Tag Archives: Peter Sellick

Using Jesus’ resurrection to promote liberal theology

Professor Dr N T Wright vs Retired Archbishop Dr Peter Carnley on Jesus’ resurrection

By Spencer D Gear PhD

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N T Wright Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity, University of St. Andrews; photo courtesy Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

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Former Anglican Archbishop of Perth and Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, Dr Peter Carnley. Image courtesy Wayback Machine, Alia 2002 speaker biographies.

This article responds to parts of Peter Sellick’s[1] article: Two scholars battle it out over the resurrection (On Line Opinion, 26 July 2019).[2] Sellick’s article pits Wright’s conclusions against Carnley’s and sides with Carnley.

I’ve done battle with him on other occasions on On Line Opinion. I’ll use a dialogue format for this interaction, even though the material was covered over several Comments by Peter and me:

Spencer: You object to Wright’s taking ‘the physical view’ of Jesus’ as an historical event to be investigated ‘without the eyes of faith’.
Firstly, Wright took a large portion of his 817pp tome, The Resurrection of the Son of God (RSG), to demonstrate from the biblical text that Jesus’ resurrection was soma, in a physical body.
He concluded:

‘The historian, of whatever persuasion, has no option but to affirm both the empty tomb and the “meetings” with Jesus as “historical events” in all the senses we sketched…. They took place as real events: they were significant events; they are, in the normal sense required by historians, provable events; historians can and should write about them. We cannot account for early Christianity without them’ (Wright 2003:709).

If Jesus’ Resurrection must be perceived through ‘the eyes of faith’ (Peter’s statement), is this a leap of faith or faith founded on the facts of the Resurrection?
Your claim is that Wright,
[3]

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Peter: ‘effectively excludes the activity of the “Spirit as a datum of Easter Faith”’.[4]
Spencer: This is not true. Wright cites a post-biblical passage from the Mishna where it states that ‘saintliness leads to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit leads to the resurrection of the dead’ (RSG 193). He supports ‘all those who are given new, resurrection life by the Spirit’ (RSG 258).[5]
Peter: ‘Wright takes this physical view from the traditions of Israel’.[6]
Spencer: That’s partially true. Wright demonstrates from the NT that Jesus’ resurrection was a bodily resurrection because of the use of soma (physical body) to refer to it and the characteristics of a physical being.

Of the Holy Spirit he stated: ‘Paul not only believed that Jesus had been bodily raised from the dead; he believed he knew how it was done, both in the sense of where the power came from (the Spirit of the creator God), and in the sense he knew what the difference was (corruptibility and non-corruptibility) between the body which died on the cross and the body which rose’ (RSG 360).
I have yet to read Carnley.
[7]

You complain about the apparent biblical contradiction re Jesus’ resurrection:

Peter: ‘The maze of biblical texts that deal with the Resurrection, many of which are at cross purposes, even to themselves as to the nature of Jesus’ risen body. For example, the appearance of Jesus in the locked room in John 20:19-28 both affirms the bodily reality of the risen Christ as the one bearing the wounds of crucifixion and, in contradiction, one who can appear and disappear at will.[8]

Spencer: That’s not contradiction unless you have a presupposition that Jesus’ resurrected body had to be the same as the body he had before the crucifixion. N T Wright explains this well, using the term ‘transphysicality’ to describe the nature of the resurrected body – many qualities that were physical (Jesus talked, could be touched, and he ate food) and other qualities in the 2 examples you gave of something beyond the physical, i.e. transphysical.

The same applies on the Emmaus’ Rd with the transphysicality of the resurrected Lord.

It’s not a matter of the two texts wanting it ‘both ways’ – Jesus physical and non-physical. That’s what the biblical texts state. Why can’t you accept that instead of hypothesising your contradiction? It doesn’t exist, except in your presuppositions.[9]

Peter: I feel like I am repeating myself here. How does a physical body that is “more than physical” because it has been made immortal appear and disappear at will and be unrecognised by the disciples on the Emmaus road and to May[10] (sic) in John? And I repeat, how does this physical body ascend to heaven to sit at the right hand of God? One can only believe that the resurrection was physical by ignoring the things that make it unthinkable and thus untransmissible (sic). Certainly, it is important for all the NY[11] (sic) writers to portray the resurrection as physical because the risen Jesus would have to be the crucified one, complete with the wounds of crucifixion of Jesus’ death for any idea of him taking our place can be credited. This lies at the base of our understanding of the incarnation as the kenotic hymn found in Philippians bears witness.

