the dead (1Cor 15:20).  It makes no sense to claim that a legend emerged as the immediate result of Jesus’ physical resurrection.  Nor would it have been helpful to the cause of early Christians in defending the literal resurrection of Christ for them to incorporate legends, myths, or apocalyptic events alongside His actual resurrection in the inspired text of Scripture.

6. Early Fathers of the Christian Church, who were closer to this event, took it as historical, sometimes even including it as an apologetic argument for the resurrection of Christ (e.g., Irenaeus, Fragments, XXVIII; Origen,Against Celsus,  Book II, Article XXXIII; Tertullian, An Answer to the Jews, Chap. XIII).

7. The record has the same pattern as the historical records of Jesus’ physical and historical resurrection: (a) there were dead bodies; (b) they were buried in a tomb; (c) they were raised to life again; (d) they came out of the tomb and left it empty; (e) they appeared to many witnesses.

8. An overwhelming  consensus of the great orthodox teachers of the Church for the past nearly two thousand years supports the view that this account should be read as a historical record, and, consequently, as reporting historical truth.

9. Modern objections to a straight-forward acceptance of this passage as a true historical narrative are based on a faulty hermeneutic, violating sound principles of interpretation. For example, they (a) make a presumptive identification of its genre, based on extra-biblical sources, rather than analyzing the text for its style, grammar, and content in its context; or, (b) they use events reported outside of the Bible to pass judgment on whether or not the biblical event is historical.

10. The faulty hermeneutic principles used in point 9 could be used, without any further justification, to deny other events in the gospels as historical.  Since there is no hermeneutical criterion of “magnitude,” the same principles could also be used to relegate events such as the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection of Christ to the realm of legend (source).

William Lane Craig

Jesus’ resurrection – The doctrine should be understood as an historical event

Liberal theology could not survive World War I, but its demise brought no renewed interest in the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, for the two schools that succeeded it were united in their devaluation of the historical with regard to Jesus. Thus, dialectical theology, propounded by Karl Barth, championed the doctrine of the resurrection, but would have nothing to do with the resurrection as an event of history. In his commentary on the book of Romans (1919), the early Barth declared, “The resurrection touches history as a tangent touches a circle-that is, without really touching it.” Existential theology, exemplified by Rudolf Bultmann, was even more antithetical to the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection.

Though Bultmann acknowledged that the earliest disciples believed in the literal resurrection of Jesus and that Paul in I Corinthians 15 even attempts to prove the resurrection, he nevertheless pronounces such a procedure as “fatal.” It reduces Christ’s resurrection to a nature miracle akin to the resurrection of a corpse. And modern man cannot be reasonably asked to believe in nature miracles before becoming a Christian. Therefore, the miraculous elements of the gospel must be demythologized to reveal the true Christian message: the call to authentic existence in the face of death, symbolized by the cross. The resurrection is merely a symbolic re-statement of the message of the cross and essentially adds nothing to it. To appeal to the resurrection as historical evidence, as did Paul, is doubly wrong-headed, for it is of the very nature of existential faith that it is a leap without evidence. Thus, to argue historically for the resurrection is contrary to faith. Clearly then, the antipathy of liberal theology to the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection remained unrelieved by either dialectical or existential theology.

But a remarkable change has come about during the second half of the 20th century. The first glimmerings of change began to appear in 1953. In that year Ernst Käsemann, a pupil of Bultmann, argued at a Colloquy at the University of Marburg that Bultmann’s historical skepticism toward Jesus was unwarranted and counterproductive and suggested re-opening the question of where the historical about Jesus was to be found. A new quest of the historical Jesus had begun. Three years later in 1956 the Marburg theologian Hans Grass subjected the resurrection itself to historical inquiry and concluded that the resurrection appearances cannot be dismissed as mere subjective visions on the part of the disciples, but were objective visionary events.

Meanwhile the church historian Hans Freiherr von Campenhausen in an equally epochal essay defended the historical credibility of Jesus’ empty tomb. During the ensuing years a stream of works on the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection flowed forth from German, French and English presses. By 1968 the old skepticism was a spent force and began dramatically to recede. So complete has been the turn-about during the second half of this century concerning the resurrection of Jesus that it is no exaggeration to speak of a reversal of scholarship on this issue, such that those who deny the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection now seem to be the ones on the defensive.

