Spontaneous, Natural, Physical Resurrection

Oh the universe is full of amazing and wonderful things and very few subjects have been the source of more fiery debates than the topic of evolution. But in all the hubbub of debates about creation, or intelligent design, or cosmological origins one major facet of the Christian faith goes unnoticed: the explanation for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Though the evidence for evolution is vast and far reaching and applied to origins, none of the same thinking has been weighed and married to this oft-neglected field.  If we as Christians are failing in our embracing evolutionary models in regard to Creation, we have been woefully neglectful in explaining the resurrection of Jesus Christ in terms of modern science.

In this post, I wish to posit a few possible reasons why the resurrection was not a miracle, but actually quite natural, spontaneous, and purely physical and why the Church must embrace this explanation to prepare for the future, especially in light of the overwhelming amount of data in support of biological evolution.

The proof I can offer is not as nebulous as it may seem. We Christians often supply a few proofs that the resurrection happened so we don’t have to belabor the point. He was seen among witnesses. His grave was indeed empty. His death was sure. And the actual resurrection accounts for the apostolic beliefs.

But this in no way implies that God couldn’t have used spontaneous and natural processes to ensure that this resurrection would happen. We must not allow magic or miracles to discredit the very reasonable faith that we Christians embrace!

First we have to admit that Jesus was fully man so he was limited by the knowledge of his day. He didn’t have a clue how he would live again or even if he would live again. He was under the impression that the “glory” was the process of dying (read the entire book of John) and then he cried about it when he was going to die. That’s not the reaction of a person who knew that they would die and come back.

Second, the disciples were surprised by the resurrection. They didn’t have a clue he would do what he did and that would only make sense if it was in fact spontaneous and natural.

Third, we have perfectly good explanations for a physical, random, non-miraculous resurrection. For example, we know that there are an infinite amount of Earths. Given an infinite amount of Earths, there are an infinite amount of circumstances. Just like our Universe came into being because in an infinite number, the chances of something happening are sure to happen, then the chance of a person dying and coming back from the grave most definitely would happen. In fact, I’d bet in this infinite series of worlds, there’s a good chance that each of us get our chance at resurrecting randomly.

Even if we didn’t posit infinite Christs, we can posit infinite physical universes where the laws of death and life are different.  With science firmly in our grip we can conclude that God used processes—like an infinite multiverse or infinite Christs—to arrive at a natural, spontaneous , physical and non-miraculous resurrection from the dead.

We haven’t even looked at Quantum particles which can be in two quantum states at the same time until observed. So Christ, while observed, w as in an alive state (a binary position of 1) and then he was in a two simultaneous states of dead and alive (0 and 1). If the quantum vacuum can bring something in from nothing, then the chance for Christ going from one binary state to a second one is infinitely possible. Heck, this could be a midichlorian process for all we know.

Fourth, we Christians need to stop being afraid of scientific explanations especially since Science is God’s hands. The very smart people (who incidentally are much smarter than us) have told us that the impossible is just that and if it’s physically possible it’s infinitely more probable than the impossible. We need to stop being unscientific, embrace the sciences which are also God’s revelation, his second Bible as it were, and teach that Christ’s resurrection was natural, spontaneous, physical even if ultimately belonging to God.

In conclusion, we must embrace this lest Science, and the world, moves on in their Copernican revolution leaving us behind mumbling about our magical myths. If we truly want to engage the world and not be relegated to a position of non-importance, we must employ robust scientific thinking with the defense of our faith proving that God is not only reasonable, he is constant. We cannot allow Christianity to become a cult—but this is what will happen if the Church continues to turn its head from scientific explanations!

</satire>

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An Honest Atonement That Worked

Just like how my faith was rescued by the resurrection of the Son of God, my theology was generally rescued by Christ’s crucifixion. But to see how that works, I have to give some general preliminaries of what others say. I’m not going into the detail of any of the systems. I’m just touching on them because these are where my personal questions arose, where they collided with the text, and where I had to leave those ideas. Their explanations of key texts made me nervous.

