What’s New? What’s Not? Resurrection

One of the remarkable things about the church is that God draws very different people, with very different backgrounds, and very different personalities into a community that is centered upon Christ.

Though the church is made up of many different people, it is centered upon one Christ and united in one faith that is expressed in the Bible and in the Confessions.

When there are different—even competing—visions of Jesus at the center, there’s a problem.

Our vision at FPCB is to be a bible-based congregation.  As elder Kevin Burns put it, we are a church “who desires for God’s Word to change us, not for us to change God’s Word.” Christian unity is unity with integrity, not unity for unity’s sake [READ THE POST AND LISTEN TO THE PRESENTATION HERE].

“If we choose not to use the Bible as our sole source, and pick and choose what to believe instead, we’re at the whim of whatever the current culture or current pastor suggests.”
-Kevin Burns

The reality is that in our current context in the PC (USA) there is not only diversity of beliefs, there is a diversity of Christs. And when that happens, the church has ceased to be the church.

Why? Because the church it is be centered upon the one Christ and united in one faith that is expressed in the Bible and in the Confessions.

When that’s not happening, then the church’s witness to the world has become a lie.

One example is the diversity of acceptable beliefs about whether or not Jesus rose from the dead—is the Christian faith one that promises and delivers the miraculous resurrection of a dead man—Jesus—and the resurrection of those who die in Christ? Is Christianity supernatural?

In the New Testament—specifically in the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)—we run into a Jesus who does miracles pretty regularly. He suspends the laws of nature and does things that no one else has been able to do since—healing the sick, making the lame walk, casting out demons, walking on water, and turning water into wine.

As impressive as these things are, they don’t hold a candle to his biggest miracle—his resurrection. What does resurrection mean? Did Jesus actually come back to life? Did he really die? Did he die and then his legacy lived on in the hearts of his followers?

People disagree.

Some claim that Jesus didn’t actually come back to life after he died. It’s a myth, they say, it’s a beautiful story about the legacy of a good man. It’s not a “magic trick,” according to one Presbyterian (USA) minister it’s, “a poem about the whole life process” [READ THE POST HERE].

According to him, Jesus’ resurrection isn’t an core belief of Christianity—it’s optional.

Does this sound like the Christ of the gospels? A teary Jesus who told the teary Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25).

Is there room for the resurrection to be optional when Paul wrote: “If it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?.... If Christ has not be raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).

Is believing that Jesus rose again optional? Take it. Leave it. It’s up to you.

Many in the PC(USA) refuse to agree that the resurrection is a core belief—they seem content to keep our theological beliefs so general as to not exclude anyone—even those who deny that Jesus rose again.[1]

When we cannot agree on who Jesus is and what he has done for us, we’ve moved beyond simple disagreements and into the realm of different religions. We may love, respect, and care for those who views fall outside of historic Christianity, but we cannot embrace a theological vision so at odds with what has enlivened FPCB for the last century or more. Staying true to who we are—to our core identity—demands that we continue forward and into a new denominational home.




[1] Essential tenets may only be defined on a case-by-case basis by an examining court of the PC (USA). This produces an arbitrary and capricious standard for ordination.

Kevin Burns,  Excerpts from Community Conversations with Session and Presbyterians for Unity. http://www.fpc-bethlehem.org/blog/2016/1/9/continuing-the-conversation-ruling-elder-kevin-burns

Jim Rigby, “Apparently, I Won’t be Going to Heaven” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/freedhearts/2015/12/30/apparently-i-wont-be-going-to-heaven/