The Resurrection is a mandatory Christian Belief!

In thinking about some of the popular, liberal views about Christian beliefs (triggered by the John Spong post, below), I posed myself the question: ‘How should you relate to people who call themselves Christians yet don’t believe what Jesus taught?’

Here’s some of what Paul has to say about the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12-20 NIV): “But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For, if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

Another relevant area to look at, is Romans 10:8-10; ” … ‘The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart’, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Of course there are many reference in the Gospels, but Spong discounts most of those, because they are references made by Jesus, about himself. So. I’ve focused on Paul who was not with Jesus during his ministry and did not spend a lot of time with the other apostles in Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection; yet he too has a clear understanding of the importance of the resurrection – if it did not happen, we are to be pitied more than all men. It’s interesting that Spong actually believes that a type of ‘resurrection’ occurred where the man Jesus somehow broke the death/life barrier by some undefinable action by God. This belief is based more on Paul’s account (because it was written before the Gospels) and also the change that occurred to the disciples and others, after ‘whatever type of resurrection happened’.  It is misinformation on Spong’s part, when he says that he believes in THE resurrection, (my emphasis – referring to the traditional view held by many theologians for over 1800 years) – clearly, by Spong’s own words – what he believes is different in two important areas – the who and the why. The other interesting aspect is that as he is a contributor to the Jesus Seminar – surely accepting any aspect of the resurrection is breaking their own guidelines regarding the supernatural. Yet, that’s their difficulty – there is always going to an area where they need to contradict themselves in order to maintain their position – that’s the nature of falsehoods!

In summary, I’ll stand upon my bit of rock and say: ‘If you don’t believe in the resurrection of Jesus, our Lord and God –  as traditionally understood, you are not a Christian!’ Is there a counter-argument to this statement?

[I’ll continue adding to this post – in an attempt to explore answers to my initial question.]

Which god do you serve?

I like this article taken from last week’s Weekly Bulletin, prepared for Graham’s parish. It’s a useful article to read in association with my ‘viewpoint’ piece on John Spong.

 “The question of which god we serve is the most critical question of our lives. Today many people are attracted to what they call “non-theism” – in other words they seek to live their lives without reference to any god at all. Such people do not see the need or the importance of finding any power or being beyond the physical world in which we live.

Yet the reality is that there is always someone or something that we serve and give priority to in our lives. It may be our homes or families, our careers, our leisure, our community involvement, even our own comfort and pleasure. Our gods take many forms, even if we may not call them gods. Sometimes we are like polytheists, trying to keep each god in its proper place.

When we read the Bible, we discover that the Lord, the God of Israel, claims total and exclusive allegiance from his people. Indeed the God’s message to Cyrus, the King of Persia, was this: I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45.5) This is the true that enabled Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to stand up to the demands of King Nebuchadnezzar, that they bow before the golden image that he had set up. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand” (Daniel 3.17)

Human rulers in their arrogance at times go beyond the boundaries of their power and authority. When they do so they ought to be challenged and opposed. But even if they are not challenged, it is important for us to realise that God himself will bring them down in his time, as he did with Nebuchadnezzar. No human rule which opposes God, will survive for very long.”

Rev Graham Fairbairn, 18 August 2007 (www.culburraanglican.org.au)

The Anglican Primate and John Spong

John Shelby Spong retired as Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey, in February 2000. John Spong is the author of several bestselling books, including Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, Born of a Woman, Living in Sin, and Resurrection: Myth or Reality. He is a Fellow of the Westar Institute which is a member-supported, non-profit research and educational institute dedicated to the advancement of a narrow form of religious literacy. Their major works come under the heading – Jesus Seminar. The methodology employed, a historical centric approach which excludes anything remotely supernatural, including any references made by Jesus about himself, together with a number of other criteria. This approach leaves about 20% of the four Gospels intact, the remaining material reads like a handbook for Zen Buddhism. Yet, they as a group like a bit more of the Gospel of Thomas – which is understandable.

I think the major area of difficulty with Spong’s work is the denial of Jesus’ resurrection; as it fails one of the main criteria of the Jesus Seminar group – miracles are not interlectually acceptable!

There are a lot of questions I would like to explore about their justification for such a methodology – it leaves almost every study of ancient history, in any field of human endeavour, with nowhere to go but to be consigned to the bin, labelled ‘myths’.

And now John Spong is in Australia promoting his new book, Jesus for the Non-Christians, sorry Non-Religious.

There is an interesting article by Mark Hadley on Spong, to be found on the Sydney Anglican website. In addition, Mark Thompson in the August 2007 edition of the Southern Cross wrote that despite all his ‘grandiose’ claims in the book, “(It) is really little more than the rehash of long-discarded critical theories and doubts which scholars resolved years ago.”

