As I do every year during Holy Week, I write my column about Easter. Major historians, even atheists, recognize that the execution of a man named Jesus around 33 AD is one of the most, if not the most, significant events in human history. Christians go a step further. They believe Jesus rose again from the dead. And therein lies the problem.
Last week, I noted that “[t]here are many who call themselves Christians, but only those who actually believe in the physical resurrection of Christ are truly Christian.” It is not a controversial statement, or at least I did not think it was. But a lot of people took it as one man’s opinion and that the statement is open for debate.
Around the same time, Nick Kristof, an opinion writer at the New York Times, produced another in an ongoing series of interviews he conducts with theologians about Christianity. Kristof interviewed Serene Jones, the President of Union Theological Seminary. Jones calls herself a Christian but says belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus is not necessary to be a Christian.
In fact, Jones says, “For Christians for whom the physical resurrection becomes a sort of obsession, that seems to me to be a pretty wobbly faith. What if tomorrow someone found the body of Jesus still in the tomb? Would that then mean that Christianity was a lie? No, faith is stronger than that.”
The problem here is that Christianity would be a lie if Jesus had not been physical raised from the dead. It is in scripture. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul writes “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” Some progressive theologians get around this by claiming Paul corrupted Christianity, but the Apostle Peter, in 2 Peter 3:16 gives Paul’s epistles the same authority as other scripture, including the Old Testament.
The 21st century is overrun with people who think that unless they experience something themselves or have first hand knowledge of a fact, there is no truth. This is deeply destructive. One need not go to space to know the earth is a sphere. If you think the physical resurrection of Jesus being a necessary part of Christian faith is just one person’s opinion, it is time to stop thinking flat-earthers are wrong.
With the same logic as those who reject the physical resurrection of Jesus but call themselves Christians, men who love women can call themselves lesbians and those who love to eat meat can call themselves vegetarians. After all, facts no longer matter and everything is opinion. Thinking a person can be a Christian while rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ is akin to anti-vaccine advocates believing vaccines cause autism. Just because there are supposed experts who make the claim does not make them credible.
We have two thousand years of Christianity. We have the words of holy scripture itself. We have the writings of the apostles. We have the writings of the men who studied under the apostles. We have the writings of the people those men taught. We have three major branches of Christianity in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches with denominations in the latter abounding. Every single one of them worship with an unbroken two thousand year old belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the height of white, western arrogance to think one can be a Christian while rejecting settled, shared two-thousand year old orthodoxy that has tied together a bunch of Christians who agree on almost nothing except that Jesus Christ physically rose from the grave. If one can be a Christian while rejecting the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, someone can also eat a steak tonight and rest well knowing he and his fellow vegetarians tend to live long lives so long as they do not fall off the edge of the earth.