Category Archives: Postmodernism

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.

Fitz Files Fail

 

Related image

[image of Margaret Court (nee Smith) courtesy Wikipedia] 

This article first appeared in On Line Opinion, 25 November 2019.

Fitz, your article against Margaret Court (The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 November 2019, Opinion piece) failed fundamental tests of fairness. These include: Your intensely unpleasant homophobic remarks.

When will you and your mass media colleagues ever get a handle on the meaning of ‘homophobic’?

The Lexico/Oxford Dictionary describes homophobic as, ‘having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people’ (Lexico.com 2019. s.v. homophobic).

The Macquarie Dictionary relates homophobia to those who have a ‘fear of homosexuals, usually linked with hostility towards them’ (1997. s.v. homophobia).

Does Margaret Court fear or dislike homosexuals?

Fitz, why your hullabaloo about Margaret Court being homophobic? She rebutted your view in an interview with Vision Christian Radio (31 May 2017) when she stated: ‘I’ve got nothing against homosexual people as individuals. But my stand for my Christian beliefs is for marriage the Bible way’. 7News reported: ‘Margaret Court has said, I love them [homosexuals], I have them in the church‘.

Based on the dictionary definitions, Margaret Court is not homophobic. She presents God’s view of marriage between a man and a woman and not between two people of the same sex.

Jesus confirmed the Genesis teaching in Matthew 19:4-6. A man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. It does not say he will be joined (sexually) with another male. Margaret Court is correct in affirming the biblical view of sexuality in marriage. She is not homophobic but a promoter of God’s view, heterosexuality.

Talks between Israel Folau and Rugby Australia on his compensation claim will resume on Wednesday.Another sports’ star accused of homophobia is Israel Folau, pictured here with his wife, Maria (photo courtesy Lakes Mail).

See ABC News, Brisbane, Qld, Israel Folau to be sacked by Rugby Australia over homophobic comments, 11 April 2019.

Fake news by Fitz

Infographic How to spot fake news published by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (courtesy Wikipedia)

Again you presented fake news about Court’s beliefs. Fake news is ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’ (Collins Dictionary 2019. s.v. fake news).

You presented sensational false news about Court’s views when she stated ‘I love them (homosexuals)’. You created a homophobic, irrational understanding with your allegations against this former champion tennis player.

What was Margaret Court’s motive in her stand against homosexual marriage?

The Statement of Faith of Victory Life Centre, Perth, states: ‘That Marriage, according to Scripture is between a man and a woman; that man and woman are joined to become one flesh. God created man in His own image, male and female instructing them to be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:24).

Accusation of Court’s double-standards

Margaret, remember a couple years ago you were ‘citing the Bible’ to proclaim the ‘only legitimate love is that between a man and a woman’. In doing this you asserted ‘those with a different sexuality to you are not your equal’.

These are your hypocrisies: You want the Bible to be your standard for marriage but you don’t use the Bible for your standard on teaching for women in ministry. I know this straight from the Bible you quote.

Fitz flunks the test

Here’s the real crunch for you Margaret: ‘Seeing as the Bible seems to be the only reference point you recognise … I feel I must cite St. Paul’s advice in 1 Timothy 2:12; Ephesians 5:22; and 1 Corinthians 11:3-10’.

Fitz, if you were a student in one of my (Spencer Gear’s) courses at Bible College and gave your expositions of these three passages as you have done here, you would fail the exam. You didn’t come up to the standard because you, an atheist,could not achieve …

  • Proper exegesis of the texts. You cherry picked verses, allegedly against female teachers, without exposition. FAIL !
  • Your citation of 1 Cor 11:3-10 includes both husband and wife who prophesy (vv 3-4). Prophecy cannot happen without words and you didn’t explain what headship means and how women can prophesy in the public gathering of the church. FAIL !
  • Eph 5:22-23, ‘For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church’. What on earth does that have to do with women in ministry? Again, it requires you to expound the meaning of headship. You didn’t. FAIL !
  • 1 Tim 2:12 has caused angst among Bible scholars for 2,000 years because of the unusual word for authority, authentein, used only this one time in the entire New Testament. It has the connotation ‘to domineer’ and in context probably reflects the role of women in promoting errors of the false teachers in Ephesus, where Timothy was located. You provided none of this information. FITZ FAILS !

