Category Archives: Jesus Christ

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 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).
  • 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, says 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.

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

clip_image003

(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:

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.

Old Testament documents confirmed as reliable again[1]

“2,500-year-old said to be the most important ancient Jewish archive since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.”[2]

By Spencer D Gear PhD

clip_image001

(Al-Yahudu clay tablet courtesy Wikipedia)[3]

It is not uncommon to read antagonistic statements on the reliability of the Scriptures, including the Old Testament. These are a few contemporary examples from doubters, skeptics and antagonists:

clip_image003The resurrection of Jesus ought not to be seen in physical terms, but as a new spiritual reality. It is important for Christians to be set free from the idea that the resurrection was an extraordinary physical event which restored to life Jesus’ original earthly body’.

clip_image003[1] ‘Why does any of a 2 thousand-year-old mythological legend have to have any basis in actual fact?’

clip_image003[2] ‘Is not the bible simply a book of parables and mythology, written by men for men? Is not the parable simply a short story, never intended to be taken literally?

clip_image003[3] ‘Take the whole story of the Jews being enslaved in Egypt, Moses leading them into the desert, their wanderings in the wilderness for forty years and their conquest of Canaan. There is no mention of any of this in any Egyptian material, no evidence of any wholesale enslavement of Jews or any mention of Jews at all, no evidence that Moses existed, no archaeological evidence of any sojourn in the wilderness and no evidence of some invasion and conquest of Canaan.

clip_image003[4]What it is dangerous to say is that we believe in the resuscitation of his corpse [concerning Jesus’ resurrection]’.

clip_image004 John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar wrote of ‘the apparitions of the risen Jesus’.  What’s an apparition?  A phantom, a ghost! Jesus’ resurrected body was not real flesh but ‘the resurrection is a matter of Christian faith’ (1995:189).  So, for him, the resurrection of Christ is really a spiritual resurrection among believers – whatever that means.

So, what happened to the body of Jesus?  Crossan wrote: ‘Jesus’ burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical.  He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging animals (Crossan 1994:160).

1. Can the Old Testament be trusted?

Personal and Brunner Professor of Egyptology and Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Archaeology, Classics, and Oriental Studies, University of Liverpool, England, the late Dr Kenneth A Kitchen wrote a comprehensive volume (662pp) On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Kitchen 2003).

In this research, he concluded:

We have a consistent level of good, fact-based correlations right through from circa 2000 B.C. (with earlier roots) down to 400 B.C. In terms of general reliability – and much more could have been instanced than there was room for here – the Old Testament comes out remarkably well, so long as its writings and writers are treated fairly and evenhandedly, in line with independent data, open to all’ (Kitchen 2003:500).[4]

Another Old Testament researcher into the historicity of the Old Testament is the Colman M Mockler Distinguished Professor of Old Testament, Dr Walter C. Kaiser Jr. Does his conclusion harmonize with that of Kitchen regarding The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? (Kaiser 2001)?

Given this mounting evidence, Roland de Vauz declared “that these traditions have a firm historical basis,” while John Bright concluded, “We can assert with full confidence that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were actual historical individuals”….

It must be acknowledged that there is no direct external evidence supporting the existence of any one of the three patriarchs. However, the data does exist to demonstrate the fact that they are correctly located in the Middle Bronze setting beginning approximately 2000 B.C…. An increasingly high degree of probability and corroborating evidence continues to mount up from the external evidence to such a point that the case for the genuineness of the patriarchal stories is strong indeed (Kaiser 2001:84-85, 96).

imcha Jacobovici, Contributor[5]

Three-time Emmy-winning filmmaker and New York Times bestselling author

Huffingon Post, 02/03/2015 10:35 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

clip_image005(One of the clay tablets on display in the Bible Lands Museum exhibit. Credit: Olivier Fitoussi)

As we watch horrific images of beheadings from the country formerly called Iraq – a country that is disintegrating into various tribal fiefdoms before our eyes – it is easy to forget that it was once the cradle of civilization. In point of fact, Arabs are latecomers to the area. They are first mentioned in the mid 9th century BCE as a tribal people subjugated by the Assyrians. Way before that, the area was home to the Babylonians. First records indicate that Babylon was established as a city around the 23rd century BCE. It stood about 50 miles south of modern Baghdad. The city is mentioned in the Biblical Book of Genesis (11:9) as the home of the infamous Tower of Babel.

In 587 BC, it was the Babylonians, under King Nebuchadnezzar II, who destroyed Jerusalem, the capital of the Kingdom of Judah. They also destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem – the “House of God” – built by King Solomon, as the centrepiece of Jewish faith. It stood on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion for almost 400 years. After the destruction, the legendary Ark of the Covenant, that had once housed the Ten Commandments, disappeared. According to Jewish tradition, it was hidden by the prophet Jeremiah. It has never been discovered. The Biblical books of 2 Chronicles and 2 Kings describes how the Babylonians took the elite of the Jewish people into captivity. Psalm 137:1 records the anguish of the captives: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion”. After the Babylonian empire was defeated by the Persians from modern Iran, the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah led a minority of Jewish exiles back to Jerusalem, motivated by an ancient version of Zionism.

Now for the first time, one hundred and ten, 2,500 year old Babylonian tablets have been discovered in Iraq which provide a glimpse of Jewish life in Babylonian exile. Put simply, the tablets corroborate the Biblical tale. They describe a town called Al-Yahudu i.e., “the village of the Jews”, by the river Chebar, mentioned in Ezekiel 1:1. They also attest to Judaic names such as “Gedalyahu”, “Hanan”, “Dana”, “Shaltiel” and a man with the same name as Israel’s current Prime Minister, “Netanyahu”. The “yahu” ending to these names is called “theophoric”, meaning, they attest to a belief in the God of the Torah, by including part of God’s name in people’s personal names. The tablets also record everyday business transactions and witness to the Jewish return to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 6:15-16), as commemorated in personal names such as “Yashuv Zadik”, meaning, “the righteous shall return [to Zion]”.

This discovery is a remarkable confirmation of the historical reliability of the Biblical text. It is also a reminder that many people once lived in Iraq. Today, there are still remnants of some of these people: Jews, Christians, Mandeans (the last remaining followers of John the Baptist) and Yazidis, an ancient people whose beliefs combine elements of Zoroastrianism, the pre-Islamic religion of Persia, early Christianity and Judaism. All these ethnic survivors are now facing massacres, crucifixions, rape and decapitation.

Do we dare let them disappear?

For more information, see: http://www.haaretz.com/life/archaeology/.premium-1.639822

See my other articles on Christianity and history:

blue-satin-arrow-small Secular historian confirmed Christian martyrs by Nero in first century
blue-satin-arrow-small Can Jesus Christ’s resurrection be investigated as history?

 

Works consulted

Crossan, J D 1994. Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1995. Who Killed Jesus? New York: HarperSanFrancisco.

Hasson, N 2015. Ancient Tablets Disclose Jewish Exiles’ Life in Babylonia. Haaretz (online),[6] 29 January. Available at: https://archive.is/4ptde (Accessed 3 February 2019).

Kaiser Jr., W C 2001. The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press.