So They Say
Calvinists say that God’s mission was to glorify himself and to do that he would bring in many sons to glory. He prepared vessels of mercy beforehand to show mercy to and the rest he passed over (or elected to make reprobate: there’s some discussion on that point). But to rescue these many sons there must be the shedding of blood for the remission of sins. Therefore Christ was sent to pay for their sins—not for anyone else’s. His sacrifice was enough to rescue all but it was particularly applied to those that were chosen: the elect.  The Atonement, therefore, secured the redemption and salvation of the elect.

Arminians say that God sent his Son to die to make a way possible for any who believed: redemption is obtained but salvation isn’t secured for anyone unless they believe and keep believing. So it wasn’t a pre-chosen group that was being atoned for, it was a category called “Those Who Believe”.  That group winds up being known, but in no sense was the crucifixion particularly for a group—even if in effect it is solely for that group.

Others have different explanations. Ockhamists say that Christs death was for all, redeeming the world unto Himself, but that his love results in an effectual call that draws those who will be saved. The Atonement, therefore, is the love of God reaching outwards. Molinists say that Christ’s work of redemption is for all, making an actual payment for all, but applied only to those who believe.

Pelagians say that Christ’s death is a necessary example that was accomplished so that humans could break out of the cycle of damnation and sin that they were part of. Atonement was helpful but not necessary. Semi-Pelagians might say that Christ’s death was effectively the extended hand of God that was being reached for by those who were reaching out to God. They couldn’t save themselves so he supplied a solution in the atoning work of Christ. Now if they believe they get helped.

Universalists say that Christ’s death was accomplished to save all by paying for the sins of all. No one is ultimately damned. Of course, Universalists split up how this is accomplished (either all are elect and are irresistibly drawn or all eventually willfully come to Christ, even if some spend time in separation).

What Sayeth The Scriptures?
The Atonement is impossible to be accomplished solely by humans (Ps 49:7–8). In the Old Testament, atonement worked when the shed blood was applied (Lev 4:20; 16; 17:11). It is for those who apply it (John 6:51) which automatically denies something to those who don’t take it and yet it is not merited (Tit 3:5). It winds up with a purchase of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9) So, the atonement definitely worked.

The Scriptures tell us that Christ’s atoning work would provide salvation for many (Is 53:10–11; Matt 20:28; Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 2:24-25) which includes us (1 Jo 4:10), those who have faith (Rom 3:24-26), people (Heb 2:17), the sheep (John 10:11, 17-18), the ungodly (Romans 5:6-21), sinners (2 Cor 5:18-20) the unjust (1 Pet 3:18), the heretic (2 Peter 2:1) and everyone (1 Tim 4:10) of the entire world (John 1:29; 4:42; 1 John 2:2). This is much broader than the Elect, something 1 John 2:2 outright denies.

Some Calvinists have been quick to point out that the many is the Church, the whole World is all who are being saved, and All are All Those Who Believe. They redefine the terms to suit their theology. Scripture is the reason why other Calvinists consider themselves Four, instead of Five, Pointers.

If they consider it problematic, why shouldn’t I? Say the Five Pointers, like Sproul or Packer: those who are Four Pointers have misunderstood one of the other points. That is dishonest. The problem is with the doctrine of a particular atonement not aligning with Scripture, it is not with getting one’s theological ducks lined up to quack in harmony.

This entire thing of Particular Redemption doesn’t jive with Scripture which teaches that the extent of the redemption as total: of the entire world (John 3:15-17), those who were under law (which is everyone: Gal 4:4-5), indeed all things (Col 1:20-22). Or with the call to believe being offered to all (Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13; Rev 22:17) The Atonement’s scope in Scripture is no less than universal because it is easier to explain the limited passages in light of the universal passages (cf. Gal 2:20. No one thinks Christ died only for Paul).

