January 22, 2015
This is the seventh of a planned twelve part series on the twelve Points for Christian Reform by John Spong.
- These “Twelve Points for Reform” come from John Spong’s book A New Christianity for a New World:
- The rebuttal of his points comes from Stephanie D. Monk – An Examination of the Theology of Bishop John Shelby Spong.
- I am responding to the twelve points for reform proposed by Mr. Spong, and their rebuttal by Ms. Monk.
Spong – Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
Monk – Response to Thesis 7: Resurrection
In order to address Spong‟s rejection of the resurrection, what the Bible actually says must be established. In almost seven hundred pages of detailed exegesis, Wright marshals an immense amount of evidence that the Bible clearly states that Jesus was bodily raised from the dead.As Wright concludes,
The historical datum now before us is a widely held, consistently shaped and highly influential belief: that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead. This belief was held by virtually all the early Christians for whom we have evidence. It was at the center of their characteristic praxis, narrative, symbol and belief; it was the basis of their recognition of Jesus as Messiah and lord, their insistence that the creator god had inaugurated the long awaited new age, and above all their hope for their own future bodily resurrection.
Having established that the Bible does indeed teach Jesus‟ bodily resurrection, the next question is whether there is any reason to doubt the eyewitness‟ account in the Gospels. Warfield masterfully addresses just that question:
1. There was no expectation of a resurrection, and hence no ground for visions….
2. There was no time for belief in the Resurrection to mythically grow….
3. These five hundred are too many visionaries to create….
What might be plausibly urged of Paul of Mary loses all plausibility when urged of all their contemporaries. And thus we cannot but conclude that all attempts to explain the belief of the early followers of Christ in his resurrection as a delusion, utterly fail. If it was not founded on fraud or delusion, then, was it not on fact? There seems no other alternative: eyewitnesses in abundance witness to the fact; if they were neither deceivers nor deceived, then Christ did rise from the dead.
With the resurrection firmly established as a historical fact, Spong no longer has any basis for claiming either that God cannot act inside the world or that Christ was not who He said.
Sly – Not so fast…
“Wright always adopts the stance as of a career historian in the field of ancient history, as if approaching the gospel texts as an admiring outsider. In fact, he is a bishop of the Church of England celebrated there for his reactionary theological opinions. He has expressed these opinions in a number of books which seek to rehabilitate pre-critical views of the Bible by a sophistical appeal to recent scholarly research.”
“The most striking of these blustering evasions has to do with the dying-and-rising redeemer cults that permeated the environment of early Christianity and had for many, many centuries. Ezekiel 8:14 bemoans the ancient Jerusalemite women’s lamentation for Tammuz, derived from the Dumuzi cult of ancient Mesopotamia. Ugaritic texts make it plain that Baal’s death and resurrection and subsequent enthronement at the side of his Father El went back centuries before Christianity and were widespread in Israel. Pyramid texts tell us that Osiris’ devotees expected to share in his resurrection. Marduk, too, rose from the dead. And then there is the Phrygian Attis, the Syrian Adonis.”
I will grant you that the Bible says Jesus rose from the dead. And I will grant you that the Bible agrees that the Bible is right. I will not grant you that it is an historical document, and that it was not written by men who, at the least, had a clear bias, and at the most, were fiction writers with an agenda, and not, as Warfield claims –
Warfield was a central figure in responding to this line of thinking by arguing that the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit did not lead to a form of “mechanical” inspiration (whereby the human authors merely wrote down what God dictated to them, similar to the story of the Qur’an’s inspiration) but one in which the human author’s intellect was fully able to express itself linguistically, while at the same time being supervised by the Holy Spirit to ensure its inspiration. This approach is essential to understanding the view of inspiration held by many Reformed and Evangelical Christians today.
The truth is that you all want to believe that Jesus was the son of God so badly that you will accept, with NO evidence except stories in an old book, that a man was born by virgin birth, that he performed miracles, and that he rose from the dead, and then the Holy Spirit supervised the writing of the storybook. What is this desperate need within you that Jesus MUST be the son of God? How can you not suspect that this hunger for the promised immortality is driven by your fear of your mortality? Are you so terrified of death that you will believe ANYTHING that offers a way out?
You keep talking about salvation. Jesus as a heroic example of love and courage is your salvation. The grateful loving heart is the path to freedom from your fears, not embracing a fantasy to hide from reality. When you turned Jesus into a God you turned him into nothing more than a pile of sand you can thrust your head into in order to escape your fears.
I think Jesus would be weeping that he has become the trap that he died trying to free you from.
Next up – Point #8: Ascension