Kitchen, K A 2003. On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Notes


[1] Instead of being an original narrative compiled by this author, this will be an exposition of a new archaeological finds in Iraq that confirm the reliability of the Old Testament documents.

[2] Hasson (2015).

[3] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Yahudu_Tablets (Accessed 3 February 2019).

[4] A more detailed quote from Kitchen on the reliability of the Old Testament can by found in my article, Circumcision and masturbation.

[5] Available at: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/simcha-jacobovici/2500-year-old-jewish-tabl_b_6579996.html (Accessed 3 February 2019).

[6] Haaretz presents breaking news from Israel and the MidEast and it is available online in English.

Copyright © 2021 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 04 September 2021.

Early Church Fathers on eternal security and predestination

[The Church Fathers, an 11th-century Kievan Rus’ miniature from Svyatoslav’s Miscellany (from Wikipedia)]

Compiled by Spencer D Gear PhD

A person asked on a Christian Forum:

If you can, let us know.
The ECFs (Early Church Fathers) did NOT believe in eternal security. . . .
The ECFs did NOT believe in predestination . . . . (I don’t consider Augustine to be an ECF as he wrote in the 400’s)
The ECFs believed in doing good works.
[1]

Google helped me locate the following. I see no point in repeating what other researchers had done in pursuing these three topics, so I’ve supplied links to helpful research online.[2]

clip_image002

Early Church Fathers (ECF) on eternal security:

What Early Church Fathers Said about Eternal Security by Todd Tomasella

In this article, the author quotes ECF on eternal security and cuts to the chase of what the ECF believed:

It can be perhaps witnessed, when studying the Church as it functioned through the New Testament centuries that after Christ and His apostles left the earth, there was a steady decline in doctrinal purity leading up to our day. This was long ago prophesied – “Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse.” (2 Tim. 3:13)

It is interesting to observe the words of some of the leaders in the Church world throughout these New Testament centuries. Many of these men held to the biblical revelation of salvation – how it is received and how it is maintained. It may interest you to know that Polycarp was the direct disciple of the apostle John. These men addressed this unconditional eternal security matter that had already sprung forth from diabolical origins soon after Christ had risen again from the dead.

Later, John Calvin came on the scene and grossly perverted the grace of God as foretold by Jude in Jude 3-4. Calvin set forth and re-established the lie that would continue through the centuries to be responsible for the damnation of millions of souls who believed and died believing they were eternally secure no matter what spiritual state they died in.

Flower5

What did the early church fathers have to say about “eternal security” or “assurance of salvation”

This StackExchange included these helpful insights from the ECF:

These men wrote from about A.D. 100 – 250. We do not find any statements to the effect that once a Christian is saved, he or she is always saved. But we do find a consistent belief, except for a few instances, that faith and works go together. This is consistent with the teachings of the Bible.

The earliest statement regarding “once saved always saved” comes from Augustine (A.D. 354-430).

It was left to Augustine to speak a clear word for perseverance in pre-Reformation times. Starting with predestination, he saw that election to eternal life inevitably involves final perseverance. Since salvation is always God’s gift, he entitled his work on perseverance On the Gift of Perseverance. He denied, however, that the believer can have any assurance of his final salvation. Carl F. Henry. Basic Christian Doctrines. Baker Book House, 1962.

It is important to note that the doctrine of “Once Saved Always Saved” did not appear in the literature of the church until the Reformation period. A review of the existing literature from the early church fathers suggests that most of them believed faith and works must both exist for a person to be a true Christian. While no person is perfect, the pattern of life must be present. Only a few seem to believe that a person can lose his or her salvation by disobedience. But it is also possible that they are only observing the biblical truth stated in James 2:17 and 1 John 2:19.

What is most important is, “Does the Bible teach, ‘Once Saved Always Saved.?’” The opinion of the early church fathers does not constitute truth. The early church fathers were not inspired authors. But Jesus and the apostles were. Jesus did not teach and the Bible does not teach that once a person believes in Jesus Christ he or she is going to heaven regardless of what he or she does in the future. James 2:26 captures the truth that faith and works go together. A true Christian will believe and obey. A true Christian will not leave the faith. Someone who claims to believe and lives like the world or leaves the faith is a liar, and 1 John 2:4 says the truth is not in him or her. However, we must remember that only God knows if one has actually left the faith. We do not see as God sees. The statement “Once Saved Always Saved” is misleading because it is not backed by biblical substance. It should be worded as follows, “Saved Only Once” or “Once Truly Saved Always Saved.” Once God selects people for salvation they have been selected and they will not depart from the faith. Those who have been truly saved will never depart from the faith. The better biblical language is: “The one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13 NIV).

However, there are times in severe persecution that some apostasize and leave the faith, only to return later.

clip_image002[1]

ECF on predestination:

Here is an interesting article by Jacques More titled, “The Early Church Fathers and Predestination.” Its first paragraph stated:

In a previous Article I wrote entitled THE MEANING OF ELECT – now a chapter in the book So you think you’re chosen? – I made mention that ‘There is no record of a teaching of “predestination of individuals” in the early church until Augustine came along. So for at least 300 years any such notion was not taught.’ The context of this remark was that anyone “specially picked” or “chosen out from others” was not a concept familiar to the first century Christian. This helps to define the predestination discussed as unconditional predestination: a choosing by God in no way initially influenced by the chosen one, but in being prior to the existence of that person. This is what I mention as foreign prior to Augustine (AD 354-430).

This following article provides a comprehensive list of the early church fathers and direct quotes from their writings regarding predestination:

Did the Early Church Fathers Teach Calvinistic Doctrines?

Tim Warner wrote in 2003,

Prior to the writings of Augustine, the Church universally held that mankind had a totally free will. Each man was responsible before God to accept the Gospel. His ultimate destiny, while fully dependent on God’s grace and power, was also dependent on his free choice to submit to or reject God’s grace and power. In the three centuries from the Apostles to Augustine the early Church held to NONE of the five points of Calvinism, not one.

The writings of the orthodox Church, for the first three centuries, are in stark contrast to the ideas of Augustine and Calvin. Man is fully responsible for his choice to respond to or reject the Gospel. This was considered to be the Apostolic doctrine passed down through the local church elders ordained by the Apostles, and their successors. Below we have listed a few representative quotes from the earlier writers in order to give the flavor of the earliest tradition regarding election and free will. Some deal with the subject of perseverance and apostasy (cited in “Did the Early Church Fathers Teach Calvinistic Doctrines? Soteriology 101).

clip_image004Cyprian (ca. 200-258), Bishop of Carthage[3]

No evidence remains of the date of his birth, but he is known to be a child of wealthy parents and lived in the same city as Tertullian where he received a good education in rhetoric – “The art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing” (Oxford English Dictionary 2021. s.v. “rhetoric”). While there were many periods of persecution of Christians in the early centuries of the church, it became intense for the Christians when Emperor Decius issued an edict in 250 that demanded an annual offering of sacrifice at the Roman altars to the gods. Those who made such sacrifices were given “a certificate called a libellus.”

