Cross or Resurrection 1: Which is Determinative?

J.R. Daniel KirkJ.R. Daniel Kirk (no relation of mine) opened up an interesting discussion with his post Resonate: Matthew (Ch. 11), a review of part of Matt Woodley’s book in the Resonate series The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us. Daniel wrote:

The first section of the commentary on ch. 11 contrasts the prosperity gospel of health, wealth, and happiness with the story of John the Baptist. …

If John is any indication, life in the kingdom is not about seeing fortune and glory here and now. It is as much or more about crucifixion.

To this I responded in a comment:

Well, surely an exegete of Matthew 11 should have avoided suggesting that “John is any indication” concerning “life in the kingdom”. Verse 11 makes it clear that John was NOT in the kingdom. That doesn’t justify the prosperity gospel, but it does invalidate some of the criticisms of it.

Daniel replied with a comment which ended:

There’s a sense in which resurrection might make good on many this-worldly blessings such as the prosperity gospel indicates, but not in this life. I’m all for resurrection, but the cross is determinative here.

I took strong objection to this claim that “in this life … the cross is determinative”. In response to my comments and some others, Daniel wrote a further post In Hope. Now I can agree with much of this post, such as:

There is a “both/and” here, in that believers in the NT are living under the reign of the resurrected Christ, and have the power and mandate to take hold of the future that is ours and bring it to bear on the present. Romans 6, despite its future tense verbs, implores those who are in Christ to “present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead” (Rom 6:13).

So resurrection power and reality intrudes on the present by the power of the Spirit.

However, the focus of this power is the ability to walk in righteousness, an act that is itself a putting to death the deeds of the body.

He is also right to point out the triumphalistic errors of the Corinthians, who claimed in effect that only the Resurrection, not the Cross, was determinative for their Christian life. But, it seems to me, he falls into the opposite error when he makes the Cross determinative, and allows us now no more than “glimpses” of the Resurrection:

The cross of Christ, lived out among Jesus’ followers, brings about glimpses of what will be.

This theme in fact ties up with some others which I have already been looking at on this blog, and with yet others which I have been thinking about. So I will post the above as the introduction to a series, in the course of which I will seek to justify my rejection of Daniel’s position and present my own, more balanced and hopefully also more biblical, view of the relative importance of the Cross and the Resurrection in the Christian life.

Continued in:

Thinking in Reality on Hell and Resurrection

The flames of the great debate on hell seem to be burning low. So, lest they are extinguished, and Rob Bell’s roasting by fundamentalists proves less than the eternal punishment they think he deserves, here is an attempt to stoke up the fire again, although not against Bell…

I just discovered the rather occasional blog Thinking in Reality, by the anonymous male Iam4Jesus. The first link I followed was to a new post Are Atheists Right About Bible Prophecy? I don’t have anything to say just at the moment about Harold Camping’s prediction of the Rapture this Saturday, beyond my general scepticism about the Rapture. But I was attracted by the title of one of the other posts at Thinking in Reality, Are there immortal worms in hell?

It turns out that this post is part of a 2009 series on hell at Thinking in Reality. And there is certainly reality in the thinking I found there. The series starts with a post Where are we going…and why are we in this hand basket? asking

Will a Loving God Punish People Forever in Hell?

and noting that the biblical answer is not exactly what many people think:

Romans 6:23 where it says, the wages of sin is death. It does not say – the wages of sin is eternal suffering….

The very idea of this Hell – eternal suffering – is actually what drives many highly intelligent people away from Christ and His love. They say that they can’t beleive in a God who would be so terribly horrific. In fact Charles Darwin, in his autobiography, wrote: “Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete . . . I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so, the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe . . . will be everlastingly punished. And this is a damnable doctrine”

I think, the problem is not that the Bible teaches this “damnable doctrine” but that men have misunderstood what the Bible actually says.

Indeed, and some women have also misunderstood it.

Detail from Dante's Hell by Bartokomeo, c.1420In the second post in the series Iam4Jesus offers A Brief History of Hell. He mentions the place of Dante’s Divine Comedy in the development of the idea, and notes that

The popular concept of hell is a mixture of small bits of Bible truth combined with pagan ideas and human imagination. … One of the reasons this concept of hell survived is because theologians believed the teaching deterred people from evil.

I will pass over part 3 to part 4, the aforementioned Are there immortal worms in hell? Here the author explains the meaning of Gehenna, the word Jesus used to refer to hell:

With the understanding that Gehenna is what it is (an acursed trash pile), we can begin to ascertain that He means simply the fire will burn until the bodies of the wicked are consumed.

