Is The Resurrection Unnecessary?

Is The Resurrection Unnecessary? December 21, 2018

 

“If the only way we know Jesus is by reading about him in the Bible, then the Resurrection is unnecessary.” – Gabriel Gordon

 

I had the most fascinating conversation with my friend Gordon the other day, and he made the comment above, which really struck me in a profound way.

 

He and I were discussing our relationship with the Bible, the concepts of inerrancy and infallibility and what it means to say that the Scriptures are “Inspired” or “God-breathed.” In the process of examining the claim that the only way we know Christ is through reading the Bible, he made the above statement and I think it’s pretty dead on and to-the-point.

 

It reminded me of another conversation I had earlier this year with someone at a Conference which was all about Jesus, the Bible and the Holy Spirit. One of the co-presenters at the event looked at me and said, “I have never heard the voice of God other than through the Bible. Jesus does not speak to me apart from the Scriptures.”

 

My response to that was: “So, you’re saying that – based on your experience – you believe that God only speaks through the Bible. But, you’re only saying that because you have never experienced Jesus apart from Scripture. Do you see the irony? You’re arguing that we don’t encounter Jesus through experience based on your experience that Jesus hasn’t spoken to you in that way before. It’s your experience  of non-experience that convinces you that we cannot experience Jesus any other way than through the Bible.”

 

He didn’t get it. But, he’s not alone. I’ve come to realize that there are quite a few Christians out there – maybe the majority – who have never had an encounter with Christ or experienced the Presence of God or felt the Holy Spirit move over them in any way. That’s not only sad, it’s pretty much a direct violation and denial of what the Scriptures actually speak of.

 

See, we’re intended to know Christ in a very real, personal and experiential way. Not merely through information or “knowledge” but by intimate and direct contact with the Divine.

 

Paul goes on and on about this in Ephesians chapter 3 when he talks about praying that we would have the power to grasp just how high and wide and long and deep is the love of Christ for us, and how this kind of love transcends knowledge [mere information] to become an experience that transforms us from the inside out. [See Ephesians 3]

 

Jesus also goes on and on about this when he talks about how we should abide in him and he [and the Father] will come and make their home in us, and how eternal life is defined by “knowing God and His Son whom He has sent”, using the word “Ginosko” which is the word for an intimate sexual encounter between a husband and a wife, with the implication being that we should “know” God in such a deeply experiential way that a new life is conceived in us and we become pregnant with the indwelling presence of Christ.

 

This, my friends, is about so much more than mere information. It is most definitely about an experiential transformation that is expressed in the resurrection life of Christ birthed within us.

 

So, when my friend Gabriel said that this idea of only knowing Christ by reading about him negates the need for Christ’s resurrection, he is right on several levels. Because Christ is alive today, we can experience Him in a very real way. Because of the resurrection, we can hear His voice, know His presence, encounter His Spirit and experience His life in our own. Not only that, His resurrection means that we can do so much more than read information about Christ, we can draw nearer to Christ and find our identity in Christ and become transformed by Christ.

 

I realize that not many Christians today have ever really experienced Christ in this way, but I do believe that it is exactly what Christ came for, and is, in fact, truly longing for with each and every one of us.

 

So, how can we begin to experience Christ in this intimate way? I’d suggest starting with silence. Being still to know that God is with you is a great place to begin the process of becoming aware of God’s constant presence. Beyond that, wait and see what thoughts come to your mind. Listen for His voice. Wait on Him to move and to speak. If you don’t “hear” anything, that’s ok. Sometimes it’s just wonderful to bask in the peace and presence of God without either of you saying a word.

 

Try it. What do you have to lose?

 

Not much, and you have so much more to gain by experiencing Christ the way you were always intended to.

**

Keith Giles was formerly a licensed and ordained minister who walked away from organized church 11 years ago, to start a home fellowship that gave away 100% of the offering to the poor in the community. 

Today, He and his wife live in Meridian, Idaho, awaiting their next adventure.

His new book “Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb” with a Foreword by Greg Boyd.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. 

BONUS: Want to unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more? Visit my Patreon page.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Patrick

    Bravo and amen! The Living God lives in me, in you, in those with great faith and those with little faith. Thank God that He does!

  • Iain Lovejoy

    I would say if the only experience we have of Jesus is in the Bible, Jesus is unnecessary: all we’d need is the book.

  • Al Cruise

    Exactly. Lucky for us that we were born after the “book” was written. Even more lucky, is that it was finally interpreted correctly by western conservative evangelicals.

