A Wrestling Match Over the Resurrection

Chris Gehrz thinks a belief in the resurrection will produce activist evangelicals (maybe even social justice types):

What would happen if evangelicals let the reality of the resurrection penetrate into our hearts and give us the vitality and power of Christ’s victory over death?

First, it would cause us to value life all the more. Yet many “pro-life” evangelicals seem to care little when their preferred presidential administration closes this country to those seeking refuge from war and gang violence. Or when it ignores the deaths of thousands of Americans in Puerto Rico. Or when it leaves unaddressed (or worsens) problems with health care, drug abuse, poverty, and climate change that threaten the lives of millions.

Second, a living orthodoxy of resurrection would leave us evangelicals more hopeful and less fearful. Instead, as I observed in our book, “The same people who argue most strenuously for the historicity of the resurrection can seem the least likely to live as if Jesus Christ has actually conquered the grave.”

The resurrection as the basis for social policy and legislation — I have not seen that one before. But Gehrz thinks this corresponds with what Paul says in 1 Cor 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

That is not the way I typically think about the resurrection, especially after what Paul writes just before that verse:

… flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Instead of turning Christians into transformationalistizationers of culture, the reality of death and the hope of the resurrection would seem to teach believers that this world is inconsequential to the world to come, that as Paul writes elsewhere, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” We may not labor in vain. But we die and we receive glory, and that puts the affairs of this life in a different perspective, as it seemed to for Paul:

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4)

Gerhz even seems to agree with this when he writes, “a lived belief in literal resurrection should lessen our fear of both literal and metaphorical death.” If true, then it would less our fears of inequality and injustice since Christians will have a life to come.

But by trying to appropriate the resurrection for social justice, Gehrz seems to be guilty of what Paul warned against:

20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Christian teaching on salvation transcends the politics and economics, which likely explains why Paul had so little to say about the social injustice of the Roman Empire. Christianity is an otherworldly faith because Christians await the resurrection of the dead when Christ returns.

Does this mean Christians should eschew politics of only vote for Republicans? Probably not on politics, it’s a free church when it comes to the ballot box. Which is to say that Christians have all sorts of material for sorting out the social and political problems that come with a fallen world.

We don’t need to baptize them in the miracles of redemption.

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5 thoughts on “A Wrestling Match Over the Resurrection

  1. I was just reading in Isaiah, and towards the end I read, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. – Isaiah 65:17

    That sure sounds to me like the stuff of this world just doesn’t matter. The beauty of a Monet, brilliance of Einstein, and clever prose of Menken will all be forgotten forever. They may make this side of glory more tolerable, but I don’t see that they are of any eternal significance.

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  2. If Mr. Gehrz has really been transformed by the resurrection, why doesn’t he travel to Central America and demand that those gang members cease and desist? Does he really believe that “refugees” would rather be here than safe and sound in their own country? I hope not but I doubt he’s ever thought much about that.

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  3. DGHart says we may not labor in vain. But we die and we receive glory, and that puts the affairs of this life in a different perspective

    amen

    1 Samuel 12:20 Samuel said to the people, “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. 21 You must not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile.

    Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

    John 16: 33 These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”

    1 John 4: 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.

    Revelation 2:7,11,17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes…..,

    Revelation 21:6 Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. 7 He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.

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  4. if only DGH had married Lutheran

    https://pietistschoolman.com/2018/09/11/why-my-family-is-changing-churches-and-denominations/

    We know that being Reformed means our children are Reformed, but does it also mean that the Reformed are concerned that children of Baptists are not being told the good news of their having been born Christian?

    All the Reformed are not baptists, but what’s to keep some of the Reformed from being Lutherans? For the sake of argument, lump all Lutherans But if your children are homosexuals, then the antinomian Lutherans are not exactly the same as the “eternal natural law” Lutherans.

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  5. We know that being *Christian* means that we may make the default assumption that our children are elect, with the understanding that the default is not guarantee (Esau). Hence, our children are “holy”, as Paul says.

    That’s true whether we believe it (Reformed) or not (Baptist). The Baptist believes that his children are no different from any other unbeliever still has holy children.

    What’s to keep Reformed folk from being Lutheran? Predestination. Consubstantiation. Regulative principle.

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