The last main post in the series by Iam4Jesus is The Destruction of Soul and Body in Hell. Here he anchors his main argument in Matthew 10:28:

Jesus here explains that, when one man kills another, the resulting death is only temporary because God can raise the dead to life again. But, when God destroys one in hell (Gehenna), the resulting death is eternal. There is no resurrection from this fate, which the Bible calls “the second death.”

the wicked will be destroyed. They will not live for eternity in another place or state of everlasting anguish. They will reap their destruction in the lake of fire at the end of the age. They will be consumed virtually instantaneously by the heat of the fire and will never live again.

There is a lot more here, which I can only agree with. It is good that after a few follow-up posts Iam4Jesus moves on to the more positive topic of The Resurrection(s). And here he puts forward an interesting and surely controversial suggestion. Referring to the second, post-millennium resurrection of Revelation 20:4a, he writes:

That same verse explains, “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.” In this resurrection will others have the opportunity to receive salvation? I believe, they will be called to understand God’s truth and His plan during a period sometimes referred to as the “great white throne” judgment (verse 11). …

Those resurrected in this group have never completely understood the truth of God’s plan for Grace and Mercy that He has designed and instituted from before the beginning of time. Once we realize that the majority of all people who have ever lived have never heard God’s truth, this resurrection offers some clarity and hope to these. Rather than such people being condemned to eternal suffering, the truth of the Bible is much more comforting and encouraging. I believe that God will extend the opportunity for eternal life to everyone, possibly relatively few in this age but to billions of people in the coming second resurrection.

Now I am by no means sure that Iam4Jesus is correct on every point in his discussion. But he seems to have put forward strong arguments for two points, that hell consists of annihilation rather than eternal torment, and that there will be a second chance after death at least for those who have not clearly heard the gospel in this life. Despite the protestations of the Reformed camp, the Bible does not unambiguously teach the “damnable doctrine” rejected by Darwin.

Iam4Jesus does not say what Rob Bell seems to, that “Love Wins” to the extent that all will be saved. But he does say that God will give a fair chance to all to accept his salvation, and that the alternative is not horrific eternal torment but quick destruction by fire. I think I agree.

Rob Bell: Resurrection video

Just got back from our Easter evening service at Oasis Warrington. As part of the sermon there was featured this video of Rob Bell talking about the Resurrection:

All very right-brained, but nothing unorthodox as far as I can tell. It was followed by a very orthodox appeal for people to give their lives to Jesus, not to avoid going to hell but to enjoy the full benefits of the eternal life God has promised.

Raised with Christ: Review part 8 and conclusion

This is the concluding part 8 of my review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.

Adrian concludes his book with two chapters about how the resurrection gives Christians hope for the future.

In chapter 18 he looks at the future hope for individual believers. He notes how this helps us to endure difficulties in this life. But he rejects how

many Christians associate “going to heaven to be with Jesus when we die” with a disembodied “spiritual” resurrection. (p.243)

He also rejects the idea of “soul sleep”, noting that “Our spirits are already with Christ in heaven” (p.244, citing Ephesians 2:6) and suggesting that after the death of the body

We remain distinct, aware beings, but in heaven we still await our eternal destiny of a physical resurrection. When we die we only become aware of what is already true of us. (p.245)

The very same bodies that are placed in our tombs will one day rise again. … We will, however, be changed from being weak, frail, and mortal into being glorious and eternal. (p.246)

In passing Adrian quotes Spurgeon agreeing with me that resurrection bodies have blood (p.243).

In his concluding chapter 19 Adrian moves on to the broader hope of the “The Resurrection of All Things”. He looks at the renewal of creation without death. associated with “the actual revealing of the resurrected children of God” (p.250). Thus he answers the question of where our resurrection bodies will live, which (in agreement with N.T. Wright’s view) will not be in heaven as popularly understood:

in the new creation heaven will be a place on earth as the heavenly Jerusalem descends. We will live on earth with renewed bodies … (p.252)

Adrian then looks at the judgment to come at the return of Christ. He ignores controversial issues of chronology as he describes three possible outcomes: condemnation, leading to real pain, but not for Christians; being saved “as through fire”; and rewards for those who have been faithful.

