Don’t be a “The Sky is Falling” Christian

David Williams posted his final post in his Credo series, this one on the resurrection of Christ. David’s point: resurrection is the heart of the gospel; everything else take a back seat.

Even things we might think are non-negotiable.

Here is a sample:

I am always amazed at how quick we often are to sound the “The Gospel is at Stake” alarm. We evangelicals sometimes act like a flock of Chicken Littles, running around like we’ve lost our heads squawking, “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!  The gospel’s at stake!  The sky is falling!” at even the slightest rattling of our little hen-house of a subculture.  We could save ourselves a lot of grief by remembering the centrality and priority of the resurrection and by putting everything else in (that) perspective.

So ask yourself:  If it turned out that Jesus is risen but Darwin was right about human origins after all, would you give up your faith?  If it turned out that Jesus was risen but Protestantism was wrong and Catholicism or Orthodoxy was right (or the other way around), would you opt to become an atheist?  If it turned out that Jesus is risen and that the New Perspective is more right than wrong about Paul, would that be grounds to abandon Christianity altogether?  If it turned out that Jesus is risen but the doctrine of predestination is true (or false!), would you see no more point in following Christ?  If it turned out that Jesus is risen but Genesis 1-11 is ancient Near Eastern mythology, would you apostasy?  If it turned out that Jesus is risen but Mark and Luke made historical slips here and there and Jonah was actually a non-historical children’s story, would your faith be in vain?

Here’s the kicker: If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, not only are you needlessly worrying yourself over secondary matters, you may have adopted “another gospel.”

You can read the entire post in the link above…..

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  • I definitely understand this line of thinking. This is, in fact, where I had ended up at one point in my faith journey. The problem is that suddenly everything hangs on a supposed historical event which is non-verifiable. So now I read up on the historical evidence for the resurrection and make my call. If I think it is probable that Jesus was raised from the dead…if I am as confident as Tom Wright…, I remain a Christian (albeit one with a lot of unresolved questions). If I come to the conclusion that there are other ways to explain the resurrection belief or that it is improbable (or that “probability” isn’t even a proper category to think about this kind of historical event), then I lose my faith. It all boils down to what you think the likelyhood of a historical event was. And historical reasoning doesn’t seem to be a firm foundation for faith!

    Whether we like it or not, there is some sense of a “package deal” when it comes to the nature of the Bible and our Christian faith. If we conclude that the Pentateuch was not written by Moses (which many have), it is a hit to faith…for the one we call God-incarnate seemed to hold that false belief. If there is no historical Adam and no historical “fall”, it is a hit to faith! For Paul and others seem to have assumed as much. When we conclude that the Flood Narrative is comprised of two sources which can’t agree with one another on details (how many animals on the ark?, etc.), or that the Law is a mashup of various developing legal thoughts from Israel’s past, or that Abraham and the patriarchs may or may not have been historical figures, or that Paul (and I would argue the Gospel writers) was mistaken about the “end of the age” being near, it is a hit to faith! How much can you take away from traditional Christian assumptions and be able to stand?

    For me it was all boiled down to the resurrection until I concluded that Paul, the Gospel writers, and (I believe )Jesus held false eschatological views. Is this another traditional Christian assumption (that there is a clear and correct eschatology in the New Testament) that we can jettison and still come away with the same faith? Could we stand an errant Paul or even an errant Jesus and still hang our hats on the resurrection?

    • I think it depends on what you mean by a errant Paul or an errant Jesus. It is helpful to read Paul’s letters as well as the Synoptic Gospels in light of the Johanine literature, mostly because Paul wrote all of his books (someone correct me if i’m wrong) before the Fall of Jerusalem (i.e. the end of the age for Temple Judaism with considerable trials and tribulations). John, knowing this, writes his ‘Theological Gospel’ as well as his letters post-end of the age.

      I think you can probably make the case that Paul was errant (but that it doesn’t really matter) but Jesus? Most of the ‘end of the age’ sayings can be easily fit into the historical destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and make perfect sense (particularly in light of a more narrative reading of Scripture).

      It is helpful also to remember that the New Testament was written to aid the Church in following the teachings of the Apostles, not the other way around.

  • Tom R

    I really like the kicker at the end.
    John, I would like to respond to your comment but don’t quite know how. I wouldn’t want you to think I don’t have doubts. The point is that I think we have different definitions of faith. You say that everything hangs on a supposed historical event which is non-verifiable. I would answer that of course it’s not verifiable for if it were verifiable it would not be faith. If you were able to prove the resurrection you would’t need faith. Don’t look for verification. As Pascal said”The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of”.

