Tuesday, July 9, 2013

33% of Mainline Pastors Deny the Resurrection of Jesus

33% of Mainline Pastors Deny the Resurrection of Jesus

A 2001 study shows that 33% of mainline Christian pastors deny the physical resurrection of Jesus. Here is the breakdown by denomination:
  • American Lutherans: 13%
  • Presbyterians: 30%
  • American Baptists: 33%
  • Episcopalians: 35%
  • Methodists: 51%

The word "Christian" doesn't just mean whatever we want it to mean. Like the words "atheist" and "Hindu" the word "Christian" has clear boundaries. The fact that "Christian" pastors explicitly deny the resurrection of Jesus doesn't mean they are "open minded." It means they aren't Christians at all.

As I will demonstrate below, Christians have always believed Jesus is the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament. But I will quickly show that a "dead Messiah" is a blatantly contradictory concept. Furthermore, the idea has been rejected by thousands of years of Christian theologians. We will soon see that to call oneself a "Christian" but deny the resurrection is both dishonest and corrupt. 

Jesus is the Messiah...But What Is a Messiah?

At very absolute minimum, all Christians throughout history have believed that Jesus is the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament.

In 1st Century A.D. "Messiah" wasn't some metaphorical loose meaning for "Messiah in all of us" or "heaven in our hearts." It was a very concrete term that caused a degree of political upheaval in 1st Century Palestine. While there were disagreements on his exact role and identity, there was virtually unanimous agreement on these points:

  1. he would be a human man who would defeat Israel's enemies
  2. he would become king of the whole world
  3. he would guide the world to worship Yahweh
This is why you couldn't say that a dead guy is the Messiah. It just doesn't work. You pretty much have to be living to vanquish Israel's enemies and become king of the world. Saying that someone is the Messiah but also dead is as ridiculous as saying that "Barack Obama is President but he's also currently dead." 

This is why Christianity absolutely did not start when Jesus died. The death of Jesus was obviously very discouraging to Jesus' followers. It pretty much ruined any possibility that Jesus would be the Messiah. 

There Are No Dead Messiahs 

Only after Jesus awoke from death did Christianity actually start. The resurrection of Jesus was a shocking and very unexpected surprise to Jesus' followers. It re-instated their belief that he was actually the Messiah. 

Without a very literal resurrection, Jesus is utterly disqualified from being the Messiah. Remember: Messiah is a very human king who is supposed to rule the world. So anything less than a real, live, tangible resurrection is not going to make the cut. 

Of course, just because he came back from death does not make him "off the hook" from fulfilling the end time prophecies about the Messiah. This is why early Christians had a very literal belief in the Second Coming of Jesus.  Again, a "spiritual second coming" is not going to cut it here, for reasons described above. 

For Thousands of Years...

This is why you have quote after quote of early Christian writings (inside and outside the New Testament) affirming all of these beliefs in very literal terms....very early on. Early writers made a special point to enumerate the literal nature of these teachings, and refute "heretics" who would distort these teachings. Verbally speaking, they weren't too polite about it either. 

The Bible is full of metaphors, but early Christians made quite clear that these beliefs were nothing of the sort. These were core beliefs that gave them the hope of eternal life that they had. Such a strong hope that they underwent lots of persecution because of it. 

These literal beliefs have been considered core beliefs of Christians for thousands of years. Historically, anyone who called themselves a Christian but distorted these beliefs was considered an impostor. Theologian after theologian affirm these beliefs up until the present day. Since the very earliest Christian apologists, Christians have painstakingly contrasted their views with those they consider to be heretical.

Don't get me wrong. The above 3 beliefs are not sufficient to become a Christian. But the first two are absolutely necessary to be one in any meaningful sense of the word. 

Wolves: 33%

Back to the 33% of pastors who deny the resurrection. 

My question is, why are they still "Christian" pastors?!?!?

Can we say they are just ignorant of Christian theology? No we cannot. Most pastors have seminary degrees!

Can we say they are just struggling with doubts like we all do? No we cannot. The survey seems to entail an explicit denial of the resurrection. And besides, if they changed their mind about the resurrection, they had plenty of time to quit seminary. 

Can we say they are being dishonest about their views? Yes, yes absolutely. Every Easter they go to church, read the empty tomb story, and talk about the resurrection in their liturgical presentation. Yet, it seems they don't clarify for the congregation that what they mean by resurrection is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than what everyone else means by it.

They also use the pulpit to advocate their agenda (whatever that may be). Whatever their "agenda" is, it seems pretty dependent on keeping a pretty important secret from us....their beliefs about Jesus resurrection.

It seems we have some "wolves" on our hands. 

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." - Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:15)

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