Do you have to believe in Christ’s literal physical resurrection to be a Christian?

Resurrection is the central theme in Christianity. The New Testament goes out of its way to make this clear. Just as Christ rose from the dead in a physical body to inaugurate the new creation, so Christians will rise from the dead to restored bodies in the renewed world. I embrace this as truth as the center of the Christian hope.

Yet, there are some who struggle with this idea of physical resurrection. On one end of the spectrum you have conservative Christians (many who would be properly labeled as having fundamentalist tendencies) who put little focus on the future resurrection of Christians as if this is an event simultaneous to ‘going to heaven and getting a new body.’ They would vigorously defend Christ resurrection as it serves as the ‘proof’ of his divinity in that scheme of thought.

On the other end of the spectrum, of course, are liberal Christians that believe that something beautiful happened on Easter, but not a physical resurrection of Christ. Rather, resurrection was a metaphorical way of expressing the ongoing experience of Christ in the life of the disciples and the early church.

A few months back, N.T. Wright was asked an interesting question about resurrection and Christian faith:

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?

Notice, that even the most vigorous defender of orthodox belief in resurrection isn’t quite ready to throw out everyone who struggles with the idea of a literal physical resurrection. At the same time, there is a line that is eventually crossed when it is denied ‘outright.’ Read his nuanced 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.

What do you think? Do you have to believe in a physical bodily resurrection to actually be a Christian? If so, why? And on this I’m wanting answers beyond “the bible says so.”

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  • http://www.facebook.com/chadilacdudesville Chad Inman

    Boiling things down to it’s simpliest terms…if Christ did not defeat sin and death then nothing has changed and we our all “screwed.”

    • Nanci

      Yes! If there is no resurrection, there is no Kingdom of God, and there is no hope.

    • vince

      Not true. “Original sin” is a myth – there was no Garden of Eden, talking snake, forbidden tree, etc., and there was no “Fall.” Everyone knows this.

      So don’t worry – you’re not a born sinner because of the actions of Eve!

      • Chad Inman

        Vince, I am born a sinner because humanity is sinful…whether or not the story of the fall is historical fact or a an attempt to explain humanities sinful nature is irrelevant. To say that humanity is inherently good is to ignore human history…and ones own personal story,

  • justsomeguy

    Yes. A faith that is focused on Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, has to include and accept a physical resurrection. The parables are great vignettes that illustrate how God thinks and works. The miracles give proof of His power over all things seen and unseen (e.g. “your sins are forgiven” v. “take up your mat and walk”). All of the ways prophecies were fulfilled hint that this Jesus of Nazareth is the Promised One. But why would anyone place his life in the hands of someone who could not keep a promise? Remember, Jesus said “destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.” He was speaking of a physical resurrection. He promised, and He delivered. The resurrection on Easter Sunday is the capstone of all that proves Jesus is God incarnate.
    (…and the Bible says so…in many places.)

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com/ Findo

    Yep. Paul says so. (I see little need to go “beyond” scriptural & apostolic authority :p). Tom Wright is right, because he is echoing Paul’s declaration that Christianity stands or falls on the resurrection. There can hardly be a Kingdom if the King is still in the grave.

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    I’m not sure, to be honest. I personally believe Jesus was literally resurrected, but even if I’m wrong, I would still believe in resurrection. Certainly I’ve been resurrected enough in my life!