And at this point Calvinists raise the question: well, if everyone is atoned for then everyone is saved? Universalists say this is true. But Scripture speaks quite emphatically about people not being saved, going to hell, and facing judgment.

Indeed, this idea of a universal atonement resulting in universal salvation is only accurate if the interpretation of Christ’s work on the cross is specifically tied together to election and salvation via special pleading. The idea comes piggybacked on the doctrine of election which weaves into the tapestry but stands contrary to Scripture.  Calvinists asks “If Christ died for all, does that necessarily mean all are saved?” Universalists are quick to point out that this is the case and cite that Christ’s dead is to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32) and those universal passages add that extra weight while reminding us of Exodus 11 and the Children of Israel. The blood of the lamb covered everyone in the house but those who didn’t apply the blood of the lamb would face death.  This is further substantiated by salvation being consistently withheld from the rebellious (Jos 22:22), the unbelievers (Mk 16:16; Lu 8:12; Jn 3:36; 2 Th 2:10; Re 21:8) and the wicked (Ps 119:155) and only applicable to those who believe (Romans 10)

Questions
If the atonement is enough for all, why not all? If the atonement is specifically for the elect, how is it right to charge the non-elect for rejecting the Atonement? Doesn’t this make the appeal to believe the cross work of Christ fundamentally dishonest? If the atonement is an empty category and the mission is to save people, then how is this atonement that works? If this atoning work was an example, then what good is it? Why couldn’t it have been something else?

But then deeper Biblical and Theological questions arise: what’s the point of the cross work of Christ? Maybe something else is going on with the atonement that doesn’t necessitate purchasing only specific individuals for salvation? I mean, Hebrews 2 says that the death on the cross was the means for Jesus being crowned with glory and honor as a second Adam—the head of a new human race. It says he tasted death for everyone (Heb 2:9) for a reason: what is that reason?  It was through this death that he is given authority (Col 3) and power (Rom 1:2; 1 Cor 15:55) over all creation. So why make it a main concern to be about saving the Elect? Indeed, the explicit verse we have of God saving an individual (Gal 2:20), none of us take to mean that only that individual was atoned for…so why limit on a broader circle that doesn’t consist of the totality explicated in Scripture?

Did God have to save humanity? Arminians and Calvinists strike me as having to say it was necessary; Arminians by necessity of foreknowledge and Calvinists by necessity of foreordination and God’s glory. Indeed, some Calvinists make it seem as if all this adds to God’s glory—which is crazy. God doesn’t need us.  I think the Hebrews passage and Phillipians 2, 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 5, Acts 2 and Acts 13 shows that he only had to save one human: Christ Jesus. He vindicated Him by raising Him from the dead but he didn’t have to save anyone else. He saved him by giving him unending life—he doesn’t need to give him kids. But, he also gives all things into his hands. All creation, all people, all things, including those who are God the Fathers—they all belong to Christ. As the head of Humanity 2.0 he can do what He wants with them.

And Hebrews 2 it says that Christ can stand with those who are flesh and blood and call them brothers before God. Not everyone. The ones who are partakers of holiness. The ones who are being made perfect. It seems to me that the Atonement actually works in what it was sent to do. It makes all redeemable and then comes up with a condition for that redemption: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. If this wasn’t the case, wouldn’t it make every call in Scripture to repent and believe a magical and empty appeal? Plus, there’s nothing important about this specific condition except the fact that God demands it. Couldn’t it have been any other condition?  It could have been any other condition like some impossible law abiding? Why would God stipulate this arbitrary and silly thing? So that he can count a silly and arbitrary thing as righteousness based on his own grace, yes, and doesn’t that make more sense than some magic words that do nothing but activate a magical foreign faith made available by a magical work on a cross?