Related imageElsewhere the Apostle Paul affirmed the ministry of teaching by men and women. See 1 Cor 14:26 and Colossians 3:16-17. There was none of this information in your article. Seems to me you deliberately set out to denigrate Margaret Court’s view of Scripture, her alleged hypocrisy in supporting heterosexual marriage while violating the Bible’s view of women as teachers.

Fitz forgot fundamentals

The Christian faith is built on every-member ministry. It was declared on the Day of Pentecost: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants-men and women alike-and they will prophesy (Acts 2:17-18).

The same Apostle Paul who wrote the words in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians and Timothy also wrote Galatians 3:28, ‘There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus’.

He also wrote: ‘The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ’ (1 Cor 12:12).

Jesus’ death and resurrection broke down the former barriers for women.

Your deconstructionist, reader-response interpretation

Would you want me to read your article the way you interpret Margaret Court’s statements? She stated she loves homosexuals and has them in her church. Your assessment is that Margaret is ‘a homophobic zealot’. Margaret stated clearly what she meant. Fitz twisted this in true deconstructionist, reader-response style.

Deconstruction can be slippery to define but it briefly means that Fitz writes about Mrs Court but she doesn’t mean what we think she means in promoting heterosexuality. You went searching for other meanings as a deconstructionist as ‘other meanings are always there’. That’s not the way I read The Sydney Morning Herald or Manning Clark’s, The History of Australia.

(image courtesy The Public Domain)

Reader-response is a postmodern, deconstructionist approach to reading literature where meaning does not reside in the text. ‘Words in a text evoke images in readers’ minds and readers bring their experiences to this encounter. Because individuals have different life experiences, it is almost certain that no two readers or reading sessions will form the exact same interpretation of a text’.

You deconstructed Margaret’s meaning and imposed your interpretation as a reader on what she wrote.

Let me try this approach with your article:

At Tennis Australia (TA) we have no religious views whatsoever, and welcome everyone. That’s what TA would like to say but we have a commitment to equality that excludes fundamentalist Christians, as your statements demonstrate. Intense feelings arise in TA members towards you, Margaret Court. You have brought disrepute on TA with your bigotry towards the LGBTI+ community.

Fitz, would you approve of my promoting that view, based on your article? Of course not, but that’s what you’ve done with putting words into Margaret Court’s mouth about the LGBTI+ community not being equal with the straights and the way she ‘trashed the gays’. This is Fitz deconstructing Mrs Court with his reader-response interpretation.

Wake up, Fitz. You don’t know the Scriptures you prepared to promote PC, fake, reader-response news to disparage Margaret Court’s statements. Based on how you have ruined the reputation by fake news of Margaret Court, I can’t read your articles with confidence that you tell the truth.

I call upon you to promote the accurate meaning of homophobic. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as ‘involving a fear or dislike of gay people’ (2019. s.v. homophobic).

Margaret Court, based on her own statements, does not fear or dislike gay people. She loves them and has them in her church, Victory Life Centre, Perth – so is not homophobic.

Telling The Truth Clipart Image(image courtesy clker.com)

 

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 04 December 2019.

John 3:16 downgraded

How self-centredness replaced God-centredness

An edited version of this article is found at, Millennials choose fake theology  (On Line Opinion, 8 April 2019).

clip_image001

(image courtesy 123RF)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

What would influence Christians to ditch core Christianity for another kind of christianity?

Some of the process is expressed in an article in Fairfax newspapers (online) in Australia. This report on the research into how God-centred thinking has been replaced by another breed should be of concern to all Christians, especially evangelicals.

The replacement was self-centred picking and choosing what to believe in the Bible. Take a read of: Social media upends public’s Bible quote preferences.[1]

The research was associated with Reverend Dr Peter Phillips, director of CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology of St John’s College, Durham University, UK. He said: ‘Whereas once John 3:16 was the ‘poster-boy’ text of the 20th century, the latest star is Jeremiah 29:11’.
According to the article:

John 3:16 had been knocked of (sic) its pedestal in print by the social media era: “People don’t want to put a verse about Jesus’s death upon the cross on social media. It’s a bit heavy.” The passage, which reads: “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,” has been eclipsed in the UK by the offer of hope and prosperity in Jeremiah 29:11, according to YouVersion, a digital Bible provider with more than 350 million users.

It reads: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11 is also the favourite in nine other countries, including Canada and Australia.

