At the very core of the Christian truth claims is the belief that Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again in order to deal with our sin and reconcile us to God. With no resurrection Jesus was merely a good teacher, but not the unique son of God.
Atheists of course reject this belief. So do Muslims. Many enemies of Christianity deny the resurrection of Christ. But when a “Christian” minister boldly proclaims that Jesus did not rise from the dead, then we have a real problem indeed.
The Bible refers to those who would deny the central tenets of the faith. Apostasy is one term used to describe those who once affirmed the faith, but now deny it. We have a very good example of this in today’s Herald Sun. Three leading Melbourne church leaders were asked to reflect on Easter and the challenges of our day.
Two of the leaders – from the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church – gave pretty basic, and orthodox replies. While mentioning the challenges of the economic crisis, AIDS and the like, they both referred to the core of Christian beliefs – the death and resurrection of Jesus.
However, our third respondent, Dr Francis Macnab, minister of St Michael’s Uniting Church, gave quite a different spin on things. After also going through some social issues of the day, he ended his piece with these words:
“Tomorrow, at St Michael’s, the story will be one of violence and its degradation of the human spirit and of our humanity. We will ask the question: ‘Can we find a better way?’ On Easter Sunday, we will note there was no physical resurrection. St Paul, the earliest of the Christian writers, gave focus to a spiritual resurrection. Centuries later, psychologists and psychoanalysts do not use such a term even though, in the ultimate sense, it is a major objective of their clinical endeavours. Perhaps it means an awakening to the best in the human spirit: how to release its vitality (again) and how it can flourish – like a resurrection of the whole personality. It takes faith for that to happen – a different kind of faith – even a New Faith.”
Two things to note here: Dr Macnab not only denies the very heart of Christianity, but he chooses to use Easter as his occasion for doing so. Of course Macnab has been pushing heretical views for years now. Indeed, I have discussed his “New Faith” elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/09/16/the-bitter-fruit-of-apostasy/
The gall of this man – to use Easter to push his unbelief and apostasy. Unfortunately the Uniting Church of Australia does not even directly mention the bodily resurrection of Jesus in its statement of faith. So Macnab is quite happy to totally reject the doctrine, and instead give us this liberal mumbo jumbo about an awakening of the human spirit and other nonsense.
The New Testament everywhere affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Indeed, Paul says that if this event did not take place, our faith is rubbish, and we might as well take up a new day job. As he says in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19:
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”
It was the empty tomb, and the absence of a body, that energised the early church and propelled it into global evangelisation. If the resurrection had not occurred, and the body had been found, there would be no Christian church. There certainly would be no Easter celebrations.
But our liberal theologians and apostate pastors are happy to stay in the church and spew forth their poison. Jesus of course warned that this would happen: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matt 7:15). And again, “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matt 24:4-5).
Paul also gave similar warnings: “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron” (1 Tim 4:1-3).
Peter likewise sounds the alarm: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:1-2).
It may be understandable that a secular newspaper would run with an apostate like this. But believers should know better. This is just one more example of those who deny the very centre of the faith, but do so with rave reviews from the world and even some believers.
All the more reason for the true church to redouble its efforts to remain faithful to Christ, to reaffirm sound doctrine, and re-establish church discipline. What we have coming from the lips of Macnab makes a mockery of the Christian faith. It is a tragedy, but we can’t say that we have not been warned.