  • http://twitter.com/chlorineyes Chris Law

    I’ve heard it said that Christianity isn’t our religion- Resurrectionism is. Christianity describes the way we live our lives in the light of our resurrected master. I thought that was an interesting perspective on the issue.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charles.riley.184 Charles Riley

    Kurt, a great question. I think it is important to realize the theme of a physical ressurection runs throughout the N.T. If it was just turning water into wine I don’t think it would be a big deal. Obviously Paul considered the resurrection a very big deal discussing it often and If I spent more time studying I would think I would be able to draw some relation between a physical resurrection, salvation and heaven. It was important enough for Jesus to show himself and offer proof of his resurrection and victory over death. Paul mentioned baptism and that if there was no resurrection then we were being baptized for the dead(this is off the top of my head). Bodily Resurrection is extremely important as a theme and part of the gospel . Is it such a part of the gospel that if it is not believed or presented then it falls into the category as another gospel. If it falls into the category of another gospel that is preached, is it another gospel that Paul warned about and said if a person presents another gospel other than what he has preached that those people shoud be cursed. Very harsh words. Bodily resurrection was important for belief. Scripture is so clear about it I wonder why people wouldn’t want to believe in the resurrection of Christ. Is it that people don’t want to believe in miracles. Just wondering. One more little thing and that is When I read revelation and read the narrator saying the words ”and I was dead and alive forever more,” I still feel a sense of wonder. from memory. Great question Kurt. CorkyRiley

  • Stephen

    At the risk of running afoul of your closing statement, I’ll quote St. Paul: If Christ is not raised, then your faith is meaningless.

    So, short answer, yes. But it doesn’t come down to simply “the Bible says so”. I think there are a number of things that the Bible says that you can have a nuanced or more “liberal” (I use the scare quotes not to indict the adjective liberal – I’ve got quite a few views that might be called liberal – but to denote a specific type of liberalism, namely Christian liberalism): the creation of the cosmos, books and stories like Jonah, Job, a good deal of Genesis, etc. For instance, the story of the adulterous woman in John is likely a later interpolation, and I think one can swing both ways on whether it was an actual occurrence or simply a story that demonstrated attitudes Christ represented during His time on Earth (I favour the former).

    However, we don’t just have “the Bible” to go on. We’ve also got the tradition of the church for two thousand years, and several creeds to boot. And both of these do portray the resurrection of Christ as being a rather central part of the Christian faith. However, while I don’t think that you can be totally orthodox in belief without believing the bodily resurrection, I don’t think a more nuanced view would be, in and of itself, be heretical. Heterodox, surely, but not necessarily heretical. Now, of course, if the nuanced view is accompanied by a Christology that doesn’t accept Jesus as divine (which it many times does), then I think we’re into a more serious level of theological disagreement. Views like “spiritual resurrection” tend to be far too close to Gnosticism to remain comfortable with.

    I think there’s a useful distinction to be made when using the word “Christian”. If by that you mean “someone who is saved by and through Christ”, then not necessarily. The thief on the cross didn’t believe, so far as I know, that Jesus had risen from the dead – because that would have been nonsensical – but he was assured by Jesus that they would be together in paradise. So, in that sense, I would answer “not necessarily”.

    If, however, you mean by Christian “someone who affirms a certain set of doctrinal beliefs and practices a certain mode of life” then I would say almost certainly yes. Pretty much by definition, if you’re a Christian in that sense, then you would need to believe what the Creeds have been unanimously saying (although a argument could be mounted that the Creeds don’t specify much about the Resurrection, reading the church fathers who wrote around the same time and came up with the creeds paints a pretty clear picture of what they meant.) for the past, oh, 19 centuries or so.

    So, to sum up the long answer, I would say that yes, you probably should believe in the bodily resurrection if you’re a Christian. After all, if you believe that Christ was fully God and fully man, is the resurrection of the God-man such a stretch?

  • James

    Lately, Christians have had a tendency to use rather hyperbolic vocabulary in describing the desire to maintain good teaching in the church. Here, unfortunately, you engage in this yourself when describing N.T. Wright as not “ready to throw out everyone who struggles with the idea.” I do understand your passion for avoiding situations of quashing discourse, and excluding people, when not necessary. But if this is truly what we wish to discuss … we should discuss this directly and seriously, e.g. with examples of churches who have thrown people out because of their struggles with belief.

