Raised with Christ: Review part 4

This is part 4 of the review I started herepart 2, part 3.

In chapter 6 of his book Raised with Christ Adrian Warnock starts a survey of what the Bible teaches about the resurrection. He begins in the Old Testament, looking at passages in every part of it which describe or at least hint at this concept. He acknowledges that

I am deliberately writing from the perspective of a New Testament Christian, looking back at these accounts with the benefit of hindsight. It is not clear how many Old Testament believers truly had a full-orbed view of the resurrection. In many of the verses we will examine, a different interpretation is possible. (p.81)

Well, this is something of an understatement! It is clear to me how many Old Testament believers had this view: none at all. The only passages Adrian looks at which clearly refer to resurrection proper, as opposed to long life, survival as a disembodied spirit, or resuscitation of a corpse, are the ones from Isaiah, Daniel and Ezekiel. And since these authors knew nothing of the resurrection of Jesus Christ they clearly did not have “a full-orbed view of the resurrection”. Also Adrian ignores many critical issues about text and translation in the passages he quotes.

But at least Adrian realises that he is not doing proper exegesis but instead reading the New Testament back into the Old. And he has some basis for doing this in that the New Testament itself uses some of these passages to support its teaching on the resurrection. Nevertheless Adrian has by no means made his case, in general terms rather than about a few writers, that “in the Old Testament people did believe in God raising the dead” (p.94).

In chapter 7 Adrian continues his run through the Bible, looking briefly at the Deuterocanonical books with one citation of 2 Maccabees, and then going on to the gospels and references to “Resurrection before the Cross”. He shows how Jesus predicted his own resurrection and also confirmed what was at that time the hope of many Jews, of a general resurrection at the end of time. Again Adrian ignores critical questions and assumes that all words attributed to Jesus were actually uttered by him “before the Cross”. This is of course what his popular evangelical audience would expect, but is likely to leave his book less than fully acceptable to more sceptical or scholarly readers.

Then in chapter 8 Adrian looks at the Acts of the Apostles. He starts this with a quote:

What have the Romans ever done for us? (p.103)

which would once have been highly controversial in a Christian book, as these words are from the 1979 film Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was widely condemned as blasphemous at the time. Standards of acceptability change from generation to generation – but Adrian, or his publishers, chose not to give a precise source for these words.

The point of the quotation is to lead into the question which is the title of chapter 8, “What Did the Resurrection Ever Do for Us?” Adrian discovers by looking through Acts that, according to the early apostolic preaching, what the resurrection did for us includes our salvation, forgiveness and assurance, the sending of the Holy Spirit, physical healing, our own resurrection, and final judgment. It is almost shocking to find Adrian agreeing with G.E. Ladd’s words

The whole gospel is encapsulated in the proclamation of the resurrection of Jesus. (p.115)

Indeed Adrian adds that the cross must not be neglected. But he accepts that at least in Acts it is the resurrection which has the greater prominence.

In chapter 9 it looks as if Adrian is going to continue his look through the Bible with the letters of Paul, starting with Romans. But in fact this chapter, “Raised for Our Justification”, consists almost entirely of the exegesis of these words taken from Romans 4:25. Perhaps he is deliberately transitioning here into the more theme-based second half of the book. Although he starts by quoting N.T. Wright, he entirely fails to engage with the insights on justification offered by the “New Perspective on Paul”. Instead he cites Puritan and Reformed comment on this verse to make his case that the resurrection prompts faith in us, vindicates Jesus, and makes it possible for him to actively bring us salvation. Thus Adrian can conclude:

If we too quickly say it is the combined work of Jesus that saves us, there is a real danger we will make the resurrection a mere auxiliary to the cross. It is helpful to consider the work of the cross and resurrection and what they contribute to our salvation. However, the message we should take away is that it is union with Jesus himself, the one who died and was raised, that saves us. (p.131)

Continued in part 5.

Raised with Christ: Review part 3

This is part 3 of the review I started herepart 2.