As a lawyer, he became a Christian about 246 and a couple years later, as a new convert, he was appointed Bishop of Carthage. There he was confronted with the Decian persecution and he went into hiding. Thousands of Christians left the faith (apostatised) and the church had to deal with what to do with those who returned to the faith.[4]

During the Decian persecution of Christians under the emperor Decius (emperor from 249-251) the imperial Roman government issued tickets (libelli), indicating that citizens had satisfied the pagan commissioners by performing a pagan sacrifice (sacrificati), or burned incense (thurificati), demonstrating loyalty to the authorities of the Roman Empire. The government also issued libellatici (certificates) certifying that apostates had renounced Christianity.[5]

It is written, “He who endures to the end, the same shall be saved” [Matt. 10:22]. So whatever precedes the end is only a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation. It is not the final point wherein we have already gained the full result of the ascent” (Cyprian, Treatise 1, On the Unity of the Church sec. 21).

Cyprian of Carthage (northern Africa) wrote under the chapter heading, “The liberty of believing or not believing is placed in free choice.”

In Deuteronomy: “Lo, I have set before your face life and death, good and evil. Choose for yourself life, that you may live” [Deut 30:15]. Also in Isaiah: “And if you be willing, and hear me, you shall eat the good of the land. But if you be unwilling, and will not hear me, the sword shall consume you. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things” [Isa 1:19-20] (Treatise 12, third book, ch. 52).

He made controversial statements such as:

· “There is no salvation out [outside] of the Church” (Cyprian, Treatise 72.21), i.e. Christian salvation is found only in the Roman Catholic Church.

· “He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother” (Cyprian, Treatise 1.6).

· What will happen to those who committed apostasy during persecution and wanted to return to church? Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage (northern Africa),

held that they ought to be received back into full communion after suitable intervals of probation and penance, adjusted to the gravity of the denial. In this he took a middle course between Novatus, who received apostates with no probation at all, and Novatian, who would not receive them back at all, and who broke communion with the rest of the Church over this issue, forming a dissident group particularly strong in Rome and Antioch.[6]

He died a martyr’s death, being beheaded, at Carthage, northern Africa, in 258.

clip_image006 Justin Martyr (ca. 100-165)[7]

Justin was born to pagan parents near Shechem, an ancient Canaanite city, now in the northern region of the West Bank of Palestine. His early life was that of a wandering philosopher searching for truth in ideas from Stoicism, Plato, and Aristotle. It was without success. One day while walking along the seashore he met an old man who directed him to the Scriptures where he would find the true philosophy. He described this true peace he was craving in Dialogue with Trypho, chapters 2-8.

However, most of his writings have been lost. He wrote his First Apology to Emperor Antoninus and his adopted sons in about AD 150. The themes included a request for the emperor to examine the charges against the Christians (chs 1-3), and if the Christians were innocent of charges they should be released. In chs 14-60 he discussed Christian morals, doctrine, and instruction on the Christ, the Founder of Christianity. He pointed to the Old Testament prophecies that pointed to the Messiah’s superior life and morals. He blamed persecution and error on the work of demons. In chs 61-67 of this writing, he expounded on Christian worship and showed charges against them should be dropped and they should live as free people, allowed to worship their Lord. Justin’s followers pursued these teachings.

His Second Apology is really an appendix to the First Apology in which he cites examples of cruelty and injustice of Christians. He tried to show the rationality of the Christian faith. He moved to Rome in 161 and founded a Christian School:

Justin and his disciples were arrested for their faith. When the prefect threatened them with death, Justin said, “If we are punished for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, we hope to be saved.” They were taken out and beheaded. Since he gave his life for the “true philosophy,” Justin has been surnamed Martyr.[8]

He died a martyr’s death for his Christian beliefs.

Justin wrote concerning free-will:

Could not God have cut off in the beginning the serpent, so that he exist not, rather than have said, ‘And I will put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed?’ [Gen 3:15] Could He not have at once created a multitude of men? But yet, since He knew that it would be good, He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous, and He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free-will; and because He likewise knew it would be good, He made general and particular judgments; each one’s freedom of will, however, being guarded.” (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 102)

There is no doubt these Early Church Fathers believed in free will and did not promote the Calvinistic-Augustinian doctrine of predestination.

Notes:


[1] Christian Forums.net 2021. “The Good News/Bad News”, wondering#403, https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-good-news-the-bad-news.84920/page-21#post-1601858 (Accessed 8 January 2021).

[2] My following major outline points were posted to the Forum at OzSpen#412, https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-good-news-the-bad-news.84920/page-21#post-1601858 (Accessed 8 January 2021). This article is developed from that outline.

[3] These biographical details are based on Earl E Cairns 1981. Christianity through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church, rev. & enl. edn. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, p 92.

[4] The above paragraph is based on Encyclopedia Britannica (2021. s.v. “St. Cyprian”). Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Cyprian-Christian-bishop (Accessed 27 January 2021).

[5] Jery M Norman 2021. historyofinformation.com, “The Imperial Roman Government Issues Certificates of Conformation to Pagan Religious Practice.” Available at: https://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?id=3491 (Accessed 26 January 2021).

[6] Cyprian of Carthage, Bishop and Martyr, biographical sketch written by James E. Kiefer.

[7] These biographical details are based on Earl E Cairns. Christianity through the Centuries, pp 106-07.

[8] Christian History 2021. Christianity Today, “Justin Martyr: Defender of the ‘True philosophy.’” Available at: https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/evangelistsandapologists/justin-martyr.html (Accessed 26 January 2021).

I don’t have the faith to believe.

Ships in a Storm, 1860 - Ivan Aivazovsky

(Image courtesy Wikiart)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Visit an Internet Christian forum and start a topic, “Faith is not the same as belief,” and watch the reaction.

I came in late when I participated in a discussion on the topic, “The Good News/The Bad News” (christianforums.net),[1] where I read these kinds of statements:

1. Are belief and faith the same?

clip_image002 I may be wrong in my assessment of your position, but it seems that you [Fastfredy0] are saying believing and faith are the same, nothing could be further from the truth.
Faith is a noun and comes to us when God speaks to us, whether directly as in Genesis 12, or indirectly through those He sends to preach the Gospel.
Believe on the other hand is a verb and is what we must to do in response to the Gospel message. Believe carries the idea of obey, which is why we se some passages say believe the Gospel, while others say obey the Gospel.
Do we agree on this or disagree?[2]

JLB continued:

The cause of faith is God. Faith is what we receive from God when He speaks to us. See Hebrews 11.
However, what causes faith to be activated, and be complete and able to produce the intended divine result is believing and therefore obeying; the obedience of faith?
When faith comes to us from God, because we hear Him speak to us, it is dormant and incomplete and must be activated or made alive by our obedience, our corresponding action of obedience.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? James 2:21-22
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?

  • by works faith was made perfect?

Perfect here means complete.
The work that James is referring to is obedience to the word from God, by which Abraham received faith, which was to offer his son Isaac on the altar.
Do we agree or disagree?[3]

Part of Fastfredy0’s response was: “According to https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionaries/bakers-evangelical-dictionary/belief-believe.html … belief/believe is the same as faith per the first bible dictionary I looked up.”[4]

Belief, Believe

· Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology /

· Belief, Believe

See Faith.[5]

So JLB sees faith and believe as different while Fredy considers them to be the same. This has been my view but I’m open to a different interpretation if there is biblical evidence.