  • RebelRose

    Keith, I have enjoyed your blog for about a year now. Personally, I believe that Jesus’ second coming happens anew every time a new believer comes to faith. He in us is the second coming! This OP of yours is refreshing and solidifies my deepest understanding of Christ in me, my hope of glory. Thank you for being a light in the darkness of the church universal.

  • Paul

    Keith, I enjoy your perspectives and willingness to share them. My understanding of the term “Christ” is that it is more of a concept than it is a moniker to be attached to Jesus alone. I no longer use the terms Jesus and Christ synonymously. Many are now suggesting “Christ” might be better understood as Christ-consciousness, referring to the awakening of an awareness of God in all things, i.e., enlightenment. Jesus “christos” was Jesus, an Enlightened One. He was the first to be awakened to the presence of God, not just in all things, but more specifically, God in himself. And then to God in his neighbor, and God in his enemy, and God in each other. It makes more sense to me now why the greatest commandment is to love God with all my heart, first in myself, then in my neighbor, then in my enemy, etc. I totally agree that meditation is the path to awaken the “Christ”, i.e., Christ-consciousness that Paul writes exists within us. One day, we all will be enlightened ones. For me, the resurrection by Jesus, is visible evidence of reincarnation, a doctrine believed by Jesus but a doctrine that the institutional church murderously squelched over 6+ centuries. Many passages in the NT confirm that significant numbers of people ascribed to this doctrine, but like all things religious, not everyone believed the same things (the Pharisees believed in resurrection/reincarnation while the Sadducees did not).

  • Ocelot Aardvark

    Well said. First century Christians did not have the Gospels of Jesus Christ in print. They weren’t even written yet.
    If the Book is all any of us needed to “know Jesus” or to be saved … then I guess I’m lucky to know how to read.

    Thanks for your comment … well said.

  • Robert Conner
  • Everett Kier Jr

    so how do you validate your experience without the interpretation given in revelation….Calvin said it well when he talked about Scripture being our spectacles to view the world. I’ll take the written word over the experience based cause 7 billion ‘gods’ is untenable for me.

  • Lynn

    I believe we see Jesus in those in need and feel Jesus when we help or when we are helped. The Bible should be continued because it is the stories of people’s and person’s relationship with God and that has not stopped.

  • Lynn

    I think reincarnation is granted on a case by case basis and we are to live our lives as if it does not exist, God’s business not ours.

  • This article was without a doubt one of the most poorly written/worded collection of words I have read in a long time. I had to read it a number of times trying to figure out what was the point of the author. My first clue should have been the improperly worded title; the point should have/could have been simply stated “Was the Resurrection Necessary” the word “Unnecessary” was an improper term only adding confusion to an already confusing conglomeration of words. BOTTOM LINE is that YES the Resurrection of Jesus WAS NECESSARY. It was God’s confirmation that He endorsed the ultimate sacrifice of His Son as full payment for the sin debt of mankind. This endorsement was validated when God and brought to life a human body that was declared dead thereby indicating that animal sacrifices were no longer necessary for Atonement of man’s sins. The Resurrection of Jesus was a BEAUTIFUL GIFT from our Creator God as He provided the sacrifice. Some readers of my response might be upset with the ALL CAPS words I wrote, but this was done to specifically highlight the key thoughts of my response. I notice that the author did not give one single scripture reference in his presentation thereby leaving the validity of his perspective resting solely on the words of man. I close my comments with the blessed promise/gift of God as recorded in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is a gift from God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” and the most important scripture for this discussion, the very definition of Faith as found in Hebrews 11:1 “Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things unseen.” Romans 1:20 also gives a very descriptive proof of God’s presence in our world; “His invisible attributes and eternal power are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, ever since the creation of the world, so that they are without excuse.” This is the reason why it is not uncommon to find in the deepest jungles and tribes a common theme of totem poles worshiping unknown gods; mankind in his heart of hearts knows there is a greater force than himself making this world operate on a daily basis. YES the resurrection of Jesus WAS NECESSARY; just as giving your life, your all to Jesus as LORD of your life is necessary for salvation; for eternal life.

  • There is no separation between consciousness, soul and spirit because they are everywhere enlightening our awareness of Christ consciousness instantaneously. Our mind is a door that can open so consciousness or the spirit flows through us, but close the door with words and theories and the flow stops because we identify with what is in our mind. We play with what is in our mind, but it limits us with the filters of our identity because it can’t understand the spirit flowing through the entrance. The spirit has no limits, but our mind limits it with words.