In chapter 4 of Raised with Christ Adrian Warnock considers why the resurrection has been neglected. His heading “The Resurrection Has Missed out on the Beneficial Effects of Controversy and Heresy” (p.62) seems an odd claim, at least to me, as an Anglican who remembers well the controversies about David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham. Remember how (as I mentioned here) he denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and how three days after he was consecrated bishop in York Minster, in 1984, that famous building was struck by lightning?

This sub-section gives Adrian the chance to digress into condemning Steve Chalke for his view of the atonement, an aside which will endear him to some readers but infuriate others.

Another of Adrian’s suggestions, that “Our Neglect of the Resurrection Could Be Part of a Satanic Strategy” (p.65), may well be true, but doesn’t offer us humans an excuse. And is it really true that “The Bible Appears to Rarely Mention Resurrection” (p.66)?

More to the point surely is the first of these sub-sections, “The Resurrection Could Be Eclipsed by the Prominence of the Cross”. Indeed, in many Christian circles the crucifixion, and very often just one interpretation of its significance, has been given such an overwhelming prominence that all other doctrines have been eclipsed. In some churches, I suspect, every sermon is about some aspect of the cross. While I am not much of a supporter of church calendars and lectionaries, at least they ensure that a preacher following them gives the congregation a reasonable balance of different topics.

However, as Adrian points out, the resurrection has not been completely ignored even among Reformed evangelicals. He praises Spurgeon for preaching on it regularly, and quotes Mark Driscoll on the importance of giving a proper balance of attention to the crucifixion and the resurrection.

In chapter 5 Adrian seeks to demonstrate “The Importance of the Resurrection in the Bible”. He starts by arguing that even in a cross-centred chapter like 1 Corinthians 1 teaching about the resurrection is implicit. From this he leads into an interesting argument that

New Testament writers … so presuppose that the death and resurrection of Jesus are intertwined that they refer to either one of them and intend for us to understand that they mean both of them. (p.74)

He defends himself from any accusation of novel teaching by quoting Calvin saying much the same. Thus, for example, concerning the phrases “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) and “Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:18),

both descriptions of Paul’s preaching mean essentially the same thing. Without the resurrection, the cross was just another senseless death …, and without the cross there would be no need for a resurrection. Both must be preached, and they must be preached together. (p.76)

Thus he comes to a conclusion which may startle some of his “Reformed” readers:

It is only through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus that salvation is possible. … Christ Jesus himself is our salvation. (p.77)

Indeed. In some circles the cross is given such overwhelming prominence that anyone who put anything else on the same level as it would immediately be suspected as “unorthodox” because of “downplaying of substitutionary atonement” (words used here about Brian McLaren, apparently for calling the atonement “a facet of the gospel” and noting that “for Jesus, the gospel seemed to have something to do with the kingdom of God”). I hope that Adrian’s readers don’t at this point entertain suspicions like this, but instead allow their own thinking to be restored to a more biblical balance.

One might expect Adrian to conclude the chapter with something like my last sentence. But perhaps he was afraid to – although as I mentioned Mark Driscoll got away with such a call. Instead Adrian digresses into a homily about human mortality and the hope which each one of us can have (but for which he has not yet given the biblical basis) of personal resurrection.

Continued in part 4.

Raised with Christ: Review part 2

This is a continuation of the review I started here.

In chapter 2 of Raised with Christ, “The Empty Cross, the Empty Tomb”, Adrian Warnock looks at the evidence for the resurrection. But I am a little confused about how he justifies doing so:

Human reason alone cannot prove to anyone that Jesus rose from the dead. … To persuade our intellect to believe in the resurrection requires not only rational arguments but a gift of faith from God. Christianity is, however, a reasonable faith. So we need to study the evidence for the resurrection and be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). (p.31)

I wonder, if we can’t persuade anyone unless God gives them faith, and since presumably (at least in Reformed thinking) any faith God might give them is entirely effectual, what is the point of rational arguments which cannot help the matter? A better “reason for the hope that is in you” might be a personal testimony. Or perhaps faith is not simply a gift of God, as I recently argued elsewhere.