 

1. An assessment

 

 

clip_image003(image courtesy KissClipart)

Here is my brief analysis of what I see happening in the UK with this digital Bible reading research of Millennials (or, Generation Y) who were born between 1982 and 2002.[2]

What is this article telling the Christian community that needs evaluation?

1.1 Fake theology[3] in the article

The false teaching in this article included:

clip_image005  1.1.1 People’s change in biblical emphasis and support.

This is told in the journalist’s writing:

In the beginning – and for centuries that followed – God’s sacrifice of Jesus to express his love on Earth was the favourite Bible passage of many Christians. But that is changing, as messages of hope and prosperity on social media find greater resonance with the younger generation.

The change in acceptance and emphases through social media is an example of pragmatism (what works best) in action. It is promoting fake theology when any generation promotes self-centredness instead of God-centredness.

That the Millennials discard John 3:16 for Jeremiah 29:11 is an example of abandoning Christo-centric theology for egotistic, feel-good theology.

Does it occur to these researchers and the Millennials that they are replacing the centre of Christianity with a bogus doctrine?

clip_image005[1]  1.1.2 From ‘poster boy’ to ‘star’: Christianity for the Oscars.

Fitzpatrick wrote:

“Whereas once John 3:16 was the ‘poster-boy’ text of the 20th century, the latest star is Jeremiah 29:11,” said Reverend Dr Peter Phillips, director of CODEC Research Centre for Digital Theology of St John’s College, Durham University.

That one paragraph demonstrates a change in worldview by the Millennials. The change is from:

clip_image007 (1) God’s love for the world and Jesus’ sacrifice of his life to bring salvation to whomever believes, to

clip_image007[1] (2) The fake doctrine of prosperity and hope in the here and now.

clip_image005[2]  1.1.3 The crux of Christianity crucified by compromise.

Fitzpatrick again:

“People don’t want to put a verse about Jesus’s death upon the cross on social media. It’s a bit heavy.” The passage, which reads: “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,”

So the cross of Christ and his shedding his blood to provide eternal life is ‘a bit heavy’ for social media.

I cannot imagine anyone with that approach standing up for their faith to the point of being a martyr like Peter, Paul, Polycarp, Hugh Latimer and those slaughtered by the Auca Indians in Ecuador: Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian.

clip_image009 (image courtesy TeePublic)

Compromise does not stoke fire in the heart of Christianity. Here we have an example of the Millennials who changed the truth of God (John 3:16) to fake theology (Jer 29:11).

clip_image005[3]  1.1.4 Let me interpret the Bible my own way.

This is done in true Frank Sinatra style, ‘My Way’.

According to experts, the switch is a product of social media and young people’s expectations of the Bible, in line with the trend of displaying wellness and spirituality online (Fitzpatrick).

What is the ‘Bible’s Way’? This is every Christian’s responsibility, although directed to Timothy: ‘Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15 NASB, emphasis added).

You might say: You are cherry-picking a verse to support accurate handling / interpreting of the word of truth – the very thing that you accuse the Millennials of doing?

Please examine the context of 2 Tim 2:1-2 (NIRV),

My son, be strong in the grace that is yours in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach in front of many witnesses. Pass on to people you can trust the things you’ve heard me say. Then they will be able to teach others also.

Timothy’s role of teaching others was central to his task of ‘accurately handling the word of truth’, as it is for all Bible teachers today. It is the role of all Christians to check out the Scriptures when any preacher or teacher speaks.

We know this from Acts 17:11 (NIRV):

The Berean Jews were very glad to receive Paul’s message. They studied the Scriptures carefully every day. They wanted to see if what Paul said was true. So they were more noble than the Thessalonian Jews.

It is every Christian’s responsibility to check any preaching or written teaching about Scripture.

According to these researchers, the switch from Christo-centric to self-centred fake theology is:

clip_image011  (a) ‘a product of social media’, and

clip_image011[1]  (b) ‘young people’s expectations of the Bible, in line with the trend of displaying wellness and spirituality online’.

This is postmodern, deconstructed Christianity in action. Postmodernism is difficult to define simply. In this Fitzpatrick article we have an example of the trend that moves from ‘cold, hard facts’ (John 3:16) to ‘warm, fuzzy subjectivity’ (Jer 29:11).

