Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Belief in the Resurrection of Jesus - a Mark of Genuine Christianity?

N. T. Wright's comment that he regards Marcus Borg as a Christian, although he denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus have been the cause of some controversy. In an interview in The Australian Wright said,

Marcus Borg really does not believe Jesus Christ was bodily raised from the dead. But I know Marcus well: he loves Jesus and believes in him passionately. The philosophical and cultural world he has lived in has made it very, very difficult for him to believe in the bodily resurrection.
I actually think that's a major problem and it affects most of whatever else he does, and I think that it means he has all sorts of flaws as a teacher, but I don't want to say he isn't a Christian. I do think, however, that churches that lose their grip on the bodily resurrection are in deep trouble and that for healthy Christian life individually and corporately, belief in the bodily resurrection is foundational.

I have profited from Wright's work on the resurrection of Christ. But I am not surprised by his comments re Borg. The introduction to The Meaning of Jesus (1999, SPCK) claims that Wright and Borg, "both acknowledge Jesus of Nazareth as Lord". The intro explains that the authors engaged in prayer and took the Lord's Supper together in preparation for writing the book. (p. viii). In the book, Wright ably defends an orthodox view of Jesus' virgin birth, resurrection and divinity and so on. Borg denies each of these essential truths (and more).

Paul clearly taught the Corinthians only maintained their identity as "saved" people if they held fast to the gospel of a resurrected Christ,
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)
To deny the bodily resurrection of Christ is to opt out of Christian salvation. If the Corinthians had finally rejected Paul's teaching on the resurrection of the body, the apostle would have concluded that they "believed in vain". The genuineness of their profession of faith would have been called into question.
Borg is not a muddle-headed new believer like some of the Corinthians. It is no the case that he simply needs some extra teaching to straighten his doctrine out. As a professional Theologian, Borg is aware of what the New Testament says about the resurrection of Christ. But he rejects the Biblical teaching. In denying the bodily resurrection of Christ, Borg is undermining an essential gospel truth. He is a false teacher. The New Testament has some serious things to say about such. Paul wrote,
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9.)
Paul was commissioned to be an apostle and preacher of the gospel, "(not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)" (Galatians 1:1). If Christ did not rise from the dead, there would have been no gospel for Paul to proclaim. According to the New Testament, a Christian by definition believes in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.(Romans 10:9 & 10)
This is Borg's view of the resurrection of Jesus: "Thus, as a Christian, I am very comfortable not knowing whether or not the tomb [of Jesus] was empty. Indeed, the discovery of Jesus’ skeletal remains would not be a problem". By his own admission, Borg does not believe in his heart that God raised Jesus from the dead. How, then can he be saved?
See here, and here for further discussion of Borg's views on the resurrection of Christ.
For full interview in The Australian: here .
Follow discussion of Dan Phillips' post on this subject at Pyromaniacs: here


Eric said...

A man can call himself anything he chooses while sincerely believing he is what he believes. But I find it difficult to understand how anyone can sincerely believe God has saved them from the wrath to come while, in effect, calling God a liar.

God, for all His might, strength, and power, cannot lie. It is in fact impossible for God to lie. If God states in Romans 10:9-10 that we must "believe in [our] heart that God has raised Him from the dead..." How does one "sincerely" get around that?

I've met lots of people-- and I'm sure you have as well --who think we aren't to judge anyone. But Jesus said we would know a tree by its fruit. How are we to abstain from unrighteousness if we aren't allowed to determine-- or judge --what is or is not, unrighteous?

I understand N.T. Wright's reluctance; he likes Mr. Borg, and doesn't want to think of his friend as lost. But Wright's reluctance does his friend the worst possible dis-service. In the end he may very well stand before our Father with his friends blood on his hands... not an enviable position to be in-- to which Cain can undoubtedly attest.

In answer to this posts' title: Yes, belief in the resurrection of Jesus is A mark of genuine Christianity. But that's me... Mr. Borg obviously sees it differently, as does Mr. Wright since he's willing to allow his friend to cling to that tuft of grass without the offer of a helping hand... but then I don't know Mr. Wright. Far be it from me to judge him. Better that I should add him to my prayer list. Mr. Borg as well.

Interesting blog, btw. I praise God that I found it.

We are all living in exile who hold our citizenship in Heaven.


Guy Davies said...

Thanks for your comments, elashley. We should not be judgemental about people. But we must allow the New Testament to define genuine saving faith. Faith that saves is faith in a Jesus who died for our sins and whose body has been raised to glorious new life.


Guy Davies