Perhaps one of the most significant theological developments in this connection is the theological system of Wolfhart Pannenberg, who bases his entire Christology on the historical evidence for Jesus’ ministry and especially the resurrection. This is a development undreamed of in German theology prior to 1950. Equally startling is the declaration of one of the world’s leading Jewish theologians Pinchas Lapid, that he is convinced on the basis of the evidence that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. Lapide twits New Testament critics like Bultmann and Marxsen for their unjustified skepticism and concludes that he believes on the basis of the evidence that the God of Israel raised Jesus from the dead.

What are the facts that underlie this remarkable reversal of opinion concerning the credibility of the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ resurrection? It seems to me that they can be conveniently grouped under three heads: the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith. Let’s look briefly at each.

Jesus’ resurrection – The resurrection appearances (source)

N T Wright

The Question of Jesus’ resurrection lies at the heart of the Christian faith.  There is no form of early Christianity known to us that does not affirm that after Jesus’ shameful death God raised him to life again.  That affirmation is, in particular, the constant response of earlier Christianity to one of the four key questions about Jesus that must be raised by all serious historians of the first century.  I have elsewhere addressed the first three such questions, namely what was Jesus’ relation to Judaism?  What were his aims?  Why did he die?1  The fourth question is this: Granted the foregoing, why did Christianity arise and take the shape it did?  To this question, virtually all early Christians known to us give the same answer, “He was raised from the dead.”  The historian must therefore investigate what they meant by this and what can be said by way of historical comment (source).

Wayne Grudem

Jesus rose from the dead. The Gospels contain abundant evidence to demonstrate Jesus’ resurrection in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-53 and John 20:1-21:25. In addition, the rest of the New Testament depends on Jesus rising from the dead.

But Jesus resurrection was not a mere resuscitation. Unlike what happened to Lazarus (John 11:1-44), Jesus rose from the dead with a new kind of life. For instance, Jesus was not immediately recognized by his disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-22). And Mary Magdalene failed to recognize Jesus at first at the tomb on Sunday morning (John 20:1).

On the other hand, there was continuity between Jesus’ resurrected body and his other body. Though they may have been initially startled at meeting Jesus again, they were convinced he had risen from the dead (Luke 24:33, 37). There are some important aspects of Jesus’ resurrected body:

The Significance of Jesus’ Resurrection

There are several doctrinal implications to Jesus’ resurrection. For one, Christians are born again through Jesus’ resurrection: “he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). In another place, Paul tells us God “raised us up with him” (Ephesians 2:6). So the resurrection ensured our spiritual regeneration.

In addition, the resurrection ensured our justification. Paul wrote to the Romans, Jesus was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). That means our approval before God is contingent upon Jesus rising from the dead. All the penalties we deserved were counted toward Jesus because of his resurrection, at least partially.

Finally, Jesus’ resurrection points to our eventual resurrection. Paul tells us, “and God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power” (1 Corinthians 6:14). In another place, Paul calls the resurrection of Jesus the “firstfruits” or first taste of a ripening crop. Just as Jesus was raised from the dead, so also Christians will be raised from the dead according to the Scripture (source).

George Eldon Ladd

Our modern world has a very different view of the supernatural and miracles than was the case in the time of Jesus. Accounts of alleged miracles were common at that time. There are a variety of interpretations of the historicity of the resurrection. Some believe it was an historical event and subject to public verification, while others believe faith is necessary for properly interpreting the historical facts. Others maintain that it was a historical event but it transcends historical verification and historical meaning (i.e. it is an eschatological, meta-historical event). Bultmann denies that the resurrection was an event in history and asserts that its meaning is found in the kerygma and encounter with Jesus through preaching.

This book will argue that the historical facts do not coerce faith, but faith is supported by these facts. For many, the resurrection is denied on an a priori basis, following Enlightenment presuppositions about naturalistic causes and effects in a closed system. In this model, supernatural intervention in history is ruled out in principle. The biblical world is one where people believed in supernatural acts. It is not properly scientific to reach conclusions before the evidence is studied inductively. Naturalism is not open to certain possibilities, and as a result misses the best explanation of the data (source).

