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.