SEE ALSO: Rob Bell: Resurrection Revisited
It may be too much to ask to agree on the significance of this day. Among believers in Jesus Christ this is a day to be celebrated, because it was on this day so many years ago that Christ conquered death and became the first fruits of the resurrection. Yet, there are those who do not agree that this day is a day to commemorate the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Rob Bell may actually be a skeptic of sorts. Having written much about, not the man, but his theology, I have been cautious and concerned about what he teaches and holds as basic belief. In one particular case I asked this question specifically: “Do you believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.” While I got no response to this question, which is so basic and easy if the response were to be in the affirmative, Mr. Bell posts this new video for the holiday:
Hope In “resurrection”
No doubt Rob Bell believes in resurrection. He speaks very intelligently and artistically about resurrection as hope for something more. He talks about how at Jesus’ death it was assumed that he was no more, and that he would not go on. It was a common thought even within groups of religious leaders of the time that there would be no afterlife, nothing further after death.
Rob Bell obviously believes in more than what is. He believes that working to redeem this world is possible and reaching out by performing good works is something that is important:
resurrection announces that God has not given up on the world
because this world matters
this world that we call home
dirt and blood and sweat and skin and light and water
this world that God is redeeming and restoring and renewing
Rob Bell is right that greed, violence, and injustice are tied to death. These things are sin and indeed the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death. No doubt God cares about these things and much of the Bible is about these issues, conviction of sin, and judgment according to these laws.
What He Did Not Say
What Rob Bell did not say is most significant. I am writing as someone who was in his camp, who believed what he does, and who worked toward social justice as if it were what the Bible was really all about. I know and have spoken his language, not only because I was once Rob Bell’s disciple, but because it was much of who I was and what I had worked so hard to believe.
Rob Bell makes no statement in this video that clearly declares that Jesus Christ, who died on Friday and was buried, physically resurrected from the grave and left the tomb empty. Bell talks about “resurrection” but never “THE Resurrection.” He believes that there is a life after death, but makes nothing more of Christ’s end than that “he is not there” which is an easy way to hide a disbelief in the physical resurrection of Christ and yet stating emphatically that there is life after death.
I never expect him to say right out that he does not believe that Christ rose from death physically. To do so he must then contend with passages where Jesus appeared to the disciples, allowed Thomas to touch the scars and put his hand into the wound in his side. He would have to deny passages about how Jesus ate with his disciples, even breaking bread and frying fish.
He says that the disciples went to the tomb and said that he wasn’t there… but this is easily what we say about our deceased loved ones, because, after all, they are not really there in that body any more, are they?
As in much of Bell’s writing and media, he talks about many other meanings for resurrection, including saying that resurrection means that what we do with our lives matters, but he is resistant to acknowledge that Jesus Christ rose physically from the grave. He talks about the life and meaning of each and every good action, but he neglects to declare, “Christ is Risen!” He says that those good actions and the promise of “resurrection” is an assurance that the world will ultimately be what it was meant to be.
To Bell, the full meaning of Christ, from his birth to his ministry and finally his death, is that we now have an excellent example by which to live our lives. As I pointed out in my review of his book Drops Like Stars, he has constructed alternative meanings for the crucifixion, and now is the new view of “resurrection.” If there was no physical resurrection, then it must mean something different. For Bell, “resurrection” means a promise of something better, and a hope that one day our world will see justice if we only will work hard enough to follow Christ’s example to perfection.
I Hear My Own Words
These are words that I used. These are my attempts at waxing eloquent, saying what I knew what people needed to hear without betraying my own confused beliefs. This is a gifted speaker who has passion to see the world redeemed and all of God’s people working hard to see that every mouth is fed and every loss restored. Yet this orator knows how to speak words that when taken with grace and trust in the message miss that he is, in fact, neglecting the fundamentals of the Christian faith.
In his book The Heart of Christianity, Marcus Borg overtly declares that you no longer have to believe in the virgin birth, miracles, or the physical resurrection of Jesus to be a Christian. No doubt, Rob Bell would heartily agree.
It is much easier to defend our faith if it were not miraculous. It is much more challenging to think that Christ’s action calls me to the same action. It is much more impressive to think that resurrection means that God will redeem the entire world if we all just become a bit more like Martha instead of Mary. I wanted to believe that miracles did not happen because I knew so many who would choose to believe except that they could not accept what they saw as impossible. I knew that I could convince more people to believe if I essentially stopped believing.
Not What I Believe, But What Is True
Fortunately I came to my senses. This was not my work to do, but it was God’s work. He knew what he had done and how impossible it is to believe.
Is that not just the point?
Take heart, because no matter who may try to declare the contrary, Jesus Christ was crucified and was buried. On the third day he came back to life, not from a faint, but his body began to breathe again and he stood, walked, talked and ate (Acts 10:34-43). Jesus of Nazareth appeared to hundreds of his followers and finally ascended into heaven in the presence of his disciples. It is this reason that we have hope that one day he will return.
Without THE resurrection we would have nothing. With it we have the assurance that God himself took our punishment and made good on that payment. It is in this action that God declared that I no longer have to taste the death and judgment that I so richly deserve, but instead I am clothed in Christ’s righteousness and because of his sacrifice I have been saved from death.
The LORD is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!
More food for thought: