Last Sunday, in this column I wrote, “One cannot be a Christian without accepting the physical Resurrection of Jesus from the grave.” I am surprised by the correspondence from people who disagree and believe this is just one person’s opinion.
Concurrently, Nick Kristof, an opinion writer at The New York Times, produced another in an ongoing series of interviews he conducts with theologians about Christianity. Kristof interviewed Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary. Jones calls herself a Christian but says belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus is not necessary to be a Christian.
In fact, Jones says, “For Christians for whom the physical resurrection becomes a sort of obsession, that seems to me to be a pretty wobbly faith. What if tomorrow someone found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie? No, faith is stronger than that.”
The problem here is that Christianity would be a lie if Jesus had not been physical raised from the dead. It is in Scripture itself. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” For those who think Paul corrupted Christianity, the Apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:16 gives Paul’s epistles the same authority as other Scripture, including the Old Testament.
The 21st century is overrun with people who think that unless they experience something themselves or have first hand knowledge of a fact, there is no truth, just opinion. This is deeply destructive. I have never been to space, but I assure you the world is round. If you think the physical resurrection of Jesus being a necessary part of Christian faith is just one person’s opinion, it is time to stop thinking flat-earthers are wrong.
With the same logic as those who reject the physical resurrection of Jesus but call themselves Christians, men who love women can call themselves lesbians and those who love to eat meat can call themselves vegetarians. After all, facts no longer matter and everything is opinion. Except that is not true. Thinking a person can be a Christian while rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is akin to anti-vaccine advocates believing vaccines cause autism. Just because there are supposed experts who make the claim does not make them credible.
We have 2,000 years of Christian history. We have the words of Holy Scripture itself. We have the writings of men who studied under the Apostles who followed Jesus. We have the writings of the people those men taught. We have three major branches of Christianity in the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches with denominations in the latter abounding. Every single one of them are worshiping this very day with an unbroken 2,000-year-old belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the height of white, Western arrogance to think one can be a Christian while rejecting settled, shared 2,000-year-old orthodoxy that has tied together a bunch of Christians who agree on nothing except that very fact. If one can be a Christian while rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, one can also eat a steak tonight and rest well knowing he and his fellow vegetarians tend to live long lives.
Erick Erickson is host of Atlanta’s Evening News on WSB Radio.