I’m a big fan of Al’s writings, but this time, I think he’s gone too far: Not All Christians Believe in the Resurrection of Christ?
This time it’s N T Wright that is in his sights. Wright believes in the bodily resurrection of Christ, but that is not his crime. Rather, his crime is that he believes it is possible to be a Christian even if you don’t believe in the bodily resurrection, and he cites Marcus Borg as an example of that.
Let’s be clear. Wright is not saying that it doesn’t matter – far from it. As Mohler quotes, he says of Borg: “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 can you be a Christian and not believe in the resurrection? You can, and scripture makes it clear that you can, for three reasons:
- Firstly, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 15. In Corinth there were people in the church (“some of you say”) who did not believe in the bodily resurrection of believers. Paul says that must mean they do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:12). Paul tells them to sort their beliefs out, he doesn’t tell them they’re not converted.
- Second, Mohler is wrong when he claims that the alternative to a physically resurrected Christ is a dead Christ. I have many friends who have died, and who are not yet bodily resurrected. But they are not dead.
- Mohler quotes Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”. But Mohler goes on to assume that the verse actually says “unless you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will not be saved”. But that’s not what the text says, and to assume it does is going beyond Scripture.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s acceptable not to believe in the resurrection. I’m not saying the gospel makes sense without the doctrine of the resurrection – it doesn’t. I’m simply saying that fallen creatures (even saved ones) sometimes make big mistakes – usually as a result of continued sin. But to try and determine the “irreducible minimum” of the gospel is not a task that the apostles indulged in. They simply wanted to explain as much of the truth that they could – often far beyond the irreducible. Many of us became a Christian without understanding very much at all – then by God’s grace our understanding grew. What mattered to God was whether we had realised that we could never get to heaven through our own efforts, and were therefore willing to throw ourselves upon His mercy, and trust only him for our salvation.
So can we recognise Borg as a Christian teacher? Certainly not – his teaching is clearly contrary to scripture in foundational areas. Can we recognise him as a Christian? It’s doubtful, but not impossible. If he is a Christian, then he is a very weak one. But if that’s the case, then he won’t be the only person with weak faith who is praising Christ on the Last Day.