The Scholars Neglect the Resurrection.
Now I am going to plunge into this and you do what you have to. I am going to blame a few scholars but I agree with it perfectly. Richard B Gaffin Jr (a professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia) published a book in 1987 entitled, “Resurrection and Redemption – A Study in Paul’s soteriology”. It was a book that got a lot of attention as it rightly should. His contention in the introduction is that reformed theology is inclined to feature the Cross to the neglect of Christ’s resurrection. And I quote from his introduction; “Reformed theology has always thought itself to be distinctively Pauline”.
Now when I am talking about Reformed theology I am talking about the theology of the magisterial reformers, Luther, Swingli, Calvin and also of the radical reformers. The theology that we consider Protestant, we consider reformed – that covers a lot. It is a theology that dates from the time when Luther broke with Rome. And the subsequent theology definitions that have developed. And so Gaffin writes; “More sensitive than other traditions to the deeper motives and trends of the apostle’s teaching and more consistent in it’s expression of them. In the course of it’s development however it has not found particular dogmatic significance in Paul’s statements regarding Jesus’ resurrection. Dogmatic reflection has tended to concentrate almost exclusively on the sufferings and death of Christ understood as an atonement for sin”.Now stay with me because this is important. That’s the end of the quote. Now in a footnote he substantiates his position by showing the limited amount of space given to the Resurrection as compared to the Cross in the theological works of some well known reformed writers. Charles Hodge, the Princetonian theologian in his Systematic Theology, devotes four pages to the Resurrection in contrast to a lengthy treatment of the Atonement – 120 pages. 120 pages on the Cross! Four pages on the Resurrection! Now I need to warn you that I am going to quote some others and that is virtually the ratio. Now these are shocking. By the time I get through I hope that my material will show that we have by a faulty emphasis deprived ourselves of the dynamic of Christianity. W G T Shedd, another outstanding reformed theologian in his Dogmatic Theology – Volume 2, passes directly from a discussion of Vicarious Atonement to regeneration. He doesn’t even fuss with the Resurrection! He has no section on the Resurrection! B B Warfield, the great scholar in this area concentrates exclusively on the death of Christ understood as atonement. 112 pages. Lewis Berkof in his Systematic Theology is similar to Hodge. After a brief discussion of the Resurrection (4 pages) he moves on to a lengthy treatment of the Atonement (38 pages). The approaches of Abraham Kyper and Herman Bavinck, who are also outstanding theologians, provide no significant exception to this pattern. This virtual equation of the accomplishment of redemption with atonement which characterizes tradition Reformed dogmatics is nowhere made clearer, or presented more programmatically than in the opening sentences of John Murray. John Murray is a more contemporary and outstanding theologian whose excellent work on Romans is well known to scholars. But in his work entitled, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” he says the accomplishment of redemption is concerned with what has been called the Atonement. Full stop. No Resurrection.
Now I’m not saying that these men didn’t believe it. I’m just saying that somehow they got hooked on the Cross and failed to realise that the total picture was not being presented until most of evangelicalism became Cross-orientated. In calling attention to this preoccupation with the atonement, my purpose is not at all to challenge the validity and necessity of this development, far less to call into question the conclusions reached, rather I wish only to point out that this dominating interest in the death of Christ has been associated with a relative neglect of the Resurrection. Here again it is not as if Reformed theology has had no insight into the matter – for example Berkhof writes, “What is still more important, the Resurrection enters as a constitutive element into the very essence of the work of redemption and therefore of the Gospel”. But this observation is not developed! Nor is the Resurrection effectively related to the structure of redemption.
Now these are Reformed, paedo-baptist writers. Let me turn to the Baptists. A A Strong’s Systematic Theology. He is a Baptist. You’d think he would know better. But he seems to reveal the same weakness. The Resurrection is directly treated in 4 pages while 60 pages are given to atonement. Now I didn’t want to leave the Methodists out – W B Pope, the Methodist theologian in his 3 volume work, gives 53 pages to the atonement and 10 pages to Resurrection but not the Resurrection of Christ but the eschatological general resurrection! He does nothing on the Resurrection of Christ! Is there something wrong here? I submit that there is something drastically wrong!
Four Types of Christians.
This is just an interesting sideline that I wasn’t sure whether to put in. There are four Scriptures that indicate four kinds of Christians and see if this doesn’t echo something in you. Those Christians who consider only Christ’s death are death-orientated. They never get past the Cross. These dear people have been dying daily for 50 years and they look like it – you wish they’d get it over with. (*laughter*). Luke 24:17. Jesus is on the road to Emmaus and He is talking to the crest-fallen Christians – you remember? – and He says to them; “What manner of communication are these that ye have one with another as ye walk, and are sad?”. They thought the Cross was the end of everything and they were sad. Cross-orientated people are sad people. “He died” He died. You’d think He never rose! (*laughter*). “He died and I’m dying daily”. You may think that caricature is ill timed but I had to make the emphasis. The second group – those who go onto the Resurrection! Luke 24:41 tells us that “they were filled with joy and wonder”. Ah, now we’re getting there. Those who appreciate the Ascension – Luke 24:52; “And they worshipped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy”. We saw Him die, but we Him raised and we saw Him go up! Glory! And we are going back to Jerusalem because He said He was going to send Something.
