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Not To Go Full Tom Nichols On Y’all, But…

Tom Nichols has a great book called The Death of Expertise. The subtitle captures the basic point: “The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.” Now, Tom is best known these days on social media as someone vehemently opposed to President Trump. But his book is relevant in other ways.

On social media, and I do have to confess I think it is mostly a phenomenon of social media, there are lots of defenders of the president of Union Theological Seminary claiming one can be a Christian and deny the bodily resurrection of Christ.

As one person noted, “I think there’s so much subjectivity (politically, socially and economically) with any interpretation that I find it difficult to declare one authoritative.” (Not linking, but she doesn’t deserve any harassment a link might generate)

This, though, is the problem and frankly it is a problem of churches and theologians, failing to teach history woven into their theology.

The physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a matter of subjective opinion when it comes to who is or is not a Christian. It is literally in the Bible that if Jesus was not resurrected, the faith is in vain and Christians are fools who have lied about God. See e.g 1 Corinthians 15.

But on top of that, there are roughly 2000 years of theological scholarship in Christendom on this subject. It is the settled opinion of the early church in the creeds. It transcends denominations and branches of faith, from the Coptic to the Orthodox to the Catholic to the Protestant.

It is the one subject that, regardless of one’s particular views on Christianity, is the well-settled one. To say one can have a differing opinion about it is to say the anti-vaccine movement has a point or steak-eaters can call themselves vegetarians or heterosexual guys can call themselves lesbians. Just because one fancies oneself an expert does not make it so.

In other words, it is not subjective and it is not opinion in the common usage of the word. It is a matter of settled theology and has been since around 54 AD when Paul of Tarsus wrote 1 Corinthians — only about two decades after the resurrection. Any lingering doubt was removed in 90 AD when the last of the apostles, John, wrote his gospel and included, at the end, the resurrected Jesus cooking fish on a fire by the Sea of Galilee. By 110 AD, the post-Apostolic church fathers have woven the belief of the physical resurrection into their writings and by 200 AD Tertullian is actively going after heretics who, in part, deny the physical resurrection of Jesus.

This is a belief that thousands of men and women in the early church were willing to die to defend.

You don’t have to believe it is settled any more than a flat-earther thinks the shape of the planet is still up for debate, but it does not make it so and there really is no reason anyone should treat your opinion on this as valid when it deviates from 2000 years of agreement among a group of people who all dedicated their lives to studying it, disagree on lots, but agree on this to the point of being will to die to defend the claim.

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