  • Cynthia Brown Christ

    What if Jesus didn’t die at the end. What if he somehow got away and He said: God told met that He did not endorsed the murder and ultimate sacrifice of His Son as full payment for the sin debt of mankind. God then told me (Jesus) that endorsement was validated when God and kept living the life a human body that was going to get murdered and declared dead thereby indicating that animal sacrifices were no longer necessary for Atonement of man’s sins.

    Wouldn’t ABSOLUTELY nothing different about Christ would result in such thinking. We might think higher about God, if he didn’t continue this ONE LAST TIME to be about murder, for atonement and/or salvation.

  • billwald

    Reincarnation e.g. Hindu theology and resurrection are not the same thing. I think Hindu reincarnation would be a curse, not a blessing.

  • billwald

    Long story decades ago I made a promise to God and got an answer from God. Later, I wondered if the answer had been from Satan. Anyway, it was the last time I made (tried to make) a deal with God. So far, have “been living happily ever after.”

  • Damian Matthew Hall

    Great piece Keith, I discovered Jesus through the Urantia Book…and I have to say I have yet to find a book quite like it…my relationship with Jesus is personal, and the rubber hits the road on the inside, and I pray that we all can become a reflection of his spirit in our daily living experience. Thanks again.

  • Nanaverm

    Confirm your experience and feeling with the written Word.

  • David Garshaw

    What are Robert Connor’s bona fides?

  • Neil Brown

    Not merely through information or “knowledge” but by intimate and direct contact with the Divine.

    I don’t see the distinction that you see. I find that knowledge and/or information can be deeply intimate. It can change me in ways that little else can. I believe that God has changed me substantially over the years that I have known him, and this is (almost?) exclusively through a growing understanding of him and my connection with him. He is the truth, and that truth is setting me free.

  • disqus_lR4ltlb4Lz wrote

  • Summers-lad

    I found the post very clear on the first reading. Having read your reply I am wondering if you have yet read the post. He DOES have a Scripture reference (Ephesians 3) and he quotes John 17:3 (although without giving the reference).
    I think Keith’s purpose in writing is firstly to argue that according to a particular point of view, which he does not share, the resurrection is logically unnecessary. (This could be disputed – for example, if Jesus was not raised, there would be no Christian theology or doctrine to discuss – but I think I am fairly reflecting what he wrote.) From this he then argues that we should seek a relationship with the living Christ, which implies that the resurrection IS necessary (as otherwise this relationship would be impossible).
    I hope this helps you.

  • The fact that you had dig into the original message to uncover scriptural inferences only reinforces my original statement: “this is one of the most poorly written/worded collection of words”

  • Personally I prefer to not question the judgment of God. I think it better to accept the form of salvation that He provided. Using the “what if…” paradigm is of no value whatsoever.

    However the discussion does bring to mind the life mantra I developed from my own crash and burn life episode: “God’s enemy cannot create, he can only corrupt. And he can only corrupt what God creates.”

  • You state: “There is no separation between consciousness, soul and spirit…” But, you neglected to cite a scriptural reference for your statement which means that it is simply a collection of words from man. I prefer to follow and rest in the Word of God.

  • Summers-lad

    I didn’t have to dig into it. I read it.

  • OK, another validation of wasted time on the internet; So far I have not read anything here that justifies my time. Therefore I am led to conclude that the term “Progressive Christian” is neither progressive or Christian. A more appropriate title might be: The Blind leading the Blind. Therefore I’m outta here, thanks for allowing me to swing by.

  • But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.
    Deuteronomy 4:29 | NIV |
    What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
    Matthew 16:26 | NIV |
    Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
    Matthew 22:37 | NIV |
    American Standard Version
    But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.
    Ephesians 1:10
    10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
    1 Corinthians 12:12-13
    12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
    NLT
    He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
    Ephesians 2:18
    For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
    NIV The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
    Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
    1 Corinthians 6:17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

