Why Belief in the Resurrection Matters

In doing some reading today I cam across a brilliant passage by N.T. Wright about why belief in resurrection matters…

How does believing in the future resurrection lead to getting on with the work in the present? Quite straightforwardly. The point of the resurrection, as Paul has been arguing throughout the letter is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die. God will raise it to new life. What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it. And if this applies to ethics, as in 1 Corinthians 6, it certainly applies to the various vocations to which God’s people are called. What you do in the present – by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself – will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind all together (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it, “until that day when all the blest to endless rest are called away”). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom. (Surprised by Hope, 193)

Every act of love, gratitude, and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comport and support, for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world – all of this will find its way through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make. (SbH, 208)

and then there is this quote…

People who believe in the resurrection, in God making a whole new world in which everything will be set right at last, are unstoppably motivated to work for that new world in the present. (SbH 214)

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4 thoughts on “Why Belief in the Resurrection Matters”

  1. The point of the resurrection, as Paul has been arguing throughout the letter is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die.

    I wonder about this statement. I confess, i have not yet read Wright’s book though i plan to and understand it is excellent. But to state so boldly and plainly that the Apostle Paul (or any biblical writer) is seeking to prove that the resurrection is primarily anything about us is simply not true. The resurrection of Jesus absolutely has amazing implications for us and perhaps this is what Wright is focusing on in this section you’ve quoted. But Paul’s teaching on the resurrection, in 1 Cor. 15 say and elsewhere, is that the resurrection is primarily about Jesus and the proof of God’s acceptance of His perfect, covenant keeping life and substitutionary death in our place. This is why Paul states in 1 Cor. 15:17 that if the resurrection did not happen then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. The resurrection then, primarily proves that Christ’s death for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3) has been accepted by God and we truly do now stand clean and un-condemned before the Father. (Rom. 8:1) The point of the resurrection was not to try and dispel some kind of over-realized Platonic theory of forms, as this quote from Wright (on its own) seems to suggest.

    1. Hey outin2thedeep,

      I think you are right, The resurrection of Jesus absolutely has amazing implications for us and the resurrection is primarily about Jesus and the proof of God’s acceptance of His perfect, covenant keeping life and substitutionary death in our place. In the context of this part of the book Wright is arguing that the resurrection shows us that God does value the material world, the Resurrection is proof of that. However that is a secondary result of the resurrection, the primary result, as Wright points out elsewhere, is the vindication of Jesus as the messiah. However, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is also dispelling the notion that Jesus was raised spiritually and not materially (a sort of “platonic,” if you will, view.)

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