Does Piper Neglect the Resurrection?

Many of the opponents of the doctrine of justification and penal substitution criticize us for not being as interested in the resurrection as the cross. I increasingly think that it is not so fair to accuse most evangelical theologians of not having a place for the resurrection in our system of beliefs. I do feel, however, that we perhaps under-emphasize the resurrection at times.

As I was reading this book, I was aware that, of course, Piper was interacting with Wright’s views of the cross, so it was perhaps no wonder that the resurrection was featured less. Indeed, Wright’s massive work on the resurrection did not feature in the bibliography.

As I was pondering this new obsession of mine with the place of the resurrection, I found myself asking—was Piper wrong not to look at it in more detail in this book? I concluded that probably this was influenced by the constraints of the length of the book. Perhaps an interaction with Wright on the resurrection should be the subject of another book.

I was surprised, however, to note that on two different occasions within the book Piper fell into an all-too-common evangelical trap. On both pages—89 and 212—he cites 1 Corinthians 15:3, omitting to continue the verse to include the resurrection. The Piper quotations omit the bolded phrase below:

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

Now, I suppose I shouldn’t get overly legalistic about this, but I wish that we would all learn not to do that with that particular verse. Paul goes on to make the point that without the resurrection we would, in fact, still be in our sins, something that surely undermines any system of theology that does not require the resurrection to perform anything for us, altering our position in any way.

But I should not be unfair to Piper, for as we saw in an earlier post, when he summarizes his position on justification he states the following propositions:

(1) a person is in union with Christ by faith alone. In this union, (2) the believer is identified with Christ in his (a) wrath-absorbing death, (b) his perfect obedience to the Father, and (c) his vindication-securing resurrection. All of these are reckoned—that is, imputed—to the believer in Christ. On this basis, (3) the “dead,” “righteous,” “raised” believer is accepted and assured of final vindication and eternal fellowship with God.

So Piper, it seems, is NOT guilty of the charge of neglect of the resurrection. I wonder, though, how often do my own presentations of the gospel include the concept of Jesus’ resurrection being credited to our account? Do I sometimes forget to even mention the resurrection of Jesus? The samples of Billy Graham’s preaching I listened to at the Billy Graham Center certainly did speak of the resurrection of Jesus as part of what he had done for us. The phrase that keeps recurring in my mind from those sermons was simply “He is a living Jesus.” Could it be that the preaching of the cross AND the resurrection is more spiritually potent for producing salvation than simply preaching on the cross?

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