Got Questions? has defined it as:

clip_image013

Post-modern Christianity falls into line with basic post-modernist thinking. It is about experience over reason, subjectivity over objectivity, spirituality over religion, images over words, outward over inward…. When groups form under such thinking, theology and doctrine tend to lean more towards liberalism.
For example, because experience is valued more highly than reason, truth becomes relative. This opens up all kinds of problems, as this lessens the standard that the Bible contains absolute truth, and even disqualifies biblical truth as being absolute in many cases.[4]

Then add the deconstruction, reader-response elements of postmodernism. Here, an author’s intended meaning of a book or article does not provide the correct interpretation of his or her own work. The readers determine what any book or article means.

The ‘young people’s expectations of the Bible, in line with the trend of displaying wellness and spirituality online’ is not the way to read any document to gain its true meaning. Expectations should not drive any person regarding the content of articles in The Sydney Morning Herald or History of Australia by Manning Clark, or the Bible.

You’ll appreciate that when many people read the one author’s book, there are many interpretations and each is as valid as the other – in deconstruction. So the intended meaning of any book of the Bible goes down the postmodern chute of confusing, multiple interpretations and nobody can say which is the correct meaning.

Imagine using that approach when completing your tax return, giving your driver’s licence details to a policeman, reading the Brisbane Courier-Mail, or the Bible. Which way does the promoter of postmodern deconstruction want us to read his or her own book? Literally or by deconstruction?

What I see in this preference of Jer 29:11 over John 3:16 is a deconstruction of biblical theology to replace it with fake theology, i.e. self-centredness instead of Christ-centredness.

It’s a different gospel of prosperity without the cross, hope without the atonement.

This is how the article describes postmodern theology in practice:

With apps such as Bible Lens – which allows users to create new images using their own photos overlaid with quotes from the Bible – and YouVersion’s search-by-emoji function soaring in popularity, Millennials have drastically changed how they approach the Bible’s teachings.

Bible Lens 

The YouVersion website explains Bible Lens:

YouVersion Bible Lens is the app that transforms your everyday photos into profound, Biblically-based artistic shareable images. Bible Lens lets you take a picture, or point to one you already have. It detects not only objects in your photo, but more importantly, the Biblical themes of the moment that photo captured… and then suggests Bible verses to match!

This highlights one of the issues with the YouVersion app approach. It matches your photos or artistic, shareable images to specific Bible verses. This is not the way to disciple people in important Christian disciplines of:

clip_image015   (a) contextual biblical interpretation,

clip_image015[1]   (b) learning not to cherry-pick single Bible verses to make them say what we want them to say,

clip_image015[2]   (c) refusing to use software that interferes with appropriate interpretation. This does not mean that all software linked to Bible knowledge is to be avoided. I access many articles online, including Bible translations through BibleGateway and BibleHub.

clip_image015[3]   (d) using the biblical themes of the moment that photos capture, and leaving the app to choose the Bible verse.

clip_image015[4]   (e) Since ‘YouVersion’s function [is] soaring in popularity, Millennials have drastically changed how they approach the Bible’s teachings’ (Fitzpatrick), Millennials have postmodernised the Bible through ‘search-by-emoji’. This leads to a pick-and-choose Christianity that avoids the wisdom and knowledge of God, gained through fear of Him.

I have no confidence that it will develop disciples who know how to study the Scriptures with the foundation, ‘Wisdom begins with fear and respect for the Lord. Knowledge of the Holy One leads to understanding’ (Prov 9:10 ERV). All knowledge and wisdom must begin with the Lord or it is worthless.

Building a foundation for faith on apps that pick and choose Bible verses to go with the artistic images you use, is like building one’s house on the sand of intuitive emotion of feel-good faith. See Matthew 7:24-28. Taking action on what apps decide is not practising biblical Christianity.

‘Millennials have drastically changed how they approach the Bible’s teachings’ (Fitzpatrick). They sure have and it does not resemble the Gospel of John 3:16. It is time for God’s watchmen and watchwomen to stand up and be counted to counteract this Christless, fake gospel.

clip_image005[4]   1.1.5 Therapeutic, self-centred identity

The me-centred fake theology is declared in this kind of statement:

Reverend Dr Phillips, whose book Bible, Digital Culture and Social Media is published later this year, said: “We find that Millennials tend to share therapeutic messages – it’s far more about their own identity and how faith can help them in their future. The result is a shift in public display of the Bible.”

There you have it: ‘it’s far more about their own identity‘ and it’s ‘a shift in public display of the Bible’, according to the Millennials. The shift is more disturbing than public display of one’s identity.

