Dead and Living Teachers

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Good Grief Quote 2: Empty Tomb Irrelevant?

"My understanding of Easter has changed over the course of my lifetime. Not just deepened (I trust), but changed. My childhood memories include singing the great Easter hymns, their melody lines as triumphant as their words. My favorite was (and is) 'Christ the Lord is risen today.' Its glorious, repeating alleluias are as wonderful as ever. Almost as vivid in my memory is 'Up from the Grave He arose', its ascending notes emulating the rising of Christ himself. As a child, I took it for granted that Easter meant that Jesus literally rose from the tomb.

I now see Easter very differently. For me, it is irrelevant whether or not the tomb was empty. Whether Easter involved something remarkable happening to the physical body of Jesus is irrelevant. My argument is not that we know the tomb was not empty or that nothing happened to his body, but simply that it doesn't matter. The truth of Easter, as I see it, is not at stake in this issue."

Marcus Borg
Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions, pp. 130-131

Monday, May 01, 2006

Great Theologians 1: The Empty Tomb as a Witness to the Nature of the Resurrection

"The Gospels go to great lengths to attest that the resurrection of Jesus was indeed a bodily resurrection. Here lies the significance of the empty tomb. The factuality of the empty tomb is rejected by many biblical critics, who claim that it is a later apologetic story designed to support belief in the resurrection. However, this objection overlooks the important fact that the Gospels do not make apologetic use of the empty tomb to prove the reality of the resurrection. The empty tomb by itself was a puzzling fact that needed explanation. Mark records that the first reaction of the women to the empty tomb (as well as to the message of the angels) was of fear and astonishment. Luke tells of two disciples who knew of the empty tomb but did not believe the resurrection until they were confronted by the risen Jesus (Lk. 24:22ff.). John relates that Mary could only conclude from the empty tomb that Jesus' body had been removed (Jn. 20:2). It was not the empty tomb that aroused belief in John, but the appearance of the grave clothes (Jn. 20:6-8). Apart from the appearances of Jesus, the empty tomb was an enigma. The empty tomb, therefore, is not a witness to the fact of the resurrection so much as it is a witness to the nature of the resurrection; it was a resurrection of Jesus' body."

George Eldon Ladd
A Theology of the New Testament, pp. 360-361

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Preacher's Corner 2: Our bodily resurrection

"As Christ actually rose from the dead—flesh and blood, so shall we. Christ was not a spirit when he rose from the dead; his body could be touched. Did not Thomas put his hand into his side? And did not Christ say, 'Handle me, and see. A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.' And if we are to rise as Christ did—and we are taught so—then we shall rise in our bodies—not spirits, not fine aerial things, made of I know not what—some very refined and elastic substance; but 'as the Lord our Saviour rose, so all his followers must.' We shall rise in our flesh, 'though all flesh is not the same flesh'; we shall rise in our bodies, though all bodies are not the same bodies; and we shall rise in glory, though all glories are not the same glories."

"But now a word of warning, and then I have done with this part of the subject. If your bodies are to dwell in heaven, I beseech you take care of them. I do not mean, take care of what you eat and rink, and wherewithal you shall be clothed; but I mean, take care that you do not let your bodies be polluted by sin. If this throat is to warble for ever with songs of glory, let not words of lust defile it. If these eyes are to see the king in his beauty, even let this be your prayer, 'Turn off my eyes from beholding vanities.' If these hands are to hold a palm branch, oh, let them never take a bribe, let them never seek after evil. If these feet are to walk the golden streets, let them not be swift after mischief. If this tongue is for ever to talk of all he said and did, ah! let it not utter light and frothy things. And if this heart is to pulsate for ever with bliss, I beseech you give it not unto strangers; neither let it wander after evil. If this body is to live for ever, what care we ought to take of it; for our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost, and they are members of the Lord Jesus."

"Now, will you believe this doctrine or not? If you will not, you are excommunicate from the faith. This is the faith of the Gospel; and if you do not believe it you have not yet received the Gospel. 'For if the dead rise not, then your faith is vain, and ye are yet in your sins.' The dead in Christ shall rise, and they shall rise first."