The last section of the chapter is a look at the kingdom of God, which is eternal, but already present now, as

God himself is living inside us! We experience the power and presence of a Jesus who is living, active, and doing things today. …  The kingdom really is now and not yet! (p.259)

We have already been raised with Christ, and yet we are waiting for the final day when our bodies will be resurrected with Christ. (p.261)

Adrian may have in mind some of his more conservative and “cessationist” Reformed friends when he writes:

It is sobering that Paul warned us that in the last days there would be people “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). I trust that none of us deny the power of Jesus’ resurrection to work in our lives and change us. But I hope that as we have been studying this subject, we are now more desperate than ever to see his transforming power at work, changing everything in our lives and in those around us. (p.261)

Adrian fittingly closes the book by quoting Ephesians 1:17-21 as a prayer for his readers.

I nearly wrote that I was pleasantly surprised by “Raised with Christ”. I was certainly pleased by it. But I wasn’t really surprised to find that Adrian could put aside the sometimes polemical tone he uses on his “blog” and write something as well argued and positive as this book. As I would expect it is not at a high academic level, and this occasionally comes through in minor weaknesses in the argument. But this ensures that the book is accessible to ordinary people with a reasonable education.

The only significant reservations I have are really because, as an Arminian charismatic suspicious of much “Reformed” evangelicalism, I do not fit into Adrian’s target audience. That is why I found somewhat grating the way in which he keeps quoting Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and Piper, as well as older Puritans. But I know that for Adrian’s intended audience of Reformed readers, “cessationist” as well as charismatic, these are the traditionally accepted authorities, and so it is important for Adrian’s case to show that these preachers and writers support it.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone whose background is “Reformed” or conservative evangelical and whose faith seems to be somewhat doctrine-centred and dry. In fact I can think of people I might like to give it to. I would think that anyone like that who read this book would find it acceptable – and if they then took its message to heart their faith would be transformed. I hope and pray that God uses the book in this way to revitalise many Christian lives.

Raised with Christ: Review part 7

This is now part 7 of my review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

Chapters 15 and 16, which have been written as one long chapter, are central to the book in that they take it beyond theoretical teaching to show the effect that the resurrection should have on the lives of Christians. Here Adrian teaches that we, his readers, should have a relationship with the risen Jesus, including assurance that God loves us and an experience of the Holy Spirit.

Adrian illustrates this in terms which his intended readership can appreciate, with examples and quotations from older Puritans and from recent Reformed writers. He shows how these people rejected dead orthodoxy and experienced a real relationship with Jesus. He rejoices that

In recent years in many churches there has been a coming together of a love of the Bible and a desire to know God personally. (p.205)

In all this Adrian navigates skilfully through the various controversies connected with the charismatic movement. He avoids one issue:

Unfortunately, over the last few decades the controversy about whether or not the gifts of the Spirit are for today has largely obscured the more fundamental question – are Christians today able to experience a truly personal relationship with Jesus? (p.196, emphasis in the original)

But later on Adrian tackles head on the issue over terms like “baptism with the Holy Spirit”, “sealing with the Spirit” and “receiving the Spirit”, arguing against many conservative evangelicals that all of these refer to an experience which may follow conversion. With the help of quotations from John Piper and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he thoroughly demolishes the arguments that Christians fully receive the Holy Spirit at conversion and that his primary role is to bring people to faith. Rather, he argues, receiving the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience, and may come after someone starts to believe. He writes that

Jesus died in order that we might taste heaven even here on earth. That is the role of the Spirit when we are aware of him at work in our lives. He is a gift, or foretaste, given to believers until the day comes when we are finally reunited fully with Christ. (p.219)

(Oddly, no mention here that Jesus rose again.) Christians who have received the Spirit

have been given a tangible awareness of God’s love and empowering presence as a reality in their lives. (p.221)

This seems to be what Adrian means by having a relationship with the risen Jesus. He is not denying that

Becoming a Christian is actually a secret act of the Spirit in regenerating us and joining us to Christ and imparting faith to us. … However, … it would be wrong for us to insist that we have experienced the Spirit in all his fullness automatically. (p.223)

He then points out the danger for all believers of thinking that they “got it all” in the past, whether at conversion or at some subsequent experience, with the result that

we miss out on the repeated times of blessing and refreshing that God wants to pour out on us. (pp.223-224)

So, he says, we should ask the Holy Spirit to come on us and fill us.

In the course of his argument Adrian manages to make the same mistake that I pointed out here in a preacher at my own church. He writes:

… faith in God (which from Ephesians 2 we know is itself a work of the Spirit) … (p.215)

No, Adrian, Ephesians 2 does not teach this. That is clear from the Greek, but even your favourite ESV doesn’t actually say quite this. Read what I wrote. Now you may be able to get this teaching from elsewhere in the Bible, perhaps even from Galatians 5:6 which I have been discussing (see the long comment thread), but not from Ephesians 2. This of course illustrates the danger of offering authoritative written teaching without a proper theological education.