  • Interesting. I had never thought to use resurrection and reincarnation in the same sentence. Not exactly synonymous, but both reflect the subconscious knowledge that life continues after death in some way. Reincarnation is, as I understand it, a rebirth as something other than what one was at time of previous death. Resurrection is simply passing from this age into the next age (aeon), retaining one’s individual identity but receiving immortality. For the Jews, and Jesus, the coming age, following resurrection, was quite earthly, nothing like the “die and go to heaven” stuff made popular in evangelical-speak.
    There is an aspect of eastern thinking concerning enlightenment/purification that is present in scripture that is skipped over by premillennial/dispensational thought in favor of a “altar-call” mentality. Scriptures that strongly suggest “ALL” will eventually be “saved,” (reach enlightenment) are disregarded and scriptures that figuratively speak of the “wrath of God” and fire (pur- from which we get the word purify) are seen literally as torment by evangelicals, ignore the early church teaching (and what Jesus was implying), that all go through a purification process and eventually all will declare Jesus Lord. The Catholic Church touched on this with their teaching on purgatory and levels of hell (hell is not Biblical btw). While reincarnation attempts to deal with the purification process by repeated lives until purity/consciousness is reached.
    At any rate, some sort of purification process, whether in this life or the next, seems to inevitable.

  • Paul

    I wonder if it is even possible to discern what the ancient Jews, Pharisees (who believed in “resurrection”) and the Sadducees (who did not believe in “resurrection”) would think King James’ translators meant in their translation of the Greek word. Some people today think the body they possess now will be the body they inhabit in the age to come, while others do not. There’s also great diversity of opinion whether the next age will be the last, or simply one of many more to come. It seems apparent that a lot of people in the first century believed the essence of a person moved from one bodily form in one life to a different body in another life, whether they thought it would be the same body or a different body. King David was expected to return, Elijah had already returned as John the Baptist according to Jesus, and the blind man in John 9 had not sinned in a previous life that caused him to be born [again] blind. The fact that people who had worked closely with Jesus for three years did not recognize him suggests to me that reincarnation of the spirit’s essence into a new body, i.e., Eastern thinking, may be worth pondering.

  • Ed Senter

    Hebrews 11:1 is not a definition because that could just as well mean ‘wishful thinking’. (Critics love to bash Christians for that.)
    The best definition of faith that I have encountered is: Faith is an Action, based upon a Belief, and sustained by Confidence that when God says it, He does it. Pistis is the Greek word which incorporates much more meaning than mere belief. One can believe something yet never act upon it. Faith requires action.
    btw, ‘progressive Christianity’ should be called Christianized Hinduism.

  • Ed Senter

    The problem with “experience” is that it provides no objective criteria to know whether it is genuine. As far as anyone knows, your experience could just as well be from a spirit of the wrong kind. Then, when you start pointing to your experience as proof of salvation or as it was “always intended”, you end up with a world full of spiritual up-manship as the Hindus and their world of untouchables.

  • Obscurely

    Interesting that you had to use scripture (Ephesians 3 and John 17) to justify experience! ;D

  • jekylldoc

    The Spirit gives witness with our spirit. We are (quite plainly!) not meant to submit to objective evidence but to exercise trust in what we find trustworthy. (If God had meant our faith to be about objective evidence, God would have done a much better job of providing some.) If spiritual upmanship is your goal, you will find plenty of Christians ready to help you with that. If, on the other hand, you let the Spirit convict you of the ways you could be more loving, you will end up being more loving. Against such there is no law.

  • Ed Senter

    Maybe this is news to you, I don’t know, but Christianity begins with a fact- the Resurrection. “If Christ be not risen, our faith is vain.”
    This may be further news, but God ain’t done. For objective evidence, there is much more to come.

    If, on the other hand, you believe the “resurrection” is merely symbolic, you live in your own world. Love is not a goal. Love is merely a value judgment.
    I am sorry if you felt abused from the fundamentalists and the other legalists and false prophets, but the answer is not found within. The answer is to better understand the One True God and the progressive revelation of Him provided by the Bible. We live in unique times. The Bible was written for this day.

  • jekylldoc

    Love is a flow of grace.

    We live in unique times? The Bible was written for this day? Well, that’s one way to approach things, but it is certainly not based on objective evidence. Therefore I have to wonder where your hang-up about the matter came from.

  • Here’s another quote I like from Thomas Merton:

    God doesn’t give us graces, talents, virtues for ourselves alone. We are members one of another and everything that is given to one member is given for the whole body. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e6fef61255e98f354980893521644840e41959c163a182b379f0cec3edb005b.jpg

  • jekylldoc

    I have seen the principle Merton explains, developed in further detail. I think it is one of the most important touchstones in theology. The shedding of “uncommunicative” energies is a beautiful complement to it. We come to life with nature’s array of emotions, but God wants us to be skilled in the emotional responses which build up people’s ability to interact peacefully and for mutual nourishment. I admire your use of those frequencies.