A Christian’s personal identity is found in being made in the image and likeness of God (see Gen 1:26; 5:1–3; 9:6; Col 3:9–10; Eph 4:24–26; and James 3:9). Theologians down through the centuries have debated what it means for human beings to be created in God’s image. This is a reasonable summary of the meaning, in my view:

The image of God (Latin: imago dei) refers to the immaterial part of humanity. It sets human beings apart from the animal world, fits them for the dominion God intended them to have over the earth (Genesis 1:28), and enables them to commune with their Maker. It is a likeness mentally, morally, and socially.

Mentally, humanity was created as a rational, volitional agent. In other words, human beings can reason and choose. This is a reflection of God’s intellect and freedom. Anytime someone invents a machine, writes a book, paints a landscape, enjoys a symphony, calculates a sum, or names a pet, he or she is proclaiming the fact that we are made in God’s image.[5]

It is a radical change by YouVersion apps. It’s a leap of faith to another worldview of postmodern deconstruction that condemns any talk about truth. Absolute truth is taboo.

This is discarding biblical Christianity for feel-good millennial therapy. It is fake theology of personal importance over God Almighty’s sovereignty. Am I too dogmatic in labelling this as another gospel?

clip_image005[5]  1.1.6 Discard the context for therapeutic benefit

One of the major errors of the Millennials represented in this article is the approach to Christianity and its association with Jeremiah 29:11.

To whom was Jeremiah 29:11 addressed? This is the context of Jeremiah 29 (NET):

clip_image016(image, Babylonian Captivity, courtesy Pinterest)

 

clip_image018 ‘The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles Nebuchadnezzar had carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was addressed to the elders who were left among the exiles, to the priests, to the prophets, and to all the other people who were exiled in Babylon’ (Jer 29:1).

clip_image018[1] ‘The Lord God of Israel who rules over all says to all those he sent into exile to Babylon from Jerusalem’ (Jer 29:4).

clip_image018[2] “For the Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, ‘Do not let the prophets or those among you who claim to be able to predict the future by divination deceive you. And do not pay any attention to the dreams that you are encouraging them to dream. They are prophesying lies to you….”’ (Jer 29:8-9a)

clip_image018[3] ‘“For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you. Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore you to your homeland. For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope’” (Jer 29:10-11).

One of the ‘Comments’ posters examined the context of Jeremiah 29 and correctly interpreted verse 11:

From my cynical believers perspective you are absolutely right. Furthermore that passage is not about ‘me’ at all. It was written ‘to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon’. i.e. the Israelites held captive by the Babylonians after the invasion in 587BC. In fact here it is in context (from Jer 29):

10 When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”[6]

There are many problems with this approach to Christianity but hermeneutics (interpretation) is one of the BIG ones.

2. Post-truth in action

I consider Fitzpatrick’s content to be an example of Oxford Dictionaries word of the year in 2016, post-truth. which is ‘an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”’. (Oxford Dictionaries Online 2019. s.v. post-truth).

In context, this promise of Jer 29:11 is not for Christians in the 21st century. It was for the nation of Judah (cf. Jer 27 – 29, 39-43; Book of Ezra), the people carried into exile by Nebuchadnezzar. But it’s a classic example of feel-good Christianity in action. This time it avoids the truth of John 3:16 to replace it with an emotional appeal that is false because the verse is cherry picked and has no application to the believer today.

In my understanding of interpretation in context, it was not meant to extend contemporary hope and prosperity for Millennials in the 21st century. That meaning is generated out of context and provides false hope. Nevertheless, the Bible Society in the UK put this spin on it:

But the popularity of Jeremiah 29:11 also comes down to the context of social media, said the Bible Society.

“Passages like John 3:16 concern an eternal perspective and hope beyond death,” the society’s Rachel Rounds said. “These are not easy concepts to convey on social media, which doesn’t really do context or nuance and is a challenge for politicians, scientists and the Church alike”.

3. Conclusion

Two commanding themes against Christianity dominated this article.

clip_image020Firstly, postmodern fake theology replaced exegesis of the biblical text and its interpretation in context. It moves from facts to fuzzy feelings, driven by a reader-response technique of the reader determining the meaning of a text. Millennials decide for themselves what is ‘better’ faith than John 3:16. Since many readers read a text, there will be many interpretations and none of them is ‘correct’ in an absolute sense.

clip_image022Secondly, the post-truth view expressed in the article was that objective facts of Jesus’ life being given for the sins of the world are replaced by Millennials from a hope beyond death to a hope for now – prosperity.

