Appeared-to-Blogly

April 16, 2017

Not Dying is Not Sufficient

Filed under: Christian Doctrine — camcintosh @ 1:11 pm

It is hard to overestimate the importance of the resurrection in Christian theology and worship, if it is even possible to do so. Christianity is all about resurrection. In the resurrection we see nearly every other essential Christian doctrine at work. But for all that, the death of Christ on the cross unduly dominates the empty tomb in the pulpit, and our celebration of the birth Christ at Christmas unduly overshadows our celebration of his victory over death at Easter.

Perhaps one reason the importance of the resurrection is underappreciated is because we play fast and loose with the term “resurrection.” Pop culture uses of the term are hopelessly divorced from its theological meaning (e.g., zombies are sometimes said to be resurrected). But Christians too misuse the term, as is often and easily done when describing Jesus’ miraculously raising Lazarus or Jairus’ daughter from the dead as Jesus’ resurrecting them. Even some Bible editors have titled the section in John 11 “The Death and Resurrection of Lazarus”!

Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead may well have been a sign of what was to come later (Jesus’ own resurrection), but it was not at that point the thing itself. Even the term “raised” in most Biblical contexts bears the significance of resurrection. What, then, is the key difference between resurrection proper and these other cases of supernatural raisings from the dead?

dali21Some, who although are careful to distinguish resurrection from these other cases, nonetheless miss the key difference. The difference is emphatically not, as is commonly thought, that those who are resurrected will not die again, whereas those who are supernaturally revived will. It is true that the resurrected will not die again. That, however, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for resurrection. Consider: suppose after Jesus raised him from the dead, God assumed Lazarus into heaven like He did Enoch and Elijah. We’d have a case of rising from the dead without a “second death,” but still not resurrection.

The key difference is that the resurrected have the transformed, glorified body that Paul describes in 1 Cor 15. The resurrected won’t die again precisely because death can’t touch the transformed body. To repeat, it is not because Lazarus, et al. died again that his being raised wasn’t a resurrection; it it because he wasn’t raised with a transformed body. CARM rightly sees the glorified body as salient, but confusedly distinguishes two kinds of resurrection rather than distinguishing resurrection from supernatural revivifications. This, again, plays fast and loose. There is no resurrection without a glorified body. A resurrection without a glorified body would make zero conceptual sense to first century Jews, and so should make no more sense to 21st century Christians.

This is one reason I love Dali’s Corpus Hypercubus, where Christ is hanging on an unfolded hypercube, which happens to take the shape of a cross. More popularly interpreted to mean Christ’s divine nature can’t be fully grasped by us 3D+t creatures, the wound-less body on the rising cross calls to my mind resurrection—there’s something extra-dimensional about that restored, radiant body, the hypercube cross representing both that extra-dimensional reality as well as the gateway to it.

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