Friday, April 13, 2007

Burying Doubts about the Risen Lord

"Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again."

This familiar acclamation is proclaimed in churches all over the world at Easter.

When we say, "Christ has risen," what exactly do we mean?

Marcus Borg, soon to be retiring professor from Oregon State University, is a leading voice claiming that Jesus' resurrection wasn't physical. In a chapter entitled, "The Irrelevancy of the Empty Tomb," from the excellent book, Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up, Borg writes: "Put simply, it seems to me that whether something happened to the corpse of Jesus is irrelevant to the truth of Easter." As part of his argument, he claims that Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, "explicitly denies that it is a physical body; instead, it is a spiritual body."

I never bought into Borg's argument when I first read it, but I hadn't forgotten it either. So it was encouraging to read Denny Burk's succinct entry that puts to rest such claims. Responding to an argument made by James Tabor, in the "Tomb of Jesus" TV special, that Jesus wasn't physically raised, Burk writes:
Tabor wrongly assumes that “spiritual” means the opposite of “physical.” But that is not at all what Paul means here. “Spiritual” does not mean “non-physical.” It means something that is wrought by the Holy Spirit.
Why does it matter that the nature of Jesus' resurrection is physical and not just spiritual? The Apostle Paul puts it bluntly in 1 Corinthians 15:17-18:
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.
The physical resurrection--not a mere spiritual one--is God's declaration of our forgiveness and affirmation of Jesus' deity. Because it is the most incredible event in all of human history--indeed a miracle, it's understandable that doubts and questions arise in our mind.

But the longer I read the Gospel resurrection accounts and consider the arguments, whatever doubts that arise eventually get buried.

"Christ is risen!" He is risen indeed.

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