2. Why go to Bible dictionaries?

clip_image003Why do we need another definition of faith, other than the definition the Bible gives? Please answer my question.”[6]

But the question remains, why do we look to Bible dictionaries written by men for the definition of a word when the Bible defines that word for us?
Can‘t we agree on the definition that the Bible gives us?
Faith comes to us from God, and is the substance of the thing hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
[7]

My response was:[8]

Your post raises a few issues for me:

  1. Don’t you realise that we would not have translations into English or any other language if it were not for experts/scholars/professional linguists who knew the original languages? Have you ever looked at the translation committees for the KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV, NLT and NRSV? You should be staggered to know how knowledgeable these linguists were of the original languages. They are human beings. What?clip_image004
  1. clip_image006The Bible doesn’t give us the meaning of many verses. It simply gives us a basic translation. As we’ve found in this thread, the nuances of Eph 2:8-9 (ESV) are not clear from a basic reading of the text. It needs exegesis and the use of exegetical Greek aids from leading Greek commentators and Bible lexicons/dictionaries. I would not be able to exegete from the Greek if I didn’t study introductory Greek under Dr Larry Hurtado, Regent College, Vancouver BC, Canada, using J W Wenham’s, Elements of New Testament Greek, and in completing my BA in biblical literature and NT Greek at Northwest University, Kirkland WA, I used Dana & Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (available free online as pdf).
  1. I would not have grasped basic NT Greek if it were not for my Greek teachers who taught me. Believe it or not, they were men. I learned Greek from – shock horror – men who were God’s gift to the body of Christ.
  1. All Bible translations were translated by men and women. Does that bother you?
  1. Many times the Bible doesn’t define a word for us. That influenced Richard Trench to research and publish his book, The Synonyms of the New Testament (available online). By reading the English Bible alone, how will you differentiate among the three Greek words for love? What’s the difference in meaning for the “word” translated from logos or rhema? There are 3 Greek words for “hell”. What are the words and what are their differences in meaning? There are a few different words for “heaven”. What are the differences in meaning?
  1. Your position, in my view, demeans God’s gift of teacher for the benefit of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-12 ESV).
  1. I can’t agree with you on “the definition that the Bible gives us” for a word. I find that to be a naive point of view as the Bible does not define all words. It translates them but exegesis is needed to get to the root meaning of some words.
  1. I recommend the article by I Howard Marshall, “The Problem of New Testament Exegesis (Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society).”

JLB doesn’t give up: “When the Bible gives us the meaning of a word, especially an important word like faith, can’t we all agree this is the meaning that God intended for us to use?”[9] He continued his rave against God’s gift of Bible teachers:

Because Bible teachers are so desperately needed in this time of so much false doctrine, we should all be in agreement when the Bible defines a word for us, and we should use that definition rather than some commentary definition.
Are you are there is a difference between teaching scripture and teaching man’s commentaries?
The Pharisees taught commentary, a mixture of scripture and Talmud, and tradition. They ended up murdering Jesus who taught pure truth.
[10]

To this I responded:[11]

I’ve already answered you in #304.
I agree that the fundamental definition of faith is in
Heb 11:1 (ESV): “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
This verse involves intellectual assent to the facts of faith and trust (a conviction) in the facts.
How will you know the difference between the faith of Heb 11:1 (ESV) and the faith of
James 2:19 (ESV): “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe [have faith]—and shudder!”

What did I write at #304?[12]

I happen to believe in exegesis of the text and that means digging into the etymology of words, grammar, and syntax of the Greek language. You may be able to find that information from a plain reading of the text. I can’t. I don’t want a simplistic reading of the text.


I cited from the most extensive word studies ever produced, Kittel & Friedrich’s (eds) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

I go to Bible Lexicons and Theological Dictionaries to better understand the meaning and etymology of words.

This poster jumped in with a helpful comment:

I think your (sic) misunderstanding.

The Bible was not written in English. Faith is an English word that was translated from a foreign language.


Studying the original language helps to better understand the text.
A servant is not above its master. If God declared His word in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, then English is serving those languages.

To raise the English language above the original tongues of those whom the Holy Spirit imparted God’s Word is to cause the master to become the servant.[13]

clip_image003[1]JLB can’t tolerate that kind of challenge. He wrote:

Of course I never said we are to raise the English language above the original language. What I am saying is, when the bible defines for us what a word means, then to refer to commentaries to validate a different definition is a recipe for division.
Believe and faith are two different words and should not be used interchangeably.
[14]

Again, this poster is pushing his idiosyncratic theology of faith and believing not being used interchangeably. That may be the case, but at this stage of my study and writing my article, based on my understanding of the Greek language, that is not the case. I’m tentative in saying they are synonyms.

JLB’s problem, in my view, is that he doesn’t know how to exegete words and grammar in Greek and Hebrew, so he resorts to English giving him the correct meaning when it can’t give him the differences in meaning for several Greek words such as faith/believe, love, hell, word, etc.

The Greek word for “unloving” in the Greek NT is astorgos, “a” meaning “no/not”, so it negates the Greek noun, storgos, which means “love, feel affection for someone, of the love of a wife for her husband.”[15] So astorgos refers to someone who is unloving, and feels no affection or love for another person, including a spouse. This is not the same kind of love as for philia or agape (or eros, which is not in the NT). Exegesis of the text is so important – obtaining the meaning out of the text and not imposing one’s meaning onto the text, of the original language.

If a preacher/teacher doesn’t know the original biblical language he or she will have to depend on commentaries by teachers who knew the original languages. Sometimes, comparing several different translations (both formal equivalence[16] and dynamic equivalence[17]) may help to better understand a word or passage, instead of using Bible lexicons. I appreciate that many Christians do not have the training in the original languages to be able to access Bible lexicons (dictionaries).

Astorgos is found in only two NT passages – Rom 1:31 and 2 Tim 3:3 – but it does involve a word for love – a negation of that word.

clip_image003[2]“When the Bible gives us the meaning of a word, especially an important word like faith, can’t we all agree this is the meaning that God intended for us to use?”[18]

“Believe and faith are two different words and should not be used interchangeably.”[19]

Believe and have faith in are not the same.
The verse does not say have faith in, that is your inserted opinion based on your understanding that comes from commentaries. You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
James 2:19.

The point James is making here is demons believe in God but don’t obey Him.
Believing without obeying is demonic believing and profits us nothing.
Likewise those who believe Jesus is Lord but don’t obey Him, are deceived.
Faith must have the action of obedience to be complete, and active or alive.

Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? James 2:21[20]

This is an example of some strange theology that lurks around churches and the Internet when Christians don’t dig deeper than a surface reading of the text in English. An exegesis of the noun, “faith,” and the infinitive, “to believe,” demonstrates faith and belief can be used interchangeably in the NT.[21] However, is that always the case?

3.  Light from Romans 3:22

Let’s use Rom 3:22 as an example (See translation below from the NIV).

English Bibles translate words from the original Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. That does not give us the full meaning of any word or grammatical construction. That will take exegesis, but there are too many lazy promoters of the Bible who simply want to read a translated language in English as stating the true meaning of a word. That is not the way it is and I won’t accept such gullible conclusions.