    I think that you could probably better phrase your question: “Should Trinitarian Christians believe in the resurrection?” – and make clear in the body of the article that you are NOT speaking of a strictly “spiritual” resurrection – simply because resurrection is always about the raising of something – something empirical and sensible – unless perverted as do Spong and Borg.

    And of course, the answer to this is a resounding “yes.”

    Otherwise, your question makes about as much sense as the question: “Do we wish to condemn people to hell?” It is sort of like asking a person who did not vote, if they thereby wish for people to be murdered … since if you didn’t vote, you’re not supporting the political system … the political system forbids murder … not supporting the political system could mean you like murder, etc. etc..

    You can also ask this question: What should the church do with clergy who struggle with the resurrection of Christ? This one does make sense. It’s one we should probably be asking more frequently.

  • Peter Bylen

    “stayed dead” or “is living”…my professor in grad school did not beleive in the physical resurrection but believed that Jesus as Lord was in some sense living. He referred to the resurrection as “allomorphic”

    • Kenton

      Hmmm… That could either be a hair split, or a cop out, or something else, maybe. For clarification, I would want to know if he believed in an empty tomb. You could have an empty tomb with an “allomorphic” resurrection that might not be “physical” in some uses of the word (“is living”), or you could have an occupied tomb that probably equates to gnosticism.

      I’d call the first one “Christianity” (ambiguously, perhaps), but not the second one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/stephen.oller Stephen Oller

    I, honestly, wasn’t even aware people debated about this. I can’t see how anyone can believe in anything *other* than a physical resurrection and still be a Christian. Furthermore, (serious question) why is the issue of a physical resurrection a struggle for some people? We already believe in a God who is the God of everything. Why is a physical resurrection so hard to believe?

    • Jeff Johnson

      Because it is only recorded in ancient documents recorded by believers…because those same documents seem to imply that a physically risen Christ would return “soon” and that clearly hasn’t happened…because none of his enemies saw him physically raised (adversaries are much better witnesses in the court of the mind than friends)…because even in the gospels the risen Christ is different in appearance than before his death.

      It isn’t that I think God could not have done it, it’s just that I question whether he would do it the way we have traditionally believed.

      • normkeller

        …because the earliest Christian writings (letters of Paul and Gospel of Mark) do NOT talk of a physical resurrection

  • Kenton

    Whole-hearted, unequivocal YES.

    Otherwise death has the last word, and everything else is undone. Lord Caesar defeats Lord Jesus.

    Without resurrection, human nature says:

    Blessed are the rich
    Blessed are the elated
    Blessed are the powerful

    Blessed are the well fed.

    Blessed are the ruthless

    Blessed are the devious

    Blessed are the warmongers

    And Blessed are you when you persecute.

    • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.dedeaux.9 Timothy Dedeaux

      Oh, wow. That’s good. Well, not good, but spot-on
      accurate. It’s actually quite bad, and a perfect explanation of why we need a
      resurrected savior, a supernatural, “magical” defeat of this ugly
      human nature.

      Unfortunately, I think sometimes even we Christians (pointing the
      finger at myself, too) are guilty of reading things this way, like we have
      spiritual dyslexia and read the Beatitudes backwards.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems
  • Anonymuss

    Oh yes, absolutely. Christ arose. That was a fact, demonstrated in the greeting of the early church: “Christ has risen” with its response: “He is risen indeed.” There is no option there because there is no Christianity without a risen Christ who has defeated death. Those who think there might be have not yet met the risen Lord.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eugene.c.scott Eugene C Scott

    Could it be that “believing” (intellectual assent) in Jesus’ physical resurrection is only the beginning of what God is calling us to? I know and believe the apologetic formulas and reasons surrounding Christ’s physical resurrection. But as I am studying Acts again, I see a Christian community that believed (intellectual assent) and lived as if the resurrection actually happened. I too often deny the resurrection by my fearful, earthbound, faithless response to life. I lack the grace that a resurrected Jesus promises. I often live as if death has the last word. So, can someone deny the physical resurrection and be a Christian? I suppose, if all Christianity is about is believing something that gets you to heaven. But if Christianity is about living here and now as if heaven’s door was flung wide open by Christ’s death and physical resurrection, I’m not so sure.

