Friday, April 24, 2009

An Unbeliever's Belief in the Resurrection

The resurrection is certainly important to Christianity. Paul says, “If Christ be not raised your faith is vain (I Cor. 15:17).” The resurrection is also of prime importance in the field of apologetics. But, can one believe in the resurrection and still not be Christian?

Pinchas Lapide, an orthodox Jew and New Testament scholar, says an emphatic yes. In his book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective, he states that this resurrection has to be accepted because of the unique growth of Christianity.

Thus, according to my opinion, the resurrection belongs to the category of the truly real and effective occurrences, for without a fact of history there is no act of true faith. A fact which indeed is withheld from objective science, photography, and a conceptual proof, but not from the believing scrutiny of history which more frequently leads to deeper insights.

In other words: Without the Sinai experience – no Judaism; without the East experience – no Christianity. Both were Jewish faith experiences whose radiating power, in a different way, was meant for the world of nations. For inscrutable reasons the resurrection faith of Golgotha was necessary in order to carry the message of Sinai into the world.

Thus Lapide views the resurrection of Jesus as along the same lines of other Old Testament resurrections. He sees it as merely another entry into the list of resurrected individuals. Unfortunately, Lapide in his book does not go on and expound his views on other particulars of the resurrection. He does not mention his views on the ascension or the resultant corruption of this Jewish resurrection by Christ’s followers. I would conjecture that he would liken Christ’s ascension to that of Elijah and that the corruption of the resurrection truth took place either through resultant Gentile influence or the Jewish disciples trying to harmonize their view of the Messiah with Jesus’ life.

For evangelical Christians, Lapide’s book is interesting because of his unique belief. Christians assume that if a person believes in the resurrection it almost goes without saying that he believes Jesus is God. This is most likely one of the reasons that the historical proof of the resurrection is one of the most researched and debated areas in apologetics. And yet, it seems that if one accepts the paradigm of theism, he could logically accept the resurrection and not come to faith in Christ.

And so enters faith. Amazingly the area of faith and evidence are controversial in the field of apologetics. For some faith plays a minor role in conversion. Robert Morgan stated in a 1998 journal article for PROFILE magazine that he believed that the truth of Christianity can be established to a 99% of certainty. The remaining 1% is the step of faith you take when you believe.

For some this is hard to swallow because of the overriding emphasis of faith in the Bible. While the New Testament does speak of evidence and is favorable to it, the New Testament does not uplift it as the means of salvation. Rather, it is belief, faith, and trust that brings one to God. In fact, people that hold to this view (referred to as presuppositionalist) argue that there is no 99% certainty without presupposition.

Regardless of ones belief, each person must develop what part faith plays in conversion. So my three questions to you are: does it take faith to believe in the resurrection, what do you think of Morgan’s statement, and what part does faith play in conversion.

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