  • With regard to seeing those in need or help: sometimes I have experienced the kind of Joy I have never known in any other way when I feel lead by the Holy Spirit to have a conversation with someone or to offer help in any way he shows me I can!! Here is a quote from Thomas Merton I like:

    Do not look for rest in
    any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: you were created for spiritual joy. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure & spiritual
    joy you have not
    yet begun to live.

  • Ed Senter

    Grace?- what, where, how?
    The Resurrection is an objective fact. If you don’t believe that, you might as well discard the entire Bible (which many have and have replaced it with tradition).

  • jekylldoc

    Well, you have some interesting takes on things, but unfortunately I am not up for hearing more about them. Grace – unmerited favor – makes love alive. Mere exchange is not real love.

  • Summers-lad

    I find that reassuring. Experience alone is subjective, and I for one would be very wary of deciding if any experience was from God. Scripture tells us what kind of experiences to seek or expect, and gives us corroboration.
    I have long remembered something I once heard the theologian Tom Smail say: “I like to compare the Bible to a road map and the Holy Spirit to an engine. And if you’ve got a map but no engine you won’t get very far. But if you’ve got an engine but no map I’m not coming with you.”

  • Ed Senter

    You say, “love is a flow of grace” and “grace makes love alive”.
    I get that grace is “unmerited favor”, but what is love? Is it a thing, an emotion, or a concept, or unknown other?
    And, if you are up to it, explain what you mean by “God” because I don’t believe we are on the same page.

  • jekylldoc

    You said “love is merely a value judgment.” But we experience love as a process that takes us out of our petty calculations and “value judgments” into a sense of meaning in life. I asked my Sunday School class yesterday (ages 9 to 12) “what are some things that lead us onward toward good things?” like the star that led the Wise Men. One said “friends” and another said “seeing my baby sister be happy”. And I could feel it – they were smiling to think of these marvels in their life that make life something good and pleasant.

    Don’t worry about whether we are on the same page. We aren’t and we are. Take it that we aren’t, if your suspicions are vital to you. But I can tell you from experience that when you start noticing grace, you soon notice it is the whole river we are floating on, the cosmos in which we live, and move, and have our being.

  • Soooooo mysterious!

  • Ed Senter

    I asked what you meant by “God”. It is evident that what you mean is not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Nor, is it Jesus Christ. And, the “Spirit” of which you speak is not the same of the Trinity.
    I have no problem with any spirit that you wish to worship. Just don’t try and conflate the two. I hope that you have made that clear to your Sunday school class for their sakes.
    You seek happiness. I seek Truth.

  • jekylldoc

    Seeking authority to claim “Truth” is not the same as seeking truth. Good luck on your quest.

  • Ed Senter

    All truth leads to questions only God can answer or to answers that he has already given.
    It makes me wonder how you ever got to teach Sunday School since you have so little to share with a true inquisitor.

  • jekylldoc

    Are you up on Buber’s “I and Thou”? Can you make sense of Kierkegaard? I’m not sure what you mean by “a true inquisitor” but I don’t really have the feeling you are interested in my understandings on the subject. More likely, from your responses, you’d be happy to burn me at the stake if you had the power to.

  • Ed Senter

    What ever gave you the idea that I was some kind of Puritan? I have denounced the trappings of ritual and legalism.
    Are you familiar with Dr. Gene Scott, probably the greatest thinker/philosopher/theologian of the past generation?
    Yes, through the centuries many, like your Buber and Kierkegaard, have searched for meaning to life. Unfortunately, many have succumbed to the deception. Are we free to make our own truths, or is there a God who is the authority for all truth?

    I am a realist. When the tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, it does indeed still make a sound.

  • igor

    Hi KL, wrt resurrection and reincarnation, there are some believers who believe that the resurrection will be physical. But this is not possible – because the original physical body will have decomposed and its atoms/molecules scattered a lot. So any physical body used in this resurrection will be a clone (if it is identical to the original). So if the resurrection is not resurrection of the original body, it is a form of reincarnation. A bit of a stretch maybe, but maybe not inaccurate.

  • igor

    Hi RR, I had thought that when a new believer joined the faith, this was at baptism, at which time the Holy Spirit was involved. So how does Jesus get involved? What biblical reference are you using? rgds..