  • timmcgeary

    “realise serious Christianity begins when Jesus comes out of the tomb on Easter morning.”

    Let me see if I can take another route. Of all of the stories in the gospels, how many of those people who had the faith to be healed or followed Jesus around faithfully (read: outside of the 12) practiced “serious Christianity” or would have even considered that concept. My lay opinion is slim to none. They acted on the the presence of God they witnessed in Jesus, and 95% of that was pre-crucifixion/resurrection.

    Maybe I’m focusing on semantics of “serious Christianity” but to hold the resurrection at such a high climax rather than another significant sign of God’s faithfulness to his creation is to distract people from the big picture. Yes, the resurrection did create “a branch” as NT Wright answered, but if it is a branch, then there is still a trunk that feeds that branch which has more significance than the branch alone.

  • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

    Everything requires definition, and I’m afraid “be a Christian” requires definition in this question. Short answer, yes, I stand with Paul and Wright as you quoted him, and most of the commenters here…if Jesus isn’t raised, there’s no “there” there. Paul said if the dead aren’t raised “we are still in our sins,” which makes the resurrection at least as important as Jesus’ death/blood in atonement. So no resurrection, no Christianity.

    On the other hand, one could parse your question to mean “if you don’t believe Jesus physically raised from the dead, will you go to hell?” That’s a different question, and one that many would consider synonymous. As you know, I don’t think it’s as simple as that…first of all because hell-avoidance isn’t a primary purpose of faith according to the Biblical testimony, and second of all because just what trusting God’s work through Jesus really means, isn’t as simple as a four-laws sort of intellectual assent. Bottom line to this second question is, we don’t really know.

    That said, the risen Christ who is now King bids us to share and live in his resurrection in such a way that people will want to join us in submission to him. Maybe the real question should be, if people can’t see resurrection in us, are *we* Christians? It’s a question I ask with quite a bit of trepidation when I look in the mirror, but there you are…

  • http://blog.rrchapman.us/ Bob Chapman

    Jesus says yes to us–as we are. There are people trying their best to aid widows and orphans, along with all those other things, that have trouble with the resurrection while some who have trouble with Jesus being present in the sacrament. Some Christians that have no doubt in the Virgin Birth will choke at before they say “Mother of God.” We should be thankful that Jesus chose to save us as we are while giving us all a chance to grow.

  • http://twitter.com/dmooresb dmooresb

    For my part, I’d be a Buddhist or something (or nothing) if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave. State Christianity has too poor a reputation to live down if there’s not an alternative message (the real message) of all things being made new including creation and believers.

  • Ann

    I am a strong believer that everyone’s faith experience is individual and between the person and God. However, I like to ask a fellow Christian, ” Why not?” To doubt that Jesus physically came back to life and became immortal is to say that God is limited. And why then do we want to trust in a God who is not all-encompassing? By limiting our belief of what God can do, we in effect are eliminating the divine and the spiritual, and refusing to give up control. In effect, it is refusing to take the leap of faith and putting complete trust in God.

  • Aaron

    Well, I guess I’ll give a dissenting opinion. It seems that all (if I’m not mistaken) felt fairly confident that belief in the physical, literal resurrection of Christ is necessary for being a Christian. As a Christian (or some of you might say “Christian”) who does not believe in the physical resurrection of Christ, I would obviously argue that it is not necessary.

