Easter, the Resurrection, and Apostasy

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: https://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.


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27 Replies to “Easter, the Resurrection, and Apostasy”

  1. I await with interest any attempt within the Uniting Church to remove Dr. McNab for his heresy. However, I know I will be waiting forever. The Uniting Church Basis of Union is such, and the ethos of the Uniting Church is such that a trial for heresy is unlikely if not impossible. Some of us stayed out of the Uniting Church for this very reason. Dr. McNab proves that our decision was the right one. I challenge members of the Uniting Church to take him on.
    Andrew Campbell

  2. Bill,
    Dr McNab is the prodct of his liberal denomination. The Uniting Church is the problem.
    Stan Fishley

  3. Well said! It is nauseating that people like him call themselves Christians. I respect their right to hold whatever religious views they like, but it is so profoundly dishonest for someone like that to claim name of Christ. He mocks the cross and the blood of the martyrs who died for the faith.
    Neil Simpson

  4. As the Herald-Sun article said: “We asked three church leaders: what are the major challenges facing society today?” Two of the biggest challenges were ignored – abortion and Islamic terrorism – but among the issues nominated were the GFC and of course “climate change”. Why are so many church leaders continuing to worry about phantom problems (e.g. global warming) whilst ignoring the real ones?

    Ewan McDonald.

  5. Thanks, Andrew.
    You say, “The Uniting Church Basis of Union is such, and the ethos of the Uniting Church is such that a trial for heresy is unlikely if not impossible.” The UCA (and many other denominations) are in a bind of their own making: for them it is heresy to charge someone with heresy!

    McNab alleges, “St Paul, the earliest of the Christian writers, gave focus to a spiritual resurrection.” This of course is based on the old liberal canard that Paul in 1 Cor.15 makes no mention of the empty tomb, therefore for him the resurrection was spiritual, i.e. like John Brown’s body – it lies a’mouldring in the grave, but his soul goes marching on. Likewise for Christ.

    But to call this “resurrection” is an entirely modern notion; it has nothing to do with a First Century Jewish outlook. For that matter, Paul mentions both Christ’s burial and “the third day” in 1 Cor.15:4. The resurrection for Paul (1) was a reversal of the burial; and (2) took place at a certain time (and location). This can only be a reference to the well-accepted tradition that when the tomb was visited on the third day it was found to be empty, as Luke (Paul’s travelling companion) records in Luke 24.

    Moreover, it is a nonsense to say “On the third day Christ’s soul survived / marched on, or whatever. The “third day” reference attests an EVENT (i.e. the resurrection), not a continuing state.
    Paul is well aware of the empty tomb!

    But then, I have studied religious liberals for a long time, and I have never known them to argue coherently or with rigorous logic.

    Murray Adamthwaite

  6. Why would seemingly sane men, who had previously reacted in the usual natural manner expected of a person perceiving a threat to their lives by running away and hiding when Jesus was arrested, and later after the Crucifixion hiding together for protection in the room for “fear of the Jews”, now suddenly have the courage to stand upright and boldly go forth to preach the Gospel in the face of certain prosecution, persecution and martyrdom? Surely in their minds the Resurrection was real, a fact and the truth? How many people are prepared to and do suffer death for a lie?
    John FG McMahon

  7. See also The Resurrection and Genesis, which shows that a non-physical resurrection is a contradiction in terms, as well as the fact that the events of Easter are founded on the events of Creation and the Fall in Genesis.
    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  8. There are now less members of the Uniting Church than in its inception in 1974/75. The average age of attendees in the Uniting Church is now 62. It will be gone in 20 years.
    In the meantime false teachers like Francis Macnab make it so hard for those within the UC, who think they can somehow rebuild & survive.
    Phil Manley

  9. I was awake this morning when the dawn was breaking, and reflecting on the 5 ‘trials’ or hearings Jesus faced, the denial of Simon Peter, and the totally voluntary nature of what was done for us. No greater gift that God could give to us than His only Son. I felt utterly small and profoundly grateful that this was done for me, for us. No greater gift…

    …and here we have a so-called ‘Christian leader’ with his manifestly stupid interpretation that doesn’t even fit the basic facts. Dr Francis Macnab doesn’t represent Christianity – it’s some modern fairy tale of his own invention that spits in the face of God and devalues the most important thing ever. I pray that if there is any tiny kernel of true faith in the man, that it awakens and he utterly repents and begs God’s forgiveness – not just for believing such garbage, but for spreading it also. You’re right, Bill – it is poison, and he certainly is a false teacher. But may the sifting continue…

    Meanwhile, I hope everyone on this blog has some time this Easter to consider and thank God for the marvellous thing He has done for us, that we may have the forgiveness of sins and the promise of new and everlasting life through the death and bodily resurrection of Jesus. He did not have to do it. But Praise be to God that He did! How utterly incredible. May the knowledge of this fact and the work of the Spirit continue to affect our lives for whatever time remains. Happy Easter everybody.