We read this in John’s Gospel: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31 ESV). I have searched in vain in John’s Gospel for the word, “faith” (It may be there), but have not found the exact word but the concept of faith is there. Pisteuo and its declensions[22] are used over 100 times in John’s Gospel, meaning “I believe” (or other meaning of “believe” associated with the declension) and that leads to “life in his name” (John 20:31 ESV).

Examples of different declensions of pisteuo in John’s Gospel include:

  • John 1:7 (NASB), “so that all might believe through him.” “Might believe” is pisteus?sin, aorist, active, subjunctive, the subjunctive mood is the mood of doubt, 3rd person plural verb. Since it is aorist, it refers to a point of action, but there is doubt associated with it, so the translation, “might believe”, is more than acceptable.
  • John 3:12 (NASB), “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” Both uses of “believe and the negative do not believe.” The first use of “believe” is pisteuete (present tense, active voice, indicative mood, second person plural), which means you, as a group, do not continue to believe. The second use of “believe” is pisteusete, which is future tense, active voice, indicative mood, second person plural. Being future time, it does include a future time element.”
  •  John 17:8 (NASB), “they believed that You sent Me.” “Believed” is the Greek, episteusan, which is a pluperfect tense, which “is a secondary tense. It is used of action that had been completed prior to some point in the past. It is the Perfect Tense adjusted backward in time”.[23] So, the meaning here is that at some time in the past the disciples believed Jesus was sent by the Father.

Generally in Greek the suffixes for nouns are called declensions, while the suffixes for verbs are titled conjugations.

On the other hand, Rom 3:21-23 (NIV) states,

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in[24] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Here, righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. Are faith and belief interchangeable in Rom 3:22? Adam Clarke explained:

That method of saving sinners which is not of works, but by faith in Christ Jesus; and it is not restrained to any particular people, as the law and its privileges were, but is unto all mankind in its intention and offer, and becomes effectual to them that believe; for God hath now made no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles (Adam Clarke, Rom 3:22).

For Clarke, faith in Jesus Christ is available to all people but only becomes effective for those who believe in Jesus. This doesn’t clarify the verse for me.

Douglas Moo, an eminent contemporary Greek commentator, uses the Greek prepositions to explain and accept the traditional view that verse 22 deals with the “human” side of the transaction: “It is ‘through’ faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe…. Paul highlights faith as the means by which God’s justifying work becomes applicable to individuals.” Moo refers to “pistis almost always means ‘faith’: very strong contextual features must be present if any other meaning is to be adopted. But these are absent in the present if any other meaning is to be adopted” (Moo 1996, 224-25).

Moo is aware of a contemporary interpretation gaining favour: “Paul asserts not that God’s righteousness is attained ‘through faith in Jesus Christ,’ but ‘through the faith of Jesus Christ,’ or ‘through the faithfulness shown by Jesus Christ.” Moo does not find the argument for this view compelling.[25] He noted that the section of Rom 3:21—4:25 designated pistis to refer to “the faith exercised by people in God, or Christ, as the sole means of justification” (Moo 1996:225, emphasis in original).

Moo asks:

If Paul mentions human faith in this phrase, why then does he add the phrase ‘for all who believe’?… Paul’s purpose is probably to highlight the universal availability of God’s righteousness. This theme is not only one of the most conspicuous motifs of the epistle, but is explicitly mentioned in vv. 22b-23. God’s righteousness is available only through faith in Christ—but it is available to anyone who has faith in Christ (Moo 1996, 226).

I’m still left hanging: Do faith and to believe have the same or similar meanings?

John Murray considers there are two different applications. Firstly, he acknowledged, “We may wonder why there is the addition, ‘unto all who believe.’” He considered the most reasonable interpretation was:

Not only is the righteousness of God brought into this effectual relation to all believers. Faith is not only effectual to this end; it is invariably effective whoever the person believing is….

This interpretation receives confirmation from the immediately succeeding clauses: “for there is no difference. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”. As all are sinners, so all believers are justified freely by God’s grace. There are thus two distinct shades of thought in the two elements of the clause. “Through faith of Jesus Christ” stresses the fact that it is only through faith in Christ that this righteousness of God is operative unto justification. “Unto all who believe” stresses the fact that this righteousness is always operative when there is faith (1968, 111-12).

So, as a Calvinist, John Murray understands Rom 3:22 teaches that: (1) There is only salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and (2) This faith, no matter what the nationality, is only effective when Christians put that faith into effect – by believing.

One author summarised this with care: “The root of pistis (“faith”) is peithô (“to persuade, be persuaded”) which supplies the core-meaning of faith (“divine persuasion“). It is God’s warranty that guarantees the fulfillment of the revelation He births within the receptive believer (cf. 1 Jn 5:4 with Heb 11:1)” [source].

4.  “Believe” in the Gospel of John

(Rylands Library Papyrus P52, recto, part of the Rylands Papyri, The front (recto) contains parts of seven lines from the Gospel of John 18:31–33, in Greek, and the back (verso) contains parts of seven lines from verses 37–38. Image courtesy Wikipedia.)

Therefore, in my understanding, the root meaning of pistis and pisteuo are related, but “faith” is in Christ alone for salvation and “I believe/I have faith” is the need to put faith into effect. Both refer to “divine persuasion” leading to action.
Why would John use “believe” and not “faith” in John 3:16 (NIV)? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” To believe leads to eternal life and saving from perishing. Romans 5:1 (NET) states, “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I can’t see “faith” and “to believe” providing much of a different interpretation – except “to believe” is an effect of “faith.”

So the noun, “faith,” is not used in the Gospel of John but the verb, pisteuo (‘I believe’) is used many times. Remember Jesus’ use of the verb in speaking to Thomas, the one who doubted Jesus. This applies to all who hear the Gospel: ‘Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”‘ (John 20:29).
Throughout Scripture, I find there is no clear distinction between faith and belief, but Rom 3:22 does hint at a difference. Both are based on the same Greek root: pistis (faith) and pisteuo (I believe). The root comes from peitho, which means “tried to convince” (Acts 18:4), “persuade, appeal to someone” (2 Cor 5:11), “conciliate, satisfy” (Matt 28:14), “depend on, trust in, put one’s confidence in” (Philm 21; Lk 11:22), “be convinced, be sure, certain” (Rom 2:19; Heb 13:18); in the passive voice, “be persuaded, be convinced, come to believe” (Luke 16:31; Heb 11:13); “obey, follow” (Rom 2:8; Gal 3:1); and “be convinced, certain” (Heb 6:9; Luke 20:6).
[26]

Differences between faith and belief

However, this online author considers there are differences between faith and belief:

Belief and faith are not exactly equivalent terms. When Jesus told people, “Your faith has made you well,” faith was still His gift (Eph 2:8, 9). Any gift however, once received, becomes the “possession” of the recipient. Faith however is always from God and is purely His work (2 Thess 1:11).

Note: The Greek definite article is uniformly used in the expressions “your faith,” “their faith” (which occur over 30 times in the Greek NT). This genitive construction with the article refers to “the principle of faith (operating in) you” – not “your faith” in the sense that faith is ever generated by the recipient.

