Al Mohler goes further than scripture?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.


  1. che

  2. Spent ages writing a response. Said much more than ‘che’ Maybe you are right and it is divine intervention! No idea how to get it back.

  3. Hello Mark. I am going to try again. I shall be as short as I can. I wasn’t avoiding your question but to write down what you believe and why you believe it in a few words is very difficult. Always supposing that it is even possible. Language is not omni-competent. We ‘know’ more than we can say. We have knowledge which is not capable of verbalisation. I believe it is a way of ‘knowing’ which is brought through the ‘Arts’. It is a unique form of knowledge. This is a big claim and I am aware that here it is simply an assertion. You must take it on trust that the argument and literature which would validate it exist. (among others, L A Reid, Michael Polanyi, Iris Murdoch – ‘Metaphysics as a Guide to Reality’, rather than novels.) Can we really think without words? I think so. If I am right, words alone can never fully capture reality. This includes scripture. So here goes, I will attempt the impossible. Some years ago, in response to request of Nick Jowett a C.of E. priest my wife wrote down her own creed. What follows is essentially her work, though I think through the years we have sparked each other. Needless to say I endorse what Andree has written.
    1) God is the best explanation of the existence and the magnificence of the universe.
    2) To have faith in God is to trust there is meaning and purpose behind the universe and, therefore, meaning and purpose in all (human) life.
    3) The Judeo-Christian tradition is a deep well of wisdom. Wisdom has and will come from other faiths and from other sources, such as archeology, science and especially the arts.
    4) The existence of a variety of other faiths and religions and indeed conflicts witin the Bible and Christian tradition remind us that we are far from apprehending fully the nature of God.
    5) The story of Jesus draws us to a God that is Love, who works with us to defeat that which is not Love.
    6) God is affected by all that happens in the Cosmos. Suffering and evil must therefore be either the inevitable consequence of free-process in the Cosmos or part of some purpose beyond our comprehension.
    7) We follow Jesus in believing ultimately, God’s purpose will be fulfilled and that all will be well.
    Now that is about it. The fun really starts when I try to flesh this out. The problem with religions is that they define themselves against other religions (your blog on charismatics even does this!) Maybe it is inevitable. The fleshing out is the fun part though. That’s when the wrestling match begins, as Chesterton has it;-
    And his faith grew in a hard ground
    Of doubt and reason falsehood found
    Where no faith else would grow.

  4. @wigrd: Thanks for doing your best to be clear about your ‘creed’. What is interesting from my perspective is what I would see as the inherent subjectivity within. There is no reference to a source of these beliefs, and one is left to assume that you either believe the truths to be self-evident, or you have sourced these believes internally. One of the criticisms you have levelled at evangelicals (if I may paraphrase somewhat) is an arrogance that suggests only our view is correct, and an irrationality. Yet at least we attempt to base our beliefs on something that is external, and not on something internal. I would suggest that writing your “own creed” is even more individualistic than attempting to work our a universal creed from God’s self-revelation.

    One final note. There is obviously much that I would want to add to your creed. But as you mention Chesterton, can I remind you of his most famous letter to the Times? You probably know the story. He was asked to write an essay entitled “What’s wrong with the world?”. He replied simply:

    Dear Sir,

    I am.

    Sincerely Yours,
    G. K. Chesterton

    That simple but self-evident truth is at the heart of the evangelical’s creed, but entirely lacking from your own. I guess in some people’s minds that might make evangelicals less arrogant and less irrational that you might give credit for.

  5. You even take Chesterton literally! Can’t you see there might just be a little more to it than that. Surely it would be in character for his response to be a little bit enigmatic wouldn’t it? After all he is in that same Romantic tradition in which we see nearly all the Romantic and Modern poets and writers making similar observations. Wordsworth comes readily to mind with ‘The world is too much with us…’ and Keats actually thinks it might even be better to ‘cease upon the midnight’. What about Goethe’s ‘Werter’? Browning’s ‘Saul’? (although about the ‘sin’ of depression’- irony!) I find all these essentially intensely and heart-achingly religious. Developments through Dostoyevsky, Neitzsche, Marx and Sartre put us firmly into the nihilism and existentialism which sees at least three 20C novels published actually called ‘The Outsider’. The Relativism of the post-modern is a direct progression. I have tried to collapse into one little paragraph what takes up 10 yards of shelf space in Heffers; so try to take the general sense rather than point out that Browning professed atheism, or that Neitzsche went mad because Adam sinned. Please tell me. Were all these people mad? were they simply wrong? or were they in good ‘ole fashioned evangelical language ‘in error’. ( It isn’t him again is it; the one with the tail,?) We haven’t yet touched the matter of natural evil. Far more difficult to lay at Adam’s door.