2.1 Critique of metaphorical / symbolical resurrection

How do we know that the metaphorical/symbolical resurrection of Jesus is the incorrect one? When we go to the Gospel texts, we find these post-resurrection appearances of Jesus that were not apparitions:

  • He met his disciples in Galilee and gave them ‘greetings’ (Matt 28:9);
  • They ‘took hold of his feet’ and Jesus spoke to them (Matt 28:10);
  • ‘They saw him’ and ‘worshiped him’ (Matt 28:17);
  • Two people going to the village of Emmaus urged Jesus to stay with them. ‘He took bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them’ and their eyes were opened concerning who he was (Luke 24:28-35).
  • Jesus stood among his disciples and said, ‘See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39).
  • ‘He showed them [the disciples] his hands and his feet’. While they still disbelieved, Jesus asked: “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them’ (Luke 24: 42-43).
  • Jesus ‘opened their minds to understand the Scriptures’ and told them that ‘you are witnesses of these things’ – Jesus suffering and rising from the dead on the third day (Luke 24:45-48).
  • Jesus said to Mary [Magdalene], ‘Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father, but go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (John 20:17);
  • Jesus’ stood among his disciples (the doors were locked) and said to them, ‘”Peace be with you.” When he had said this he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord’ (John 20:19-20) and then Jesus breathed on them and told them to receive the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).
  • Doubting Thomas was told by the other disciples that ‘we have seen the Lord’ but he said, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe’ (John 20:25). Eight days later, Thomas was with the disciples again and Jesus stood among them and said to Thomas, ‘”Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”’ (John 20:27-29).

This string of references from the Gospels (and I haven’t included the glut of information in 1 Corinthians 15) reveals that in Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, he demonstrated to his disciples that ‘a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have’ (Luke 24:39).

There is an abundance of witness here to the fact that Jesus’ resurrection was bodily. His post-resurrection body was one that spoke, ate food and could be touched. It was a resuscitated physical body and not some metaphorical / symbolic event.

What Korb and Spong promote is a postmodern, reader-response free play invention, according to the creative imaginations of Korb and Spong. It does not relate to the truth of what is stated in the Gospels of the New Testament.

3. My postmodern reconstruction of Korb and Spong’s writings

Since both Korb and Spong rewrite the resurrection of Jesus to replace the bodily resurrection with a metaphorical perspective, what would happen if I read Korb and Spong as they read the resurrection accounts?

Let’s try my free play deconstruction of Korb. According to Winston, Korb said of Jesus’ resurrection, ‘What I mean is that we can reach the lowest points of our lives, of going deep into a place that feels like death, and then find our way out again — that’s the story the Resurrection now tells me. And at Easter, this is expressed in community, and at its best, through the compassion of others’. Korb rejects ‘the miracle of a bodily resurrection’ but this metaphorical resurrection ‘has given the story more power’.

What he means is that when people reach the end of the drought declared in the outback country of Australia, they are about to receive cash from the government as a handout to relieve this sheep-rearing family from the death throws of drought. The resurrection is into new hope for the family and the community of that outback town in Queensland. At Easter, the compassion from the government has reached that community and family. This metaphorical, postmodern, deconstructed story of what Korb said is powerful in giving that town hope for a resurrected future.

That is the meaning of what Easter means to me, as told by Scott Korb. Why should my reconstruction not be as acceptable as Korb’s? Mine is a reader-response to Korb’s statement as much as his was a personal reader-response of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.

My reader-response is destructive to Korb’s intent in what he said. The truth is that what Korb stated needs to be accepted literally as from him and not distorted like I made his statements. Using the same standards, Korb’s deconstruction of the Gospel resurrection accounts destroys literal meaning. He and I would not read the local newspaper or any book that way. Neither should we approach the Gospel accounts of the resurrection in such a fashion.

Therefore, the biblical evidence confirms that Jesus’ resurrection involved the resuscitation of a dead physical body to a revived physical body.