[The meaning of the definite article in this construction is “the principle of faith at work in you,” “the operating-principle of faith in them,” etc. For examples see: Mt 9:2, 22, 29; Lk 17:19; Phil 2:17; 2 Pet 1:5, etc.]

Faith (pistis) involves belief but it goes beyond human believing because it involves the personal revelation (in-working) of God. Faith is always God’s work. Our believing has eternal meaning when it becomes “faith-believing” by the transforming grace of God.

Reflection: Demons believe (and shudder) . . . but they do not have (experience of) faith!

Jas 2:19: “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder” (NASB) [Source].

It seems this author is showing the difference between faith as a gift of God and believing that involves a person accepting that gift. I would add that this gift of faith that is believed, leading to salvation, must be followed by works that demonstrate a person is saved (see James 2:14-26 ERV).

It is possible for people to have fake or deficient faith or belief. The differences between faith and belief seem to be more in contemporary usage. As long as we remember faith and belief do not distinguish between mental assent and unswerving commitment, we are on safe biblical grounds.

5.  Conclusion

As I’ve written this article and considered some of the points above, I’m now unsure if faith and belief can be used interchangeably or have slight differences of meaning. Faith is a gift of God to the person who then accepts that gift – and believes. Is that the order?

I’ve had a change of heart in writing this article. If you want me to conclude that faith and belief are synonymous for the Christian faith, I have not yet become that fixed.

Faith is never generated by me but always by God who moves on my inner being. For the faith to be seen as genuine, it must be demonstrated by doing good deeds. However, God moves for me to experience faith, but I need to believe in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

6.  Works consulted

Bauer, E, W F Arndt & F W Gingrich. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature.[27] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House), 1957.

Moo, Douglas J. The Epistle to the Romans (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), Ned B Stonehouse, F F Bruce, and Gordon D Fee (gen. eds.). Grand Rapids, Michigan / Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.

Murray, John. The Epistle to the Romans, vol. 1 (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), F F Bruce (gen. ed.). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. This is the one-volume edition that contains Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, but the page numbers start at the beginning for each volume, 1968.

Faith clipart | Etsy

7.  Notes


[1] Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/the-good-news-the-bad-news.84920/ (Accessed 9 January 2021).

[2] Ibid., JLB#251.

[3] Ibid., JLB#252.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., Fastfredy0#253.

[6] Ibid., JLB#342.

[7] Ibid., JLB#309.

[8] Ibid., OzSpen#341.

[9] Ibib., JLB#343.

[10] Ibid., JLB#346.

[11] Ibid., OzSpen#347.

[12] Ibid., OzSpen#304.

[13] Ibid., stovebolts#382.

[14] Ibid., JLB#396.

[15] Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich (1957, 774).

[16] These Bible translations include the ASV, Douay-Rheims, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NET, NKJV, ESV, RSV, NRSV and WEB.

[17] Examples include the CEV, ERV, NAB, NIRV, NIV, NJB, NLT, and REB.

[18] Ibid., JLB#343.

[19] Ibid., JLB#396.

[20] Ibid., JLB#353.

[21] Ibid., OzSpen#450.

[22] Declensions in Greek refer to the endings (suffixes) that indicate gender, number and case of a word. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the meaning of “declension” (2020. s.v. “gender”) as, “(in the grammar of Latin, Greek, and certain other languages) the variation of the form of a noun, pronoun, or adjective, by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are identified,” accessed 11 January 2021, https://www.lexico.com/definition/declension.

[23] New Testament Greek, Course II, Lesson 3, Available at: http://ntgreek.net/lesson23.htm (Accessed 11 January 2021).

[24] “Or through the faithfulness of” (footnote in NIV).

[25] The newer view interprets pistis followed by the genitive case as subjective genitive. However, the traditional interpretation uses pistis followed by the objective genitive (e.g. he pistis humov, ‘your faith’, as in NIV and RSV).

[26] Peitho’s definition is from Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich (1957, 644-45).

[27] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’ (4th rev & augmented edn 1952) (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).

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

Free Line Clip Art Pictures - Clipartix

Free Line Clip Art Pictures - Clipartix

No virgin birth in the Apostle Paul’s writings?

Christ Is Born

By Spencer D Gear PhD

On Christmas Eve 2020, a Christian friend sent me an email in which he asked:

Have you ever wondered if Paul even knew about Jesus’ virgin conception? He never mentions it. Interesting! I wonder if I went back in time to that era and proposed to Paul that Jesus must have had a special conception event, because he did not carry the sin nature which we are all cursed with – whether Paul would have thought about it and agreed with the proposition?

1.  Dangerous Appeal to Silence

This is an interesting and provocative question from my friend that is worthy of consideration for those who have a high view of Scripture, as I do. Did Paul know about the virgin conception?

It is perilous to reason from silence. It’s a logical fallacy and so is erroneous reasoning:

This logical fallacy essentially takes an appeal to authority and flips it around. The appeal to authority says that because an authority A says x, then x must be true; the argument from silence says that because an authority A didn’t say x, then x must be false. In effect, the silence of the authority regarding some particular claim is taken as evidence against the claim itself.[1]

The problem with the Appeal to Silence fallacy is that it appeals to silence to defend a case. Instead, we should examine the evidence. Even though no virgin birth is quoted in Paul, he did quote from the Gospel of Luke, which he regarded as Scripture, and that Gospel included the virgin birth (see 1 Tim 5:17-18; Luke 1:26-38 ERV).

First Timothy 5:17-18 in the ERV states:

The elders who lead the church in a good way should receive double honor—in particular, those who do the work of counseling and teaching. As the Scriptures say, “When a work animal is being used to separate grain, don’t keep it from eating the grain” [Deut 25:4] And the Scriptures also say, “A worker should be given his pay” [Luke 10:7].

2.  Paul regarded Luke 10:7 as Scripture.

It is good for us to remember Luke was a contemporary with Paul and was present in Rome at the end of Paul’s life where Paul wrote, “Luke is the only one still with me” (2 Tim 4:11). In Acts 28:16, it is stated, “When we came to Rome, Paul was allowed to live alone. But a soldier stayed with him to guard him.” Who are the “we”? Acts 16:10 seems to identify “we” as the writer of the Book of Acts, Luke. The NET Bible footnote comment for this verse was: “This marks the beginning of one of the “we” sections in Acts (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). These have been traditionally understood to mean that the author was in the company of Paul for this part of the journey.”

Paul quoted two passages as “scripture”, one from the Old Testament and one in the New Testament. “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing” refers to Deuteronomy 25:4, and “The laborer is worthy of his wages” refers to Luke 10:7. It’s clear that Luke’s Gospel was already common knowledge and accepted as scripture by the time this letter was written.”

According to 1 Cor 11:23-26, Paul appears to be familiar with Luke’s Gospel (Luke 22:19) in citing the teachings around the Lord’s Supper.

Because of Paul’s association with Luke, if Paul disagreed with Luke’s view of the virgin conception in Luke 1:26-38, I would have expected Paul (an eminent defender of the faith) to expose Luke’s fraudulent teaching. I can’t come to that conclusion, based on the evidence. It’s only by inference.

