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.