4. The facts point to Jesus’ bodily resurrection

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(Jesus’ bodily resurrection best explains the data: factsandfaith.com )

5.  Since I have demonstrated from the Gospels that Jesus’ resurrection appearances involved a bodily resurrection, we know this because,

5.1 People touched him with their hands.
5.2 Jesus’ resurrection body had real flesh and bones.
5.3 Jesus ate real tucker (Aussie for ‘food’).
5.4 Take a look at the wounds in his body.
5.5 Jesus could be seen and heard.

There are three added factors that reinforce Jesus’ bodily resurrection. They are:

5.6 The Greek word, soma, always means physical body.

When used of an individual human being, the word body (soma) always means a physical body in the New Testament.  There are no exceptions to this usage in the New Testament.  Paul uses soma of the resurrection body of Christ [and of the resurrected bodies of people – yet to come] (I Cor. 15:42-44), thus indicating his belief that it was a physical body (Geisler 1999:668).

In that magnificent passage of I Corinthians 15 about the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of people in the last days, why is Paul insisting that the soma must be a physical body?  It is because the physical body is central in Paul’s teaching on salvation (Gundry in Geisler 1999:668)

In his magisterial publication, The Resurrection of the Son of God, N T Wright (2003) spent approximately 500 of 817 pages demonstrating that soma meant ‘body’ and so when applied to Jesus’ resurrection, it meant bodily resurrection and not an apparition or some other kind of resurrection. Wright’s assessment of the 1 Corinthian letter is that …

The resurrection would not only be bodily (the idea of a non-bodily resurrection would have been as much an oxymoron to him as it would to both Jews and pagans of his day; whether you believed in recurrection or not, the word meant bodies), but it would also involve transformation (Wright 2003:372)

5.7 Jesus’ body came out from among the dead

There’s a prepositional phrase that is used in the NT to describe resurrection “from (ek) the dead” (cf. Mark 9:9; Luke 24:46; John 2:22; Acts 3:15; Rom. 4:24; I Cor. 15:12). That sounds like a ho-hum kind of phrase in English, ‘from the dead’. Not so in the Greek.

This Greek preposition, ek, means Jesus was resurrected ‘out from among’ the dead bodies, that is, from the grave where corpses are buried (Acts 13:29-30).  These same words are used to describe Lazarus being raised ‘from (ek) the dead’ (John 12:1). In this case there was no doubt that he came out of the grave in the same body in which he was buried. Thus, resurrection was of a physical corpse out of a tomb or graveyard (Geisler 1999:668).

This confirms the physical nature of the resurrection body.

5.8 He appeared to over 500 people at the one time.

Paul to the Corinthians wrote that Christ

appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me [Paul] also, as to one abnormally born (I Cor. 15:5-8).

You could not believe the discussion and controversy one little verb has caused among Bible teachers.  Christ ‘appeared’ to whom?  Here, Paul says, Peter, the twelve disciples, over 500 other Christians, James, all the apostles, and to Paul ‘as to one abnormally born’.

The main controversy has been over whether this was some supernatural revelation called an ‘appearance’ or was it actually ‘seeing’ his physical being. These are the objective facts: Christ became flesh; he died in the flesh; he was raised in the flesh and he appeared to these hundreds of people in the flesh.

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was not a form of ‘spiritual’ existence. Just as he was truly dead and buried, so he was truly raised from the dead bodily and seen by a large number of witnesses on a variety of occasions (Fee 1987:728).

No wonder the Book of Acts can begin with: ‘After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God’ (Acts 1:3).

6. Why is the bodily resurrection of Jesus important?

We must understand how serious it is to deny the resurrection, the bodily resurrection, of Jesus.  Paul told the Corinthians: ‘If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised , our preaching is useless and so is your faith’ (I Cor. 15:13-14).

The updated World Christian Encyclopedia, just published by Oxford University Press, says that by midcentury there will be 3 billion Christians, constituting 34.3% of the world´s population, up from the current 33%.

Christians now number 2 billion and are divided into 33,820 denominations and churches, in 238 countries, and use 7,100 languages, the encyclopedia says (Zenit 2001).

If there is no bodily resurrection, we might as well announce it to the world and tell all Christians they are living a lie and ought to go practise some other religion or whoop it up in a carefree way of eating, drinking and being merry.