As Adrian starts his discussion of the actual evidence he touches on a subject he is sometimes thought to be obsessed with. But what he writes is not what some might expect:

[Jesus] was no mere conservative follower of the culture of his day. Jesus gave great dignity to women. He treated them as friends and was willing to sit with them and teach them, defying all traditions of the day. … Here was a teacher who did not despise women. He did not see them merely as servants to wait on the men. … It was in the events of the resurrection that Jesus gave the highest honor to women. … To then appoint [women] as the first messengers of the good news … shows the total absence of prejudice in Jesus. (p.34)

Well, I can’t help wishing that the Christian leaders that Adrian approves of would follow Jesus’ example here, being “no mere conservative follower[s] of the culture of [our] day” but showing “total absence of prejudice”, going out of their way to give “great dignity to women” and “not see them merely as servants to wait on the men”. But for Adrian, writing last week on his “blog”, the role of a wife seems to be “helping to shape [her husband], all the time doing so in a submissive and honoring way” – which sounds to me rather like a servant role.

Adrian then retells the biblical accounts of the resurrection, based on a rather standard harmonisation of the four gospels. He passes on a strange suggestion from Ralph Martin and Peter Davids, for which he quotes no evidence, that during the following 40 days “Jesus makes frequent journeys between heaven and earth” (p.37). (Good for his frequent flier points, no doubt!) He shows that the resurrected Jesus had a real physical body, but without discussing whether it had blood.

Thus in this chapter Adrian manages to put together, from the biblical accounts, a coherent narrative of what actually happened on that first Easter Sunday and in the following weeks. The problem at this point is that this narrative will only seem at all convincing to those who already accept the Bible as a true account of ancient events. And most of those people are already Christians.

So Adrian needed to continue with his chapter 3, “Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?” Most of this is given over to brief discussion and rejection of seven possible alternative explanations of the biblical evidence. This follows a pattern of Christian apologetics familiar at least since Frank Morison’s 1930 classic Who Moved the Stone? (not referenced by Adrian). The only new insight here is into hallucinations, based on Adrian’s experience as a psychiatrist (p.51). The chapter closes with a summary of early extra-biblical evidence supporting the resurrection.

The main weakness of the argument in these two chapters is its failure to engage properly with critical scholarship. Adrian begins and ends chapter 3 by quoting claims by apologist Gary Habermas that “critical scholars have even admitted” (p.56) that none of the alternative explanations are tenable. But has he read what any of these critical scholars are actually saying? He has at least interacted with N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God, and refers to how in that book Wright “counters six conclusions that liberal scholars have come to about the resurrection” (p.56). Nevertheless I suspect that anyone well trained in critical methods in theology would be able quickly to demolish Adrian’s arguments here.

Early in chapter 3 Adrian quotes some words which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle put on the lips of Sherlock Holmes:

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. (p.44)

No doubt Adrian intends that by proving all the alternatives impossible he can demonstrate the “improbable” resurrection to be true. The problem for him, and for this whole line of argument, is that in our materialist society, as indeed in ancient Greek society (compare Acts 17:32), most non-Christians presuppose that the bodily resurrection is impossible – and so conclude that one of the alternatives, “however improbable, must be the truth.” Unbelievers will change such presuppositions not in response to logical argument but only by undergoing a paradigm shift. Perhaps that can only happen if they receive “a gift of faith from God” – but I do know of people who have been pushed into such a shift through personal testimony of God working in power today.

Nevertheless, these chapters should be useful for strengthening the faith in the resurrection of young Christians and of those whose churches have neglected to teach on this subject.

Continued in part 3.

Raised with Christ: Review part 1

I thank Adrian Warnock and his publishers, Crossway, for sending me a complimentary copy for review of Adrian’s new book Raised with Christ: How the Resurrection Changes Everything. Long time readers of this blog will know that I have had many disagreements with Adrian. But I am very pleased that he has put his Bible knowledge and his sharp mind to good use in writing about the neglected subject of the resurrection and its implications.