    Mark Rabich

  10. Francis Macnab said,

    “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.”

    How right you are Macnab; I could not agree more. This new faith is called materialism, evolutionary humanism and secularism etc. which are believed with a fervour that would make a witch doctor green with envy. This only goes to prove that atheism and secularism are indeed religions, with people like him as their high priests.

    To be consistent does Macnab think that his own death is also merely spiritual and that his body is not really physically dead? He must believe that it is all an illusion, that it is merely the way we see things. Indeed one only has attend a funeral service these days in order to hear precisely this said:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep.
    I am not there I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow
    I am the diamond glints on snow.
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain
    I am the gentle autumn rain.
    When you awaken in the morning hush
    I am the swift uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circled flight
    I am the soft stars that shine at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry.
    I am not there, I did not die.

    Sure and how about this:

    Death is nothing at all
    I have only slipped away into the next room
    I am I, and you are you.
    Whatever we were to each other
    That we still are.
    Call me by my old familiar name
    Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
    Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
    Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes
    We enjoyed together.
    Play, smile, think of me, pray for me,
    Let my name be ever the household word that
    It always was.
    Let it be spoken without effort,
    Without the trace of a shadow on it.
    Life means all that it ever meant
    It is the same as it ever was
    There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
    Why should I be out of mind because I am
    Out of sight? I am but waiting for you
    For an interval
    Somewhere very near
    Just around the corner
    All is well.

    Jesus Christ is not the diamond glint on snow, the gentle autumn rain or in the room next door.

    He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
    and was made man.
    For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
    He suffered death and was buried.
    On the third day He rose again
    in accordance with the Scriptures;
    He ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

    Jesus Christ is risen indeed. A truly, real and happy Easter to you also.

    David Skinner, UK

  11. Francis MacNabb, or is it Francis MacDrabb. Whatever, he is a false Christian, who has conned the members of his church to accept the psychobabble of the Modern Smooth cross.
    I left the UCA because I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with no biblical teaching, and the malaise that has affected this church was exemplified at the Bushfire memorial service, where the Moderator, having the perfect opportunity to speak the Gospel, chose to only give words of comfort devoid of any reference to Christ, unlike the two Archbishops who mentioned Christ, especially the RC Archbishop who talked about the Christian concept of hope. The fact that MacNabb has not been disciplined shows the level of impotence. Ichabod -The Glory has departed.
    Wayne Pelling

  12. Dear Bill,

    Thank you for you excellent articles. I would like to wish you and yours a wonderful Easter, and may the message of the risen Lord continue to inspire us all, on our journey of life!

    Teresa Binder

  13. Dear Bill,
    viscount Caldicott, Chief Justice of England wrote that he examines two pieces of evidence for agreement, and thus would give conviction or release to the accused. He submitted agreeable evidences for the bodily resurrection of Christ. It is either true or fiction. There is no middle ground.

    1 History wouild deny the chief priest’s bribe in the first century to clear blame from the Sanhedrin.
    2 Fiction would be silent that some of the disciples doubted when they actually saw Him in His resurrection body.
    3 ‘All authority has been given to Me’ would be ridiculed after the humiliation and death of the cross.
    4 Fiction would reveal a risen hero to Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, Annas and all the Sanhedrin. The first person to hear glad news was once a demon-possessed woman
    5 The four gospel writers devote 5 chapters to the resurrection, whereas fiction would give scores of chapters to this miracle surpassing all others.
    6 Fiction would never give the next miracle of the ascension after the resurrection. it would strain the imagination to breaking point
    7 The young man said, ‘Go and tell His disciples – and Peter.’ Fiction would omit ‘and Peter’ in view of his denying and disowning his Lord.
    8 Fiction would never accredit the details of clothes and napkin about the head lying in a separate place.
    9 There is no mention of meeting Mary of Bethany, the only one who understood His imminent death.
    Fiction would describe His meeting her.
    10 Fiction would never allow a glorious, victorious Lord to walk to Emmaus unrecognised.
    11 When he took bread, blessed and broke it, their eyes were opened, they knew Him, and He vanished from their sight. Fiction would not allow our Lord to vanish on recognition, when all glory and honour was due to Him.
    12 Fiction would never invent a glorified hero to build a coal of fire.
    13 Fiction would never allow Peter and John to return to their fishing after seeing Him.
    14 Fiction would never prophesy that the chief apostle would also suffer death by a cross.
    The Chief Justice concluded that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. All else is fictitious.
    Christ is risen from the dead- and is alive for evermore.

