Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Neglect of Resurrection.

In my previous post listing the number of audiotapes of Ern Baxter available, a guy called James commented on an outstanding series of sermons available called; "The King, The Kingdom and The Holy Spirit". Ern presented them to Covenant Ministries International when he last came to the United Kingdom in 1991. The first sermon in that series touches on a topic that is extremely close to my heart, and is something that I realised I haven't referred to in a while.

Michael Green said of the problem:

"Much Western Christianity has concentrated too much on the Cross, symbolising the suffering, weakness and sorrow of our earthly existence ... Charismatic Christianity on the other hand has concentrated too much on the Resurrection, on the transcendental power of the new life, its signs and wonders and excitement. A realistic Christianity will hold equally fast to both".

That would most definately be my experience, hence I am not interested in isolating the Resurrection to the exclusion of the Cross - but rather achieving a more balanced view of the whole Gospel in my own life, thought and experience. Therefore Ern's sermon brings an incredible amount of wisdom and illumination.

Ern said:

"The Cross is negative therefore producing a negative Christianity. Cross without Resurrection is nothing (1 Corinthians 15). Richard B Gaffin (Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster) wrote that Reformed Christianity has tended to feature the Cross to the neglect of Christ's resurrection".

As a classic examples Ern quoted Charles Hodges' extensive Systematic Theology in which he devoted four pages to the Resurrection as comparted to 127 on the atonement! Similarly W G T Shedd passes directly from a study of vicarious atonement to regeneration - Cross to Regeneration. Louis Berkhof also discusses the Resurrection in 4 pages, then moves onto a lengthy treatment of the atonement in 136 pages. A H Strong deals with the Resurrection in 4 pages while 60 pages were devoted to the Cross and atonement. W B Pope (the famous Methodist theologian) in his 3 volume gives 53 pages to the atonement and 10 to the Resurrection.

On the other hand, Dr I Howard Marshall wrote that the fundemental place in salvation history must be assigned to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that: "Only the Risen One makes possible the Presence of the Living Person and gives the Presupposition for Christology". Ern quoted Richard B Gaffin again saying; "The Religion of the New Testament is a religion of Resurrection".

Ern went on to say:

"The entire New Testament was written from the perspective of the Resurrection. The Resurrection may be called the major premise of the early faith. The first recorded sermon was a proclamation of the fact and significance of the resurrection. The all-important thing was that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

The resurrection provided a vantage point in which to understand the entire Christ event of His death. Without the Resurrection the death of Jesus Christ would have been a senseless and obscene tragedy. It was the Resurrection which invested Calvary with meaning and not vice versa! If there had been no Resurrection there would have been no value in the Cross - nothing more than an act of heroic love. But it would have failed to achieve it's goal. There should be no fear that a resurrection-centred faith and theology might eclipse the glory of Calvary".

G Campbell Morgan said; "It is His resurrection from the dead that demonstrates the infinite mystery of His death".

To quote Ern again: "The bottom line is that you don't experience the fulness of Christ until you allow that He went back to send the Spirit".

Let me quote that again: "The bottom line is that you don't experience the fulness of Christ until you allow that He went back to send the Spirit".

Let me quote that once more!: "The bottom line is that you don't experience the fulness of Christ until you allow that He went back to send the Spirit".

THAT is why I am concerned about neglecting the Resurrection! And that was Ern's bottom concern too. Ern Baxter detailed a clear transition:

"Incarnation > Impeccable Life > Vicarious Death > Victorious Resurrection > Triumphant Ascension > Permament Enthronement > Outpoured Holy Spirit > High Priestly Ministry > Second Coming".

Ern said: "There is the Christological sequence that we must held in proper tension". And my concern is that for the last 3 years I have heard of nothing but the vicarious death so this is something that I am seeking to rectify.

At the risk of sounding like a Newfrontiers fan, I am so grateful for some of the awesome songs coming from their ranks that perfectly reflect this tension. They do not minimise the Cross by any stretch of the imagination (the last live worship album from Brighton was entitled; "The Power of the Cross", but they go on to speak of the Resurrection, the Ascension and the outpoured Holy Spirit. Here are my favourite two to close. I think Ern Baxter would have approved of them.

In Him I have believed, on this my hope now rests
That Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
The all-surpassing joy of knowing Christ my Lord
The former things, I count them all as loss
Called out of darkness into Your goodness
We are Your children, chosen in Christ!
Now in Your family, heirs of the promise
To Your purpose on the earth I give my life

A people born of God, united by Your call
One faith, one Lord, one Father of us all
Joined with bonds of love, and planted in Your house
We worship You with hearts and lives poured out
Let us go on in the power of Your Spirit
Taking Your gospel to all the world!
Declaring Your wisdom, our great commission,
That Jesus Christ has come to save the lost!

Whatever trials may come, in faith, Lord, help us stand
For righteousness and justice in our land
What fear can hold us now? We run toward the prize
Our lives already crucified with Christ
Through every nation, Your kingdom advances
Who can extinguish this spreading flame?
Through tribulations, we’ll stand on Your promise:
I will build My Church and hell will not prevail!’

And on that final day, the citizens of heaven
Called out to be the new Jerusalem
In multitudes will bow before the throne of God:
One nation called from every tribe and tongue
Great celebration! The glorious union:
The Lion of Judah and the pure, spotless Bride!
All of creation waits for this moment
All your promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ!

Kate Simmonds 2004 Thankyou Music

The greatest day in all of life,
Is not right now but years gone by
When Jesus came into the world,
Our lives were bought at a great cost
When You became our sacrifice
And bore God's wrath for our offence.

And when I see the cruel cross
I contemplate how much it cost
The Holy One to suffer for me
The Lamb of God the Innocent
You bore my guilt and punishment
My ransom's paid and I'm forgiven.

Now by Your blood You've overcome
The victory over sin is won
So tell me death where is your sting?
A greater day is drawing near
When on the clouds You will appear
To fetch Your bride and take her home.

So when I see the open tomb
I realise I'm raised with You
Forever now seated in heaven.
Before Your throne for endless days
We'll worship You and sing Your praise
And cast our crowns down at Your feet!

Evan Rogers 2002.


Dave Skip said...

Thanks for the reminder Dan, this is something I have thought about as well... New Flesh, New Earth is a book on this very subject that I have been eager to get hold of for a while (still not got it yet, but I have been prompted by your post!)

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for the book pointer Dave, this book sounds great! It's on my to-get list!

Don said...

Dan, just got to this excellent post on the resurrection -- I had no idea of the stats you quoted regarding the disparity between pages devoted to the atonement and the resurrection. It certainly shows a lack of revelation on the purpose and effects of the resurrection.

I've always thought it significant that in Pilgrim's Progress, Christian lays down his wearisome burden at the cross, but then *moves on* in his walk toward the Celestial City -- sans burden! How did this simple Puritan writer know what many other highly trained Reformed theologians seem not to've noticed?

I'm not arguing at all against the need for continual owning-up to daily sin in my life, and need for forgiveness -- I realize now, more than ever before, how much I need a Savior *every day!* But Jesus has much more to do with me, every day, than simply point me again and again to the cross!

Indeed, if I want to contemplate the cross, I need only look AT JESUS -- He's not dragging the cross around still, but bears its wounds on his *resurrected* body forever. I choose to look AT JESUS -- glorified; on the throne; fiery love pouring from His eyes into mine; sending His Spirit to me, the saints and the lost; interceding for all the saints; joining the communion of the saints each time we worship His Father -- rather than fix my gaze for all time on a one-time, historical event in his and my life.