  6. Mark. Do you think the poet is in error? Would love to know what you think.

    There’s a certain slant of light,
    On winter afternoons,
    That oppresses, like the heft
    Of cathedral tunes.

    Heavenly hurt it gives us;
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference
    Where the meanings are.

    None may teach it – anything,
    ‘T is the seal, despair,-
    An imperial infliction
    Sent us of the air.

    When it comes, the landscape listens,
    Shadows hold their breath;
    When it goes, ‘t is like the distance
    On the look of death.

  7. @wigrd: Come, come. You’re missing the point about Chesterton. Whatever else he means, he means that the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. My observation was that this sentiment is entirely lacking from your creed. Where does the problem of the human condition fit in with your creed? Or do you not accept there is a problem at all?

    As for Emily Dickinson, it would perhaps be unwise to debate the meaning of an enigmatic poem, when we’ve yet to agree on Chesterton’s use of two of the shortest words in the English language.

  8. I Thought I might be!

    You do love simplistic explanations don’t you? What do I think about the human condition? You really are joking aren’t you? Is ‘fallen’ or ‘not fallen’ enough for you?

    I’m not in the slightest bit interested in debating Emily Dickinsons poetry with you. I am interested in what you think about it.

    Still waiting for answers to a lot of other questions I asked and you have so far ignored.

  9. @wigrd: I’m not ignoring your questions, I’m trying to deal with them in turn. In my view, unless we’ve understood each other at foundational level there’s not use exploring further. We’ll just continue to misunderstand one another.

    Your ‘creed’ (and mine) is clearly at the foundational level, so I’m trying to restrict discussion to that. My observation (that the problem of the human condition is entirely lacking from your creed) still remains. And my question (where does the problem of the human condition fit in with your creed?) still remains unanswered.

    I am not suggesting the answer to that question is an easy one. But I am saying that unless I understand at least something of your answer to that question, I’m not sure we can progress much further.

  10. I don’t think we can progress at all! That isn’t the point. As long as you are imprisoned in the fundamentalist metaphor, progress is impossible. Simply trotting out the flip side of nihilism should get rather boring even for you. It’s a bit like Bertrand Russell and the taxi driver and really I suppose I should follow his example.
    I think ‘simplistic’ is the word you are looking for. ‘Foundational’ sounds grander and maybe that’s why you chose it but let me try and tell you why I think I your question simplistic.

    You were the one who mentioned Kant. I did say at the time you appeared not to know anything about him. This latest request to define the human condition so that we can get to the real debate, confirms my suspicion. What on Earth do you think Kant was on about? The whole of modern philosophy since Decartes has wrestled with this. This IS the debate. Wasn’t Hume doing his considerable best to cast light on this?

    I think it was in reponse to a newspaper question (not The Times!) approx ‘Was ist Aufklarung? that Kant made the famous quote. I was along the lines of Enlightenment being an escape from an immaturity and thus enabling us to make use of our intelligence without another’s direction. (put that in your sermon!) ‘Sapere aude!’ was Kant’s motto. You can look up the accurate quote. I think I’ve got the substance right. (Or have I!!)

    I send you a fine piece of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and then you ask me if I am aware of the importance of the ‘Human Condition’ You REALLY make no connection? Never mind Kant and Hume. What do you think Emily is on about? Though I do agree she is far ‘deeper’ than either Kant or Hume.

    You do seem to want on the one hand to have the Dougal-like simplicity of ‘Father Ted’ and on the other to want to scour Bible meticulously for texts to bolster the minute details of incnsequentials. So much so, that whilst reading through the debate (used loosely!) on ‘Charismatics’ and ‘sin and depression’ I was frequently reminded of Terry Eagleton’s tale of the doctoral thesis entitled ‘Some aspects of the Vaginal System of the Flea’. Not you would think recommended for people with poor eyesight, but as Eagleton points out the title leaves room for further study!

    You say you will get round to my questions. I hope you at least try to answer them for yourself. Meantime what about these?

    1) Did Joshua stop the sun? What about the trumpet and the non-existent walls?
    2) Did Jonah live in a big fish?
    3) Was it EVER God’s will that women should be stoned to death?
    4) Was the genocide (holocaust) of Canaan part of God’s plan?
    5) Did Noah really build an Ark? Did he really take in all the animals? Did whales not count? (not land animals?)
    6) Did the Numbers donkey really talk?
    7) Is metaphorical language more powerful than literal language?
    8) Is Darwin essentially correct?
    9) If he is how can you hold to the doctrine of The Fall? Might it have to be a fall upwards?
    10) Why did the Roman Catholic Church find it necessary to confirm the doctrine of ‘The Immaculate Conception’ in the 19thC? Any observations on this? (I know it isn’t Biblical)

    Sraight answers please.