History's Greatest Event -- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
- Friday, December 01, 2006
"Christ is risen!" has been the church's affirmation through the centuries. You and I are privileged to declare that fact as the basis of our faith.
Obviously, not everyone believes this. There are three basic approaches to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Approach One: The resurrection never happened.
You and I know people who simply deny it. They see the resurrection as absurd. It was a result of pre-enlightenment imagination. Educated people don't believe that dead people rise from the dead. Intelligent people don't believe that God, if there is a God, ever became a man.
Some who deny the resurrection are atheists. They are people committed to the belief that there is no God. All other religion is absurd, except wherein it may have some culturally redeeming aspects.
On the other hand, some who deny the resurrection are quite religious. They simply don't believe the Bible. They have developed a religious faith system that is Unitarian in nature. We do not have the time to become specific as to the various expressions of this thesis. In short, there are well-meaning people who see Jesus as one of the most powerful people to have ever walked the face of this earth. He set a marvelous example. He died a martyr's death. Somewhere buried in the environs of Jerusalem are the two thousand-year-old remains of this person about whom such a fantasy mythology exists. Jesus is a great or the greatest man. That's it. Our lives are in much better shape if we take Him seriously, if we follow Him and live according to His example.
Approach Two: The resurrection happened spiritually.
Persons who hold this approach see in life a resurrection principle. Even as the tulips
and daffodils break out of their bulbs and move to the surface of soil, once frozen solid, and finally peak above the surface, bringing glorious springtime color, even so there is a death and resurrection principle in human life. Jesus died and was buried. However, what He taught lives on.
This is classic Protestant theological liberalism, which emphasizes the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Jesus was the finest expression of humanity. His teachings were so wonderful that, when He died, His example and spirituality is resurrected within us.
This is a more common viewpoint than some of us might realize. Kenneth L. Chafin, a pastor for many years in Texas, tells about one Easter season in which he read a chapter a day from a devotional book written by a minister who was quite prominent approximately one hundred years ago. The book focused on the events of Holy Week. Chafin timed his reading so that he could read the chapter on the crucifixion on Good Friday and the one on the resurrection on Easter Eve. He describes his letdown as he read the last chapter in that book. The author did not believe the resurrection literally took place. He felt that the accounts of the resurrection in the Bible were nothing but faith's expression of what the disciples had wanted to happen.
The author had imagined an Upper Room scene in which they were all lamenting that one who had loved so freely should have died as the object of such hatred, that one whose teaching had such authority should be silenced so young. Then, in the scenario he was imagining, he had one of the disciples jump to his feet and shout, "We will not let Him die. The way He lived, we will live. The things He taught, we will teach. The mission He had will become our mission. We will not let Him die." The plain inference was that the church had created the resurrection.
So-called Christian theologians who take this approach refer to "the resurrection event." By that very phrase, which sounds like they believe it happened, they are declaring that they are not prepared to affirm that He literally rose from the dead. They are demythologizing Scripture. They are doing their best to make this supernatural account palatable to the most enlightened mind. They are declaring a spiritual resurrection principle but denying its historical factuality. When they do that, they are pulling the rug out from under the ". . . the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you. . ." (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
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