    Although there isn’t enough space in the comment to lay out my argument for why I think the resurrection isn’t physical, I will say that I found it interesting that many of the comments referenced Paul to justify their position that belief in the physical resurrection is necessary to be a Christian. I find it interesting because, in my judgment, Paul doesn’t seem like he is in a very authoritative position to make strong claims about the resurrection of Christ. Paul never saw a physically resurrected Jesus. I saw a light and heard a voice. The appearance he says he has of Christ (in 1 Corinthians 15) is quite dissimilar from the appearance (of Christ) that the disciples had, though Paul seems to imply that his vision of Christ is on par with that of the disciples.

    If we interrogate Paul use of the word “appeared” in 1 Corinthians 15, I think it will be hard to find Paul belief about a physically resurrected Christ plausible. I don’t see how Paul is really justified in making the leap from the experience of a light and voice to a physically resurrected Christ.

    Anyway, these are just some general thoughts. To be honest, I’m fairly fond of Tillich’s restitution theory.

    Cheers.

    • Nate

      Well if you look to Paul for example on the matter, he really doesn’t say anyone is “not a Christian” when he has the perfect opportunity to in 1 Corinthians. I’m skeptical that there’s support for the idea that Paul really was in the habit of dishing out ANY doctrine/belief/practice as a litmus test for whether someone was “really a Christian.”

      I personally hold that it’s an essential belief, but for much bigger reasons than discovering whether an individual is really a Christian. And if I was to try to argue for the Resurrection, I would go to the Gospels themselves, and then perhaps the Incarnational nature of the faith well before I went to Paul.

  • J. Barrett Lee

    For most of my life, I would have answered your question with an unequivocal yes. However, I must confess that I’ve recently become much more of an agnostic on the subject of bodily resurrection. On the most basic epistemological level, I wasn’t physically present for the event itself, so I obviously don’t “know” that Jesus got up in the same way that I “know” I am currently typing on a computer keyboard in my office.

    I won’t waste my time arguing that the resurrection didn’t “literally happen that way”. However, the pastor in me is loathe to make intellectual assent to bodily resuscitation a barrier to authentic Christian faith.

    There is not space enough in this venue to do justice to this topic. But, given the restrictions at hand, here’s what I can affirm:
    1. Something happened. There was some kind of “Easter event” that changed everything for Jesus’ followers. They were never the same again after said experience. Whatever it was is powerful enough to have allowed their messianic movement to survive the execution of its founder, unlike every other first century CE messianic Jewish movement.
    2. Jesus’ earliest followers believed that “something” to be Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Whether or not Jesus DID rise, it seems abundantly clear, based on the writings of the time, that they certainly BELIEVED that he rose from the dead on the day after the Jewish sabbath. Moreover, their experience of this event was immediate and powerful enough that Jesus’ earliest followers, all Jewish, felt the need to move their primary day of worship from the sabbath to the day after the sabbath (i.e. the Lord’s Day). This pattern of Sunday worship was already widespread and established among Christians by the time that Paul’s earliest letters were written in the 50s-60s.
    To summarize: something significant seems to have happened on the day after the sabbath and the earliest Christians believed this event to be the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. I take this as pre-documentary evidence in favor of a bodily resurrection. Even in my ultimate agnosticism on this subject, I would have to admit that the evidence at hand points probabilistically in the direction of bodily resurrection. However, “probably” is not “certainly”. Therefore, I don’t consider intellectual assent of bodily resurrection to be a requirement for authentic Christian faith.

    As many other commentators have already noted here, there is a sense in which the answer to this question is secondary. Many of us have already had personal experience of “resurrection” in our lives: liberation from oppression, recovery from addiction, reconciliation in relationships, the seasonal renewal of the earth, the ongoing process of evolution, and (for me) the constant return to (and reinterpretation of) my own Christian faith in the midst of doubt and disappointment. We are all living the resurrection as we follow the way of the cross and experience the new life of Christ rising in our hearts and transforming the face of creation. The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!