  • Love the article!

    To the point of historical verification, NT Wright said that the Christian story happened in history, and to history it must appeal. In other words, history does matter, and he spent a very huge book defending the historicity of the resurrection. On the other hand, the whole “package deal” scenario appeals to most people because there is a sense in which all of the work has been done for them. Join the Calvinists, you’ll have a nice tightly-knit way to think about God (whether it is right or wrong is not the point). Join the Catholic Church, you’ll have a nice set of sacred practices that consistently view matter as important. Join the conseravtive evangelical movement, you’ll have your internally consistency, but there will be some expense. The trouble is, since no “system” or group has “got it,” we’ve got to see this as a feature, not a bug (to put it in technology terms); see John Franke’s Manifold Witness.

    • I think that there is considerable difference between theological systems invented out of whole cloth, separated from the historical traditions of the Church (Calvinism, evangelicalism, etc.) and a Tradition that claims to be Living and in union with orthodox traditions traceable (historically) right back to Peter, James, John and the other Apostles (i.e. Catholicism/Orthodoxy).

      It is a poor form of Christianity that seeks to ground it’s theology in each individual separate from the communion of saints.

  • Tim

    Well, the obvious concern they have is that they would go down a path that results in them not believing the resurrection is true. I wholeheartedly agree that the “sky is falling” attitude has to stop. But let’s at least be honest as to what their concerns are and not caricature them in this manner.

  • Mark Leberfinger

    I love this post for a lot of reasons: namely, that it’s OK to struggle with the tensions of Scripture; that we don’t have all the answers; that there are still things very important, e.g., the resurrection, even if everything else doesn’t fit into a preconceived theological template.

  • Tom R

    Doug, does Wright say that the Christian story is verifiable ? I thought that verify meant to prove the truth of something. It would seem that if something is proven faith would not be necessary. Remember Ronald Reagan “trust but verify”, in other words we’d like to see the proof.

  • davey

    David Williams says Paul had two positions that were necessary for the gospel. But, suppose everybody had to become circumcised Jews, not just believe in the resurrection, how would that ‘hit’ Christianity? Or suppose the Apostles experiences of the risen Jesus were visions, which wouldn’t make the fact of Jesus’s resurrection false, just make Jesus not having been seen ‘in person’, how would that ‘hit’ Christianity? The quick answer looks like, these things wouldn’t ‘hit’ Christianity.

  • Paul Burnett

    Hebrews 11:6 is always a good reminder. Does God exist? Is God a rewarder of those who earnestly seek Him? If your answers are yes, you have faith regardless of how accurately or inaccurately what you hear or read describes how God has death with humanity through the ages. It’s simply not necessary to believe the Bible is inerrant to say yes to Hebrews 11:6. The realities aren’t changed by inaccurate descriptions of those realities. No matter how many differing beliefs we may have, there is only one reality. Too often, we are at risk of worshipping what God has created through His servants rather than God. Bibliolatry is idolatry. Only a very few facts reported in the Scriptures must be true to assure our salvation; the rest is descriptive window-dressing. The beliefs that separate Christians from all others are summed up in 1 Corinthians 15 as what Paul passed on as of first importance.

  • James

    It is true our faith hangs in a canonical sense on the raising of Jesus Christ from the dead, but that does not mean we take to be of little consequence the rest of the Grand Story. Nor are we alarmed by new insights in biblical interpretation or advances in critical scholarship. The gospel claim of a resurrection encourages us to respect and pursue good historical study. Our faith, made more reasonable to good people by evidence, ultimately rests in a faithful God.

  • Patrick

    The faith always was predicated on the fact of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. Not the accuracy or existence of the bible.

    It’s important, but, as the post shows, the cross & resurrection IS the “cornerstone” of the Gospel. All other issues pale in comparison.

  • I can point to a very simple interpretation of an “I thought that was straightforward” scripture which endangers the Gospel. Look at the parables of the kingdom of God as A) a treasure in a field which is bought, dirt and all; B) a merchant buying a pearl. I just heard a sermon that indicates that humans are doing the buying. So much for “What can a man give for his life?”! A wrong interpretation of these parables undermines the gospel. It sends mixed messages. I think it’s really important to get stuff like this right!

  • Charles

    1 Cor. 15. Paul pretty much condenses it right there:
    “For if the dead are not raised, the not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is void, and your faith is also void.”
    And after that he goes on to detail how much we lose if we have no resurrection of the dead. (Which ends up being quite a bit that we lose altogether, making the resurrection of the dead, including Christ, the immutable point of the Christian faith.)