Steven Lewis gives the absence of the virgin birth in Paul’s epistles as an example of the Appeal to Silence Fallacy:

Paul never mentions the virgin birth of Jesus in his epistles, and thus some conclude that Paul must not have known about or believed in the virgin birth and that this must have been a later invention. But why would we expect Paul to mention this specific detail? Was the virgin birth so relevant to Paul’s message that it would have been ridiculous for him not to include it? This would be a difficult case to make! It is much more likely that Paul knew a great deal about Jesus that he did not include in his letters, possibly including knowledge of the virgin birth.[2]

It is good for us to remember there is no record in the Gospels of the specific destruction of the Jerusalem temple in AD 70. There is no siege of Jerusalem either. I don’t find anything about the deaths of Paul, Peter or James. Did they happen or do I have to rely on external sources? Again, I won’t commit the logical fallacy of arguing from silence.

3.  Do not interpret a Bible verse in isolation

In my understanding of hermeneutics (biblical interpretation), it is dangerous to interpret a verse in isolation from the rest of Scripture.

4.  Notes

[1] Steven Lewis, “The Argument from Silence,” Southern Evangelical Seminary & Bible College. Available at: https://ses.edu/the-argument-from-silence/ (Accessed 25 December 2020).

[2] Ibid.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 25 December 2020.

Jesus The Savior

Was Jesus the Son of God or only the son of a woman?[1]

Photograph of Dawid Samoszul

(Photograph of Dawid Samoszul

Close-up street portrait of Dawid Samoszul, probably taken in Piotrkow Trybunalski, Poland, between 1936 and 1938. Dawid was killed in the Treblinka killing center at the age of 9. US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Abe Samelson, View Archival Details)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Whenever I write a Christian-based article for On Line Opinion, it is guaranteed to receive a rant of abuse – mainly through the use of logical fallacies. These were some of the responses to my article, Anglicans, Christmas, and the birth of God?

1. Reactions from anti-Christians

One fellow who is known for his hostility wrote:

Jesus never claimed any more than the son of man. He’s on the record as allegedly saying, with regard to the miracles, it is not I who does these things, but the Father in me.
Only fundamental (sic) fanatics try to make him more than a man born of woman. . . .

They also claim that Jesus was God (a false premise) and believe that confers some authority! And just risible rubbish, given they never ever had such authority! Never![2]

2. Was Jesus the Son of God?

It is too bad Alan B didn’t acquire accurate biblical knowledge to counter the ignorant statements like this. What he said here is blatantly false.
God, the Son, is regarded as God. He has the attributes of deity:

(1) Eternity (Jn 1:15; 8:58; 17:5, 24);

(2) Omniscience (Jn 2:24-25; 16:30; 21:17);

(3) Omnipresence (Mt 18:20; 28:20; Jn 3:13);

(4) Omnipotence. ‘I am the Almighty’ (Rev 1:8; Heb 1:3; Mt 28:18);

(5) Immutable (Heb 1:12; 13:8);

(6) He does the actions of deity:

  • creator (Jn 1:3; Heb 1:10; Col 1:16);
  • holds things together (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3);
  • forgives sin (Mt 9:2, 6);
  • raises the dead (Jn 6:39-40, 54; 11:25; 20:25, 28);
  • he will be the Judge (Jn 5:22) of believers (2 Cor 5:10), of Antichrist and his followers (Rev 19:15), the nations (Ac 17:31), Satan (Gen 3:15) and the living and the dead (Ac 10:42).

Only Alan B’s bigotry against biblical content has caused him to reach his erroneous conclusion.[3]

3. A fundamentalist fanatic’s response[4]

“Only fundamental (sic) fanatics try to make him more than a man born of woman.”

Yes, mate, evangelical believers like me, who take the Scriptures seriously, know that you are dumping your presuppositions on us.

You don’t know the Bible, do you? Why don’t you own up to the logical fallacies you use whenever articles on this forum clash with your worldview, particularly Christian-related topics?

Let’s check the Scriptures: ‘Jesus answered, “The fact is, before Abraham was born, I Am.” When he said this, they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus hid, and then he left the Temple area” (John 8:58-59).

We know from John chapter 5 that Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. This did not please the Jewish leaders as they questioned Jesus about his violation of the Jewish law. Jesus claimed authority over the Sabbath.

Those Jews began trying to make Jesus stop these actions on the Sabbath. ‘But he said to them, “My Father never stops working, and so I work too.” This made them even more determined to kill him. They thought it was bad enough that he was breaking the law about the Sabbath day. And now he was saying that God is his Father, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD’ (John 5:16-18).

Have you ever read this in Scripture? Peter called Jesus, “Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)? Did Jesus support your view and emphatically deny he was the Son of God? Not at all! Jesus’ response was: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt 16:17).

Jesus emphatically affirmed he was the Son of God and not just the son of man. The Bible contradicts your view. I suggest you obtain a REAL theological education by taking the Bible seriously and examining its claims.

4. An atheistic perspective

An atheist could not resist this jibe: “Here we go again, arguing over who has the correct sky fairy”.[5] My reply was just as pointed, “I hear the wind blowing; the thunder and lightning are flashing and clapping; the cyclone is blowing our way from your ‘sky fairy’ fantasy.”[6]

5. Questioning my orthodox view over liberalism

Diver Dan took a different line:

I take you to task on your confessed orthodoxy. You may be an orthodox Christian in these times, but Christianity is historically built on shifting sands with orthodoxy.
Lack of consistency in its literature over two thousand years, has added confusion.

The belief in the trinity has been an evolutionary process. Explaining away the Christian God head from the orthodox stance as you do, relies on the belief of the infallibility of the biblical text as it now stands.
The Liberal view is Academic. It is more inclined to see the evolution of the Christian faith in term of history.

I see a danger in both views. The extreme of the liberal view is effectively disbelief in the creed, which I see as created by an overly questioning study for which it’s (sic) reward is lack of faith, followed by agnosticism; because the text through the years has been inconsistent and often tied into current historical events.
I think all orthodoxies should be questioned without risking loss of faith. You say your views are orthodox, but are they also fundamentalist by the same nature.

Fundamentalism led to the extreme of orthodoxy with the creation of Jimmy Jones, and his people’s Temple horror story.[7]

6. My response to “shifting sands” of Christian orthodoxy

“Christianity is historically built on shifting sands with orthodoxy.”

Then you gave not one example of these “shifting sands”, so you built a straw man fallacy.[8]

“Lack of consistency in its literature over two thousand years, has added confusion.”

Have you read EVERYTHING of Christianity from the 1st to 21st centuries to conclude about the “lack of consistency”? Or is this a fallacy of hasty generalization that springs forth from your worldview?

“The belief in the trinity has been an evolutionary process.”

False again! The trinitarian teaching is orthodox from the “us” of Genesis 1 to the full blown articulation in the New Testament. Ray Pritchard asked: “What is the Trinity? Christians in every land unite in proclaiming that our God eternally exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Those who deny that truth place themselves outside the pale of Christian orthodoxy. Having said that, I admit that no one fully understands it. It is a mystery and a paradox. Yet I believe it is true”, http://www.christianity.com/god/trinity/god-in-three-persons-a-doctrine-we-barely-understand-11634405.html.