About the Spirit. You object that Wright takes the Spirit seriously but It is interesting that he has to quote the Mishna to do so. Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars, that he could not think that the Jews of Jesus’ time could think otherwise that in the tradition. Most of the NT undermines this approach.
Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are. The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with the fact the bible is an historical document compiled by men seeking the truth in their own lights. The world has changed! We no longer live in their time or see the world as they see it.
As for “transphysicality” that is just speculation. What is the biblical basis for it? It is just an argument invented by Wright to solve a central contradiction to his scheme.
Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit.
[12]

Spencer: You are repeating yourself.

How did Jesus’ resurrected physical body appear and disappear? That’s based on the fact it was more than physical. N T Wright’s word, ‘transphysicality’ (which he placed in inverted commas) was a created word that covered the reality of what happened.

Others now use ‘transphysical’, e.g. http://ericweiss.com/the-long-trajectory-10-transphysical-humans.[13]

Peter: ‘Carnley’s reading is that Wright was bound up so tightly with the Biblical Theology School, that has long been abandoned by most scholars’.[14]

Spencer: That seems to be Carnley’s presupposition. I’ll make my judgment after reading his book.

Peter: ‘Paul (and Matthew) may have believed that the resurrection was physical, but they were men groping towards the truth as we are and conditioned by their time as we are’.[15]

Spencer: This demonstrates your low view of biblical authority (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Paul and Matthew were writing God-breathed / inspired Scripture, which you reject by your statement that these 2 writers ‘may have believed’ in a physical resurrection. In his massive body of research, Wright has demonstrated it was a physical resurrection with extra-physical qualities that he called ‘transphysical’.
Peter regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture: Paul’s ‘letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction’ (2 Pet 3:16).
[16]

Peter: ‘The problem here is that you and other fundamentalist readers cannot cope with….’[17]

Spencer: There you go again with your pejorative Appeal to Ridicule Logical Fallacy, http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/42/Appeal-to-Ridicule.

We cannot have a rational dialogue when you resort to fallacious reasoning like this. I’m an evangelical, born again Christian, just like the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord George Carey. Would you call him a ‘fundamentalist’ and put him down like you’ve done to me? Would you call the evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies, a ‘fundamentalist reader’?[18]

Peter: ‘Adam was the man of dust, Jesus became a life-giving spirit’.[19]

Spencer: Do you deny Jesus was a man of human flesh?[20]

Peter: ‘On the authority of the bible. My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible is that they mistake the sign for the thing signified. The bible is the human witness (sign) to the Word (signified). Scripture does not record that the Word became a book, but became flesh in the body of Jesus’.[21]

Spencer: This is false again. You push your presuppositions. God-breathed Scripture is recorded in the Book of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17). This is a fact.
For Paul who wrote this under the inspiration of the Spirit, he referred primarily to the Old Testament Scripture. Where was that contained in the first century? On papyri, parchment, ostraca, etc. God’s revelation was in written form.
http://www.josh.org/materials-scribes-used-bible/

We know how the New Testament was transmitted in writing and now you give your opinion:[22]

Peter: ‘The bible is man’s attempt to bear witness to this object’.[23]

Spencer: The Gospel of Luke demolishes your thesis:

‘Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught’ (Luke 1:1-4).

Luke compiled a narrative and wrote an orderly account. He didn’t have an existential experience of faith. He received the messages from eyewitnesses.
Your replies constantly regurgitate your presuppositional bias against the God-breathed written Scripture. I don’t worship the Book of Scripture but God has revealed himself through this Book.
[24]

Peter: ‘My observation of fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’[25].

Spencer: There you go again with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy: http://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/1/Ad-Hominem-Abusive.
If you were to meet the former Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, now Lord George Carey (whose beliefs are similar to mine), would you label his ‘fundamentalist attitudes to the bible’? How about evangelical Anglican Archbishop of Sydney, Dr Glenn Davies? Will you resort to fallacious reasoning with these two evangelical Anglican leaders?
[26]

Peter: Yes.[27]

Spencer: You resort to erroneous reasoning to evade dealing with the issues between Evangelicalism and your Liberalism. Therefore, to have a rational conversation with you is impossible. Trying to be rational with irrational reasoning is like jumping the electric fence without getting an electrical shock. It’s nigh impossible to reason with the unreasonable – those who use logical fallacies, like Peter.

You decided not to comment on any other portion of my post than the last question.