British evangelist and apologist, Michael Green (b. 1930), summarised the main issues about the bodily resurrection of Christ:

The supreme miracle of Christianity is the resurrection…. [In the New Testament] assurance of the resurrection shines out from every page.  It is the crux of Christianity, the heart of the matter.  If it is true, then there is a future for mankind; and death and suffering have to be viewed in a totally new light.  If it is not true, Christianity collapses into mythology.  In that case we are, as Saul of Tarsus conceded, of all men most to be pitied (Green 1990:184).

7. BELIEF IN THE BODILY RESURRECTION IS ESSENTIAL FOR CHRISTIANS

7.1 Belief in the resurrection of Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation

Romans 10:9 states: ‘If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved’. Salvation means that you are saved from God’s wrath because of the resurrection of Christ. You are saved from hell.

Your new birth, regeneration is guaranteed by the resurrection. First Peter 1:3 states that ‘In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’.

The spiritual power within every Christian happens because of the resurrection. Paul assured the Ephesians of Christ’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms’ (Eph 1:19-20).  You can’t have spiritual power in your life without the resurrected Christ.

In one passage, Paul links your justification through faith to the resurrection; he associates directly your being declared righteous, your being not guilty before God, with Christ’s resurrection.  Romans 4:25 states that Jesus ‘was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification’.

Your salvation, being born again, justification, having spiritual power in the Christian life depends on your faith in the raising of Jesus from the dead.  Not any old resurrection will do. Jesus’ body after the resurrection was not a spirit or phantom. It was a real, physical body. If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Christ, on the basis of this verse, you can’t be saved.

Also,

7.2 Christ’s resurrection proves that he is God

From very early in his ministry, Jesus’ predicted his resurrection.  The Jews asked him for a sign. According to John 2:19-21, ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days”… But the temple he had spoken of was his body’.  Did you get that?  Jesus predicted that he, being God, would have his body – of the man Jesus – destroyed and three days later, he would raise this body.

Jesus continued to predict his resurrection: ‘For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth’ (Matt. 12:40).  See also Mark 8:31; 14:59; and Matt. 27:63.

The third reason Christ’s bodily resurrection is core Christianity is:

7.3 Life after death is guaranteed!

Remember what Jesus taught his disciples in John 14:19, ‘Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live’. If you truly have saving faith in Christ, his resurrection makes life after death a certainty.

Another piece of evidence to support the resurrection as a central part of Christianity is:

7.4 Christ’s bodily resurrection guarantees that believers will receive perfect resurrection bodies as well.

After you die and Christ comes again, the New Testament connects Christ’s resurrection with our final bodily resurrection. First Cor. 6:14 states, ‘By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also’.

In the most extensive discussion on the connection between Christ’s resurrection and the Christian’s own bodily resurrection, Paul states that Christ is ‘the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. (I Cor. 15:20).  What are ‘firstfruits’? It’s an agricultural metaphor indicating the first taste of the ripening crop, showing that the full harvest is coming.  This shows what believers’ resurrection bodies, the full harvest, will be like. The New Living Translation provides this translation of 1 Cor. 15:20 to explain it in down to earth terms, ‘But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died’.

Do you see how critically important it is to have a biblical understanding of the nature of Christ’s resurrection – his bodily resurrection?

In spite of so many in the liberal church establishment denying the bodily resurrection of Christ or dismissing it totally, there are those who stand firm on the bodily resurrection. Among those is Dr Albert Mohler who provides a summary of the essential need for Jesus’ resurrection:

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead separates Christianity from all mere religion–whatever its form. Christianity without the literal, physical resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is merely one religion among many. “And if Christ is not risen,” said the Apostle Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14]. Furthermore, “You are still in your sins!” [v. 17b]. Paul could not have chosen stronger language. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable” [v. 19].

Yet, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has been under persistent attacks since the Apostolic age. Why? Because it is the central confirmation of Jesus’ identity as the incarnate Son of God, and the ultimate sign of Christ’s completed work of atonement, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation. Those who oppose Christ, whether first century religious leaders or twentieth century secularists, recognize the Resurrection as the vindication of Christ against His enemies (Mohler 2016).