All of this means self-centredness has replaced Christ-centredness. The result is a different gospel generated by fake theology.

This fake theology needs to be exposed by evangelicals and others who are concerned about the demise of truth in our culture.

However, this is a risk for evangelical Christianity that must be banished:

clip_image024

(image courtesy Pinterest)

4.   Notes

[1] Laura Fitzpatrick 2019. The Canberra Times (online)  25 February. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/europe/social-media-upends-public-s-bible-quote-preferences-20190225-p50zyy.html (Accessed 25 February 2019). This article is from the Telegraph, London.

[2] Although there are conflicting opinions about the timeline for the era of the Millennials, census bureau results (USA) show ‘that the millennial generation is the generation of children born between 1982 and 2002’ – Robert Farrington 2019. What is the Millennial Age Range and What Does That Mean Financially? The College Investor (online), 13 February. Available at: https://thecollegeinvestor.com/19793/millennial-age-range/ (Accessed 25 February 2019).

[3] I use ‘fake theology’ as an adaptation of ‘fake news’, which means, ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting’ (Collins English Dictionary 2019. s.v. fake news). So fake theology is false, sensational information circulated under the guise of orthodox biblical teaching.

[4] Got Questions 2002-2019. What is post-modern Christianity? (online). Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/post-modern-Christianity.html (Accessed 26 February 2019)).

[5] Got Questions 2019. What does it mean that humanity is made in the image of God (imago dei)? (online). Available at: https://www.gotquestions.org/image-of-God.html (Accessed 26 February 2019).

[6] Fitzpatrick op. cit, sneakyguy12. Available at: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/world/europe/social-media-upends-public-s-bible-quote-preferences-20190225-p50zyy.html#comments (Accessed 25 February 2019).

Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 26 February 2019.

clip_image025 clip_image025

Reader-response methods: How meaning can be stripped from biblical texts

Child And Book

(courtesy PublicDomainPictures.net)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

In searching the Internet for more information on reader-response ways to deconstruct any text, I was attracted to Dr Jeremy Koay’s1 brief article, ‘What is reader-response theory?‘ (2017) This is an exceptional overview of a method that is overwhelming the reading of documents of any kind, whether narrative, poetry or interpretation of art.

Even though the article was published in December 2017, no comments had been made to it, so I forwarded my response.

1. Problems with reader-response: From the article

I find that a major problem with read-response theory is that it cannot consistently interpret literature. You stated, ‘The idea of pure literal meaning is contestable because our culture, experiences and worldview shape our understanding of words’. Is that how you want me to read your article? Or do you want a literal reading (which includes figures of speech)? Can I engage in postmodern, deconstruction, reader-response techniques with your article to make it mean what I decide it means?

Could you imagine the recorded history of Emperor Nero, George Washington, Hitler and the Nazi concentration camps, Captain James Cook circumnavigating NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia being interpreted by reader-responses?

Did Emperor Nero, George Washington, Hitler and James Cook say and do what is recorded in their journals and history about them or is that open to the readers’ interactive deconstruction with our reader-responses from our century and cultures?

That’s what we are dealing with in examining any writing from the past or present. I wouldn’t interpret the articles in the Brisbane Times (BT) that way.

Imagine my reading your writings with that view? Surely you want me to read this article so that I understand the content of what you mean, within the bounds of English grammar and syntax, rather than imposing 21st century Brisbane environment and my reader-response on your text.

If I read the BT like that and passed on my postmodern, reader-response, interactive, contemporary interpretation of today’s BT stories to the people in my community, they would think I was going over the edge mentally.

EduMaxi chose not to publish my reply, so I sent this inquiry: ‘I submitted a comment on 28 August 2018. It has not been published. Are there reasons  for this delay or non-acceptance of the comment?’

2. Email rather than online reply

Dr Koay chose to reply by email rather than publishing my letter on the EduMaxi website’s target readers are primarily language teachers (not philosophers)’. So he considered my reply was philosophical.

I won’t publish his email because he has not given me permission to do that. However, you’ll pick up some of his content in my response, sent by email on 13 September 2018. I use ‘you’ and ‘your’ in referring to Dr Koay.