Anyway, I had better be nice to Adrian as, in an endorsement on the cover, Mark Driscoll calls him “my friend”. I wouldn’t want to meet Mark Driscoll on a dark night after being nasty to one of his friends! 😉

I propose to review this book in a number of posts, as I read through it. So far I have read the Foreword by Terry Virgo, the Preface, and the introductory Chapter 1.

In the Preface Adrian notes that he writes “as an ordinary Christian, and not a theologian” (p.15). Indeed he writes for a popular audience. But of course that is no excuse for making theological errors. I suppose I wonder, as I start reading, how well he will do, without formal theological training, at avoiding doctrinal pitfalls. Well, I will see – and point out in this review anything serious that I find.

Here is how Adrian starts chapter 1:

“WHAT! DID JESUS COME BACK to life again?” This was the surprised reaction when a young Englishwoman heard about the resurrection of Jesus. (p.19)

It is indeed amazing that a woman, old enough to be a mother and living in a country so full of Christians, could be so ignorant of basic Christian teaching.

She hadn’t rejected the gospel. No one had ever told her about it! (p.19)

Well, indeed. But perhaps she had heard a presentation of the gospel not including the resurrection. Such presentations are produced not only by liberal Christians who have doubts about the resurrection, but also by good conservative evangelicals who strongly affirm its truth – but only when someone else brings up the subject!

See for example this version of The Bridge – A Gospel Illustration, attributed to Bill Hybels & Mark Mittelberg, which mentions Jesus “coming to earth as one of us, and dying on the cross to pay the death penalty we owed”, but not his resurrection. Someone could be taken through this presentation and told that they had become a Christian, “immediately adopted into His family as His son or daughter”, without hearing even a word about the resurrection.

Adrian continues his first chapter by explaining “HOW THIS BOOK CAME TO BE WRITTEN”:

I was asked to preach on Easter Sunday 2007. … Preachers don’t often talk about how they decide what to speak about. … I woke suddenly in the night. A simple phrase was burning in my mind: “Adrian, preach about the resurrection.” (p.21)

I must say I am amazed. In what other Christian tradition would it take a voice from God (at least that’s what Adrian implies this was) to get a preacher to choose the resurrection as his or her sermon topic for Easter Sunday? Some of us Anglicans may not have much to say on the subject, but at least it is the default theme on this one Sunday of the year. One wonders whether in New Frontiers (Adrian’s church grouping) this doctrine ever gets a mention, barring divine intervention.

Adrian goes on to consider the current state of the church, which he sees as “general decline” but with “many encouraging signs”. I would agree. I might not agree on exactly which signs are encouraging, but I do accept the one example Adrian names: Mark Driscoll’s Mars Hill Church in Seattle. However, I have a problem with how Adrian divides the churches which are attracting growing numbers of younger people into “Two distinct groups”:

One group, calling itself the “emerging church,” is willing to change everything about church to better fit in with postmodern, informal, twenty-first century culture. By some, even the message is adapted for increased appeal.

The second group, the “young, restless, and reformed,” is also willing to change many aspects of church organization, worship meetings, and the style of music. However, they seek, if anything, a more traditional message than their parents … (p.25)

It is clear that Adrian prefers the latter group. But I wonder if it is helpful to make this kind of distinction. If we leave aside those by whom “the message is adapted”, whether “for increased appeal” or just to be “more traditional”, what really is the difference between a relatively conservative “emerging church” and one like Driscoll’s Mars Hill? They would probably disagree about women in leadership, but not much else. Is this the unmentioned shibboleth which separates Adrian’s two groups?

Anyway, if Adrian is writing primarily to those who neglect the resurrection in a misguided attempt to hold to “a more traditional message than their parents”, then I can only wish him well, and hope that his readers understand that their message needs to be not so much “more traditional” as closer in its overall balance to the teaching of the New Testament.

