Saturday, April 08, 2006

Regarding the Resurrection

What has happened to the resurrection? To state it with perhaps too much boldness, the contemporary Reformed doctrine of culpability/justification strips the resurrection of any instrumental role in redemption.

Under the tutilege of Calvin, the resurrection has come to be viewed in Reformed thought as a divine statement of proof regarding the efficacy of Christ's atoning work on Calvary, serving no significant instrumental role in justification. According to Calvin, justification--the "hinge upon which religion turns"-- has to do primarily with the forgiveness of sins through Christ's atoning work on the cross. Consequently, the resurrection is given little treatment in his formal discussion regarding the doctrine of justification (it plays a more significant role in his sacramental theology however). There's more to Calvin's soteriology than this, but his emphasis upon forensic justification and the cross has tended to minimize the centrality of the resurrection in Reformed thought.

Consequently for much of Reformed thought, the resurrection doesn't do anything, but rather is evidence that something had been done. The resurrection, when noted at all by Reformed theologians in their discussion of justification, is most often appropriated as merely vindication of Christ’s satisfactory work of redemption. It is a proof of redemption, but does not serve as a means of redemption. That neither Calvin nor Hodge, when formally discussing the doctrine of justification feel any need to significantly mention the resurrection, is an indication of how little import the resurrection plays in their articulation of justification. Similarly, contemporary Reformed theologians such as John Piper (whom I respect deeply), James White, R.C. Sproul and Robert L. Reymond (but a few examples) also find little need (if any need) to mention the resurrection in their book length discussions of justification. The word “resurrection” does not even appear in the indexes of White’s, Piper’s or Sproul’s books. Simply stated, the Reformed doctrine of justification hangs upon the crucifixion, not the resurrection. This absence of a significant utilization of the resurrection is seen in the classic Reformed confessions as well.

But the resurrection is not merely a sign of God's victory over sin and death--it is God's victory over sin and death. To die and rise with Christ--this is the final hope of every human heart. It would seem to me that the "hinge upon which religion turns" should somehow more fully involve the resurrection--the event upon which the Christian faith was born.

8 comments:

Todd said...

gerald, i have been working on a message to in an effort to preach this very thing on sunday morning.

the question i am trying to answer for our community is, why does the resurrection matter to you? and what does it mean for your daily life.

should be fun, perhaps we can talk before sunday...

gary said...

Hello Gerald.
My name is Gary and I am the intern at the Well. On behalf of the entire congregation, please give Todd some good thoughts on resurrection so we don't have to sit through another sleeper this Sunday. Much appreciated.
- The Well Community

Gerald said...

Gary,

I feel your pain, and will try to talk to him, but there is only so much that a mortal man can do.

You and your people must pray. It really all we have left.

Todd said...

and i thought i called you brother and friend.

oh how was wrong...

CrnbrdEater said...

What significance do you find in the intervening time between Christ's death and resurrection?

Gerald said...

crnbrdeater,

Good question. I haven't given a great deal of thought to it. If I come up with anything worth sharing I'll let you know.

CrnbrdEater said...

After I posted my previous comment I heard James McDonald mention the ancient belief that the soul remained in the vicinity of the body for three days beore departing for good. Thus a person wasn't dead-dead (just mostly dead) until the soul finally left. A Possiblilty I guess.

Gerald said...

Anonymous,

It is poor form to publish an entire article as a comment within a thread. you are welcome to contribute, but please add to the conversation yourself, and keep it to a reasonable length.