Did you ever think how ludicrous the disciples appeared in the Temple? The Bible said they were daily in the Temple praising and glorifying God. “Glory to God”. Now that wasn’t unusual because there were many kinds of groups in the Temple. There were Sadducees and Pharisees and Herodians and Zealots and every little guru had his thing going on – so this wasn’t unusual. There were about 120 people there and they were praising God someone came and said, “Who are you people?”. “Well” they said, “We’re followers of the Nazarene Jesus”. “Oh yes poor man. Had an untimely end”. “Oh no, He isn’t ended!”. “Excuse me?”. “He isn’t ended! He rose from the dead!”. “He did what?”. “He rose from the dead”. “Ah I see – okay have it your way! And where is He now?”. “He’s in heaven!”. “Excuse me? So what are you doing if He’s in heaven?”. “Well before He left He said if we wait He would send something back”. (*laughter*). “Ah I see. And what’s He going to send?”. “Well He said He would send us the promise of the Father”. “Well what’s that?”. “Well we don’t really know”. (*laughter*). “Well – lots of luck!”. You and I must be prepared to face up to the ludicroisity of our position and not try to constantly be rationalising it to the unregenerate, that’s why we play down the Resurrection, that’s why we play down the Holy Ghost – because we want to convert men intellectually. Men are not converted intellectually - not that intellect isn’t involved. But they are not converted intellectually! God the Holy Ghost dynamites His way into their lives! (*applause*). Hallelujah!
Acts 13:52 now is the fourth kind of a Christian. “And they were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost”. You go from sadness to joy and wonder, to great joy to fullness of joy and then for us those who go on believing 1 Peter 1:8; “Not having seen Jesus Christ, you love Him and in whom ye do not see yet believe and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”. That’s where we are.
Embracing the Totality.
Now comparisons are odious but I have got to do this – because am talking about Christianity and I have to talk about all of it, and I have a right to talk about all of it. And I have earned my right to speak. Now I have been talking in tongues since 1932 and I have never been ashamed of it. I am a holy roller charismatic and that’s what I am. But you know very well that there that there is a whole large area of Christianity that is primarily intellectual and theological. And I am not against that! What I am against is partialism. A failure to embrace the totality. There is no reason why I have to be a Pentecostal numbskull. I ought to have an intellectual awareness because I’ve got a renewed mind and I need to expand my mind with the holy Word of God and I need to be a thinker – I need to fill my mind with the Word of God. “Let the mind of Christ become my mind”.
But I must never make that purely intellectual – it must be the product of a supernatural walk with God in a charismatic dimension! If I don’t walk in the tension of the Spirit and the Word I have no right to the title Christian. I must walk in the tension of the Spirit and the Word. Right from the beginning God established that tension in the book of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was without form or void and darkness covered the face of the deep and the Spirit of God brooded over the waters”. What was He brooding over? A mess. He still broods over a lot of messes today. He is brooding. You say, well He is the executive agent of the Trinity – why doesn’t He do something about that mess? He can’t. What do you mean He can’t? Well He can’t without His companion. Who’s His companion? Hang around and you will find out. I don’t know how long He brooded over that mess. Geological ages? Minutes? Doesn’t matter. What was He waited for? Suddenly the cosmos is ripped! With what? A word! “Let there be!”. That’s what He was waiting for! And when that word came suddenly the Holy Spirit leapt into activity. He put the whole mess together and ran His finger down and makes places for the streams. Moulds the mountains. Screws in the sun and the moon and hangs out the stars. (*applause*).
Now let me plunge right into this. I am wrestling with my material this morning. I wonder if that thing will work Bob. I would like to show you something here to make my point and the overhead wasn’t particularly good last night. I am going to put on here a transparency from last Easter season. It is a page out of one of the prominent religious publishers in America and these are the books that are featured for Easter. Here are the books that this publishing company is publishing for Easter. What does Easter celebrate? Pardon me? The Resurrection! Now listen to the books and this is the entire advertisement for Easter. “The Seven Words from the Cross … When God was at Calvary … The Seven Sayings of the Saviour at the Cross … Christ’s Words from the Cross”. That’s it. What is Easter about? The Resurrection! Doesn’t this then strike you as a bit odd? All this does is underline the fact that we have become so Cross-orientated that we have lost the dynamic of the Resurrection. You say, “What has this got to do with the Holy Spirit?”. Be patient – we will get there.
Let me plunge in and indulge your patience because I don’t want you thinking I’m riding a hobby horse. I am going to quote men that are great sound scholars and we have a deep debt to the devotion of men who give their lives to providing us with Strong’s Concordance and Young’s Concordance and Cruden’s Concordance and the Hebrew Dictionaries and that vast apparatus that you and I would be lost without. I pay them homage this morning. I don’t treat them with disdain. I Howard Marshall, who is an outstanding New Testament scholar, says “According to the theology expressed in the Acts of the Apostles the fundamental place in salvation history is to be assigned to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”. H B Sweet, wrote 100 years ago (a great Irish theologian) wrote; “It is certainly not through any want of apostolic guidance, if the glorified life of our Lord fills the relationally small place in modern preaching and thought. The creeds of Christendom, it may be said, do not encourage thought in this direction. Of the life He now lives there in heaven or the work in which He is occupied, they have nothing to say". Did Jesus stop existing at the Cross? At the Resurrection? At the Ascension? Is He dead now? What’s He doing? His biography goes on! We never got past Chapter Cross!
Let me the repeat the quote of I Howard Marshall: "According to the theology expressed in the Acts of the Apostles the fundamental place in salvation history is to be assigned to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ”.
Tomorrow: "The Serious Neglect - Part 3".