    Harrold Steward

  14. Thank you again Bill and thanks to your contributors who also put the truth so well. I trust you all had a blessed Easter, remembering just how much Jesus Christ suffered and died for our sins and rejoicing in His resurrection. It’s real!!
    Dawn McGregor

  15. Hi
    I just reread your article. I haven’t got copy handy but I thought the Uniting Church affirmed the creeds in the days when I was a member. If it does still then it should remember that “and in Jesus Christ his son our Lord…on the third day he rose…”
    Maybe someone else has the statements.
    Yesterday we heard the resurrection affirmed in two very different services. We also heard about the fact that unbelievers are so keen to disprove the resurrection that they keep trying to find Jesus’ bones. If it was all a spiritual resurrection what happened to the bones?
    Katherine Fishley

  16. Personally, I wouldn’t give Francis MacNab any attention at all. He is a heretic who will one day have to face judgment seat of Christ. I wouldn’t want to be in his shoes. It is sad that he fills his Church but there will always be fools for the likes of a MacNab.

    Ignore him I say.

    David Palmer

  17. Last year, father Cantalamessa, the preacher to the Papal Household said in his Easter Sermon that anyone who does not believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ is not a Christian.
    Jerry Gonzalez

  18. The UCA Basis of Union document does mention Christ’s resurrection.
    It says “The Church preaches Christ the risen crucified One” and “In raising him to live and reign, God confirmed and completed the witness which Jesus bore to God on earth”.
    The document goes on to say “The Church lives between the time of Christ’s death and resurrection and the final consummation of all things which Christ will bring”.
    See it here: http://www.uca.org.au/basis_of_union.htm

    It used to be that the ‘resurrection’ of Jesus MEANT the ‘resurrection of the body’ … is there any other kind???
    However it is becoming increasingly necessary to spell out exactly what we mean!

    As for ignoring Macnab… if he wasn’t being given attention in the media, and presented as one of only three key Christian leaders at Easter, perhaps we could ignore him.

    However, since the comments have been made publicly it is important for Christians to publicly discuss and renounce Macnab’s teachings – lest people think his views are an ‘acceptable’ Christian belief.

    Jenny Sokes

  19. Thanks Jenny

    Yes quite right – on three occasions in the Basis of Union we have mention of the resurrection, with the words “risen” “raising” and “resurrection” used. However, nowhere is physical or bodily resurrection mentioned, so people like Macnab think they are entitled to speak of a metaphorical, spiritual and/or non-literal rising.

    True, the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed, which the Uniting Church says it “enters into unity with” also do not mention these qualifying terms. But as you suggest, there was no other thought in the minds of the early church, indeed, of the church for its first 1800 years of existence, than this being of course a physical, bodily resurrection.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  20. Genesis 3:4-5 outlines Lucifers’s three basic (false) promises to Adam (via Eve): [1] God lied; [2] you will be powerful; & [3] you will know good from evil all by yourselves.

    Every erosion I have ever seen of any Christian factor (as Jonathan’s linked article demonstrates very well) revolves on at least one of those false promises.

    The classic example is misinterpreting Matthew 5 as stating that Jesus axed the Law of God (including deliberate confusion of the Law of Moses with the Law of God) which _defines_ sin, such as when it defined Abel’s murder as a sin long before Sinai.

    The Uniting Church seems to have struck all three false promises in one short statement.

    In a very sick way, that’s impressive.