From your content, I raise five concerns:

2.1 ‘Pure literal meaning is contestable’

You say that this is because culture, experiences and worldview shape our understand of words. I don’t disagree with that perspective. However, I contend that my current worldview cannot be used to deconstruct the meaning of, say, John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Stanley E. Fish tried to do it in Surprised by Sin and came to an understanding that, I think, would cause John Milton to turn over in his grave).

OF Mans First Disobedience, and the Fruit

Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal tast

Brought Death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat,

Sing Heav’nly Muse, that on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That Shepherd, who first taught the chosen Seed,…. (Paradise Lost, Bk 1)

I consider that I would be cheating Milton to use my culture, experience and worldview to place my meaning on Milton’s poetry written in the seventeenth century. I need to understand the language and concepts he used and the biblical worldview to which he referred. Uncovering the intent of the author is my primary task as an interpreter of any document from your article, to the Brisbane Courier-Mail, or to the Bible. This is done by listening to the ‘plain meaning’ of a text.

I don’t use the language of ‘pure literal meaning’, so I don’t know how that differs from taking a text – narrative or poetry – at face value. I obtain the meaning from the text and not from my creative invention (reader-response, pesher method, allegorisation) of the text.

I have great difficulty in refusing ‘pure literal meaning’ when I investigate Captain James Cook’s circumnavigation of NZ and sailing up the east coast of Australia in HMS Endeavour in 1770:

A three-masted wooden ship cresting an ocean swell beneath a cloudy sky. Two small boats tow the ship forward.

HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland, by Samuel Atkins c. 1794

How is it possible to use a reader-response interpretation dealing with the Endeavour when Captain James Cook’s name is associated with an ocean-going ship, The Endeavour? Pure literal meaning applies as much to Jacinda Ardern’s being Prime Minister of NZ and Scott Morrison’s recent ascension to the PM of Australia. Is plain reading of a text the same as ‘pure literal meaning’ to you?

You stated ‘ This theory rejects the structuralist view that meaning resides solely in the text’. Do you consider that structuralism (meaning because of the language system) has been superseded by postmodern reader-response methodology?

I can’t walk into a local fish and chips shop and give a reader-response interpretation to the menu and expect to get what I ordered. I had to ask for clarification when some friends and I had lunch at a local tavern. My friend ordered whiting for the fish dish. He discovered his fish was NZ whiting and not Australian whiting. Questions for clarification are not equivalent to reader-response hermeneutics whether in the supermarket, at Centrelink (social security), reading The Sydney Morning Herald or the Bible.

I endorse the perspective that readers engage with a text to question concepts raised, discover etymology of words, cultural divergence from contemporary culture, etc. However, that is not the position you advocate as a theory: ‘Readers, as much as the text, play an active role in a reading experience (Rosenblatt, 1994)’.

It is my understanding that readers do not create content of a writing; authors do that. Readers may disagree with the content and provide reasons for such, but creating meaning is not their roles. Readers may develop personal or group applications from the text, but this is not part of the author’s intended meaning.

2.2 ‘I regard the theory as a theory – nothing more and nothing less’

I commend you for treating this reader-response literary device as ‘a theory’, which means it has yet to be proven.

However, that is not the view of many promoters of the reader-response approach. They use it as a method of hermeneutics. Take these eminent promoters of reader-response views:

According to Wolfgang Iser, ‘the meaning of a text … is not inherent in it but must be produced or actualized by the reader’ (Iser in Culpepper 1983:40, 209).

Iser explained the supposed ‘vacant pages’ and ‘gaps’ in a text that a reader uses in active and creative ways. His perspective was that ‘the gaps, indeed, are those very points where the reader can enter into the text, forming his own connections and conceptions and so creating the configurative meaning of what he is reading…. From the given material [the reader] must construct his own conception of the reality and hence the meaning of the text (Iser 1972:40, 276, emphasis added).

‘While the meaning of the literary work remains related to what the printed text says,… it requires the creative imagination of the reader to put it all together’ (Iser 1980:142).

‘More recent research (Eco 1985 and 1994; Iser 1980; Ricoeur 1992) has accentuated the creative role of the reader in interaction with the text. Intertextuality is a component of this dialectical process’ (Zumstein 2008:135 n. 17).

John Dominic Crossan: ‘‘This, then, is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse’ (Crossan 1998:20; 1999:3 emphasis in original).