    It just so happens that my Easter sermon this year was on this very topic. Here’s a link to that sermon on my blog, just in case anyone is interested:
    http://streetpastor.wordpress.com/2012/04/08/the-empty-tomb/

  • Nate

    The best way I can think of to put this is: I’m really not interested in the “who’s really a Christian” thing, and how do you prove it. In any form…which is what many people try to make of many things. The Resurrection is certainly a more worthy doctrine to hang this litmus test on than, say, premillenialism…but I think Wright’s reaction is more appropriate- he doesn’t let it go as if it’s nothing, but he doesn’t feel the need to throw out people who, perhaps in a unique kind of struggle, or simply with an incomplete background, don’t “get” the bodily Res, or haven’t been able to convince themselves of it, or something. There were disciples in Acts who, because of the nature of communications in those days, had literally never gotten past the “news” of John the Baptist…

    That said, it’s important to maintain, as I know Wright clearly does, that the faith and practice of the church as a whole cannot survive without the knowledge that Christ rose, historically, from the dead. The much more important consideration than “are you really saved if…” is: 3 generations after the revision gets made, what does the landscape look like?

    And of course with the Resurrection, there no longer is a landscape. There is no Christianity as the BIble knows it.

  • http://www.kingdomseeking.wordpress.com/ K. Rex Butts

    Yes. If Jesus has not been raised from the dead then he has not defeated the powers of darkness and the hope that the New Testament speak of is meaningless. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15, the resurrection of Christ is described as the “firstfruits” of the resurrection of the dead. Thus the resurrection of Jesus and our resurrection is not two separate events but one event that has already begun with Jesus’ resurrection and will be completed with our resurrection. So if Jesus has not been raised, neither will we.

    To take this one step further, belief in Jesus’ literal and physical resurrection only seems to be a question in a culture where there is no persecution. I don’t necessarily want to face persecution/martyrdom for being a disciple of Jesus Christ but I am convinced of this: If persecution is to come upon us Christians living in America, we will never have the courage to be a martyr for Jesus Christ unless we have to conviction of a martyr now. Should that persecution break out upon us and we find our life being threatened (even the lives of our families), I see no reason for remaining faithful at the expense of our life if there is no promise of hope in the resurrected Christ that we will rise when the Lord returns (cf. 1 Thess 4:16-17).

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

  • http://www.wineskins.org/ Keith Brenton

    Ultimately, there is no answer beyond “the Bible says so.” Sorry to disappoint. Label me if you want, but I find my philosophical musings and informed conclusions generally inferior to what scripture actually, concisely says.

    Might as well ask me why I believe a yard is thirty-six inches and then tell me “I’m looking for answers beyond ‘The yardstick says so.’ “

  • AnnWebb

    Without 1 Corinthians 15 there’s no reason to believe in a physical resurrection at all. To go further, without the New Testament there’s no reason to believe in Jesus Christ at all. Why ask such a question and leave the bible out of it when it is the chief witness and guide for a Christian’s faith? You might as well ask Muslims whether a pilgrimage to Mecca is necessary, but leave the Quran out of your answer.

    • Patrick

      Ann,

      I tend to agree with your basis here. While the early church had no NT scriptures, they had the eyewitnesses.

      W/O the bible, the traditions would be so compromised and paganized by now we could not possibly know anything factual about Christ. Likely we would not even have heard of Him w/o the NT texts this far removed.

      I for one think God providentially has preserved His intent for mankind in these documents, regardless of whether or not they are perfectly the same as what Paul penned, etc.

      Just,

      Good points there and remember, the early church was severely persecuted in Jerusalem and Rome, so they had some kind of strong reason to believe. I accept their testimony myself.

      We accept rumors about asinine nonsense when the gossiper isn’t willing to die for it, I’ll take the word of James, Peter and Paul about Christ when they were and they did.

      • AnnWebb

        Thanks Patrick. I tend to believe as you do as well. Much more unreliable nonsense is believed on less evidence. :-)

      • barry_US

        First, the NT was not written by first-hand eyewitnesses. Second, if Jesus rose from the dead in the heart of the Roman Empire, appeared to 500 (or was it 3,000?) people at once, was back on earth for 40 days….why is there no evidence or account of this beyond the NT, written 80-100 years after it happened?