    Leon Brooks

  21. I wrote the following to the Herald Sun on Friday but, of course, they did not print it. Or any other comments unfortunately.
    This is exactly why the unoficial ‘media’, like Bill, and every Bible Believer MUST make it publically known that the man is “A-postate”. It is sad that some would rather wait for the stones to cry out!
    Letter to the Editor.
    “So Francis Macnab finally comes clean, he is no longer a Christian. One of the main tenets of the Christian faith is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity is dead, and Jesus was a liar.
    Yet his resurrection was acknowledged by many people at the time – a conspiracy could have been contrived but it would never have gone undiscovered. Too many people were desperate to prove it did not happen and would have paid anyone very handsomely to come clean. Nobody did.
    Macnab should stand down or be dismissed as he is clearly presiding over a false, man-made religion of his own making.”
    Peter Stokes

  22. As a former minister of the Uniting Church I can support all the condemnations of Francis Macnab’s teaching. He is not the only U.C. minister holding such a view (as do some Anglican clergy also). The U.C. simply sees it as diversity! The U.C. leadership generally is blind to the obvious facts that liberal led churches are declining and many of its evangelical members have gone to other churches.
    Graham Lawn

  23. Yes, I take Jenny’s point to the extent that he has gone public (“On Easter Sunday, we will note there was no physical resurrection”), and therefore in this case a letter to the editor is appropriate along the lines of stating the Christian belief about Christ’ resurrection (a physical glorified body) thereby dissociating from Macnab’s view. However the focus needs to be on setting out the Christian position – what Christian’s have always believed rather than engaging in Macnab directly, thereby giving him further opportunity to promote rank heresy – that was the point I was making.

    I think a statement like “Macnab should stand down or be dismissed as he is clearly presiding over a false, man-made religion of his own making” is unhelpful because it will be seen as a personal attack on Macnab (and therefore makes Macnab and not the resurrection of Christ the issue) and it is unrealistic since he belongs to a church that has already clearly indicated that it is prepared to tolerate him. If we believe in freedom of religion even for those we disagree with, then we ought to practice it.

    David Palmer

  24. Bill even a quick look at any edition of the U.C.A. paper ‘Cross Light’ will show that Clergy have freedom of expression and freedom to teach Heresy in just about any area that takes their fancy. The U.C.A. champions Liberalism.
    Stan Fishley

  25. Dear Bill, your attack on the statements of faith of the Uniting Church is unwarranted.

    Andrew Campbell’s assertions about the Uniting Church are only half-right. He blames the Basis of Union AND the ethos of the Uniting Church for lack of action and apostasy.

    Only Murray Adamthwaite got it right. The Basis of Union is adequate to name heresy, but the Uniting Church’s ethos is to blame: “it is heresy to charge someone with heresy”. I have been on the receiving end of that ethos. I was denied due process and excluded from ministry for three years without explanation. I dared to “to charge someone with heresy [apostasy].” That action was perceived to be ‘heresy’ – In fact, 15 months ago to the day, I was asked by an ordained UCA leader who should have known better, “Walter, why are you so obsessed with the Basis of Union?” The Basis of Union is adequate!

    Join me in praying and working for a change in the ethos of the Uniting Church.

    Rev Walter Abetz

  26. Dear Bill, Thank you for being a strong “watchman on the wall”. Yes I agree with everything that you have written. Over a 3 year period I attended Tas. Presbytery meetings prior to 11th assembly and up until May 17th last year. I could not bring myself to go after that as on that Saturday two things happened. A subject was read out to the meeting eliciting support for new ways of looking for the Sacred Other. At the end of this speech the new Spiritual appointee Jean Wight Howie sat down to rapturous applause while we were digesting her latest attempt at liberal Christianity. Then a prayer was offered that addressed the meeting of UCA reps and ministers stating “Oh God Our Midwife” as an intro. This gave credence to the illustration of a Female looking deity in diagram form holding up a baby. This said Wight Howie, was the picture of the Holy Spirit being birthed in us. If the average Christian does not find this offensive then they have their conscience seared “as with a hot iron”. My wife and I left the room immediately and I have never returned.
    Geoffrey Dean

  27. Many of the members of the Uniting church came out of the Methodist tradition, (I know there were several streams). My question is were they liberal back then and if not what changed them? They sing in their hymns gospel themes but preach liberal and Bible denying doctrines. Sad to say my experience of more ‘evangelical’ denominations show a “pick and choose” attitude with scripture and a man centred message. My current denomination preaches scripture and has godly ministers but the congregations remain unaffected. Then I am not what I should be either.
    Paul Locandro

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