Charles Spurgeon
The Resurrection of the Dead
Sermon on Acts 24:15

Monday, April 24, 2006

Very Old Guys 2: The Resurrection of the flesh

"If the resurrection were only spiritual, it was requisite that He, in raising the dead, should show the body lying apart by itself, and the soul living apart by itself. But now He did not do so, but raised the body, confirming in it the promise of life. Why did He rise in the flesh in which He suffered, unless to show the resurrection of the flesh? And wishing to confirm this, when His disciples did not know whether to believe He had truly risen in the body, and were looking upon Him and doubting, He said to them, “Ye have not yet faith, see that it is I", and He let them handle Him, and showed them the prints of the nails in His hands. And when they were by every kind of proof persuaded that it was Himself, and in the body, they asked Him to eat with them, that they might thus still more accurately ascertain that He had in verity risen bodily; and He did eat honey-comb and fish. And when He had thus shown them that there is truly a resurrection of the flesh, wishing to show them this also, that it is not impossible for flesh to ascend into heaven (as He had said that our dwelling-place is in heaven), “He was taken up into heaven while they beheld,” as He was in the flesh. If, therefore, after all that has been said, any one demand demonstration of the resurrection, he is in no respect different from the Sadducees, since the resurrection of the flesh is the power of God, and, being above all reasoning, is established by faith, and seen in works."

Justin Martyr
On the Resurrection, chapter IX

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The "Good Grief" Quote: Respectful Preaching?

The "Good Grief" Quote is a sign of our times. I disagree with what these authors have to say about our weekly topic.

"But I also think it is important for preachers to realize that they are making provisional statements. When someone prefaces their statement with "it seems to me" or "from my vantage point" they are providing self-correcting and self-reinforcing statements that remind themselves that there might be someone sitting there that has a very different view on this same idea and they both may be right or the hearer might be more right than the speaker is. So it is a reminder to the preacher as much as it is helpful for the people.

And I think it is respectful. So if someone sitting in the pew realizes they don’t believe what the pastor is saying at all and the preacher follows it up with "thus saith the Lord," it creates all kinds of problem. But if the pastor says, "that’s my perspective on it," now what she’s said to the hearer is that "I’m assuming that you have a perspective as well. You can compare my perspective with yours and see if you want to swap them out or take a different one." It’s a more respectful tone to take.

I don’t suggest that on every occasion we should be equally as respectful. I think there are times, whether it’s in preaching or conversation, when you realize that what the person is saying is completely wacky. Then you have to be honest and admit that you can’t give that idea the same kind of credence that you give another idea or opinion. But even that response is an opinion, and most likely not the opinion held by the person who shared it."

Doug Pagitt
Interview with

Monday, April 17, 2006

Preacher's Corner - Preach to the needs

"Paul felt that, if he was to give the Corinthians what they needed, he must refuse to give them what they wanted, and that whilst he crossed their wishes he was consulting their necessities. That is true yet, for the preaching that bases itself upon the life and death of Jesus Christ, conceived as Paul had learned from Jesus Christ to conceive them, that Gospel, whilst it brushes aside men’s superficial wishes, goes straight to the heart of their deep-lying universal necessities, for what the Jew needs most is not a sign, and what the Greek needs most is not wisdom, but what they both need most is deliverance from the guilt and power of sin. And we all, scholars and fools, poets and common-place people, artists and ploughmen, all of us, in all conditions of life, in all varieties of culture, in all stages of intellectual development, in all diversities of occupation and of mental bias, what we all have in common is that human heart in which sin abides, and what we all need most to have is that evil drop squeezed out of it, and our souls delivered from the burden and the bondage. Therefore, any man that comes with a sign, and does not deal with the sin of the human heart, and any man that comes with a philosophical system of wisdom, and does not deal with sin, does not bring a Gospel that will meet the necessities even of the people to whose cravings he has been aiming to adapt his message."

Alexander MacLaren
The Apostle's Theme - Sermon on 1 Corinthians 2:2

Friday, April 14, 2006

Living Heroes 1 - Quote the Bible in Your Preaching

"One of the biggest problems I have with younger preachers I am called on to critique is that they failed to quote the texts that support the points they are making. It makes me wonder if they have been taught that you should get the drift of a text and then talk in your own words for thirty minutes. The effect of that kind of preaching is to leave people groping for the Word of God and wondering wheter what you said is really in the Bible.

Instead, in the literate Western culture we need to get people to open their Bibles and put their fingers on the text. Then we need to quote a piece of our text and explain what it means. Tell them which half of the verse it is in. People lose the whole drift of a message when they are groping to find where the pastor's ideas are coming from. Then we should quote another piece of the text and explain what it means. Our explanation will draw in other passages of Scripture. Quote them! Don't say general things like, "As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount." Along the way or at the end we should urge it into their consciences with penetrating application.

We are simply pulling rank on people when we tell them, and don't show them from the text. This does not honor the Word of God or the work of the Holy Spirit. I urge you to rely on the Holy Spirit by saturating your preaching with the Word he inspired."

John Piper
The Supremacy of God in Preaching, pp. 41-42