8. Conclusion: Genuine hope

What is the ‘genuine hope’ of Jesus’ resurrection? Nothing could be clearer than what the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:17 (NLT), ‘If Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins’.

The hope that relates to Christ’s resurrection was not expressed by Archbishop Coleridge in what was cited by Cooper, ‘genuine hope that satisfies the human heart’ and not the cheap cosmetic hope. The latter was not defined. Was it a hope so?

The fact is that if there is no bodily resurrection of Jesus, the Christian faith is futile, worthless or useless and all human beings are still in their sins. This means there is no forgiveness and cleansing for sins and so no hope of eternal life with God. It is serious business to deny or reconstruct the resurrection. It is redefining Christianity to make it something that it is not.

First Corinthians 15 (NLT) gives at least 8 reasons why Jesus’ bodily resurrection is more than that expressed in Cooper’s (2016) article:

a. Christ’s resurrection is tied to the resurrection of believers who have died (15:12);

b. If Christ has not been raised, preaching is useless (15:14);

c. If no resurrection, faith is useless (15:14);

d. If Jesus was not resurrected, those who have preached the resurrection are lying about God and the resurrection (15:15);

e. No resurrection of Jesus means faith in Jesus is useless and all unbelievers are still guilty in their sins (meaning there is no forgiveness for sins) (15:17).

f. If Jesus was not raised, those who have already died are lost/have perished and there is no future resurrection for them (15:18).

g. If we have hope in this life only with no hope of future resurrection, Christians are more to be pitied than anyone in the world (15:19).

h. BUT, the truth is that Christ has been raised from the dead (not metaphorically, but bodily), and He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died (15:20).

9. Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian?

There have been those (as pointed out in this article) who have redefined (deconstructed) the resurrection to make it metaphorical or symbolic. Korb, Borg, Funk, Spong, Coleridge and Crossan have done that as Christian representatives. Thus they have doubted and denied the bodily resurrection of Christ. Their reconstructions have caused them to engage in a reader-response innovation of their own making. They have invented what the resurrection means. It is a meaning out of their own minds and worldview. It is not a perspective based on a historical, grammatical, cultural interpretation of Scripture.

Reasons have been given in this article to demonstrate that a person must believe in the bodily resurrection to receive eternal life. Otherwise faith and preaching are useless; people do not have their sins forgiven, and hope is hopeless.

If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is our faith.  More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God…  If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins . . . .  If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied (I Cor. 15:13-15, 17, 19).

The conclusion is that if Jesus has not been bodily resurrected, faith is faithlessness because it is a useless faith. Now to answer the question of this article: Can you doubt the resurrection and still be Christian? No! Your faith is useless or vain if you doubt or reconstruct the bodily resurrection. You may not like my conclusion, but I’ve provided the evidence above that leads to that biblical conclusion.

Much of this material has been adapted from my article: Junk you hear at Easter about Jesus’ resurrection.

10. Works consulted

Wright, N T 2003, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

Why Ravi Zacharias?

File:Ravi Zacharias speaks at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay  130917-A-MS942-255.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

By Spencer D Gear PhD

I have to be sensitive as I begin this topic as I don’t know what went on between Ravi and God in the last minutes before the end of his life. Did he genuinely seek God’s forgiveness and repentance? All of that is in the realm of the unknown to me. Only God knows it. All we can deal with is what the Scriptures state and Ravi’s double standards before he died.

A friend and I had a light-weight chat over the ‘fall’ of Ravi Zacharias from grace before and after his death. Well, the knowledge of the “fall” that emerged after his death is explained below.

Ravi Zacharias will be in heaven

My friend, a Baptist, said, “I believe I’ll see Ravi in heaven.” Without thinking about it, I agreed. However, I’ve thought further as to what my friend could know that would lead him to believe Ravi is in glory.

Further research by lawyers and investigative journalists from Christianity Today have revealed his unethical sexual behaviour had continued for about a decade but with no actions taken by his ministry RZIM or the Christian and Missionary Alliance.

Ravi will be in heaven on the basis of a once-saved-always-saved theology!