It’s unusual for you that you are short of words, especially when your world view is exposed for its weaknesses.[28]

Peter: ‘What you fail to understand is that Evangelicalism is a product of modernity. It is a way of thinking that is completely under the control of the current culture the insists on material evidence’.
Spencer: This is a false assessment. Evangelicalism is a product of the Evangel, the Good News, that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst’ (1 Timothy 1:15).

It is a direct result of Jesus’ command to his disciples:

‘Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:18-20).

Evangelicalism is not a cultural creation but a biblical mandate from Jesus Himself.
Peter: ‘It does not represent mainstream theological thought i.e. the thought of the Church fathers or the doctors of the church’.
Spencer: This is false again. One of the leading Church Fathers, Irenaeus, refuted your statement:

Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, — [principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine’ (Against Heresies, Bk 2, 11.7).

Ambrose, Bishop of Milan (fourth century) wrote: ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works, lest anyone should glory in his deeds and thereby incur sin’ (In Ps. 43 Enarr. 14, Explanations of Twelve Psalms of David).

Evangelicalism is not a recent invention. ‘God chose that man should seek salvation by faith rather than by works’ (Ambrose).

Peter: ‘That Wright produces a book that has to resort to made-up concepts’.[29]

Spencer: You gave not one example while you berated N. T. Wright, an eminent historical Jesus’ scholar, with your Ad Hominem (Abusive) Logical Fallacy.[30]
Peter: [They are concepts] fraught with contradictions and as such is unthinkable, demonstrates the basic weakness of this methodology’.[31]
Spencer: Not one example again and it’s a Red Herring fallacy.[32]
Peter: ‘In other words, this is a prime example of the failure of the Evangelical mind. It is no wonder that our secular society would not be caught dead in a church that insists that our intellect be left at the door. This is why I give you a hard time, because you have mistaken belief for faith and have closed the door to anyone who asks the simplest questions’.[33]
Spencer: Some of the finest contemporary scholars are/were Evangelicals: William Lane Craig, D A Carson, R C H Lenski, Norman Geisler, Australian Anglican ancient historian Dr Paul Barnett, the late Anglican Dr Leon Morris, Alister McGrath, Oxford Professor John Lennox, F F Bruce, Carl F H Henry, Gleason Archer, Craig Blomberg, Anglican theologian Graeme Goldsworthy, Lord George Carey, Wayne Grudem, Kenneth Kitchen, Anglican J I Packer, Ravi Zacharias, etc.

Your claim of Evangelicals kicking the intellect out the door commits a straw man fallacy. [34]
Peter: ‘BTW you still have not given me an answer to the question “where are the bones of Jesus”’.[35]
Spencer: Ever heard of Jesus’ resurrection and ascension?? In your worldview you want Jesus’ bones. In my worldview, I accept what the authoritative Scriptures state and you will never find Jesus’ bones on earth – NEVER. He did not rot in the grave.[36]

Peter: Archaeologists could dig up bones that are identified with Jesus. Your whole belief is vulnerable to a fact because it rests on a fact.[37]

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Spencer: If you believed the Scriptures you would not make those confusing statements. There is zero chance that archaeologists will dig up his body because of the biblical details surrounding his Ascension.
Luke recorded it as it happened for Jesus’ ascension:

6 Then they gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’

7 He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. 11 ‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:6-9 NIV).[38]

Peter: If the bones of Jesus will never be found on earth where are they to be found? The only answer is that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father.[39]

Spencer: The answer is in the above text: ‘He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight’ (Acts 1:9).

It doesn’t state that the spiritual Jesus ascended. ‘He’, the one standing with his disciples, ascended. It was not his spirit that went up into the cloud. You regularly push for an understanding that is beyond what the text states. [40]

This is postmodern reader-response deconstruction where Peter deconstructs the biblical text and imposes his own meaning on it. He does not allow the writer’s intended meaning to shine forth.

Peter: Thus we have the usual problem of the mixture between material and spiritual. Which is it? Is heaven a material place?[41]

Spencer: You don’t like the language of N T Wright that the resurrected Jesus’ body was transphysical. Factually, it was more than physical. And this same Jesus ‘will come back … from heaven’.

We know heaven is a place, based on the testimony of Jesus: ‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2).

For you to even ask if heaven is a ‘material place’ demonstrates you refuse to believe what Jesus said about its being a ‘place’. The ‘rooms’ or ‘mansions’ in John 14:2 are from the transliterated Greek word, mone (pronounced monay) which has the sense of ‘assured residence’ or ‘assured home’.