Doesn’t  Christ’s death work for a very different reason than what Calvinists and Arminians say? Doesn’t it say that all are purchased and then the requirement for application is stipulated as belief? And then, don’t the Scriptures repeatedly show people given a chance to respond in their own situation? And isn’t it so, that in every situation, the Lord is free to do what he wants with them? Isn’t the fact that He opts to do what He promises ultimately up to Him and not up to us at all?

Too many questions that are easier explained by Scriptural answers: Limited Atonement, no matter what it is called, winds up being rejected. It must be. It is a philosophical solution (nothing wrong with that) to a Biblical problem (nothing wrong with that either) which is already explained in the text (this is the real problem) and it is explained in this way: the atonement, Christ dying for all, is effective for all; redemptive of every single individual, but is only applicable when appropriated by faith.  Just as God says: the just shall survive by trusting God to save.

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Quotables: Christ and OT Scriptures


quotables

Every now and then I like posting something incisive that was written in the past because it speaks so well into the present. The sweet thing about this is that these guys, who are often waved away today, have dealt with a lot of the same issues while remaining simultaneously (by the modern mind) ignored.

The attitude of Christ to the Old Testament Scriptures must determine ours. He is God. He is truth. His is the final voice. He is the Supreme Judge. There is no appeal from that court. Christ Jesus the Lord believed and affirmed the historic veracity of the whole of the Old Testament writings implicitly (Luke 24:44). And the Canon, or collection of Books of the Old Testament, was precisely the same in Christ’s time as it is today. And further. Christ Jesus our Lord believed and emphatically affirmed the Mosaic authority of the Pentateuch (Matt. 5:17–18; Mark 12:26–36; Luke 16:31; John 5:46–47). That is true, the critics say. But, then, neither Christ nor His Apostles were critical scholars! Perhaps not in the twentieth century sense of the term. But, as a German scholar said, if they were not critici doctores, they were doctores veritatis who did not come into the world to fortify popular errors by their authority. But then they say, Christ’s knowledge as man was limited. He grew in knowledge (Luke 2:52). Surely that implies His ignorance. And if His ignorance, why not His ignorance with regard to the science of historical criticism? (Gore, Lux Mundi, page 360; Briggs, H. C. of Hexateuch, page 28.) Or even if He did know more than His age, He probably spoke as He did in accommodation with the ideas of His contemporaries! (Briggs, page 29.)

In fact, what they mean is practically that Jesus did know perfectly well that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, but allowed His disciples to believe that Moses did, and taught His disciples that Moses did, simply because He did not want to upset their simple faith in the whole of the Old Testament as the actual and authoritative and Divinely revealed Word of God. (See Driver, page 12.) Or else, that Jesus imagined, like any other Jew of His day, that Moses wrote the books that bear his name, and believed, with the childlike Jewish belief of His day, the literal inspiration, Divine authority and historic veracity of the Old Testament, and yet was completely mistaken, ignorant of the simplest facts, and wholly in error. In other words, He could not tell a forgery from an original, or a pious fiction from a genuine document. (The analogy of Jesus speaking of the sun rising as an instance of the theory of accommodation is a very different thing.)

This, then, is their position: Christ knew the views He taught were false, and yet taught them as truth. Or else, Christ didn’t know they were false and believed them to be true when they were not true. In either case the Blessed One is dethroned as True God and True Man. If He did not know the books to be spurious when they were spurious and the fables and myths to be mythical and fabulous; if He accepted legendary tales as trustworthy facts, then He was not and is not omniscient. He was not only intellectually fallible, He was morally fallible; for He was not true enough “to miss the ring of truth” in Deuteronomy and Daniel.