Once saved-always saved

Rod Halliburton teaches:

The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” teaches that it is not possible for a child of God to sin in such a way that he will be lost. Many people, who undoubtedly are very sincere and possess a desire to do what is right, find tremendous comfort in this doctrine. This doctrine, however, is not taught in the Bible. It is an erroneous doctrine that provides a false comfort and a deceitful feeling of security (Halliburton 2019).

We can cherry-pick a few verses to try to gain comfort in Ravi’s certainty of being in heaven. Halliburton raised these verses some use to support once-saved, always saved. These include:

  • I Peter 1:5 (NIV), “who through faith are shielded (present tense, active voice) by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”
  • II Peter 1:5-9 with the answer of II Peter 1:10:

2 Peter 1:5-9 (NIV):

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

The answer is in 2 Pet 1:10 (NIV), “Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[1] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble.”

  • Hebrews 3:12 (NIV), “See to it [continuous action], brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
  • John 10:27-28 (NIV), “My sheep listen [continue to listen] to my voice; I know [continue to know] them, and they [continue to ] follow me. 28 I [continue to] give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
  • I John 3:9 (NIV), “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.”
  • I Corinthians 9:27 (NIV), “No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
  • Galatians 5:4 (NIV), “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.”

However, those verses cannot survive . . .

The Thunderstorm of Opposition

  • Jesus said, “He cuts off every branch in me that (continues to) bear no fruit, while every branch that (continues to) bear fruit he prunes[2] so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15:2).
  • Jesus went on to say, “If you do not (continue to) remain in me, you are like a branch that is (continuously) thrown away and withers; such branches are (continually) picked up, (continually) thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:6 NIV).

The thunderstorm against once-saved-always-saved

Heb 6:4-6 (NIV) provides the thunderstorm against once-saved-always-saved:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age and who have fallen [3] away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

See my exposition of this passage at: Contentious theology: Falling away from the faith.

The double-life of Ravi Zacharias

This is what we are dealing with.

Zacharias in 2015

clip_image001Zacharias talks to Pastor Joe Coffey at Christ Community Chapel (Hudson, OH) about answering objections to Christianity

A prominent evangelical defender of the faith worldwide, the late Ravi Zacharias, was declared an apostate – posthumously – by both his evangelical denomination (The Christian & Missionary Alliance) and by the ministry he founded RZIM.

This Christianity Today article begins: “A four-month investigation found the late Ravi Zacharias leveraged his reputation as a world-famous Christian apologist to abuse massage therapists in the United States and abroad over more than a decade while the ministry led by his family members and loyal allies failed to hold him accountable” (Ravi Zacharias Hid Hundreds of Pictures of Women, Abuse During Massages, and a Rape Allegation, February 11, 2021).

clip_image003 The Christian and Missionary Alliance has revoked his ordination posthumously (after his death) – “Ravi Zacharias’s Denomination Revokes Ordination

clip_image003[1] RZIM organized research by lawyers and concluded: “Guilt beyond anything that we could have imagined.” It was “once the largest apologetics ministry in the world.” Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) will stop doing apologetics work this year” (Christianity Today, March 10, 2021, “RZIM Will No Longer Do Apologetics.”)

We see the demise of an eminent apologist to that of what seems to be an apostate or one who could not control his sexual appetites.

How could that happen to a born-again Christian who spoke at the funeral service of Dr Norman L Geisler?

He didn’t practice what he preached?

How do we know Ravi is now experiencing eternal life with Jesus?

The error of a certain doctrine

The error of once-saved-always-saved would cause my Baptist friend to consider he will see Ravi Zacharias in heaven. I’m not convinced of such as it’s not a biblical doctrine.

See my article on Arminius on perseverance of the saints

We don’t know what happened before his last breath.

I repeat how I began the article. We do not know Ravi’s final actions before God, but his life (revealed after death) points to a person who was not practicing the fruit of the Spirit in his life.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Gal 5:22-23 NIV).

The evidence discovered after his death points to a person who lacked sexual self-control and disgraced the Lord he proclaimed.

Works consulted

Halliburton, Rod. Religious Reflections, “Looking at the doctrine of ‘once saved, always saved,’” February 1, available at: https://www.camdenarknews.com/news/2019/feb/01/looking-doctrine-once-saved-always-saved/ (Accessed 8 September 2021).