In chapter 17 Adrian points out that

We did not accept Jesus to selfishly enjoy all the benefits of salvation. We have a job to do. (p.227)

That job is “Our Mission from the Risen Jesus”. Part of this is described as “to be full of God”:

Many of us seem to show by our conversations that we are more excited about the latest iPhone than we are about Jesus. … As we become excited about Jesus and begin sharing him with others, we will receive still more joy and satisfaction from him. (pp.227-228)

While much of what Adrian writes about mission is standard evangelical material, he does bring in the resurrection:

When called to do so, we can undertake brave projects that are so large, we will need miraculous assistance to complete them. What shall we do that would be impossible if Jesus was not alive? … Because the tomb is empty and Jesus is on the throne, we will also be victorious irrespective of what is happening in today’s world. (p.229)

Adrian then starts to “explore the changes that Jesus’ resurrection can make to our local churches” (p.233): joy in our meetings; love seen by outsiders; works of mercy; and we will no longer be ashamed of the gospel. He closes the chapter with a reminder that it is the risen Jesus who sent us out, who “provides the power we need to equip us for service” (p.235), and has promised to be with us for ever.

Concluded in Part 8.

Raised with Christ: Review part 6

Sorry for some delay to the continuation of this series. I have been busy blogging on other matters, both here and at Better Bibles Blog.

As I write part 6 of this review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, I note Adrian’s report that the book has now been launched in the UK, although not all Christian bookshops yet have it in stock.

In chapter 11 of the book Adrian writes that in response to the resurrection we Christians should let ourselves be transformed to live holy lives, not to earn salvation but in response to it.

By gazing on the resurrected Jesus we will be transformed and will find that Jesus himself is at work within us, changing our appetites and desires. (p.148)

Our biggest problem is that we do not see Jesus as he is. (p.149)

Adrian argues that how we should see him is not still as the one suffering on the cross but as the resurrected one. He continues by looking at the two picture of the risen Christ in Revelation chapters 1 and 19. As we see him as he is, the appropriate reaction is “reverence, awe and wonder” (p.156), but not terror, because we belong to him.

In chapter 12 Adrian moves on from the individual to the corporate, and discusses revival, times when “the church seems to be resurrected from a state of near-deadness” (p.160). He writes that “Today we do not speak much about revival” (p.160). That may be true in his circles, but in some of the circles I move in there is never-ending talk about revivals – history of past ones, rumours of present ones, and hopes of future ones. So it is interesting to see Adrian’s take on this matter. For him

Revival is nothing more than a wide-scale outworking of Jesus’ resurrection power. … “a powerful intensification by Jesus of the Holy Spirit’s normal activity.” … the Spirit of revival is always available to us. Thus, when a revival comes, we should recognize it as a greater manifestation of normal Christianity. (p.161, quoting Stuart Piggin with Adrian’s emphasis)

If we experience personal revival and it begins to spread, then, history suggests, church growth will result. (p.162)

In other words, revival is not something exceptional which we should just long for, but is what should come about if we as Christians are individually revived and live in the light of that. Adrian illustrates his point from stories of revival in Acts and in church history. He also points out that

Today, from a global perspective, we are seeing the largest revival the world has ever seen. (p.166)

He remembers how as a teenager he was involved in a mini-revival which I was also on the edge of, and which I talked about in one of my first posts here. He avoids commenting on controversial recent “revivals” in North America, with effects around the world, such as the Toronto Blessing and the Lakeland outpouring. But he does agree with the expectation of many of those who talk about revival today:

There is biblical warrant to optimistically expect a global end time revival before Jesus returns. (p.167)

This leads Adrian into chapter 13, “Reviving Prayer”, which he calls “potentially the most important chapter in this whole book.” (p.169) He recognises how revival always follows special seasons of prayer – but Christians are expected to do God’s work as well as pray.

However, I was a little concerned at Adrian’s suggestion that some particular kind of prayer will produce revival, and that the prayers of Elijah, as commended in James 5:16-18, are the best model for that. Certainly there is a lot to be learned from what Adrian has to say about Elijah at prayer, but I’m not sure why he links this to revival. Also he fails to recognise that 1 Kings 17:1 is a record that Elijah “prayed fervently that it might not rain”, that this kind of declaration in God’s name is a part of prayer. Perhaps, applying to revival what I concluded here, if our prayers were a little less “Please, God, send revival, if it is your will” and a bit more “As the Lord lives there will be revival” (at least if we have heard from God that this is his intention), we might see a bit more of the revival.