As for it being a ‘material place’ composed of material from this current universe, we know this will not be a ‘material place’ with materials from this present world. ‘In keeping with his [God’s] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet 3:13).

Eminent Australian Anglican commentator of the Gospel of John, the late Dr Leon Morris, stated:

“My Father’s house” clearly refers to heaven. The meaning of “mansions” is not so clear. It seems better understood as “permanent residences” than as “steps along the way of development”…. “Many” should not be misinterpreted as though it signified for all. “The phrase means that there is room and to spare for all the redeemed in heaven” (Morris 1971:638-639).[42]

Peter: This argument is becoming rather strange. If heaven is a material place then it must take up space in the universe. It is not on earth but must be extraterrestrial. Behind the moon is no good, we have looked. Likewise, anywhere else in the Solar system. Of course, it could be quite a few light-years away in another part of our galaxy. This is my last post on this thread.[43]

Spencer: It is strange because you make it that way. What did Jesus say about heaven? ‘In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?’ (John 14:2 NRSV).
Jesus did not state it was ‘a material place’. Neither did I.
You are promoting your postmodern, deconstructionist, reader-response hermeneutic again.
[44]

Peter decided to quit the conversation at this point.

Conclusion

For details of some of Dr Peter Carnley’s unorthodox theology (not discussed here), see: Peter Carnley.

This communication with the author of the article, Peter Sellick, demonstrates what happens when he rejects the authority of Scripture and invents his own meaning through postmodern, deconstructionist interpretation of the Bible. In this case he had two eminent scholars opposed to each other in regard to Jesus’ resurrection. Even though he compares the theology of Jesus’ resurrection between Carnley and Wright, he essentially defends his and Carnley’s non-bodily resurrection with Wright’s extensive research into the biblical text to support the soma/bodily resurrection.

To that he adds what is not in the text and gives his view of what the text states. It is known as reader-response interpretation that is similar to allegorical interpretation. He doesn’t interpret by gaining the meaning out of the text (exegesis) but imposes his meaning on the text. It also is similar to eisegesis.

It is impossible to reach a solid biblical conclusion with someone who does not deal with a plain, literal meaning of the text. See my article on what literal interpretation means: What is literal interpretation? Literal interpretation incorporates the use of figures of speech.

Works consulted

Morris, L 1971. The gospel according to John. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Image result for clipart He Is Risen public domain

(image courtesy Clipart Library)

Notes:


[1] Sellick is ‘an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences’. In one of his replies to me (OzSpen) in another article, he claimed to be a follower of Karl Barth but my understanding of contemporary theology places him in realm of liberal theology. You will note his aversion to Evangelical Christianity which, he claims, is for the uneducated.

[2] Occasionally in this interchange I have added material like the content of what Irenaeus stated. The additions are few and they were designed to clarify and amplify a little.

[3] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[4] This is a claim in the article to which I respond.

[5] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM.

[6] From his article.

[7] Spencer’s comments prior to this were Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 1:09:42 PM, http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=20416 (Accessed 31 July 2019).

[8] From his article.

[9] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 26 July 2019 4:59:36 PM

[10] Should be ‘many’.

[11] Should be NT as acronym for New Testament.

[12] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[13] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[14] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[15] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[16] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[17] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[18] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[19] Posted by Sells, Saturday, 27 July 2019 12:08:44 PM.

[20] Posted by OzSpen, Saturday, 27 July 2019 9:13:29 PM.

[21] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[22] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[23] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[24] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM.

[25] Posted by Sells, Monday, 29 July 2019 3:12:58 PM.

[26] Posted by OzSpen, Monday, 29 July 2019 7:17:15 PM,

[27] This was Posted by Sells, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 12:26:43 PM.

[28] Posted by OzSpen, Tuesday, 30 July 2019 5:53:32 PM.

[29] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[30] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[31] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[32] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[33] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[34] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[35] Posted by Sells, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:09:12 AM.

[36] Posted by OzSpen, Wednesday, 31 July 2019 8:52:12 PM.

[37] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[38] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[39] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[40] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 5:59:56 PM.

[41] Posted by Sells, Thursday, 1 August 2019 11:36:43 AM.

[42] Posted by OzSpen, Thursday, 1 August 2019 6:02:11 PM.

[43] Posted by Sells, Friday, 2 August 2019 6:46:02 PM.

[44] Posted by OzSpen, Friday, 2 August 2019 7:54:11 PM.

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

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