  • http://www.facebook.com/defeatingdefeaters Jonathan Deundian

    Do you have
    to believe in Christ’s literal physical resurrection to be a Christian?

    That depends on how we define the term “Christian.”

    If the
    question is, “Do you have
    to believe in Christ’s literal physical resurrection to be saved?”
    Well, here I think we’re not privileged to know the answer though I think a bit in
    scripture gives us reason to speculate some. I’ve always thought that while
    salvation is impossible without Jesus i.e. Jesus is the only way to salvation
    in that “Jesus’ blood, the work of the cross, is necessary for God to forgive
    any sins at all in His economy of redemption”- it may be the case that *belief in*
    (and I don’t mean, “belief that”) Jesus (or the resurrection of Jesus Christ)
    is only a sufficient not necessary condition for salvation. More to the point:
    Isn’t it the case that God will judge us on the basis of the light we’ve been
    given? AND, of course, doesn’t Acts 17:30 purport to say that God overlooks
    times of ignorance, such as before the time of Abraham? I think that’s
    interesting. The way I see it is if
    we’re invincibly ignorant, God would know that and would judge us accordingly. I’d obviously never write a book on the subject.

  • http://www.facebook.com/defeatingdefeaters Jonathan Deundian

    Do you have to believe in Christ’s literal physical resurrection to be a Christian?

    That depends on how we define the term “Christian.”

    If the question is, “Do you have to believe in Christ’s literal physical resurrection to be saved?”

    Well here I think we’re not privileged to know the answer though I think a bit in
    scripture gives us reason to speculate some. I’ve always thought that while
    salvation is impossible without Jesus i.e. Jesus is the only way to salvation
    in that “Jesus’ blood, the work of the cross, is necessary for God to forgive
    any sins at all in His economy of redemption”- it may be the case that *belief in*
    (and I don’t mean, “belief that”) Jesus (or the resurrection of Jesus Christ)
    is only a sufficient not necessary condition for salvation. More to the point:
    Isn’t it the case that God will judge us on the basis of the light we’ve been
    given? AND, of course, doesn’t Acts 17:30 purport to say that God overlooks
    times of ignorance, such as before the time of Abraham? I think that’s
    interesting. The way I see it is if we’re invincibly ignorant, God would know that and would judge us accordingly. I’d obviously never write a book on the subject. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure the Catholic Church agrees with me, though they’d say there’s grave dangers associated with rejecting cardinal truths about God etc..

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/thepangeablog/ Kurt Willems
    • kellybrown

      “Believing in Jesus” as means to salvation is unfair and silly.

      Ask a Hindu to “believe” in Jesus. They can’t or won’t. Ask a refugee in Syria to “believe” in Jesus. Heck, as a fallen Christian to believe in Jesus.

      They can try and pray on it, but what if they’re heart’s not in it? What if it just doesn’t “click?” What if you have sincere doubts and can’t believe?

      Using this logic, God “knows” this and will send them to hell.

      Very strange stuff….

  • http://www.facebook.com/radek.milik Radek Milik

    No! Read the story of doubting Thomas – he wants to see an touch before he can believe, and Jesus does not condemn him for that. If a friend and disciple could not believe without evidence, it is purte madness for people 2,000 years later to do so. Yes, we tend to have resurrectionist bibliolatry instead of what Jesus wanted. His message was about how to live, not what to believe.

  • Kevin Perez

    Yes, because it’s what the institutional church affirms. If what I think, feel, believe and affirm about Jesus’ resurrection does not conform to the church’s position then I must conclude that, from the church’s perspective, my position is irrelevant. So be it.