In chapter 14, “God’s Reviving Word”, Adrian finishes the part of his book about revival with a look at how God speaks today, primarily through preaching and by speaking personally through his written word. Adrian’s emphasis on how God’s word is alive is a welcome contrast to the picture which sometimes comes out of the Reformed camp, of the Bible as a collection of lifeless propositional truths to be analysed and synthesised into a sound theology. Adrian illustrates his understanding with a selection of verses from Psalm 119. He concludes with:

We must learn to feast on God’s Word and to drink in his presence through prayer. If we want to be connected to the power made available to us through Jesus’ resurrection, God’s Word and prayer are the most effective tools we can use to access that power. (p.194)

Continued in part 7.

Raised with Christ: Review part 5

Daniel Kirk (no relation, thanks to Doug for the link), writing about Lent which started yesterday (for those of us in the western tradition, so not Esteban for whom it started on Monday), notes:

Even worse than pretending that [Jesus] hasn’t come yet, however, is pretending that he isn’t raised yet, that he isn’t Lord of all, that we are living in a time of cross without resurrection. …

And so for Lent this year, I am giving up stopping talking about the resurrection. Though I can’t promise I’ll blog on the resurrection every day for forty days, I will blog about it at least a couple times a week, reflecting on the reality that we truly live under right now.

Well, I’m not going to try to match Daniel. But I will continue my own series on the resurrection in the form of my ongoing review, or précis, of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, a book whose aim is to stop Christians “pretending that [Jesus] isn’t raised yet, that he isn’t Lord of all, that we are living in a time of cross without resurrection”.  This is part 5 of the review I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4.

In chapter 10, which is just about the mid-point of the book, Adrian comes to what looks like the heart of his argument, with a chapter “Resurrected with Jesus”. His main point here is to identify being raised with Christ with being born again. He appeals to John Piper to support what he says about

the frightening prospect … that many churches are full of people who have not actually been born again. (p.135)

Yes, there seem to be so many Christians who always, not just during Lent, seem to be “living in a time of cross without resurrection”, not pretending but really living like that. They may listen attentively to all kinds of sound Reformed teaching about the cross. But if they have never been taught and accepted for themselves that Jesus is alive and can give them new life, then have they really been born again to that new life?

Adrian continues with an interesting point about us, those of us who are truly born again, being seated in heavenly places:

It may seem a bit fanciful, but I sometimes like to think of our current life as being a bit like a form of virtual reality. The true reality is, we are already seated in heaven, no matter what is happening to us in this world. (p.139)

As I was preparing this post I came across the article on which I based my previous post, Our world may be a giant hologram. Perhaps Adrian’s fancy ties up with what scientists are discovering, that reality is not so much what we see in the world as what happens in another realm. If God is in that other realm, and is the one in real control of what happens in our world, then we too as Christians are seated in that realm with him – and what we see in this world is only a “hologram” of our real selves. Of course this is speculation – and mostly mine, not Adrian’s.

The last part of Adrian’s chapter, “United with Christ”, is perhaps more difficult at least for me, as it discusses the concept of our federal identity with Christ. This idea is not popular in this individualistic modern world, yet it explains not only how we can be forgiven through Jesus’ death but also how because he is alive we also have new life.

We are united to both his death and resurrection. … All that he is, all his credit, all his life, are imputed to us, and … a change does happen within us. We begin a whole new type of life and become an entirely new kind of being. (p.142)

Indeed, Adrian, but surely that should be “imparted”, not “imputed”, as you are talking about a real change in us. I know you don’t want to put yourself on the “wrong” side of certain Reformation controversies by talking of “imparted righteousness”. I know you want to be consistent with what you wrote on your blog about imputed righteousness in support of Piper, and against N.T. Wright, for example here. But what you are talking about here is imparted righteousness, not as the basis of salvation of course, but as the starting point for the new life in Christ. We are not just counted righteous and left to continue in our old life, like people “living in a time of cross without resurrection”. We are actually made righteous, given a new life of righteousness, in which we are expected to live. Indeed

We form a community of the newly created, and the family of God’s people is incomprehensible to those who are not yet spiritually alive. (pp.142-143)

Sorry, not much of Adrian and quite a lot of me in this post, but this review series is continued in part 6.

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.