The Trinity is not an “evolving” doctrine but one that is seen more clearly with progressive revelation in moving from Old Testament to New Testament.

“The Liberal view is Academic.”

No, the Liberal view changes what the Bible states. There are sound, evangelical, academic views of the orthodox Trinity.

“You say your views are orthodox, but are they also fundamentalist by the same nature.”

I said my views were “evangelical”. You have inserted “orthodox” and “fundamentalist.” I do not shy away from labelling my theological views as containing fundamental theology at its core – including the inerrancy of Scripture in the original documents, Christ’s atoning blood sacrifice, the bodily resurrection of Jesus and Christ’s second coming. However, the language of “fundamentalist” comes with too much baggage, as seen in your linking me to Jim Jones and his fanatical group.

“Fundamentalism led to the extreme of orthodoxy with the creation of Jimmy Jones, and his people’s Temple horror story.”

This is an ad hominem (guilt by association) fallacy. Here you have a negative view of my beliefs because of its supposed association with Jim Jones, that you view negatively. We cannot have a rational conversation when you engage in this kind of fallacious reasoning.

7. “Who is Christ?” has many answers

Diver dan had this comeback. How accurate was he?

One of the problems dealing with people on this site, is accommodating their hypersensitive natures.

I’m not about to trade scriptural references towards proving a theory I put forward to you, based on my observations over a lifetime on this subject.

But like it or not, the question of “who is Christ” has as many answers as history has to any other subject.

So the difficulty with the answer is, the difficulty of who debates the question, and the biases that are natural in the mix. And historically, the question of who is Christ, has shifted through the years; that’s the point I make.
On another point you raised, which I noticed in your article, which was the differing opinions adding a different emphasis on scripture, between Liberals and evangelicals.

Unless there is consistency, then there are dangers in both views.
Jimmy Jones began his ministry with good intentions, but he lost the plot and strayed from tradition. Tradition is very much where the Liberals are. Viz Peter Selleck on this forum.
[9]

How should I reply as his response contained some fundamental errors?

8. Who are Hitler, James Cook and Aristotle?

“But like it or not, the question of “who is Christ“ has as many answers as history has to any other subject.”

American soldiers enter the Buchenwald concentration camp following the liberation of the camp. [LCID: 09807](US soldiers enter the Buchenwald concentration camp following the liberation of the camp. Buchenwald, Germany, after April 11, 1945. Photo courtesy Holocaust Encyclopedia)

 

If I want to know about “who is Hitler?”; “Who is Captain James Cook?”; “Who is Aristotle?”, I go to the historical sources that deal with this historical information.
Since I want to know who Jesus Christ is, I go to the primary documents of the Gospels that deal with this information. I don’t go to the pseudepigraphical Gospel of Peter and the “Cross Gospel” which John Dominic Crossan of the Jesus Seminar promotes.

“Tradition is very much where the Liberals are. Viz Peter Selleck on this forum.”

To the contrary, the Anglican tradition is with the formulators of the 39 Articles, which provide a very evangelical statement of beliefs in The Articles of Religion 1562.
They are not Liberal Anglicanism but support evangelical, Bible-believing Anglicans. I suggest you get your facts straight on this topic.

The heart of the Anglican doctrines is evangelical and does not synthesise with the teaching of John Shelby Spong or Peter Sellick. See HERE.

9. Conclusion

Notice what most of these comments contain:

(1) They avoid dealing with the primary content of the article. This means they choose to,

(2) dump their presuppositions on the reader.

(3) They allow their ignorance about a topic to be exposed, and

(4) It is a common trait of these anti-Christian antagonists to use logical fallacies to divert attention away from the main topic.

Logical fallacies are common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant points, and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim. Avoid these common fallacies in your own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others.

10. Notes


[1] This topic began as a blog on one of my ejournal articles with On Line Opinion, 3 December 2020. I blog as OzSpen.

[2] Posted by Alan B., Thursday, 3 December 2020 11:03:22 AM.

[3] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 11:53:35 AM

[4] This was a response to Alan B, posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 8:29:56 PM.

[5] Posted by TheAtheist, Thursday, 3 December 2020 6:28:41 PM.

[6] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 3 December 2020 6:40:50 PM.

[7] Posted by diver dan, Thursday, 3 December 2020 8:29:15 PM.

[8] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 4 December 2020 12:50:38 PM.

[9] Posted by diver dan, Saturday, 5 December 2020 7:31:15 AM.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 5 December 2020.

Colored linesColored linesColored linesColored linesColored linesColored linesColored lines

Jesus’ resurrection: Mary Magdalene not to touch Jesus

File:Cobergher Christ as a gardener and Mary Magdalene.jpg ...

(Image: Cobergher Christ as a gardener and Mary Magdalene, courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

Why was Mary Magdalene told not to touch Jesus but Thomas could touch him? Isn’t this a contradictory message for the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus?

On a Christian forum, a poster asked:

One of the gospels has Jesus telling Mary not to touch him as he has not yet risen. Another gospel has Thomas touching him. When he died, was [he] resurrected as a spirit or did his flesh come back to life like Lazarus?[1]

1. ‘Don’t touch’ – too soft a translation

On the morning Jesus was resurrected, Mary Magdalene met the Saviour in the garden near the tomb where Jesus had been buried (John 20:17). This verse reads, ‘”Don’t cling to me,” Jesus told her, “since I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”’ (CSB).

clip_image002(Image The Resurrected Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene in the Garden, courtesy, courtesy The Cloisters Collection, 1956, public domain)

While the KJV translates the beginning of this verse as ‘Touch me not’, this is too weak a translation for the Greek verb haptomai that is used. It means: ‘to fasten one’s self to, adhere to, cling to’ (TDNT). It can mean ‘touch’ but the context here seems to favour, ‘Do not cling to me’. The Bauer, Arndt & Gingrich Greek Lexicon gives the meaning for John 20:17 as, ‘Stop clinging to me’ (1957:102).

A technical explanation from the Greek confirms this is not an experience of ‘don’t touch me’. Instead,

Touch me not (mh mou aptou). Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet (ekrathsan) and worship (prosekunhsan) as we read in Matthew 28:9 . The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness (A T Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, John 20:17).

2. Thomas did touch Jesus

While it is true that doubting Thomas touched Jesus, the language used is clear that it meant touching and not clutching:

The Second Sunday in Easter: Doubting Thomas — Saint Matthias ...Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.” Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28-29 CSB).

(image The Second Sunday in Easter: Doubting Thomas — Saint Matthias, St Matthias, Whittier)

This was a touching of and sight of Jesus’ wounds. It was not a clinging to Jesus. In his ministry, there were others who touched Jesus after His resurrection. Matt 28:9 (CSB) states, ‘Just then Jesus met them [the disciples] and said, “Greetings!” They came up, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him’.

Thus, there is no contradiction in the happenings of these two events.

 3.  Notes

[1] Christian forums.net 2020. Resurrection, Susannah#1, 14 March. Available at: https://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/resurrection.81924/ (Accessed 6 August 2020).

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 6 August 2020.