Easter Faith

Brian LePort has an excellent set of reflections on the importance of the resurrection. In short, no resurrection, no faith.

In a recent interview with Sam Hailes for Christian.co.uk (see “People have very odd ideas about Jesus”) N.T. Wright was asked this question:

You’ve argued strongly that Jesus physically rose from the dead as a historical event. Do you have to believe this teaching in order to be a Christian?

He gave this answer:

“Anyone who is in any sense a Christian cannot with any consistency believe that Jesus stayed dead. I have friends and colleagues who I know to be praying Christians who worship regularly and lead lives of practical Christian love and service but who really struggle with the bodily resurrection. I would say that looks like a muddled Christian who needs to be put straight. Of course some of them would say exactly that about me!

“But if you say Jesus died and nothing happened but the disciples had some interesting ideas, then you have cut off the branch on which all classic Christianity is sitting. This generation needs to wake up, smell the coffee and realise serious Christianity begins when Jesus comes out of the tomb on Easter morning. This is not a nice optional extra for those who like believing in funny things.”

I agree. I am sympathetic to people like Marcus Borg who cannot find it within themselves to say the word “bodily” about the resurrection, but I think the whole thing may be a big waste of our time if Jesus has not been risen from the dead. When we read the Gospels, the Book of Acts, the Pauline Epistles, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and even the Apocalypse the resurrection remains central to how the church spoke of Jesus. The resurrection was his moment of vindication. Even more so, it was the beginning of the age to come in some mysterious sense. Jesus’ resurrection gives his followers confidence in his identity as Messiah and his role as the beginning (or “first fruits”) of the renewal of all things, including the cosmos themselves! What is Christianity without this event?

As I said, I am sympathetic to those who want to find Jesus, yet who cannot (or will not) confess that he has risen, physically. That said, I respect those who are consistent in the realization that if Jesus has not risen Christianity is quite useless. While I do not anticipate anyone convincing me that the resurrection did not occur (Wright himself as well as others like Michael Licona have made arguments that has established my intellectual conviction that Jesus is risen) I will say that if it were to happen you won’t see me in church next Sunday. If God has not acted in Christ then I am going to spend my weekends doing something a bit more enjoyable than singing about a man who is dead and listening to stories about that same man. If this is the only life to live and there is no resurrection I had better get on with creating existential ”meaning” in a world that has none.


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  • CGC

    Hi Scot and all,
    As always, some very good thoughts. I remember Marcus Borg gave an argument one time that if the resurrection has not happened in you, it does not matter what you believe about the resurrection (kind of the turn or the other side of the coin).

    I do have a question to all on this list. What is the best book you have ever read on the resurrection of Jesus? Up till now, for me it is Wright’s huge work on “The Resurrection of the Son of God.”

    Anyone else?

  • Scot McKnight

    Stephen Evans has a good one, too. William Lane Craig’s got stuff here. So many, including one by Dale Allison, but I go to Tom’s first.

  • And Tom’s ‘Surprised by Joy’ which is shorter, less technical, but also takes some of the thoughts a bit further – best I have read on the Christian hope in addition to the bodily resurrection of Christ.

    PS Like you, Scot, and Tom, I use the term ‘bodily resurrection’ rather than ‘physical resurrection’ because Paul indicates in 1 Cor 15 that while there is physicality about the resurrection body, that is not a sufficient descriptor for it, using ‘spiritual’ instead. ‘Physical’ tends to limit the nature of the resurrection body to something more like what we have at the moment rather than the transformed body we shall inhabit.

  • C

    Some solid thoughts here. If someone were to convince me the resurrection did not occur, I, too, would probably be absent on Sunday.

    I also agree with Borg (per @CGC #1)–having the right dogma about the resurrection matters little if you don’t allow its power to invade your life.

    And @Jared I like the point you make about “bodily” resurrection. To be sure, it it physical, but it is more than just physical.

    In fact, I resist even using the terms “physical” and “spiritual” here because one of the two, depending who’s speaking, usually tends to be overemphasized at the other’s expense. In one sense, the whole point of the resurrection–Christ’s then, and ours one day–is the reunion of physical and spiritual into one reality. Heaven is HERE.

  • “If this is the only life to live and there is no resurrection I had better get on with creating existential ”meaning” in a world that has none.”


  • Thanks for sharing Scot!

  • Karl

    Thank you for this, Scot. I agree with you.

  • J.L. Schafer

    Whenever I confess the Apostles’ Creed, I am reminded that from the beginning Christians proclaimed a gospel of bodily resurrection.