And further. If Jesus did know certain of the books to be lacking in genuineness, if not spurious and pseudonymous; if He did know the stories of the Fall and Lot and Abraham and Jonah and Daniel to be allegorical and imaginary, if not unverifiable and mythical, then He was neither trustworthy nor good. “If it were not so, I would have told you.” We feel, those of us who love and trust Him, that if these stories were not true, if these books were a mass of historical unveracities, if Abraham was an eponymous hero, if Joseph was an astral myth, that He would have told us so. It is a matter that concerned His honor as a Teacher as well as His knowledge as our God. As Canon Liddon has conclusively pointed out, if our Lord was unreliable in these historic and documentary matters of inferior value, how can He be followed as the teacher of doctrinal truth and the revealer of God? (John 3:12.) (Liddon, Divinity of Our Lord, pages 475–480.)

AFTER THE KENOSIS

Men say in this connection that part of the humiliation of Christ was His being touched with the infirmities of our human ignorance and fallibilities. They dwell upon the so-called doctrine of the Kenosis, or the emptying, as explaining satisfactorily His limitations. But Christ spoke of the Old Testament Scriptures after His resurrection. He affirmed after His glorious resurrection that “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44). This was not a statement made during the time of the Kenosis, when Christ was a mere boy, or a youth, or a mere Jew after the flesh (1 Cor. 13:11). It is the statement of Him Who has been declared the Son of God with power. It is the Voice that is final and overwhelming. The limitations of the Kenosis are all abandoned now, and yet the Risen Lord not only does not give a shadow of a hint that any statement in the Old Testament is inaccurate or that any portion thereof needed revision or correction, not only most solemnly declared that those books which we receive as the product of Moses were indeed the books of Moses, but authorized with His Divine imprimatur the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures from beginning to end.

The Fundamentals : The famous sourcebook of foundational biblical truths (1:34-36). THE HISTORY OF THE HIGHER CRITICISM BY CANON DYSON HAGUE, M. A.

(HT Jason Skipper)

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Getting Tense With Hebrews 1

In the past, I argued against the liberal (or Kenotic Arian) view of Scripture by looking at what the writer to the Hebrews thought about Scripture. I could have argued from Paul, Peter, John and Christ but I was co-opting some of my studies on Hebrews to make the point. Anyway, there was a fundamental thread that should be seen throughout the entire post easily summarized as follows: the writer to the Hebrews sees God speaking the Gospel right now perfectly through others via the entirety of Scripture written in the past to affect change in the present to save from the future shaking. In fact, if I want a scripture summary, I’d probably just quote Isaiah 40 and what the voice of one crying out in the wilderness was to cry: Good News—God is here!

With that understanding I think it’s easier to see why the writer to the Hebrews uses the passages he does and the way he does even if it still generates a whole mess of questions. For instance, a reading of Hebrews 1:1-5 generates five questions in my mind. First a quick overview:

  • Heb 1:1 God spoke via Prophets
  • Heb 1:2 God spoke these days via his Son
  • Heb 1:3 God’s Son is the radiance of His glory; exact representation of his nature; upholds all things by the word of his power; made purification for sins; sat down at the right hand of the majesty on High
  • Heb 1:4 God’s Son became much better than the angels by receiving a more excellent name
  • Heb 1:5 Angels never called Son

Now mind, most of the far context has been dealt with in far more detail by David Gooding in his book(amazon) The Unshakeable Kingdom (read online) and DA Carson in a message both drawing heavily from FF Bruce’s commentary so you can look at all of those for some of the more technical questions but here are mine:

  • Question 1: What does this all (including the citations of 2 Sam 7 and Psalm 2) have to do with Gospel anyway?
  • Question 2: If the Son is the brightness of God’s glory, an exact representation of God’s nature and upholds all things by the word of His power—something only God does—then why does the author downgrade (as it were) his argument by appealing to the fact that He is called “Son”?
  • Question 3: what does that argument (being called Son) have to do with the prior point (Brightness of God’s glory, etc) anyway?
  • Question 4: Angels have been called Son (you know Genesis 6 and Job 1—which includes Satan); what gives?
  • Question 5: Why quote Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7 to prove this at all?

Gooding, Carson and Bruce pull out several points from the use of the passages but I particularly wanted to focus on one matter of tense.