Continued in part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8 and conclusion.

Atonement: the Warnock wars

I am keeping up my resolution not to read Adrian Warnock’s blog. But that doesn’t stop me reading about his latest offerings at his unrelated namesake Dave’s blog. And what I read there doesn’t encourage me to start reading Adrian’s again. It seems that these two have restarted what Adrian has called the “Warnock wars”, and on most issues here I am firmly on Dave’s side.

In his latest series Adrian, as reported by Dave, returns to the issue of the atonement, and Steve Chalke’s view of it. The first of Dave’s new series of posts ends with:

Well thank-you very much Adrian, I am sure we are all grateful for your attempts to break up reconciliation between evangelical Christians.

Make sure you read several other posts and comments before moving on to Dave’s latest post, which ends as follows:

Near the start of his post Adrian writes:

One of my major concerns about this whole debate is what a rejection of PSA does to our view of the Bible.

Absolutely it challenges a simplisitic partial reading of Scripture in favour of a thorough and respectful dialogue with the whole of Scripture – a truely evangelical approach to scripture. What a wonderful idea that is, fopr me the wonder of opening up models of atonement and considering others besides Penal Substitution is that we find new ways of understanding God that are far more in tune with Jesus the Son of God as revealed in Scripture. Go on try it, I promise the view on this side of the fence is fantastic. What a wonderful loving God we serve!

Piper has answered Adrian's question: Wright is not preaching another gospel

A few weeks ago I wrote about what is wrong with John Piper’s theology. But in fact it turns out that in at least one respect his beliefs have been misinterpreted by Adrian Warnock.

I mentioned in my post a post of Adrian’s entitled John Piper: Is N. T. Wright Preaching Another Gospel? (See also the 31 comments on this post, now deleted from Adrian’s blog but saved here.) This was part of Adrian’s series on Piper’s book The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright, available online free of charge (PDF format).

Adrian’s title suggests that Piper is claiming that Wright is “preaching another gospel”, and the content of the post seems to confirm this suggestion. But in fact, as I will show here, this suggestion is incorrect: Piper does not consider Wright’s teaching to be “another gospel”.

Continue reading

What Driscoll really said about God and hate

Thanks to Alastair Roberts, who was there and has presumably now transcribed a recording, we can now read what Mark Driscoll really had to say at the Edinburgh conference about God and hate, as part of his talk on the atonement. Previously we had to rely on Adrian Warnock’s summary of his words. And it turns out that Adrian’s summary was rather misleading.

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Adrian's comments from December 2006 – the Grudem interview

Many of you will remember the controversy generated by Adrian Warnock’s interview of Wayne Grudem. The hundreds of comments posted there are in danger of being lost because of Adrian’s change of comment policy. Here I am rescuing them, and other comments from December 2006, for posterity. Unlike my previous set of comments from Adrian’s blog, I am doing these in chronological order. Again I intend to include the comments on every post which has any comments – in fact that is all of his posts in that  period when he was only starting to moderate comments. But this of course excludes any posts which Adrian has already deleted, and from what I remember there were quite a few of them in that month of controversy.

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Some comment threads from Adrian's blog

Here, for the record, I am copying and saving some recent comment threads from Adrian Warnock’s blog. I think I have included all posts which have any comments (even the one on football!) back to the beginning of November, which includes the whole series on Piper’s book about Wright as well as the controversial Mark Driscoll Firm, But Kind, About Joel Osteen on Prosperity Teaching. Continue reading

Do not read Adrian's blog any more

I am asking my readers and anyone else to stop reading Adrian Warnock’s blog. This is because Adrian has made a deliberate decision to refuse to be accountable for any errors and distortions which might be found on this blog. He read my post yesterday on the need for accountability in blogging, and commented on it, and then made the decision to go ahead with closing his blog to comments.

If you want to make your opinion on this matter known to Adrian, please e-mail him on this address, which he makes public on his blog.

I may write more about this later, but I must go out now.