Notes


[1] “The Greek word for brothers and sisters (adelphoi) refers here to believers, both men and women, as part of God’s family.”

[2] “The Greek for he prunes also means he cleans.”

[3] Or, “if they fall.”

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 08 September 2021.

The Gospel continues to be misunderstood

clip_image002

Chester Beatty Pauline Epistles – early 3rd century. (Gal.vi.10-Phil.i.1)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

The Gospel continues to be misunderstood[1]

Even though the Gospel of eternal life vs eternal damnation is quite simple, it continues to be misunderstood and/or misrepresented. Many people are not sure to this day whether salvation is by grace through faith in Christ and His finished work of redemption, or whether baptism is necessary for salvation. Are other good works, or the sacraments, necessary for salvation?

Then there are some who claim that God arbitrarily elects some for salvation, and others for damnation (which would be a violation of the character of God as well as a travesty of the Gospel). This is the position of those who believe in double predestination such as John Piper.

Piper isn’t seeking to add two more points, but is simply calling attention to his belief in the traditional five points (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints) in a way that also points toward two additional “Calvinistic” truths that follow from them: double predestination and the best-of-all-possible worlds (Permann 2006).

Therefore, we need to be clear from Scripture as to what exactly is the Gospel, and how God saves sinners purely by His grace. I do not support Piper’s 7-point Calvinism.

Then there are some who claim that God arbitrarily elects some for salvation, and others for damnation (which would be a violation of the character of God as well as a travesty of the Gospel). This is the position of those who believe in double predestination such as John Piper.

Piper isn’t seeking to add two more points, but is simply calling attention to his belief in the traditional five points (total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints) in a way that also points toward two additional “Calvinistic” truths that follow from them: double predestination and the best-of-all-possible worlds (Permann 2006).

Therefore, we need to be clear from Scripture as to what exactly is the Gospel, and how God saves sinners purely by His grace. I do not support Piper’s 7-point Calvinism.

See my articles:

clip_image004Salvation by grace but not by force: A person chooses to believe

clip_image004[1]Who can be reconciled to God?

clip_image004[2]Prevenient grace – kinda clumsy!

clip_image004[3]Is any flavor of Arminianism promoting error?

The cornerstone of salvation

1. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim 1:15 NIV)


2. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17 NIV).


3. “The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house (Acts 16:29-32 NIV).

4. ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”’ (Rom 10:9-13 NIV).


5. The importance of Jesus’ resurrection is emphasized in the Gospel:

clip_image006Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Cor 15:1-4 NIV).

6. Romans 5:1-2 reminds us of another important dimension of salvation:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God” (Rom 5:1-2 NIV).

clip_image008 Eph 2:8-9 (NIV) emphasizes the importance of God’s grace in salvation: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

7. To have our sins paid for and for salvation to be granted, Scripture makes it clear

“he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Lk 24:46-47 NIV).

There is no salvation without the u-turn of repentance away from committing sins. We must not overlook this command from God: “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 NIV).

8. Remember that salvation is the initiative of God. He does not drag you into the kingdom kicking and screaming. Jesus stated clearly in John 6:44 (NIV), ““No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

However, that leaves the door open to the question. Who can be drawn? Is that only a small number of the world’s population? John 12:32 answers for us, “And I, when I am lifted up [or exalted] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

So, after Jesus’ crucifixion and exaltation, He draws all people to salvation.

Why don’t they all come to God/Christ?

clip_image010 ‘Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the River Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15 NIV)

Even though it’s an Old Testament passage, it confirms how people come to serve the Lord or otherwise: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Josh 24:15 NIV).

See my exposition of this passage in, Choose does not mean choice! Joshua 24:15.

Works consulted

Permann, Matt. “What Does Piper Mean When He Says He’s a Seven-Point Calvinist?” 23 January, 2006. Desiringgod.org.

Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net (online) 2019, The Gospel continues to be misunderstood, 28 April. Nathan12 #1. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-gospel-continues-to-be-misunderstood.79385/ (Accessed 28 April 2019).

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 07 September 2021.