    • http://nailtothedoor.blogspot.com Dan Martin

      That, @kevinperez:disqus, may simply be because the institutional church, in the process of defining its institution, has drawn you out of the circle. While I do believe (as above) that there are important and (to me) indisputable truths in Christianity, it’s all too often true that the concept of following Jesus has been eclipsed by the propositional nature of what we now call “faith.” I beg you not to exclude yourself from Christ simply because people who name his name have tried to exclude you.

      This article may be of interest to you.

      • Kevin Perez

        Thanks Dan. These distinctions – following Jesus vs. faith and membership in one of the many institutional churches vs. living one’s life in Christ – are important for two reasons. They help us see the eternal differences. And they help us know where the honorable work is.

  • Hadyn

    It seems to me that most people who say “yes, you do need to believe in the literal physical resurrection to be a Christian”, assume that this is what the Bible means when it says “resurrection.” There isn’t really a consensus that this is the case (in the academic world at least), and there are other interpretations from visions to psychological explanations. And these different interpretations can actually fit in with greater Christian theology.

    To answer the question, do we need to believe in the resurrection? My first response would be “depends on what you mean by ‘resurrection.’” My second response would be “no it doesn’t matter because being a part of God’s redeemed community is not a matter of what you believe, but your desire to be in fellowship with God.”

    Yes I agree that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then we are lost in our sins etc, and that our faith is futile. But this doesn’t mean that we actually have to believe it to be in relationship with our Creator God, or to benefit from his resurrection with freedom from sin and death.

    • Thomas_D

      The NT idea of “resurrection” was propagated by Jews, i.e. the early Christians. And they viewed Jesus’s resurrection through the lens of their history, namely the “resurrection” of Moses and Elijah. Neither of those prophets physically rose from the dead, yet they are esteemed by God. That is the prism through which they viewed Jesus’s resurrection – not in the physical sense.

  • Starla

    Yes. Without a physical resurrection, we only have salvation spiritually and not physically. One of the most significant components of what it means to be human is to have a body. Without a physical body, we cease to be human. We are then merely a ghost. In order for Christ’s atonement to save our entire being, and all of humanity, he must have risen physically with the promise that we one day will rise physically too.

  • Nick East

    I consider myself a red letter christian. Jesus said to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan”. Then Peter called Jesus a liar at the last supper and still later turned his back on him. Oh, right!!! My Savior is gonna turn around and give this loser a gift of the Holy Spirit? The ressurection is a fraud, perpetrated by the people who had the most to gain by making others believe it. Hell, Peter even goes on to kill a man and his wife for lying about how much money they received from selling their farm! And this was AFTER he was infused with the Holy Spirit? Yeah, right! If Jesus really ressurected, he surely would have shown his face to SOMEONE other than the people who were grasping at straws wondering what to do next.
    AND I AM A REAL CHRISTIAN, PERIOD!

  • Dominick Garden

    You don’t have to believe that Jesus Christ was an historical figure to be a Christian. Just accept him as the personification of the Logos (or universal reason).

  • vince

    The physical resurrection of Jesus, whereby his stinking decomposing corpse re-animates and walks out of the tomb, is *not* mentioned the earliest Christian writings – the letters of Paul and the Gospel of Mark.

  • Neil

    To believe that for one species circling a star of approx 400 billion in our galaxy in a known universe if at least 100 billion galaxies warrants a complete collapse of the laws of order and physics by the divine creator is really very self indulgent if you consider it for a moment. Just consider whilst separating your instinctive fear of mortality for just one moment if you can. Why isn’t Jesus’s teaching enough. If you can truly
    Connect with them instinctively, intuitively. Do we as humans have to be promised an eternal life to have true faith. Look, if I’m gonna meet Saint Peter at the gate and I’ve somehow managed an entry I’ll be extremely grateful but id consider it a bonus that came with the faith I had regardless. IMO it’s the fear of mortality which is most compromising to mankind and will always bring out the most impressionable and zealous in all religious denominations. Just an opinion.


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