Is the Resurrection essential to Christian belief?

Just 42 percent of Americans identify the resurrection of Jesus as the point of Easter, according to a 2010 Barna survey, and only 2 percent “describe Easter as the most important holiday of their faith.”

I find this astounding. The Resurrection is the faith. A Christian faith not centered on the Resurrection is not fully Christian. “If Christ is not risen,” said Paul, “then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor 15.14). If the grave isn’t empty, then our faith is.

Yet people resist this, with ever-increasing contortions. An example:

The way I believe in the resurrection is I believe that one can go from a death in this life, in the sense of being dead to the world and dead to other people, and can be resurrected to new life. When I preach about Easter and the resurrection, it’s in a metaphorical sense.

So said Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell in a conversation with atheist Christopher Hitchens. For his part, Hitchens saw things more clearly:

I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

Exactly. Not that Hitchens was any kind of believer. He just understood what the content of the faith had to be for it to qualify as the faith.

Underscoring this point, in an interview with the Religion News Service John Shelby Spong defended his metaphorical understanding of the Resurrection by saying, “I think that’s a pretty good message.”

Yeah. As Christians we have no interest in “a pretty good message.” We want the Good News of the Lord Christ’s pascal triumph over sin, death, and the devil. Anything less is a sham.

About Joel J. Miller

I'm the author of Lifted by Angels, a look at angels through the eyes of the early church. Click here for more about me or subscribe to my RSS here.


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