John Spong on Margaret Throsby’s Morning Interview ((20/08/2007), ABC, Classic FM – said a number of interesting things: one is that the traditional view of God, as an old man in the sky, who keeps records of our actions and who occasionally intervenes in human affairs by miraculous means, is fiction. Well, I agree with the overall view that this simplistic representation of God is nonsense . I don’t think many Christians actually hold the sort of view Spong has attributed to the general Christian community. He even tried to make his remarks more acceptable by saying that since Galileo/Newton had demonstrated that Hebrew cosmology had been superseded by a better scientific understanding of what was the ‘sky’ – because of this new knowledge – the supernatural, as represented by miracles should be cast out into the darkness where religious delusions abide.

He sees mankind as being different from animals because of our self-consciousness, awareness of mortality, and a sense that we stand alone. To him, God is an experience, God is love – a life-force which motivates the universe. Love is a power which make us more than we can be, without it. God’s presence is permeated throughout the world, and it is possible to explain God by our experience of him. Man cannot describe God, he is beyond imagination.

John Spong’s god is found in a form of timelessness, the eternal ‘now’; and we can aspire to ‘otherness’, transcendence and holiness. This means that we have the ability to chart our own destiny. On the other hand, the traditional Christian God, Spong sees as being born out of tribalism, a defensive mechanism created by insecure people.

Spong sees Jesus as the quintessential human that did experience the presence of God; people on the Christ ‘path’ can experience God through Jesus. In addition, hoisting his universalistic colours to the mast – he says that God is not a Christian, a Jew, a Hindu or a Moslem – there could be many paths to his description of God. I think he was saying that if God did not exist then because of our desperate needs, I guess referring to our need to know life’s meaning, we would have created the concept of a God.

You can see there is a thin syrupy layer of sweet truth spread over a pile of fine sounding falsehoods. His views (as expressed in the radio interview) are dated and flawed – his basic arguments are shallow and simplistic. Perhaps, his book gives a better presentation of his ideas. No one can be threatened by a life-force of love. Plus, it’s true, the apostle John did say that ‘God is love.’ Yet, it’s clear that Spong has never been able to understand the Gospel message – it’s a complete mystery to him. As the apostle to the gentiles, once expressed: ‘To intellectuals, those who try to rationalise all things including God, find the good news about Jesus to be meaningless.’

John Spong, has no answer for people like me who have had a ‘road to Damascus’ conversion. I feel sorry that John Spong will soon die and he will meet an amazing and divine Jesus who actually is beyond imagination but who can be found throughout all of Scripture.

The following is what prompted me to comment on this story: “The Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, told the Australian it was a mistake for the Australian Anglican Primate to invite Bishop Spong here to promote his book.

Is this true? Surely, the Primate understands that John Spong is NOT a Christian! Anyone listening to his interview with Margaret Throsby this morning, would be able to discern that he is not a Christian. The retired Bishop might have called himself, at some earlier time, a liberal Christian, but there comes a point that you are so far liberal that you have left the ball-park!  Religious definitions can be twisted but if you don’t believe in the resurrection; and, in one very real sense – if you don’t believe Jesus is God, then you are not one of God’s children! I probably should not put in the scriptural references because I’m sure the verses I’m thinking of, are not in Spong’s intellectually accepted version.

Surely, dear Bishop Forsyth has been ill-advised about the Primate’s invitation to John Spong – I could believe that Spong might be sponsored by groups such as the Progressive Christianity Network but the Primate of the Australian Anglican Church – this I can’t believe – because it would call into question his beliefs about Jesus!

What’s your view?

 

New Style for this site

Hi

I’ve changed this site (all the work was actually done by Richard Wright of Midnight Software Solutions) from one based on a Content Management System to a normal WordPress blog style.

The sad part of the change is that those who had links to the old site will find that they now don’t work.

The good feature is that the site will be a lot more active regarding new posts.

It will also be a lot easier for me to manage.

…. but time will tell.

regards

Shayne

The Promise of Christ’s Coming

Advent, is the season, leading up to Christmas, during which we should look forward and prepare, not just for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but also his return at the end of this present age in glory to judge the world and to bring in the age to come. There will always be scoffers who question the return of Christ -“where is this coming he promised?” (2 Peter 3:9) The fact that our world continues to experience the cycle of years and seasons may lead some to indifferences and even scepticism.

Jesus reminded his own disciples when they asked about the timing of his return that his coming would be sudden and unexpected. Yet there are signs which surround us. “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars … nation will rise against nation … there will be famines and earthquakes in various places … these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:6-8).

When we look at the problems such as global warming which the earth is facing we tend to think that convincing everyone to do their bit – conserve water, reduce the use of fossil fuels – will be the means of saving humanity from global catastrophe. That is not enough. If we leave God out of the picture, we will never eliminate the problem of human selfishness and greed which lie at the heart of all of our troubles.

What must we do? We must stand firm in our faith, knowing that it is only our Lord Jesus who will ultimately save us from whatever calamity threatens to destroy us. We must continue to proclaim the gospel of Christ’s kingly rule to the whole world. “Then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)

Rev Graham Fairbairn