In 2 Samuel 7, God makes David a covenant of a future descendant sitting on David’s throne and reigning in David’s Kingdom. God says that the future descendant would build God’s house but if this descendant sins, God will punish him. We know this winds up happening with Solomon (and not with Christ) but God states that David’s throne will endure forever which looks beyond Solomon who winds up being punished for his own iniquities and eventually dies.

What God says in 2 Samuel 7 is, essentially David’s Real Son (not some other human or even a non-human)  will do what God wants (build God’s house) when God wants and he will be called God’s Son as a title—but (in time) Solomon isn’t the perpetual continuation of David’s promise. Each Davidic King is called God’s Son (“I will be a father to him and he will be my Son”) and this pattern will either continue into eternity or there would eventually come a human son of David who retains the God given title of “Son” eternally.

Shorthand: the promise of God’s naming is made in the future tense, even when considering Solomon.

But that changes in Psalm 2. The Psalm is about the Lord’s Anointed already seated in the mountain of the Lord while the nations already rail against him and the Lord (David was given rest and the Lord promised a future rest to him and his people in 2 Samuel 7). The Lord currently laughs and then the Lord’s anointed speaks in the past tense saying “He said unto my ‘I am your father and you are my son’.” He then proceeds to tell the nations to fear the Son (a Kingly role) and to Worship God (a priestly role).

Anyway, the Anointed One is recalling when God said this to him but in 2 Samuel 7, the one who is called “My Son” isn’t even around yet to receive the title.

Now, I’m not saying that the Psalm is definitely Christ speaking in the past tense but, in light of what I previously wrote about how the writer to the Hebrews reads Scripture, when we hear the tense we should be hearing Christ speaking in that portion. At least the early Christians in Acts read the text that way when they cited the words of the Psalm as part of their prayer.

  • Question 5: The writer has to quote 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 2 because it makes a bridge between God Doing and David’s Family Doing (something that the prophets expand on, especially when you read Ezekiel 34 – 37) that the promise of the bestowed title of Son is bestowed on a man, a son of David, who has both kingly (rule the people) and priestly (build God’s house and direct worship to God) roles.
  • Question 4: Although Angels have been called sons (Job 1) it is only in the sense where they are displaying part of God’s qualities. I wrote about functional sonship before but I think it can be easily summarized as God is both spirit and a consuming fire who ministers to others and angels are ministering spirits and flames. None of them reign or hold dominion. That was something that was explicitly given to the human race (Genesis 1).
  • Question 3: The point has much to do with the previous point because the writer displays Christ as doing everything God does—even down to his nature. God creates…so did Christ. God upholds with his power…so did Christ. John 5 makes this point pretty nicely.
  • Question 2: The writer makes the connection that the one who perfectly expresses God is the one who has come near as a man. It’s pretty much the whole basis of the argument in Chapter 2 through 5 so as to eventually show that he has suffered, he understands our weaknesses, he went on before us and he has conquered and has completed his work. That’s powerful stuff to have a person (Christ) who represents God perfectly also be the very one who can rule and represent men perfectly.
  • Question 1: Well, it pretty much is the Gospel, isn’t it?

As a side point, I think it’s interesting that in a book which is often used to prove the most inane things about what Christ’s humanity necessarily entailed (vomiting, believing error, almost dying from sickness, liking brunette little people) that this point that the one who perfectly represents God (created the world, upholds all things by his word of power, brightness of God’s glory, express image of God) is relegated to his postresurrection ministry when Isaiah looks forward to this Son being born and finally the Father Himself from Heaven declares, in the start of Christ’s ministry “This is my beloved Son—hear Him!”(Matt 3:17)  He suffered, surely, but he did so as perfectly representing the Father (John 14:9)

I’m not too sure on the thought-flow of this post since my brain is currently fuzzy; I may have made the points without tightening the connections as much as I would like.

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