That aborts my research as an historian and historical Jesus’ scholar. It would cause my examination of the historical HMS Endeavour, Captain James Cook, and the historical Jesus, to be a contemporary mish-mash of historical evidence and personal, contemporary, public deconstruction. Historians should hang up their historical credentials and become innovative writers of historical fiction if they pursue reader-response methodology.

While you state reader-response is a theory for you, it is not so for many other postmodern writers.

2.3 ‘My father drove me to school’

In using this example, I consider you have confused the ‘gaps’ in reader-response theory with committing An Argument from Silence logical fallacy.

The logical form to your argument is:

Person 1: The boy claims his father drove him to school (a truthful statement) and then remains silent;

Person 2: Then, it is true his father drove him to school (but the boy leaves out a lot of evidence that Person 2 creates about the vehicle).

You state that you ‘do not equate this to a “pure literal meaning”’. Is ‘my father drove me to school’ literally true? If so, then it conforms to a ‘pure literal meaning’.

However, what you have called an example of reader-response theory in action is really fallacious reasoning:

The reason this technique works so well, is because imagined reasons are often more persuasive than real reasons.  If someone wants to be convinced, this technique works like a charm. However, to the critical thinker, this will not fly.  Silence is not a valid substitute for reason or evidence (Bennett 2018).

You also use an Argument from Silence fallacy in your statement: ‘For me, the fact that you (not other readers) commented on my blog suggests that you and other readers may have ‘read’ it differently’. Do you have evidence to prove this statement?

2.4 ‘… I do not and cannot expect that to happen’

Image result for clipart Literal Interpretation

(image courtesy Exegetical Tools)

You don’t expect readers to understand the intended content of what you wrote because of their different worldviews?

I find this to be ambiguous. Because I may have a different worldview to yours, that does not mean I cannot objectively (but imperfectly) examine the words, grammar, syntax and content you wrote so that I could respond online to your article. That is what I did originally and is what I’m doing now to your email reply.

I observe that you were able to deal with the content of what I wrote – without any difficulty – so you could email me your response. I did not observe any creative, reader-response of filling in the ‘gaps’ in your reply. You did clarify what you wrote in response to my ‘comment’ to your article.

2.5 Ultimate truth

You gave statements about those who do and do not agree with ultimate truth because of their differing worldviews. One was: ‘ Others believe that since we can’t objectively assess an ultimate truth, they subscribe to the idea of versions of realities’.

Because you dealt with the generic ‘some’ and ‘others’, it makes it difficult to respond when there is a lack of specifics. However, in my research (480pp dissertation in New Testament, University of Pretoria, South Africa) I noted that some deconstructionist, reader-response promoters reject any examples of absolute truth (e.g. Iser, Crossan, Derrida, etc.).

Your statements included those who believed, ‘Since we can’t objectively assess an ultimate truth, they subscribe to the idea of versions of realities’. Are they absolutely sure of this belief?

That should be shattered on the absolute truth that driving rules in New Zealand and Australia require that we drive vehicles on the left-hand side of the road. Any other side is an aberration by those breaking the law or for legitimate reasons (e.g. road works). With this denial of absolute truth in Aust and NZ, does it include a denial of the moral view that it is wrong to murder and steal?

3. Works consulted

Bennett, B 2018. Logically fallacious (online). Available at: https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies (Accessed 13 September 2018).

Crossan, J D 1998. The birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Crossan, J D 1999. Historical Jesus as risen Lord, in Crossan, J D, Johnson, L T & Kelber, W H, The Jesus controversy : Perspectives in conflict, 1-47. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International.

Culpepper, R A 1983. Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. Minneapolis MN: Fortress Press.

Fish, S E 1980. Is there a text in this class? London and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Fish, S 1987. Surprised by sin: The reader in Paradise Lost. New York: Macmillan.

Iser, W 1980. The act of reading: A theory of aesthetic response. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Koay, J 2017. What is reader-response theory? EduMaxi, 5 December. Available at: http://www.edumaxi.com/what-is-reader-response-theory/ (Accessed 13 September 2018).

Zumstein, J 2008. Intratextuality and intertextuality in the Gospel of John. In T Thatcher & S D Moore (eds), Anatomies of narrative criticism, 121-136. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.

4. Endnotes

  1. 1Dr Jeremy Koay is a New Zealand-based Independent Researcher and a Research & Development Consultant at EduMaxi. He obtained his PhD in Applied Linguistics from Victoria University of Wellington in 2015. His research interests include Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis and TESOL (Koay 2017).

Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 14 January 2019.